Weep With Those Who Weep

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I’m at a loss today.

I’m honestly not really sure what to say, in light of the events of the last few days. My thoughts keep bumping into each other. First, I’m white and have no idea what it’s like to be black. Second, I have a brother-in-law and an uncle I love dearly who both serve and protect their cities as law enforcement officers. And third, I’m embarrassed that I waited until violence hit Dallas, my own backyard, before I said something. True, there is no easy answer here. I have no idea how to contribute something useful to this conversation, and I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said. But I do know one thing. Love heals. God’s love for us is extraordinary, and people who follow Him are ambassadors for this great love. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and so should we be.

I’ll never know what it’s like to be black, and I’ll never know what it’s like to be a police officer. But I know what it’s like to be scared. I have felt isolated, hurt, betrayed, unsafe, and have even feared for my life. Please don’t misunderstand – I am in no way equating my experiences with those of the last week. I’m saying that based on the knowledge and experiences I have had, I know how to pray.  I can pray earnestly for people who are afraid, because I have been afraid. I have understood those feelings in different contexts, yes, but I still understand them.

It’s appropriate that I’m going through a bible study in Exodus right now. Last week’s study covered the first two chapters, concluding with God hearing the cries of his suffering people and remembering His covenant with Abraham:

“During those days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel–and God knew.” (Exodus 2:23-25, ESV)

I don’t know what else to do right now besides pray and grieve. But both of those things are powerful. Romans 12:15 commands me to weep with those who weep, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. To quote my friend Ted Harrison, “To my black friends: I do not have the ability to stand in your shoes, but I have the ability to stand next to them.” With the heaviest heart, I’m praying for peace and a rescue from the Father who sees us and KNOWS.

4 Years Married + Accepting Grace

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Marriage looks so beautiful in movies, between the glamorous weddings, the luxurious honeymoons, and the Pinterest-worthy houses to raise beautiful Gap model children in. The problem with this image is it leaves no room for two things: sin and grace. Because the world we live in is flawed, all marriages will experience hindrances, hiccups, and disappointments. Literally every marriage in the world is made up of sinners, and two sinners combining lives does not equal utopia. This sounds stupid, but before I got married, I had no idea how sinful I really am. Married life makes you very aware of how selfish you are and reminds you of the fact that your mistakes (and deliberate sinful choices) DO affect other people, whether you mean for them to or not.

If you grew up in church, you probably heard the same thing I did over and over – that no sin is too big for God to forgive. It sounds great, right? I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a version of that sentence. I’ve even said that sentence to other people myself. And yet somehow, after over two decades of existing on this planet, I found myself empty on one particular night, broken and convinced that God’s forgiveness couldn’t possibly extend to me.

I’ll spare you the details, but I genuinely can’t remember a time when I’ve been more wrecked over the sin in my life than I was that night. My own selfishness finally caught up with me (I was living proof of Numbers 32:23 – “You may be sure that your sin will find you out”), and Daniel got caught in the crossfire. The ugliest moments of my life were laid bare, and I felt hollow, completely exposed and ashamed. I couldn’t see how on earth God could cover this situation with His grace – why would someone who claimed to love Him be so defiant and self-centered?? How could He look at me, weak and muddy and disobedient, and still love me? Still want me? My head spun with condemning thoughts straight from hell: “I can’t believe you did this. You’re a horrible person. If you really loved God, you would act like it. And how could you hurt Daniel that way? You must not even care about him. You’ll never be able to move on from this. This is one of the worst things you could ever do. This will haunt you for the rest of your life.” And on, and on, and on. I was teetering on the edge of really believing those things, and it was paralyzing.

But then an incredible thing happened.

Daniel – my husband, my partner, my friend, the person I had just hurt – became a tender instrument of God, whispering words of grace over me, his voice slowly but surely drowning out the accusing background noise. He quoted Romans 8:1, reminding me that there is NO condemnation for me in Christ, including condemnation from myself. I couldn’t do or say anything; I just sat there and drank in the truth he (and He) was speaking, emotionally and spiritually spent, my heart aching but becoming whole again.

That’s what marriage is. It’s not just planning a wedding, going on a honeymoon, and trying to coexist for the next 50+ years without being miserable. It’s FORGIVING each other. It’s being willing to be the strong one when the other person is weak. It’s choosing to love when the other person doesn’t deserve it. It’s finding the tiny cracks and crevices in their heart and pouring grace into them until they’ve healed.

