#write31days – wholeness (day 13)

knowthyGodlogo

It’s October 20th, you say?

Well, I’m a little disappointed in how my series has gone. While I hoped that it would afford me opportunities to write, it turns out that committing to a blogging series does not suddenly make four busy children sit quietly with their hands folded so I can concentrate. Nor does it infuse me with post-bedtime energy (or pre-wake-up energy) when there are brief moments of peace and stillness in our house. Even on mine and Jordan’s mini-vacation this past week, there were too many friends and sites to see to sit down and crank out a blog post.

But.

This series has gotten me to read, and that I love.

It’s gotten me to think and make connections that have lingered in the back of my mind and had yet to find their way out.

So I’m going to pretend it’s only day 13, because I have many thoughts to process and I don’t want to run out of time.

Just to let you know where I’ve been:

I finished Hannah Anderson’s Made for More and wept through much of it. So. many. thoughts. And I think I’m going to give away a copy. Stay tuned.

My husband told me Michael Horton had a good chapter on the doctrine of imago dei in his book Putting Amazing Back into Grace. It was good. So good, in fact, that I started back at the beginning and have been pleasantly surprised how a book on the doctrines of grace can speak so much into identity. Coming soon.

A friend showed me that The Village Church is doing a sermon series called, “A Beautiful Design” that is very much related to all I’ve been thinking and reading about. I haven’t started listening yet, but I’m hoping to find a way to squeeze it in. In my abundance of spare time. Maybe while I sleep?

I traveled with my husband to San Fransisco and Napa, CA this past week and wrestled with my identity crisis the whole time. There’s something about traveling that brings me to life, but it’s a passion I have pushed down and hidden and suppressed for quite awhile. When it rears its head, I’m not sure what to do with it.

Oct182014_1920

We were there to photograph a good friend’s wedding, and another close college friend was in town as a bridesmaid. As we stood around talking at the reception, she asked how we liked living near Fargo.

“Well…” I started to respond, but hesitated.

I do like Fargo, in some ways. I am so grateful for our life. I like being close to family, my husband has a wonderful job, we have a beautiful home. I have come to grips with the fact that life isn’t about following my dreams in the way that my generation preaches. I have embraced right now as my shepherd season and I’m trusting that every mundane moment is part of God shaping me to be like Christ. But do I love being there? Not really. Do I daydream often about what it would be like to live somewhere else? Yes.

If I say no, am I ungrateful? Discontent?

Before I could say more, she laughed. Of course I wanted to move, she said. She knew me. She listened to me talk for years about leaving Fargo. She watched me pack up and move to Los Angeles and later to Chicago. She was there when my dreams were shattered and I moved home, and she was there during every attempt to leave again.

There was something really sweet about that conversation. Because I moved after elementary school and again in high school (and again in and after college), I don’t have many friendships that span multiple seasons of life. Most of the people I see on a regular basis now only know me from the last few years when I’ve been learning what it looks like to walk with Jesus. I love those people and am so thankful for the role of my church and community here, but having that conversation made me realize something: I spend a lot of time trying to prove that I’m different than I was.

The reality is, I am different. God has changed me from the inside out, and that includes my loves, my people, my ambitions, my theology.

But what I haven’t been able to reconcile are the remnants of my past that still shape me; the aspects of my personality that still describe me; the dreams and passions and gifts that are being sanctified but are still very much a part of who I am. I’ve been afraid to be seen as I was instead of as who I am, so I’ve buried all of that deep behind slumping shoulders, tried to put my head down and fill the role of godly-wife-and-mother.

That’s why this conversation was so refreshing. My longtime friend didn’t see my desire to leave as evidence of a discontented heart, she saw it as evidence of who I was.

Hannah Anderson gets at this in her chapter on holistic identity. She writes:

“One of the biggest barriers to a flourishing life is our tendency to separate our identity into categories…But because we are image bearers, our identity is not simply the sum of our various parts. Because we are made in God’s image, we are made to reflect His own wholeness and unity. We are made to live holistic lives.

