26.2 (barely)

Whew… Well I’m back in Raleigh after a crazy fun weekend in Ohio.  We saw lots of friends that I miss DEARLY and I absolutely loved getting to introduce the husband to “my Cedarville-world.” My years at Cedarville were so formative and I had such a wonderful “Cedarville experience,” so it was really important for him to meet the folks who had such an impact on my life! Loved every second of it. Definitely TOO short of a trip.

Race day was crazy. The weather at first was a little yucky, but it turned out to be decent running weather after about mile 8. Cool – not too hot or cold – and a little drizzle. Praise God for no thunderstorms!!!

Trashbags to keep us from getting soaked before the race…

Alicia and her husband Pat. Pat did the half and Alicia conquered her first full! WAY TO GO ALICIA!!!!!

This race was significantly more difficult for me in comparison to my first marathon in Raleigh. And if you think I’m just being modest, you can tell from my time alone. In raleigh, I finished in approx. 4 hrs. and 40 min. This time, I added an entire hour. Last time when I finished I was sore. This time, I’m in pain. Last time, I didn’t walk except through water stations. This time, I walked at least 2 full miles after mile 21 and then when I did start running again, I was being passed by fast walkers. 🙂 I even passed by a race medic and they asked if I wanted my leg wrapped (evidently I looked ridiculous while running/limping/gimping).

That’s right. I was in the back of the pack, finishing with the elderly, injured, and the walkers.

But I finished.

This fella was such a good man… texting me… making sure I was ok… having friends shoot me texts. It was really encouraging to have family and friends communicating encouragement/prayers/support during those difficult miles. Especially when I was so disappointed with my time and race performance.

I’m thrilled that I finished, but what I’m MOST excited about is the $2500 that will go directly to water projects in Uganda through Samaritan’s Purse. I loved being a part of Team Samaritan’s Purse and am so excited about the work that they do! So THANK YOU to many of you who helped bring water to the Kihuura community. Your generosity far outweighs the joys of finishing a marathon. You made it worth every mile.

Tonight… the sweet Mister got me a deep tissue massage for some post-race body therapy and I can’t wait!!!!!!!!! Seriously… I think I NEED it. And I’m fairly certain that if you saw me walking today you would agree. 🙂

Happy Monday!

Q: Why? A: Love

The Mister and I started reading 1 John on Tuesday night and last night I read chapters 3 & 4. Wow, they really resonated with my soul. When I start to loose perspective, it’s amazing how the Holy Spirit can smack me bring me back to reality. These chapters reminded me once again why I do what I’m doing. I could speak more on the subject, but I’ll let the Scripture speak for itself.

1 John 3

(1) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are… (16) By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (17) But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (18) Little children, let us not love in word or in talk, but in deed and in truth.

1 John 4

(7) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (8) Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (9) 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. (10) In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (12) No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us… (18) There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (19) We love because he first loved us. (20) If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (21) And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Why do I run? It’s a simple answer: Love.

I pray that through Team Samaritan’s Purse and the Samaritan’s Purse field workers on the ground, the people of Kihuura, Uganda come to know the LOVE of our great Savior.

Much love – B

Killing the over-planner

I’m a planner. I love calendars, long-term goals, short-term steps that correspond with long-term goals, and pretty pens/notebooks to write out these goals and steps. I like having a vision and tangible steps to make my dreams happen. In light of this slightly controlling personality trait of mine, a recurring lesson that I keep on not-learning is that I must learn to hold on to my plans loosely.

If I look at the past 8 years of my life my plans have changed almost quarterly. I never planned to attend Cedarville University and I sure as heck never intended on working for and graduating from a Southern Baptist seminary. I didn’t plan on getting married pre-28, and I wasn’t planning on staying in Raleigh for more than 2 years. I never expected to graduate from one master’s only to jump straight into another (one day, I WILL be done with school!). And although none of these things were in my original plan, I never expected to be so blessed in light of so many of my plans changing.

Now yes, I understand that there is a wisdom in planning. But it is evident in my life that I have a tight grip on my plans and it usually takes a sledgehammer to force me to let go.  slightly PROBLEMATIC.

Although I can look back on my life and see God’s sovereign hand, I still go kicking and screaming when I sense a current change in my plans. Even though I fully acknowledge that 12-18 months down the road I’m going to look back see His faithful hand, I still throw a hissy fit and organize a thorough argument on why an all-knowing God should understand that my plan is fool-proof, brilliant, and better than His. Why is that?! Am I crazy?!