That experience revealed a chasm within me that I didn’t even know existed. For years, I had been more than willing to believe in God’s grace and forgiveness for other people – but I couldn’t believe it for myself. Anytime I failed, I condemned myself repeatedly, frustrated by my own imperfection. I held myself to an impossible standard and was doomed to a life of disappointment. I think there’s something about our frail humanity that makes it difficult for us to accept something we don’t feel we deserve, including God’s grace toward us. We are totally right to believe that we’ll never be good enough, but when we are in Him, there is no need for self-condemnation. Jesus’s blood covered it ALL, and God’s forgiveness is all we need. If you’ve confessed your sin to God and truly repented, don’t continue to live a life overcome by guilt and regret. His grace is enough.

When I think about how lucky I am to be married to someone who personifies God’s grace to me, words fail me. Daniel continues to love me through my most unlovable of moments and has preached the Gospel to me with words AND actions more than anyone else in my life. We’ve packed a whole lot of life into 4 years, and I can’t wait for more!

What a sweet day. I’m glad the joy didn’t end there. ♥

Photo credit: Anna Lee Photography and Catie Bartlett Photography

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Breaking Bad Habits

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“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

How many times have I tried to quit biting my nails? Good grief, who knows. I’ve started and stopped and started again too many times to count. I know it’s gross, but even worse…I’ll never be a hand model. *sigh*

It’s an unfortunate bad habit to have, and a somewhat silly example. But the incredibly strong hold that many habits have over people is no laughing matter. Especially when you consider that there are some pretty awful habits out there. Things like:

watching pornography,
gossiping,
eating junk food constantly,
worrying,
drinking too much…
The list goes on and on.

No matter what you believe about willpower, when you build up a pattern of consistently and intentionally making the wrong choice while KNOWING it’s wrong, that wrong choice becomes your first choice. You instinctively choose something that is bad for you because you’ve trained your body to do so, like a computer.

So how do we break those bad habits? You have to remind yourself that you’re different from a programmed computer.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit living in you and directing you. When we spend time with God, our ability to discern what is right and wrong grows stronger. Breaking habits probably won’t ever be easy as saying “Okay God, I give this up!” one time and moving on with your life. In the same way that you chose, time after time, to make the wrong choice, you must choose over and over to make the right one, building up a pattern of good choices instead.

Is it easy? Uhhhh duh, of course not. But isn’t it worth it? Why would we choose to sit in a mud puddle of bad choices instead of following Jesus and making new habits? If you have been saved by Jesus and surrendered your life to Him, you are already walking in freedom from your habits. The only power Satan has in your life is the power you give him. When you are tempted, I challenge you to stop in that moment and say out loud to yourself, “Satan has no power over me. I am walking in freedom with Jesus, and I will not _____ today.” Say it as many times as you have to!

We are far too easily defined by our bad habits instead of our good ones, but you can change that. It’s not enough to root out the bad; you have to replace it with good. Be proactive. Do more than make a mental list of all the things you need to stop doing. Pray Scripture over yourself. Know what your tempting triggers are and avoid them on purpose. Surround yourself with people who care about your spiritual health and want to hold you accountable.

I know you’re wrestling with something, because we all are. Just know that you are not alone, brother or sister. The only thing holding you back is excuses. Persevere and devote time to your walk with the Lord – that’s a habit you’ll never want to break.

Married Monday: How to Choose a Husband

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“The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the LORD.” Proverbs 18:22 (NLT)

“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.” Proverbs 12:4 (NASB)


When I was a boy-crazy tween, I remember spending HOURS at a time dreaming about what my future husband would be like. I made a truly ridiculous amount of lists full of qualities he had to have, and according to those lists, my ideal guy was a muscled-up, well-dressed, animal-loving athlete/musician with a sexy accent, a sensitive side, and lots of money that he earned honestly.

Oh, and of course he had to be a Christian; that was just the icing on the cake.

I can’t help but laugh now whenever I remember those well-worn pieces of notebook paper. Naturally, I realized as I got older that my standards meant my dream guy was basically Superman/impossible, so I let go of a few things and added a few things, but my focus was still on who I was looking for. I forgot that if and when I ever got married, half of that marriage equation included me.

