Wednesday, April 21, 2010

...and then again, maybe not.

After a trip to Portland we have a definite "no" on the job we thought was in the bag. The Luis Palau Association has wanted to hire S. and worked hard to find a way to make it work but the timing and money issues are not working out.

With that door shut we are back to square one (or square none as it feels like on this gray, rainy morning). God has been faithful to provide some speaking engagements and other things while we are in this weird space in life. He is creative in his provisions and manages to simultaneously teach us tangibly about things like humility and listening only for the Lord. So since we have everything up in the air; a house for sale, a car for sale, and no job...I will now jump up and down for what we are attaining. Woo-hoo for humility! Three cheers for sore knees as we've spent much time in the kneeling position! Yippee for being obedient today (and praying Jesus comes tomorrow)!

Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to you,
when my heart is overwhelmed;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been a shelter for me,
a strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of your wings.
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
So I will sing praise to your name forever,
that I may daily perform my vows.
Psalm 61:1-5, 8

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Perfect Love Story

I can admit it. I was a 16 year old girl who lived for a cup of coffee and Barnes & Noble where I could flip through bridal magazines and daydream about my happily ever after. (Of course, I hid my magazines in much smarter, less obvious magazines. I wasn't brazen about my idealism.)

I was remembering my bridal magazine days this week when I heard heartbreaking news about marriages that I thought looked pretty good (speaking as an outsider). When you've spent over 8 years in full time ministry, you aren't naive about happily ever afters. I've often thought nothing will surprise me anymore. Without fail, something does.

The second reason I was brought back to my days at Barnes & Noble is upcoming plans for my grandparent's 60th wedding anniversary this August. Also in August my parents will celebrate their 35th anniversary. Not to be outdone, S. and I celebrate our 10th anniversary the same month.

The year S. and I got married, we hurried back from our honeymoon for the big party that was my grandparent's 50th anniversary. I called my parents during our honeymoon to wish them a happy 25th anniversary. I was enamored with the legacy of long marriages and sweet love. I still recognize the rarity and blessing that we have in our family. I now recognize something else: it wasn't easy for any of them. They don't have long marriages because they happened to 'get lucky' and find great, lasting love.
I see my Pake fondly look at my Beppe when he calls her "Her majesty". Only a few years ago did I learn how scared my Beppe was as a newlywed when her charismatic, immigrant husband would have WWII flashbacks and deal with rage and fear. They laugh at each other's quirks and faithfully serve each other but now I realize what a toll a lifetime of ministry, raising 8 children, and bouts of things like malaria and financial hardship must have taken.
I recall my parents kissing (so embarrassing!) in front of all my a dance...when I was in 8th grade...when they were supposed to be chaperoning. Only in recent years have I learned the pain and process involved in getting to that 35 year mark. It had less to do with soul mates and more to do with grit.

As S. and I have experienced our own heartaches and disappointments, I heard the Lord speaking to me what I've always known but see more clearly watching the disappointments in love stories around and within me: my love story with Christ trumps all stories.

"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!" And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."
"Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God."
Revelation 19:7-9, 11-13

How breathtaking is being arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright which is the righteous acts of the saints? Beat that, Vera Wang.
The bridegroom's clothing is dipped in blood, representing how much He has already sacrificed for His bride.
My bridegroom defines Faithful and True (note the capital letters). Not only do I not need to question his loyalty but unfaithful thoughts don't even cross His mind.
He's a fighter and He is defending my honor.
His forgiveness is permanent.
I can't over-prepare for this wedding. I will never be disappointed and my expectations can't be too high.

I read these verses and thought, "My story with Jesus is the only never failing, true love story". I was overcome with grief over my ideals and expectations of an earthly love story.

Jesus convicted me. While I do have to come to grips with disappointments, He is teaching me that having the Perfect Love is what brings beauty to the imperfect loves. It's not that I have to abandon an earthly love story. I have to come to terms with a different kind of love story.