“…At its most basic level, a holistic life is an attempt to coordinate and integrate the various aspects of identity into one complete package. It is a search for internal peace and unity, and its absence can often be the very reason people begin searching for meaning and purpose in the first place…Even as Christians, we pursue an elusive ‘balance’ and often believe that peace simply means finding the midpoint between two extremes.

“But wholeness isn’t simply about finding the middle ground, forgoing desire, or obliterating the different parts of your identity. And it’s not about giving equal time and shared custody to the categories of life. Wholeness comes when the parts of your life work together because they have been united by something greater than themselves: when they have been united by God’s own wholeness.” (Chp. 9)

She goes on:

“Not only are God’s people to love Him exclusively, not having any other gods before Him, but we are to love Him with the fullness of our identities, to love Him with every aspect of our lives…

As we submit every part of ourselves to Him, as He becomes the unifying element of our identity, we can finally achieve wholeness. We can finally be whole as He is whole. He does not obliterate the details of our lives, but pervades them in order to reconcile the different parts and make peace–in order to make them work together in beautiful coordination for our good and His glory.” (Chp. 9)

What does it look like to achieve this wholeness? I’m not exactly sure. Right now, for me, it looks like asking lots of questions. It looks like opening myself to things I wouldn’t have otherwise considered. It looks like lots and lots of prayer. It looks like humility and gratitude.

And, most sweetly, it looks like freedom.

Freedom to see the intentional design of a Creator.
Freedom to repent of the sinfulness that taints every part of my being without having to reject those things that make me, me.
Freedom to hope and depend in the God who is faithful to complete the work He’s started.

“In many ways, pursuing image dei simplicity is anything but simple. It requires more than reducing our personhood to manageable categories and roles. It requires more than achieving balance between the different parts of life. It requires submitting every part of who you are–whether it is your womanhood, your gifting, or your personality–to every part of who He is.

And when you do, when you look to Jesus, the perfect Image Bearer who exists in perfect wholeness, you will once again find your own. You will find peace. You will find harmony. And like a brilliantly cut diamond, you will shine as the glory of His nature reflects and radiates through the different facets of your life.” (Chp. 9)

#write31days – fallen. (11-12)

I’ve spent nearly half the month pondering Genesis 1 and 2, and I’m starting to feel a little behind. We are created in the image of God, yes, and there’s so much more to get into there, but Genesis 3 happens. We are fallen, cursed, without God and without hope in the world.

I should probably get moving.

And yet.

And yet there is no “and yet” if we don’t start in the beginning.

“Creation is the proper starting point for any consideration of human identity and its recovery through the gospel. Why is this?

When we discuss the fall without having appreciated the majesty of the human creature by virtue of creation, the impression is given that there is something inherent in our humanness that predisposes us to sin, that there is something deeply sinful and unspiritual in being human…

So creation is not the problem, and it is only when we more fully appreciate the majesty of humanity as God’s creation that we can adequately weigh the horror of the fall.”

– Michael Horton, Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace (chapter 2)

Just as we can’t understand God’s holiness apart from an understanding of our sinfulness, so we cannot understand our sinfulness apart from understanding who we were created to be.

I’ve found myself grieving my fallenness in a new way this month as I’ve pondered and meditated on the concept of imago dei. To see who we were created to be–created to be like God, to reflect and represent Him on earth (as Hannah Anderson describes it), and then to see how far I fall short–how I choose to find my identity outside of my Maker, how I run to anyone and anything that promises life and doesn’t deliver–it’s devastating. I am exposed and ashamed. Like Adam and Eve hiding in the shrubs from the One with whom they had enjoyed sweet, intimate fellowship only one evening prior.

And yet.

We were without God and without hope in the world…but God.

God killed the animal and clothed the naked and ashamed. He followed the curse with a promise: the seed of the woman would crush the head of that serpent.

