Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A New Chapter

          One week ago today, I was standing on the flight deck of the USS Midway in San Diego, California.


         My family and I were spending a week and a half in California visiting relatives; we brought Andrew along with us so he could meet the extended family. I admit, I was pretty ecstatic at the thought of getting to spend 11 days with him.
         We spent the first weekend visiting with various family members, which was delightful. On Tuesday, we went to the USS Midway Museum with my grandma. Everyone was pretty pumped about touring an aircraft carrier, and Andrew in particular seemed excited about the photographic opportunities that such an expedition would offer.
          We boarded the ship, and Andrew and I immediately suggested that we head straight up to the flight deck - we were more interested in the view than we were in exploring the inside of the carrier. Mom agreed that starting at the top was a good idea, so we headed up.
         
The kids were enamored with all the retired planes.




          There were these two little ramp-like structures that extended past the end of the ship - not exactly sure what their purpose is, but they offered a nice place to get a view, and Andrew suggested that we walk out on one so that Grandma could take a picture of us with the water behind us.
          We both walked to the edge and I leaned against the railing, taking in the view. Andrew was standing behind me, to my left. After a moment he said, "You know that question I've been meaning to ask you?" (all week, he'd been alluding to a question he wanted to ask in private). Before I had a chance to respond, he said, "Mariah, will you marry me?"
          I quickly responded, "No."
          We were always joking about him proposing, so it didn't even enter my mind to take him seriously. Him proposing to me while we were on a family vacation in California didn't even register as a possibility in my brain. Of course I did want to marry him, but it seemed odd to say 'yes' if he wasn't actually proposing; so I said 'no'.
          I turned around and caught my breath as I saw him down on one knee, holding an open ring box, his eyes lit up and the most adorable smile on his face. I can't put into words all the feelings that overwhelmed me as I realized that he was actually asking me to spend the rest of my life with him.


          "I'm serious."
          "Oh my gosh." My heart was pounding, and tears filled my eyes as I started laughing. "Yes!" Then, like the girl I am, I started crying as I hugged him.



          I'm engaged!!
          The reality is still sinking in. The moment itself went so fast, but I have been playing it over and over in my head all week, and it fills me with joy each time. I get to marry my best friend.


     

          I am so incredibly blessed to love and to be loved by this man. I am so excited to see what God is going to do in our life in the upcoming months.


         
p.s. I absolutely love that I can now call him my fiance. ^_^

~Riah

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

If I'm Honest...

          Being a Christian is the simplest thing in the world. There is only one thing that makes it difficult, and that is us. Christianity in and of itself is easy, but it is so completely opposite our human nature that it can feel impossible at times.
          The conflict of spirit and flesh is maddening. I do what I do not want to do, I do not do what I want to do. I know what I need to do, but so often I end up doing the opposite. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
          And if I'm honest, I haven't been doing much to strengthen it. 
          That is uncomfortable for me to admit, but it's sadly true. It's not mere complacency; on the contrary, I live in a constant state of discomfort and guilt, knowing that I am not living the way that I ought to be. 
          The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and I'm too lazy to change that. That's the blunt reality of the situation.
          Which begs the question... why am I lazy? When I know that a relationship with God is  infinitely better, when I know that the way I'm living does not glorify the One who is worthy of all glory? I know that I could do so much more, love so much more, be so much more. And yet here I sit.
         When we allow ourselves to live this way, knowing the narrow way but choosing to walk down the wider path, every moment of our lives becomes a sin. "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." (James 4:17)
          Think about that for a minute. Every moment you are not pursuing Christ, a repulsive rebellion against God. Yet another reason for Him to hang on that cross. It disgusts me to think that I could make such a choice.
          So why am I lazy? Perhaps my laziness stems from discouragement. Because all of the half-hearted attempts I have put forth have failed, and I despise failure. Perhaps because I don't "feel" God like I have in the past; I don't "feel" anything when I talk to Him, I don't "feel" affection, and when I read the Bible, all I "feel" is a keen reminder of all the ways in which I fail. It's hard to work up the motivation to read the Bible or pray when you don't desire it. 
          I read a quote once that said the moment you don't want to read your Bible is the exact moment that you need to, and I think that is true. We are sinful humans, and the desire for God is not one that comes naturally. It is only from the Holy Spirit, but our sinful flesh often does its best to stifle that desire. 
          I don't have time. I'm too tired. I can't concentrate. I don't feel like it. We are experts at coming up with excuses, but the reality is that when we make these excuses, we're really just saying that ______ is more desirable than God. 
          And yet I profess to love and have faith in this God? I maintain this attitude, yet dare to claim the name of Christ?
          I'm writing this post and confessing these things because I know that it's not just me. I'm not the only Christian wrestling with this conflict, I'm not the only person starving myself of God, I'm not the only lazy Christian, settling for the lukewarm. I'm not the only one who likes shortcuts. We just don't like to admit it.
          We long to love God, we desire to desire Him, we are starving to be made more hungry, we are aching to be relieved of anxiety and just trust. We want the good things of God, we want faith that is unshakable, but are we willing to work for it?

