my 20's: the story behind the story

I’ve had an eventful decade.

My 20’s are rapidly coming to a close and here’s my just-the-facts-ma’am recap of them:

age 20: Start dating Tom and get engaged to him. Begin attending BBC.

age 21: Become Mrs. Thomas Dodds, move into the house on Portland Ave.  Encourage Tom to start his own business. Start a small group in our home.

age 22: Graduate from Bethel College and begin (and end) my short stint at a pro-life organization.

Become pregnant and give birth to Eliza Grace. Become a mom to a baby girl. Practice life without an income.

age 23: Practice being a wife and mom. Start to see growth in Tom’s business. Say goodbye to my best friend who moves away.

age 24: Become pregnant. Move to the house on Grouse Hollow. Give birth to Seth Thomas. Become a mom to a baby boy.

age 25: Become pregnant for a third time. Keep practicing the wife and mom thing. Say goodbye to Tom’s Grandma Ione, who passed away.

age 26: Give birth to Elianna Faith. Become a mom to a baby girl, for the second time. Start another small group in our home.

age 27: Tom informs me I’m 90% of the way to 30 yrs old. Keep on keepin’ on with the wife and mom gig. Say goodbye to my Grandpa Rodney, who passed away. Live through a massive hail storm that caused damage to our home, narrowly avoid a tornado.

age 28: Become pregnant for the fourth time. Say goodbye to that little one in the summer due to miscarriage. Become pregnant for a fifth time.

age 29: Give birth to Evangeline Joy. Become a mom to a baby girl, for the third  time.

So, there are the facts of the matter. But there is a hidden story that’s missing from these facts. The story behind the story.

There is truth that is missing from these facts. And this truth is the most important part of my 20’s. It’s the true story that shows how God has kept me during this past decade. He really has kept me. He has hidden me in the shadow of His wing.

Here are a few of the ways He’s kept me, the story behind the story:

The Lord kept me through many great friendships, and, what felt like no friendships. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The Lord kept me through years of no income and years of plentiful income. He is my Portion forever.

The Lord kept me through times of depression and times of joy. He is my Strength and the Lifter of my Head.

The Lord kept me through days of birth and days of death. He is the Good Giver and the Wise Taker.

The Lord kept me through doubts and confidence. He is my Comfort who is over all and in all and through all.

The Lord kept me through city life and suburb life. Nothing can separate me from His Love. Where can I hide from His presence?

The Lord kept me through single life and married life. He is the God who grants our participation in His mysterious metaphors.

The Lord kept me through mothering magic and mayhem. He gently leads those who are with young.

Ultimately, the Lord has kept me His own. He has caused me to persevere in every circumstance because He is the Good Shepherd and no one can snatch me out of His hand.  I persevere because of His faithfulness, not my own.

So, I have a great many hopes for my 30’s. I hope that I will be less weak. More steady. Less selfish. More selfless. Less fearful. More bold.

And at the core of my hope is Jesus. I hope in Him, because He is the One “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.” I put my hope in “the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jude 1:24

So long 20’s.  It was a ride.

more and Moore on cremation

Russell Moore recently blogged about cremation.  As one who has been largely indifferent about cremation vs. burial I found it very informative and helpful.

He is biblical through and through.  His thoughts in Touchstone were particularly good.

After some comments on my post about funeral planning, I became interested in why Christians might reject cremation.  Dr. Moore answers my questions and then some.

I think I may be amending my funeral plans to include a desire to be buried.  There is something to the beauty of following suit with Christ (namely that we are buried like Christ and resurrected like him on the last day) that is hard to resist.  It’s not that God can’t raise cremated remains.  Of course He can.  But when the opportunity to imitate the biblical model is presented, I think I’ll take it.

Dr. Moore fleshes out his arguments in the Touchstone article very well and in Christianity Today.  Worth reading.

what are you reading?

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

1) Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will OR How to Make a Decision without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc. by Kevin DeYoung

I finished this about a 2 months ago and thought it was great.  What a breath of fresh air to the frivolous, often ridiculous ways we try to figure out our future before it happens.

2) Middlemarch by George Eliot

I’ve always loved Eliot’s Adam Bede and never took the time to read Middlemarch.  I’m glad I did.  She has an insight into the workings of the mind and heart of her characters that is enlightening and convicting to the reader who identifies with them.  Plus, it was the first book I read on my iPhone via Kindle and just finished.  Very handy.

3) Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I just started this and am only a few chapters in, also being read on my iphone.  So far, it has all the charming markings of an Austen novel.  It was her first book, published after many of her other works.

4) Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell

Sowell is one of my favorite minds on politics and culture.  I’ve just started this book and it examines the influence of intellectuals on society and the often disastrous effects thereof.  Thanks, Tom, for surprising me with it!

5) Home Comforts : The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson

I pulled this one off my bookshelf a month ago and got sucked into re-reading quite a bit.  I use it as reference book and disagree largely with her take on why it’s important to keep house, but nonetheless, you will not find a more thorough book covering every aspect of home management.

