Married Monday: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:33 (ESV)

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV)

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)


The way we view men these days completely breaks my heart. Turn on almost any TV comedy and you’ll find a dumb, idiotic husband or dad parading around and looking completely foolish. Our culture’s treatment of men has drastically affected not only female attitudes about men, but men’s attitudes about themselves. Women have told too many jokes about men loading the dishwasher wrong, to the extent that they’ve actually started believing that their men aren’t as capable as they are. And sadly, many men have quietly stuffed down their embarrassment and gone along with it.

When did it become acceptable to treat men like dogs – something to be laughed at, shooed away, or punished when they ‘misbehave’?? Men aren’t stupid. They aren’t dumb, and they aren’t useless. As wives, we are commanded multiple times to respect our husbands, not love them. Why? Because loving comes naturally to us, just as giving respect comes naturally to men. Yes, women need respect and men need love. But God worded it the way He did for a reason. Men have an innate need for respect the same way that women innately need love. Unfortunately, many people have begun to view respect as something that is only doled out when it is deserved, and that, my friends, is a problem. God didn’t say, “Let the wife see that she respects her husband when she feels like it or when he deserves it.” The irony is that if men held the same view about loving their wives – only when they feel like it or we deserve it – wives everywhere would be outraged. They would riot in the streets! So…why is it okay for us to make light of our command to respect our husbands, while holding them to a higher standard and expecting them to love us no matter how horrible we are? It doesn’t add up.

Let me pause and say that I am not naïve. I snagged a great guy, but I know that some of you have irresponsible, lazy, rude husbands. And some of you may have it even worse than that. Please hear me: if you are being abused by your husband in any way, get out of that house and find some help. I am NOT telling you to just sit there and let him wound you verbally, emotionally, or physically. In any other case, however, although you can’t control his actions, you can control yours. This may not be a popular thing to say, but your husband’s rudeness is not an excuse for your disrespect. 1 Peter 3:1-2 even says, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (ESV, emphasis mine). Pray that God will give you endurance and genuine love for your husband. Choosing to repay meanness with kindness speaks volumes more than returning meanness with disrespect.

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?

Come Do the Dishes With Me

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I didn’t want to go to church last week.

I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to fix my hair, I didn’t want to put on anything resembling pants, and I didn’t want to go through the whole stand-up-and-greet-everybody part where people awkwardly shake hands or clap each other on the shoulder, and ask “How are you?” in passing without always waiting to hear the answer. (And before you start wondering, yes, I am a socially adept person, but even I get weird during that part of a church service.) Mostly, I didn’t want to be convicted of anything else that Sunday, because I didn’t want to start my week with another thing to work on. I was already all too aware of my many shortcomings, especially because of all the New Year’s resolutions floating around, and I didn’t need anything else to add to the steadily-growing list. I didn’t want to go.

I didn’t want to go to church, and I think it’s because my enemy knew that if he could get me to stay home, he could prevent (or at least delay) me from hearing the powerful voice of God.


That morning, Daniel and I got to the church, put our stuff in our regular seats, and parted ways for a few minutes. I said some cheerful hellos to friends, made my way back to my seat, listened to announcements, and stood and read along as someone read the passage of scripture we would later hear preached. And embarrassing as it may be to admit, I wasn’t tuned in to any of it. All I kept thinking as I walked around, smiled, laughed, and even greeted new people I didn’t know was, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t deserve to be here. I’m so unbelievably fake – nobody would ever guess how insecure I really am.” I was relieved when the welcome was over because I didn’t have to pretend I was fine anymore; I could just sit in my seat and mentally check out for a minute. I was 100% on church autopilot all morning, until we bowed our heads before the first worship set and our worship leader spoke these words during his prayer for us:

“Lord, let us never grow tired of conviction.”

I twitched.

Um. Okay.

Cory finished praying and led into the first song. It was a hymn – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. As the lyrics flashed up on the screen, I couldn’t help but notice how appropriate they were:

‘O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be..”
“Bind my wandering heart to Thee.”

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, Lord.”

My throat tightened. I knew He was talking to me. God always seems to pick the times when I’m in the middle of a church worship service to speak the loudest, and I think it’s because I can’t run away. I can’t get distracted by Netflix or food or laundry; I have no choice but to listen.

I sat down and hugged one leg to my chest, pressing my forehead into my knee.

God.” It was all I could choke out at first. Words weren’t enough. I hadn’t talked to Him in so long; it felt awkward.

And then it all came out at once.

