Tag Archives: marriage

Worth Repeating {5/19/16}

19 May

In honor of my 9th wedding anniversary, I edited a post from the archives. It’s still as true today as it was then. God gets all the credit and glory for my marriage. Hope you enjoy it.

worth_repeating

Originally posted February 24, 2012

 

 

There was a time in our marriage when Travis and I pretty much went our own ways on the weekends. We asked each other, “What are your plans for this weekend?” and both did our own things.

But in September 2011, things changed.

We still ran the same errands on the weekends. But we ran them together. Yes, it meant things took longer. And that we spent time doing things that weren’t our first pick (grocery shopping for him, Home Depot browsing for me). But we were together. And we were having FUN!

We also went on one impromptu date each weekend – which gave us time to talk, laugh and enjoy one another.

And those things made something else happen.

When Travis came home from work, instead of giving him a slight head nod and a “Hey beads” while I continued making dinner or changed out of my running clothes, I’d intentionally stop what I was doing and go hug and kiss him hello. He was happier because I was talking his love language. I was happier because I actually wanted to hug and kiss him (which sadly, hadn’t always been the case).

When I talked to him on the phone, I enjoyed hearing his voice.

When he smiled and his eyes crinkled, I felt so in love with him.

We laughed over well-timed movie line quotes and inside jokes.

We watched the dogs frolic from our kitchen window, silently daring them to jump the fence.

When Travis mused aloud about Roth IRAs and whether or not he should take the new job, instead of rolling my eyes, ignoring him, or lamenting that we’ve already talked about this, I listened and offered him my advice…again.

Travis would ask me to come look at, or help him with something, and I didn’t get frustrated.

Travis wanted to buy a ridiculously expensive antelope hunting tag and I didn’t demand the same amount of money to spend on myself.

I won a pool table competition and instead of running out to buy a new shirt with my $30, I offered to take Travis out to lunch.

The best part about all of this? 

I did none of it. It all happened organically, by the grace of God. I honestly look back at all this and think, How did this happen? I surely did not cause this! This is not MY handiwork!

God did this. And He did it by inspiring my obedience in one little thing: painting our front door brick red. I hated that door. Oh, how I hated it. I painted it once, 3 coats of painstaking strokes. Only to have the beautiful red paint peel off in my hands as I removed the painter’s tape. The door remained white for at least another a month. It took me that long to get over being angry.

Finally, at Travis’ request, I tackled it once again, this time armed with primer. I still remember standing in the hallway next to our kitchen, glaring at the door. I did. not. want. to paint the door again. I was done with it. But out of a desire to serve my husband by helping with a house project, I did it. And I swear, that was a turning point in the way I thought about our marriage.

Things only got better from there. Yes, we still had disagreements and tension from time to time. But it was no longer the door-slamming, fruit-throwing, cuss-word-yelling that our marriage my responses once were (Travis has not resorted to my form of temper tantrums).

Which proves that I, unfortunately, do not have any marriage advice. Because I could not have written this story. God’s ideas are always infinitely better than mine, though often harder to understand. Why did it take me almost 5 years of marriage to get to that place? Why did God bless me with my husband, though I abused him for so long? Why am I still learning these same lessons in different contexts after almost a decade of marriage? I don’t know.

But I do know that the best advice for anything is: Get to know God. The real God of the Bible. Jesus, who died for your sins. He is amazing. And He is the only answer you ever need.

That is not just a trite saying. I don’t say that flippantly. I say it with the full force of my being and my heart behind it. I say it as I look back on 5 years of hating the wife I was and wanting to throw in the towel, and another 4 years of still falling short of who I want to be. I believe that God has the power to redeem and glorify any marriage, even ones that have been torn apart by infidelity, loss or deceit. Because this God – He ransomed us from our sins. He has granted us eternal life. Surely He can do ALL things!

Put Him to the test. Ask Him to do amazing things in your marriage. Stay alert to the ways He works in your life. He will stun you.

Though I am dry and barren

By grace this love springs forth

Love for You and Your kingdom

Joy in Your glory Lord

8 Years.

22 May

This past Tuesday, Travis and I celebrated 8 years of marriage. Since we dated a little over 2 years before tying the knot, we’ve been together for 10 years. A full decade. Besides making me feel old, that length of time makes me feel grateful. Grateful most of all for our God who doesn’t give up on us, but keeps blessing us abundantly and transforming us into His Son. Grateful for Travis, who bears with all my flaws, failures and annoying habits with patience, thoughtfulness and humor. Grateful for our two amazing daughters, who are both blessings and opportunities for growth.

Ten years ago, Travis and I were baby believers. We had both trusted in Christ as our Lord and Savior just a year before. We were diving headfirst into the community of Campus Outreach (CO), a campus ministry we got involved with through the friends who led us to Christ, soaking up truth and fellowship like sponges. Even though we both grew up going to church — me, Lutheran and him, Catholic — we knew practically nothing about the Bible, salvation and what it meant to be a Christian. God surrounded us with passionate Christians who were gung-ho about Jesus. Besides going to class and studying, we spent most of our waking hours going to Wednesday night meetings (which, by a vote, were named both “Ministry Training Time”, and “Travis”), Sunday school, Sunday services, Sunday night prayer meetings, weekend Nerts competitions, study breaks during finals with banana chocolate chip pancakes, and get-togethers organized by CO.

Halloween 2006 088

Some may look at that lifestyle and think “Whoa, CULT!?!?!?” But for us, it was life-giving. Campus Outreach is a very unique atmosphere — like a greenhouse for spiritual growth. Ten years later, I can say that I have not seen such intentionality and vulnerability anywhere else. It was especially good for me and Travis, who had both had previous romantic relationships that weren’t healthy or glorifying to God. We both lost our virginity in high school and did our fair share of partying. In Campus Outreach, we had strong Christians to mentor us, not only in our budding faiths but also in our relationship with one another.

