Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Me: "Thanksgiving. Wait, I take it back. My favorite holiday is my birthday because it's all about me."
I was joking right? No 21-year-old can make a statement like that and be serious, can they? Yet, as I always say, there is some truth to all sarcasm. I just hate it when there's truth to my own.
My favorite childhood memories revolve around family vacations and birthday parties. Mama always threw the best themed parties. At four I had a circus (clown included). At 7 I had my first slumber party. At 13 I had two dances: one with a "Survivor" theme with my best friend Macy and one where my cousins Kolby and Jennifer taught us how to two step. At 15 I had a "Come as You Are" and my mom surprised all my friends (and me) and took us to dinner...most of us were already dressed in our pajamas. At 21 the party was themed "A is for Allison" and everyone dressed up as something that started with an A...did I really not see the selfishness?
I've had a birthday party every year of my life. I love birthdays because my mama made everything so special just for me. Is she to blame for my selfishness? (Absolutely not, Mom.) Am I going to throw themed parties for my children? You better believe it!
So today I turned 22.
I had all these expectations for Jon and things he was supposed to do today since it was my birthday. And as all these expectations I had in my head failed to come true, I was so disappointed. But it wasn't Jon's fault. It was mine. It was my birthday and I didn't get what I wanted. Let me just again remind you that I am 22, not 4.
Jon encouraged me to have some time with the Lord to see why I was so upset and this blog is the by-product of my J.time (J=Jesus).
The Lord spoke to my heart. Though this has been a tough week, I wasn't upset by illness or bad test grades, I was upset about not getting my way. I am selfish. I hear that you learn this lesson a lot during the first few years of your marriage so maybe the Lord is just opening my heart so I can get a head start :) When I confessed my selfishness and asked for forgiveness, my joy was restored!
I was able to actually see ALL that the Lord had blessed me with this year on my birthday: 160 facebook messages, 2 letters in the mail, 25 texts, 6 happy birthday songs...not to mention a special delivery picnic basket from Jon and fun new shirts and delicious angel food cake from my roomies!
I went to bed very happy. I was so grateful for my future husband who gently called me out of sin and pointed me to the Father. Today was a great day.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
We flew kites, played Bocci ball and ate lots of food.
Here I am trying to fly the kite.
These were our teams for Bocci ball. We were yellow and just couldn't take away a victory.
At least Allison is a good sport.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
This is where I talk about the trip to Israel with the Forge. Besides the fact that I put Allison through misery being on the other side of the world for ten days, it was an incredible trip. Let me first and foremost say that I think that everyone should make their best effort to try to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land at some point in their life (the earlier the better). After a minor ordeal that prevented us from making our intended flight to Tel-Aviv Friday night, we eventually got out of the states only half a day late.
We arrived... and started walking. Like the Israelites.
Want to walk through the land of mumbling? Try this piece of desert that many believe to be the well-trodden rocky ground the nation of Israel was forced to wander in for 35 of their 40 years in the wilderness. It's the maktesh, a huge scar on the earth. And thankfully we weren't here to bake in the summer heat.
We had a flashback to my Latin 3 text book. Masada. Right on the coast of the Salt Sea. A tough hike, but absolutely worth it.
This view literally stole my breath. It might have been because we hiked to the top of Qumran for it, but it was also the first real green sight we encountered after two days in the desert wilderness. Beautiful, rolling hills and a Promise Land sunset... could this possibly be Heaven?
At the Sea of Galilee, we had some fun getting over the frigidness of the water. The guys ran in and started playing Red Rover-- and, because no one can resist a Red Rover summons, we all ran in.
When we would run into the water it would sometimes look like we were walking on top of it. And after looking at the pictures from that day, I keep thinking about this passage:
And Peter answered him, Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. He said, Come. So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:28-29)
It was a good day.
When God made His promise to the Israelites, He promised to give them the best of the lands. I know that in the past when I have thought about Israel and its geography or topography, I think a lot about deserts. About dry land. About heat and rocks.
This waterfall was just one of the beautiful things we saw in this “best of all lands.”
The Western Wall. Where a Rabbi told me how to become a righteous Gentile.
On the Temple Mount, in front of the Dome of the Rock. It's so crazy that we made it up here.
There's more I could say. I've got a quiver full of lessons and life experiences that we picked up along the journey, but I don't know where to begin. Maybe I'll get around to another post about things that get put on my heart over the next few weeks to share about the trip.
