A letter to my wife

Today’s post is written by one of my students, Roy Meisinger, as a token of appreciation to his wife. 

Dear wife,

I would like to take the time to tell you how thankful I am that God chose you to be my wife. I think sometimes I take you for granted, but truthfully you do and have done so much. I am thankful about how supportive you have been especially in the last five months. Being laid-off caused big changes, and you have tried so hard to be positive about it all. Not only am I thankful for being supportive of me through though times, but I also appreciate how much you do for our children.

image1-1It takes a lot to raise our kids. Practices, art classes, and modeling is a lot for one person to run around to and from constantly. Yet you do it each week and have shown me in the last five months that though it is exhausting, it is also worth it. Allowing our children to do all these different things will better them in the long run. Sometimes I wonder why you push yourself to let them do so much, but you are letting them do what they love. I know as their father I have agreed to let them do everything as well. What I did not realize at the time of these decisions is that school was going to keep me from helping with it all. You have taken on the challenge, though, and I could not be more thankful. It is hard to understand what all it takes to care for a house and kids. The time I have been home these last months have shown me how much work it actually takes. It truly makes me more grateful for you each day.

You did not stop with just me and the kids though. This semester while I had class, you took on Wednesday nights with the youth. I am so thankful that you are ready to step up while I go to school in hope of bettering our future. You have done a great job with teaching them. If I am completely honest, it is not just Wednesday nights that you have helped me. You have been such a huge help with the youth over the last year. From scheduling every event to just adding your thoughts during a lesson, you have helped me do the best for them all.

This is not just for brownie points; I am seriously most grateful for you. Supportive of me, a great mother to our children, and an awesome youth minister’s wife, I am thankful that God sent you to me. I look forward to many more years and many more reasons to be thankful.

” I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.” Philippians 1:3-4 (ESV)

Love,

Your Husband

Day 21–Count it all joy

*Thank you, Alison Valderrama, for writing such an inspiring piece about an amazing woman. And for being a constant source of encouragement for me as well!*
Sometimes we get a wake up call in life that shocks us to the core and leaves us wondering how to put it in the box of faith. For me recently, it’s been watching someone I love and admire get beaten up by an ugly, painful and frustrating disease. Our beloved pastor was diagnosed with ALS in November and has had a quick and shocking decline since.  I am merely a church member witnessing this from my comfortable seat, while church brothers and sisters said kind and honest words that brought our leader and her daughters to tears, week after week. What does one even say to comfort a pastor, who counsels and loves and shows US the way to God?

Alison V blogIn December, Pastor Julie gave one of the most emotional and powerful sermons I’ve ever heard. This was no surprise, because she is a very compelling, interesting and down to earth speaker who has always given us realistic, honest insight. But this sermon was different, because it was two weeks before her retirement, which was another unfair result of ALS. Her speech had begun to slur and she spoke from a wheelchair, but between laughter and tears, gave a sermon called “Count it all as Joy.”

Joy?! Here we had seen her sickness take over a healthy person, young and alive and vibrant…and she wanted to talk about joy?! In typical Julie style, we saw that her spirit would not be crushed.

Her message focused on Philippians 4:1-13.

(You can read the sermon, and her other sermons here if you’d like: http://www.firstunitedoakpark.com/files/sermons/12-16-12_Count_It_All_Joy_Julie_R_Harley.pdf).

One of the points that stands out to me still is that Julie says she knows she is deeply loved, and feels it even more now, than when her body was healthy. It’s been uplifting to see how Julie has been able to make positive and joyful and bittersweet conversations out of what has happened on her journey. But I’m not surprised; she is an amazing person, deeply loved by God.

Like we all are.

It’s been hard for us as a church to go through this, but it’s not about us, not wholly. And where it is, we are believing that God is going to meet us in our wilderness. We are trusting that God has all the answers, and holds us in his arms. It’s been hard to remember the love of God sometimes, especially when we see those tears, and the wheelchair, and the pain on Julie’s daughters’ faces. But I know this is the challenge: finding joy in struggle and the rejoicing in the love of God.

“The feeling remains that God is on the journey too.” -Teresa of Avila

 

Positive opposites

I catch myself worrying constantly.