Halloween 2006 050

In my case specifically, I went from making out with random guys at parties and sleeping around (before I was a Christian) to not even holding Travis’ hand for the first 4 months we were dating. We were both in Myrtle Beach at the CO Beach Project soon after we started dating and when we hung out together alone, we took long walks on the beach and got ice cream. Afterward, when we were back at home base (an old hotel that our whole group of 75 students was staying in), Travis would say goodbye by playfully punching my arm, “Well, see ya later.” When he did finally hold my hand in the back of my parents’ conversion van on the way home from a canoe trip with my whole family that August, my heart leaped with butterflies. Two months later, after much consultation and advice-seeking from his mentors, Travis told me he loved me and we kissed for the first time on a hundred-foot-high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in Winona, Minnesota.

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It was not easy to date for two years and not have anything go past kissing. We had a couple minor incidences of “crossing the line”, both of which happened when we had had a little bit too much to drink (old habits die hard). Afterward, we talked about what had happened, and in one case, we stopped kissing for about a month to give us time to “cool down” and reflect.

The summer of 2006, when we had been dating for a little over a year, I went back to Myrtle Beach with Campus Outreach and Travis stayed in the Cities. Three and a half months later, Travis and I sat together on the banks of the Mississippi once more, this time on the U of M campus in Minneapolis, and he told me that he knew he wanted to marry me.

That same night, we told each other the complete, ugly stories of our lives before Christ. I won’t lie — it was VERY hard to hear, and to tell. But by God’s grace, we worked through it and can truly say now that our marriage is a story of redemption. Jesus is so much bigger than our baggage and sin.Halloween 2006 063

Halloween 2006 064

On our wedding day almost 9 months after that night, I clutched my dad’s arm and walked down the aisle to a man who was a new creation. It is that same hope of transformation, that same Spirit in us giving us love and compassion that holds our marriage together today. By the grace of God, our marriage is what it is. It’s not perfect — far from it. But with each year that passes, Travis and I understand each other better. We learn what to avoid. How to phrase things. When the best time is to talk. When the other person just needs us to listen. We still forget these things. We’re still selfish and sinful. But we forgive. Move on. Try to bite our tongue next time, or listen better, or let go of our personal desires to fulfill the other’s. We compromise and sacrifice. We encourage and correct. We share and give. We apologize and admit.

I used to beat myself up over not being where I want us to be in our marriage, or not being the kind of wife I want to be. But as Tim Keller says in one of his marriage sermons, marriage is about seeing the potential in the other person. They’re not perfect. They have flaws, sins, failures, annoying habits. But because of the hope we have in Christ and the transforming power of the Spirit, we can look past the rough exterior and see the pearl on the inside. We see what they’re becoming.

wedding_party

wedding

Uprooting Bitterness in Marriage

18 Feb

Last weekend, my Facebook feed was full of Valentine’s Day stories. Flowers, candlelight dinners, surprise gifts, you name it. I didn’t post mine: sitting in bed with a second glass of wine, chocolate and my iPad playing My First Home episodes on Netflix. Alone. Somehow, a few months ago, I had agreed to Travis playing in a pond hockey tournament up in the mountains that weekend. Happy Valentine’s Day!

I was very tempted to be bitter. Bitter that Travis was doing something fun while I stayed home to care for our dogs and baby. Bitter that I had to take care of getting our house ready for showing by myself. Bitter that I had to spend Valentine’s Day alone.

Turns out, I’m a ‘glass half empty’ kind of gal. Poor Travis has to deal with me getting hung up on everything that’s wrong, needs fixing, isn’t what I wanted in our marriage. I do it in my relationship with God, in my marriage, in my self. Bitterness starts off as jealousy or hurt feelings or unfulfilled desires. The seed gets planted there. Then it grows and morphs and starts taking over. My female brain is able to keep a running tally of every way that Travis fails and disappoints, and use it against him. Everything he does is added to a mental tally sheet with 2 columns: ‘He Did It Right’ and ‘He Did It Wrong.’

DSC02446June 2008 (a little over a year of being married)

Bitterness threatened to destroy our marriage for the first several years. The tough thing about bitterness is that it’s sneaky. It’s no coincidence that the Bible talks about the root of bitterness ‘springing up’ – it isn’t there, and then it is. And once you get going down that trail, it’s hard to get off. Because you feel so justified in being angry. Just like God asks Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry…?” and Jonah retorts, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” Oh, how that is my heart so often!

Obviously, my struggle with bitterness is ongoing. Having a baby has added a whole new dimension to it. In marriage, and now in parenthood, it is so easy to keep a running tally of Who’s Done What, and Who’s Done More. But as I’ve discovered over and over again, that kind of tally helps no one. In fact, it is the breeding ground of bitterness, and it will destroy a marriage if not guarded against.

wpid-20130518_175951.jpgOur 6-Year Anniversary – May 19, 2013

So here’s what I have to remind myself of in the midst of the struggle against bitterness, specifically in marriage. Hopefully it’s helpful:

1) Find your fulfillment in God. As Christians, we have a beautiful hope in the gospel. We know that there is One who understands us perfectly. There is One who is able to satisfy every need and desire – Jesus. We also know that our Savior is committed to changing us, and to bringing about His glory and our good in our lives. He will not leave us alone, or things as they are. He is working His redemptive story out. He wants your marriage to be whole and healthy. So even when it feels like things have been the same forever, and you can’t see how they will ever get better, hold on. Continue pursuing God and a heart of obedience.

