My mom sent a special package this week. It contained the top of our wedding cake (which she kept in her freezer for us. It thawed out during the journey and tastes delicious!) and a very special anniversary gift to us- a scrapbook of our first year together. She asked me to send her some pictures via email a few weeks ago, so I had an idea of what she was up to, but I was so delighted to get the gift in the mail on Thursday.
I cannot think of a more perfect gift for this first year than a book filled with photos, as the idea of "snapshots" has been my heartbeat this year. Snapshots of Who I Am isn't finished yet, but I am more convinced than ever that this work the Lord called me to is the very thing that He knew I needed to do to become a better worshiper. And He knew exactly the circumstances through which I would have to walk in order to authentically write what I've written. Snapshots is about identity, and you'll have to read the book to get the full scoop, but the basic idea is as simple as the title of this blog- my identity is wrapped up in who He is, and who He says that I am.
Never could I have predicted the journey He has taken me on this year so that I would be able to authentically write this message that He has laid on my heart. And it is one I never would have chosen for myself. Again, I think of my friend's wise words, "I don't trust myself. I only trust His goodness to me." He knew where to take me, though I have so many times not wanted to go.
This year I have walked through valleys of the flesh lower than I thought I could possibly go. I have encountered unbelief that I did not know existed. I've heard the harshest words ever spoken to me or about me, and have had to choose to believe what the Lord says instead of those insults. Essentially, this year, I have lived what I have written.
And, in the end- He triumphs, as He always has. As He always will. He is my King, the Glorious Hero of my life, and yours. So, though I'm thankful for those sweet snapshots my mom put together for me and my love, we want to bless the Lord by telling you who He has been to us this year. So I asked Andy a few days ago who the Lord has been to him this year. Together we talked about Him- which is the joy of my life. So, to all those who have walked with us this year- those who have seen the inside and those who have watched from the outskirts. Here are the snapshots of who He is- the way that we have come to know Him better this year, our first year as one.
Snapshots of who He is:
Family- The very first thing that came to our minds was that God has been our family this year. Marriage is sort of weird in that you gain family and "lose" family the day that you wed. You gain because you're united by law and (if God provides it) love into another family than the one you were born into. But you also sort of "lose" a little bit of the identity you had in your family prior to the marriage. That does not have to be a bad thing, but I confess this really threw me off guard a bit. For example, last Valentine's Day was the day Andy and I packed up the Uhaul and began our three-day journey from North Carolina to Texas. I awoke like I do every Valentine's Day- looking for my chocolates from my Dad. I did not know a world existed in which my Dad would not give me at least one box of chocolates for V-Day. Since we were staying with my parents just a couple of days after the honeymoon to pack up and prepare to leave, I thought that my box of chocolates would surely await me at the breakfast table. But there were no chocolates to be found. Dumbfounded, I asked my Dad," Where are my chocolates?" "You have a husband now. It's his job to buy you chocolates," was his reply.(He didn't mean this to be cruel or neglectful in any way, but to begin to respect Andy in a new way. Thank you, Mom and Dad for doingso much to support and respect our marriage.)
That's a humorous anecdote about what has been a serious truth for us this year. We've learned to trust God as our Father and family in our new stage of life. For me, this meant trusting God when my family was far away in my sweet Carolina, and learning to rely on Him first and then my husband to meet my needs. For Andy, it's been a most precious and painful journey to Abba's lap.
Brennan Manning writes in 19 Mercies:
A rabbi invited me to a bar mitzvah at his synagogue. During dinner I watched as the rabbi's four year old son finished what he had to eat, got bored, and wandered away from the table. But he hadn't gone far before the little boy suddenly seemed to lose his bearings. Turning around in panic, he searched until he spotted his father at the head of the table. Then he ran as fast as his little legs could carry him. Two feet from the table, he flung himself into his father's lap shouting, "Ab..Ab..Abba!"
That's what my love has learned to do this year. And it is the most precious and beautiful thing that anyone could ever learn- to cry out, "Daddy!" to the Lord Almighty. And Andy, Abba's precious son, has seen Father for who He really is- His loving, tender Daddy who knows and cares about every detail, and who can give him the attention and strength he has so desperately needed.
"Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me." Psalm 27:10
Truth-I'm not yet there in Snapshots, but I am chomping at the bit to get to "I am the Truth" because God has blown me away with His truth this year. When I was a little girl, my dad used to always say to me, "Meredith, if you will just tell me the truth, then I will be gentle with you, but if you lie, you will make me very angry." Before the Holy Spirit gave me complete victory (PRAISE JESUS!!) over deceit several years ago, I used to give my dad plenty of opportunities to say this to me. What I did not realize then is that my dad was portraying exactly how God is toward deception. God is quick to forgive and slow to anger, like my dad was then, but He hates deception and stops at nothing to expose it. But we are so afraid of being exposed that we would rather blame-shift, lie or completely shut down than to face or be known in truth.
But praise to God- He is the truth! There is nothing false in Him. There's no skeleton in His closet, and nothing that He has withheld from us!! It's not just that He will not lie, but that He cannot lie.
He also works to expose darkness and reveal truth, and we've seen Him do that in miraculous ways this year. But one of the most amazing things for me has certainly been the absolute-truth of Scripture. This really hit home for me a week or so ago. We were studying God's revelation of His incomparable power and person in BSF through Isaiah 40, but I was really struggling. The description of God's majesty and power was very impressive, but I felt ignored by Him. There are things in my life for which I am still waiting, and I was completely giving in to the false belief that God has better things to do than come to my rescue. I was thinking particularly about Isaiah 40:11, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers his lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart.." I found myself thinking, "But I don't feel tenderly cared for. I feel ignored." The Holy Spirit rebuked me by reminding me that I am tenderly cared for, not because I deserve it or because other people do or do not make me feel that way. I am tenderly cared for because of one reason alone- HE HAS SAID IT!!! Andy is a wonderful help to me in this- He has become a wonderful rebuker in the Word, constantly reminding me of what is true and real, and praying for me to believe the Word of the Lord, in which we have both found refuge this year.
Teacher- Seeing God as our teacher is only natural after realizing that His truth is the only way, no matter the cost. We are incredibly blessed with the provision God has made for us to be taught by servants of God who are gifted by the Lord with skill & passion. The Austin Stone & Bible Study Fellowship continue to be amazing sources of wisdom and truth, and we are always completely amazed at the way that God uses those resources to touch the very parts of our lives that are aching.
Friend- I love Isaiah 41:8, "But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend." I love how God calls Abraham His friend. Paul says that the descendants of Abraham are not just blood relatives, they share a faith-heritage. So I feel really comfortable calling God my Friend. And He is such a good Friend. Of the many friendships He has provided for us this year, I can say that He is present in each in a very unique way. I get to see aspects of His personality brought out through the variety of people He has allowed us to meet this year. But most of all, I am thankful that I can go to the Lord in prayer and claim our friendship- "Lord, we are friends." And trust that because He has offered me friendship that I am valued and cared for by Him.
Jehovah-Shalom- I cannot end without giving the Lord credit for being our peace. This year I've learned more about the Hebrew language than ever before, and was delighted to learn the true meaning of the word "Shalom." Loosely translated into English, "shalom" means peace, but the truth about shalom is deeper than what I have seen people try to pass as "peace" this past year. "Shalom" means wholeness. Wholeness in relationship with God, and in relationship with others. As Holly has said, "Peace is not merely the absence of conflict" it is to be known by God and one another in truth, purity, and righteousness.
How Andy and I have learned to completely rely on the Lord to maintain Shalom in our marriage and home. He is so faithful. He convicts us, revealing the "sin beneath the sin" so that we are not just modifying our behavior toward one another but truly seeking to understand and believe the truth about God and each other. This inevitably puts us back on one another's team, so that we encourage one another, love and care for each other, rather than pushing apart.
I could go on and on about who the Lord has been to us, and these snapshots are not sufficient. But, to Him be the glory for the things He has done. Thank you, Lord, for your presence with us this first year. And thank you for your promise to be with us in years to come. We thankfully accept that we are yours. Our marriage is your work, and we depend on you to defend it and provide for us in all the years that are to come.
So they are no longer two but one flesh, what God has joined together, let no one separate. Matthew 19:6