Thursday, September 4, 2014

To My Precious Son

To my precious son,

What a joy it is to welcome you into our lives, dear boy! We have been eagerly awaiting your arrival, and we are rejoicing in God’s goodness and faithfulness as we finally hold you in our arms.



Son, your father and I have spent many car rides and dinner conversations discussing the name we give you today—a name that expresses both our gratitude and our desires for you—John Oliver Stanley. 

 

Your first name, John, means “God is gracious.” As John 1:14,16 says, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…For from this fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” God has been so gracious to us, dear John. Your daddy and I have been saved by grace, our relationship has thrived on grace, and you, little one, are just another example of God’s amazing grace in our lives. We pray that one day you, too, will experience this incredible saving and sustaining grace, which is why we give you this name.





You share your middle name, Oliver, with your late Grandpa Glenn. He had a great love for God and his family, and oh, how he would have loved you! He constantly told your daddy how much he loved him, and daddy never doubted his father’s love for him. In the same way, we pray you will never doubt our love for you, but more importantly, that you will never ever doubt God’s love for you. When trials come, when darkness seems to be closing in, when temptations rage against you, know that your father in heaven loves you deeply—so much so that he gave his OWN son to die so that you might live. While we love you more than you could ever know, our love pales in comparison to God’s love towards you. As 1 John 4 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” There is no greater love, my son, because this love leads to life—a life full of joy and hope and peace. 




Your last name, Stanley, is not given but inherited, and it comes with a rich legacy. What does it mean to be a Stanley? Well, you will likely have to shop in the Big and Tall section your entire life, you’ll probably receive your first guitar lesson before you take your first steps, and you may inherit what I’ll call a “unique” sense of humor. 

 

But it also means that you are part of a rich legacy of God’s grace and mercy. When your Grandpa was young, God literally broke his prisoner chains so that his heart would be free to rise and follow Christ. He then shared the great news of the gospel with his own sons, and God was faithful to save your daddy through the testimony of his big brother, your Uncle Jeff. Since the day we found out we were pregnant with you, we have prayed without ceasing that you, too, John, would experience the same saving grace that Stanleys before you have experienced. We pray that God would call you out of darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9), and when that day comes, dear son, we—and all of heaven—will rejoice! 



Welcome to this world, John Oliver Stanley. We love you dearly.




Love,

Mama



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Making the Most of "Me Time"

A few weeks ago, I wrote this blog post in an attempt to describe how I, a self-proclaimed introvert, often feel in social situations.  I was blown away by how many people seemed to relate to the post, so I decided then and there to do a series on what it looks like to be a Christian introvert.

In my last post, I discussed how introverts turn inward for energy. After spending time with people, they crave "me time" to think, process, rejuvenate.

In the next two posts, we'll dig deeper into this "me time" and try to figure out how to best utilize this time to the glory of God.  

So what exactly does "me time" look like?

For me, "me time" can take many shapes and forms. My "me time" usually involves one or several of the following: eating, reading, crafting, singing, thinking, praying, writing, facebooking, pondering, shopping, processing, or Netflixing (yea, I just made that a thing).

You may have noticed that more than one of those activities takes place in my mind. One of the great benefits of "me time" (in my experience) is that allows me to think, ponder, process, and constantly take stock of where I'm at in life. Because I spend a great deal of time inside my own head, I am keenly aware of my desires, my sin, my passions, my pain. This awareness can lead to a host of good things, but if I'm not careful, it can also lead to great sin.

Awareness of my desires can lead to death or life.

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. -James 1:15
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. - Psalm 145:19

Awareness of my sin can lead to condemnation or repentance.

Therefore, there is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ. - Romans 8:1
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9

Awareness of my passions can lead to selfishness or selflessness.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter... 
...For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another...

                                                                                         - 1 Thess 4: 3-5, 7-9
And awareness of my pain can lead to bitterness or faithfulness.

Then his (Job's) wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 1 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” - Job 2:9

How, then, do I partake in the goodness while guarding against the sin?


By looking upward, not inward.  

I lift up my eyes to the hills.From where does my help come?My help comes from the Lord,who made heaven and earth...The Lord will keep you from all evil;he will keep your life.
                                    - Psalm 121: 1-2, 7

By focusing my thoughts on things above, not things below.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. - Phillipians 4:8

By being ever-mindful of the gospel.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, andto live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. - Titus 2: 11-14

Here's the thing...for the Christian, there's really no such thing as "me time."  I'll say it again to let it sink in...

For the Christian, there's really no such thing as "me time."