Our college ministry at our church has been going through the book of James and I’m still chewing on the James 4: 13-17 sermon done a few weeks ago. Earlier in vs. 1 the passage it says,

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”

I have been feeling that internal quarrel for the past few months and am continuing to feel the tension between my desires and God’s desires for my life. What I’ve come to realize is that I start kicking and screaming when my passions and desires for my life become self-centered and a major priority. I see changes happening and rather than viewing them through a Gospel-centered framework, I filter them through a “is this what I want/planned” mindset.

Basically… it’s all about me and thus the root of this tension is that I’m a self-centered, controlling, sinner. Ugh. I hate admitting sin (which is probably symptomatic of another flaw in my fallen nature…)

So in light of that… I keep re-learning the same lesson, praying that each time my plans change, God will give me grace to become less attached to my ideals and more attached and dependent on Him. It’s a tough lesson… but maybe one day I’ll get it…

Maybe.

Any of you in the same boat, still wearing water wings, refusing to jump in the water??  No, just me? Well… I happen to like water wings, and it’s going to take some time for someone to rip them off of me and push me out of the boat… sigh. I make it so much more difficult than it needs to be.

Happy Thursday, Friday’s a comin’!

On Death & Dying

On the way to work yesterday the mister and I saw an awful car accident on our local interstate. I must tell you,  seeing things like that bring on mild anxiety in my life. I have a really hard time with the reality of unexpected loss. When I see horrible car accidents or hear of tragic loss, I immediately think “somebody’s world was just radically shifted permanently.” Whether it’s a father, mother, spouse, sibling, or friend… somebody just lost their “somebody.” And in that moment, I feel deeply for the individual left behind. Yesterday morning, I not only felt grief for the strangers impacted, but I also mourned the reality of living in a fallen world infected with sin.

It’s in these moments of grieving that I am forced to cling to the grace of God. Most people have suffered a loss of a person/people they love – if you have not, you will one day. It’s inescapable. Car accidents, sudden illnesses, genocide, earthquakes, hunger, war, etc. are all a part of our world in light of the fall. But Praise God that we as believers have hope in Christ! When I start to feel the anxiety triggered by tragedy, I must force myself to remember truth. This passage has been extremely helpful to me during moments of grief and I wanted to share it with you here:

1 Corinthians 15: 50-58

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Today may you rejoice in a Savior that who overcame death and gives life abundantly.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – Jesus, quoted in John 10:10

Much love – B

Dr. Catherine Hamlin: the “Mother Teresa of our Day”

The contents of this entry were completely written by Elissa Cooper, writer for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. This article and photo is from Her.meneutics and both were originally featured here. I just read it, loved it, and HAD to share it. Dr. Catherine Hamlin is AMAZING. Read this, fall in love with an amazing woman, and be encouraged by her faith in our good God.

Dr. Catherine Hamlin, 87, has saved countless Ethiopian women’s lives through her work repairing fistulas. Most don’t know that she labors out of love for Jesus.

Vesicovaginal fistulas (VVFs) and the people who champion their eradication are fascinating. For Dr. L. Lewis Wall’s Christianity Today piece “Jesus and the Unclean Woman,” I spent a lot of time learning about VVFs for the accompanying news article, and enjoyed a refresher course for documentary review of A Walk to Beautiful for Her.meneutics. But I finally got to the heart of the story when I met Dr. Catherine Hamlin last month.

The world knows Hamlin’s name. The Australian obstetrician-gynecologist has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof dubbed her “the Mother Teresa of our age,” and Oprah has featured her story. However, Hamlin’s most striking quality is her Christian faith. It has driven her life’s work in healing women with VVFs in Ethiopia and her goal to end VVF worldwide by the end of the century. During her trip to launch Hamlin Fistula USA — the newest member of Hamlin Fistula International — 87-year-old Hamlin sat down with me to talk.

Hamlin and her late husband, Reginald, also an obstetrician-gynecologist, were initially hired to work at an Ethiopian government hospital in 1959. “I believe God put us there. We came across these patients soon after we got there. They touched our hearts so much we stayed working with them.”

However, they soon found themselves overwhelmed by VVF patients. VVFs are holes or tears that occur during labor where the baby cannot be delivered without intervention, such as a cesarean section. The child usually dies, and the women are incontinent and become outcasts because of their condition. It is unknown how many women suffer from VVF as it usually strikes those in poor, rural areas, but one estimate puts the figure at 3 million women worldwide.

Fortunately, VVFs can be repaired with a simple surgery, and over the decades, the Hamlins have cured thousands of women. In 1974, the Hamlins founded Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia with the sole aim to treat VVF. Catherine still lives and works there as she performs surgeries one day a week, helps manage the hospital, and visits with patients. “I’m usually occupied all day with something,” Hamlin says. “I lie down after lunch for a bit of a rest, since I’ve gotten old.”

Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital is not a mission hospital or affiliated with a particular denomination, but the Hamlins’ faith defines it. The staff begins the day with a prayer meeting, and recordings of Scripture readings and messages are available in at least 25 languages for the women to listen to on headphones as they recover. Many patients have become Christians.

As the second fistula hospital in the world (the first ran in New York from 1855 to 1928 when VVFs became obsolete in the U.S.), Addis Ababa depends on donations to provide free surgery and care for these women. Organizations give financial support to run the hospital and provide each woman with a new dress, a bus ticket home, and, if they would like one, a Bible. Hamlin Fistula International also raised money to launch five regional hospitals in Ethiopia that serve 3,000 patients a year and hopes to treat 4,000 annually. In order to prevent VVFs, another project involves training midwives to serve in rural areas and supporting them in their work.

“Most of the midwives in Ethiopia are congregated in the big city, Addis Ababa,” Hamlin says. “But our midwives are committed to work in the countryside, and they’re happy to work back in their own areas.” One of their first trained midwives returned home to find her sister was in labor, and she was able to deliver the child.

Mark Bennett, CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, adds, “The challenge is to make sure that we instill the same kind of ethos and environment in five new locations as well as our college to train midwives. We’re trying to capture what it is that’s made the hospital special, which is really centered on Dr. Hamlin’s faith that has empowered her and given her the love and desire to do this work.”

The problem may seem relentless, but Hamlin remains optimistic. When asked if her faith had ever been shaken by her work, she firmly says, “No. I never had a doubt about my faith. I’ve had many answers to prayer, and I know that God is behind us. He loves these women far more than I do.”

Hamlin relies heavily on prayer to keep her and others going, but most of all, she asks people to pray that VVF will be over by the end of the century. “Surely we can have something in this 21st century where there’s so much done for medical conditions throughout the world, and yet nothing is done for women in labor. The most important moment in their lives, bringing a baby into the world, nobody cares about them. Or they can’t do anything if anything goes wrong.”

With VVF, the first goal is to treat the physical body, but Hamlin and her staff also find themselves administering emotional and spiritual healing. “They think that God has cursed them. They’re so terribly ashamed of this condition,” Hamlin says. Women are thrown out by their husbands. One unknown statistic is how many women with VVF commit suicide. Hamlin remembers one story of a girl who was brought in by her uncle after he saved her from hanging herself.

“Once they get through the gate, their attitude changes,” Hamlin says. “They come with downcast eyes and ashamed to look up, and then they see somebody with the same condition. They think they were the only ones.”

After the surgery, if the woman is able to have children again, Hamlin and others encourage her to marry because “without a baby, there’s no life for a woman in the countryside.”

“We don’t know what happens to them, but some of them remarry and come back pregnant to us,” Hamlin says. The women stay there until labor begins, and they are moved to a hospital for a cesarean section. After the hospital discharges them, the women return to the fistula hospital. “We teach them how to breastfeed, how to look after a newborn baby, and give them a set of clothes for the baby. This ward is usually a place of joy.”

For someone who has worked tirelessly for others and keeps expanding her vision, I couldn’t help asking if Hamlin thought about retiring. “I’ve got a grave there waiting for me,” Hamlin laughs. “I hope to be here a little bit longer.”

For more information about Dr. Hamlin, Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, or fistulas, read The Hospital By the River and Catherine’s Gift: Stories of Hope from the Hospital by the River, or see the 2009 Emmy-winning documentary A Walk to Beautiful.

Mawwage. Mawwage.

“Mawwage. Mawwage is what bwings us together today. Wove, twue wove…”

No, that quote won’t ever get old. And yes, I’m finally going to blog on the topic of marriage.

Relationships/Dating/Marriage are all sticky things to blog about in my world. It’s a lot easier for me to engage in a discussion about Christian culture, literature, etc. rather than to divulge into details of the heart. When connecting with other women, we frequently discuss our relationships (whether it be with our children, parents, friends, or boyfriends/spouses). Let’s all be honest, when we ladies get together one of the first things we talk about is the presence/absence of a  significant other or a significant interest in our lives. Even if there isn’t a guy in the picture, we usually seem to bring the conversation to that topic at least briefly.

With that said… being recently married and in that “stage” of life where I have friends on both sides of the fence, I wanted to just share a few of my thoughts from our first 6 months.  The truth is, marriage is a journey like none other.  Being committed to a person for better or worse, in sickness and health, in happiness and in tragedy, for the rest of one’s breathing days  is a ridiculously overwhelming covenant to some.  And rightly so – it’s a big deal. BUT it’s also incredibly amazing. So in light of that, I want to share some encouraging lessons I’ve come to realize in my very few months of marriage. I’m sure the list will only grow as our marriage ages.