That seed–God Himself–naked from the womb, naked on the cross–bearing the full weight of my shame. Cursed thorns pressing my curse deep into the bleeding brow of the King of Kings.

Wretched woman that I am! Who will save me from this body of death??

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14 ESV)

#write31days: what it means to be human (days 7-10)

This is what a 31-days series looks like with 4 children (3 of whom are 2 and under).

Less than 31 days.

Instead of apologizing for it, I’m just going to go with it.

So, here we are.

Hannah Anderson describes the doctrine of imago dei like this:

Imago dei means that your life has purpose and meaning because God made you to be like Himself. [It] means that your life has intrinsic value, not simply because of who you are as an individual, but because of who He is as your God. Imago dei means that your life is sacred because He has stamped His identity onto yours.

…By revealing that we are made in God’s image, it is revealing how we are to exist, how we are made to live, and what it means to be human.”

What does it mean to be human?

My favorite class in college was an upper-level political science course called International Human Rights. We studied the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and I found it to be one of the most beautiful documents ever written. The preamble declares, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” and goes on to list, article by article, what it means for us as humans to “act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (Article 1).

I don’t know all of the ins-and-outs of common grace, but this seems like evidence of it. We see in our neighbors a dignity and value that exists simply because they, like us, are human. This is not without exception, of course, as genocide, slavery, human trafficking and other crimes against humanity illustrate. But despite our fallenness, despite our differences, the image of God is written on our hearts.

I had coffee with a new friend yesterday, and she talked about growing up with an “us” and “them” mentality towards people inside and outside the church. It grieves her now, as she recognizes common grace and the simple reality that we have the same Creator; we bear the same image, and as a result, each person makes a unique contribution to the world. I think recognizing this truth elevates Jesus’ commands to love both my neighbor and my enemy to a whole different level.

My brief stints in D.C., L.A. and Chicago exposed me to the reality of homelessness. I could not walk from one block to another without passing someone with cup-in-hand. I can’t say that I gave to everyone who asked, and it’s with shame that I admit that many times, I would look to my feet in discomfort and pass by as quickly as possible. But someone challenged me to look up. To look them in the eye and genuinely wish them well. To give what I could–coins, bills, a hot meal or a warm cup of coffee–with the acknowledgement that they are, in fact, human. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give, she said. Because when you’re homeless sometimes you forget that you’re still human.

When we look another human being in the eye, we affirm the humanity of a person made in the image of God. And when we do that, we have the opportunity to celebrate the God who creates, the God who loves, the God who redeems.

 

#write31days: Creator (days 4, 5, & 6)

I had a busy weekend without time to read or write (and lacked the foresight to read and write in advance). I hope by the latter half of the month to get to process more of all that I’m taking in, but in the meantime, as I’m working my way through the second chapter of Hannah Anderson’s Made for More, I’m pondering God as Creator with this beautiful picture:

In the darkness, something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it…

Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out–single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. There were no clouds. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.

– from The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Oct062014_1324

and these lovely words:

And yet the deeper magic is that no matter how small we may feel–no matter how small we may actually be–we are not insignificant. We are not lost in the grand cosmos. We do matter. But it’s not because of anything we’ve done; it’s because of something God did back at the beginning. Because back when God created all this beauty, all this life, all this splendor, He capped it off with one final masterpiece–one that He did not leave to words alone. No, for this final masterpiece, He stooped down and left His own fingerprints in the dust.

And that final masterpiece was us.

– from Made for More by Hannah Anderson (chapter 2)

#write31days: introductions (day 3)

I grew up believing I could be anything I wanted. My parents challenged us, yes, but mostly they gave us room to explore. I traveled the world in high school; my parents put their 17-year-old on a plane to Africa and prayed like crazy, but never did they ask why. Why the adventure? Why the unknown? Why Africa? They knew why. Just a year prior, they stood beside me and watched me dive head-first off a cliff. They listened to the stories and dreams for as long as I could talk. Putting me on that plane was inevitable. Maybe they had known it for years.

