I wasn’t ready for marriage

For any of you who have thought about the “practicality” of living together or debated how ready you are for marriage, I think this post is a great reminder that you can’t control for everything. At some point, you have to take a risk and you just have to move forward. That’s not the “end all” answer for every situation, but I feel this post is a good reminder of what’s important.

The Matt Walsh Blog

I met my wife on eHarmony. I was a morning rock DJ in Delaware, she was living in Maryland and finishing up her degree. I drove two and a half hours to pick her up for our first date. I spent most of my bi-weekly paycheck on tickets to a dinner theater in Baltimore. The rest went to gas and tolls.

And that’s the way it would go for the next year and a half (minus the dinner theater part). Once a week, I’d spend money I didn’t have and drive the 260 mile roundtrip to see the love of my life. Sometimes I’d sleep for a few hours in the guest room at her mom’s house, waking up at 2AM to head back to the coast for my 5:30AM radio show.

I was very tired back then.

And broke.

Lord, was I broke.

She’d take turns driving my way, burning gas she couldn’t afford to burn and…

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What makes a marriage work?

This post really resonated with me so I’d like to share it.  Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or married; I think we can all benefit from the message of friendship as a key component of marriage.  Take a look, it’s a good read 🙂

THE #1 THING WE’D HAVE CHANGED IN OUR MARRIAGE

People Change (But Please Don’t Change Too Much)

Ever thought about all those unhappy married couples you know? I think we’ve all thought about how to not end up growing apart in marriage as so many people do. I was so encouraged to read this post simply because I know my “fears” are not just mine, but that many others are thinking about them as well.

I Kissed My Date Goodnight

What? A blog post on a Sunday? That’s strange!

Truth be told, I was horrified at the thought that my last post was published just a few hours shy of… gulp… two weeks ago. By posting now I’m avoiding hitting that terrible milestone that no bonafide writer should ever have to face!

Usain_BoltLast night I laid down in bed, exhausted after a long day of work. Do you ever notice when you’re most exhausted — physically, mentally and even emotionally — is the precise time your mind decides to run faster than Usain Bolt at the Olympics?

<< This guy. What a joker!

That’s exactly how I found myself last night. Exhausted to no end, yet frantically running through a list of to-dos and almost-dones and nearly-theres and oh-crap-I-forgot-to-do-that-one! So, I decided to shut my mind up by watching a quick episode of New Girl on my phone. And, of…

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Death and Community

Shock. Loneliness. Overwhelming grief.

Those are just a few of a multitude of conflicting emotions that hit us hard when someone dies. Last month our church lost one of its founding members. More importantly, a wife lost her husband, two sons lost their dad, and a daughter-in-law lost a father who treated her as his own. A community lost one of its own.

Death often acts as a catalyst for reflection. For me, it is always a reminder of three very important things – (1) community is a strange phenomenon and (2) what meaning have I given to my life? and (3) remember the bigger picture.

Community: While I watched people pay their respects to a man I barely knew (despite having grown up with him), I was hit with these reminders again. Youth members set aside finals, hectic work schedules, and even long distances to support these two young men who are experiencing a loss difficult to comprehend. Some of us may not even be close to them; we stumbled with what we could possibly say; but we tried to be there and show that we care. Former members no longer attending our church took the time on a work night to honor a man who did a lot to help without saying much. A community often split by church politics, judgement, and gossip, came together as one in recognition of the value of this individual and the grief of his loved ones. It’s both beautiful and disturbing. There is incredible beauty in the ways in which many gave of themselves in order to help and support the family. It’s also disturbing to know that there is so much potential for our church and community to be stronger on the good days rather than  just the bad ones and to not know how to make that happen. Having recently felt that God is calling me to stay in my home church and work to revive it; this was an especially difficult reality.

Meaningful Life: When a fellow classmate died my senior year of high school, our entire class was deeply affected.  There was one thing that stood out for all of us in our memories of her – her smile. Her smile reflected inner joy. That was the first time I dealt with death on a more personal basis and the first time I asked myself “How would I want to be remembered?” As the viewing progressed, stories were told of a man who was always willing to help and work hard, who shared his faith with others, and who served “behind the scenes”. I know more about the kind of man he was now than I ever did before. His life reflected meaningful and humble service. His life reflected Christ.

