Aunt Connie Meyerdierk's Bridal Shower Devotional

Good morning Amanda,

As Eli’s Aunt, I want to start by simply saying “welcome to the family!” I’ve known Eli all of his life and I’ve known you for much of yours...I am well pleased to see God knitting your two lives together. You’ve been trained up in the faith and given opportunities to learn and practice many skills you will need as you begin your life with Eli. God says that you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which He has prepared for you to walk in (Eph 2:10)...what a blessing it is to be given to a godly man to partner with in this life of good works. May God bless you!

You’re in an exciting season of life...full of hopes and dreams and expectations. Proverbs 14:1 tells us: “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.” Amanda, your life bears testimony that you desire to serve the Lord and it is clear that you want to build your house with wisdom. Praise God for these evidences of His grace at work in you! My encouragement to you today as we talk about building your house with wisdom is going to be 3-fold. Generally speaking, 1. Build your house on the foundation already laid, the solid rock of Christ Jesus, 2. Be diligent in doing good, and 3. Persevere to the end.

First, daily build on the solid rock of Christ Jesus. Be watchful that you do not subtly shift to sandy lands. John Piper writes in his book “Hunger for God” that “the desires of the body are deceitful as well as delightful...the nature of this deceit is to lure us subtly into living for the fleeting pleasures of body and mind, rather than the spiritual delights of knowing and serving God. These pleasures start as innocent delights in food and reading and resting and playing, but then become ends in themselves and choke off spiritual hunger for God.” Amanda, there are many desires and delights within the context of marriage, but they are not ends in themselves. God has given you a mind and body and this relationship to use and enjoy as gifts from His hand...the temptation we all face regularly is to love God’s gifts more than we love God the Giver. When we fall into that temptation, at least two things happen: 1) God is robbed of the glory due His name and 2) and we rob ourselves of the joy we could have known. St. Augustine wrote: “For he loves thee too little who loves anything together with thee, which he loves not for thy sake. O love that ever burnest and art never quenched! O Charity, my God, enkindle me!” May God always be your first love. Be enkindled with God’s love and in that context, love Eli. With Christ Jesus as your foundation may you build your house with wisdom and enjoy your married life with Eli immensely.

Second, I want to encourage you to be diligent in all your planning and doing. This side of glory, the building of your house in wisdom will have many dimensions that will need to be tended to with care, and its construction will have generational implications. Think about the construction of a house for a minute...a foundation is laid, piece by piece a house is framed, windows get put in, siding goes up, plumbing is installed, electricity is wired, and lots of other details are tended to until one day you have a home that bears testimony to either good or poor craftsmanship. Your plans and hopes are like the blueprint or your vision of what you’re aiming for...this is good – you need a blueprint. Review these plans regularly together in light of the building code of God’s Word, commit your plans to the Lord, and execute them with diligence. A blueprint is one thing, the building of the actual house quite another. Lots of people start out with high hopes, but only the diligent will do what it takes to see them materialize. Proverbs 21:5 reminds us that: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” Mr. Hangartner has been building a house and his labors provide a wonderful analogy for us...bit by bit, over time, with steady periods of preparation and planning and saving and waiting and working, he has been building his house. Along the way, he’s applied carefully what he knows and he has also sought the practical and teaching help of others. Lord willing, in the end, he will have a well-constructed, long-lasting house. Houses are not easy to build...and your figurative house will take a lot of hard work too, but that’s okay because you’re created in Christ Jesus for this good work...you can apply yourself to the task, day after day, knowing you are His workmanship and that He has promised to complete the good work He has begun in you. Allow this truth to encourage you along the way.

Lots of things happen in the process of building a house, literally and figuratively. Some days go just as planned and you see fruitfulness and you crawl into bed with a great sense of satisfaction and thankfulness. Some days, your plans are frustrated...God may ordain it to rain on the day you planned to roof or you may think you’re aiming to strike a nail into the sheetrock and instead you hit your thumb, or frankly sometimes you plain do something wrong which requires repair work to be done. Amanda, keep the big picture in mind...keep the overriding goals of God’s glory and your sanctification in view...ride out the times when you feel tired or disappointed or even disgruntled by doing the next right thing and trust that God knows how to use His sanctifying tools with accuracy. Trust the providence of God when your plans are frustrated. Trust God to lead through your husband even when you want to keep insisting that your idea is a better one...as his chief counselor, by all means share your ideas with him, but then rest in God’s leadership of your house-building through Eli and encourage him. Sometimes you will have to apply yourself to do repair work because of mistakes made through ignorance or by deliberate sin...ask forgiveness when you wrong Eli and be quick to forgive him when he wrongs you. Praise the Lord that He is rich in mercy and has provided the means of repair...confess your sins together to the Lord before continuing to build and commit yourselves anew to Him and to each other.