Compared to the time I spent planning who my guy should be, I spent almost no time allowing God to refine my own character.

Have you ever considered that the person you married had expectations about you too? As frustrated as I get sometimes when Daniel can’t read my mind, I KNOW I haven’t lived up to his expectations either. I’m sure he imagined that his wife would be a perfect combination of qualities: beautiful but humble, smart but not arrogant, athletic but not Schwarzenegger, funny but not crass, bold but not rude, sexy but classy, kind but not mousy, and witty but not hurtful, with an ENORMOUS desire to learn every single meal his mother made and cook them as well and as often as she did.

Luckily for him, I meet ALL of those requirements!

Lol…not.

As logical as Daniel is, it’s likely that his expectations weren’t actually as high as I described. But even if they were, it’s not his fault, really – we all do it. Without meaning to, though we would probably never say it out loud, we expect our partners to be perfect. Much like TV or movie romantic leads, they must always apologize first, make at least a couple of ‘grand romantic gestures’, know exactly the right words to say in any situation, be fantastic in bed, and never do anything normal humans do, like use the bathroom, lose their keys, or forget to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer.

I naively assumed that real marriage was like TV marriage, where you can say almost anything in a fight as long as it’s clever, and it’ll all get glossed over and work out in two minutes because the episode is almost over. Before I got married, I never thought about disappointing my husband – I was too busy thinking about how he would fulfill MY needs and make ME happy. But there have been moments in our marriage when I have been inconsiderate, rude, or disrespectful and Daniel’s face made his thoughts very clear: “This is not the woman I fell in love with.” Suddenly, it’s not just about what I want. His needs matter too.

At this point, I feel like I need to point out that it’s not a bad thing to have some standards for your future spouse! It’s kind of important to have some stuff in common with the person you’re picking to do life with forever. But be careful that you don’t set a standard that’s impossible for any human to meet. It’s also okay to reevaluate your “deal breakers” every so often. Some things should always be deal breakers, but some things may not be as important to you as you get older. For example: before Daniel and I met, I wanted to marry a musician. Since I was 12 or 13, I had an image in my head of my husband and I singing in our kitchen, harmonizing perfectly while we cooked dinner. And Daniel, well…at least he LIKES to sing! :) Poor boy couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. But that’s okay. I thought it was a deal breaker, but it turns out…it wasn’t! I wouldn’t give up every other quality he has for a guy who can sing. Learn to find the line between “no standards” and “impossible-to-meet standards.”

You can also argue, however, that my job was never to create a set of standards for a godly man and then go looking for him. Because the Bible is already FULL of them. Proverbs alone describes a good husband as

compassionate (12:10),
hard-working (27:23-27),
honest (12:17),
generous (14:21),
humble (16:18-19),
self-controlled (12:15, 16:32),
trustworthy (26:20),
optimistic (17:22),
and forgiving (19:11).

Proverbs kicks my list in the face.

Now look at the list again. How many of those qualities do you have? It’s not enough to have expectations for the other person. It’s hypocritical to hold Daniel to a standard that I don’t care about meeting myself. My responsibility, then and now, is two-fold: (1) Pursue my own relationship with God and grow into a godlier woman, and (2) Appreciate and encourage the good qualities my husband has and support his growth in his relationship with God.

Whether you’re married or not, it’s time for you to make a new list – for yourself. Pray that God will make you loving (Titus 2:4-5), respectful (Ephesians 5:33), hardworking (Proverbs 31:13, 15-16, 18-19, 21-22, 24, 27), calm (1 Peter 3:4), courageous (Joshua 1:9), good-humored (Proverbs 17:22), and holy like Him (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

Lesson Learned: Dogs Can Actually Teach You Stuff

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This is Fitz. I know, *all the heart eyes*. One of my in-laws’ dogs had a litter of 10 pups in May of 2015, and to keep track of which puppy was which, they put numbered collars on all of them. Every single one was cute, but Fitz (aka “Puppy #2”) stole my heart instantly. We called him “Number 2” for months. And for whatever reason, they decided to keep him for us, long before we even had a place to put him.