For Christ has purchased us at a great price so that he could make us his own, and as his own, we are in turn called to be "living sacrifices" that are "holy and acceptable to God."

My "me time" is truly "His time." 

Every word I write, every thought I think, every breath I take belongs to Him and Him alone. And if I posture my heart in this way, I can rest assured that I am making the most of my time...His time.


Stay tuned for the next post where we'll discuss how we can best serve God with our "me time."  In the meantime, did anything from today's post strike a chord?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments section.  













Monday, March 3, 2014

Preparing for Easter

I don't know about you, but holidays have a tendency to sneak up on me.  And if I'm not careful, my heart can be left cold and unprepared.

So for the past few years, I have purposed to prepare my heart, my home, and my table for Easter...the most joyous day on the Christian calendar!

If you'd like to join me in preparing for the Easter season, here are five great resources that God has used to minister to me and my family:


1) Treasuring God in Our Traditions (Chapter 9 - Especially Easter) by Noel Piper


Noel Piper has some great suggestions for helping your family focus on Christ during the Easter season. We have incorporated lenten advent candles in our home, as well as her devotional entitled "Lenten Lights." As the kids grow older, we may end up incorporating some of her more kid-friendly suggestions as well.

Our lenten lights all lit on Easter morning because "He is Risen!"


2) Lenten Lights by Noel Piper


Eight biblical devotionals to prepare for Easter (to be used weekly during lent OR daily during Holy Week).

3) Three Meaningful Easter Activities for Kids by Courtney of Women Living Well 


I love how Courtney is always seeking new ways to show Christ to her kiddos.  I can't wait to introduce resurrection eggs and easter story cookies to my little ones someday.  Confession...before we even had kids, I found myself making her resurrection rolls on Easter Sunday.  Such a beautiful visual reminder of our Savior's glorious resurrection!

Photo from Women Living Well



4) "Risen" album by Sovereign Grace Music


As a singer, God often ministers to me through music, so I'm always on the lookout for good, theologically-sound worship music.  This album is specifically designed to get us thinking about the Risen King!  Straight from the album cover...

"He is not here, for he has risen, as he said."

These words, spoken by an angel to the women at Jesus’s tomb, changed history forever. Christ’s resurrection was more than a display of raw supernatural power. It was the single event that assures us that his payment for our sins has been accepted. God’s wrath is satisfied. Death is defeated. The powers of darkness are overcome. Sin’s dominion has been broken. And the life of the age to come has dawned.

The songs on this album celebrate these realities, experienced and enjoyed by all who place their faith and hope in Jesus Christ.


5) Holy Week Series by Justin Taylor


A few years ago, Justin Taylor (Gospel Coalition blogger, editor at Crossway and elder at New Covenant Bible Church) put together what he called "an attempted harmony/chronology of the words and actions of Jesus in the final week of his pre-resurrection life."   Each day, he walks you through what actually happened on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, etc.  In the past, I have enjoyed this walk through the gospels leading up to Resurrection Sunday, and I really like that he's done the legwork for me!


Do you have any resources to add?  Sound off in the comments section!  

Friday, February 28, 2014

So it says I'm an introvert...

I was nineteen when I first realized I was an introvert.  I had joined a congressional campaign for the summer, and the campaign manager thought it would be beneficial for all staffers to take a Myers Briggs Type Indicator test.

My result?

INFP.  (That's an introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiver for anyone wondering!)

I was shocked.

I was known in high school as the "performer."  I loved the stage.  I was passionate and outspoken, not afraid to speak my mind.  In college, I was no different.  I boldly advocated for causes near and dear to my heart.  I was the girl in pearls, marching to the beat of her own high heels.

So...how could I be an introvert?  

To me, it seemed like a fault.  In my mind, extroverts were fun, social, outgoing.  Introverts were shy, self-centered, and indifferent.  I couldn't be one of those people.

Or could I?

When I first read my results, I didn't understand the meaning of the word "introvert" which quite literally means "to turn inward."  Through this exercise, I learned that being an introvert or extrovert isn't so much about your demeanor in social situations (though it can definitely have an effect on that); instead, it's more about the source of your energy.   The extrovert turns outward for rejuvenation.  The introvert turns inward.

It made complete sense.

Sure, I could perform on a stage, but when the curtain closed, I preferred unwinding at home to hitting the local Applebee's with fellow cast members.

And sure, I loved politics, and I could charm a room full of donors if I needed to, but at the end of the night, you wouldn't find me at the bar with the cool kids.  You'd instead find me kicking off my heels and calling my boyfriend to tell him how things went.

See, I enjoy people, but on the whole, they wear me out. After a party, I am almost always completely drained and in desperate need of "me" time.  I naturally turn inward, not outward.

