Saturday, August 29, 2015

Amazing Grace

If you’ve been remotely in my presence this summer you have most assuredly heard about me getting to see “Amazing Grace” on Broadway. Most likely I told you that it’s my new favorite musical of all time, described the unbelievable set design and staging and costumes, played you songs from the show (it has the most beautiful, powerful music ever heard this side of Heaven), showed you the clip of the cast singing on Jimmy Fallon, and on and on. There is no cast recording out yet, but I’ve searched youtube attempting to find as many full songs as I possibly can so I can still listen to the music (I’ve found six so far and I listen to them daily). One song in particular I’ve listened to before going to sleep almost every single night of the summer since I saw the show! It helped me go to sleep countless nights this summer as I slept alone in the house or alone in my room at Kate’s house (I hate sleeping by myself in case you didn’t know, but it’s a little easier with Josh Young singing to me as I go to sleep)! I may or may not check the Amazing Grace facebook page and instagram daily to see what others think of it and voraciously look for when they will release a cast album. I neither confirm nor deny that I pray daily for the people going to see the show, for the cast, and that a cast album will be released soon! I can’t help it! It’s AMAZING!!! And if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t judge me! Just wait until it’s your turn to be standing on your feet at the end of the show with tears streaming down your face joining your voice with the incredible voices on stage in that age old hymn! You’ll understand!

(Slightly excited about my tickets to see the show I've been waaaaaaaiting for!)

Quick recap (in case you didn’t see me this summer): Amazing Grace tells the story of John Newton who was a sea captain and slave trader and follows this horrible, crazy, lost man (and his childhood sweetheart who never stops asking God to change his heart) through his young adult life until God grabs a hold of this young man’s heart through some horrifically hard circumstances and his life is completely changed. He ends up becoming the hymn writer who wrote the words to the most popular song of all time, Amazing Grace. Along with that, it’s also the story of the brave men and women who began the fight for the abolition of the slave trade in England and the story of many of the beautiful Africans who were a part of it. It’s the story of humanity's utter depravity and God's matchless forgiveness and grace. It's the story of people...the sinful, the unmerciful, the beautiful, the brave, the lovely and depraved. It shows humanity at its most ugly, sinful core and God's ability to turn the ugliest sin into wild beauty! The whole story is epic, redemptive, glorious and best of all, completely TRUE!

  Mr. John Newton (Josh Young) himself! This man has the most 
     unbelievable voice I've ever heard and the emotion and passion he 
      puts into sharing this story is utterly astounding! P.S. I look like I've 
been crying because...I have!

            I’ve been trying to figure out why this show grabbed me and wrapped itself so tightly around my heart and mind (aside from the glorious music and exquisite costumes and beautiful voices and impressive staging) and I think I’ve figured it out. I think it’s because it was a new, clear, almost tangible way of seeing and hearing God bestowing His grace and choosing to use someone who was wholly undeserving. Someone who was mean and horrid and despicable and disrespectful… someone like every sinner… someone like me. It’s so easy to view myself higher than that because I’ve never sold human beings or mocked authority and God, but when I view myself as higher than the sinner that I am, it lessens the grandness and power of God’s grace because really, how much grace could it really have taken to save me? My song would surely be called, “A Little Grace” or even “A Spoonful Of Grace” (cue music: “Just a spoonful of grace makes the sin go down…”) but surely no need for “Amazing Grace.” But I don’t want to dilute God’s Amazing Grace with my delusions that it didn’t take the much grace to save me. The truth is that is takes every bit as much grace to save me as it took to save that slave trader. In our own lives if there has been no slave trading, no murder, no adultery, no abuse (all those sins we use as a barrier to say, “well I’ve never done THAT, so how sinful could I really be?”), Jesus would still have gone to the cross and that grace would still come at the same bloody cost because sin is sin. Period. It’s only by God’s Amazing Grace to slave traders and kindergarten teachers alike that we are saved.
The other reason that this story grabbed a hold of my heart is not just because of God choosing to save John Newton, but because of John Newton’s response. In the show his immediate response is in song and I don’t know that John Newton could or would actually sing, but the words to that song are certainly what he must have felt because they are what every sinner has felt at one time or another when confronted with his own sin and the overwhelming face of our great savior. “And I never can repay what the Lord forgave that day. He came for me…came to set me free.” When he finally confronts his overwhelming sin  and looks to the grace of his overwhelming savior he lives his life in overwhelming humility. That is the right response…a response I don’t always live out. After seeing the show I got John Newton’s autobiography, “Out Of the Depths” and basically devoured it. Something that struck me is the humbleness in which he lived his life after meeting Jesus. Just listen to some of his words:

“It was well worth standing a while in the fire for such an opportunity of experiencing and exhibiting the power and faithfulness of His promises.”

