Initial Thoughts on Marriage

I know that I haven’t been married all that long and that I probably don’t have the right to starting writing about marriage until after I’ve been married for more than a month. So take everything I say with a grain of salt and if you prefer, you can wait for my 20 year anniversary in 2031 to begin believing me. All of that aside, I think it’s important to capture some initial thoughts in these first few weeks.

Marriage is, in just one word, incredible. It’s not at all about butterflies and rainbows, or even the “oneness” experience that many people described it to us as, nor is it the extremely difficult transition that the other half of couples described. So far it’s quite ordinary and normal in the sense that we already know each other so well that there have been only nominal disagreements and surprises. That’s not to say that eventually disagreements and surprises won’t come, but there’s definitely the sense that because we have been such good friends for such a long time, we already know one another’s pet peeves, likes, dislikes, and preferences.

That’s not to say that loving him is without difficulty. He tends to not hear me when he’s reading Twitter or watching Sports Center and he also annoyingly tends to leave dishes in the sink instead of putting them straight into the dishwasher. But I step on the shower mat soaking wet instead of dripping off in the shower, so I guess I probably annoy him too.

I think what we discovered during our honeymoon was that the oneness described by all of our counselors and friends isn’t something that wedding vows or living together automatically create; instead, those things merely lay the foundation and create the atmosphere in which oneness can grow. We’ve decided that oneness is likely the result of 20 years of marriage, several kids, and years of struggles, ministry, commingled finances, and lots of prayer.

All of that said, it’s great! We love it. It’s really awesome to wake up next to your best friend every morning and go to sleep with them at night. But it also takes work. I’m learning that to be successful in marriage one must be extremely intentional. Without intentionality, a couple could go through life and merely live together.

Before I was married, I never realized how easy it would be to just cohabitate  or to serve my husband merely just to get things done, without ensuring that the love and glory of Christ is the catalyst of such service.

It would be so easy to do a poor job of reflecting the relationship between Christ and the Church, merely because I lack love. I’ve realized how important it is that the love and glory of Christ be my motivation in every area of life, and especially in my marriage.

Love is such an interesting word. I’m realizing that I’ve only ever scratched the surface. It’s a word that, like the word “oneness,” is likely going to take me a lifestyle shift and an entire lifetime to figure out in its entirety. And if I’m going to live my life by Scripture, this season of life requires me to turn again to Scripture to ask “what is love?” I know in my head and in my heart that it is defined as God and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but practically, how am I going to live that out? How do I lay down my life for Josh?

I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 13’s description of love – “love is patient and kind; love does not enjoy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (vs. 4-7).” And also, like forgiving someone 70 x 7, “love never ends” (vs. 8), which means that I need a limitless reservoir of love for Josh.

But not just love for Josh or because of Josh. Not because he’s amazing or I love him, but because of God – because all I do and all we are is meant to project the love of Christ’s love for the Church to the world. All I do is worthless without love. I could be the best wife, but if I’m not operating out of an overflow of love for Christ, it is all worthless. I’ve been extended limitless grace and I can only extend it in return. Furthermore, every single thing I do, whether its organizing the pantry, making dinner, or unloading the dishwasher – if I do it with any hesitation or without love, I negate it and I do not do it as unto the Lord.

It seems silly to me that this is so revolutionary to my heart today, but it was an amazing revelation and it makes Josh even easier to love well and live with. God is so good and so faithful to sanctify me in this time and use marriage to do so.

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Faithful in little, faithful in much

In the last month God has made it increasingly clear to me that much is accomplished in the drudgery of the day-to-day. Even the most mundane of tasks is worthwhile, all because our lives and our actions matter. Every word, every action, even every thought matters. Everything we do is eternal.

I love the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-29 (here are verses 14-23, but it’s all really good):

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”  

One of the neatest experiences is to realize that consistenly being faithful in little has a dramatic impact on your friends, family, and coworkers. The truth is that so often we become influencers and transform environments without even realizing that we’ve done so. When you’re faithful with little when it’s hard and when you don’t understand, and when you think no one sees, you yourself are transformed, sanctified, and made more like Christ. And that doesn’t go unnoticed.

I think sometimes we feel like we’re out in the desert.We feel without hope of achieving our dreams and sometimes we even begin to feel forgotten. We wonder why God’s put our dreams on hold. But let me say this – if I’ve learned nothing else in the last several years, I have learned that faithfulness in the desert leads to an incredible reward. God never, ever puts our dreams on hold, even when we’re asked to wait.

I love this verse and I’ve held on to it since the fall:

“But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Habakkuk 2:3

So, my encouragement to you today – if you feel stuck in the wrong job or the wrong state, or even if you don’t know where God is calling you or what His plans for you are – be faithful right now. Be faithful where you are. Look for opportunities to love and influence the people you see daily. The rewards you will reap as you eventually move from one season to another will be tremendous.

The challenge for me as I transition is to continue pushing through, working hard, and remaining faithful as I see the end approaching rapidly.