2) Be thankful. Bitterness comes out of a heart that feels like it has been slighted, overlooked or neglected. But God has given abundant blessings to everyone, including me and you. Search diligently for them. Speak thanksgiving out loud for them. They may be small. They may seem insignificant and trivial compared to what is ‘wrong’. But thanksgiving replaces bitterness. Similarly…

3) Focus on the positives. Bitterness seeks out situations and problems to justify itself, and add fuel to the fire. Everything is seen through that lens, and drowns out any positives of the situation. With Travis, I had to let go of all the things I was holding in my “He Did It Wrong” hand, and start intentionally focusing on the things that I love about him and the things he does ‘right’. At first, I could only come up with a couple. But as time went on, I was able to see more and more. I have to keep bringing myself back to those things whenever I’m tempted to be bitter at him for something.

4) Be honest. Bitterness points a finger. It does not acknowledge its own blame. It took me over 5 years in my marriage to realize that I was bitter at Travis about something that I was the main culprit in. I’m certain that I would still not be aware of that had God not shown it to me, but it took that honest revelation of my own guilt for me to get over the bitterness that I felt in that area. What’s more, after I got over the bitterness and admitted how I was helping to cause the situation, I felt freed to work on bettering the situation with what I could control.

5) Communicate. So often, my bitterness has come from assuming that Travis did or didn’t do something intentionally, with certain motives or for a certain reason. If you’re going to assume, give the other person the benefit of the doubt. If you can’t do that, don’t assume! If you want them to do something for you, ask them to. If they didn’t do something you expected them to, calmly ask why not. If you were upset by something, explain why. Even if you think that a situation shouldn’t need an explanation, or that they should ‘just know’, communicate. Travis and I are finding out as parents that it’s better to over-communicate, than under-communicate. But with the caveat that it’s best to communicate when you can do so without yelling or cursing. 😉

6) Focus on serving. Bitterness ultimately comes from being focused on myself. My needs, my desires, what I’m getting or not getting. But when I focus on making Travis happy instead of waiting for or expecting him to make me happy, it’s a win-win. I actually make myself happy by making him happy. It’s not always easy to lay down my own agenda, and I’m not the best at thinking about Travis’ needs over mine, but when I do, I’m always glad I did.

So at the end of the day, I’m glad that Travis got to play hockey. He loves it and I want him to be able to do the things he loves. I’m also glad that he bought me a massage for Valentine’s Day because I am so using that this weekend!

………………..

“Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

Five Years

19 May

Five years ago, on May 19, 2007, I married my favorite person.

Spring will always remind me of the excitement I felt during our engagement. I’d wake up in the morning and stare at the ring on my finger. “It’s true. This is actually happening.”

In some ways, our 4.5-month engagement flew by. There was a lot to do, buy and plan but things fell into place quickly and easily. I tried on 4 dresses and decided this was the one:

We got married at the north campus of the church we had been attending, surrounded by lots of trees and flowers:

We had our reception at a historic old farm, now right in the middle of a suburb:

(My brother and sister-in-law got married there the following year!)

But in other ways, our engagement seemed to last forever. Even just a few weeks seemed like an eternity until I could spend every single minute with my best friend and wake up in the same bed as him.

But that day finally arrived and it was magical. My parents are to thank for that. They were SO generous and made sure that our wedding was everything we had dreamed it would be. The flowers, dress, decorations, food, everything was AMAZING. Thank you Mom and Dad for making our special day so perfect!

I am thankful that I was able to just enjoy the day. Whatever happened, happened. If things didn’t go according to plan, that was ok. Because at the end of the day, we were MARRIED and were going to spend the rest of our lives together. (I did, however, get slightly irritated at Travis when a slow song came on and he didn’t come find me to dance!)

But as all married couples know, the wedding day is the easy part of marriage.  After the excitement winds down, you realize that you’re still the same two people with the same old problems.

That’s where God’s grace comes in.

If it weren’t for God’s grace…

Well, I’m scared to think of where Travis and I would be today if God’s grace hadn’t been actively at work in changing me. I am a different woman than the one Travis married 5 years ago. And praise God that I am! It has taken me FIVE WHOLE YEARS to be able to cheerfully and willingly serve my husband. To desire his happiness more than my own. To set aside my own desires and expectations to please him.

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day that the Lord had made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Edited to add 5/23: I should also mention that our marriage is where it is today because God has been actively at work in changing Travis. He is so slow to anger, quick to compassion and incredibly sweet and thoughtful. He has changed the way he does things (like the dishes) because he knows the way I like them done. A marriage takes two people working together with servant hearts and many a conflict has been avoided by Travis kindly taking notice of and avoiding the things that tip me over the edge.

I am thankful every day to be married to such a wonderful, loving man. I truly do not deserve him. I don’t deserve any of the blessings that God so abundantly lavishes upon me. But He still gives them to me. The Giver loves to give, and gives in abundance, as if He had nothing else to do but to give and give again.

Today, I tell God that His gift to me has not gone unnoticed. I am thankful to the depths of my soul for His giving me the love of my life.

I can’t wait to see how God shows His faithfulness to us in the next five years.

By grace this love springs forth.

24 Feb

The other night in our church small group (what we call care group), our discussion leader asked us 2 questions:

What area in your life is encouraging right now?

What area is discouraging?

As I thought about that, so many encouraging areas came to mind:

I’m encouraged that I’m still running and my legs and lungs feel great.

I’m encouraged that I pray every day, and often more than once a day, because I want to.

I’m encouraged that I’ve finally found a daily routine that works well, and allows me to read the Bible, write my book and train for a marathon.

I’m encouraged that I feel more at home in Colorado than I ever have before – having great friends helps a lot.

But the area I’m most encouraged in?

My marriage. 

And that my friends, is something that makes me want to run around, yelling and screaming and skipping!!

In my last post about marriage, I talked about how Travis and I had taken up going our own ways on weekends. We asked each other, “What are your plans for this weekend?” and both did our own things. After that post, though, things changed. We still ran the same errands on the weekends. But we ran them together.

