Four Years and It is Lovelier (Still)

Four years ago, I slept in my bed at my parents’ house for the last time. The 24 hours that followed bound me to my best friend in ways that I cannot even begin to comprehend – even now.

There is an incredible mystery to being one flesh. The idea that a man and a woman can join and image forth Christ in a new way is something so much beyond us that we could easily take our whole lives together in attempting to figure out just how He made this to work.

In the days that preceded my becoming a wife, I took time to reflect on some of the many reasons why I loved Christopher and the excitement I felt at finally becoming his bride. I put together a book for Christopher that was likely more piecemeal than story, but it was an incredible time to prepare my heart.

I picked up the book tonight on my way out of our bedroom when I couldn’t sleep (I always have trouble sleeping the night before special things, perhaps because I’m prone to over-thinking and reflection in the wee hours). It was incredible to leaf through just a few of the pages, thinking about where we’ve been, where God has us, and the many places He has yet to carry us.

I am so incredibly blessed to have a husband who loves me and is willing to sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom, to call me out when I’m out of line and need correction, to stand by me day after day and yet not set me above the God who made him and saved him.

Before we were married, we attended a conference and heard one of our pastors talk about how he and his wife desired their lives to look like two people fighting back-to-back for the sake of the Gospel. Even though they may not have been ‘looking’ at one another, they were still fighting together.

Something about that idea caught fire in the both of us, and we have tried (and failed and tried again) to keep that idea at the center of our marriage. It has not truly ever been easy.

Our four years of marriage have been marked by a lot of ministry and the strained relationships that come with that commitment. We have had some intense family struggles that we have no desire to relive or revisit. We have learned that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. God has pulled me through two seasons of depression. Chris has struggled with work, returning to school for his teacher’s license and seeking his place in the classroom that God has only granted him in the past year.

But the root is that life is “lovelier still” when Christ is at the center, and marriage is no different. We have not had an easy lot, but we are anchored to something more than a desire for each other. As we said in our vows:

For better or worse, richer or poorer;
In sickness and in health;
In the pursuit of Christ and His glory;
Until death do us part.

Our aim is to pursue Christ and His glory until death parts us. Not because of anything that we bring to the table – by no means! It is only by the grace and the goodness of the God who saves us that we can make it through each day.

But because of His grace and goodness, we fight onward. Together.

It is Lovelier Still
©2005, Alyssa Kate Grinstead
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How beautiful to wake in the morning
And see your beloved’s head next to yours
How beautiful to see sleep in the evening –
To find rest near the one you adore.

Yet lovelier still is to walk hand-in-hand,
Bound in Christ through this foreign land –
Knowing love and life in His sacrifice,
It is lovelier still.

How beautiful to provide for the one you love
And know that they will never have need
How beautiful to see past every fault and flaw –
To know there are more important things.
Yet lovelier still is to provide daily bread,
To feed until your souls are fed –
To find living water when your souls are dry,
It is lovelier still.
It is lovelier still with Christ at the center.
It is lovelier still when faithful and true.
It is lovelier still to step out side-by-side –
The world’s grace in the marriage of two.

Yet lovelier still is to not walk alone,
To look forward to your heavenly home –
To love each other as Christ loved His bride,
It is lovelier still.

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Take This (Simple)

In 2006, I wrote a song and recorded it in the span of about 24 hours – it was my first experience with such a fast-paced process. Over the years, I’ve gone back to it time and again, grateful for the heart with which it was composed and a little bashful over the production value.

Tonight, the themes of the song still resonate deeply with me. Perhaps it is just that God has led me back into a similar season or that I still have not grown out of my abiding desire to hold perfection and control within my own grasp.

