Hannah Mae is growing up so fast. She's 15 months already and a happy, sweet, willful, independent and super cuddly girl.
She said her first word last week and the look on her face when we reacted to her verbal outburst was priceless. Over and over again, she would wave her hand and say 'HI!', and then coyly tilt her head to the side and smile shyly, so proud and so embarrassed at the same time.
Summer is quickly coming to an end. August is here, and we're just days away from celebrating one year here in STL. It's really hard to believe. Hannah Mae was just a snuggly, sleepy 3 month old fuss pot when we moved here. She's still a snuggly little fuss pot, but she's now a curious and active toddler... it's so hard to wrap my brain around all that's happened in the last year.
To be perfectly honest, our first year in seminary was hard. And it's been hard to process. Looking back, I should have journaled more or shared more here, but I haven't quite known what I wanted to say or how to say it. Chris and I have come to a consensus: seminary is like boot camp; boot camp that lasts three or four or five years and is rigorous spiritually, emotionally and relationally.
I can't help but be reminded of two passages in the New Testament.
1 Peter 5: 8-11
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 6: 10-20
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
I have never prayed the way I pray here in seminary. I have never felt the battle as clearly as I've felt it here. And I'm saying that after the years of struggling with my faith after Owen died, and chipmunk and sunshine.
As we're learning and growing in our relationship with the Lord, we are constantly seeing our sin nature displayed in self righteousness, self centeredness, and how deep our apathy and egos run. It's the grace of God that we are seeing our great need for Him and we feel His closeness in these times.
And we also feel the battle, and see the roaring lion prowling around us.
I'm not sure I'm doing a great job adequately describing how hard this year has been. There have many times I've been standing in the kitchen making dinner or lying in bed waiting for sleep to come that I've felt completely and utterly 'wrong' for ministry life.
I'm too sensitive, too thin skinned, too self centered, too quick to react in anger, lacking in compassion and the desire to reach out.
Why are we here? How can God use us?!
The enemy prowls around...
I have a confession to make now. Seminary can be a dry place spiritually. It's quite a shocking statement, isn't it? Our first month here someone made this comment to us and to be honest, I balked at the sentiment. How could that be?
But I understand better now. Seminary is an intense training ground for men and women who desire to be used by God to point others to Him. There is a certain amount (a great deal actually) of pruning and self examination that it can be disheartening in the midst of it.
Relationships are hard here too. Another shocker, right? It was to me. I'm not sure what I expected. Maybe cum-by-ya around the fire every night as we share our struggles and reflect on the mercies of God... maybe I got caught up in unrealistic expectations of other Christians and myself.
It's something I've had to take to the Lord often. My sin, the sins of others, and disappointment in something that wasn't what I expected.
One late night last month, it dawned on me. This is not only the good pruning of a loving God, but it is spiritual warfare. Why hadn't I named it sooner? I think I had been so caught up in the 'woe is me' attitude that I failed to see what was really happening.
The enemy prowls around...
My prayers have shifted focus and the constant introspection I have been struggling with is fading. I still believe that a healthy amount of introspection and self awareness is important, but it can get toxic fast.
We've had a difficult summer in many ways, but I'm so thankful we're coming out of it with our eyes turned upward. God is faithful. He is with us always. We are not strong. We are weak, but we stand strong in the strength of the Lord.