Tag Archives: God

Engaged!

I meant to write this awhile ago and I just didn’t (I even wrote a draft in a notebook that now I am completely ditching). But, if you don’t follow me on social media, here’s what’s up: I’m engaged.Pink with Diamond Icon Photo Engagement Announcement

The past few months have been filled with peaks and valleys that are just a part of life but all the while my relationship with C has deepened. He is an incredible teammate, kind, patient, and funny. It’s been a few weeks since he proposed and it still feels surreal even though we are in full wedding planning mode.

If you would have asked me if this is where I would be one year ago, I’d have laughed. And I know that C can say the same. The way God knit together our story is so unique. Parts of it are so special that I am keeping them private. At the same time, I want to share our joy and excitement with you all since you have been with me through other seasons of my life too.

We are better together than we are apart which is what makes it so cool. At the same time, I’m very aware of the parts of myself I am stubborn or prideful over. Like all things, God is using this relationship to sanctify both C and I. I’d just say this feels very intense at times. And from what I’ve been told from what married friends, that will only become more intense. I’m more aware of my need for Jesus than ever and we are both keenly aware that our relationship needs Him too. He is, after all, the author of it.

So, some questions you may have…

How did he do it?

I always say I want to be surprised but I also am so impatient that they never work out. So the day it happened, I knew it was coming. But when he told me the plan for the day he talked about going to several places that are important to us and dinner. It made me think he would do it then obviously. Instead, he surprised me as I was getting ready for the day as in if he would have done it two minutes later, I might have been wearing a face mask and there was a podcast blaring as I settled in to “get ready.” So I didn’t imagine I would be in the middle of washing my face with wet hair but it was perfect. He ended up actually proposing in front of a piece of furniture I helped him to make. (He is a woodworker as a hobby and I was his assistant on his project). I cried. He cried. I whispered the word, “Yes,” way more quietly than either of us imagined and then leaped into his arms.

When are you getting married?

March! C is a teacher so to a certain extent we are the mercy of that calendar. Originally, we considered doing it over winter break but the way the holidays fall this year would have made it very difficult for the people we love and would like there so: looks like Spring Break!

How is planning going?

In fits and bursts. A lot of things have (thankfully) fallen into place in a beautiful way. C has been helpful and both of our families have also been supportive. The main stuff is booked and now we just have random things to nail down.

We are also making the conscious choice not to just be planning for a wedding but a marriage. So it means premarital, financial courses, etc. That’s really important to us, building a foundation, and knowing that it doesn’t just happen. But that’s something that is just important to us. Everyone and every relationship is different.

Dress?!

Not yet. I’m waiting to be able to share the day with my mom, who isn’t local. So that will be in a few weeks. I have no idea what I want except that I would like it to be flattering and comfortable.

To be honest, one of the biggest challenges to wedding planning has simply been that I never really thought I would meet the guy and get married. So I never really was that little girl who pictured some things. I had some vague ideas like I would like for it to be in church (Spoiler: it’s not because of my chronic illness we are doing everything in all one place because I want to make it through the day and to my wedding night too! I’ve waited a long time. Ha. So that means cutting down on anything that would expend more energy than necessary and one of those things is travel in the city. What a nightmare.).

But anyway, because I hadn’t dreamt of this day my whole life, only just hoped I would someday be married, I didn’t really know what I liked or wanted. After a lot of talking with C and pinteresting, we definitely have a vision and a vibe.

But as for a dress, I just want to be comfortable in the dress and in my own skin

Where’s the ring?

I’m a little paranoid so I have been really careful about what I post on social media and here too. I did want an engagement ring but I had no idea what I wanted so C suggested I go look. I fell in love with a yellow gold setting but he surprised me with the shape of the center stone and I’m so in love with it. It’s everything I never knew I wanted and I can’t imagine anything else on my hand. Although I am still getting used to having it on my finger and will be for a long time. I feel like I can objectively say it’s beautiful and classic with a twist (which is the perfect mix of me and C to be honest. Ha!)