Headbands and little girls

Last Saturday Josh took me out for a day of shopping and to dinner. I’m a quality time girl and so it was definitely one of the best date days we’ve had in awhile. Who can beat something like 13 hours of quality time and all in one day?

He lets me drag him into all the stores and usually doesn’t let me buy very much so it’s a win/win! On Saturday I introduced him to Claire’s and tried on a bunch of headbands and he introduced me to the iPad.

Anyway, on to the point of this story (and the point of the story is not what I did, but how God can use us to love people):

At Claire’s I bought two super cute headbands, one with a large white flower and one with a white bow. They’re definitely my favorite accessory this summer, by far. I really felt like i should buy two, and not just because they were “buy one, get one half off.” We left the mall after spending more time in the Apple store than anywhere else and headed to the Olive Garden for dinner (yum!).

The place was packed but as I walked in and stood in line to give the hostess my name, two little girls caught my eye. They were both staring at me and smiling and one grabbed her mom’s hand and I saw her mouth “Mommy, look at her flower!” I was wearing a hot pink flower headband and I loved that she liked it too (compliments, even from children, make anyone feel good). After I put my name in for a table, I saw the little girls walking over to me, hand in hand. The youngest, wearing a pale yellow gingham dress, looked up at me and said, “I want you to know that I really like your flower!”

They were absolutely adorable and I was so impressed that they were brave enough to approach a complete stranger. I glanced at their parents and smiled, bent down and thanked the girls, shook their hands and introduced myself, and then told them I liked their dresses. Wynn and Maddie were their names, and they were precious. We exchanged other compliments – I liked their names and they thought mine was pretty too. I smiled at their mom again, told the girls that they had made my day, and then walked back over to Josh and told him I’d like to adopt kids someday (these girls were obviously adopted), and then our name was called and it was time to head to our table.

I waved goodbye to Maddie and Wynn, but before I had even gotten to our table I knew exactly why I had bought two headbands at the mall. I sat down, told Josh I needed to go back to the girls, grabbed my Claire’s bag, and headed back to the front of the restaurant. The whole family was surprised to see me again and I got to experience, yet again, the truth of Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I pulled the headbands out of the bag and said, “Girls, I just went shopping and bought these, and I really feel like you’re supposed to have them.” Simultaneously their eyes lit up and their mom’s eyes filled with tears. Their smiles were HUGE!

I support a Compassion Child, but all too often I think I count that as my “giving” and continue on in my more than comfortable lifestyle. Those headbands were easily replaceable but Maddie and Wynn were all I could think about all night. The joy of giving them that gift was exponentially larger than merely the purchase of something I had wanted and it prompted a lot of questions in my heart.

How often do we miss an opportunity to give? How often do I retain what I could so easily give to someone else? And why do I not give more often? It’s one of the best ways to live as Christ and it so easily reminds us that all we have is not our own. And I leave you with these same questions – how long has it been since you gave something to someone you didn’t know or performed a random act of kindness? Have you ever mowed your neighbor’s lawn or bought your best friend’s dinner?

Dream vacation

I’m not sure if anyone is really even reading this or paying attention… but I’ve been asking myself this question all day and decided to see what sort of responses it might elicit from the world at large.

If you could vacation anywhere, where would you go? Why would you go there and what would you do while there?

I’m asking because I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time on my hands this week and stopped long enough to ask myself what I really wanted to do with it. I don’t have the money or enough time to take some of the incredible trips I dreamed up, but it was an interesting thought process. I’ll share a bit later on this evening… I’m still thinking 🙂

think, process, pray, understand, absorb, change, repeat

So much of life is a simple cycle – think, process, pray, understand, absorb, change, repeat – much like the “wet hair, lather, massage, rinse, repeat” instructions we find on the back of our shampoo bottles. Although, on the spirit and soul level, the process through which we learn and absorb life lessons, deliberate and dissect Scripture, and come to conclusions and understandings about God becomes much more valuable and inherently more beneficial than the simple process we follow as we jump in the shower each day.

Life is a process. And it’s not as simple a process as I’d like for it to be at times. I understand the significance of this process more and more with each passing day. The process – the journey, if you will – is what makes me into who I am. God reveals more of Himself to me as I follow Him each day… as I take time to think, process, pray, understand, and absorb, and change to be more like Him, and then begin again when I encounter a new situation, a new problem, a new pain, or a different kind of test.

You see, I’m truly more stubborn than I would like. And this process is all about God teaching me humility and teaching me to trust. I find that I learn more when I process out loud or on paper. And I like to have a history of the things that God’s leading me through. Most of my musings usually relate to ministry, theology, leadership, or politics in some way, but more recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about myself – what I believe, who I want to become, and what I want from life overall. I’ve been reexamining my life’s purpose – that of bringing glory to Christ and of making His name great; while at the same time desperately trying to be content (should the words ‘desperate’ and ‘content’ really be used in the same sentence?)… to enjoy today and this season and not wish myself ahead of God’s will and His plan.

I’ve had an online blog for years, but I feel like it is time to begin again and anew… kind of like I’m doing with my understanding of God… and use this blog as an outlet for dreams, ideas, random thoughts, and my understanding of this process we call life.