Yes, it meant things took longer. And that we spent time doing things that weren’t our first pick (grocery shopping for him, Home Depot browsing for me). But we were together. And we were having FUN!

We’ve also been going out on one impromptu date each weekend – which has given us time to talk, laugh and enjoy one another.

And those things have made something else happen.

When Travis comes home from work, instead of giving him a slight head nod and a “Hey beads” while I continue making dinner or changing out of my running clothes, I intentionally stop what I’m doing and go hug and kiss him hello. He’s happier because I’m talking his love language. I’m happier because I actually want to hug and kiss him (which sadly, hasn’t always been the case).

When I talk to him on the phone, I enjoy hearing his voice.

When he smiles and his eyes crinkle, I feel so in love with him.

We laugh over well-timed movie lines and inside jokes.

We watch the dogs frolic from our kitchen window, silently daring them to jump the fence (but stopping them before they do – most of the time).

Travis muses aloud about Roth IRAs and whether or not he should take the new job (he did BTW and today was his last day!). Instead of rolling my eyes, ignoring him, or lamenting that we’ve already talked about this, I listen and offer him my advice…again.

Travis asks me to come look at, or help him with something, and I don’t get frustrated.

Travis wants to buy a ridiculously expensive antelope hunting tag and I don’t demand the same amount of money to spend on myself.

I win a pool table competition and instead of running out to buy a new shirt with my $30, I offer to take Travis out to lunch.

The best part about all of this? 

I did none of it. It all happened organically, by the grace of God. I honestly look at all this and think, How did this happen? I surely did not cause this! This is not MY handiwork!

God did this. He inspired my obedience in one little thing: painting our front door. I hated that door. Oh, how I hated it. I painted it once, 3 coats of painstaking strokes. Only to have it peel off in my hands as I removed the painter’s tape. The door remained white for at least another a month. It took me that long to get over being angry.

Finally, at Travis’ request, I tackled it once again, this time armed with pink primer (closer to the red paint than white). I still remember standing in the hallway next to our kitchen, glaring at the door. I did. not. want. to paint the door again. I was done with it. But out of a desire to serve my husband by helping with a house project, I did it. And I swear, that was a turning point in the way I thought about our marriage.

Things have only gotten better from there. Yes, we still have disagreements and tension from time to time. But it is no longer the door-slamming, fruit-throwing, cuss-word-yelling that our marriage my responses once were (Travis has not resorted to my form of temper tantrums).

Which proves that I, unfortunately, do not have any marriage advice. Because I could not have written this story. God’s ideas are always infinitely better than mine, though often harder to understand. Why did it take me almost 5 years of marriage to get to this place? Why did God bless me with my husband, though I abused him for so long? I don’t know.

But I do know that the best advice for anything is: Get to know God. The real God of the Bible. Jesus, who died for your sins. He is amazing. And He is the only answer you ever need.

That is not just a trite saying. I don’t say that flippantly. I say it with the full force of my being and my heart behind it. I say it as I look back on 5 years of hating the wife I was and wanting to throw in the towel. I believe that God has the power to redeem and glorify any marriage, even ones that have been torn apart by infidelity, loss or deceit. Because this God – He ransomed us from our sins. He has granted us eternal life. Surely He can do ALL things!

Put Him to the test. Ask Him to do amazing things in your marriage. Stay alert to the ways He works in your life. He will stun you.

Though I am dry and barren

By grace this love springs forth

Love for You and Your kingdom

Joy in Your glory Lord 

No excuses.

20 Sep

I’ve been noticing something lately: I hold Travis to the ridiculous, unrealistic standards that I hold myself to.

This isn’t exactly a news flash.

But it is something that I’ve been seeing with new eyes.

I’ve noticed it mainly in regards to the triathlon Travis just did. Over the months leading up to it, I was tempted to (and honestly, sometimes did) nag Travis about training. In my head, you just follow the plan. Not brain science.

I chalked Travis not following the plan up to his being lazy. Or indifferent. Or silently wishing he hadn’t been talked into doing a race.

Surely he doesn’t have a good excuse.

Now, I am reminded that he is working full-time and getting his Master’s. Oh and his job shipped him out to Timbuktu Utah to do God-knows-what (which they’re talking about again, if you can believe that!) for a couple weeks. Then there’s that little thing called a house, the yard I look at through my window, the car I drive to work every day, those things happening at church, and that thing called hockey that always happens after I’m in bed. Oh and bills.

He might be a tad busy.

You see, Travis did get distracted from training. He did allow other things to get in the way. But they were things like fixing our car himself to save us $600. And shooting us two antelope so we won’t starve during the long, cold winter. And refinancing our mortgage to save us money.

I want to say, “There’s no excuse. You didn’t follow the training plan and that’s all there is to it.”

But I really should say, “You were busy. You have a lot going on. It’s totally understandable. And you did a fantastic job anyway!”

Here’s what I actually said: “You should go disqualify yourself from the results.”

Let me explain: Minutes after I crossed the finish line on Saturday, Travis informed me that he “had run the entire run course on the road.” Since the run course was mostly on a sidewalk or trail, I assumed Travis had run the wrong course. How would he know if the course he ran was 3.1 miles? He wouldn’t. Ergo, he should disqualify himself.

What he really meant was that instead of going back up on the trail at the end of the run, he accidentally just stayed on the road until it met up with that trail. It was pretty much the same distance either way. Oh.

Needless to say, Travis’ enthusiasm was completely deflated with my no-nonsense response. Poor guy. Here he is, just completed his first triathlon and I tell him to go disqualify himself. It was a misunderstanding, I swear!!

Anyway, that whole situation has shown me that I hold Travis to unrealistic standards. Like when he gets sick and wants to just lay on the couch. My natural inclination is to say, “Oh quit being a whiny baby. You’re not that sick.”