          "How then shall unbelief be cured and faith be strengthened? Surely not by straining to believe the Scriptures, as some do.
          Not by a frantic effort to believe the promises of God.
          Not by gritting our teeth and determining to exercise faith by an act of the will.
          All this has been tried - and it never helps.
         To try thus to superinduce faith is to violate the laws of the mind and to do violence to the simply psychology of the heart. 
         What is the answer? 
         Job told us, "Acquaint thyself with Him and be at peace;" and Paul said "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
         These two verses show the way to a strong and lasting faith:
         Get acquainted with God through reading the Scriptures, and faith with come naturally. 
         This presupposes  that we come to the Scriptures humbly, repudiating self-confidence and opening our minutes to the sweet operations of the Spirit. 
         Otherwise stated: 
         Faith come effortlessly to the heart as we elevate our conceptions of God by a prayerful digestion of His Word.
         And such faith endures, for it is grounded upon the Rock." 
-A.W.Tozer

        Wait... can it really be that easy?  
        Think about it. How do you build a relationship with someone? You spend time with them; you get to know them. Give them opportunities to prove themselves worthy of your trust. It is an investment of time, and depending on who it is, some people will get a higher priority in your life.   
         God - the eternal, all-good and glorious God, who created and every moment sustains the entire universe, who took mud in His hands and breathed it to life, who is eternally deserving of all glory and yet gave Himself up to these clay-men to be slaughtered because of His pure love - this God is available to you literally every moment. And not simply out of obligation because He in His omniscience can't avoid your spot in the universe. God is not simply lounging on a throne, drumming His fingers on the armrest waiting for you to acknowledge Him. He wants this relationship with you. He wants you to trust Him, love Him, spend time with Him, and glorify Him. 
          He loves you.
         Which, quite honestly, completely blows my mind. That He should love one such as me, when I continue to reject Him and yet have the audacity to claim His name... 
         There is nothing more important in your life than your relationship with God. He should have a guaranteed time slot in your day, because He should be top priority. Everything else is nonexistent without Him. And guess what? You don't have to wait to consult schedules and see if you both have a free afternoon during which you can get together and chat over coffee. He is always available, always ready and waiting to spend time with you. How much time are you willing to give back? 

          As simple as it is to just read and meditate on the Word and pray, if you're anything like me, you might try to "simplify" it even further. I love listening to sermons and reading articles and devotionals. It can be helpful to have someone else explain a verse or a concept to you; a powerful speaker can be an effective way to a waken a complacent soul. 
          But the reality is, the life of a Christian is not something that can be lived vicariously. Sermons and articles are wonderful resources, and should definitely be taken advantage of, but there is simply no substitute for the Scriptures. Reading the Scriptures "secondhand" isn't enough; you need to be directly in the Word. 
          I realize how terribly ironic this is, but I strongly recommend reading this article by Francis Chan on the subject. This was what brought the fact that I spend too much time trying to find God outside of the Bible to my attention, and I definitely think it's worth the read. 

