Fearfully & Wonderfully Made*

*Title is a reference to Psalm 139:14.

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A couple weeks ago, the chain slipped off a bicycle my husband was riding, causing him to wreck and resulting in a sore shoulder and severely skinned knee. He was in a fair amount of pain for a few days, and of course I tried everything I could think of to bring him some relief–Deep Relief for the muscle injury, Sweet Bee Magic for the road rash–all my old favorites plus a few new experiments. I was snapping photos of his knee, thinking maybe I could do a sequence collage to show how great the all-in-one healing skin cream worked. But I decided against it, and here’s why:

His knee really didn’t need anything put on it; it would have healed up just fine on its own. My knowledge of anatomy and medicine is minimal, but our cells and skin and tissue and blood vessels have intricate protocol to follow after sustaining an injury, and they go straight to work on the healing process. Automatically. No essential oils, creams, or supplements needed. Now of course we know that some of these things can support the health of the systems that take care of these things, and speed things along, and help to prevent infection, and provide temporary pain relief, but in the end, they’re not the things that do the healing.

I thought of posting the pictures anyway, and saying something like: This is what road rash looks like after 1 day…3 days…5 days of… a magic cream? a miracle supplement? a superior brand of essential oils? Nope. This is what it looks like after sitting back and watching the incredible design of the human body, created by a divine Creator, do its job.

But, the pictures were gross, so I decided to spare you. 😉

Seriously though, this thought has been haunting me ever since. How many times do I attribute healing or other forms of betterment or improvement to a man-made product, or my own mind, rather than the Creator of all things and Author of all that is pure? It’s good for me to be reminded that every good and perfect thing comes from above.

I talk a lot, here on the blog and in real life, about products and places and activities and ideas that I think are really great. But I want my life in general to ultimately point to the One who is higher than the things or the people of this earth. And I want to consistently seek Him in and know him through the goodness and the beauty that earth contains.

A Favorite Song | Virtuoso

 
Short post for today [I’m with my sisters, enjoying the above view]…I want to introduce you to one of my personal favorite instances of skilled musicianship.

This song is so good, on so many levels. Give it a listen here.

Virtuoso

By David Phelps, lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. 

A handful of dust a worthless piece of clay / And you breathed the breath of heaven / Then there was a soul / The heart, the hands, the voice that could sing of your perfection

Life is a symphony that only you can play / You know I can hear it through the madness everyday

Virtuoso / This heart is your instrument / This life is your song / Virtuoso

There isn’t a note of mediocrity / In all of your creation and all the beauty / We create with human hands is only imitation / Thunder crashes, waves crescendo on the sand / The wind that’s whispering can only be your hand

A timeless melody of beauty and emotion / Perfect harmony inspiring true devotion / No one else can play it’s chords so graceful yet so strong / You made the instrument and wrote the song / Virtuoso

This heart is your instrument

This life is your song

[You are] Virtuoso

The Most Important Part of Wedding Planning | A Plug-in for Engaged Encounter

It’s no secret that I love weddings. I’m a romantic at heart, and I spent a good 5+ years of my life investing in my passion for all things love, wedding, and marriage. For a while, I was being enlisted as a vocalist for friends’ and acquaintances’ ceremonies, and later, my attentions shifted to the coordinating aspect of the industry as I helped my best friend plan her wedding, coordinated a few others, and executed my own big day in 2013. Now that I’m a couple years in, I understand more fully than ever before how much more important preparations for MARRIAGE are than for the wedding day itself.

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One of the very best things Caleb and I did during our engagement period was attend an Engaged Encounter seminar. I blogged about it then, on the wedding-related blog I was writing at the time in conjunction with my wedding coordinating business. Today I’m basically just reposting that account of our experience, in hopes that it will inspire you to consider attending a Marriage or Engaged Encounter weekend, or to encourage someone you know to do so!


April 18, 2013 – Caleb and I, along with fifteen other engaged couples from PA, MD, NY, and VA, traveled to Kenbrook Bible Camp in Lebanon PA this past weekend, with a common goal of gaining insight and skills that we hoped would help build a solid foundation for a healthy and happy marriage.

Our pastoral team recommended that we attend one of these weekends, known as “Engaged Encounter,” and since we’ve also heard lots of positive comments from family and friends who’ve attended in the past, I’d been looking forward to it ever since we got engaged.

You can read all about the history of the Marriage Encounter/Engaged Encounter movement here.

Before I go any further, let me just say that, on our way home on Sunday, Caleb and I agreed that this weekend was one of the best things we’ve experienced since we got engaged, maybe even since we first started dating. And for us personally, the timing couldn’t have been more right, the material more relevant, or the time/money any better spent. We also agreed, even before the weekend was halfway over, that we’d be singing the praises of this seminar for probably years to come and that we definitely planned to recommend it to our siblings and other friends who aren’t married yet.

Whether you’ve never heard of Engaged Encounter, have heard of it but are wondering how relevant it would really be for you, or are already planning to attend and are just curious of what to expect, this post is for you!

