Quieter Love

I would be lying if I said we never argue.

He’s a man and I am a woman and that means we are both human beings which means we sin against each other with some regularity.

It truly is rare for us to do more than get cross eyed with each other though. I think the last time I was honestly angry with the man was when he neglected to tell me that a party we would be attending later that evening was a surprise party and, you guessed it, I ruined the surprise part by asking if I could bring anything when we came over. That was several years ago and I’m over it. (For the most part ūüėČ

I say all of that to say that my beloved was out of town last week and oh, dear goodness I miss that man when we’re not together. It’s not just the physical extra set of hands to deal with the kids or an extra set of ears to hear all that the kids say or whatever.

We both know that we are better together than we are apart. I am a better mother because of him. A better friend, a better person because of our relationship. Whatever I do I am better at it because of his love for me. And I pray that he is a better father, friend and pastor because of my love for him.

Because this is what love should do. God’s love changes us…makes us better and something other than what we are on our own that is glorious and impossible apart from Him. That is the love we should share because he is a man and I am a woman and we are His…together, as one flesh.

CS Lewis put it this way, “It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God…’Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity; this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run. Being in love is the explosion that started it.”


How We Fight

Maybe, just maybe, we haven’t shown the world what marriage truly is.

Maybe we haven’t lived our marriages in such a way that it is more than a legal transaction that grants certain rights and privileges. Maybe that’s all it is to the world because we haven’t shown them that it is holy and sacred…that it mirrors a holy God and His bride.

Maybe the world doesn’t view marriage differently because, statistically speaking (or so it seems), there isn’t much difference in pre-marital sex, abortion, adultery, and divorce inside the church as outside the church.

Consider that young man, the next time you behave less than honorably toward a young woman.

Consider that young lady, the next time you put on that push-up bra and low cut shirt and buy the short shorts that are just tight enough across your bum.

Consider what picture you are giving of marriage when you lay down beside one who is not your spouse.

Consider that husband when you choose yourself and what you want or what’s easiest for you instead of laying down your life for the one who you’re supposed to lay your life down for.

Consider what your actions are really saying despite any words you may utter wife, when you disrespect your husband and belittle him.

Obviously how we got here is much more complicated than that. But it seems like a good place to begin fighting back, doesn’t it? A better way than any pithy Facebook status or quippy little meme that just stirs up strife and contention.

We are told in Scripture to not answer a fool according to his folly so we don’t fight the way the world does. We don’t rely on just persuasive speech and political change.

We live relationships that reflect the glory of God. We love each other in a manner that brings honor to the One who has called us to be His Bride. Let our children and the world around us see the Gospel lived out flourishing in grace and restoration.

And when we do have opportunity to speak about why we believe what we believe about marriage and mankind and sin and grace and restoration may we do so with something more than bumper sticker slogans. May our words be winsome and wholesome, beautiful in that they point to Christ.

What happens after that is not ours to know or finagle an outcome. We are called to be faithful no matter the outcome.

May it be so.


It Was A Party Y’all

Psalm 30 figured prominently in Lisa and Dave’s wedding.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:11-12

It’s a beautiful testimony of God’s faithfulness to grant life where death once reigned…to restore and put back together that which had been broken.

And for the newly wedded couple and their friends it was literal. These people danced! And the smiles and laughter spoke of garments of praise and gladness.

They had a fantastic dj who really knew how to get the people on the dance floor. A friend out did herself in preparing the food and of course the decorations were just beautiful.

It was a celebration to remember!

I absolutely adore this photo of Lisa’s mother…so happy!

Such a beautiful couple.

DJ extraordinaire on the floor.

Yee haw!

Dancing, laughing, celebrating the good gifts of our heavenly Father…what a gorgeous night!

Tim and Chrisann

One of the hardest things for a photographer who wants to share their work is choosing which images to post. Especially when there are so many good ones to choose from which is certainly the case with Tim and Chrisann’s engagement pictures. They are both photogenic but it really is the way their happiness and delight with each other just shines through every image that makes narrowing them down difficult.¬†

Except this one. This one is easy to share so that we can collectively enjoy the awesomeness that is Chrisann’s hair. Gorgeousness.¬†
Pensacola photography, engagement pictures Pensacola Beach
We started our time together in Gulf Breeze on a giant sand cliff and then moved on to Ft. Pickens. I ended up with way more images than I normally deliver and if the light had lasted longer probably would have ended up with even more. Here are a few of my favorites in no particular order.
couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits

couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits

couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits

couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits

couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits

couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits

couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits

couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits

couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits

My goodness I just love this one.

couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits
couple photography, engagement pictures, Pensacola Beach portraits
Tim and Chrisann, may the Lord continue to pour out His generous blessing upon the two of you as your love for each other declares His goodness and faithfulness. May He bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you.