And that, friends, is what makes me an introvert.

But why, you ask, does it matter?

Well, because God made me that way.

And He made me that way for a reason.

In the past seven years, I've learned that my introversion isn't something to overcome.  It's a gift to be nurtured and protected.

God fearfully and wonderfully made me as an introvert.  But first and foremost, he designed me not to turn inward, but upward.  I've heard people argue that Jesus himself was an introvert because of how much he withdrew into isolation when he was here on earth.  But over and over again as I read these accounts, I notice that Jesus wasn't necessarily turning inward.  He was turning upward!

In the next few posts, I hope to dig into what it looks like to be an upward-focused introvert and to discuss some of the temptations and struggles that come with the introvert territory, as well as some of the great blessings.  I'm really looking forward to this series.  I think it will be a growing experience for me, and I hope that you will be able to glean something along the way as well.

But for now, it's Friday night, and I need to unwind...

So please excuse me as I curl up on the couch with a blanket, some ice cream, and an episode of Saved by the Bell ;)








Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Mother's Offering

Lord, take this load of laundry,
take these pots and pans,
take these dirty diapers,
make them gold within your hands.

Be pleased with empty bottles
lying all around,
Be pleased with baggy sweatpants
and the dishes that abound.

God in Heaven, I have nothing else
to offer you today.
I am weak, exhausted, weary,
Be pleased in that, I pray.

Take my sleepless nights, Lord,
Take my darkest days,
Take my triumphs and my failures,
Let them all be to your praise.

Though it's not much, I lay it all
at the alter of the King.
Let me be a pleasing sacrifice.
This is all I have to bring.

Take my tears, my faith, obedience,
Be pleased, O Lord, with me.
This is all I have to offer,
All I am, Lord, all to thee.









Friday, February 7, 2014

An introvert walks into a party...

I wrote this in an attempt to demonstrate to my husband how I often feel in social situations.  No pity or guilt necessary...just thought some might be able to relate.  I hope to follow up at a later date with what God is teaching me as one of his introverted children.  This paints a good picture to start with.  

We round the corner and step through the doorway, greeted by hand shakes and social niceties. Quickly forgotten in a sea of faces, I turn to my bag, hoping that it will grant me momentary relief. Faithful friend. Maybe if I pretend I’m busy, it won’t be painfully obvious that I don’t belong.

The room is a-chatter, but all I can hear is the beat of my own heart, racing, as it wonders who will be the first to cross the line. His face is one of sympathy and partial obligation. We waltz the waltz of weather and work. The orchestra slows as the song comes to an end, and he’s off to dance another dance with a more interesting girl.

My dance card is empty so I excuse myself to go powder my nose. That should get me through at least one more song unnoticed. I refill my drink, nodding at the man behind the bar. Sipping ever-so-slowly in hopes that no one, or someone, will approach me.

An announcement saves me. Organized fun. As the crowd gathers in, it’s as though I belong. But I don’t. And I won’t. No matter how hard I try. I’m just not one of “those” people. The kind people like.

I offer to help. Another tactic I’ve learned to make myself invisibly visible. I’ve made my mark on the party. Remember, I served the cake?

I watch as the others enjoy food and friends. Counting the seconds down in my head. I smile, but no one smiles back in return. They’re too busy eating the cake that I served.

I grab my coat as the party comes to an end. Almost free, just a few quick goodbyes (which I dread). I offer my thanks as I step out the door, round the corner and head back to my car. Faithful friend in tow.




Thursday, January 16, 2014

An Expectant Heart

I've been convicted lately that I have a less-than-mediocre prayer life.  In fact, there are some days when the only prayer I mutter is the one I pray for William as he goes to bed.

Today, as I was reading the story of Jesus turning water into wine, I realized something...one of the reasons I don't pray is because I don't expect.

I am struck by Mary's role in this story.  When the wine runs out, she goes to Jesus and tells Him their need.  "They have no wine," she says.  Jesus responds, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”  And then she turns to the servants and says "Do whatever he tells you."

You see, she knows her son.  She trusts in his goodness and provision and even authority over the natural elements.  There is no question in her mind that Jesus will fix this.  She expects a response.

But I don't know if I expect one.

If I did, I think I'd be quicker to go to Him with my needs.  Expecting provision.  Expecting salvation. Expecting revival.  Expecting grace.

Because if you finish reading the story, Jesus delivers on her expectations.  He turns the water into wine, yes.  But more importantly, His glory is made manifest, and the disciples believe.

Lord, manifest your glory.  Help my unbelief.