Archive for the ‘ blessings ’ Category

Hardship

As a result of recent events in our lives, my husband now needs a ride to and from work each day, which is about an hour from where we live (and an hour from where I work).   This means a 2 hour drive, both morning and evening, 5 days a week.  Suddenly, I feel as though life has given me an extra 20-hour a week job, unpaid.

Like most people, I immediately wanted to grumble and complain and vent to my friends.  I wanted validation and sympathy.  I wanted to wallow in self-pity.  Fortunately, I have a few great friends who listened and gave me the sympathy I was looking for and helped to encourage me.  A little validation goes a long way.

Those friends must be praying for me, because within just a couple of days, I really don’t feel a lot of self-pity anymore.  Maybe a little.  As I was driving to work this morning, I spent time thinking about all of the blessings in what seems like hardship.  First and foremost, I know that God is working all things for good in my life, that He supplies all my needs, and that this is a blessing meant for my sanctification and to draw me closer to Him.  I trust in God for His goodness, knowing He is completely sovereign, so I trust His plan for me, even when it doesn’t seem pleasant on the surface.  I can admit the struggle and difficulty but also know that good will come of it.

I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my husband.  I believe it will draw us closer together.  I am thankful for a reliable car that gets good gas mileage, and for God’s protection over me during all the driving I have done over the past year in general.  I enjoy listening to the Bible while driving, and I like listening to sermons, as they take my mind off the stress of traffic, and now I will have more time to do those things.  I hope that my husband and I can listen to sermons together as encouragement in the morning.

I offer my time in the car to God as a sacrifice.  I offer my life as a sacrifice to Him.  My agenda never mattered to begin with; He has always been the author of my life.  My plans are laughable.  What I think is the best use of my time is but dust.  His plan for my time and for my life brings life.

As I have experienced God’s provision and the way He works things out, the way He answers prayers, I realize that number one, I am not in control anyway, and number two, He will supply all my needs and He will work all things together for my good.

I was reading a devotional this morning about being overwhelmed not so much by the sheer amount of things we have on our “to do” lists, but more so being overwhelmed by the anxiety and worry about those items.  This observation resonated with me.  Each day is an opportunity to serve and minister to those around me (first and foremost, my husband).  I can focus on today or this hour and feel it is a manageable chunk.  If I think too much about the next week, the next month, the next year, I get overwhelmed, thinking there is no way I can do this or that.

God’s mercies are new each day, and He gives us what we need for today.  I would love if He could just put a few million dollars in my bank account (literally and metaphorically), but then I would not need to rely on Him daily for my needs.  I would start to rely on myself and forget that I need Him.  The consequences would be disastrous, or meaningless and wasteful at best.

The reason for my faith, the reason behind my joy and peace in the midst of hardship is. . . through hardship and trials.  In God’s mercy, He has allowed trials and difficulty in my life.  As God has walked me through trials and hardship, I have grown closer to Him.  As I have experienced His love for me, His mercy, His goodness, His provision, and His patience with me during the trials in my life, I have grown as a person.  I have experienced more of the fruit of the Spirit growing in me (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.).

I do not know what God has in store for me, but I will seek Him, trusting that His plan is wonderful.

Psalm 105:4

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

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Eleven Things About Marriage

 

Eleven things I love about marriage.

  1. I no longer have to go to social events alone.  Better yet, I now have someone with whom I can avoid social events, since we both loathe being around people.
  2. There is a deep freedom in being loved.  I get to be myself without fear of rejection or abandonment.
  3. I am learning to understand myself better.  Interacting with another person brings emotions or character traits to the surface.  For example, I notice that I feel warm and safe when Smith spends time talking to me and listening to me, and I realize what a value quality time is to me. 
  4. Companionship.  Going to the mall or riding around in the car used to be boring, but Smith and I laugh together as we both notice the same quirks about people.
  5. Being part of a team.  I have conversations in my head with Smith during the day, like he is always there.  He is a part of me.  I know he is on my side, and I no longer have to do everything alone.
  6. Smith gives me purpose.  God brought us together as husband and wife for a purpose, and though we cannot fully understand God’s plan, I am assured that He does have a wonderful purpose for bringing us into each others’ lives.  I now feel like there is someone out there who needs me, who is counting on me to be there.
  7. Smith is strong in areas where I am not, and I benefit from it.  Smith is a tech whiz, so he helps me with all my technological needs.  He is also very selfless, and because he is so giving and kind, he is teaching me how to serve others better.  Smith is gracious and forgiving, and he helps my relationship with God because I understand more about God’s grace and forgiveness.  Smith is gifted at understanding the Bible in a much deeper way than I am, and he helps me to discover more about God’s word.
  8. Tortilla chips with homemade guacamole.  And chocolate covered raisins.  Smith loves these fun foods and typically has them stockpiled.  I would never buy these for myself (I tend to see them as a frivolous use of money and calories), but because he is so great at sharing, I get to reap the benefits of eating some foods that actually have flavor.
  9. Learning about the male psyche.  Smith and I are very similar, yet he has relational needs that I don’t have, and vice versa.  I am intrigued by our different wiring, and I am eager to learn more.
  10. Worshipping together.  Sitting next to Smith in church, worshipping God and learning more about Him, makes my love for both God and Smith well up in my chest.  I am so thankful to God for bringing Smith into my life, and I am thankful to Smith for helping me understand God better.
  11. Affection.  I love affection.  And now I can have a hug whenever I need it.