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I’ve spent my entire life wanting a dog more than almost anything else in the world, but I also mentally rolled my eyes at the people I knew who talked about their dogs like they were human. (I’m aware of how backwards and stupid this sounds.) You know the ones – the people who are like “He’s/she’s my baby,” who dress them up in sweaters, who share those cheesy pet memes on social media, and who can’t manage to take a single picture without including the dog in it.

Well…I finally understand why people talk about their dogs the way they do!! Like I said, we’ve only had him for a little over three months, but I still bawled my eyes out a few weeks ago when it occurred to me that he won’t actually live forever. Sure, being followed around the house incessantly and never being allowed to go anywhere alone gets old after awhile (especially when he just neeeeeeeeds to follow me into the bathroom and I can’t stop him because the door doesn’t latch all the way). But the thought of him NOT faithfully laying on the floor every time I sit on the couch, and NOT being so excited to see me that he trips over his own feet on his way to the door….it makes my stomach hurt; I just can’t think about it.

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I remember the day Fitz came to live with us so well, particularly the moment when I paused in Tractor Supply, bewildered and overwhelmed in front of about 16 different kinds of dog food. What are dogs even good for anyway?, I wondered, my heart beating faster as I surveyed the few but expensive items in my cart. (Side note: I am SO thankful that Daniel’s parents, Sue and Steve, were with me. They helped me navigate the entire store and pick out the things I really needed, and I probably would have stood in front of the dog food in a daze for two hours without them there.) As I reluctantly made my way to the checkout counter, knowing that Daniel and I were about to be several hundred dollars poorer, Steve put his arm around me and joked, “Boy, it sure is fun to go shopping with other people’s money!” Lolz, thanks Steve. I called my dad while waiting in line and told him that I finally understood why he never let us have a dog. He belly-laughed and told me that kids are a way better investment. LOLZ…thanks Dad.

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UGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH. I can’t believe he used to be this little. Good grief, he was cute.

And look at those best friends forever!! ↓↓↓ I miss that lil girl. She needs to move here.

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It hasn’t all been cute pictures and cuddles and roses, though. Oh no. He’s torn up outdoor couch cushions, shredded 10 rolls of toilet paper on the rug, trampled through the entire downstairs with muddy footprints, scratched up wood floors and doors, sloshed water all over the place, and shed enough hair to knit about seven sweaters. Not to mention the barking, the pooping, the energy, and the fact that taking him on a walk is about as relaxing as a Navy Seal obstacle course. Sometimes I remember that I love him, and sometimes I think about strangling him. I won’t tell you which I do more of.

The weirdest thing of all, though, is that Fitz teaches ME stuff. I expected he would learn a lot from us over the last couple of months, but I never thought I would become a student again too. I’m willing to bet most of you dog owners can relate!

4 Things I’ve Learned from Fitz:

1. Unconditional love is an actual thing.
I know this sounds horrible…but I don’t know if I truly believed in unconditional love before Fitz. I mean, yes. I KNOW that God loves me unconditionally, no matter how much I screw up. But that’s hard for my little brain to make sense of sometimes. And so few human relationships reflect that kind of love. Even though Daniel does a great job of making me feel loved no matter what, he’s not perfect. And I put a lot of condemnation on myself too: for example, “How could he possibly forgive me for this again? I’ve apologized for the same thing like 12 times.” Fitz, though? Oh my gosh. It doesn’t matter WHAT happens. It doesn’t matter if I’m gone from the house for two days or two minutes; he is EXCITED BEYOND ALL BELIEF to see me. He loves me more than I’ll ever understand. I’m thankful for the sweet reminder that God’s love for me is the same – wholehearted, unchanging, unreserved, and unlimited.