1. Marriage is Fun. Folks, here’s the thing… all emotions have increased since being married. I’ve laughed more, cried more, been angrier more, thankful more, apologized more, [fill in the blank with your fav. emotional response] more, etc. But if you marry someone you have FUN with, it really makes a world of difference even in the awkward or difficult times. (Seriously, I don’t know how boring people do it.) I really have laughed a TON more since being married – and for those of you who knew me before marriage, you know that I love to laugh, so that’s sayin’ something.

2. Laughing @ yourself is crucial. While we’re on the topic of fun… learning to laugh at yourself is huge. This is important not only in marriage, but in every aspect of life.  Here’s the deal, we all do dumb things (and some of us do more dumb things than others… it’s ok… embrace it, I do). You can either learn to laugh at things that are actually funny or you can get your feelings hurt when folks laugh at you for doing funny things. Since it hurts your feelings worse when its the person who you love most in the world AND since you live with them and they get to see all the dumb stuff you do…  I suggest the first rather than the latter.

3. Expectations are only expectations if they’re spoken & agreed upon. Otherwise they’re pointless ideals that will only cause frustration when not met.  Have you ever had an expectation and then verbalized it to a friend only to realize how ridiculous it was? Or have you not verbalized an expectation and then been extremely disappointed at it not being met? Verbalizing and discussing expectations is something that I’m just now learning/working on.  I thought I was relatively good at this in life in general prior to marriage, but it’s been something I’ve had to work at in the context of the marriage relationship. Crucial. Crucial. Crucial.

4. Grace is like gold in a marriage (& all aspects of life). I was told that “marriage was sanctifying” at least 1000x’s prior to marriage, but holy cow… I am now a believer.  The basic understanding in the Christian faith is that the world we live in is tainted with sin since Adam & Eve’s choice in the garden. As a result we are all sinners in need of grace. God provided salvation through his Son and as a result, those of us who choose to partake in this salvation are called to be ministers of grace to one other.Why, then, are we shocked when we are hurt by another brother/sister? Why do we have the same reaction when that hurt comes from our spouse/significant other?

When we see each others’ flaws and mistakes – especially when it directly affects US – it causes hurt/anger/disappointment/[insert favorite negative emotion] here. This is where grace comes into play. Grace doesn’t ignore the problem, rather it addresses it in light of the cross. Marriages/Relationships are transformed when we use gracious words, are quick to forgive, and quick to look for and see the good in our friends/spouses. Grace takes the focus off of our wounds & needs and forces our eyes back to the Gospel. Ben is definitely better at this than me, but I’m learning slowly that grace is gold.

5. Just “doing life” together is way better than any fairytale I’ve ever read/seen. Ok ladies, this is huge. I love a good chick flick so trust me when I say that I’m not hating on our media… I’m not. But with that said, the stories we see in books/tv/movies aren’t real – and even if they are real, they aren’t our stories. So often we get so caught up in looking for a magical moment that we miss the beauty of everyday life. We’re looking for someone else’s stories so much that we miss our own! The mundane of doing life together can become boring, but it is in those ordinary moments where I believe true romance is shown. It’s the making dinner together, picking up the house, the lazy days, the running errands, the coming home to each other at night, giving preference to the other, holding your spouse’s hand at a funeral, organizing a budget, late nights with a crying child, watching a parent’s health decline… these are the moments “done together” that can be the most ordinary, but can also be the most rewarding. They are also more difficult to do consistently than throwing together a fancy romantic moment. I love nights when Ben takes me out on the town and I feel “romanced” and special, but my favorite moments are the ordinary ones.  After looking at my parents, in-laws, & other friends further along in their marriages, I am convinced that the love shown in the ordinary moments is a key ingredient in making a marriage last. So thrive in the beauty of your own story, don’t  strive for the glam of another’s.

6. Did I mention that marriage is fun (see #1 if you’ve already forgotten)? Seriously it is… As in every relationship, you’re going to have your difficult times, but overall marriage is really fun. For some reason, until meeting Ben I viewed marriage as a ball & chain, something that ties you down, and something you did AFTER you accomplished all your goals. How wrong was I? I’m so thankful to have people who showed me otherwise. I’m so thankful to know that marriage is all things opposite that I described. I love having a best friend to explore the world with. If you’re like I once was, let me encourage you to surround yourself with healthy marriages, perhaps even talk to a counselor. I really benefited from having godly counsel in my life in this specific area.