If you made it this far, you’re kind and sweet. I am so behind in announcing it here but I do want to chronicle the wedding planning process to a certain degree. So…here we go.

xo

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To Choose Hope over Resignation.

parisTo ignore what happened in Paris past weekend and other cities around recently would be easier than addressing it. And yet to ignore it feels very wrong to me. I don’t know what to say or what to write. I know I am sad, horrified, disgusted, stricken, and a million other adjectives and yet this weekend I cozied up by myself and worked on my novel, playing in the world that I can control because staring what happened straight in the face made me feel raw. I had to disconnect from it. I was cowardly about it.

You know, I’ve done these seminars for two different companies I’ve worked for on the differences between generations–the traditionalists, the baby boomers, generation x, and the millennials (the latter of which I fall into). Companies do this because there are stark differences in ideology and approach to life and work and if one can recognize and work with those differences, the company is better for it. I’ve read whole books on being a millennial christian. And I’ve scrolled past constant headlines about my generation (I read them for a long time but I had to stop because they just upset me). Apparently we mesmerize and befuddle the other generations (our parents and grandparents). They study us like we are strange creatures (May I suggest their parent’s and grandparent’s generations probably felt the same way about them at times?).

In all those seminars and books I’ve read, there is something always pointed out by experts. Millennials are the only generation to know what it is like to live with terrorism on American soil that was specifically targeted at civilians. Just as we don’t know what it’s like to live through a draft and what that does to a generation of men, the other generations don’t know what it is like to be an adolescent watching the Twin Tours fall while they are sitting in Social Studies class. I’m not an expert. I probably wouldn’t have thought of this distinction if not for the experts themselves talking about it.

What does it say about me–about my friends and people my age–that I am horrified and shocked at what happened in Paris and what’s been going on in other cities for weeks and months, yet not at all shocked at the same time? I live in a world where extremists can take innocent lives and try to devastate a city. I grew up in that world. A part of me feels so jaded and I hate that (hence the quote above about staying soft) because I feel like if we just replace ISIS with Al Qaida and rewind a few years, nothing has changed and nothing will change. I keep searching for a word to claim my feelings and I think perhaps I found it. A huge part of me feels resigned. It is different than feeling defeated. But it is still not how I want to feel. I do not want to be resigned.

I cannot get one of my favorite poems out of my head; it’s Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music. It’s been one of my favorites since I was too little to even understand it (weird, yes, I know).

I don’t know what to give or offer the world here on my small space of the internet. I don’t know what to say. So I will just leave someone else’s words instead. They are far better.dirgewithoutmusic1For me, this poem is grief embodied. It captures the pain and horror and hopelessness of losing someone(s). I have hope though. It’s in God. It’s knowing that because of what Jesus did, our bodies may turn to dust but we can know Heaven with Him. And yet, when in the midst of grief and sorrow, if we could only be so eloquent, this poem holds the words we might express. I ache by the end of it.


I wrote all of that and then I texted a friend who has lived and worked in Paris and now resides in Europe. I listened to my friend and then this friend graciously listened to me and spoke the Gospel over me. And I said that I believed it. I believe that God is good and that God will conquer evil and that He will be glorified. I believed it but I was still feeling resigned and I explained that I thought it was because I was paying too much attention to man’s response, which felt like déjà vu and also in some ways futile because this world we live in…man, is it messed up.

And so I find myself recommitted to looking to Jesus. He is my hope and my salvation. He is my anchor. I don’t have to know how I feel or worry over the world’s response or despair that this will happen again. He knows how I feel already. He is in control. And I remember His words, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

My friend said, “The Gospel runs toward pain.” And it does. It is. It can. Because in the world, there will be tribulation. But my heart can be full of hope and yes, even peace. Because Jesus has overcome the world.

So this is what I am actively clinging to from now on. This is what I am actively choosing to believe and trust and put my faith in.

All my Love,
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P.S. I wrote this before news broke on Monday that governors of 26 states (including the one in which I live) are telling the world that Syrian refugees are not welcome in “their” states (even though they have no power to make such a decision constitutionally; it’s a federal issue). That will have to be another blog post for another day but Lord, please have mercy. It’s shameful and such a disgrace that a country of immigrants would turn away immigrants, that people who claim to know Jesus don’t remember or live by this sentiment, which He expressed in many ways, at many times.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ ” (Matthew 25:31-40) And maybe, read the rest of the passage too…

Also, see Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook post which includes an article from the Economist which is pertinent any time anyone makes the argument that this is a security issue.

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What’s Good? On God and Grace.