2. Obedience is a constant choice.
I wish it was possible to do the right thing ONE TIME, and your brain is like, “Oh..okay! This is how it’s done, so I’ll just do it this way from now on.” But we aren’t robots. So that’s not a thing. Being obedient is not always the easy thing to do, and Fitz has given me a taste of what it’s like to be a parent because I’ve watched his thought processes play out. It’s like I can see the gears turning in his brain. I’ve seen him do the wrong thing deliberately, even after I told him no. I’ve also seen him do the wrong thing multiple times too, like the toilet paper fiasco I documented on Instgram – he had already done this exact thing twice within a weeks’ time. But the other day, he did something INCREDIBLE. We were on a walk and stopped at the college campus’s front lawn for a break. I sat on the ground and he walked around the lawn on his leash. As he smelled everything in sight, I noticed a piece of trash about three feet away from him that I knew he would eventually see. Sure enough, he saw it and nosed toward it. Because he has a history of eating literally everything in sight, I tightened my grip on his leash, preparing to give him a gentle but firm nudge away from it. To my surprise, he barely even sniffed it before completely passing it by. What a rock star! I was so proud of him! I was prepared to pull him away, but I didn’t even have to because he had no interest. That’s exactly how we should be with sin: completely uninterested and so unfazed by it that we can’t even be bothered to stop and check it out. I pray that God breaks my heart over my bad habits and wrong choices, but I’m also thankful for His grace that fills in the gaps for us when we DO fail.

3. Growing up is hard and requires patience.
Sometimes, I forget that Fitz is a still just a puppy because he’s a giant. I remember very quickly, though, when he is hyper and wiggly and wild. Countless times, he’s struggled to be patient and do the right thing even when he doesn’t want to, like sitting still or doing a trick for a treat. He makes the same mistakes over and over again. He sneezes in your face. He thinks you’re playing with him when you’re really trying to punish him. He tries to hug you with his entire body and ends up giving you Wolverine-esque scratches instead. All things that a fully grown, old, tired dog would probably watch while quietly chuckling to himself. Aren’t humans the same way? I look at preteens now and think, “Uhhhh I really hope I was not that immature and dramatic when I was that age…” And I totally was. Let’s get real…I’m still dramatic. (I can admit it now.) But not like I used to be. That took time! I didn’t grow up in five minutes. And I can’t hold my dog (or my future kids, or other people’s kids) to that expectation.

4. Sometimes the things you want aren’t actually good for you.
The other day, I took some empty boxes out to the storage shed in our backyard, and Fitz, of course, had to follow me. You know how Christmas lights usually come with a little package of extra bulbs in case one on the strand burns out? He found that package and decided to try to eat it. I turned around and hurried toward him as soon as I heard the crunch of plastic in his mouth, but he thought I was playing with him and started running around the backyard. Running around with a flimsy package full of glass that could go down his throat and kill him. I was just trying to protect him and he thought it was all a big joke. As I finally managed to grab him, it occurred to me that God does that with us CONSTANTLY. We think we know what we want, that we know what we can handle, that we know what’s good for us. But He sees things we don’t, and every move He makes is for His glory and for our good, even when we don’t like it.

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I love my boy. He’s smart and feisty and cute, and he’s taken up a very permanent residence inside my heart. Who knew he’d be such a great teacher?

P.S. I have to include this bonus (albeit horrible quality) iPhone photo because HE ACTUALLY CUDDLED WITH ME. He’s not super snuggle-y, but I think it’s just because he’s still a young pup and can’t lay that still, that close to a human who can play with him, for that long, without getting the wiggles. This was a rare moment and I cherished all 30 seconds of it. I mean……..doesn’t your heart just burst with love?? ♥♥♥

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Married Monday: A Letter to the Singles

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“I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you.” Haggai 2:23b (NIV)

“And you shall be called Sought After.” Isaiah 62:12b (NIV)

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:16a (NIV)

“You are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:4 (NIV)


Sweet singles: I think I owe you an apology.

It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be single when you’ve been married for a while. You’ll have to forgive me; I don’t always realize that some of the things I’ve said to you were more hurtful than helpful. I’m so sorry for reducing your feelings with true but inconsiderate statements like this:

“Jesus was never married and look at His ministry!”
“Paul said it’s better for us to be unmarried anyway!”
“You just haven’t found the right guy/girl yet.”

Once again, Valentine’s Day has made me aware of how much our churches emphasize the importance of marriage, and how our culture constantly highlights losing your virginity as this ultimate life goal to be achieved. In light of that, it’s easier to understand why you struggle with having unfulfilled desires and understanding your value to the church. I know that you know your relationship with Jesus is most important, despite the Bible’s emphasis on marriage and family. I know that you know your ‘season’ of singleness gives you the unique chance to draw nearer to God. But I also know that it’s hard to be content in your singleness, especially if you’re surrounded by friends who are getting married right and left. You want to believe that if you have a godly desire, it will automatically be fulfilled, and it’s hard to grapple with the honest reality that you may never get married. I get it, friends. I really do.