          If you want a deeper relationship with Christ, if you want to love Him more, if you want to have true faith... read your Bible. Get to know this God. Set aside time every single day to talk with Him, and read what He has said; make it a priority. And you know what the beautiful thing is? The more you read, the more you will want to. God is eternal, and therefore our desire for Him cannot be satiated; you literally can't get enough of Him. Reading and praying will awaken a deeper desire, and the indulging of that desire results in greater faith and affection for our Savior. "Faith comes effortlessly to the heart as we elevate our conceptions of God by a prayerful digestion of His Word."
          In case there was any doubt, I am totally preaching to myself right now. I do not love, serve, or trust God as I ought - but I want to, and that desire is the beginning. I need to hold onto and feed that desire, rather than let it fester beneath my want for worldly things. By His grace, this is what I am going to do. 

          The time to live for Christ is now. Don't be lazy, don't be complacent; be radical. Live the life you were meant to - a life devoted to Christ, a life marked by crazy, passionate love. A rich relationship with God is not some far off thing, only attainable by some. It is readily available to you, if only you will pursue it. 
           Surrender your heart to Him, and walk worthy of our calling.


~~~~~~

           "O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, 'Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.' Then give me grace to rise up and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.:
-A.W. Tozer

~~~~~~


~Riah

Sunday, November 15, 2015

~Sunday Afternoon~

          I had a wonderful day spending time with my dear friend Brooklyn and my amazing boyfriend Andrew. :)

I was rather excited to see snow frosting the trees on the distant mountains.

Group selfie!



She is so beautiful, inside and out. I love this girl. <3


And then of course there is this handsome man.

He is always making me laugh.

Yes, we are weird. But I love it. 

And every time he looks at me like that...

He wins my heart a little more. :)












~Riah

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, there was a little girl.
Now, this little girl had a very vivid imagination, as well as a thirst for adventure and a flair for the dramatic. Playing with dolls was great, but raising children in the wilderness was half of the fun. Fancy tea parties certainly had their place, but pretending to be a panda bear making a daring escape from the zoo was far more exciting.
Walking down the aisle in a white dress was amazing, but what would it be like to embrace something more than an oversized Dora The Explorer doll dressed in an improvised tuxedo at the altar? She imagined it must be fantastic.
Time passed, and the little girl grew. Instead of acting out stories and adventures, she left off playing and took up the art of writing. The stories that were forever swirling around in her mind found their release through the scribble of a pen, the pressing of keys. When she wasn't writing, her nose was most often pressed in a book.
Stories... there was a magic about them. And as she spent the days creating and shaping characters and plots, she couldn't help but wonder how her own story would play out.
What would he be like? How would she meet him? Was there even a him? She understood that having a significant other was a privilege, a gift, and not something to be taken for granted.
The years slipped by faster than she anticipated. Autumns faded to winter, and winters gave way into spring. It was a bittersweet day when she turned eighteen - the official end of childhood and beginning of adulthood. Even though nothing evident had changed, there was a mentality shift, and she wondered what the future held.
At the end of summer, she went on a missions trip with her church. This was a trip she had been on twice before, and it was something that she always looked forward to. It was a good time of work, fellowship, worship, and spiritual growth.
Saturday and Sunday were spent driving to Dinuba, California. Monday morning, she got up early and worked with a handful of guys to stack trays before going to work in the peach plant for the rest of the day. That evening at dinner, she found herself sitting at a table with a young man she had gone to church with several years before. Their families had been friends for years, but they had never spoken more than a handful of words to each other in that amount of time.
The next morning, they worked together in the peach field. Their crew of four was the best at laying out the trays of wet fruit, and they all had fun working together. That night, she found herself sitting next to him. The conversation started out with them talking about the effective method they had for laying out trays, but it soon took a more personal turn and before they knew it, two and a half hours had gone by and it was time for bed. They bade each other goodnight and went their separate ways.
The rest of the week went by rapidly. Mornings were spent working in the field, afternoons in the warehouse or plant, and evenings were spent relaxing and enjoying conversation. She spent much of her time with her new friend - they worked together throughout the day, and most evenings were spent together or in the same circle. The more time she spent with him, the more she enjoyed his company. The days passed all too quickly, and before she knew it they were saying goodbye. He went home to Washington, while she returned to Oregon.
In the weeks that followed, they kept up a healthy email correspondence and strengthened their friendship. They talked about their faith, the things that were important to them, hopes and dreams for the future... anything and everything that came to mind.
Three weeks later, he visited her for the weekend, at the end of which he asked her father if he could get to know her more intentionally.
The answer was yes.