Or when Travis remarks to me that 3 minutes is pretty good for his first transition and I reply, “Well, a good T1 is actually only 2 minutes.”

Men aren’t the only ones who say stupid things without thinking.

Because I expect too much of Travis, I hardly ever encourage him – I’m too busy fixating on what he hasn’t done or hasn’t done well enough.

In reality, he does a lot of most things right. He deserves more credit than I give him.

So I’m going to try to let go of my expectations, have faith in Travis’ abilities, and look for the things he does right. I think he’d appreciate that.

 

 

Pay no attention to the cowpies behind the curtain.

1 Sep

I feel like I am finally at a point in life/maturity/Christian growth that I can focus on my marriage because I want to and not because “I probably should.” That never lasts as I’ve found. I mean, it’s not hard to find marriage advice. Marriage is hard and everyone has their own theory as to what works. Well, newsflash. It isn’t cut and dry. There is no black and white, cookie cutter “This is what you do for a good marriage.” There are principles, yes. But the nitty gritty details specific to your marriage take a bit longer to hash out.

That’s where Travis and I are.

While our first year of marriage was extremely rough, things have gotten progressively better over the last 3 years. I personally have made grand strides just since March of 2010, when Travis and I were going to be apart for 3 weeks and I was like, So? Travis said it was unacceptable. That incident made me realize that I was kind of a cold-hearted bitch when it came to my husband. Through much prayer and grace from God, I have made it to where I am now – still a work in progress but trying more and more each day to make sure my husband knows that I love and appreciate him.

As I’ve been reading the Bible and some marriage books, I have felt God leading me to focus on a few specific things. The first is my speech. I am horrible at not only guarding my mouth from saying stupid, hurtful things in the heat of the  moment but also at affirming Travis or wording things in a way that he would receive well.

But I have two amazing examples of grace from just last week! The first was during the week when Travis was out in Utah. He called to ask if it would be ok if he stayed out there another week because he still didn’t have anything to do back in Denver. My normal response would’ve been either, “Yeah, sure whatever.” or “Ugh, that means I have to keep watering the yard!” My response last week was, “Sure, that’s fine. I mean, I’ll definitely miss you but I understand that it’s important for your job that you’re billable.” What a difference, both in my words and in my heart!

The second example is from Saturday when I was talking to Travis on the phone about the Focus crapping out on the way to Steamboat. I wanted to complain and exaggerate the situation by saying, “Freaking A – this is why I just want to get rid of the Focus and get a different car. We should’ve at least taken the Check Engine light seriously instead of just waiting for it to go off by itself.” Somehow in that moment, I had the clarity and foresight to know that saying that would have made Travis feel horrible, like he had failed me. He has said numerous times that he would feel better knowing that I had a reliable car, a bigger car with 4-wheel drive, etc. So instead, I simply said, “I’m very frustrated right now.” I was still honest, but in a way that didn’t aggravate the situation by pinning the blame on Travis.

Both of those advancements were inspired by reading the book For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. If you’re married and haven’t read it, I recommend you do so. As you can see, it’s been an eye-opener for me!

The second thing I’ve felt God leading me to focus on is making Travis a priority. I have had a tendency to just let Travis fit in wherever in my life, instead of molding my life around him. While I’ve been mildly majorly obsessed with thinking about my life, what I want to accomplish, and what I’m doing to do, I have spent hardly any time thinking about how I can be a better wife, create a warming and inviting home, and support my husband’s ambitions. How can I help Travis succeed? had never been a conscious thought in my head. 

Both Travis and I have also been guilty of letting chores, obligations and hobbies rob us of intentional time with one another. On weekends, we’ve started asking one another, “What are you planning to do today?” instead of “What should we do today?” While Travis and I are independent people, and I’m glad that we have different hobbies and responsibilities within our family, I think it would do us good to be intentional about spending time together, just the 2 of us, doing something fun and out of the ordinary – like taking a walk, going on a picnic, doing something new, visiting a new restaurant, etc.

Another aspect of making Travis a priority and focusing on our marriage is making time for romance and sex. The biggest source of conflict in our marriage has been different styles of physical affection. That got a lot better after the first year but I think one unfortunate side effect of that has been we just aren’t physically affectionate anymore. God is slowly revealing to me that I have some unresolved issues with my sexual past. I hesitate or refuse to do certain things because I associate them with the promiscuous lifestyle I had before I became a Christian. Therefore, I haven’t felt complete freedom with Travis. Even just knowing this has brought about healing.

The more I learn about marriage and my husband, the more I’m convinced that the biggest thing that I’ve learned in marriage is that I can’t do anything right without God. Marriage has shown me what an incredibly mean, selfish, crabby, stubborn, pig-headed, messed up person I am apart from His work in my life and it is only by God’s grace that our marriage is what it is today. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I have no idea how people make it through marriage without Christ. No idea whatsoever. I don’t think I would have. If I had not believed in something bigger than our marriage, if I had not believed that the Author of the universe had been in control of bringing Travis and I together, I think the first year of our marriage would have done us in.

But praise be to Christ, we weren’t done in. And He has brought me from wondering if I even still loved Travis to this place of being so incredibly, authentically thankful to have my wonderful, amazing husband in my life and growing to appreciate him more and more each day. It’s felt like a long journey (I know those who have been married 20+ years would say we’re still newlyweds!) but it’s been worth it.

If any of you readers are in a place where marriage is rough and you’re wondering who the heck this person is that you married, I just wanted to offer these words from John Piper, Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church. They really encouraged when I first heard them when Travis and I were engaged and I have thought back to them often throughout our marriage. Even if you’re not struggling, they’re still true! The truth of them is even more evident to me today than it was then.

Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent. These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.

But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. I think the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. And here you begin to shovel the cow pies. You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then, we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of field that is sweet.