 “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

 “If God may be glorified by my efforts and His children in any measure be comforted or instructed by what I have to declare of His goodness, I shall me satisfied.”

 “His sovereignty is connected with infinite wisdom and goodness. Consequently, if it were possible for me to alter any part of his plan, I could only spoil it. Such a short-sighted creature as I, so blind to the possible consequences of my own wishes, was not only unworthy, but also unable to choose well for myself. It was therefore my great mercy and privilege that the Lord condescended to choose for me.”

 “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

Sometimes I forget how truly astounding it is that God would choose to love me, to save me, but this summer I remembered through the humility and obedience of a slave trader turned hymn writer who died over 200 years ago, but whose words live on:

                     “Amazing grace! how sweet the sound                                        That saved a wretch like me!
                       I once was lost but now am found,                                            Was blind but now i see.”


(See it's not just me...others are super excited about it too! Just look:)

*Last thing...I promise! Did you know that the man who wrote the script AND the music AND the lyrcis had no background in musical theater or composition...He was a police officer who read John Newton's autobiography and decided the story had to be shared and he has spent the last twenty years writing the script and the music and the lyrics and trying to get it to Broadway! What?!?! Talk about AMAZING!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Beginnings

I have lot of little friends who are starting kindergarten this week and in many ways, I feel like one of them. We smile knowingly when we see kindergarteners going off to school for the first time. They’ve got a wide-eyed look of uncertainty that is comically exaggerated by their oversized, lopsided backpacks. We smile knowingly because we’ve all be there and despite a possibly tentative start, everyone knows that Kindergarten is the best year of your schooling life! Mention the word “kindergarten” to any kid ages 7-18 and you’ll probably see an endearing smile spread across their face as they remember “the good ol’ days.” But do you remember that very first day? Having to say goodbye to your momma and feeling like you’re all on your own? It can be a very scary day. 
A sweet kindergartener whom I know well wants to bring a picture of her family with her in her lunch box every day so that she can look at them while she eats! In the midst of change we all want to have something to remind us that the home and people that we love are not so far away. As we grow up we somehow forget what it’s like. We look back as adults and think it’s cute how nervous these little people are, because we’ve already walked through it and we know it’s awesome. 
After going to school every September for 23 out of my 28 years of life, this September marks a new and sometimes scary change. I feel like a kindergartener all over again. I’m bravely waving goodbye to my parents and sisters as they all head back for the first day of school, and this is the first year that I’m not going with them. After all those years of school, it seems funny to think that now the scary change is the fact that I’m not going back to school. I love this new life in Texas. I love being married. I love this new season. I love the limitless possibilities. Romans 5 says, 

“ We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”

And yet sometimes, even though we know they’re such good, wonderful places, the wide-open spaces can seem a little scary. So this one’s for you my 5-year-old friends. This one’s for you my mother-of-5-year-old-friends. This one’s for you any friend who is facing something big a new. We’re gonna be okay. More than okay, we’re going to thrive. Let’s step out in faith. Let’s dwell on God’s words of hope and peace and carry them with us in our lunchboxes a reminder of our good Father and our home. Happy First Day of School and Happy New Beginnings!