I think it’s an important question to ask ourselves – What mark do I want to leave?  I believe that when we look at life from that perspective, it helps us realign our goals with what God wants of us. My answer is that I want to be known as a woman who went out of her way to help others. That desire has manifested in the career choices I’ve made as well as the role I believe God has given me in ministry.

The Big Picture: Last but certainly not least, I sat there struggling to hold back tears at the sight of his loved ones falling apart and I looked back on my day and felt ashamed. I was so irritated that morning at having to deal with a 3 hour commute due to traffic, struggling to find someone to answer questions for my research project, and stresses from all corners. But what is all that in comparison to the grief I witnessed that night?

We’re so busy questioning God that we fail to recognize his eyes see it all and yet he loves us enough to listen to our rants. Why do we get mired in the details instead of looking at the bigger picture?

 

Death puts things into perspective. Why can’t we hold on to that perspective on a daily basis? 

Lonely in a Crowd

Have you ever heard the phrase “lonely in a crowd”? Such a startling truth in such few words. Have you ever experienced that feeling? As if you’re interacting with the world but there’s still something missing? A sense of being disconnected overwhelms your heart and there might be nothing wrong technically, but everything feels off?

I’ve felt this way after a long period of not interacting with friends or when I’ve felt neglected by a friend. Perhaps you’ve experienced it after a break-up or maybe you’ve recently moved and have yet to establish yourself in any sort of community. Or maybe you feel everyone else is moving forward and you’re standing still struggling to be okay with the changes taking place around you.

Whatever the reason, the feeling of isolation is awful. There’s no other way to put it! It can be absolutely paralyzing; you may feel completely incapable of doing anything because you are so caught up in your loneliness. I did what I could – I asked a few friends to pray for me and then I poured out my heart to God via my journal. Result? No relief! I’m still feeling this angst and ache. Perhaps I’m missing the point?

In my search for answers (and peace), I felt I was being told to go in different directions. One article (Living with Loneliness) made me think I should just accept this state because it is a reality of life; until we can experience the complete fulfillment of finally being united with our Father. In Doing life or doing lunch?, Reagan Perkins doesn’t talk about being content in your loneliness at all.  Instead, she takes a practical approach to dealing with being in different life stages from those that are part of your circle with the recommendation that the community learn to accommodate the life changes of its members. For those of us with a growing number of soon-to-be-married friends, that might mean reworking our expectations of how involved our friends  will be in our lives.

Finally, I found Fabienne Hartford’s Lonely but not Rejected article confusing. While I agree that ideally we should only measure our worth in Christ, I don’t know how to apply what she’s talking about practically. According to Hartford, receiving affirmation through God alone allows us to serve others and love those who are hurting. I agree that we should seek to be satisfied in God and I agree that he can fill us up so that we can fill others up. But isn’t it possible that God provides affirmation through those around us? How do you peel yourself away from needing the validation of those around you? What does it actually look like to receive affirmation from God?

Maybe the spiritual side of loneliness is different in all three of those articles because it can mean something different for everyone. Perhaps it has a different purpose in each person’s life – something specific that God is asking you to pay attention to.

I know it’s not wrong to focus our energy on the relationships we have with family and friends. It’s not wrong to stay busy making plans with everyone. However, at the same time, it’s important to remember that the emptiness you feel inside is meant to be filled by God. Perhaps I’ve been allowing my time with friends to be one of my “idols”. Maybe I’m not devoting enough of myself to my relationship with God? Have I given too much time and importance to specific friends? Or is this just a part of life that I need to accept? For now, these questions are all the answers I have. I’ll just keep bringing it back to God and in the meantime, ask him to give me strength and peace.

Lamentations 3:25-30

New International Version (NIV)

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.

Update – March 24, 2013:

I wanted to update you all about how God convicted me during church service today.  Yesterday, I wasted almost half the day reading romance stories (a particular weakness of mine).  The reason I say “wasted” is because I know I have a lot of things I should have been doing with that time. I plan to write about my procrastination skills in a future post but getting back to the point I was trying to make – I felt guilty about how I’d spent my time yesterday. So, I talked to God about it this morning during service and he spoke to my heart with this realization: In an effort to escape from the awful feeling I talked about in this post, I was once again trying to fill a void with something other than him. My “loneliness” story in this case was in fact about placing idols before God.