Fifteen Years

Fifteen years.

Can you believe that, love?

In that time we’ve been blessed with five children and made eight moves.

We’ve known several church families but have called Christ Church home for almost ten years now. Those years in and of themselves have been a wild ride and I am thankful to not only have been by your side through everything but also to call you my pastor.

I love your brain and how you seek knowledge. Not just for the sake of knowing but so you can better serve your King and His people.

I love the way you look at me…seeing who I am and loving me anyways and seeing who I can be.

I love the way you perch your glasses on your nose and give me “the look” over the top of your glasses. Oh, that makes me laugh.

I love your kisses (all eleven of them ūüėČ and I love the words of your mouth. You encourage and strengthen me with your council and wisdom. I know without a doubt that you will tell me Truth even when it is painful. In this you are a faithful friend.

I love the shoulders that accept the wait of your responsibilities to our family and to our people. You don’t shirk back or look for ways to abandon that which you’ve been given to do.

I love your heart that is steadfast and honorable.

I love the way your hands comfort and guide our family and the way you reach over and rub my back right before we fall asleep.

I love the feet that stand strong and sure in the truth of who God is, and who we are to be in Him.

In short, I love everything about you. All the good I mentioned above but I also love your shortcomings and faults. I love being with you in your struggles because even as you battle your own sin I learn ways to fight might own.

I love the last fifteen perfectly imperfect years of our life. We joke about your boxes, the way you keep things all compartmentalized, and I hope that they are full to overflowing with the same joy that I have found in us.

Even your nothing box.

Because in you and the life that He has given us, God has done abundantly more than I could have ever dared dream of or ask for.

How Wisdom Decorates a Home

He tells us that a wise woman builds her home while a foolish one tears it down. And we smile and nod as we sweep our front porch and think of the ones we’ve known who have been folly’s handmaid. We glance around at our tidy yards and manicured bushes and maybe pluck a weed or two ¬†thinking that this shows our humble piety and willingness to admit our own sin.

Only we’re not standing on our front porches being neighborly, we’re actually guarding the door hoping no one will want to come in any further. And if they do darken our doorway we have our fancy parlor with plastic furniture covers all pristine and ready for guests.

We don’t want to walk them down the hall past the snapshots of every hurt and injustice framed by bitterness that we’ve hung. And if they do make it to the living room they are sure to notice the major incident that defines who we are and everything we do hanging in it’s place of honor above the fireplace. On the mantle sits the vase of dried up day dreams sitting in the stagnant and murky waters of “I wishes” and “if onlys”.

Other vases full of our expectations for everyone, even God, teeter on the edge of window sills, just waiting to be knocked to the ground and shattered.

Tiny bumps of our family’s rebellion mar the smooth surface of the area rug they’ve been swept under, causing us to continue to stumble.

Sarcasm dents the walls leading into the kitchen.

Our dishes are chipped and cracked with discontentment as we pile them up in the sink barely scrapped clean. Crumbs of presumption scatter across the counter.

Through the crack of the laundry room door we see the piles of neglect as we ignore our duties and responsibilities. The utility closet bulges and is barely able to remain shut against the unforgiveness and disappointments that we’ve tucked inside.

There are many ways a foolish woman can tear her house down without it looking like she is.

But when Lady Wisdom is bid come inside, to clean and refresh, she throws open wide the windows of our hearts and minds bringing with her the Spirit of Truth that dispels the dark shadows of every corner.¬† We can take down the mementos of the past that shade the present and toss them into the fireplace along with the “I wishes” and “if onlys”.

We can heed her direction and empty those other vases of our expectations for the people in our lives, and more importantly the ones we have for God, and push them  to a place of security and fill them with the beautiful bouquet of His good and perfect will watered by His sufficiency.

We can stop hiding our sin and take the area rug away and wax and polish a deep shine into the hardwood flooring of obedience. The sarcasm of our speech can be sanded smooth and the vivid shade of a word fitly spoken can color our walls.

Learning the art of contentment despite our situation and circumstances makes for unmarred serving ware. Gratitude can dispose of  the taken for granted crumbs.

We can learn to be keepers of our homes, and joyful ones at that, when we see the provision God has graciously bestowed upon us. We can let go and get rid of all the junk we’ve been carrying around from house to house and relationship to relationship.