In the five weeks since then, they have sent each other a copious amount of letters and emails and have spent countless hours on the phone or texting, getting to know each other and trying to ascertain if there were any deal-breakers or obstacles. So far, everything has proceeded smoothly, and they feel that there is no reason to not continue pursuing this relationship to see what God might have in store.
     
       *switches out of story-telling mode*

        Ladies and gentlemen, I am incredibly happy to announce that I am in a relationship! Allow me the grand pleasure of introducing you to my boyfriend, Andrew. 


        I must confess, despite the fact that it has been over a month, this all still feels so surreal. It's true that over the years I have anticipated, looked forward to, perhaps even daydreamed, about being in a relationship, getting married. But it was always something far off, something in the distant future. I'm still wrapping my mind around the fact that I have a boyfriend. I have an amazing man in my life, who I care about and who cares for me, and we are getting to know each other to see if a marriage between us would be a wise and God-glorifying decision.
        How crazy is that??
     

        It is absolutely and totally crazy. And wonderful. And amazing. And so very exciting.
     









I don’t know how my story will end, but I know that I love this chapter that I’m in, and I’m excited to see what the next chapter holds.

~Riah

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Memory Lane

          The weather took a turn this weekend. I came home from a hot and sweaty week in California to a cloudy sky, cool breeze, and light rain on Sunday morning. It was simply delightful.
          The temperature this week has continued, thus far, to be pleasant. Today in particular was lovely. It started out cloudy, cool, and with a bit of a drizzle, which all faded away to breezy sunshine and thick white clouds by mid afternoon. The lingering smell of rain outside was tantalizing, and after dinner I decided to take advantage of the autumn-esque evening and go for a walk. I stuffed my phone in my pocket, slung my camera around my neck, and headed outside to enjoy nature. Take some photos. Pray.
          About halfway down the driveway, I deviated from the pavement and made my way to our storage building. I'm not really sure what inspired me to do so; I suppose I had a subconscious desire to walk down memory lane. I undid the padlock and made my way to the back corner of the room, kneeling beside a box of a miscellaneous assortment of Josh's belongings. Using my phone as a flashlight, I pawed through the box - the contents of which I already knew so well. Letters, notebooks, shoes, random gadgets, pieces of this, parts of that.
          I picked up a stick of Old Spice deodorant and as I caught its scent, my emotional wall broke and I lost it (even though this wasn't his regular scent; he typically used After Hours).


          Needless to say, I felt rather ridiculous sitting alone in our dark storage building, sobbing while listening to music and hugging a stick of deodorant, but when the grief hits, there isn't much you can do about it.
          I dug deeper into the box, pulling out other memorable things, things he loved. Things that were important to him.


          I remember making him this scarf. I remember how often and how proudly he wore it, even though it was made with cheap yarn that wasn't as soft as advertised.
          And then there was his script for First Impressions, which he of course he promptly signed.

 


          He would probably be embarrassed by me sharing this photo; his signature isn't exactly in top form here (to this day, I still find new and hidden locations where he would practice getting his signature just-so. The boy was obsessed).  


          I couldn't help but laugh at the sight of these candles. A certain lady-friend of Josh's gave them to him, and he insisted they smelled wonderful and burned them in his bedroom regularly. In reality, the candles smelled less than fantastic, but I always thought it was a sweet gesture. 
          There were also many letters written to him while at ALERT, among which was the card I sent him for his 19th birthday. 



          Oh the bitter irony.
       