You, go to Israel.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Before we get started on the story, you should know a couple behind-the-scenes details that will help everything else make since. This past year Jonathan has been involved in a discipleship program at Pine Cove Christian Camp called, “The Forge.” Part of this program requires the students to create a covenant outlining what activities they will and will not participate in throughout the year. As a group the Forge decided not to watch movies or television, which led to a lot of conversational dates. Our first conversational date took us to Bryson Park, and after that we decided to go to every park in College Station (little did we know there were 50 total!). This is the account of park dates, #5-9…
The “date” started with special instructions for Allison to sit back, relax, and enjoy the afternoon of park-hopping. Bee Creek Park was the first park Jon took Allison. Jon explained that this park represented the past before they started dating. Upon arriving at the park, there was a round table covered in a white table cloth and decorated with rose petals and candles. It also had inter-camp mail letters, root beer, and almonds–all things that reminded the couple of different memories from their friendship. Allison was so nervous at the park that she could barely read a letter Jon had written her and definitely had a hard time drinking the root beer from the champagne glass he provided.
Allison was under the impression she would be getting engaged right there, but Jon surprised her and whisked her off to another park. Steeplechase Park represented the past since Jon and Allison started dating. On the table Jon had milk and Oreos with another gift. As Allison excitedly unwrapped it, she discovered her gift was two pairs of Depends diapers. Jon gave them to her as a visual reminder that she could always “depend” on him.
Lemontree Park was the third place the couple went. It represented the present. Jon and Allison started reading books together over Christmas break. He chose The Hobbit and she chose Redeeming Love. Jon’s Forge notes were also on the table and he pointed out where he had started to draw a time line thinking about when they could possibly get married. The gift Allison received at that table was a pair of hair cutting scissors since Jon ever so kindly let Allison learn to cut his hair the previous weekend.
By the time the couple reached the fourth part, Brothers Bend, Allison was pretty well aware of what was about to take place. This park represented the future. When they first walked into the park, the table, which had been beautifully decorated at the past three parks, had no rose petals or candles or a gift. Jon explained to Allison that the Lord had made the past beautiful but the future, though they have lots of hope, is still unwritten.
Jon reminded Allison of several verses that have been important to the couple over these past three months, including Isaiah 46:10, “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish,” Romans 8:28, “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” and Isaiah 61:3, “…for the display of his splendor.”
With that Jon asked Allison to marry him. She said yes! They went back to her home, the Bonsai, to celebrate with her best friends and the Forge family. It was a beautiful day.
Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
This is the story about a little boy and a little girl.
The year was 1987. The day was March 18th. In the state of Ohio, the little boy was born. He was the first son born to two proud parents and two older sisters. Not too long after he was born, his family moved back to Texas and two younger brothers soon joined. The family was now complete: seven happy members.
The kids began to grow. Baby clothes turned into Hawaiian t-shirts and squinty eyes soon became “the look.” The girls realized their brothers were not their little dolls any more and became interested in different things. The boys often found themselves outside where their imagination was their favorite toy. Throughout their childhood, the little boy and his siblings each fell in love with Jesus. Not only was the family complete in number, but now they would all be together in eternity.
After several trips to Disney World and great vacations to other parts of the world, the girls moved out of the house: one went to Waco and the other one to College Station. The little boy (who was not so little anymore) excelled in school and track and even found himself king of the prom. It was time for him to move on with life and so he joined his sister at Texas A&M University. His education continued but it was mainly done outside of the classroom. He made lots of friends and joined lots of clubs and even figured out he really liked English…and Greek…and Latin.
That summer he found himself immersed in a completely new world of awkward junior high kids, lots of energy, and funny names, like Opa! He quickly fell in love with this little camp in East Texas. The years went on and his brothers soon followed him to school in College Station: one brother chose a different path and decided the Marines was the place for him while the other brother tagged along closely in his footsteps. The boy grew and soon became a man—not one without faults or hardships but with an ever trusting heart and growing love for his sweet Savior.
On the other side of Texas, in the year 1988, the little girl was born. She was the first daughter in her family and dearly loved by her two parents and big brother. She and her brother would do everything together. They played dress up and soccer and in tree-houses and soon welcomed a baby sister into their family, and the little girl found herself happily in the middle. Not too long after her sister was born, the little girl placed her faith in Jesus. Her siblings were soon to follow. This family was now whole.
They spent lots of time together on family vacations and at church events and ball games. Their faith as a family grew as the little girl’s daddy became sick, but they were united and held tight to their Healer. Time grew on and the little girl grew up. She still played soccer and now cheered on the sidelines, did well in school and, like the little boy, she, too, became prom royalty. Her brother moved out of the house and she followed him to College Station the next year. Her path set before her was different than his: he was getting a degree and then headed to the Navy and she was going to be a doctor.