I said in this post that perhaps God was asking me to devote more of myself to him but instead of working on actually doing that, I actively sought to veg out via fiction. I think a lot of us can identify with the temptation to escape into a fictional world whether it be through TV, gaming, or reading. We want to avoid what’s stressing us rather than deal with reality. Sometimes, that’s ok. Sometimes we just need an hour to let it all go and give our brains a rest. However, when that turns into hours of time spent in front of something that takes us away from life, we should take a step back and ask whether that behavior is healthy. In my case, I realize I was replacing one idol with another. So now I’m asking God to help me fight against this tendency I have to escape and instead focus my energy on being productive for his purpose and also building my relationship with him.

Related post: Idolatry TODAY

Struggle to Forgive

Betrayal is a difficult thing. Maybe it’s a minor incident, something small that was said about you. No matter how minor the issue, you’re in that “head space”. You’re questioning the foundation of your closest relationships and the sincerity of those who claim to like you and even love you. You wonder why you allow yourself to invest so much of yourself and allow people into your life who have the ability to hurt you. What is it all for? Why do we allow ourselves to believe in others and to trust in them when it all just ends in disappointment and anxiety? Perhaps you even doubt your own like-ability. After all, if someone could talk about you that way, then they didn’t really like you in the first place, right? And if those closest to you don’t actually like you, then what does that say about you?

There are several important struggles you’re facing – one to forgive, another to stay vulnerable, and another to deal with the insecurities that come up in the midst of it all.

The struggle to forgive is one that I am now rather familiar with. The things I’ve had to forgive are actually not even that serious or earth-shattering in the broad scheme of things. In fact, given the powerfully painful impact of these “smaller”, less serious incidents; it’s scary to even consider how crippling anything “bigger” could be. How much more would I doubt the sincerity in every word and every action? For how much longer would I have to wrangle that doubt into submission so that it didn’t turn into cynicism?

In the past year, the act of forgiveness has taken on new meaning for me. As has the act of forgetting. It’s as if you are in a never-ending cycle of attempting to forgive, feeling guilty for not being able to let go, and getting angry all over again. And when you’re repeatedly faced with the same offense, it feels like you’re not allowed to move on.  On top of that, you’re mourning a loss; the loss of something that was once pure but is now tainted; the loss of the ability to be lovingly tolerant and patient.

Forgiveness, for me, was quite a long process. I prayed for God to help me forgive and let go. And then I prayed for God to forgive me because I knew that my attitude was wrong. I read articles, read the Bible, and fervently listened to sermons in which I felt sure God was speaking to my heart. I tried to submit every negative thought to God and asked him to give me guidance as to what to do and where to go with these relationships. In the process, I learned a lot. I grew in my relationship with God, I became more acquainted with the meaning of submitting everything to Him, and I matured as a woman. However, I knew that I hadn’t quite achieved “the goal”.

My perceptions of others were still colored by doubt. It was exhausting (it is exhausting). I didn’t like who I was becoming in reaction to these incidents and I was tired of the cycle. Finally, after numerous attempts to “forgive and forget”, I decided that the best thing to do would be to pull away. In this particular situation, neither pulling away or staying was easy, but staying was getting to be too difficult. I was sure that the only available solution, the only way to love as God would want me to, was to love at a distance.

But God had other plans. Circumstances brought me to a place where it became clear that instead of pulling away, we were meant to try again. He called us to “stick it out”, talk things through, and figure out how to move forward in a healthy way. This time around, we would work on honoring God in our relationships and we would rebuild what was broken. Conversation helped remove the bitterness and in an incredibly short span of time, things are turning around rapidly. It’s still tough sometimes, those colored lenses still manage to interfere on occasion but I recognize them as the devil’s attempt to get me back into a negative space. God has so definitively intervened that I’ve decided he clearly wants me to fight temptation and work on improving these relationships as well as myself.

Recently, I experienced a setback (hence this particular entry). What happens when you’re faced with it all over again? When yet another person close to you does something to put you back in that negative mindset? When you feel like you’re starting all over again.