Now think about how many nails get pounded into boards when building a house, you pound a nail and then you pound another nail and then you pound another nail...there will be a lot of repetition in your life too as you build. When you were in my Sunday School class years ago, we learned from the book of Ecclesiastes how God uses this inscrutable repetition of life to mold us and shape us...embrace it! Wise women say “cool” when they see the next load of laundry! Wise women remember that dirty dishes are a sign of God’s faithful provision and they give thanks to Him as they clean them AGAIN, or as they load a dish washer AGAIN. Go about your work with joy...each day’s work, even if it looks a lot like yesterday’s work all over again, is a scepter in God’s hand for making you to be more like Jesus and a fresh opportunity for you to give glory to God.

Going back to the example of Mr. Hangartner, he didn’t know everything he needed to know when he began to build. He had to study up along the way to figure out how to do the next task and he also had times when he needed to ask for both practical and teaching help. Much of the time you will simply have to do what you already know you should, but sometimes you’ll need to seek the practical and teaching help of others. Repetition is one of the tools in God’s tool shed, but variety is another...none of us knows everything we need to know before we begin building our houses. Praise the Lord for the covenant community of friends and family you’re a part of...be a ready listener to the voice of God through His people. Much of what I’ve learned from other people, I didn’t even know ahead of time that I needed to learn, but God did...He often prepares us and teaches us via our conversations and the service we render to each other. The analogies could go on and on, but the point here is to be diligent. Make your plans based upon the counsel of God’s word together, commit yourselves and your plans daily to the Lord, and give yourself with zeal and joy to the work of carrying them out.

Third, I want to encourage you to persevere to the end as you build your house. We’re commanded in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 to “not grow weary in doing good.” Building a house in wisdom requires daily exercise over a long period of time...how is it that we can obey and not grow weary in doing good? Well, before we’re commanded to not grow weary, Paul prays: “may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (3:5). We’re finite and we get tired, physically tired, and that can color our perspective. Remember God is not finite, He is a fountain of Living Water and His love overflows...as we drink of Him, He refreshes us...the joy of the Lord is our strength. In order to not grow weary, in order to persevere, our hearts need to be directed into the love of God and the patience of Christ.

Let me switch from the house building analogy to a bodily exercise analogy for a minute. I have a stretch that a physical therapist recommended that I do every day...it takes all of five minutes to do it. When I fail to do this faithfully, I “feel” fine for a few days, sometimes longer, making it ever so easy to deceive myself into thinking that it is just a waste of time...then, SNAP... I’m rendered relatively useless while I have to apply heat and ice and lay around to recover. By way of analogy, God commends many daily stretches to us for our good...we’ll talk about a few of them in a minute. And here’s a newsflash for you: we are prone to wandering, little by little, away from the green pastures He provides, foolishly deceiving ourselves that the grass is greener elsewhere. Psalm 23:4 reminds us that the Lord’s rod and staff are a comfort to us....I’ve come to say with David that it is good for me to be afflicted (Ps 119:71). Hebrews 12:11 says that “no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Amanda, be comforted and trained by the Lord’s rod and staff...He’s our Good Shepherd... thank Him for His leading in your life and for not letting you wander for long before He sends you warnings, using His rod if need be, to direct you back to His green pastures. My little 5 minute stretch is a daily reminder God gives me to be perseveringly diligent in every area of life...when I foolishly allow myself to get distracted from what I know I need to do, in this case a stretch, I know I may as well hang a sign on my body that says “I welcome suffering.” Peter tells us it is commendable to suffer for the name of Christ, but there’s no glory in suffering because you’re lazy, distracted or unbelieving [see 1 peter 2 and elsewhere]. Knowing you need to do something or even planning to do it is not the same as really doing it and doing it once is not the same as doing it regularly. Perseverance has to do with the day-after-dayishness of long-term work and frankly, I think this is where many marriages fail...many start with high hopes, many roll up their sleeves and work hard for awhile, but they grow weary and fail to persevere. They forget that in order to not grow weary, in order to persevere, their hearts need to be directed into the love of God and the patience of Christ. To that end, I want to recommend five “daily stretches” to you; their benefits when done regularly cannot fully be fathomed; neglecting them for long welcomes regrettable suffering. Most of them can be done while you’re about your business of the day since women are created with great ability to multi-task J. If you conscientiously practice them, day after day, I’m confident that they will strengthen you and help you to persevere as a wise woman who builds her house. These are not in any particular order: #1 -- Practice thankfulness to God. Ps 103:1-2 tells us: “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” The Psalm goes on to tell us a number of things God does for us: He forgives our sins, crowns us with His loving-kindness, satisfies our mouths with good things, etc...bless the Lord throughout your day, Amanda. Thank Him for the beauty of the trees and the songs of the birds and every other gift He gives for your enjoyment and His glory. Hopefully, it will be easy most days to see Eli as one of God’s precious gifts to you...thank God for Eli every day, even on the ones that it isn’t as easy. #2 - Demonstrate respect to Eli...build him up with your words, think of things he does for you and tell him you appreciate it, hide notes in his lunch, encourage him.. He’s going to be learning along the way too and he’ll goof up...you can still appreciate his efforts. For example, maybe you have a plumbing problem and Eli, who has never fixed anything like that before takes the initiative to try to figure it out and in so doing makes a huge mess of water all over the floor. You have a golden opportunity! He already knows he made a mess and is already likely telling himself something like “I should have just called a plumber, why’d I even try.” Go up and give him a big hug and thank him for trying...say something like “don’t worry about the water honey...we all make messes when we’re learning new things...I just appreciate you taking the initiative to try to figure this out.” Think long term, think big picture...you’re not encouraging more messes here (though you may get some more); you’re encouraging Eli to grow in his manhood. Now, instead of feeling like a failure, he’s likely ready to try again. If you belittle him as he tries new things, especially in your early days of marriage, the result will likely be that he stops trying new things. Think before you speak...make good use of these golden opportunities. As he leads you in prayer and Bible reading, follow him. Mike and I had very different approaches to Bible reading when we got married...by following his lead instead of bucking against it, even though it was unfamiliar territory to me, I now can tell you that God used our differences to teach us both a lot and Mike was encouraged to lead faithfully. What you do as far as respecting and encouraging your husband in your early days together will have profound effects upon your family long term. A wise woman demonstrates respect to her husband....the rewards are incalculable.