I wish this were simple –
This falling down and getting up again.
It would be easier if I wasn’t so frustrated by bruised shins.
I get so frustrated. Not many people see that side of me. It’s not that I get frustrated with life all that often (although that hasn’t necessarily been the case in the last few months – an anomaly, I assure you), I get frustrated with how I react to life. My depressive, defeatist side comes easily out of the woodwork when things are brewing around me. Things like bruised shins hurt, but they heal if given the time. Unfortunately, I don’t like how allowing time for such things to heal creates delays in “the plan.”
But every fall is dangerous,
I’ve made an idol of control and, in doing so, lost it all.
It amazes me how the bruises of life and our desire to keep ourselves from them at any cost results in a continued effort to fix things on our own. Each trip and injury I sustain is dangerous because my pride makes me think I can fix anything that comes my way. And when I can’t, I’m miserable, frustrated, and I’ve lost the most important hope that I have – that of Christ reigning over me.
Supposedly, it’s simple – 
This getting up and falling down again.
It would be easier if I weren’t so daunted by the distance.
Have you noticed that almost everything we desire seems to be so far off? When I originally penned the lyrics for this song, Chris and I were dating and eagerly waiting to be engaged – at which point we would still be waiting, then just eagerly waiting to be married. 
Waiting! I feel like so much of my life is filled with just longing and waiting to be somewhere else, someone else, and doing something else. 
I find it difficult to trust God for the things that I’ve always considered “far off.” Music is a great example. There have been seasons where God has opened my heart and my time to pour into creating music that I’m still proud of and desire to share with others, but those times have been few and far between. Granted, He has had many things for me in the “rests,” the musical pauses between measures, but I’ve always been daunted by the scale of what I’ve desired to do with music. It’s terrifying in so many ways to me, especially now that I am married and looking to a future in the workforce and eventually (hopefully) having a family – how does music begin to fit into that framework?
But every rise is dangerous – 
I’ve made a mess of success, taking glory that is not mine.
And, yet, I wonder – am I still not in a position where I can fully give God back the glory that I so easily stole from Him in high school and in college and, heck, recently in thinking that I could do all of this myself? I so easily steal His glory and fail to realize that I have none whatsoever on my own.
How foolish our rises in pride are! How dangerous! I do not understand what I do – Lord God, have mercy on my soul!
I get into the perfect place for Satan to make me utterly useless – that place where I fear doing anything for fear of rising or falling too far from where God desires me to be. That place where I fail to surrender anything at all at the feet of the only One who can fashion all I bring into things of use for the kingdom. So much more often than it is, my prayer needs to (honestly and earnestly) be:
Take this away from me – 
Take this fear of failing, this urge to hold all that’s holding me;
Take this need for normalcy, these attempts to grab and keep.
Take this like of being liked, this view that I am holding everything;
Take this mind that believes perfection is right within its reach.

Take this from me.
Are you ever at peace within yourself? I think there have been times that I was, but they (as so many other things) are few and far between. I never know the meaning of “enough” – even if the sufficiency comes from Christ – and that is a problem. I am:
Never satisfied –
Always not quite right;
Never pleased with stumbles;
Afraid of every fumble.
But You’re right here and You never steer me wrong.
It is to You that I belong.
I cannot even begin to understand the root concept that I belong to Christ and only Christ. It certainly is not reflected in my daily life as I waddle around in the mire I’ve created trying to serve too many masters. I too easily forget I can cling to the wonderful and mysterious beauty of the Word made flesh and made an atonement for my every sin. 
That is the Hope of Easter. It is what my soul desperately needs every moment.
[[“Take This (Simple),” ©2006 Alyssa Kate Grinstead; All rights reserved.]]

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The Fast Waking Hours

I am finding that time moves incredibly fast these days. Already, I am two-thirds of the way through my summer and wondering 1) where June went and 2) when I’m going to work on stuff for school that I’ve been intending to do since I got done in May and really haven’t had much time to do.

And, yet, perhaps the most striking thing I’ve noticed in the quickly passing days is how little of that time I am spending with my Savior. Which self-perpetuates, sinfully, as I am then ashamed of not spending time at Christ’s feet and hide myself away – even more afraid that I ought not to come near Him.

My heart longs for so many things, yet I am afraid of those things. I yearn to pursue music (still can’t get rid of that itch), but I refuse to sit down and work on it. I desire to write (in general, like a book) about my experiences growing up and how my walk with God has changed over these many years, but I sit down one evening and never return to it.

I find that I am failing at faithfulness. Perhaps I need to just keep that before me and remember the One who is forever faithful.

In all of my oddities, I often return to the poor midnight/haphazard recordings I do of songs after I write them (so that I can at least remember what I intended them to sound like), and I keep coming back to everything I’ve written in the last few years and just wondering why I feel stuck in the same places.