Quarters

Yesterday I tried something I have never done before. Hanging out with Smith, I have gotten to learn about and try a lot of new things.

We went to a park yesterday that is located near some train tracks. We were having a pleasant afternoon together lying on the grass swatting bugs, plugging the sprayers in the fountain with our thumbs and causing water to spray all over the place, sliding down the slide in the kids’ playground, and sitting on a picnic table gazing into each others’ eyes. Suddenly, we heard the train whistle blow.

Smith had previously convinced me that if you put a quarter on the train tracks, you can derail a train. He had been fascinated by this concept for some time, and he had mentioned it on numerous occasions when we heard the train pass by my house. Smith had grabbed some quarters out of his car as we arrived at the park, but I thought surely he wouldn’t jump in front of the train and attempt to cause destruction and chaos.

Apparently, I was wrong. The moment we heard the train coming, Smith leapt off the picnic table and became a blur in the distance. I fervently prayed that God would not take him from me just yet.

Minutes later, Smith came limping back, quarters still intact in his hands. He had a little spill on his run towards the train and did not make it to the tracks in time. It was our lucky day, however, because shortly after, another train whistle sounded. Again, Smith dashed towards the tracks. I tagged along behind and caught up with him in time to watch the train roll past us. He had placed his quarters on the rail just in time.

It became evident to me that Smith was not serious about the potential for derailing the train, but once the train had passed, he found his quarters on the ground, which had been melted by the wheels of the train into smooth, flat discs.

Smith had risked life and limb and had nearly broken his ribs (well, not really, but he did bang himself pretty good in his tumble towards the train) to turn his dollar into four worthless pieces of metal. But they looked so cool.

What did he do with his new and improved quarters? He gave three of them to me.

To me, this gesture symbolizes Smith’s love for me. He is so generous and kind, selfless and thoughtful. He demonstrates a love for me that I have never felt before. He honors me and cares for me so deeply. What probably seemed like a small gesture to him was very significant to me. He gave me three of his four quarters. Even though he had gone through an ordeal to put them on the tracks, he wanted me to have them.  He selflessly gave me more than he kept for himself. Smith loves me in so many little ways like this, as well as in big ways. I did nothing to deserve a blessing like him in my life, and I am so thankful for him.

Single Again

I’m single again.

And surprisingly, it feels pretty damn good.

The deep longing of my heart is to one day be married. I feel that God designed me for and intends for me to be married. And there are many aspects of dating and relationships that I enjoy. Yet, I have a strong sense that I am exactly where I need to be right now.

I was reading “Let Me Be a Woman,” by Elisabeth Elliot last night, and she wrote in the book, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.” I get frustrated with people who exhort, “Be content in your singleness.” God put a desire on my heart to be married, and I see clear evidence of Him preparing me for a marriage relationship. God wants us to long for what he intends for us and not be merely “content.” But He also wants us to live today. This is the place I am in right now. I long for marriage, but singleness is God’s path for me today, and I will live to the fullest in that.

I have a friend who is involved with Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-based addictions recovery program that is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. She reminded me yesterday to take life one day at a time. And she is right. I get overwhelmed at times thinking about the future. At times, I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of meeting, dating, and marrying my future husband. But God dispenses His grace one day at a time. He gives me exactly what I need for today. And thankfully, this enables me to rely on Him every single day. So today, I trust that I am where I need to be. Single.

The past few weeks, I had been feeling increasingly unsettled with the guy I was dating. I hate to admit it, but I knew he was not right for me, yet I was reluctant to cut it off because I liked his personality. And I did not really want to be alone. I have a great support network of friends, but I enjoy the particular feeling of companionship in a dating relationship. I like having someone to talk to before going to bed. I like knowing someone is thinking about me during the day.

I have been feeling insecure, as well, the past few weeks, much more so than is usual for me. Like anyone, I have some insecurity, but for the most part I am pretty confident and well-adjusted. Now that the relationship is over, suddenly, my confidence is back. When I opened up to my ex about how I was feeling (while we were still dating), he told me that my insecurities were coming from inside me, he denied any part in it, and his words led me to doubt myself. Now that I am out of the relationship, I see that it wasn’t that anything is wrong with me, he just wasn’t right for me. And perhaps, as well, I was reacting to his emotional unavailability.

In my Bible study group today, we discussed Philippians 1 and the importance of fellowship. One of the benefits of having true friends who love us (more specifically in the context of the passage, Christian friends), is that they desire to see us grow and be happier and healthier. If our true friends give us criticism or negative feedback, we can trust that they are saying it out of love because they truly want the best for us.