#’s 3 & 4 I’ll just mention briefly because you’ve been reminded of them all of your life: Apply yourself to daily reading from God’s Word. Some days allow time for study, some do not, but make it a priority to thank the Lord for the daily bread of His Word and seek nourishment for your soul there. And pray! Pray for your husband and any children God gives you every day. Mike asks me every night what it is he can pray for me about the next day...when he comes home the next day, he asks how that particular request has been answered. Knowing he is praying for me every day is a huge encouragement. The same is true for him -- he knows I am praying. Pray together when you have opportunity...it’s okay for you to initiate it...”honey, I’m worried about something coming up, could we pray together about it?” If God is to be your first love, you’ve got to seek nourishment from His Word and talk to him regularly...you’ll find this is also the superglue to keep you and Eli united and happy.

And # 5 - A few years ago, you gave me a copy of a story you wrote in 2001 which you titled “Great Gain.” The story illustrated one of my favorite verses from Scripture, 1 Tim 6:6, which says “godliness with contentment is great gain.” In the context of marriage there are joys and sorrows, there are typically times of plenty and times of want...I encourage you to exercise yourself in godliness with contentment every day and in every circumstance. Glasses help. I wear glasses. They are the first thing I grab in the morning if I care to see clearly, which is the case every day. They’re my reminder to also look through the lens of God’s sovereignty as I take on a new day. Because God has promised that He works all things together for my good and for His glory as I call upon Him, I can trust that it is good for me that I am married to my particular man, that I have been given the children I’ve been given, that we live in the neighborhood that we do, that my husband has the job that he does, that our schedule is what it is, that we drive the car that we do, that we’re members of the extended family that we are, that we live in this particular age and in this country, etc...there are difficult seasons God gives us when it takes self-conscious effort to reach up and put these glasses on with the trust of a weaned child, but whatever the time and whatever the circumstance, it helps us to know that the One who is sovereign over every detail is all-wise, He is all-powerful, and He is good. Mike and I wanted children right away...we had seven years of waiting...our plans were frustrated, but God knew what He was doing at a thousand levels. A quote that became a favorite of mine during that season comes from a book titled “All Things for Good” by Thomas Watson...in it he says: “if it is good for us, we will have it; if it is not good for us, then the withholding of it is good.” I encourage you to put these glasses of God’s sovereign goodness on every day... a wise woman practices godliness with contentment at all times and finds that is indeed great gain.

You and Eli have both been trained up by godly parents. You’ve been working through lots of particulars in your pre-marital counseling concerning budgets, communication and other important things...all really good stuff I’m sure. You’re part of a wonderful covenant community that will continue to teach you things directly and indirectly along your journey. Praise God for all of this. This morning, I wanted to paint a broad picture and encourage you in a general way to faithfulness to God who equips you for every good work AND faithfulness to Eli, your partner in this life of good works prepared by God for you to do together. Amanda, keep God as your first love, making all your plans based upon His word and with reference to your relationship to Him...apply yourself to diligently work out the plans you make together, trusting God’s providence along the way...and persevere, knowing that it is God who is at work in you and He promises to complete what He has begun. I look forward to seeing what God is going to do in and through you and Eli in the years to come. May God bless your house, may He fill you with His joy in all your diligent doings, and may He make you perseveringly fruitful unto His glory.