And I keep re-visiting a song I wrote when I went to my parents’ house over winter break (a rare fit of intending to write some music). It was rooted in the following verse, which ought to more earth-shattering to me than it is most days:

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” [Isaiah 44:19]

I so easily forget the ONE God. LORD Jesus, may it no longer be so!

Listening to: The Civil Wars, Live from Eddie’s Attic
Reading: Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season

***
Blocks of Wood
©2010 A. Kate Reynolds

I have worshiped my blocks of wood;
I have eaten their ashes and fashioned their shape;

I have used them for fuel and warmth;

and when the days close, I hold them high and say:


“These are my gods;

the fruit of my toil.

I’ve worked and whittled

taking them from the soil.”


These gods can do naught

but rest in my hands –

I need to remember and understand:


That there is one God who formed me,

and one who calls out my name,

who has chosen to redeem me,

and removed my sins and their stains.


So, sing out, oh heavens,

Shout, depths of the earth,

For the Lord has redeemed

and stripped away the curse!


I have worshiped the graven gold;

I have found it a comfort and hated its loss;

I have trusted the men on its sides;

and when the days open, I hold it closeby:


“These are my gods;

fashioned by men.

I think I’ve deserved

every bit I did win.”


But these gods can do naught

except clink in my hands –

I need to remember and understand:


That there is one God who formed me,

and one who calls out my name,

who has chosen to redeem me,

and removed my sins and their stains.


So, sing out, oh heavens,

Shout, depths of the earth,

For the Lord has redeemed

and stripped away the curse!


Gods of wood and gold can’t go before you.

Gods of earth and stone can’t ever love you.

There is only One who…


That there is one God who formed me,

and one who calls out my name,

who has chosen to redeem me,

and removed my sins and their stains.


There is one God who keeps me;

There is only One who came;

There is one God who frees me,

who has loosed all of my chains.


So, sing out, oh heavens,

Shout, depths of the earth,

For the Lord has redeemed

and stripped away the curse!

***

Could It Be?

I wrote a song almost two weeks ago that has haunted me ever since. I’ve been struggling for the last few months to figure out why I can’t maintain consistency in my walk with God, why I can’t seem to be faithful in the many little things that I try to juggle…

What I am slowly learning, all over again, is that I need to start letting God pick up the things that I feel I need to juggle – in some ways, I need to let them crash to the ground and see what He makes of all of it. I’m overworked, underslept, and spiritually undernourished; and it’s an absolutely horrible combination.

But this song keeps haunting me. I keep asking myself, “Will this be the moment when I feel the nearness of God again?” and “Will this be the night from which I’ll feel new again like I did ten years ago when I accepted Christ as my Savior?” It’s not that God has failed – I’ve simply failed to desire Him whole-heartedly.

I’ve let my gaze drop too many times. I’ve come to think that “I’ve” got it all together after ten years of running this race and seeking God on what I now recognize as often shallow terms. I’ve said “no” to late nights with Him in exchange for meaningless (and unsatisfying) media content.

And it cycles through predictably, as it does in every season of life. I keep thinking that if I get to the next thing, I’ll be more faithful, I’ll be more disciplined – and, again, I’ll finally be more in love with the One who first loved me.

But it’s not about asking myself if this is the moment – it’s about making this the moment. It’s about picking up my Bible when I’d rather watch a TV show. It’s about picking up Tozer when my brain screams at me to pick up my textbook. It’s about spending my late night hours on my knees instead of wandering around looking for something to do until I’m tired enough to sleep.

The revelation that I do not answer to my flesh at the end of things is sinking in deep over the last few days. I will not stand before my flesh and list off the ways I fulfilled its desires! I will stand in front of a living, holy God who secured both my payment and freedom from bondage by no simple offering. And I will answer for, not boast in, the ways I appeased my flesh. Each and every time.

It is easy to learn the doctrine of personal revival and victorious living; it is quite another thing to take our cross and plod on to the dark and bitter hill of self-renunciation. Here many are called and few are chosen. For every one that actually crosses over into the Promised Land there are many who stand for a while and look longingly across the river and then turn sadly back to the comparative safety of the sandy wastes of the old life.

[[from “Born After Midnight,” by A.W. Tozer]]

So, yes it’s true that this moment could be here. Only the passing of time will truly tell if this was the moment I remembered my immense need for a Savior.