“God, I don’t like myself. I don’t like being the way I am. I’m tired of feeling so unsure of every decision I make. I wish I could just trust you instead of constantly doubting that You really are good, that Your plans really are better. Why can’t I just believe it?? I wish I was a better wife. I wish I was a better sister. I wish I knew what it was like to be a mom. I wish I was better at so many things – I don’t even know where to start. I just want to run away. I wish I could run away from my life for awhile and think about nothing. I don’t know how many more frustrating or bad things I can juggle without dropping them all. I wish I didn’t care what people think about me. I wish I wasn’t so wishy-washy, that I could just make a choice and be confident in it instead of overthinking everything. I wish I didn’t struggle with food. I wish I was more consistent. I wish I wasn’t so emotional all the time. I wish…”

I don’t remember how long I talked. It just kept pouring out of me, every drop of fear, anger, and insecurity that had been shoved down, and shoved down, and shoved down some more. It felt like a giant knot in my stomach was slowly unraveling, but not in a good way. This one-sided ‘conversation’ with the Lord was a culmination of years of negativity, self-doubt, and indecisiveness. I was tired of being me. Being me sucked. “Me” was a terrible wife, a terrible friend…basically just a terrible person.

I had no problem understanding that I was fallen and flawed, but I just couldn’t grasp the fact that God loved me anyway. IN SPITE of my mess. How could He?? Didn’t He know what kind of person I was? There’s no way I could ever deserve that kind of love, and I couldn’t get past the guilt and unworthiness.

Suddenly, before I was ready, Cory was praying again over the sermon, and worship was over. Our friend Ryan preached an incredible message about why God has called all of us to go to the nations with the truth of the Gospel and His plan of redemption, and why his family specifically has been called to go to Germany to serve long-term. It would be nice to say that listening to this moving sermon was what finally opened my heart to the Lord, and that I walked out of church that morning feeling much better about myself, but actually, the exact opposite thing happened. Yes, I was so excited for the work I knew God would accomplish through my friends, but guilt was gnawing away at me.

Something’s wrong with me.
Why don’t I have more of a desire to “go to the nations” with such great news??
I should want this more.
I feel like I don’t love Jesus as much as people who go overseas.
Are Daniel and I supposed to go live in another country someday?
I don’t really want to…I’ve never wanted to.
So does that make me selfish, or is that just not God’s plan for us?
But God calls us to different things in different seasons of life.
How are we supposed to know the difference between “No” and “Not yet”?
UGH.

We left the church to go eat lunch, and I couldn’t stop thinking about everything that had happened. I’d spent the entire morning waiting for someone, anyone, to say a special, *anointed* sentence that would open my eyes and quickly make sense of everything, but no one did. I kept to myself that afternoon, quietly avoiding the nagging feeling that God wasn’t done talking to me. It wasn’t until that evening that I stopped withdrawing.

It started innocently enough. I was home alone, wandering through the house and straightening up rooms. I walked into the kitchen and noticed dishes that needed to be done. The dishwasher was already running, and for a split second, I thought, “Nah…I’ll just wait and load them in the dishwasher later. But the exact moment I turned to walk out of the room, I heard Him.

Come do the dishes with Me.

 I hesitated.

Come do the dishes with Me.

*Sigh*…okay.

As I waited for the sink to fill with hot water, I searched for “In Over My Head” by Bethel Music on YouTube. This song was a special one for me for several reasons, and I sang mindlessly as I scrubbed dried food off of our dinner plates. YouTube’s Autoplay kicked in, and the next song, “You Don’t Miss a Thing,” started. [Guys. If you haven’t heard this song before, listen to it RIGHT NOW. I’m serious, I literally mean right now.] I had heard it before but never really paid any attention. I decided to let it play anyway because I wasn’t done with the dishes yet, and since I didn’t know the words, I just listened.

It was like every word was written for me.

“When You laugh, the storm around me ceases.”

I stopped scrubbing and leaned onto my forearms on the edge of the sink, daring to ask Him, “Do you see me? Do you remember me?”

“What a mystery, that you notice me / And in a crowd of ten thousand, you don’t miss a thing / ’cause you see everything.”

The soapy dishes in my hands became blurry.

His voice was like music.

Laura, I see you. I SEE you, and I KNOW you. In a crowd of ten thousand, I still see you. It doesn’t matter how many times you try to run away, or tell me that you’re not good enough for Me. You’ll never convince me to stop loving you. I’ll always love you.


I don’t know if I’ll ever view doing the dishes the same way again. That time with the Lord was so pure, and I’ll be honest with you – I still don’t have words to adequately describe what happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everything is completely fine now. But I took a giant step forward on that quiet Sunday night in my kitchen. The last thing I remember saying to the Lord was, “But WHY, God? Why do you love me??”