My parents didn’t ask why. But they also didn’t ask who. Who are you? Maybe they didn’t ask because they knew I didn’t know yet. They knew that getting on a plane and flying halfway around the world was part of me trying to figure it out.

But that’s what we ask each other: who are you?

I’m Kendra Dahl. Wife of Jordan, Mom of Hadley, Adrienne, and Maximus. Homemaker, stay-at-home-mom, used to be a photographer, college graduate. These and other roles shape my answer to that question.

The problem is, as these categories slip off my tongue, so do the expectations. I must be a good wife, a good mom, a good homemaker.

I’m Kendra Dahl, and I’m a failure.

I’m Kendra Dahl, and I don’t know who I am. Only who I’m supposed to be.

“Unfortunately, while roles and categories provide us some measure of stability in an uncertain world, the problem comes when these things change, as they inevitably do. The loss of a job, a broken marriage, unexpected illness, infertility, or churches that fail us. And suddenly the questions we had succeeded in repressing flood back to the surface…

Perhaps even more surprisingly, good times can initiate the search for identity as often as bad…Even in these moments, as we come down from the emotional high, we realize that they didn’t fulfill us the way we had expected; despite having invested so much of ourselves in what we thought would provide a lasting sense of meaning, we hardly know ourselves in the midst of it.”

– Hannah Anderson, Made for More (chp. 1)

I’ve been pondering that adventurous 17-year old who disappeared under a pile of shoulds and can’ts.

And I’ev been wondering what it would be like to think less in terms of roles and more in terms of loves.

I’m Kendra Dahl, and I love Jesus. I love my husband. I love my kids, I love the Bible, I love to read, I love going on adventures, I love people and their stories, I love travel and experiencing different cultures, I love words and piecing them together to make an idea clear. I love learning and sharing what I’ve learned.

These loves still do not validate my existence. They are not sin-less and they do not justify me. They are still not the starting point of my identity.

But I wonder, as I explore this doctrine of Imago Dei, if I will begin to see that the things I love are shaped by the God who made me. I wonder if thinking in these terms could allow me to celebrate the grace of God who blesses me with good things, who continually shapes and changes me to be more like Jesus. I wonder if it would help me to praise God for the ways he has tangibly grown me–I haven’t always loved the Bible. My definition of adventure has changed. My love for people has grown from a simple curiosity to a genuine desire to see people experience the freedom that comes from knowing Christ. I wonder if thinking in these terms could expose my sin and lead me to hope in Christ as he completes the work he started.

I’ve realized that I share very little of myself with my children. I’ve been so caught up in the “shoulds” of my roles that I haven’t allowed them to see my loves. Maybe I’ve forgotten about my loves.

A few weeks ago I read the Magician’s Nephew. Realizing I had been deprived of a beautiful story, I told Hadley, “You’ve got to read this!” My eyes lit up with excitement as I gave her glimpses of Aslan’s creation of Narnia. Her eyes danced with mine as she begged to know more. I wouldn’t tell. She had to read it. But she didn’t have to read it because I was her mom and good moms make their kids read books. She wanted to read it because I had shared my love.

I wonder if that’s a little bit of what it’s like to be made in the image of God.

I don’t know, I’m only on chapter 2. :)

#write31days: before the very beginning (day 2)

knowthyGodlogo“One of the most compelling things about this majestic God, this God who existed before the worlds began, is that He understands our weakness…So much so, that even back in the emptiness of the cosmos, He knew that we would never be able to truly seek Him for ourselves. He knew that in our confusion, we would stumble about in the darkness, unable to find Him and unable to understand ourselves. He knew this, and so in those moments before He laid the foundations of the earth, He planned a way that He would find us.