If you read yesterday’s post, this is Part II. Thanks for bearing with me in dividing it. It was just a lot to share.

You know how I said I wished the story ended with the real Nina standing up and that it didn’t? It ended so much better. That’s not me being cheerful or positive. It is fact.

This may surprise you but I am so glad this weekend happened–for a multitude of reasons but in terms of what I shared yesterday, God used it to show me that some things I struggle with, high achieving and perfectionist tendencies, had been rearing their heads for a few weeks to varying degrees. The fact that I could not recognize myself this past weekend was the effect of all that.katespadestorageboxes4

I’ve always known those tendencies of mine are not good for me. When my illness began, God worked a number on me because a huge factor in the amount of pain I feel on the daily depends on stress and how I handle it. Life has stress so handling it is important. What isn’t great is to create stressful situations (as a high achiever and perfectionist) when they don’t need to exist. For many years, God used my illness this way for my good (because I truly believe He had me bending before I broke in this area…even without the health problem). This may sound nuts to some people but I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t had the seizure that led to my chronic illness. God is sovereign.

This lasted for years but too bad my attention span is only so long and it is easy to fall back into old habits. This time God chose to use another wake up call and it happened this weekend. Look, I am going to be straight with you: 99.9% of the people there either didn’t know me at all or had not met me in the flesh. Of course, I wanted them to get to know the real me. Here was our chance to meet and really get to know each other.

Um, not God’s plan for me. But since His plan is always better than mine, I am filled with hope and joy at this moment.

But this weekend, inside, I felt so drastically different in how I was acting (whether it appeared drastic to those few who did know me or not) that I was more concerned over why this personality shift was happening over what people may have thought of me. It was not nerves. It wasn’t me trying to impress anyone (this version of me was far from impressive). It was something internal going on. The lack of sleep for the week leading up to it sure didn’t help. But mostly it was the stress I’d been just been putting on myself for reasons unrelated to the conference.

This concerned me. But God (my favorite two words when strung together) graciously revealed both practical steps to take and spiritual ones. God made it very clear what I needed to do through His strength (maybe I’ll share that here, maybe I won’t…I do know I am not in the position to decide that at this moment). I’m not fretting over my reputation or the impression I made. God just used the way I was acting to reveal some deeper spiritual, emotional, and physical issues I had been ignoring like a child covering her ears.lady9

I love grace. I don’t know what I would do without it. For someone who is incredibly hard on herself (work harder, work better, that is not good enough), grace is just…it’s so foreign and amazing at the same time. It’s radical and I need it. It’s the place where I need to act and live out of every single day. I haven’t been.

For those who emailed and commented, thank you and also, don’t worry. I’m going back to therapy because it is a great place! I love therapy, especially in non-crisis moments (I don’t consider this a crisis considering other things I have been through). That’s when you get to go deep, search out patterns, be held accountable to all the tools you are learning. To be clear, when in a crisis, therapy is just as good only in a different way…kind of in the way of: please help me hold my stuff together until we meet again type of way, which is also important. But yes, wherever we are, sometimes we need help.

I am not doing any of this on my own power. I can’t (proof: this past weekend and the weeks leading up to it).

sfad4I need to get on a soapbox for a hot second because there is a problem when Christians who need help are not encouraged to seek out therapy if they need it. I listened to someone who had been told that and my heart broke. Any Christian who knocks Godly counseling or therapy can answer to me (and that’s before they answer to God) for being ignorant. I think that is one of the first times I’ve used that word on the blog because it’s an intense one. But I am saying it. Don’t tell me or anyone else to pray “harder.” I am praying and you need to get your facts straight about what prayer is and what prayer means and oh yeah, the Spirit is praying on my behalf 24/7 so maybe you should talk to Him about praying harder (see Romans 8 and many other places).

Or this whole believing God more thing. If you believed God more, you wouldn’t struggle with x,y,z. You know what I believe, bozo, or rather, what I know? The body of believers is important. We are asked to carry one another’s burdens. We are also different, gifted in different ways. And asking for help is important. So if anyone wants to ask for help from someone who has been trained in biblical counseling, they are believing God. They are taking a step of faith. You are hurting other Christians when you repeat the type of teaching that says therapy is bad or that if you need it, something is wrong with your walk with God. This teaching is unbiblical. That is is another word I don’t use here very often but I used it. And I believe it 100%.