The truth is our physical homes can sometimes hide the turmoil and chaos of our souls. Other times it can be an accurate reflection of that chaos and turmoil. But in either case we have to remember that we, since we are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle Peter says, are living stones being fashioned into a spiritual house.

May we be as diligent and willing to  clean our minds and hearts as we are to declutter and put to rights our physical dwellings.

Some Questions Have Come Up

When I started the series on courtship I wasn’t sure what kind of feed back I would get, if any at all. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and happy to hear of the conversations people have been having on the topic because honestly, I think it is vital that Christians recover the ground lost on this front. I had planned to be finished after last week’s post but a friend read all three of the posts and brought up a couple of really great questions that I think warrant some discussion.
The first question is what does the young man do when the father of the girl in whom he is interested does not have as high of standards as the young man in terms of the courting process, the purity rules, etc.?
The idea of courtship for most of my generation (the forty something parents of the coming of age children) is a foreign one. Our parents came through the turbulent sixties and seventies during the so-called sexual revolution, and questioning and rebelling against authority was just all the rage. That doesn’t mean everyone was amoral, but the culture did shift – along with the way dating and marriage were viewed. Gaining a father’s permission was, and for the most part still is, a hat tip to a quaint old fashioned custom and really doesn’t mean much more than that. ¬†For a young man with a courtship model in mind to approach a father who doesn’t share a general understanding of courtship probably isn’t that far fetched.¬†

I haven’t seen this directly addressed anywhere, but I believe the young man’s approach will be the same even though he may need to guide the process more firmly than he necessarily would if everyone was on the same page. I think he would do well to acknowledge his interest in the man’s daughter and ask if it would be possible for the two of them to meet on a regular basis so that, man to man, he may present his case as a worthy suitor. This is a respectful way to place the responsibility in the father’s court, with the knowledge for it to progress any further requiring the father to give his consent.¬†Any young man who has a desire to court a young lady must do so with open hands, realizing that while he may be attracted to her, his own emotional attachment must be kept in check so that at any time the father may tell him no. He must be willing to go in with humility, understanding that the father has the right to deny him if he sees fit to do so.¬†

It’s entirely possible that the father may just shrug and say, “Sure, you can date her.” ¬†I think wisdom would dictate a frank conversation with the father, and possibly the daughter as well, with regard to the structure of the relationship. Just because the father may not be taking his responsibility as seriously as he should does not relieve the young man of his responsibility to behave honorably. He would have to be willing¬†to set the boundaries in place that would protect both himself and the young lady.¬†

Interestingly enough, we have some friends who have experienced this very situation. The father loved his daughter and wasn’t abdicating his authority in her life, but courtship was just a new idea to him. The story is that if her parents weren’t home, Justin would sit on a bar stool outside the kitchen window and talk with Jessica while she made cookies or tinkered around in the kitchen. When their families were stationed in different states and he would go for a visit he would always stay in a hotel instead of their home, and he never allowed Jessica to take him back to the hotel. He was protecting and honoring her from the very beginning even though it was a new way of doing things for her family.¬†

A follow up question was,¬†what can a young woman who has a higher standard than her father do to both honor her father and her conscience? I don’t believe it would be dishonoring for a young lady to refrain from dating if she sees the value in preparing for marriage differently than her father sees it. She should offer him every opportunity to be as involved as he is willing to be. If her father has no definite opinion on the matter, then she must think very carefully about what she wants it to look like. She can be very clear in her standards and expectations with any potential suitors and only welcome the attention of the ones who are like minded. Again, as things progress she should be careful to include her father as much as he is willing to be involved, keeping communication open and honest between them.¬†

We’re not all going to have perfect fairy tale love stories.¬†We don’t live in a perfect world. Life is messy, people are messy, relationships are messy. But somehow, when we seek to honor Christ in all we do, He is pleased to use our messiness to show His glory.¬†

Guarding Hearts Part One, Part Two, and Part Three

Guarding Hearts ~ Part Three

There’s not really much more that I want to add but I thought some final thoughts were in order as well as a couple of resources that could be helpful. I enjoyed the conversation and hope that it has been helpful to read and maybe jump started some conversation for you too.