It’s a plan that has unfolded throughout human history, as massive in scale as it is intimate in detail. It’s a plan that has often twisted and turned, at times seeming to make little sense. And ultimately it is a plan that took its fullest shape when He Himself came to us in Jesus Christ.

And always, always, it has been a plan to make us like Himself.

You are part of that plan…Before your first breath, before your first cry, before you even knew yourself, He knew you and has been on a mission to make you one with Himself. Because when you finally are, you will finally know Him; and when you know Him, then you will finally be able to live and move and have your being as He has always intended. You will finally be free to live beyond the roles and labels and expectations because you will finally be free to live in the fullness of God Himself.”

– from Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image by Hannah Anderson (chp. 1)

31 days: know thy God / know thyself

I tried the 31 days challenge last year, but I didn’t get very far. I’m going to give it another go.

knowthyGodlogo

Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” (John Calvin, p. 35, Institutes of the Christian Religion)

In my church we talk often of indicatives versus imperatives in the Bible. I grew up hearing a lot of imperatives–what I was supposed to do–but they were separated from the indicatives–what Christ has already done. Even the 10 Commandments (imperatives) begin with a declaration of who God is and what He has done for His people (indicative). When I discovered this concept, it became like a game for me, to find the gospel anchor in all of the passages that had been plucked from their precious context and handed to me in the form of do’s and don’ts.

I recently read a wonderful book that looked at God’s design for women. It wasn’t a how–to manual on being a wife, mother, or homemaker–it was a call to step back and see the God who designed women. This book brought healing in a way that I didn’t know I needed; it opened my eyes to the reality that as I’ve tried to understand my roles–as I’ve tried to make sense of my dreams and gifts and passions and reality–I’ve been caught up in the imperatives and lost sight of the indicatives. I’ve been on a search to figure out who I am as a woman, but I have forgotten that the starting point of my identity is God Himself.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

I also stumbled across Hannah Anderson the other day and loved how she defined the problem as a lack of understanding of the doctrine of imago dei:

The doctrine of imago Dei teaches that every human being, every man and woman, every boy and, yes, every girl is made in God’s image, destined to reflect His character and to represent Him on this earth. Our core identity comes from God’s identity. Pay attention: imago Dei is not simply a starting point for other doctrines, nor is it simply a means of ascribing equal worth to men and women (although it does). No, imago Dei is the most basic paradigm for how we understand our existence.

It is a truth that runs through the warp and weave of the entire Scripture. It informs everything about the gospel—what we were created to be, what sin is, how redemption happens, and what we will one day become. It is also the basis on which Jesus Christ, the God-Man, can redeem us. Simply put, the truth of imago Dei IS creation, justification, sanctification, and glorification all in one package.

And if you mess with it, you mess with the gospel.

She goes on to say:

If we don’t get imago Dei right, if women don’t find their first identity as image bearers destined to reflect the perfect Image Bearer, we will erect false gods and create an environment of legalism. An environment devoid of the gospel. In such an environment, women will either rely on their own ability to be “good” women, or they will become discouraged and depressed when they can’t meet the standard.

So, naturally, I bought her book. And I’m digging in. And processing with you, for 31 days.

“It is God’s right to name Himself, the world and the people He has created…It is from Him–not psychology, sociology, anthropology or any other human science–that we gain a proper framework for understanding ourselves, our world, and God Himself.” (Mary Kassian, p. 242-43, The Feminist Gospel: The Movement to Unite Feminism Within the Church)

 

nourished and cherished {& other thoughts on male headship}

posted in: on being a wife | 1

I read an article shortly after getting married about a husband’s role to nourish and cherish his wife. He described a wife who is “nourished and cherished” by her husband, using words like glowing, flourishing, satisfied, content. She really sounded quite wonderful. So did her husband. But I, on the other hand, felt off. A little depressed, worn out and lost in the shuffle of needy children and my duties at home. I loved my husband and being married but it was far from flawless as we struggled through bad communication and unmet expectations.