Therapy can be manna from heaven, okay? God given and nutritious.

I will now step off the soapbox (I’ve never been insecure about therapy but I’ve seen and heard these attitudes before and recently when I was hearing someone’s brokenness over something and that they had been told this or taught this…Maybe I saw red? Or many colors? Can you blame me?)entryway5

But back to the point of this post after this detour. I am thankful for the wakeup call because now God and I can work it out (also, yes, therapy). It won’t happen with a snap of the fingers (a flesh pattern I’ve struggled with since I was about one years old just doesn’t disappear) it takes work, done through God’s strength, and that work takes time. But because of this weekend I can reroute. I don’t have to keep driving in the same direction.

That’s good, guys.

That’s grace.

Also, I have been told that if I even try to paint the straight lines again…expletive, expletive, expletive.

Thanks for your support as always. Your comments and your emails were such a blessing. My hope now, today, with two decent nights sleep under my belt, more prayer than I’ve done in a long while, and a plan in place, is that by lifting my petticoats so to speak…by showing you just how imperfect I am…you may be encouraged. Or maybe there is an area in your life that needs to be rerouted. I don’t know. I am just trusting God in sharing this.

God is so good, guys.

Finally, beauty from the ashes is in God’s job description. It has always been so since the time Adam and Eve sinned, lighting a match to the perfect relationship they experienced with Him in Eden. If after that fire and ash heap, He still could give us beautiful redemption through His Son, then I don’t know why we even pretend that there is a situation beyond Him. If you feel like you are beyond God’s grace or goodness, please hear me when I say you are not. Beauty from ashes is his thing. Let Him do His thing.

P.S. Remember when I told you that I learned to have a blog schedule but to also be flexible with it? Haha.
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Procrastination Station and Dreaming Big.

health1I once read an article that discussed procrastination and why people do it. According to some source related to science, people who procrastinate on the regular love the thrill of it. Endorphins are released actually, etc. Here is thing: maybe that’s true about the endorphins but I do not like enjoy procrastinating. I do it quite often, but I don’t enjoy it.

Recently, I’ve realized one reason I do it. If something is important to me, a dream I really want to actually come true, I put off doing the work for it. Then, when I don’t get the job or don’t win the contest I can shrug my shoulders and “not feel as bad” because I didn’t put my best work into it. I don’t want to let myself down.

This makes sense. And yet, it is complete nonsense.fix4

I am trying to let myself dream the dreams that I have shied away from dreaming. It’s too scary. What if it doesn’t work out? This way of thinking also bleeds over into dating and relationships–wanting something so badly but not going for it because it could crash and burn.

But God.

How many times does God have to say, “Nina, I’ve got this” and follow through on his word?

Answer: too many to count.

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This other thing I do is assign human traits on God. There are things I am scared to trust him for because I’ve had people screw with my trust in big ways. It still surprises me sometimes (and it shouldn’t…I’m in the word…but there is a difference between knowing something and living it out whole heartedly. Am I right?) when he does follow through on his word. When did I become so jaded?

I have been realizing a lot of things lately–not so much ugly truths about how I view the world and God and my life and dreams but hard truths that require big prayers and action.masterpiece

Today I’m challenging you (and myself) to dream big or go home.

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Our Coffee Date, in which I talk too much, which is a good first step, actually.

coffee-dateLet’s just imagine that this is a coffee date where we catch up and talk about what’s going in our lives. Of course we would meet at Blue Bottle Coffee a San Francisco institution and not only would I order a beautifully made latte (what are you going to have?), we would also order waffle triangles. Very few, if any coffee spots remind me of Italy but this coffee does and so I am in a bit of a nostalgic mood, as if I am viewing the word through a thin layer of memory and positivity. I’m so happy we were able to meet up today. Cheers.

How are you?

Most likely, I would make you go first because my feelings are all over the place. I’m a verbal processor so I take your highs and lows seriously. How can I pray for you? How can I encourage you? How can I speak truth and love to you?

Now we come to me. I also make you go first because for a verbal processor, I stopped speaking so intimately with all but a handful of people several years ago.

Well.