His answer was one word. “Because.

God’s love for us DOESN’T make sense. It doesn’t! But we were never expected to earn it, which is awesome news, because even the best things we’ve ever done are like dirty rags when compared with the things our God does, all of which are truly good. The truth of the matter is, regardless of whether I understand it or not, He loves me. He really does. And that’s enough.

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Guess Who’s a CPA??

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Most of you probably already know from my social media posts, but for those of you who haven’t already heard – Daniel did it! He did it!!! He passed his final CPA exam, and now he can officially put letters at the end of his name. To say ‘I’m relieved’ is an understatement, as is saying ‘I’m proud of him.’ I’ve been mentally planning a party to celebrate his new title for months, and now I finally get to throw it!

 The last few years have been hard for both of us, and I’m really glad this season is over. The whole process was obviously much harder for Daniel than it was for me, but it was an intense learning experience for me too. More than anything else, I found out how much I rely on my emotions, and how much I let them control my decision-making and trust in God. For example, I remember having a ‘good’ feeling when Daniel took his first test, and he passed. And I had the same ‘good’ feeling when he took the second test, and he passed that one too! But when he took the third test, I had that ‘good’ feeling about it and he didn’t pass. I was baffled. I felt like God had tricked me. How could I have the same ‘feeling’ but not get the same result? Did I not pray enough about it? Where did things go wrong?

He took the third test a second time, and the week leading up to finding out his results was…yeah. We spent several days feeling nervous and acting like we weren’t. Scores are usually posted around midnight or 1:00 am the day they are released, but for whatever reason, these weren’t posted until 8:15 am the next morning. Hashtag worst night ever. I lost count of the number of times we woke up. Daniel would stir, reach over to check his phone, and then roll back over and stare at the ceiling. Multiple times, I thought, “Oh no…he didn’t pass and he doesn’t want to tell me.” Neither of us slept at all. Around 6:00 in the morning, I started to panic a little. My heart felt like it was about to beat out of my chest, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t coax my exhausted-yet-frantic brain into slowing down. I was paralyzed by the fear that he didn’t pass and would have to take this horrible, awful exam for a third. freaking. time.

As Daniel got ready for work, I buried myself under the covers and tried not to completely fall apart. He came over to kiss me goodbye, and as he walked down the stairs to leave, I pulled the blanket back over my head, feeling ridiculous for being more stressed out than he was. He’s the one that took the test!, I thought. Why am I the one who’s turning into a basket case?

I knew there was only one thing that would truly take my mind off of everything. I sat up, pulled my bible out from underneath the mess on my nightstand, and held it in my lap. Leaning back against the headboard, I closed my eyes and breathed out the only sentence my mind could form: “Lord…I need you.”

I couldn’t tell you what I read. I don’t remember what verses or even what book, but whatever it was, it made me cry. I kept reading, soaking up every word for the next five minutes until my phone rang.

It was Daniel.

My heart stopped. “…Hello?” Moment of truth.

As soon as I heard the words “Babe, I passed!!” come through the phone with more excitement than I’ve probably ever heard him use, all the air went out of me. I dissolved into instant, uncontrollable, relieved tears. We hung up and I put both hands over my face, thanking God over and over for such a well-timed blessing. It was as if two hundred pounds had been lifted off of my back.

That’s the closest encounter I’ve ever had with anxiety, and I have a feeling what I experienced was only a taste of the real thing. For those of you who struggle and live with it on a daily basis…SO much kudos to you. I can’t imagine how hard it is, and I have committed to pray more than ever for my friends who carry that constant burden.

You want to know the weirdest thing? After all of that, I wasn’t even the slightest bit panicked about his fourth and final exam. I was nervous for him, of course, but the anxiety and fear that had clouded my mind for months was gone. I knew he would pass. He had several months to do it, but I had complete faith that regardless of how long it took, he would do it. And he did it on the first try. I can’t even put into words the overwhelming relief and release we both felt when he got his final set of passing scores. ALL glory to the Lord for Daniel’s unwavering work ethic, for our marriage staying healthy, for my sanity still being intact. :)

I’ve said this several times before, but Daniel is incredibly diligent and the hardest worker, and he deserves this win. After filling every spare second of free time with studying and test prep, I can only imagine how happy he is compared with how happy I am. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who prayed for us, encouraged us, and cheered him on when he wanted to quit most, and praise God for this victory!