Our hands may be dirty. And our backs make ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is the gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved. {source}

Such a good reminder to focus on all the good things. Even if the only good thing you can think of is that he brushes his teeth in the morning, or goes to work and earns a paycheck. Start appreciating the small things and God will grow your affections. My life and heart – and ultimately, my marriage – is living proof of this.

Our 4-year Anniversary

19 May

Today is our 4-year wedding anniversary. Every year, it seems hard to believe that we’ve been married for as long as we have. Time goes by so fast! And every year, I am once again amazed at God’s grace. He alone is the reason why our marriage is a blessing, why we still are in love with each other, and why we have weathered all the trials and storms of life intact and together.

They say that a good marriage isn’t about marrying the right person; it’s about being the right person. I have seen the truth of that so much over the past year. Just looking back on who I was a year ago, and what tenderness God has amazingly developed in my heart since then, I am struck by what a difference there is. In that year, I have realized how much my actions and words influence Travis. My being angry about something, even when not directed at Travis, makes him angry and is the beginning of a vicious cycle. When I don’t voice my emotions by telling Travis I love him and miss him, he is hurt. If I try to encourage Travis to look to God for hope and meaning but say it in a scolding tone, he gets discouraged.

On the positive side, I have learned to praise and thank Travis for all of the wonderful things he does to serve me. I have learned to appreciate the little things – how he mows our lawn, fixes our cars, cleans out our gutters. I have developed an admiration for his work ethic (instead of being annoyed at helping him with house projects), grown to be thankful for his hunting habits and truck purchase (they’ve come in handy), and been amazed at his thoughtfulness (getting up early with the dogs on a Saturday so that I can sleep in).

God has certainly done a work in my heart and head regarding marriage, and though I definitely still have a LONG way to go, I feel so incredibly blessed by the work God has done in my life. Not only that, but I’m extremely blessed by my wonderful husband. He has watched what feels like hundreds of Bones episodes with me (after House, The Office and Desperate Housewives), supported my expensive triathlon hobby, and allowed me to get two great dogs (both of which he had been determined to not get… but who can resist puppy dog eyes?). Even though he disagreed, he supported my decisions when I wanted to write my book instead of get a job, when I made sacrifices above and beyond the call of duty for my job last year, and when I decided to chop my hair off in January (though he ended up liking my haircut).

I have learned that marriage is about growing with the other person. It’s about learning to readjust your expectations, priorities, and desires to embrace what the other person values. I don’t like house projects and would almost never choose to do them out of my own free will. My husband, on the other hand, loves house projects and seemingly can’t get enough of them. On more than one occasion in the past year, I have actually volunteered my services to him, which he has eagerly taken me up on. Not only am I supporting Travis in his endeavors, I’m also taking a vested interest in the condition and quality of our home and yard. There is a certain satisfaction inherent in hard work.

I have also learned that a loving spouse encourages their counterpart pursue their passions, vision, and interests. So often, I hear about men whose wives “won’t let them” do certain things, or who are uptight and mistrusting about their husbands going out with friends, or buying a certain thing, or doing something without them. That is one thing God has abundantly blessed us with in our marriage — trust. While we don’t give one another the green light for everything without exception (godly accountability is necessary!), our decisions are always based on mutual trust. Our goal in all decisions is to give the benefit of the doubt. It’s easier said than done, and we often jump to judgments before we realize we’ve done so, but that’s what we’re working toward.

Lastly, I have decided that there is no formula for marriage. What works and is good for one couple may not work for another couple. While it is helpful to hear advice and suggestions from older, more experienced couples, you can’t turn those into the exact picture of what your marriage should be like. I think that as long as both people are satisfied and happy with the way things are, there’s no reason to change them, even if they aren’t what other people do (one qualifier: I’m talking about amoral things — immoral things are a different story). For example, Travis and I will often eat dinner in front of the TV. Much of the time we spend together in the evening is spent watching TV. If we’re both satisfied, does that behavior really merit changing? I don’t think so. I will admit, however, that I have asked Travis that we have one night a week where we do something that involves talking instead of watching TV. The biggest hindrance to us doing other things, I think, is that we get into a rut of working and then relaxing. Watching TV takes no effort and is something we can do together. Ergo, our addiction.

I realize that having only 4 years of marriage under my belt still qualifies me as a newlywed in many eyes but the wiser, older married couples only got wiser and older through the passing years, learning lesson by lesson, trial by trial, error by error. We can’t learn how to do the thing called marriage without actually doing it. It’s the ultimate hands-on experience.

Praise God for His grace!

Blaming God for what I did.

14 Mar

I had a momentous realization on Friday morning of last week.

It started Tuesday night at my women’s book study. We’re reading A Praying Life by Paul Miller and the chapter was about viewing every event of our lives through the lens of God weaving His story. There was a little chart with two columns – one for not believing there was a story and the other for believing there was. With no story, we would be bitter, angry, cynical, and hopeless. With a story, we would be waiting, watching, hoping, praying and submitting.

The question was, Which of these do you see manifest in your life? My initial instinct while preparing for the meeting was that there was a story. Even though I didn’t really understand why God had used the things He had to tell His story in my life, I believed that there was one. But then during the meeting when we were discussing this, I all of a sudden had the thought that I struggled with seeing God’s story in the early years of my marriage. I had struggled so much with my own sin and being a person I didn’t want to be, that it was really hard to see how and why God had chosen that struggle to accomplish His purposes.

I ended up getting really emotional and asked the other women what they thought. One woman said that God never causes us to sin – we choose to sin. Another said that God disciplines us for our own good and that seeing our sin is a form of discipline. The whole time they were talking, I wanted to interrupt and say, “Yeah, but you don’t understand.” I felt like my problem went deeper than that.