One of my weaknesses is that in dating relationships, when the guy gives me negative feedback, I want to believe that he is saying it in a loving way because he truly desires that I be a more Godly and better person. However, I think in reality, a lot of times guys say things to me out of their own insecurities and weaknesses. Perhaps they are projecting some of their own insecurities, but whatever the reason, the negative feedback is not said out of a sincere heart. Unfortunately, I have a hard time discerning when this is the case, and I take their comments seriously, which in the case of this most recent relationship, made me question myself and feel some insecurity.

As my pastor David* said, “Don’t date guys in the gym. They are screwed up.”

No, that’s not the quote I meant, although he said that, as well. He also said, “Don’t fall in love with the icing, which consists of personality and physical attraction. We need the cake, the substance, to fill us up. The icing is delicious, but when we eat only the icing, we will end up with a headache.”

If I am really honest with myself, my most recent ex was icing. And I ended up with a headache.

Now that the sugar crash has cleared, I am looking forward to working on myself and becoming more emotionally and spiritually healthy. I am also excited to have the opportunity to look for a man of substance, a man whose heart belongs to God.

One of the best books I have read is “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” by Peter Scazzero. He avers that spiritual and emotional maturity co-occur. (Side note: My recent ex-boyfriend was not at all spiritually mature, hence, he cannot truly be emotionally mature, either. It is not my intent to be critical of him, as he has many great qualities. But I admit that I conveniently overlooked the spiritual issue because I was attracted to him, and I wanted to date him because he was tasty icing. However, I probably should have known better.) In Scazzero’s book, he has one of the most informative charts I have seen that lists the characteristics of an emotionally healthy person. You can view this chart here. Jesus functioned at 100. He was both perfectly confident and perfectly humble.

For now, I will work on my relationship with God first and foremost. I am also seeing a counselor who can help me grow emotionally and psychologically. Beyond that, it is my aim (with God’s help) to put my trust in God when it comes to relationships. I desire to follow His will for me and not to date someone just because he pursues me or seems attractive. I want to look for the substance, the heart, the cake. I wish to fully and intentionally rely on God to provide what I need, particularly in the arena of dating relationships.

While I do wish to be in a relationship that is headed towards marriage, I am not going to go out and specifically seek to date. Rather, I wish to follow God’s direction. For now, at least, I am discarding my old List of qualities and characteristics to look for in mate, and I am going with my friend Emily’s* list, which I have written about previously.

1. He loves God more than he loves me.
2. He supports my ministry by encouraging me and praying for me.
3. He truly understands God’s grace, and is thus able to love the Lord and be forgiving.
4. He fights for me and for our relationship.

Today, I am very thankful for friends who are praying for me and encouraging me. I am thankful for the amazing people that surround me daily. I am thankful for the healing that God has brought into my life. I am thankful that my happiness, joy, peace, and hope comes always and only from Jesus Christ. I thankful that I feel confident in my identity in Christ.

*Names have been changed.

Sadness

Over the last few days, I have been struck with sudden lightning storms of sadness, of sorrow, unexpectedly and more frequently than usual. At those times, my emotions are close to the surface and I feel like crying. Yet, my life is going amazingly well right now. I feel a sense of joy, peace, and contentment in my heart and spirit that has been very elusive throughout my life, particularly until I became a Christian several years ago.

My spiritual walk is progressing well. I feel very close to God, and my time spent praying and reading the Bible has been rich. I have been gaining a lot of insight and wisdom through people, books, and meditation, which has led to a deeper understanding of God’s love and His faithfulness.

Physically, I have been blessed with health and fortitude. My workouts have been rewarding, and I am getting stronger. I have managed to avoid getting the cold or flu thus far this winter. I am eating healthy, and I feel energetic and happy with my body (at least, as much as is possible for a woman).

I am growing psychologically, and I feel emotionally healthy. I have been self-confident and goal-oriented. And I am, as always, striving for personal growth and increased maturity.
Relationally, I have been so blessed. My friendships are deepening, and my relationship with my mom is happy.

I am so thankful that God has placed so many blessings in my life. And while I do not wish to feel a sense of entitlement to these blessings, I do want to appreciate and enjoy the sweet spot in which God has me.

So why, when I feel happier and more content that I have felt in a long time, do I feel emotional and sensitive? In part, I think it is because on a subconscious level, I don’t really believe that I deserve to be happy or that I deserve good things in my life. I have struggled with depression for most of my life, and particularly before I became a Christian, so just feeling normal was rare. And now that I feel such joy, I do not know how to sit with it and just be.

Additionally, most strong emotions that I have experienced in my life have been sad and lonely ones. So now, when I feel strong positive emotion, my heart does not know how to respond to it. At times lately, I feel overwhelmed with thankfulness and joyfulness, to the point where my eyes well up with tears.

1 Peter 1:7-9

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.