I’m leaving San Francisco and I am trying to end well while packing up my life. I don’t look at this as a failure; I look at Chicago as another adventure. I am not the same person I was when I arrived here with my giant suitcase. God saw to that. I really can’t take any credit for that whatsoever because…well, because I didn’t always pay attention to Him here. Of course, I was always the most conservative girl in the group I was with. But what does that really mean here? The changes in me were slow and incremental. I did some things I regret. And yet, God’s promise remained true as well: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of God, are being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

I can’t forget the verse which precedes the one I just told you: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (3:17).

Tangent alert.

Did you know I studied the concept and the word freedom for about a year in college? I mean I went into the Greek and the Hebrew (I’m no scholar but I love to learn and there are so many helpful tools out there.) It came about because of two portions of scripture I read. Since we are at coffee, this is a passage I would have to look up on my phone but this is where my journey started.egyptIt’s from Exodus 6. At the time, I was dealing with memories of a past I would like to forget and I just sat and read that passage over and over again because how many times does God promise to deliver the Israelites? To redeem them? To give them a land? To take them out of slavery? There is so much repetition. And yet they cannot listen, they cannot hear because of their past–how broken they are, how harshly they’ve been treated.

Have you ever been talking to someone and they are just not hearing you? No matter how many times you say it?

I realized God promised me freedom and I wasn’t living in it. I couldn’t even listen to His promises because I was giving my experiences more power over me than God. I went straight to Galatians: For the freedom of God has set us free…(5:1a)

Then I realized I wasn’t living in freedom and that’s why Jesus died on the cross and by choosing to live without freedom, I was basically saying that not only did Christ not accomplish his goal but that his death was useless. I don’t believe that and I didn’t then so I had to learn more about freedom and how to live in the reality of Galatians 5:1.

Anyway, I am rambling. That was years and years ago.

In the time I’ve been in San Francisco, my Bible remained closed more than open. It’s not that I should read the Bible. It’s that I am happier and more joyful when it is open (and I am reading it which goes without saying…). But God. But God. (The ESV Study Bible says somewhere–I think in the Ephesians commentary–that these are the two most important words in the Bible.)

But God.

He continued to transform me and in the past six months, when I woke up  and started to talk to him more, He has been so gracious. I started so slowly, so haltingly. I struggled. You see, I forgot to mention that my “it’s complicated with God Facebook status” started when I was 23, after I felt burned by a Christian organization. I still believed everything. But He was so connected to that hurt. (Please know that I believe this organization does good…My entire experience as a Christian was tied to them so when mistakes were made, it burned and hurt more. The fact is that organization/churches are made of people and people sin and make mistakes. I still don’t think the people involved know the extent to which I felt damaged…Even now this is so hard to write. But hey, you met me for coffee.) I distanced myself from the organization. So much so that I changed my phone number and was very selective in who I gave the new number to! Witness protection program anyone? And I admit that I distanced myself from God. I could not separate the two no matter how badly I wanted to, even though I knew they were separate. My relationship with God became serious right before Freshman year and I became involved with this organization as soon as school began. I didn’t know what a relationship with God looked like without them. I felt like I was in an avalanche and didn’t know which way to dig but I had to avoid hurt so I literally climbed into a cocoon. I say literally because I crawled into bed and put the blanket over my head and talked to about five people who kept saying: Nina. Nina. And their voice sounded far away. I knew they were right. I knew hurt is part of the deal but I didn’t know up from down. I didn’t trust my experience in college…what was real and what wasn’t. I went through the motions and wonderful friends kept pushing me and telling me: Nina, you are not meant to go through the motions.

Eventually, I flew to San Francisco and I was alone. I didn’t have a bed. I needed God. I clung to Him. He was so faithful and I saw him in everything. The more comfortable I got, the more that old hurt creeped in. It’s only been in the past six months where it’s come back to freedom. The experience of moving across the country changed me. Yes, I made mistakes. But God continued to sanctify me, transforming me from one degree of glory to another. I was reading my Bible the other day and I saw a post it note with a prayer request from before I left for SF, actually way before, in 2010, and God has answered that prayer and continues to answer it.

I know I rambled. I’m sorry. It’s been a long while since I opened up like this but I think that is part of the healing God is doing in my heart and has been doing these past six months. You are a good friend for listening to all that. I think I owe you another waffle triangle. IMG_3674It’s nice and warm and delicious. You can see the vanilla bean when you take a bite. Thanks for listening. Talk to me?

coffeedate

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