After the meeting was over, I had no desire to even attempt light-hearted chit chat so I left abruptly. As I drove home, I wondered, “Why does this still bother me? I mean, I felt like I was over this. It was a hard time but God used it to bring me here.” I could see how my struggle with sin and my consequent accusation that God wasn’t helping me led to my decision to take control of my life. I could see how taking control of my life led to disillusionment and depression, and how that led to my realizing my dependence on God. I could see how it all worked together. Maybe that was all.

I mentioned it to Travis when I got home. He asked the same question I had – “Why does this still bother you? I mean, it’s in the past.” I started giving him an answer, but realized that I had none. I explained the sequence of events to him but it didn’t seem like the answer as to why it still bothered me.

The next morning, I was surprised to find an email in my inbox from a woman I had met during the book study. She said that she had an encouragement for me from the Lord and wanted to confirm my email address. I replied, saying it was the correct one. When I checked my email later that day, the woman said that she knew what it was like to struggle with God’s purpose when your own sin caused the situation. She wrote about how she had been angry with God after her parents died and had slipped into sin out of rebellion and anger. Even though she should have ended up “divorced, miserable and broke,” God’s grace had been “undeniably present” right “in the midst of the situation” and redeemed the situation.

I was again unsettled. I felt like the email signaled that God wanted to say something to me about this situation but why? I had dealt with this… I understood that God used it for my good. That was enough, wasn’t it? I wrote back that I could see how God had used the struggle in my life but that since it was relatively recent, I was just beginning to see that I was still mad at God for putting me through that. I felt like singing the song by The Fray, “Where were you when everything was falling apart? Why’d you have to wait?”

The next morning, I read the reply from the woman to my email and that got me thinking again. I still felt unsettled about the issue, like I was restless and wanted to go shake off the stiffness. I had to get dressed for my coffee date with my friend, Cathy, so I walked into our bedroom, still thinking, and I said, “Well I guess I’m wondering why You had to use my marriage. Why couldn’t You have used a problem at work or something, instead?” I felt God say, “It wouldn’t have broken you enough.” My complete brokenness had been God’s plan and purpose. I needed to come to the end of myself. I understood that I had been accusing God of abandoning me during that time, when He had been there all along. I re-read the woman’s first email, where she talked about God’s grace being undeniably present in the midst of the situation. God had been there. He had seen and gone through it all with me. I cried a little, thanking God for the insight.

Then during coffee with Cathy, I shared my realizations with her but didn’t get the reception I had expected. She said that she didn’t believe God used our sins in order to teach us lessons, that sins were part of living in a fallen world, and that He redeemed and freed us from our sins. She shared about one of her experiences of not seeing God do what she had wanted and how she had realized that she needed to first let go of the bitterness and anger she felt toward Him before she would feel release. She was the one who had been holding on to sin. I told her that in my first year of marriage, I had cried out to God for Him to help me, for Him to sanctify me and give me love for my husband, but that He hadn’t. And then one day, without any correlating realization or experience, things had gotten better. I couldn’t explain it. Why would I have gone through that if He hadn’t planned on using it? Why would He allow me to continue to struggle with sin if He didn’t have a purpose behind it? I don’t think Cathy and I ever really got on the same page—more just like we agreed to disagree. When she left, I felt unsettled again, like something just wasn’t right. I felt that way all day.

Friday morning, I was praying and thinking about what Cathy had said. The unsettled feeling returned. I tried to think through what I meant about God using it for a purpose. I understood it was my sin that caused it, but I kept thinking, God allowed it to happen; He could have stopped it if He had wanted to. Since He didn’t stop it, He must have had a purpose in it. That answer didn’t satisfy me—I still had the unsettled feeling—but I was sick of thinking about it. My brain hurt, I felt like I was going in circles. Finally, I asked God, “Why does it matter how I feel about the situation? What happened, happened, right? The situation is what it is. I mean, does it really matter?” I felt like God said, “Yes.” So reluctantly, I continued to think.

I started typing my thoughts. And the realizations started pouring out of me. I was blaming God for my sin. I was saying that my life would have been fine if God hadn’t caused me to go through that struggle, that I would have been fine without His plan. But the truth was, I was denying that I had desired for my marriage to go my way, to fulfill my own expectations, and for Travis to be the exact husband I wanted him to be. I was denying my selfishness and unbelief in God’s promises and plan.

I had tried to solve my marital problems on my own. I had run to God, yes—but only after all of my own efforts had failed miserably. Once I was done crying, what had I done? I went back to living in my own strength, only to fail again and wonder why God wasn’t blessing me. That’s the real story. It wasn’t that God had abandoned me—He just wouldn’t bless my efforts to live apart from Him.

And why would God bless my efforts to live apart from Him? That wouldn’t be for my eternal good. He would only be reinforcing my natural propensity for self-sufficiency and independence. It was God’s grace to me in that time that I was not successful in sanctification, because I wasn’t seeking Him in the midst of it. I was only seeking the solution to my situation, not the Solution for my soul.

The truth about walking in dependence on God showed up in my journals for the entire three and a half years of this struggle – God was trying to teach me that lesson the whole time. He was telling me the truth. But I refused it. I refused it. I said that it was too easy. Surely there was more to the Christian life than that. God stuck with me, through all of my sin and my misery and my refusal to believe the truth. And finally, I got to the place where  I was so broken, exhausted, and disillusioned that I could finally accept the truth. I had to try out all the solutions I could think of to life. I had to test out all of my theories, everything I could think of to be the meaning of life, before I could accept God’s definition and meaning. I would not accept God until I had proven everything else wrong. I was SO pig-headed! God was SO faithful and patient!

As I realized all of this, I started crying. This awesome truth humbled me to the core.  Even the way God revealed it to me had His fingerprints all over it. I am absolutely amazed at the way God works in the lives of those He loves. Amazed. This discovery further proves that God’s glory is our joy. The more I think about the situation, the more I am convinced that it could be no other way than this: me being humbled and God being exalted. I need to be needy and God needs to be sufficient. I need to admit my sin and see God in all of His shining, brilliant holiness. I am fickle, finite, and wretched; He is faithful, forgiving, and loving.