I know I’m not the only one. Last week, a friend of mine expressed the high level of anxiety she’s been feeling and the thoughts that have been churning in her brain related to her daughter’s situation at school. Another friend admitted that in preparation of her big move overseas, she’s been plagued by multiple worries despite her efforts to battle them by doing her best to prepare for the move.

Much of the time, I don’t even realize how plagued by anxiety I really am. The mental dogs begin to bite. The bees sting. And I catch myself making agreements with the negative, pessimistic, cynical worries rummaging through my brain. As a Christian, I believe this is a form of spiritual warfare. Each time I make an agreement with Satan, I negate what God is trying to do in me.

“You’re gaining so much weight while you’re pregnant. You will never look the same after this.”

“You’re going to be tied to the house forever after having this baby. You won’t ever get to do anything fun or adventurous again, and you will be alone doing it, because your husband will be able to go and do as he pleases while you’ll be stuck at home.”

“Don’t you think your husband is going to find some younger, prettier, skinnier, non-pregnant woman to pine after?”

On my worst days, my response to these nagging negative thoughts is, “Yes. You’re right. I am fat. My life is going to be miserable. My husband will probably find someone else.”

The minute I succumb to these thoughts and agree with their negative messages, the minute I’m forfeiting the truth that God is ultimately in charge, and only He knows what lies ahead. I’m choosing to align myself with darkness rather than light. I’m also giving up my peace of mind and making room for more anxiety in its place.

I don’t want to give up what God’s given to me. I want to be free from insomnia caused by anxiety. I don’t want to spend my time contemplating upcoming events and decisions, attempting to plan out what I have no control over. But how can I fight such a pervasive force? How can I overcome a problem that is so subtle that I often overlook its onset?

This morning, I read Philippians 4:6-7.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When I read these verses, a spiritual lightbulb turned itself on inside of me (either that, or my one daily cup of coffee kicked into gear). Ah. Positive opposites.

In the anonymous 12-step recovery program I’m part of, we utilize the tool of practicing positive opposites in order to overcome our own negative tendencies or to counteract character defects. Am I feeling extremely critical of my boss? I’ll do the opposite and choose to praise her for the good things I notice instead. Do I tend to wallow in self-pity because of the difficult situation I find myself in at home? Instead of eating a gallon of ice cream, watching a sad movie, and tearing through boxes of Kleenex, I’ll do the opposite and invest my time in paying attention to the needs of others and making efforts to help them through their difficulties. I’ll volunteer with a local non-profit or pray for friends who are hurting.

It’s quite simple.

And this morning, I noticed it’s also quite Biblical. Am I anxious? Instead of letting anxiety overwhelm me, I will actively pray (repeatedly) with gratitude and thanksgiving. Instead of focusing on the what ifs, I’ll focus on what is. God Is. And He has showered me with countless beautiful blessings, some obvious and others donned in clever and humorous disguises. And thankfully, God promises me that if I combat the anxiety with grateful prayers, His peace will guard my heart and mind.

I need that.

The Sound of Music meets Paul

This is slightly embarrassing to admit, but I sometimes make up songs.

Okay, quite frequently, I make up songs. Especially while driving or singing to my pets. What can I say? Part of me is still 10 years-old.

I’m not sure when, but I’m sure that several years ago on some drizzly, depressing day as I was stuck in commuter traffic for an hour, I decided to combine “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music with one of my favorite verses, Philippians 4:8.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Isn’t what Paul suggests in that verse essentially the same thing as singing a song about your favorite things in order to chase away biting dogs and stinging bees?

I never understood how the Von Trapp kids could be so afraid of the storm when they were having so much fun and singing about German food (yum), kittens, and ribbons. Listen to your own song!–I’d think to myself while watching the movie as a child.

Isn’t that how I used to be, though? Just like the Von Trapp kids, I was surrounded by blessings and could have constructed an impressive gratitude list. But most days, I didn’t. I focused on the storm, the dogs, and the bees.

Sometimes I catch myself dwelling on whatever is dark, whatever is depressing, whatever is in the past, whatever is scary, whatever is dirty, and whatever is painful. When I do, I’m grateful that I’m more easily able to recognize my own tendency to focus on the drone of the bees rather than the quiet hum of What Really Matters in my heart. And then I swap out those “whatevers” for those listed in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

And then I don’t feel soooo baaaaad . . .