In the very first post on courtship that I shared ¬†a couple of weeks ago, I stated that just because you do or don’t date doesn’t mean you love Jesus any less than those who do or don’t court. ¬†My aim has not been to draw lines in the sand and demand that we all do it the same way. What I want, what I’m after in these three post, is for us, the Church, to redeem the process of preparing for marriage. With recent court decisions and the way the political wind is blowing we must show that Christian marriage, and how it comes about, is sacred and holy. And that means we cannot do it the way the world does.¬†

Here’s the thing: Whether it is a redeemed way of dating that rejects the casual shallowness of the world or a more structured courtship, we have been given freedom to shine Christ into a dark world that does not know Him or His ways. No matter which mode you use, the process should cause the world to pause and question. It should look starkly different from what they experience and practice.

We all should be starting at the same point. Our lives, everything we do, is to bring honor and glory to our King. Our first thought in the process of finding and taking a wife or husband is that we glorify Christ…that we seek His good pleasure and use godly wisdom in dealing with matters of the heart.¬†
The building of a home has a common beginning…a strong structurally sound foundation. The layout, design and decorating of that home will not necessarily be the same as the one next door. I may not care for a particular floor plan in one house. Or I don’t like the design flow from one room to the next or the paint color in the kitchen. But if it isn’t my house it doesn’t matter whether I like it or not. I cannot insist that they move the front door over by six inches or use my favorite color of paint on the walls. There is no sin if their house just looks different from mine.
And there will be differences. Every family has a distinct culture that will shape the cultures that flow out of it. While there are some indisputable truths that should pass from generation to generation there is a lot that is just preference and “the way we’ve always done it.” We must be careful that we don’t judge one another based on those preferences but only take a stand when it contradicts those indisputable truths.
I say all of that because our hearts are prone to pride and self deceit. Our duty is to wage war against a world that says family doesn’t matter, that marriage is meaningless, that it doesn’t matter what we do with our bodies as long as we don’t hurt anyone else. The enemy sought to destroy the created order but Christ has come and through His death has put it back to rights. Our calling as His followers is to continue the now and not yet process of redeeming the culture.
I mentioned earlier that I would share a few resources that deal with dating and courtship. One of my favorite books on the subject is Her Hand in Marriage by Douglas Wilson. Several years ago Rob and Sarah read this together and we’ve all since reread it separately. This is a great book if you think that anyone who speaks of courtship automatically slams dating…Pastor Wilson doesn’t and it’s full of sound Biblical wisdom.

Another good read is Voddie Baucham’s What He Must Be…If He Wants to Marry My Daughter. This book is a good read whether you have a daughter and you want her to know what sort of young man to look for, or a son that you want to train up as a godly husband.

There is more that can and should be said on this topic. My prayer is that you will start the conversation in your world, with your family and your church…and that we would all enter the battle armed and ready to fight because family does matter, marriage does mean something, and what we do with our bodies is important.

Guarding Hearts Part One
Guarding Hearts Part Two

Guarding Hearts

Over the weekend I had a conversation with a friend about courtship. This is a topic of conversation in our lives quite a bit right now. Partly because Sarah is, at seventeen and going into her senior year of high school, ¬†frequently asked, “Do you date?” or “Do you have a boyfriend?”. When she says no she immediately gets this very puzzled look from the asker and the follow up question, “Why not?”

This is a fine question, but I would like to turn the tables and ask, “Why date?” For most of us the answer is literally a no brainer…because dating is what our society says in normal. Our culture dictates that dating is expected so there is no real thinking going into the process of dating. It’s just the way it’s done. But if we can agree, and we should, that the culture is not God oriented much less family friendly, then we have to know that the culture’s way of doing things will not be God oriented or family friendly. And if we agree, and we should, that as Christians we have been given the task of reclaiming the culture…of remaking culture…then the topic of dating is something that cannot be a no brainer.

Let me begin by saying that I dated. My husband dated. And yes, we survived. But we survived with a lot of drama and heartache that was not necessary. I realize that having your heart broken a time or three is like a right of passage in our world but every relationship leaves you with baggage. And even little stones add up to a cumbersome and heavy burden after a while.

My sister Lisa started dating her husband when she was fourteen years old. Chuck has been my brother and part of my life for as long as I can remember.

¬†But, and I shamelessly borrow this from Douglas Wilson’s book “Her Hand in Marriage”, just because someone survives a plane crash does not mean that we are advocates of plane crashes. Stories like Lisa and Chuck’s are becoming more and more rare and the exception should not become our rule. And I think it is high time that God’s people begin to question the rules and ways of dating because something other than Biblical wisdom seems to be driving the process.