My original idea of a love story didn't need much grace because it was focused on 2 people getting it mostly right. My different kind of love story involves a grace so deep that onlookers marvel. I can't achieve that without the power of the Holy Spirit working out a deeper love story within me. When I already have the Perfect Love story with Christ, I can love S. without fear even when he falls short of my expectation. Christ exceeds my expectations. Christ protects my heart. Christ casts out fear. He allows me to pour in when I have nothing to give.

A friend told us he was learning to not look back and ask, "Did I make a mistake? Did I marry the wrong person? How could I have avoided being in this place?" Instead, he said, "The Lord is for marriage and since I am now married to this person...God is for this marriage. Regardless of what grounds it started on, it is now His will that I stand behind and love this person."

I have watched imperfect marriages endure tumultuous times because of the Perfect Love of Christ. They aren't ride-off-in-the-sunset type of loves. Some of them are love-them-unconditionally-through-mental-illness kind of loves. Some of them are extending grace to an untrustworthy spouse when divorce papers would be justified. Some of them require staging an intervention to see the one they love get healthy. I've seen true warriors intercede for their lovers. I've watched marriages restored and wondered, "How do they do that? I could never do that." But...they don't do that. Their Perfect Love does it.

Thank you- those of you who have modeled Perfect Love in Christ and also warred for your flawed, earthly love stories. I realize some warriors still lose a marriage... and yet cling to Christ. May your expectations in Perfect Love be exceeded! Thank you to those of you who taught me that God uses marriages to make us holy, not merely happy. I've watched your lives poured out, not for another's reciprocation, but as a sacrifice to the Lord. You don't fight for yourself or for being "right", you fight for a love that surpasses human understanding.

Recently S. has taken to saying, "I choose you today," and I realize this is more powerful than many of the more romantic words he spoke early in our relationship. It's intentional. Regardless of feeling and regardless of circumstance we stand together. More importantly, we have experienced a Perfect Love that is teaching us how to love each other.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A big weekend for us all

Having a new job makes for a monumental weekend but our kids had their own big moments:

Best $2 purchase ever: foam swords for everyone. This has made for some great play time., (And when I fight S.- all rules are off. He's a little surly about me taking face shots but I really don't see anything unfair about it.)
No, he is not pretending. He made a couple dings in the fence but it was so worth the beyond-giddy grin plastered on his face. He calls it "Eed-eatering" since pronouncing "w" is a little tough for him.
No more little girl bikes for this lady. Grandad got her this big bike and even though her feet barely touch the ground, she insists it's the perfect size.
Yes, that's my 3 year old that lost his first tooth. Both his front teeth have been loose. One from a head on collision with cousin Pearl, the other from somehow running into a wall at top speed during Sunday School. The one from the wall came even looser after wrestling with S. When he went to drink milk, he spit out what I thought was a rock. We both realized at the same time that it was the tooth. Lots of cheers in the Taylor house!

One month. We'll take what we can get.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:33, 34

In the second part of January S. told me the Lord was telling him to not get ahead of himself in planning what's next in our lives. We decided our aim each day would be to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. As we sought, the Lord has brought people, opportunity, and potential plans in and out of our lives. We've been along for the ride.

In the past 3 months the Lord has never allowed us get past the day we are in. It is then quite fitting that while we had hoped to have a definite long-term plan by this weekend, we instead have a one month plan. (Woo-hoo! At least the Lord is entrusting us with a month's worth of work. We must be growing...right?)

The Luis Palau Association called us on Friday and told us they have a good start for a Bellingham festival. They weren't planning on hiring someone so soon to start piecing it together but decided they are willing to pay S. for a month. In that month if they can pull together enough support and interest, we will be staying in Bellingham for at least 14 months.

We are looking forward to this possibility not only because we have an advantage of familiarity in this area (a huge leg up considering much of this job is networking) but we also get to start from the ground up with much support from the Association as we go.