          Josh always had such a love for music. He was definitely the most musically gifted in our family, and was always drumming out a beat on the countertops with his fists, or strumming out a tune on his packing-tape-bandaged guitar. That boy used to make so much noise. I miss it.


          And then I found this lovely piece of paper, on which he had scrawled various song lyrics. I love this so much. 




          I could sit here all night, showing you pictures and telling you stories, remembering all his little quirks and reminiscing the past. But with the warmth of remembering him is an increasing ache of missing him. It's been a pleasant stroll down memory lane, but I think it's time to head home for now.
          There is a definite chill in the air. I think I'll go slip into his hoodie and head off to bed. 

~Riah

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Write {Right} Now

       You know what I realized?
I don’t need to have it all figured out. I don’t need to put off writing until my incoherent mess of thoughts miraculously falls into place. My writing doesn’t need to be pretty or eloquent. I don’t need to wait to encourage or exhort others until my life is in spic-and-span order. I don’t need to only blog on topics that I am familiar with, or issues that I fully understand, or struggles that I have overcome.
Writing doesn’t come with qualifications. Sometimes, you need to just sit down and write, even if you don’t know what words are supposed to – or will – come out.
It was a podcast by John Piper (“Don’t Conversations Illuminate Truth, Too?” Ask Pastor John, #613) that brought me to this realization. So often I am discouraged from writing because my thoughts are in such a chaotic tangle in my mind and I’m not even sure what exactly I want to say. But, as John Piper reminds us in this podcast, writing is the key to untangling that thread. We learn so much simply in the process of writing. At the very least, it is an effective way to put your thoughts down in a physical form that can be organized and refined. Because we all know that mulling something over in your mind is not an effective method to organizing and processing thoughts.


        “The confusion you feel over what you are supposed to say or want to say will not go away until you try to say it. Don’t let your confusion over what to write keep you from writing.” -John Piper

The other thing that frequently holds me back from writing is my own imperfection. I fall short in so many ways, and I almost feel as though I don’t have ‘any place’ encouraging others to improve or change aspects of their life unless / until I have it all together for myself. I can’t stress the importance of prayer to my blog following because my prayer life is so feeble right now. I can’t encourage people to have good relationships with their siblings because I can hardly stand to be around my own. You see where I’m going with this.
But I’m realizing that this isn’t the case. If we never exhort one another until we have mastered any given area of life, then it’s never going to happen because we are never going to attain perfection (in this life). True, the more knowledge and experience you have the more effective an example you can be, but there is a place for those who are still in the early stages of learning. We are all called to “encourage one another”.
By blogging, not only do I get to process my thoughts on a certain subject and encourage / exhort others to do the same, but I also am holding myself accountable. If I tell the online world that I am going to work on a certain area of my life, then I am held doubly accountable to do so. It is an encouragement and reminder to continue striving to be more like Christ.


I want to always be real. Sincere. Honest. Raw. About the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to be relatable. I want people to be blessed through me, in whatever way God might choose – through my failures, my successes, my struggles, my random thoughts, my relationship with Him. I want to learn and grow, and share what I’m learning with others. I want to write beautiful things that will inspire people. I want to have the strength to be transparent, in hopes of encouraging someone who might be fighting a similar battle. I want to live boldly in delight of Christ. I want to be passionate, and I want that passion to be contagious. I want to learn the art of living for others, rather than myself. I want to fight the good fight, live wholly for Christ, and have my life be an encouragement to people when I can show them how far I’ve come. How far He’s brought me.
Honestly... that pretty much sums up all I want in life. I want to live for God, the glory of His name, and I want to live it well.
I believe that my love and passion for writing is a gift from God, and as such, I want to use it to the fullest. Now, unprepared though I may feel. As Lemony Snicket so rightly put it, “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.”

I have a long list of blog posts that I will steadily be working away at. By God’s grace, you’ll hopefully be hearing from me soon. :)

~Riah 



p.s. I very much enjoy the Ask Pastor John podcast and definitely recommend it. You can download the app on the App Store, Google Play, or you can listen to the podcasts on the Desiring God website.