So what does not dating look like? What does courtship look like? Well, remember up there I mentioned that my husband and I both come from dating backgrounds? Being perfectly honest…we’ve no idea ūüôā Actually, we have something of an idea but it isn’t completely in focus. It’s a work in progress, and thankfully we have a community of people around us that are living their stories of courtship and love and romance in front of us. Each story is different because while our lives all tell the same story…His story…we all live different chapters.

It has been said that modern dating is a training ground for divorce. People get their back up at this and emphatically disagree, but think about this a second. How do you comfort the friend or child that has just gone through a break up? By telling them that there is something better out there for them…someone better. We automatically condition ourselves to believe that there is someone better suited to us out there…someone better looking, or with a better sense of humor or who will love us better. At best dating plants seeds of discontent that will have to eventually be weeded out with much labor, or at worst it cultivates a very casual disposable view of relationships that will perpetuate itself repeatedly.

While we may not know exactly what it will look like there are a few things that we do already have figured out.

We believe that courtship is a time when two people, who are ready for marriage, explore whether they are suitable for each other. Having your daughter’s boyfriend eating dinner with you every night is not the same thing as courting.

By ready for marriage we mean a few things. The obvious readiness to look for is maturity and that will be different for everyone.

For a young woman it is also about whether she is prepared to tend a home. If she cannot find her way around a kitchen, manage money and other practical duties that are a wife’s work she has no business accepting anyone’s suit. If she will work after she marries or go to college then she needs to be prepared for what it is like to juggle those things. While she is in school at home under the safety of her family she should have responsibilities so that she is training herself to do multiple task and do them well. She also needs to know how to work within a budget.

For a young man it is about being able to provide a home. As the father of four daughters, my husband will expect the young man who is interested in our girls to be able to, on paper, show that he is ready to provide a home and to care for a wife. My husband will want to know that the young man not only handles his money well but that he is aware of what it costs to have a home, no matter how modest, whether he buys or rents one. He has to have knowledge of what insurance cost, car maintenance, and what other living expenses are like. ¬†It’s well and good for a young man to feel all warm and fuzzy about a girl, but if he cannot provide materially for a wife he has no business pursuing one.

Wise parents will be raising their children with the idea of marriage in the future. If a young man is taught from his early teens that he will want a wife one day and that he will have to provide for her then he is able to work toward that goal earning and saving money. Whether he will be eighteen or twenty eight when he finally meets her doesn’t really factor into the plan…he’ll be ready regardless. It is the same for a young lady. She is taught to love and tend home then she will have the skills needed to be a blessing to her future husband.

We believe that courting necessarily involves the parents and that there are steps in the process in the beginning between the young man and the girl’s father that provide a measure of protection for the young woman. And this is a big deal. Ideally the young man will approach the father, who will spend as much time as he deems necessary to get to know him. He will evaluate what he knows and learns of the young man before it is ever brought to the young woman to decide whether or not she is willing to accept his suit. If the father sees any moral failing or poor character qualities then the young lady is spared possibly having her heart broken by a man who is not worthy of her.

Please also note that the father is not ultimately deciding who his daughter will marry. Many who object to the idea of courtship do so on the misguided belief that the process happens without any input from the girl and the father is dictating her life partner. The father is actually sparing her heartache or any awkwardness if she has no interest in the man.

Rather than try to cram more into this post I think next week I’ll post a part two. What happens after the father has presented his daughter with the young man’s suit and she is interested in getting to know him more?

Not everyone is going to “court,” and I am not suggesting that it is the only way to find your spouse or that if you date you somehow love Jesus and your spouse less than the rest of us. I am saying, however, that Christians are crazy if they think doing it the way the world does will yield different results. The process of preparing for marriage must be redeemed.

Part Two 
Part Three
A Few Follow Up Questions

What Love Looks Like

Odd isn’t it, that love looks like a soap dish full of q-tips? It also looks a lot like clean socks and t-shirts.
These are simple and very basic things that make my husband feel loved. Having what he needs, where he needs it, when he needs it. Now he isn’t an oger, demanding these things. But in the life of our marriage I’ve learned that those little things make a big difference to him.

I’ve been pondering this lately…what it means to love each other. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life and depend on the grand gesture (flowers, dinner, or special date, etc.) of love a few weeks ago to be enough to communicate our affection. But it’s these day to day simple things like checking to make sure that there are plenty of q-tips handy that build up the strength of our relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, the dinner dates and special things are nice and necessary as well, just in a different way. But finding the beauty in the every day mundane tasks that give us opportunity to love (in a verb sense) is like the day to day sunshine of life. We need far more of it to flourish than the occasional rainbow.

Linking up with Heart + Home and Titus 2 Tuesday.