Alright yall… those are my 6 thoughts on our first 6 months of marriage. My guess is if you’re married, you have a lot more time and as a result… a ton more wisdom! So I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter! Also single ladies… what are your thoughts on this list? Are these things that you already know/expected? What are other thoughts you have on the topic?

Sidenote: Yes, I did finally put our wedding pictures in frames… also I might have ordered a HUGE canvas pic of the photo above to place above our bed frame. Pretty excited. Also… shameless shout out and promo for Braun-Photography. I heart them.

Much love on this Wednesday… we’re halfway there…

Don Miller on Speaking the Truth in Love

Just this week one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, wrote an article in Relevant Magazine entitled “When Truth is the Enemy of Truth.” In my opinion, Don is one of the most profound story tellers of our time. He’s a phenomenal writer, brilliant communicator, funny as heck, & is a creative leader in caring of children without fathers. (You should check out his Mentoring Project). If I’m honest with myself, hearing Donald Miller speak after reading one of his books significantly impacted my spiritual development in college. All that to say, if you couldn’t tell… I’m a huge Don Miller fan.

After that “i heart DM” rant I want to get back to his article in Relevant.

In his article, Don (yes I do call him that in pretense like we’re old friends… don’t judge me) explains Thomas Kuhn’s theory on paradigm shifts and then applies it to our current evangelical culture:

“When theologians throw out anomalies that threaten their paradigms, they respect their interpretation of truth more than truth, or worse, believe their interpretation of truth is actually truth. They use terms like “biblical” and “heretic” to convince themselves and others that their interpretation is the real truth and others are a threat to ‘the Gospel’ or to God Himself. This sort of language isn’t helpful or respectful of anomalies, not to mention its behavior indicates a genuine intellectual threat that should be taken seriously, not dismissed as heresy.

What we are encountering in Christian culture today is a paradigm in crisis. Will there be a shift in the way we understand truth or read the Bible? Time will tell. But it would be arrogant of us to dismiss the anomalies. Dismissing anomalies rather than addressing them may be good for existing structures, including financial structures and power structures, but it isn’t good for truth. This does not mean anomalies have to be accepted but rather carefully addressed in a reasonable manner.

I loved that last line – but here’s my question: What does “carefully” & “reasonably” look like in the world of theological debate? How do leaders on opposite sides of ideals faithfully debate an issue? And is it ok after much debate to still label a brother/sister as a heretic if indeed it is true?

Now, let’s all be honest here… we all know what sparked his blog entry. Even though Don states that this is more related to McClaren’s old book rather than Bell’s new book… I’m not buying it. And even if it is, this entry is still extremely applicable in the debate over “Love Wins.”

I was tracking with Don for the majority of his article – although I have to stay that I do not think that McClaren’s book “seemed faithful to Scripture.”  But the core of Miller’s article isn’t about which side we’re on, it’s about how we debate & articulate disagreement in a way that is helpful to the Christian community. What do we do with ideas that differ or threaten our own? Although I love that Don brought up the topic, I would love it if a prominent pastor or Christian leader would set the ground rules for theological debate in world where much of it takes place via social media. I think Don is right – dismissing ideas without intellectually addressing them is hurtful to the body as well as ostracizing to those on the outside who are wrestling with these issues. But how do we respectfully yet adamantly seek truth, speak truth, debate truth, and shepherd our people towards truth in this crazy world? Because ignoring ideas, allowing anomalies that contradict Scripture permeate our churches is equally poisonous.

I’d love it if Mark Driscoll/David Platt/A. Mohler/Rob Bell/Brian McClaren/John Piper/(fill in with your fav. controversial pastor) all got together in one room – without weapons – and said, “This is how we are going to publicly and privately debate these theological issues.” This would be extremely helpful to the evangelical community because whether they like it or not… these leaders set the tone for theological debate. And as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, sometimes these debates can be extremely hostile (ie. the infamous “Farewell Rob Bell” tweet).

Yes, I recognize that the likelihood of Piper and Bell ever hugging it out is slim… and I’m not asking for that (although I would probably pay some serious cash to see it)! It’s just that I truly believe we are capable of debating ideals and discussing theology in a helpful and intellectual way. I know we can because I’m seeing it happen now through many less known authors who are writing fair and thorough book reviews on Bell’s “Love Wins.” So, as we slowly (and hopefully) move on from “Farewell Rob Bell” to the issue of what is a Biblical view of hell, I’d love to have our leaders develop a standard for theological debate.  I think it would greatly benefit our Christian community not only now, but when future anomalies occur.

Just a few lighthearted thoughts for Friday 😉