We are praying constantly and stepping cautiously, trusting the Lord with the day we are in. (However, it does looks like I might have some closets to finally organize and some boxes to break down.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

A white, sparkly heart

On Easter something clicked for Darla. She has always been quick to say that Jesus is her best friend, that she wants to obey Jesus, and that she can't wait for heaven. But she has never understood so clearly what sin does and the need for Jesus to make us "white". Her fantastic Sunday School teacher explained that it's like we have black hearts; with sin and bad choices. When we ask Jesus into our hearts it's like he makes our hearts white and sparkly; taking the sin out, making us new.

Darla responded with exuberance and presented a cross to us after class that says Darla asked Jesus into her heart. She explained to me, "I talk to Jesus all the time and I know all about Him but I never did that before!"

We drove past the cemetery yesterday and Hudson asked questions about death. Darla assured him, "It's like we don't even die because we get to go to heaven."
I added, "When we've asked Jesus into our lives to be our best friend then we do get to go to heaven.
"Mom," she asked with concern, "do you have a black heart?"
"I have a white, sparkly heart Darla because Jesus is my best friend and he forgives me, too."
Suddenly frantic she said, "Hudson! Ask Jesus in your heart RIGHT NOW! Quick, so you can go to heaven! You have to, Hudson."
I told Darla, "We are going to wait until Hudson decides he wants to do that. We can't make him do it."
After thinking for a moment she said, "I'm going to do it FOR him right now!"

Why am I not surprised?
I explained that each person has to make their own choice. "It's between him and Jesus and you can't decide for him, Darla."

She was upset- desperately wanting to fix her brother. I told her that one thing we can do is pray. I gave her the example of praying for Aunt Megan. When Megan didn't know Jesus we prayed for the Holy Spirit to teach her, for her to find Christian friends, for her eyes to see truth. Jesus did all those things and now Aunt Megan loves Jesus and has a white heart, too.

Darla got very quiet. A few minutes later I said something and she answered, "Shhh! I am praying for Hudson. I'm going to pray for a long time."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's looking a little promising

When we moved back to our house the last week of February, we had some great help. I had about 15 boxes worth of stuff that had to be crammed into a small hall closet. It was quite a feat but a couple friends managed to jam it all in there and quickly close the door. I thought, "I'll get to that once we get settled."
Two weeks later I decided that I would not get to that closet unless I knew we were staying. It's not worth it if I have to pack it all up again. In fact, our garage has neatly stacked empty boxes. We didn't break them down just in case we have to fill them back up again.

Yesterday the Luis Palau organization called. They are formalizing a job offer and will be sending it next Thursday for us to approve or negotiate. S. would be a Festival Director for them. Basically he would spend about 14 months raising money, getting churches on board, and planning a Palau festival. Leading up to the festival, Palau does "season of service" which is a couple month period where all the local churches come together to do some sensational community service projects. At the end of their work is a Festival celebration; with bouncy houses, kid areas, professional skateboarders & BMX, big name Christian bands, and the gospel message presented numerous times. The festival lasts 2 days. Then the churches step in to follow up with people who gave their lives to Christ, and hopefully continue with some service projects.

Ironically, when we started the interview process they planned to send us to San Diego or Phoenix for training. Things kept falling through but they still wanted S. to work for them. A couple weeks ago some people from Bellingham called Palau asking to do a Palau festival here.
Yesterday when they called they said they would like to hire S. to do a Bellingham festival. We are still discussing details and have yet to have a formalized offer...but it's looking very possible. If that's the case, Palau will help support us with what we need, staff, etc.

When I called my mom to tell her it's looking probable she asked, "should I come up tomorrow to help you organize your closet?"
I almost did it that very moment. Then I decided to wait until next week. The way that the Lord has been allowing interesting twists and turns makes me hesitant to make any assumptions. (But I have been daydreaming about which vegetables to plant out back in the garden.)

Thank you for all you who have been praying for us in this turbulent season. It has definitely felt like all the job options we considered have been knocked down one at a time, with this one left standing. We are praying if this is the best for our family, that God would show us by providing the salary we need to make it work for us.

Now we are going to go enjoy our first Easter in 9 years where we don't have to be busy with extra services and church preparations. In a year where we can loudly attest to the forgiveness and grace we have (in abundance) from Christ, we are going to soak in the celebration with our family.