Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Embrace the Season God Gives Us

As the green trees of summer begin to transform into waves of beautiful red and orange and the weather slowly but surely cools off, I think about this time of year and the lineup of events taking over my calendar.

My week days are filled with fall festival volunteer time slots and scheduled dinners with friends. My weekends are filled with birthday parties, holiday gatherings and baby showers. I remember being a kid in school, counting down the days until summer, when life seemed to pause - if only for a few months, it was enough. No responsibilities, no bills, no plans. Just time. Now even my summers are jam-packed.

What I'm learning is that no matter how hard I try to slow down time, I can't. The more I try to make time for this or that, the more stressed out I get because the days never last long enough to do everything on my mental task list.

You know it's bad when set a reminder to "call your friend Kara" in my Google calendar just so I remember to do it on my way home from work.

I truly believe that this upcoming season, despite all of the holidays that accompany it, should be a time of rest and peace. Sure, my plans for the holidays include grocery shopping, gift wrapping, cooking, cleaning and event planning. But I'm going to stop trying to make time, and instead, just enjoy it. Whatever I don't finish today will still be there tomorrow.

God has given us this season to rejoice in His story. Fall is a time to celebrate God's incalculable power, for He knows how many leaves fall from the trees. He designed each and every one of them. Thanksgiving not only symbolizes our ancestors' gratitude for their harvest and new home, but also gives us another excuse to let our hair down, hug somebody and tell them how they make our life sweeter. And what better time to rest than at Christmas? It's cold, icy and everyone's baking something in the kitchen.

God wants us to crawl up in His lap and rest in his arms. His peace is all around us - we just have to embrace the season.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

5 Things I've Learned After 5 Months Married

Reposted from FaithVillage. See original post here.

To some, my husband and I have been married for only five months. To my husband and me, we say, “Wow! It’s already been five months!”

Before our midsummer wedding, which, by the way, sparkled with hundreds of candles, bedazzled flowers and pink glitter, my husband and I dated for five years. Enduring high school, college and post-graduation still standing beside one another, I felt pretty confident I was ahead of the game in the “married world.” I thought I knew everything about my husband – what foods he liked, what made him happy, what made him tick, which teams he roots for, how he likes to eat popcorn every night after dinner… But what I didn’t realize was that after our fairytale wedding ended, I’d begun the real journey to discovering him.

Now after five months of marriage, we’ve bought a house, totally renovated it, and officially joined a couples’ life group at our church. More importantly, after five months of marriage, God has weighted five big concepts about loving relationships on my heart. While there are many, many things I’ve yet to learn, I believe these concepts are continuing to shape me into the wife God wants me to be for my husband.

1. Enjoy each other’s passions together.

“Why does everything you want to do involve either hunting, mud or danger?”  I often ask my husband.

It’s rare for people who have nothing in common to have successful marriages. Yet, that doesn’t mean good marriages involve both parties having exactly the same passions. Despite my initial hesitation to many of the deer lease invitations I’ve received from my husband I’m learning when I spend quality time doing the things he loves, and doing them with a joyful attitude, he expresses his love for me even more. With compromise and humility, God softens both our hearts and makes us more sensitive to each other’s needs.

2. Listen, talk, listen, listen, talk, listen, listen…

One of my biggest struggles is containing the nagging scream in my throat when my husband looks past my moving lips and towards the 60-inch plasma screen behind me.
Men need side-by-side time, and women need eye-to-eye time. Our life group leader shared this little jewel of information with us, and it couldn’t be more spot-on.

 “Eye contact, Hunny,” I say as I force a smile through gritted teeth and gently punch his shoulder.

Both spouses need to actively listen and invite one another to talk. When my husband asks me how I’m feeling or what I think about something, it makes me feel valued and appreciated. I’ve learned that when I listen to him and engage in conversations more on his timing, he feels honored and respected. Communication is huge in relationships – especially successful marriages.

3. Purposefully protect your relationship.

One of the most important tips we took from premarital counseling was to discuss our family’s priorities, values and dreams. It seems so simple but involves serious decision-making.

First of all, we chose to put God first. That means we have to constantly be evaluating whom we hang out with, which movies we watch, where we go, and many other components of our life that sometimes have to change. We plan on spending time together and promise to be faithful to each other in every aspect of our life. We respect each other’s concerns about friends and/or coworkers. We make decisions together and hold each other accountable.

4. Pray together all the time.

Prayer is easily the best way for me to begin the day. It’s how I communicate with God, and if I start the day off that way, then I’m set. Prayer is also the best way to end a fight.

When we were in college (so less than a year ago), our arguments could last for days – you know, the kind that go on because you may have forgotten what you’re mad about, but you know you’re right, so you don’t want to give in?

Now I’ve learned that no matter what you’re fighting about, if your first reaction is to pray, it’s like throwing a big bucket of water on fire. The more we pray together, the more intimate we become. There’s nothing more attractive to me than seeing my husband vulnerably humble himself to the Lord and lead me in prayer.

5. Become his best servant.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned after five months of marriage is that God calls me to be His servant and also my husband’s. I first felt convicted of being selfish in our relationship, when I found myself tattle-telling on Micah to God. I’d cry in the bathroom, watching my pitiful self sob in the mirror, and wait for God to make my husband apologize. Now, it’s definitely a process. I get the urge every now and then to return to my restroom refuge when we argue, but I’m learning to have a servant’s heart – that God’s way for my husband is far better than my own. 

I’m reminded that marriage is the reflection of the holy union between Jesus and the church. Taking that to heart, I naturally want to be the best wife possible. However, my efforts to do so sometimes lead me to be nagging or controlling.

But God is good. He continues to open my spiritual eyes to His desires for me as a wife. Having a servant’s heart is more than just cooking and cleaning and planning. It’s putting your spouse ahead of you in reverence to the Lord, and ultimately, it means trusting God. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Big Picture

Store up your treasure in Heaven.

We've all heard that token of advice before. That simple sentence really came to life in my eyes in all of maybe five minutes.

I didn't want to listen.

A few days ago, I traveled to Atlanta for the Catalyst conference - one of the biggest gatherings of church leaders in the world. On the second afternoon of the conference, some volunteers from a ministry called The 410 Bridge visited our busy booth. I was tired, hungry and sick of talking to people. The last thing I wanted to do was to be caught in a sales pitch by someone else.

But I'm glad I did.

The volunteers explained how they were taking up letters to kids in Africa. All you had to do was write a short line of encouragement on a dry erase board. They took your picture holding up the board with your message, and they'd send it to a child in Africa.

This is the photo of the boy to whom my letter was sent. I received the photo from The 410 Bridge ministry team within about 15 minutes. And all I had to do was jot down a few lines of encouragement.

As a writer (and sometimes over-the-top sappy, sentimental female), the marker kept dancing on the dry erase board, and I didn't want to stop.

In the midst of my pitiful conversation with myself about how exhausted I was, God sunk my heart with humility.

He dropped this beautiful, smiling face in my inbox - along with a humbling sense of peace. By stopping what I was doing and taking a moment to bless someone else, I'm storing up my treasure in Heaven. And there's nothing more important than blessing someone else. After all, that's how we are blessed in return. 
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