We had been told to arrive at Kenbrook by 7:00 p.m., so we rushed there directly after work last Friday. Signs directing us towards “Engaged Encounter” as we navigated our way through the entrance to the camp gave us a first glimpse of how detailed and thorough preparations had been made for the weekend. We parked our car and as we stood outside debating whether we should carry our suitcases in or walk in empty-handed at first, a voice called to us from the doorway with the answer. We were given nametags and shown to our rooms. Caleb and I shared two rooms which were directly across the hall from each other with another attending couple, the girls in one and the guys in the other. I was delighted to recognize familiar names on the doors of a couple from our area who we didn’t know well but at least knew “of.”

Once all the couples had arrived, the “presenters” (Nevin & Denise Horning of Lititz and Joel & Anita Zeiset of Ephrata, speakers for the weekend) began the weekend by introducing themselves and then having us introduce ourselves. We were instructed to share one of the first things that we’d found attractive about our fiancé(e), along with our names. From there, we delved into the first two sessions of the weekend, “Encounter with ME” and “Encounter with WE,” which were, as the titles indicate, basically self-analyses of ourselves as individuals and as couples.

These “sessions,” of which there were about fifteen throughout the weekend, each consisted of maybe 20-30 minutes of speaking by the presenters, after which each couple would split up for a time (around 10-15 minutes) of solo writing based on thought-provoking questions in our workbooks, then come together for a time (maybe 15-20 minutes?) of intimate discussion. Each couple had one room assigned to them as their “discussion room,” and the guys and girls would take turns writing in either their own discussion room or else spread out within the larger meeting room. Then, at the signal of a bell, each would join their partner in their respective discussion rooms.  The topics included Openness in Communication, Signs of a Closed Relationship, Sex and Sexuality, Family Planning, Finances, Loss, Marriage is a Vocation, Decisions in Marriage, Betrothal, Wedding – The Beginning of our Covenant, Two by Two, Sharing the Vision, and Forgiveness and Healing in Marriage.

All were well thought-through and well-executed. Nevin & Denise and Joel & Anita both shared many, many personal stories and experiences and we so appreciated their willingness to be so humble, open, and honest. I think we finally began to realize the reality that marriage is hard work!

Meals took place in the dining hall in another building just a short walk down the hill. And I must say, Kenbrook served to us better food than I’ve had at any other camp/outdoor retreat center! The presenters set nametags on our tables for each meal so that we sat with different couples each time.

That was a highlight of the weekend for us–meeting and learning to know and spending time with so many other couples who were in the exact same stage of life as we are. Such a feeling of camaraderie! We swapped wedding dates and details, proposal stories, honeymoon plans, and our future homes, all weekend long.

Halfway through Saturday afternoon there was a break in the schedule from sessions and a chance for recreation or relaxation. My own sweet Caleb was gracious enough to let me nap, but others enjoyed volleyball, pool, and Kenbrook’s hiking trails. (Note: if you’re the athletic type, you’ll want to bring athletic clothing along for this time!)

After supper and the last two sessions on Saturday, we all gathered in a less formal setting downstairs, with pillows and candles, for the “Wrap Session.” There was a time of discussion of several questions that had been submitted by the couples earlier in the day, and then we had a time of symbolic candle-lighting as couples, and a chance to be prayed over by one of the presenting couples. This was a special, intimate time for us as couples to be “alone” even while we were surrounded by other couples. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed ice cream floats together before retiring for the night.

Sunday morning began with the final four sessions of the weekend and ended with a special worship service that included singing and then sharing Communion together with our future spouses. This signified our place and calling for our marriage relationships to be like “little churches” and was very meaningful and special.

The whole weekend was so well thought-through, so well-executed; the time frames were just right, never too long, but not much too short, either. The entire structure could hardly have been more perfect or more fitting.


If you know a newly-engaged (or almost-married) couple who would enjoy a weekend like this, or if you’re already married and are interested in learning more about a Marriage Encounter weekend, check out the Mennonite & Brethren chapter’s website.

Caleb and I are currently serving on the Board of Directors for this ministry, and we count it a privilege to be involved in furthering the Kingdom by building strong marriages. If you have been blessed by this ministry or want to stay in touch, you can follow along on Facebook: Marriage Encounter and Engaged Encounter.

The Art of Discipline

 Discipline

This statement is one of the best things I’ve read this year. Since I stumbled across it, I’ve started thinking about the choices I make, concerning what to do with a free minute, extra hour, or cherished day at home, in a whole new light.

I mentioned previously that I’m currently enjoying The Lively Show, a podcast by Jess Lively featuring interviews with various entrepreneurs, authors, and world-changers that aims to inspire people to “add intention to their everyday.” Hence the word intention has been on my mind a lot lately, and I think that intention and discipline, if not completely synonymous, go hand-in-hand.