Do you know anyone studying for the CPA right now, or any other difficult exams? Email me their names and addresses – I’d love to send them (and their spouse, if applicable!) an encouraging letter. Send them to lahendricks12@gmail.com. Cheers!

Married Monday: The Perry Wedding

Earlier this month, we got the privilege of being guests at Dillon and Brianna’s wedding! Since her older sister is one of my best friends, Brianna has felt like a little sister to me for the last few years. I was honored to help with lots of wedding tasks too, like making the bouquets and helping with the decorating for the ceremony! I’ve helped with several weddings since I moved to Durant, and every single time, I’ve thought, MAN, this would be a fun job. Figuring out all the little details involved comes naturally, apparently! I genuinely enjoy the organizational process behind pulling off an awesome wedding or party; there’s few things I love more than seeing all the planning and decision-making come together. Who knows – maybe someday I’ll go pro…!

Bri and Dillon’s wedding day was covered with God’s fingerprints. I love that He is so personal and intentional with us, and even though their day had absolutely nothing to do with me, God gave me sweet little glimpses of Himself in a way that only He could pull off. The best, most God-infused moment for me (besides the ceremony itself) happened just hours before the wedding.

One of my jobs that morning was laying out the aisle runner. With the help of a few groomsmen, I unrolled it, positioned it in the middle of the aisle, and pulled every inch of it tight and flat. But when I stood back to admire my handiwork, my heart sank.

The aisle wasn’t centered with the cross on the stage.

My head swam with panic.

“You have GOT to be kidding me,” I thought. I couldn’t just leave it like that; the aisle would obviously be crooked in every picture and the whole setting would look weird. How could the wedding party have set up all of the chairs the night before and not noticed this??

I debated my options for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do. If I moved just the runner, it wouldn’t be evenly positioned between the chairs. But if I moved the chairs, they wouldn’t be completely even with the stage. And I would have to move all of the wooden signs and flowers jars lining the aisle, which were already perfect. And moving that stupid runner was going to be a HUGE pain in the neck regardless, because it had already taken me forever to try to get it as straight as possible. I spent at least 30 seconds legitimately wishing I could clone myself.

For the briefest moment, I thought, “Maybe we could move the cross…?”

Something in my brain shifted, and I paused.

Right where I stood at the end of the aisle, I sat down, hugged my knees, and looked at the cross, letting out a quiet breath that came out more like a laugh. For a moment, I was struck with a tender image of God sitting next to me on the floor, cross-legged and leaning back on His palms, looking at the cross with me.

How often do we try to move the cross to fit everything else, rather than adjust everything else to fall in line with the cross?

I leaned back against the wall, lost in thought. God is so, so good to me. The fact that He would use a moment like that – at someone else’s wedding, no less! – to convict me and remind me that He is woven into every detail of our lives is proof of His kind, encouraging, sanctifying nature.

Long story short, I got up off the floor and moved the aisle runner, the wooden signs, the flowers, and every…single…chair. But it was worth it. :)

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My silly forever wedding date. We had so much fun at the reception!

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Seriously, how cute are they. ♥

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And how gorgeously simple is this cake?? Props to Jessica Cox!

One of my favorite parts of the weekend was getting to hang out with two of my dear friends/favorite mamas! They are both having boys this fall, and I’m over the moon about it!

I’ve always loved weddings. As a kid, I was really only pumped about seeing what the bride looked like and eating a giant piece of cake. And although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still love those things, there’s a few other things I appreciate more now. I especially love getting to help bring a bride’s dreams to life, whether I’m part of the wedding party or just helping as a friend.

I also never really cared much about the vows when I was little, but now that’s what I listen to more carefully than anything else during the ceremony. Couples promise to cherish each other for better OR for worse, for richer OR for poorer, and in sickness AND health, but most of them probably aren’t considering worse, poorer, or sickness as a reality. I’m filled with emotion at every wedding, remembering the vows Daniel and I said to each other and how little I understood what I was really saying. “They have no clue what they are promising,” I think to myself, smiling knowingly and yet joyfully at each couple’s giddiness and praying that God would cover their first year with buckets full of grace when the newlywed high wears off.

The longer I’m married, the more I love the fact that God picked marriage to be His holy representation of His relationship with His people. He cherishes His children in whatever condition they come to him. He is the perfect embodiment of our wedding vows: we are sick and in need of healing, but He is strong enough to raise the dead. We are poor and have nothing of value to offer, but He is rich in love and grace, and endlessly generous. We are worse than we are willing to admit, but He is better than we could ever dream. He made vows to us that He will never, ever break. Aren’t we lucky to be His bride?

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?

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.

Fitz

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.

fitz sleeping

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/.