But I certainly hope that it is.

For anyone wanting to listen to the rough midnight recording done in our garage, it’s up at my PureVolume page (http://www.purevolume.com/akatereynolds).

Could It Be?
©A. Kate Reynolds (Sept 10, 2009)

Here I am –
Here in this moment I find myself in,
this moment where I might possibly begin
to start over.

Could it be
That this moment so full of possibility,
this moment is where I might finally breathe
without going under?

Could it be that this moment
is where I fall back in love with You?
Could it be that this moment
is where I remember my need?
Could it be?
Could it possibly be?

Here I am –
Here in this place I can’t let You in,
this place where I find I’m dirty and broken
and incomplete.

Could it be
That You could even want this version of me,
this me that You can clearly see
is in need of mercy?

Could it be that this moment
is where I fall back in love with You?
Could it be that this moment
is where I remember my need?
Could it be?
Could it possibly be?

Can it be true that You offer forgiveness?
It’s a beautiful and wonderful truth!
Can it be true You offer me my freedom,
in the knowledge it’s only found in You?

Yet, it’s here!
This moment where I know my Savior
This moment I fall in love like never before –
This moment!
It could possibly be.

Could it be that this moment
is where I lift my eyes off of my feet?
Could it be when I fix my gaze
and forget I was unclean?
Could it be?

Compulsion

I’m not sure what compels me to post anything today, of all days. I haven’t written for at least six months for various reasons that I won’t go into now, and I was sporadic – at best – for the few years before that.


There’s something that is beginning to compel me. And I do not know what it is.

Over the past year, I have struggled in trying to rediscover some of the things that I love, but that I have lost in the transition to ‘adulthood’ – the transition to working six-hour blocks of time instead of attending classes sporadically; to cleaning up not only after myself, but trying to serve my husband by doing the same for him; to having ‘adult’ relationships where previous friendships are maintained but not furthered; to feeling like I’m censoring myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I count all things, even writing freely in such arenas as this blog, loss for the sake of Christ and for the purposes to which He has called me. 

But I fear I have lost all ability to be open with others about where I currently am in life. The arenas with which I am the most comfortable all seem to have been taken from me, and I have yet to adjust successfully. 

Which might be why, tonight, I have just written my first song since last fall. I fear there are a hundred songs rolling circles in my head that will never see any light whatsoever, for I never let myself focus on recording such things anymore – perhaps I need to let go all the connotation and dreams I associate with whatever music I might claim as ‘my own’.

I am just a beggar who gives alms.

That line sticks with me these days. Who am I to even consider that my life should go where I want it to, instead of to where God has so meticulously planned every detail? 

But how can I know? How can I be sure that what God has for me isn’t music or graduate school or book-writing or a hundred other things that I have dreamed of since I was 3 years old, standing at the window and singing hymns?

How my faith falters! 

But I have no other choice in this waiting game, and I know God will grow me in patience – apparently, He sees in my future a great need for it.

Regardless, I may begin posting here again more often; though I will certainly try to control my ranting and focus more on other things. Maybe I’ll just start writing music again.

It would certainly be about time.

Listening to: “The Beggar Who Gives Alms” from downhere’s Ending is Beginning
Reading: Ecclesiastes and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

***

Tonight

©Alyssa Kate Reynolds (April 27, 2009)


I wish I knew how this is meant to go together – 

how it shines with provision when the other side is found.

I wish I knew how this is to be processed by my heart – 

how to react to Your steady hand as I stand upon its ground.


But I guess this is where faith meets its feet –

I guess this is where I find that I need You.


I wish I knew what it is my heart is truly wanting – 

what it is it wants from this life and from its time.

I wish I knew what it is that is worth the minute’s ticking – 

what brings You the most praise, and what brings me less of mine.


But I guess this is where faith meets its feet – 

I guess this is where I find that I need You.


Can I rest in You tonight? In the place beneath Your wings,

can I carve away a little place and hide?

Can I rest in You tonight? In the throne-room, at your feet,

can I lay here and weep in the deep and wide?


And I guess this is where faith can’t be found on its own – 

I guess this is where I find that I am not alone!

In this beautiful hollow, beneath Your able wings – 

I know that I am safe here, in the presence of my King.

And I can rest in You tonight.