Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A glimpse from the outside…

Well, I’m not quite sure where to begin.  I don’t really know what to write about – ray-ray has the teaching and writing talents. (Oh, and by the way, I don’t have a cutesy little nickname for him, so he’s ray-ray – a name given him by old friends.I guess I will just try to share a little about where I’ve been and hopefully where I’m going.  God’s been teaching me A LOT – I’ll just share my heart, and leave the rest up to Him.  If nothing else, it’s good for me to put into words on paper all the good things He’s done for me.  So here goes…

As ray-ray mentioned in his last post, my life’s journey has been much different than his.  No one will be beating my door down asking for a book deal because of my outrageous transformation.  I was born into a Christian home, accepted Christ at a young age, was taught the right way to live, and I did my best not to deviate from that.  Of course there were challenges from time to time, but my testimony is one more of God’s protective grace in my life – shielding me from poor influences and bad decisions.  I attribute all of this to a great relationship with my parents and their loving and godly instruction in my life. 

Yet with this upbringing there were still some major heart issues and missed truths that needed to be addressed in my life.

Enter ray-ray.

When I met ray-ray, little did I know how much he would teach me and what a journey we would have.  As he said, it truly is a miracle of God that brought us together.  When I sit and think about the many different circumstances that placed us at the same university in the same office at the same time, I’m amazed.  The longer we go at this together, the more and more I know that it was God’s Divine appointment that brought us together.  

I needed him.

I had a concept of people, life, and God that needed some major adjusting.  I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for people to just live right.  I thought that God was happy with me when I was doing things to please Him and upset with me when I wasn’t.  I thought everything was black and white, cut and dry, no excuses and no exceptions.  Boy was I wrong.

One of the things that I initially admired about ray-ray was his knowledge of the Bible – for someone growing up attending church every time the door was open and then some, this was what I wanted in a life partner – someone who knew more about the Bible than me.  But with him, it was more than just knowledge.  He had experienced people, life, and God in a way that I never had – in a way that majorly challenged some of my views.   As our relationship grew, the Lord began to teach me more and more about Himself through my relationship with ray-ray – showing me His amazing redemptive grace, His ability to turn tragedy and failure into triumphs, and His unfailing love for us.  All of this in preparation for September 4, 2009.

That’s when our little storm began.

If you would have told me before all of this happened that I would go through something like this, I would have told you NO WAY, I’ll fall apart – I can’t handle it.  This is not the way my life played out in my childhood dreams.  But praise the Lord His plans are not our plans.  He has such a patient way of molding and shaping us into who He wants us to become, not who we think we should be.  

During September of 2009 as our world was spiraling out of control – one thing after another being brought to light and not knowing what the next day would hold – one word kept coming to my mind...


Now, don’t get me wrong, many days were just plain awful.  I cried so much, I wore waterproof mascara for a month straight…haha!  But I kept believing there was hope, and I kept telling myself that the Lord would provide for us and the Lord would work this out for good.  I didn’t know how, but I just kept telling myself and others that He would.  I didn’t take the time to think it out or worry about it, because I might have doubted it under the weight of it all.  So I just kept saying it.  I needed to say it.  I needed to hear it.  I needed to believe it.  

He was the only One that could make 
 sense of this mess that we were in.

And boy has He done that.  What a journey it’s been.  Even with my husband temporarily separated from me, and the task of running a household, managing our finances, working full-time and parenting a two-year old on my own, I can truly say I am so very grateful to be right where I’m at.  The Lord has continued to change my view of Him, people, and life.  I could go on and on about all of the things He has taught me and is still teaching me, although sometimes it’s hard to put it in the right words.  Maybe someday I’ll share more, but for now let me try to sum it up for you with what He’s taught me in these three areas.

Himself – He is so loving, gracious and good - ALWAYS.  I’ve known these things,
 but have truly experienced them in deeper ways these past 17 months.
And if it ever seems He’s not any of these things –
I’ve become cross-eyed (see part 11). 

People – no matter our position in life or our social status,
everyone has something they are struggling with or have struggled with.
By being open and honest about it, we find comfort, support, healing and hope.

Life – I don’t want it to be about me anymore. 
I want the Lord to use me to make a difference in the lives of others –
for His glory and His Kingdom. 
And if it means a little discomfort in this life,
Bring it on!  Because He is always loving, gracious, and good.

…from the outside…Lump

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Lump, my Lump…Ode to the Lump

I can’t remember if it was a rabbit, a bear or some other animal species that the toy industry used as replicas to make these specific children’s cuddly stuffed animals.  But to this day I can still see the pink and white silky parachute material creature looming fuzzily in the back of my mind – I just can’t make out the details of its face.  The one feature of this popular late 80’s children’s toy that made it stand out from all the other stuffed animals of its time was how unusually light and fluffy it was.  I mean this thing was like squeezing air – it had to weigh near to nothing.

What is it you ask?

A Puff-A-Lump.

The source of my wife’s nickname.
(Read my first post if you’re confused.)