So, naturally, I concluded that it was all my husband’s fault.

He’s not nourishing and cherishing me, I would secretly lament. I would count down the moments until he arrived home from work, waiting for him to burst in the door and rescue me from my failures and frustrations. When he didn’t live up to my demands, I quickly gave into despair. Tagged him “in” and checked myself “out.”

Kendra+Jordan481

We chose Ephesians 5:22-33 for our wedding. Headship and submission were new for me, both in belief and experience, and I wanted to be all in. This passage on marriage radically challenged my views on men and women and their roles within the family, and I wanted to live out the beautiful picture painted in Paul’s words. The passage, properly used (as at our wedding), challenges men and women to live out their unique callings within the marriage relationship.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

(Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV)

As Kathy Keller writes, everyone gets to play the Jesus role–men as they lay their lives down as Christ for the church, women as they humbly submit as Christ to His Father’s will. I affirm this is true. I am a complementarian. I believe in the equal value and dignity of men and women as image-bearers of God, as well as the diverse callings of men and women within the church and the home. Just for the record.

However.

I think there is potential for misunderstanding.

In my limited experience, it seems that complementarity has a tendency to “go after the men”–to call them to step up, to initiate, to lead the way. They are to be the spiritual leaders for the wives and children. They set the pace for the home as the family runs after Jesus. This is well and good. The problem comes when we (wives) hear this teaching for our husbands and become critical and grumbly. Words from Ephesians ring in our ears — is my husband loving me? Nourishing and cherishing me? Sanctifying me? Washing me with the water of the word?

Suddenly we realize we don’t feel so nourished, cherished, washed, sanctified.

Suddenly we find ourselves staring at this sinner we married wondering why he isn’t making us all bright and shiny holy.

Perhaps that article was onto something in saying that a wife who is “nourished and cherished” by her husband tends to have a security and confidence that is lacking elsewhere. But here’s my problem with that: Should my husband be the source of my security and confidence?

Feb282014_5752

When we went to the Liberate conference last February, there was a marriage seminar one morning. The speaker (Scotty Smith) told of a time his wife came to him and said,

“I want to get healthy with you, but I will get healthy without you.”

It stopped me in my tracks. We went to Florida in a funk. I was living day-by-day internally pleading: Be my everything. Fix me. Make me happy. Nourish and cherish me.

The words felt so anti-complementarian. At least as far as my perception goes. A wife getting healthy without her husband? Isn’t that unsubmissive? Isn’t she supposed to sit back quietly and wait for him to lead the way? If she initiates without him, isn’t she damaging his ability to lead?

Smith said it had the opposite effect, actually. As his wife moved towards freedom, so did he. And they arrived there together.

Ephesians 5 is prescriptive for marriage. There are direct statements to husbands and wives that ought to shape how we (husbands and wives) view our roles and relationships to one another. But it’s about something far greater than marriage! Look at what Paul writes: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Christ is the head of His bride, the Church. He is her Savior. He loves her and gave himself up for her, sanctifying her and cleansing her, presenting her to Himself holy, without spot or blemish. Christ loves His bride, the Church, as His own body, nourishing and cherishing her because she is a member of Him. There is no longer two, but one, as the Church is united to Christ.

There is a beautiful way in which a husband’s love for his wife pictures this, but it will never be this. Even the most wonderful husband cannot accomplish in his bride what Christ accomplishes in His Church.

And when I look to my husband to be these things for me, and even if he rises to the occasion and I feel all nourished and cherished, if I am not first nourished and cherished by Jesus, there is only one word for our relationship: idolatry.

A woman who is nourished and cherished only by her husband may thrive for awhile, but she will eventually wither. If she does not know her God, she cannot know herself. Her marriage may be happy, but her life will be shallow. There is fruit from the love of a husband. But unless it is fruit from the love of The Husband, it will not last.

The sweet thing is that as I look to Jesus to nourish and cherish me, as I embrace His love for me and my union with Him, I am free to love my husband instead of demanding his love.

