Sunday, March 27, 2011

How could a greater love be true?

Wonderful message at church tonight... The Good News! Simple as that, yet so totally not simple. Totally life-changing, actually. Just as it was the first time I heard it, and the second and the third and the twentieth. I was born into sin and lived in habitual sin, loneliness, hurt, emptiness, confusion, frustration, and unhappiness. I was separated from my Creator and Father who loved me for no reason at all and so much that he would sacrifice the highest cost for my life to be spared from eternal separation from him. I was living in a spiritual and emotional prison, but the good news is Christ came to set me free! God opened my heart to him to hear, understand, and receive the gospel. Now I know the love and forgiveness of my Creator and Father- love and mercy that no one has ever shown or can show me like He does. Now my sins are forgiven and I can fellowship with God who sees me in the righteousness of Christ. He who was perfect took on all sin- of every person- and paid the penalty for sin, which is death, so anyone who believes in him could be reconciled to God. The payment has already been paid, not because of anything we did or could do, but because he loved us first, and salvation is a gift for all who choose to receive it. 

This reminds me of the precious verses of our Christmas carol, O Holy Night, which I like to listen to throughout the year because it's so special beyond just Christmas time- "Long lay the world in sin and error pining until he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees! Hear the angels voices! Oh night divine, when Christ was born. Truly He taught us to love one another. His law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy, in grateful chorus raise we. Let all within us praise his holy name!"

At church right now, we're studying the book of Acts focusing on the development of the early church and making disciples. Once you're a disciple of Jesus, you're also a discipler. Anyone who has heard the gospel and become a follower of Christ now has the charge to share the gospel with others and further his kingdom. A song we sang tonight put it best:

You set the world in motion- created everything I see.
Yet chose to die for sinners- You gave your life to rescue me.

How could a greater love be true? Be true.
I've found the greatest love is in you. It's in You-

Jesus, Light of the World, you saved us.
Conquered the grave and raised us.
And we will reign with you always.

Now this our purpose- we live to make you famous.
Until every tongue sings praises, declaring you are the Lord always.

Now we remember when we were made alive with Christ our King.
And to the hopeless venture to tell about the hope you bring.

Well how could a greater love be true? Be true?
We'll say the greatest love is in you. It's in You- Jesus
Light of the World, you saved us.

And it's by grace we've been saved. We've been saved.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What we've been up to...

Since my last update about our trip to Oxford and what's going on with our small group, we've been busy! Our family's Biggest Loser couples competition is nearing its end. Our last official weigh-in is April 1. I don't think Patrick and I are going to win because we're about the same numbers as when we weighed in after Christmas, haha. But that's alright. We've started the habit of cooking healthier meals at home. Once a week on "Biggest Loser night" we get together with his brother and sister in law to watch the show and eat a healthy meal. In fact, we're meeting tonight! We both lost a good bit of weight last year (or was it the year before?) so we know we can do it again! We just have to get motivated. After being in Destin this past weekend I think I found my motivation. I was able to get by the whole weekend without wearing a bathing suit since it's still not very hot in March and the water is freezing. But I know that won't fly if we go back down for Memorial day weekend in 9 weeks. I hate how summer creeps up on you. With it being so cold and dark all the time in winter months you exercise less and eat more. It doesn't really matter because you're wearing big clothes and no one can tell if that's layers or 10lbs on you. Then all of a sudden BAM! it's time to get in a bikini and layout next to the fit teenage bodies on the beach. The last time I lost 25 lbs I didn't start until school let out in May either. I've gotta get my butt in gear, literally.