One day, several years back, when Lump and I first started talking, for some reason I grabbed and squeezed the bicep area of her arm.  To my surprise it was the softest bicep I’d ever squeezed before – next to a newborn baby that is.  Just like a Puff-A-Lump, it was as if I was squeezing  air.  I mean she had no muscle mass whatsoever.  Jokingly, I said, “my gosh, you’re as soft as a Puff-A-Lump”…and so the nickname was birthed.  At first I called her Puff-A – until, I don’t know why, I just shortened it to Lump.  And so it is – 

Lump – my Lump  

the one I almost missed.

To say that Lump and I have lived different lives would be a gross misstatement.  We come from polar opposite spectrums of the carnal life.  I mean you’ve read (or hopefully you’ve read) the account of my jacked up conglomeration of a life.  Well for Lump’s imagine the complete opposite and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what I mean.  Lump never drank, smoked or dipped – nor ran with those who did (joke).  By the grace of God, she became a Christian at age four and never looked back.  Though she doesn’t boast of herself this way, to me she is the epitome of a godly woman.  Jokingly I tell people all the time that Lump is honest even when she is trying to be dishonest.  To say that I married up is an understatement. (Ok, that’s enough “I know’s” and “Amen’s” out there.)

Additionally, you may have noticed from her Facebook pictures that I’m slight (term used loosely) older than she is – so, therefore, us coming together is really nothing short of water being parted or bread falling from the sky.  When I first met her, she was just another person of many that I worked with in the Campus Pastor’s office at the university – but as time clicked on and I got to know and understand who she is, it slowly became clear to me – what many of you have known – Lump is one interesting person (especially her sense of humor – which for some strange reason I understood).

One day, shortly after we met, a few of the people I worked with as well as a few students were sitting around my office talking about this and that, when the subject of “where you are from” came up.  When it got to Lump, she explained that her parents were in ministry and they’d lived all over, but that she called North Carolina home.  She then went on to name a few of the cities and towns of the Tar Heel state that she’d once lived in.  One of those towns just so happened to be the quaint little southern town where I lived and recruited for the Air Force.  The kicker being – she lived there the same time I did.  And so, that small common denominator became the key that started our relationship.

The hidden treasure from my past had been revealed (see part 7).

To save you the boredom of a drawn out narrative concerning our dating experience, let me sum it up like this – we had more issues to work through than your average couple.  But it was good – it forced us to confront them and work through them together.  There were a few times we took a break to examine and pray about whether or not we should proceed.  One of those times near the end of our dating, I remember very clearly a conversation I had with a good friend of mine who lives up in the northern panhandle of West Virginia.  In the conversation, I was ranting and raving about not knowing what to do; I loved Lump and all, but I had also gotten to the point in my life that I was finally OK being by myself.  I was traveling and speaking at different events almost every weekend – I came and went pretty much as I pleased – I liked my life – I wasn’t sure I wanted to get married.

It was my friend’s next comment that stopped me dead in my tracks and arrested my indecisiveness.  In so many words he said, 

That’s all well and good, but I sure hear a lot of 

me’s and I’s in there.  Have you asked God what He thinks? 

 Lump may very well be the one God has to come alongside 

of you and walk out the purpose for your life.

I was speechless – I knew I had not – at least in that way.  And so it was, from that day on that I knew Lump was the one.  Oh how true that has become.

You can read every book at Barnes and Noble about forgiveness and commitment, obtain a head full of knowledge about them and still not truly grasp them until you’ve experienced them in your life.  Lump did not deserve what I did to her.  My self-centered and selfish behavior brought embarrassment and heartache to the very one that believed and trusted me to be the man of God she married.  I failed her miserably.  In the world’s opinion, if anyone ever had the right to be mad, hold a grudge, withhold their forgiveness and walk away from a commitment, she did.  But that’s not my wife.  Not for one moment, even from the beginning, did she ever use my wrong to her favor.  No, she showed her love by forgiving me and sticking by me. By experiencing her human forgiveness and commitment, I began to understand in a great way what God’s forgiveness and commitment were actually like. 

It’s amazing how He uses His children as instruments of His Big Love.

In a way – a big way – what Lump is enduring far outshines and outweighs what I’m experiencing.  I sit in jail due to my rebellion and sin.  I deserve to be here.  Yes, I’m persevering and making the best of where God has placed me, but Lump’s actions far surpass my pushing through.  Her attitude and actions model the life of a true Christian.  Although I shouldn’t be surprised – all of this coming from the woman that once told me that Mercy Me’s song Bring the Rain best described how she felt about her relationship with Christ.  At the time I’m sure she had no idea how heavy the downpour would be.  But she has not faltered nor waivered – no, on the contrary, she has dug in, stood firm in her faith and has let her light shine.  I tell her all the time that I think this mess is more about her testimony than mine – or perhaps it’s both – who knows – we’ll see.

I love you Lump! 

 You’re my most favorite person…and best friend.

Thanks for being you.

Big love!

…from the inside…ray-ray

Bring the Rain by Mercy Me

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You
Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

I am Yours regardless of
The dark clouds that may loom above
Because You are much greater than my pain
You who made a way for me
By suffering Your destiny
So tell me what's a little rain
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

Holy, holy, holy
Is the Lord God Almighty