        Mostly, I just want to encourage you with a few truths. I’m sure you probably already know these things, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded.

You are valuable.
You are important to God.
You have special worth as a single.
You are funny.
You are smart.
You are appreciated.

You are no more or less important than me, married people, single parents, pastors, janitors, or career missionaries.

There are two things I want you to do. First, remember that it’s okay to want to be married. Don’t beat yourself up for wanting that; it’s a good thing. But secondly, instead of sitting around wishing, start actively pursuing love instead of marriage. I love what John Fisher says: “Marriage is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. Marriage is the servant of love. If we are pursuing marriage we are pursuing the wrong thing because love then becomes subservient to marriage. We start coming up with our own ideas of what love is.”

        Here’s the truth: whether you get married or not, if you focus your eyes on God completely, you will still experience the vast fullness of His love. Don’t worry, friend! You aren’t lacking or missing out on anything! God has lots of ways of revealing Himself to us, and although marriage is one way, it’s not the only way or the most important way.

 Lots of x’s and o’s, Laura

P.S. Want more on this topic? Check out the rest of what John Fisher says about Purposeful Singleness here, or visit www.singleness.org/.

Married Monday: Choosing Faithfulness

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“Above all, fear the Lord and worship him faithfully with all your heart; consider the great things He has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24 (HCSB)

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3 (NIV)

“To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.” 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 (ESV)

A few months before my wedding, I set up a lunch date with a newly married friend. After asking her how married life was, she looked at me with a tight, tired smile and said, “We actually just had a big argument. It’s really hard, but the good definitely outweighs the bad.”

I remember feeling a bit of a letdown; I had wanted her to smile cheerfully and say, “It’s great!!” In that moment, I was a little afraid that marriage wouldn’t be as awesome as I’d thought.

Now, after being married for several years, I know EXACTLY how she felt! I think back to that lunch date and just laugh. I understand why her voice sounded tired, yet still glad.

Because…yeah. She was completely right, it is hard!

One of the biggest lessons to learn in marriage is how to remain faithful, even when you’re tired/angry/hurt/fill in your own blank. And not just sexually, but emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc. as well. We are charged as wives and husbands to mimic the relationship God has with His people! Isn’t that incredible?? Our marriages are the picture of God’s lovely connection with us to the rest of the world.

It breaks my heart that the picture too many people see is one of apathy, hostility, boredom, bitterness, abuse, and brokenness. Many people treat marriage as if it is disposable: try it out for a while and if you get bored or frustrated, try it again with someone else. THANK GOD that God doesn’t treat us that way. We are constantly unfaithful to Him, but He never says, “Oh, what?? You don’t love me or care about me anymore? Well, forget you, I’ll go find someone else!”

2 Timothy 2:13 says this of God: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is” (NLT). God is faithful to us A.L.W.A.Y.S, even when we run away from Him. And because we have been shown this great grace by Him, we can and must show grace to others, including our spouses. And my friend was right about another thing: when your relationship with your spouse was initiated and nurtured by God and your marriage points to Him instead of to yourselves, the good ALWAYS outweighs the bad. I may not feel like throwing confetti all the time every day, but I am thankful for my husband every day. Persevere in your marriages, friends! Faithfulness is always worth it, even in the midst of heartache.

Oh, marriage. What a magically, frustratingly, wonderfully purifying thing. ♥

This post is part of “Married Monday,” a new series I’ve started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

Married Monday: Expectations

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“Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” Proverbs 16:32 (NLT)

I will probably never send my husband to the store for snacks again.

(Well…not without a list, at least!)

We had plans to hang out with some friends at our house one evening, and I realized that although I had told them we would have snacks, all we had was popcorn. I asked Daniel to grab a few things from the store, assuming he would come home with cookies or chips and dip. Or you know…NORMAL snack food. Our company arrived and I told them Daniel should be home any minute with food.

The front door opened and Daniel walked in…….holding a 10-POUND BOX of frozen spare ribs, and a 12-pack of Coke.

My friend Jessica instantly made eye contact with me and choked back a laugh. As I went from stunned silence to hysterical laughter, Jessica’s husband Cliff slapped Daniel on the back, exclaiming, “That is THE manliest thing I have ever seen!!”