It’s funny – it seems counter-intuitive that such release should come from understanding that the whole situation was my fault. I think my flesh was resisting the discovery of the truth for that very reason – it puts the blame squarely on my shoulders. But that is slight compared to how it magnifies God. I had been tarnishing His character and reputation. I had been questioning His goodness, faithfulness and wisdom. I had been doubting His love for me. But now, I see God’s character, reputation, goodness, faithfulness, wisdom and love for me utterly magnified and shining in all its eternal brilliance. There is no reason to doubt His character or purpose – God is even MORE amazing than I could have fathomed! Not only has He used my struggle to bring me into a deeper relationship with Him, He demonstrated utter faithfulness and patience to me when I could not have deserved it less.

This realization has had implications that reach even farther into my Christian walk but I will save that for another post. For now, I will just say Praise the Lord for revealing my sin to me!

The big picture

31 Dec

Since it’s New Year’s Eve, I figured I might as well do the quintessential blog post: reminiscing about 2010 and looking forward to 2011.

2010 was a hard year for me but because of that, it was also life-changing. From March until last week, I had a job that constantly pushed me beyond my comfort zone, challenged me in ways I have never before been challenged, and forced me to run to God every day to maintain my sanity and character. I can look back on this past year and see God’s faithfulness and steadfast love everywhere.

I learned that I rely on my own ability to get things done instead of trusting in God and His timing and plan. I found that I often “feel responsible” for things and that prevents me from letting God be responsible. God showed me that my claiming responsibility is what stresses me out. I need to be faithful in what I can control but the overarching theme and thought of my life needs to be trust in God for all of the mundane, practical details, as well as the big picture items.

Work-wise, I learned that I do not do well working from home. I like an office. I like interaction with people. I like unexpected interruptions (self, remember this when they happen!). I also learned that I like change but only in the context of routine. I am much more happier doing tedious administrative tasks than I am managing big picture things. I am a details person. The job I am doing in the church office right now is exactly what I enjoy doing. (As such, I am really hoping that they hire me full-time! But more on that another time.)

Through numerous coffee dates with my good friend Cathy, I have also learned a lot about what it means to be victorious in Christ. I have made huge progress in my long struggle with loathing myself and constantly seeing sin. Through talking with Cathy, reading books, and insight from the Holy Spirit, I have seen that resting in the cross doesn’t mean I ignore my sin – it means the cross is bigger than my sin. Enjoying who God has made me to be doesn’t mean I enjoy the sins I commit – it means that I am able to trust God to conform me to Christ and unveil to me and others who I really am.

In short, as I look back on 2010, I praise God for His work in my life. I struggled, I failed, I didn’t believe, I didn’t trust, I handled situations poorly. But God brought me through it all. I honestly can say that I wouldn’t have made it without Him. The thing I love the most about going through struggles like this is very simple: when I have a good day, when I feel joyful and peaceful, I know that is from God. He is the source of that feeling. And I feel so immensely blessed by Him. I wouldn’t feel that way had I not gone through a very rough year of a lot of bad days.

As I look forward to 2011, I have to admit that I hope it is easier than 2010 was. But I also hope that God does just as much work in my life. So I will, with His help, joyfully accept whatever means God employs to bring about that sanctification.

I am hoping to find a job (whether at the church or elsewhere) that fits me well. After having a job that I pretty much hated in every aspect, I no longer underestimate what a job can do to your entire well-being. Right now, though, I am very content with working part-time at the church. I got a lot of things crossed off my To-Do List this week!

I am also hoping to write a lot. Being a writer is my dream. I just read in John Eldredge’s book Walking With God, “More often that not this awakening of desire is an invitation from God to seek what we’ve given up as lost, an invitation to try again.” So I’m going to respond to God’s invitation and try again.

Spiritually, I want to pursue an even deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ, as described in Eldredge’s book that I just read. I want to be so close to Christ that I can hear him speak to me. That I seek His opinion on every decision, that I walk with Him all day, every day. It’s a lofty goal. But a very rewarding one. And even a little progress is better than none! I also want to be more intentional about reading – I have averaged about 15 books a year for the past 3 years. I want to increase that to 25 or so. But I also don’t want to burn through books so fast that I don’t remember anything. Kind of defeats the point of reading. So 25 is a loose goal.

Emotionally, I want to be more open and vulnerable in my marriage. I just recently realized that a lot my spiritual battles this year I fought alone. I didn’t let Travis know that I was struggling so much. And when I think about why, I see pride everywhere. With God, I can admit that I’m weak and pathetic. With Travis, I can’t. I think this emotional withholding from Travis has bigger implications and effects than I can even recognize right now. So I want to grow in being vulnerable and humble with Travis.

And finally, blog-wise, I think I am going to change my blog title again. When I changed it from Learning and Loving It to Joy in Being Broken, I was in the midst of my struggle with hating myself because I was so focused on my sins and failures. I thought that God was teaching me to find joy in Him even despite hating myself. As I’ve grown and understood more truth this year, I believe that we don’t find joy in being broken – we find joy in God healing us. We are broken as sinners – we are healed as God’s beloved children. We find joy as we see the cross conquer our sinful natures, as we find freedom from the things that bind us, as we anticipate heaven and perfection.

I haven’t yet decided what my new blog title will be. I’ve thought about something like “More Than Ordinary” to reflect my desire to live a life that rises above the status quo to glorify God. I’ve also thought about something incorporating the idea of being healed through the cross or discovering truth. I’m totally open to suggestions!

All that to say, I’m excited for a new year! Happy New Year to all of you!

reminiscing