May132014_7334 copy

My husband wrote our wedding vows. And in them he prayed that he would lead me to an ever-deepening satisfaction not in him, but in Jesus.

I think this is male headship. Not striving to be Jesus to your wife, but striving to point your wife to Jesus.

My husband is not Jesus to me. He’s not perfect. And sometimes that’s really disappointing. But mostly I’m thankful. I’m thankful that he wants to grow in grace and challenges me to that end. I’m thankful that in our imperfections we have the opportunity to celebrate God’s great love for us in Christ.

I’m thankful for a man who doesn’t stand up tall trying to be my Savior, but rather bends low and stands with me before the cross.

I’m thankful for an imperfect marriage and a perfect Savior.

I have an alarm that goes off every day at 5:25 before Jordan gets home from work. As the ringer blares, the words flash across my screen: “Nourished and cherished by Jesus.” I don’t always read it. It doesn’t always keep me from hoping Jordan will walk in the door and rescue me. But it does serve as a simple reminder to lift my eyes to the One who does nourish and cherish me. So that this imperfect, failing wife can take the hand of my imperfect, failing husband and we can find rest together in the arms of a sweet Savior.

Dahl Summer Bucket List 2014

posted in: Summer Bucket List 2014, the Dahls | 0

My friend Casey does a summer bucket list with her kids. So we thought we’d *borrow* the idea and come up with one of our own:

The few we’ve been able to cross off are a) fix the trampoline (after the catastrophe below), b) build a cover for the sandbox (I haven’t gotten a great picture of my husband’s handiwork yet but it has made the sandbox that much easier to enjoy!), and c) build a playset (which my father-in-law and brothers-in-law graciously came and helped to do). Here are a few pictures of us enjoying the process and the final products!

target audiences {and other sources of paralysis}

posted in: on being a captive set free | 0

weddingstalking the competition

When I teach photography classes, I always tell aspiring photographers to avoid stalking their competition. It was advice I was given from a photography mentor and it changed my then-business. I would spend hours scrolling through pictures of people in my market, looking at their prices and their level of busyness, and at the end of my stalking session I would be a crumbled heap on the floor, totally unmotivated to go after my own clients and edit my own images. I could never shake the “I suck” feeling. After lamenting about my inability to live up to the competition, the mentor challenged: Why are you wasting your time doing that?? It was a great question. Her advice? Only look at photographers who leave you feeling inspired. So I did. And my business took off. Because I stopped focusing on what everyone else was doing and started to figure out what kind of photographer wanted to be. What was my style? What kind of clients did I want? The competition became irrelevant because I began to see myself as contributing something unique to the market. I trusted that as I developed my skill and my style as a photographer, clients would come, referrals would spread, and my business would succeed. And that’s how it happened.

Of course, I quit while I was ahead to become a full-time stay-at-home-mom, a decision I never regret. I have no doubt the photography market has changed quite drastically over the past few years, and the weight of photography-as-business is finally starting to wear off to the point where I can pick up my camera and enjoy photography-as-hobby once again.

But the lesson lingers.

oh, to be original

I have always been a writer. I’m sure I started blogging at a variety of times for a variety of reasons, but the primary one is that I’m a verbal processor. I think as I write. I can take in all kinds of information, but until I regurgitate it to someone in some form or another, it hasn’t sunk in.

Blogging has changed a lot since the launch of my first Xanga site. (Does Xanga even still exist??) What used to be an avenue for sharing thoughts and updates with family and friends has become a full-fledged online community. “Mom Blogs” alone probably number in the hundreds of thousands. Where being a “blogger” was once a little nerdy and under-the-radar, it is now a self-proclaimed title of many a housewife.

This is of course hard for me, because I am a) secretly competitive and b) obsessed with being original.

So imagine my dismay when I stumble across a blogger who writes like me. Or who writes the post I have been writing in my head for weeks. Or who frankly is way better at {fill in the blank} than I am.