It’s a silly story that we still laugh about, but this is just a small example of a huge lesson you learn in marriage: EVERYTHING comes down to expectations.

For example – hold on, now, because it’s about to get real – before I got married, my expectations about sex were incredibly skewed. I’m willing to bet a lot of you guys can relate. Culture portrays it terribly: either it doesn’t matter at all, or it’s the only thing that matters. Either way, according to our confused world, sex has been heralded as this unbelievably perfect and euphoric experience, and if it’s awkward or weird or not exciting, it’s because you’re with the wrong person and you just need to keep looking for the right one.

If you grew up in church like I did, you probably did True Love Waits or something similar. As the years went by, you heard over and over to save sex for marriage, save sex for marriage, SAVE IT FOR MARRIAGE ALREADY. But they never really told you why to save it for marriage, so you spend your teenage and early-twenties life wondering and waiting. You guard your virginity (which is different from purity, but that’s for another Monday), just KNOWING that God will surely reward you for holding onto it for so long. After all, that’s like the biggest sin you could commit, right?? And you didn’t do it, so OF COURSE God will be so proud of you and give you the best wedding night ever.

But then, you get married and go on a honeymoon, after all those years of wondering and waiting…and you finally realize why you wait.

You wait because it isn’t a perfect euphoric experience.

But when you marry the right person, it’s okay that it isn’t.

It’s okay that it’s awkward and funny, because you know that when you wake up the next morning, they will still be there.

It’s okay that it’s NOTHING like it seems on TV or in movies, because you know that no matter what, they love you and you have plenty of time to figure it out.

It’s okay that it’s not *completely magical*, because you know that they aren’t selfishly using you. They care more about you than they care about themselves.

And it’s okay that you have a powerfully complex bond with that person now, because you know that you made powerfully complex promises to each other at the ceremony. Vows to each other and to the Lord that serve as a steady foundation and can handle the weight of that kind of bond.

(Let me stop for a minute and say something important. If you had sex before getting married, I’m not judging you. Not even a little. Sex outside of marriage may have bigger earthly consequences than other sin, but it doesn’t make you damaged goods. God doesn’t love virgins any more than He loves non-virgins, and He definitely doesn’t think sex is bad.  He CREATED it, which means it is good, in the correct context. At the end of the day, all sins, from the tiniest white lie all the way up to things we consider pure evil, equally separate us from God unless Jesus is standing in the gap for us. Without Jesus, there is no hope. I’m so thankful God gave us Jesus, His gracious way of wiping the slate clean and inviting us to be reconciled back to Him.)

Sex is just one example of many, but my point is that expectations affect everything. I had no idea how many expectations I had for Daniel until we got married and started sharing space. But the bigger surprise was that he had expectations for me. We both came in with ideas about what marriage would look like and how we expected the other person to act and think. The problem is that I was frustrated when Daniel didn’t live up to my expectations for him, but I wanted grace from him when I didn’t live up to his expectations for me. It’s an enormous double standard to expect your spouse to bend for you when you won’t bend for them at all.

If you’re married or engaged, talk about your expectations with your spouse or spouse-to-be. How often should the laundry be done? What kinds of things should you buy together and what things are a waste of money? Not everyone has the same opinion or upbringing as you. If you don’t talk about them, at least one of you will spend a good part of your marriage either frustrated or disappointed because something didn’t live up to your expectations. Make sure that your own assumptions – about kids, about the future, about who is ‘supposed’ to take out the trash – are realistic. Sometimes it’s better to let go of too-high expectations and compromise together. And of course, talking to God is the absolute best thing you can do. When we center our marriages around Him, He has this neat way of giving us patience, changing our priorities, and helping us see what’s really important.

This post is part of “Married Monday,” a new series I’ve started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

*Edit: I can’t recall who took the picture of my rings, but it was either Anna Lee of Anna Lee Media or Catie Bartlett of Catie Bartlett Photography! They are both amazeballs, go show them some love!

Forgetting Jesus

I forgot Jesus this Christmas.

I’ve been so busy with wedding after wedding, moving, unpacking, laundry-ing, cleaning (jk, I haven’t done any of that), MONAT-ing, recruiting, traveling, church-ing, gift wrapping, and basically just running…….and I’ve had to add “forgetting.”