That summer she ended up close to home working at that camp with lots of energy and funny names, like Sweet Pea, but the little boy was not there that year. She went back to school and became more involved in her club and discovered a passion for discipleship. Her first two years in school were not easy ones and grace was abundantly given as her faith and love for her Savior grew and grew.
This is where their stories combine.
The little boy and little girl find themselves back at that camp in East Texas in the summer of 2008. She was a nanny and he was a senior counselor. It was orientation week and their camps were fortunate enough to eat dinner together where the two of them conveniently sat at the same table. A few weeks later, the boy and girl ran into each other and chatted about Texas A&M and mutual friends.
She was interested. He was oblivious.
Camp ended and they both went back to school in College Station. They saw each other one day in September and wouldn’t again until the following May. Unbeknownst to the girl, the boy was befriending her brother that year. It was he and another friend that suggested the boy take the girl on a little date. So he did. The boy called the girl and they went to Austin thirty minutes later. Conversation was abundant and the two became close friends upon discovery that neither wore deodorant and both wanted to go to New Zealand. He dropped her off only to say, “See you at camp!”
She had made a new friend. He…was smitten.
Camp came and went that summer. The two grew closer in their friendship, but it was the girl who was oblivious that year.
The boy took her to breakfast, and they talked about his decision to not go back to College Station that fall. The boy decided to do a discipleship program at camp, because he, too, loved discipling and being discipled. He came to see her in College Station and took her zipling in the middle of the night. Two IBC rootbeers and an adrenaline rush later, the little girl’s lights finally came on, but it wouldn’t be for another month that the boy would confess his feelings.
“I don’t really have anything prepared,” he started, “but I…I like you.” To which she responded, “I’m scared of commitment,” and knowing that wasn’t the best thing to say, she continued with, “I’d like to get to know you better.” So they did. For three months they spent time with each other and their friends and their families. They talked a lot in hammocks and on pergolas, at parks and in broken down cars. They discovered a shared love for movies and almonds and adoption. They learned they were both ticklish and controlling in the kitchen. They told each other hard pieces of their past and forgave each other for their mistakes. And soon the little boy and the little girl fell in love. Their precious Lord set things into motion and they could not believe the blessings he had bestowed upon them.
And then there was a ring
and a conversation with her father
and a proposal.
The little boy took the little girl on a date. They went to park after park after park after park, and at each step of the journey, the boy gave the girl at gift and told her of his love. He reminded her of their friendship back at camp. He reminded her of their time spent getting to know each other better. He reminded her of his decision to choose to love her. Then he reminded her of the hope they have in their Heavenly Father as the future remained blank before them. The boy got down on one knee and said, “Will you marry me?” and the girl responded, “Yes. Yes! YES!”
This is a story of God’s grace.
You see, the little boy had saved his first kiss for his fiancé, but the little girl, well, she had kissed a lot of boys. But he didn’t care. He didn’t hold it against her. He didn’t make her feel guilty. He didn’t choose to abandon her. No, he looked at her through the eyes of Jesus—he looked at her filled with God’s grace and love—and told her she was beautiful. She was pure. She was his choice. And the best part was she chose him back.
“Deserve is a stupid word,” said Matt Chandler. This little boy and little girl agree. Neither feels as though they “deserve” each other, but for some reason, the Lord has tremendously blessed them both with one another. On a much larger scale, no one “deserves” life with Christ, but He doesn’t care. He loves us and desires relationship with us. But because we are not perfect, we can’t have relationship with God, so He made a way for this to happen.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died for one reason—that we may be reunited with the Father for life now and for all eternity.
We’ve all become unclean, and our righteous acts are like permanently stained rags (Isaiah 64:6). Even our good deeds are not and will never be good enough to have relationship with the Father, but Jesus made a way.
For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is our gift. Faith is our gift. Salvation is our gift. We are SAVED—saved from our lies and our idolatry and our pride. We are saved from hell. All we have to do is choose life, life in the Father through the Son.
I have come that they may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). It is a full life, not without trials and sufferings, but a life with lots of hope and blessings if we choose to follow Him.
Choose to say “Yes” to God’s gift of grace and know that He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
The little boy and the little girl love each other very much. But more than their love for each other is their love for the Lord. Their story is just beginning. They know to expect bumps. They know they will fail. But they also know their God will never let them go.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61: 1-3