One of the tangible things that’s resulted from this thought process so far is my time management plan, which has, though not perfected yet, vastly revolutionized my ability to budget hours and prioritize the tasks that I most want completed. I’m not following it to a “T” quite yet, but I’m definitely getting more accomplished in a week’s time. Having a visible schedule to look at eliminates the tendency for me to waste time + helps me avoid burn-out.

Asking myself whether I want something now or whether I want it most has also been an aid in empowering myself to make smart choices pertaining to diet, fitness, finances, relationships, and more. Reminding myself that…

  • while I may want to eat that cupcake now, what I want most is to feel energized and to have a flat stomach 🙂 …
  • though staying up to accomplish a semi-clean house is something I want badly, what I want even more is to get enough sleep to be able to perform well at work the next day…
  • while staying in bed a few extra minutes feels like the best thing in this moment, what I really want is to be able to come home to a made bed this evening…
  • though Netflix on the couch on a Sunday afternoon seems a viable choice, a bike ride would solicit more benefits + valuable results…

…really does dissipate the struggle.

A pretty life-changing little question, if you ask me. What do you think?

Why I Cover My Head

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“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”


This passage, the third through fifteenth verses of the eleventh chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, is a “famous” section of Scripture, in my mind. Those of you who, like me, were born into and brought up in the conservative Anabaptist culture, could likely recite at least parts of it from memory, while others who live in parts of the world uninhabited by the “Plain People” and unaffected by their theology and practices may be completely unfamiliar with it. If you associate with the latter camp and wish to read more about the age-old societal tradition of the practice of head-covering, here are a few resources (that I don’t necessarily 100% endorse, but that will be relevant to your study): The Head Covering Movement, this article on Christianity Today, and this Mennonite discussion forum …and of course, there’s always Wikipedia.

As a young child, I knew without question that when I came of age (or when I gained church membership, as the case was in my family and church) I would begin to wear my hair “up” under the traditional, uniform Mennonite “veiling.” As a young teenager, I rebelled against the stigma that went along with this visible nonconformity to and separation from “the world” (non-believers). As a young adult, I wrestled (and still do) with the uncertainty in my own heart, the expectations of the people I loved, and the Holy Spirit’s touch on my mind and spirit.

I want to emphasize, before I [quite vulnerably] reveal my heart on this controversial issue, that first and foremost, my belief is that my position is deeply personal. I hope with all my might that this post does not come across as soapbox-y, because I do not and cannot know whether or if the path I have chosen is “right” or “best” or “necessary” for you or anyone else. (If I felt that way, I might have titled this “Why Our Heads Should Be Covered” or “Why Head Covering is Important/Right/Biblical” or something of that nature.) What I do know, is that the path I have chosen IS right, good, and necessary for ME.

I cover my head because I feel the Spirit has revealed to me, through the scripture quoted above, that as Christ is Man’s “head,” Man is my head, and having my head uncovered dishonors Man. As a married woman, this concept most practically manifests itself in the relationship I have with Caleb, my husband. So by wearing some sort of fabric over some part of my head or face or hair, I am reminding myself of my proper place under my husband’s authority, who in turn is under the authority of Christ.

>> I know this idea is not a popular one. But for those of us who have pledged our allegiance to a Heavenly Kingdom and chosen to walk the narrow path, it is the unpopular ideas and expectations that we have committed ourselves to and for, not, of course, for the sake of merely being different, but for the sake of the barefoot Nazarene whose upside-down purposes compelled those who knew Him to follow. <<

My stance may be considered extreme. But the following excerpt from Leslie Ludy’s Set-Apart Femininity quieted that doubt for me years ago, and is still a good reminder:

“When it comes to pouring out all we possess in radical abandon to the King of all kings, there is no such thing as being too extreme. Nothing we offer to Him out of a heart of loving devotion is ever a wasted sacrifice.”

I know I am not the only woman who struggles to honor her husband’s leadership in the family and home. I also know that my outgoing, opinionated, and somewhat over-achieving personality includes an additional tendency toward independence and self-righteousness. The headband, beanie, scarf or hat that I don before I leave the house each day serves as a visible reminder for me that I am not my own, nor do I want to be.

There are many opinions on the whys, whens, wheres, and hows of head-covering. In the heavily Mennonite-influenced community in which I continue to live, they are not uncommon topics of conversation and thought. The fleshing-out of the principle that I have chosen is different than many, but the valuing of the principle is not unique to me.


If you’ve been following along here already, you know by now that I’m doing the capsule wardrobe thing, and obviously have a bit of interest in fashion and even more of an interest in style. So how does this “extra garment” so to speak, play into that? Well…the headpiece is the main accessory in each of my outfits, and a pretty obvious one at that. Choosing it well and pulling it off takes lots of creativity, and I certainly haven’t mastered the art yet. But check out my “Covered” board on Pinterest for some styles + looks I’m currently loving.

I definitely don’t want to start any riots, but I also don’t at all mind a healthy, inspiring debate, either. So if you’ve got words to throw in here, fire away in the comments. 🙂 I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject of covering, if you have any!