The paralysis sinks in. The “I suck” feeling settles close and familiar. The self-doubt and the despair and the “why bother”–they make their home in my heart and mind. I become bitter and grumbly every time I read a post that could be inspiring. Instead of finding community and comfort in encountering like-minded people, I am crippled by my envy, angry that I didn’t beat them to the punch. Instead of enjoying well-written books by smart, beautiful, Jesus-loving women, I search for flaws and try to find reasons to roll my eyes.

It’s not pretty. I’m not proud.

But this blog. It’s still here. It doesn’t have to be and I’ve wondered if that’s the answer. Exchanging this public forum for private pen and paper. Emptying my blog reader, perhaps. But as I found when I tried to give up facebook, the problem isn’t the blog. The problem is me. 

So here I find myself, once again, confronted by the ugliness of my sin, running into the unflinching welcome of my sweet Savior, who reminds me, once again, that He is at work in the mess. God has sweetly granted me this outlet and this ministry, and I think he plans to use it in my heart even if in no one else’s. This blog is an avenue for me to remember what he’s doing and to celebrate his many blessings.

target audience

I went through this “blog planner” and one of the exercises was to think through your target audience. Who is my target reader? I began to ponder and make notes. My target audience sounded a lot like me. As I read on, the author explained the difference between a blog as an outlet vs. a blog for a niche market. “Each one has their place,” she remarked, “but you have to know which one you are.” I paused. A niche market makes sense if I’m ever to be one of those stay-at-home moms whose blog takes off and suddenly her husband can quit his job and the family gets to travel the world and go on all kinds of adventures. Let’s be honest, that sounds fun. Or a book deal–that’d be nice.

But while I don’t think there is anything wrong with those aspirations, I realized it wasn’t me.

I am writing for myself.

I can’t write to win you over. I can’t frame my thoughts in 140 characters or less so you can quickly tweet them with ease. And while “going viral” sounds really good for my ego, it doesn’t sound really good for my heart.

I closed the blog planner. My blog-as-outlet descriptor hanging in my mind, speaking release and hope and a big deep breath. No one to impress, no one to buy what I’m selling. Just the freedom to process as the Lord teaches; to celebrate as the Lord gives; to declare His goodness when He takes away.

It’s time to stop wallowing at the competition and instead to find the writer that I want to be. It’s time to find my voice. Time to give up on being original. Because the truth is, “original” is so loaded. Really, it turns into trying to be like what “works,” which is not actually original at all.

It’s time to be comfortable in my own skin, with my own words, with my own story.

Even if it sounds like someone else’s.

Or even if no one else gets it.

Jesus is teaching me so many lessons about all that. I didn’t know there was so much insecurity hiding in my heart. Why my sin continues to shock me is truly baffling, but God in his grace won’t let it stay undisturbed. I have much to process but had to overcome this paralysis first.

So I’ve been playing around with making my blog pretty and fresh because I can and it’s fun and I want it to reflect me. Which might change next week or next year or never.

And one of these days I’m going to stop writing about writing and just, well, write.

the truth about comparison

A good friend points out that comparison is a mirage. When we look to others and think, “I suck,” it’s because we don’t see the whole picture. I want to start looking for the whole picture, because I think that will foster compassion instead of envy. I think that’s when I’ll begin to see God’s grace at work in others instead of being bitter of the ways in which I’m certain I fall short.

I do fall short. We all do. Every last one of us. We all stand at the cross together, humbled by our need and celebrating His gracious provision.

And while I think I’ve got this figured out, I know it is probably only moments from my next battle with pride and envy and bitterness. My flesh and my heart fail.

But God.

God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

So I can take pictures and I can write and I can live to the glory of God, because I live my life before the face of God (and not the face of you, whoever you are).

This is that refresh I’ve been craving. 

Soli Deo Gloria

1 2 3 18