6) A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper

I loved this look at Ruth, Naomi and Boaz.  The book of Ruth has long been a favorite for me and Pastor John offers his usual poignant understanding of the big picture in relation to this story.  Reading it made me love God’s designs more.

7) The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr

I was assigned to read this in college and did a half-read, half-skim.  I was prompted to remember it when Tim Challies reviewed it a while back.  I’m about a quarter in so far and find it riveting and very gritty.  I probably wouldn’t recommend it.

8) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This book was a gift and I completed it a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed.  It is a book of fictional letters written just after WWII.  The style is enchanting and the content is sober without being sober.

What are you reading?

*Note: The Bible is the most important reading we can do each day.  I hope that’s understood.  I use our church’s Bible reading plan, in case you were curious.  The reading listed here is my “escape” or nighttime reading.

a good day to honor 30 years of serious pastoring

I couldn’t be more thankful for the serious (see post below) preaching and pastoring of Pastor John Piper.

Don’t miss this wonderful telling of the story by Justin Taylor of how Pastor John went from professor to pastor.

It’s worth clicking over just to see the cross-bling picture.

I’m thankful to the Lord for the way His Word is explained and revered and loved by my pastor.  It has made me love and fear God and His Word more.  As God has been exalted over and over in the mouth of Pastor John, I have tasted over and over His goodness, His sovereignty and His grace.

How are you thankful for your pastor?  Today would be a good day to honor them for 30 days, 30 months or maybe even 30 years of faithful ministry.

gospel in ten words or less

Demian, over at Fallen and Flawed (great blog, by the way), asked 12 bloggers, including me, to summarize the Gospel in 10 words or less.

It was a tough one for me, but here’s my response:

“Jesus’ blood calls, converts, cleanses, cures, carries the once condemned.”

How would you summarize the greatest story ever told if you only had 10 words to do it?  One of the bloggers, Kevin DeYoung, did it in three words.  Whoa.  Go over to the original post to see how he did it (and who he was quoting)!

I found it to be a great exercise.  Thinking about the Gospel (and talking about the Gospel and writing about the Gospel, etc) is the most important thing I do each day.  I am never not in need of the Gospel.  It’s the Gospel that’s brought me through the last couple weeks and is bringing me through today and will one day carry me home.

So take this opportunity to meditate on the big stuff of the Gospel.  And leave your summary in 10 words or less in the comments.

the bread of blogging

Recently at my church’s MOMS group someone was reading from Proverbs 31.  

A common occurrence.  One that can frequently cause cringing.  Which I believe happens because we all think we’re supposed to be a replica of that woman.  I could write an entire piece here on why I think that is not (entirely) true.  And why I think it’s ok if we aren’t seeking wool and flax and planting a vineyard.  

I’ll save that for another day, suffice it to say that the woman in Proverbs 31 was one example of godliness.  Not every example.  

So, back to the point.  We were (rightly) exhorted through Proverbs 31:27  not to “eat the bread of idleness.”  And I’ve heard women express their desire to be productive and busy at home coupled with their conviction that online time is not part of “looking well to the ways of their household.”  I don’t want to discourage them from this conviction.  If the Lord is showing this to them, it is probably a problem.

On the other hand, I have also sensed some shame or embarrassment among women who read blogs or are on facebook.  Usually this is how the conversation goes:

Me:  “Are you on facebook?”

other Mom : “Oh, yes, (initial excitement) it is so much fun to connect with people.  I found my old friend from HS and have been able to chat with her!  But I know it can be addicting (embarrassment sets in).  I’m actually not on it very often.  I try to limit my time.”

Or like this,

other Mom: “(whispering) I read your blog the other day.”

Me: “Oh, really?  Thanks.  I hope you enjoyed it.”

other Mom: “Yes, I really like the piece about ‘x’.  (more expounding on finer points of agreement and disagreement, fruitful and thoughtful conversation ensues).  

other Mom: “Have you ever read ‘blank person’s’ blog?  It’s really good, also I like “x” blog.  

Me: “No, I haven’t.  Those sound great!”  

other Mom: (embarrassed) Well, I try not to spend too much time doing that.  I only check like… once a week or so… at the most.”

I share these conversations to make a point.  Online time is not bad or good in and of itself.  It can be bad or good.  You might do your devotions and Bible-reading online.  Or you might waste hours playing a video game.  

I’m praying that this blog falls more in line with the former example.  I want this to be a place to come and be refreshed by another Christian.  The act of blogging is spiritually refreshing and beneficial for me.  So I hope the act of reading it will be something similar for you.  

I don’t want my readers to feel guilty for the 5-10 minutes they might spend here everyday or every couple days.  I want it to be a place of receiving gracious words “like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body,” or where we “discover good” together by giving “thought to a matter.” (Proverbs 16:24 & 20)

But, lest I get too lofty, I also hope it is simply a breath of fresh air, perhaps a laugh, or a moment to pause.

Welcome to your guilt-free blog zone.