This past Sunday, the visiting priest gave a particularly relevant (in many ways) sermon about healing. I found one of his points particularly salient – that it’s God’s prerogative how he chooses to heal. We may expect him to act in a certain way – some formula we’ve seen in others’ lives. But it’s not up to us! We can ask for healing or we can ask for his intervention but how that plays out is up to Him. (As it should be! I certainly don’t know how things should play out nor do I want to make that decision because I’m sure to mess it up.)

So far, I’m seeing God act in a different way this time around. I find myself letting this incident go much sooner than I anticipated and instead, focusing on my reactions.  I’m not sure how everything will work out but I believe the lessons of the past are serving me well. I believe that God will heal my heart, help me forgive, and take me somewhere unexpected the way he did before.

**A good article that touches on this topic in a different way – A Wonderful Absurdity

Answered Prayer: Relationship

I am a woman (did I just use that word in reference to myself?!) who is idealistic and romantic, very aware of my own emotions, and incredibly focused on relationship. Relationship with family, with friends, with fellow believers, and thankfully with God. I started this post in reaction to this general sense of gratitude and well-being I’ve been feeling lately, directly in relation to the beautiful relationships I find myself enjoying right now.  In this moment, I feel so blessed.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t strongly value family and friends. As a girl growing up, I longed for the type of friendships you read about in books like Nancy Drew (my all-time favorite series of books at the time).  Not only did I long for them, I sought them out. When things weren’t going well with family, I would ask my parents why and I would ask them why we weren’t close to them. I had this deep ache to be part of a close-knit family and to have intimate friendships. I also really wanted a sister or brother; I used to wish for one  all the time.

Thankfully, as I grew older, I found that God had granted my wish but not in the conventional way. I grew up with two cousins that were as close to siblings as I was going to get and later in life, my friends became sisters. I felt that God had answered my prayer; I felt blessed.

So, I prayed for those friends and family. I prayed for those relationships and I thanked God fervently for them. But somehow, everything changed and it all seemed to happen at once. About a year ago, I sat in one of the upstairs rooms in our church and cried my heart out because I was so overwhelmed by grief. I’ll share some of my journal entries from that time:

“I’m feeling so disheartened. My friendships are falling apart. My [extended] family is falling apart….Everything…well, not everything…but the things I value and give me value don’t seem to exist anymore. The relationships I’ve invested in, at least quite a few of them, barely remain in place…”

“…I looked at “A’s” facebook page today and it made me so sad. How have I gotten to this place I never thought I’d be. The relationships I valued and count on are gone. As a person who loves family and friends, I don’t have much of either. It’s an isolating feeling. I can’t believe how little I know of their lives…What can I do, Father, to have those relationships a part of my life again? I know you’re here for me always. But it hurts, Lord. It really hurts….Life is so busy that I often don’t have time to think about these things. But when things slow down and I’m all alone with my thoughts…my heart breaks all over again. I know you love me, Lord. I know you faced rejection on the cross, Jesus. I know, Father, that we often hurt you by not maintaining our relationships with you. I guess I’m getting a small glimpse into what you experience. I’m sorry, Lord, for the times when I turn away from you or don’t invest time in our relationship. Help me, Father, to draw strength from you….”

I don’t mean to over-dramatize things. I still had friends and I still had family. However, it was a loss that somewhat felt like mourning and it lasted so long I wondered when I’d last experienced carefree joy.

Fast forward to today. Not everything has been resolved. But what’s miraculous is the clarity of answered prayer. Friendships I thought were lost are being renovated and rebuilt into something stronger and something purer – “refined by fire” as the song goes.  In addition, God has forged new relationships for me that enrich me, encourage me, and are part of his purpose for me.

I mentioned a struggle in an earlier post. During that week and since then, I felt convicted with a deep sense of appreciation not only for the relationships in my life but also the quality of those relationships. Why? Because, I am surrounded by people who could understand and accept me (not an easy thing when it takes me so long to fully be myself with people – the nature of an introvert). Add to that blessing the fact that they are wise people who have a relationship with God. Like I said, I am blessed.

I continue to pray over those relationships that remain where they were during that very painful period. It still saddens me but I plug on in prayer, I do my best to be what God wants me to be, and I hope that they too will be restored in a way that glorifies the grace and healing power of God.