Did you catch it? Oh, don’t get me wrong – I’m reeeeally good at church-ing. We serve in lots of ways, both visibly and behind the scenes. But church-ing doesn’t equal intimacy. Going to church isn’t enough to sustain a relationship, even though I’ve subconsciously been trying really hard to make it enough. My prayer time is essentially nonexistent. My ‘bible studies’ consist of two reluctant, half-asleep minutes of scrolling through my bible app before I set my alarm and pass out.

But by golly, those presents are wrapped.

It’s funny – Christmas is my absolute favorite season, but I feel like I’ve missed it this year. I haven’t had time to slow down for months, and now, when I finally have a chance to take a breath, it’s the week of Christmas. Hardly enough time to truly enjoy the season…or is it?

I know Jesus is the reason we celebrate. I know that. So why is He the furthest thing from my mind? Instead, my head is spinning with gift ideas, Christmas songs, Pinterest cookie recipes, and a creative plan to convince Daniel that we should just leave the tree up until Christmas 2016. They aren’t bad things; it’s just that none of them have any eternal significance.

It wasn’t obvious at first. The King didn’t appear as a marauding conqueror or a persuasive political figure. God’s plan to save the world unfolded through a tiny, soft, squishy baby. He’s the reason we’re alive. He’s the reason we have any hope at all. He is more important than work, holiday parties, and getting together with friends and family. I may only have a few more days before December 25th, but I’m going to spend them in quiet surrender and gratitude. Join me?

“And so this Christmas I’ll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life.”

from “I Celebrate the Day” by Relient K

Married Monday: Why It Matters

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“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’” Genesis 2:18 (NLT)

One of my favorite wedding pictures isn’t one you might expect, like the first look, walking down the aisle, or the first kiss. It’s a photo of us facing our audience right after we were announced as Mr. and Mrs. Hendrickson. We were looking down at our feet, holding hands tightly and taking our first steps off of the platform into the grass below. Our first steps. Just like babies. We were SO ready to take that step because it meant that we were finally, actually, really married.

I love the joy on our faces in that photo. Maybe if we had known some of the storms we would weather in the next few years of marriage, we wouldn’t have been so eager to jump off and get going, haha! We made powerful promises to each other that day, but we had no idea what we were really saying. It would have been terribly easy to just stay on that platform, surrounded by the people who love us most in the world. But oh, how would we ever have the chance to prove that we MEANT what we said in our vows?

"A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for." William Shedd |

William G.T. Shedd said, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” We were never meant to stay on that wooden stage in the woods. We took that first step, and every step we’ve taken since has been together, for better AND for worse, for richer AND for poorer, in sickness AND in health.

But we couldn’t have done it without help. The Gospel has transformed both of us through marriage, and we are so different now from those people we were on that day years ago. That’s why who you marry matters. You are picking the person you’ll grow with for the rest of your life, through years and years of changes. Ann Voskamp puts it so beautifully: “That’s the unspoken miracle of marriage: you vow to keep loving someone who keeps growing into a mysterious stranger.”

Not only that, but you are the picking the person with whom you will model to the rest of the world what you believe about God and how He relates to His people. That’s what marriage does! Have you ever thought about that? Marriage was created for God, not for us. A covenant isn’t saying “I promise to keep my vows…as long as you keep yours.” A true covenant means “I promise to keep my vows, regardless of whether you keep yours or not.” Marriage was designed to reflect the God we follow – the God who loves us even when we don’t love Him, the God who made a covenant with us and not only keeps it, but took the punishment we deserved for NOT keeping it. God chose marriage as His primary symbol of His relationship between Himself and the church, so honor Him by taking marriage seriously.

If you’re not married yet: pray that, if God gives you the gift of marriage, He will give you joy and patience to endure the difficulties.  And if and when you do get married, don’t pick the person you’re most attracted to, or the person you’ve been with the longest, or the person you’re with because you’re lonely and want to be with someone. Pick the person who actually imitates Jesus and motivates you to do the same.

If you’re already married and struggling to remember why: intentionally reflect on the promises you made. Pray for your spouse, even when you don’t want to. Choose to love them even when you just hate them. God can restore anything. No marriage is too far beyond repair.

This is the first post for “Married Monday,” a new series I’ve started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?