(Two little kindergartners who might look familiar!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dreamy Paper Airplanes

Am I the only person who boards an airplane hoping to sit by a baby or at least a kid? Maybe so. Unfortunately I usually don't get to, but when I fly on Southwest I have have an advantage because I get to choose my own seat and families with kids board first, so theoretically I should be able to find a baby to sit by! Well this summer I got on fourteen airplanes and I didn't get to sit by a single baby! As I boarded my 14th airplane I finally spotted the seat that I'd been waiting for. There was a row about halfway through the cabin that only had one person sitting in it...a little African American boy staring excitedly out the window. Perfect! I sat down in the aisle seat hoping that no one would sit between us and we'd have some room but before too long a woman came walking down the aisle about to steal my seat next to the little boy! Woah lady! Hold up! That's my kid to make friends with! You can't go stealin' my kid! I quickly scooted over into the middle seat and we were both happy...she with her newly acquired aisle seat and me with my future friend still safely next to me.

I asked him if he was flying by himself and he pointed at his mom and big sister in the row behind him. His sister had also wanted a window seat so his mom had told him that he could sit one row in front of them. I could see that he had no backpack or bag in front of him. No books. No iPad. Just good old fashioned talking, which we did for quite a while. I learned that his name was Alan and he was going into 2nd grade on Monday and He liked looking at pictures of my twin and Disneyland (basically the only pictures I had on my tablet because they're the most important. Obviously!). I taught him how to make paper airplanes from pages I ripped out of my journal and we put our little pretzels from the airplane snack packs in our paper airplanes and threw them back between the seats to his sister who giggled behind us. We spent three marvelous hours talking and spotting animal shapes in the clouds and making paper airplanes and playing hangman until our plane descended into the Los Angeles airport. We got our carry-ons and said goodbye and went on our merry little separate ways. 

I always enjoy airplane rides...something about the large, uninterrupted chunks of time in which I have nothing to do but journal and read. Now, while I love both those things dearly, you know what I love even more? Making little paper airplanes with a friend I just made three minutes ago. Why is it that I spend three minutes with an adult and I've barely learned his name, but three minutes with a kid and we're already fast friends making paper airplanes together? Just wondering. Flight number fourteen was by far the dreamiest of the summer!


Our snack plane about to take flight

The tray table runway

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why Twinkly Twins?

Here goes...Twinkly Twins...

"Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life."      Philippians 2:15-16

That's it. That's exactly how we want to live...shining, shimmering, twinkling with God's love...peace... a world that so dearly needs Him. We want to shine His light out of every fiber of our beings so that people are drawn to the light He has placed in us and consequently come face to face with the creator of  light who loves them fiercely and perfectly. 

We love light! Aside from precious babies, light has to be our favorite of God's creations. Here are our top favorite light sources:

- White fireworks
                                     (4th of July fireworks this past year over the New York City Skyline)

- Christmas tree lights

                                                        (Jenn is our master twinkle lights electrician)

- Starlight 
                                                                             (Glittering and glorious!)

- Stadium lights

- Stage spotlight

                                                  (Our view from the stage for the Easter service)

- Candlelight

                                (Our absolute favorite candlelight is at the Christmas candlelight service!)

We think it must be one of God's favorites too! Just look what it says in His Word concerning light:

"The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
- Matthew 4:16
                                         (A picture I took on an airplane going...apparently to Heaven!)

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
-Matthew 5:16
                                      (Pure shimmering delight! Can't beat the fireworks over the Disney Castle!)

(Or the Magnificence that is World of Color!)

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
 -John 8:12

                                                     (Sunset over the Indian Ocean from Zanzibar last summer!)

"God Is light. In Him there is no darkness at all." - 1 John 1:5

                           (Magical twinkle lights over Kate's wedding this summer...perfection! P.S. love that baby moon!)

"Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." 
-John 12:36
                                  (The only thing that makes a sunset over Zimbabwe more beautiful is elephants!)
God has called us as believers to be light to a dark world...which brings us back to the verse that launched the name Twinkly Twins...

"Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life." Philippians 2:15-16

We attempt to live in a twinkly way...a way that makes others smile and giggle and wonder and sometimes shake their heads in confusion thinking we're a touch crazy, but ultimately a way that points to God and the joy that comes with being His (after all, people thought Jesus was a touch crazy too). This blog is an attempt to chronicle those twinkly moments that God blesses us with each and every day...the big, bright, firework moments and the small, solitary nightlight moments alike. In a nutshell we want our lives to glow with Christ's love and these precious words:

 "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shiiiiiiiiiiiiiine!"