Keeping my eyes open to glimpses of God

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What I'd Say to My About-to-Be-Married Self

It's been over five years since my husband and I said "I do." I'll admit we were super young when we got married, but it was the right decision for us. We'd been dating for over five years, and we were ready to begin the rest of our lives together. As I've reflected on our married life, I've realized that we've learned a lot . . . and we're still learning so much. All this reflection got me thinking: what would I tell my night-before-wedding self? Here goes:

1. This marriage thing really will be harder than you expect. I know you've got happy thoughts of sleepovers and decorating and making dinner together—and those are all good things, and they will happen—but I want you to know that you're going to be super irritated about how he squeezes his toothpaste out of the tube . . . and how half of it ends up in the sink. Seriously. Take a deep breath and remember that this is just the beginning. And take a chill pill, too.

2. You are not a homemaker . . . and neither is Jim. And that's okay. You'll pick up tips along the way, and you'll figure it out. In the meantime, have grace with yourself. Some shirts will shrink (thanks for doing the laundry, honey . . .) and some things will go uncleaned for years (hello, office!), but it's not the end of the world. It is what it is. Talk early on about who will do what . . . regardless of what society says men and women should do. Find a system that works for the two of you.

3. You're going to run into tough times. As you grow together, you're going to learn some things about Jim and about yourself that you don't like at all—serious things (not the toothpaste habits from #1). It's okay. Plus, I know you think you're healthy, but you're not. You're quite sickly. You will run into health problems early on. They will be an opportunity to grow—both yourself and as a couple. You'll also hit hardships in career and otherwise. Don't fight the hard times. Heap on extra grace, and trust in God. Remember that God is able to deal with anything and everything. Lean on him for strength, courage, and joy. And pray regularly for Jim to do the same. Learn to cling to one another instead of pushing one another away.

4. Communication really is key. You're used to living separate lives (you have dated long distance for years!!), but suddenly you'll be thrown together . . . all the time. Communicate how you're feeling, communicate what you're doing, and for goodness sake, get a calendar and actually write on it. Set aside regular times for catching up and keeping each other informed.

5. You have to keep the love alive. Yes, even in the so-called newlywed stage. Schedule in real date nights where you talk and share your dreams and feelings. Take advantage of long weekends. Get away and enjoy the car ride to your destination. Learn his love language. Keep trying to make him laugh. Do things together—other than watch TV. Encourage him in his hobbies and in his work. Speak lovingly about him in public. Go out of your way to serve him and show you care.

6. Last but not least, you really are building a new family together, and it's a beautiful thing. Enjoy each moment, don't take a single kiss for granted, share lots of laughs, and don't be afraid to dream big together. And while you can't imagine loving Jim any more than you do right now, believe me: that love will grow and deepen in ways you can't imagine.

Making Some Changes

Well, I finished 7. I spent my Friday afternoon taking a long bike ride, praying through what I've read. I had a multitude of feelings swirling around, and I brought them before God, asking him to give me a clear vision for my next steps, the steps I need to take after reading Jen Hatmaker's powerful words.

I found myself doing something I do far too easily: making excuses. I could only eat 7 foods for a month, but we've got weddings to go to and a trip to Boston . . . how would that work? I could wear only 7 items of clothing for a month, but I have to wear work-appropriate clothes, too . . . maybe I could up that to 14 items? On and on my excuses went. I had to release them to God and welcome the challenge.

So, I've decided to start with a major spending change. From August 4-September 7, we're greatly reducing our spending. In order to do so, we'll only be buying from the Aurora Farmer's Market, Trader Joe's, and Target—in that order. So in other words, we'll try to get everything at the farmer's market and Trader Joe's before stopping at Target. We'll also be trying to reuse and rework what we already have. We've also allowed ourselves to eat out up to four times—but only in special circumstances. Sadly, while this may not seem like much of a challenge, it really will be. No Starbucks? No unlimited stops through the drive-thru? No stopping to get a new, cute shirt from Loft? No ice cream from DQ? Really, this will be a challenge.

At the same time, I'm excited. I'm ready to see what God will do with this month of less. And I'm thrilled to see how my idea of "enough" changes. With a few weeks until this change, we're trying to prepare ourselves, ease ourselves into it, especially by mentally preparing ourselves. And, let's be honest. We both have birthdays this month, a wedding, and a trip to Boston. We knew we'd cheat if we started before August 6. :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Shaken and Stirred

It's been just under a year since I got the job at Christianity Today. The many lessons God taught me while I was waiting came to a close, and a time of relaxation set in. I've learned that it's far too easy to fall back into comfortable patterns and forget how desperately we need God.

But God has a way of shaking us out of our patterns and stirring up passions in our hearts. That's where I find myself today. God has been using my small group to stretch me, to test if my heart really trusts what I believe in my mind. As we've served alongside the under-resourced, I've found mixed emotions. I've been overjoyed to do what I know God calls his followers to. On the other hand, I feel awkward and clumsy and a little scared. I'm not good at this, I think. I'm messing this all up. I've also found myself much more emotional than usual. The thing is, when I read verses about the oppressed and the poor, I now have real people in my mind. People I know and care about.

All this missional living really is messy. It would be a beautiful thing if our efforts to help others always resulted in their transformation and their choosing to follow Jesus. But that's not how it works. Instead, we're called to obey God--regardless of the outcome.

On top of all this, I've been reading 7 by Jen Hatmaker. It's a great book, written like a collection of blog posts. But it's also really convicting. I find that I need to think about her words, chew on them. Not because they're difficult to understand, but because they're incredibly challenging to middle-class, American Christians like me.

I feel like I'm on the cusp of something big, so I'm giving several hours to God today, to listen for how he wants all these experiences to impact me. What does he want me to do with this information? What changes is he asking me to make?

Sometimes it's painful to be shaken up, to have our hearts stirred. But isn't it beautiful that God continually comes to us, wanting us to know him better, to serve him more, and to experience him more deeply?

What's the last thing that shook you or stirred up passions within you? Did you push it back, or did you allow God to transform you?