Here Comes the Bride! (I Hope She’s Ready!)

A bride on her wedding day is synonymous with beauty. As women, the intense preparation produces the one day we feel best about our appearance. That’s why we blow up pictures of ourselves and remember our wedding dress as the best item in our closet that, unfortunately, we will never wear again. We mentally measure our beauty against this day forever.

And it is a good thing, because what marriage really does to you is accentuate all the ugliness that lies hidden inside!

One of my favorite books is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. His message is a question: “What if marriage was designed to make you holy, not happy?” Don’t misunderstand, I’m a much happier person married than I was single. But Thomas reminds us that the ultimate goal of marriage is much loftier than just fullfilling our personal need for love and companionship. God uses marriage to make us better people – more considerate, less selfish, and hopefully a little bit more like him.

So this afternoon I enjoyed the typical snacks and games at the bridal shower of my young cousin and often caught myself wondering if she knew what she was getting into. Of course she doesn’t; none of us did. But I hope for her that she learns to embrace the process. I hope she learns to find joy in the struggle. Sticking it out together is no small feat, but the result is worth it.

In the end, if we perservere together, I think we’ll discover that beautiful bride again. This time she won’t be just glitter and glam. This time she’ll be timeless and perfect – inside and out. This time she’ll be holy – and happy!

My Jonas Brother

I just came from chapel where Dan and I lead worship for the elementary students at our childrens’ school. Sometimes it is the best 30 minutes of my week! Lately, my son Jesse has been helping me lead the singing. He has a lot of musical talent and natural charisma. I love these traits … and they scare me to death.

As a parent, how do I steward this gift? I want all the world to see my son’s abilities. Wouldn’t it be great for him to be a shining light to ‘tweens everywhere about how awesome it is to live right, to love God and to love your family. Then I remember seeing the Jonas brothers on Oprah and I think, maybe I don’t want that.

We are Jonas Brothers fans at our house for the most part, but there was something inconsistent about the influences in their lives that I noticed on that day. During the interview portion of the show, the parents went on and on about how they want to raise men of strong character. But then they allowed their young teenage sons to stand on a stage singing love songs to hundreds of screaming teenage girls. Where is the consistency in that? I think it is a lot to expect a teenage guy to maintain control of his hormones when the girls are just walking past him in the hallways – why would we think they are going to handle this kind of exposure well?

As a parent then, I wonder, what is my responsibility? I would never tell Jesse he is only allowed to sing at church and anything else is out of the question. I want the best for him. I want him to be faithful with his gifts, sharing them with the world if that time comes. But I also don’t want to set him up to fail, send him out to a world who cares more about his marketability than his soul.

Parenting adds a whole new dimension to the Rare Rocks analogy. Now not only am I thinking about the sacred formation of my own life, but I’m also concerned about the same things for my children!

The School Face

I’m all over it this morning! Last week I started teaching. This week I also start learning again. As Dan was getting dressed today he said, “That warrants such and such.” And I said, “Actually, that explains such and such. A warrant …” Then he stopped listening and said, “Yeah, I think you’re ready for class!”

That’s right, people, it’s time to put on the School Face!

The Monk in Me

May inspired this post today. She’s sweet like that!

I’ve been working on a syllabus for my Composition Class and decided to use the theme Devotion this semester. I’ve been reading Life Together by Bonhoeffer and also studying up on ancient spiritual practices. This must be a popular topic because the last time I wrote on one of the many things I’ve learned about in this study, thin places, my blog got a ton of extra hits. And almost everyday someone googles “thin places” and finds Rare Rocks.

It has been popular with me as well. I moved offices and decided to use a new decorating theme I call “Ancient Faith.” I found some antique-looking crosses in thick frames. I also found a beautiful photo, called “Sanctuary”, of the inside of a French cathedral from this Etsy store. I look at the photo, at the tall ceilings and light filled windows, and think, wow, the spiritual life is meant to be beautiful like that. We are his temple, after all! That is the kind I want to be!

I wonder if I’m into this stuff just because it is relatively new to me? I’ve grown-up in house churches and non-denominational churches housed in old grocery stores or gymnasiums. The physical asthetic of my worship place was not something I really thought about. Now I do. I drive by an abandoned or nearly out of use church and think, I should buy that place and fix it up! (If the church is made of brick or stone this is especially true – just ask my husband!)

Or do you think it is something in my spiritual make-up that I’ve simply never explored? Many of the people I know who were raised Catholic are sick of the traditions and the ceremony. Maybe I’m just becoming a more well-rounded Christian? Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Pathways takes on this topic of spiritual temperament. Reading that book reminded me to look at the spiritual personalities of others as a source of challenge and appreciation instead of as division lines. Maybe right now I’m just making friends with my more traditional self.

Cultivating Inner Beauty

I Peter 3:3-5

The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.

Did Peter REALLY know what he was talking about here? Normally I would answer with a confident yes, but I surprised myself again this week by seeing that my reality was a resounding no.

I got a haircut last week and it did not turn out the way I had imagined. I know, that is almost ALWAYS how it goes, but this time I was really down about it. It was a cool haircut that just didn’t flatter me – at least, in my opinion. Dan kept telling me how cool it looked, but nothing mattered; I didn’t like it and I was grumpy about it.

Luckily, a good friend happened to be home for the weekend and she “fixed” it. My attitude and self-confidence improved almost immediately. I’m embarrassed to even say that! Here’s the ammeded version:

So, I guess all I can say is that I’m further away from the truth of this exhortation from Peter than I had hoped. I suppose, however, that the most important thing to remember is to keep cultivating that inner beauty. Maybe as I do that, I’ll learn to be less reliant on my outward beauty for contentment and find that, instead of being in opposition, the two can be rather complementary.

Oh, the Pain (and the Drama)

Macy is teething. Not just oh, I think I see a little tooth teething. This is swollen gums with at least four teeth trying to pop through teething. And a runny nose and a serious case of the crankies. Trying to comfort her really doesn’t help because she’s just feeling it all and wondering why we don’t understand what she wants. The problem is, there really isn’t much to do to help her; she doesn’t even know what she wants. It is one of those classically frustrating parenting situations.

The helplessness of this stage makes me dread the similar feelings I know I’ll have when my girls face the teenage years. Oi vay! I remember those feelings of being trapped and scared and sad and thrilled and worried and enchanted. All of them in the space of about 10 minutes. I remember walking downstairs thinking something from the kitchen would help and then trudging back up when nothing did. (Not even the Little Debbie that tasted like heaven!)

Macy will be fine in a few days, and I know girls eventually pass through adolescence as well. I just hate that in-between time when everyone feels miserable! I was sustained in those days by a great family, a foundation of faith, and a growing personal relationship with God. Macy is sustained by lots of holding, Motrin, and a pacifier. Maybe those things aren’t so different from one another for now. When she’s all grown up she’ll trade the pacifier for personal faith, but the rest she’ll probably keep. Sometimes nothing is better than Motrin, and I know she’ll always have us!