So speaking of Destin, we went down for a long weekend while Patrick's nieces and nephews were on spring break. We're lucky that his parents have a beautiful condo right on the beach. It was nice to get away and enjoy the gorgeous weather. It didn't rain at all, wasn't too hot or too cold. We hadn't been down there since last Spring. It was also fun that it was our first time back since we got married! All these "firsts" are exciting as a newlywed. Our first morning there we got up at 6 am (if you know me then you know how unusual and hard that was) and went deepsea fishing. Like i've said before, I love that my husband is adventurous and enjoys doing new things. Well, i think he'd been before but a lot of our activities are new to me! It was a lot of fun, but a serious workout. After fighting those heavy fish and reeling them in for 2 1/2 hours I was tired! We napped on the boat the 2 hour drive back into shore. I got a beautiful tan with my t-shirt on... Between him, me, his brother and my sister in law we caught about 15 fish, mostly trigger fish (like tilapia). We got to keep them too so i'm looking forward to a fish fry! I'll have to admit, watching the sunrise on the boat from the ocean with hubby was pretty nice... I hadn't seen the sunrise since probably 2009.

Besides deepsea fishing, we also ate a lot of good fried seafood over the weekend and did some shopping at the outlet mall. I found a couple new Spring outfits for work thanks to his mom. See, i'm not your stereotypical female shopper. I shop maybe 2 or 3 times a year but when I do I get a lot at once! I don't know what it is. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood (it takes energy and focus to pick out and try on a bunch of stuff). Sometimes I can't find anything I like (or I'm not happy with my body in it). But most of the time it's that I have a frugal personality and I talk myself out of buying things I know I don't need. I guess in the long run being frugal is a good thing. But it's made it harder to spend time with girlfriends over the years. I don't get the obsession with shoes, jewelry and purses. Basically all accessories. I have my few classic ones that I stick to because they go with everything.

Now what I do like to shop for is holiday/party stuff! I have to watch myself if I'm throwing a dinner party, decorating the house for Christmas, or going to anything requiring a costume. I started getting into festive things back in high school with our pep rallies. Our school was serious about dressing up and looking silly for pep rallies, especially homecoming week when we had a different theme every day. On "Your favorite super hero" day, I dressed up as Elastigirl from the Incredibles! On Fridays for school spirit day, I was covered head to toe in orange and blue with the black marks under my eyes. It was so fun because you know in high school everyone's trying to "be cool" all the time, but for these days it was okay to look and act ridiculous. You were excused. Now as an adult that's why I love holidays and reasons to dress up. I still haven't gotten to attend a tacky sweater party- that's my next goal. I bring this up because a week or so ago we had a Murder Myster dinner party with Patrick's brother and sister in law. The theme was Lethal Luau! I'd never been to one of these and since i'm not good at acting (there's a funny story behind that) I was skeptical that i'd be a good participant. Thankfully each character has lines to read and it's all set up for you. The Hawaiian dinner was good and the game was fun! We're planning to do another one for his birthday in May- A Case of Treasure and Treachery (pirate theme)! I can't wait. I love Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I'll post about that after it happens.

I wanted to mention that I've started writing another blog that's just for posting devotionals. I promise I try to make entries shorter than I do over here! If you want to start reading it from the beginning you can here. I've also added it to the list on the right of this page. Other blogs I've been reading recently that are really encouraging and interesting to check out:

Sarah Mae: Like A Warm Cup of Coffee (regarding her post for today: I bet it's not! My laundry pile is definitely bigger! Actually, maybe not since we did 7 loads last week). She has written wonderful articles regarding marriage, motherhood, homemaking, and homeschooling. They're listed on the right side of the page. Also, you can read her abortion story and testimony. She has recorded interviews with wise Christian female authors too. It's great!

Laura: 10 Million Miles She was a guest writer on Sarah Mae's blog and her post on "Time to Quit: The Beauty of A Quiet Life" really touched me! It was so good that I started reading her blog too.

Happy Thursday, it's almost the weekend!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Suffering, Tearing down walls, Building bridges

I try to read Joyce Meyer’s daily devotionals every day. It usually amounts to 4-5 days a week when I think about it at work. I’ve come to really like her as a bible teacher over the past several years because she’s blunt, straight-forward, contagiously positive, and has an incredible story/testimony. You can watch her daily 30 min program on tv (shown twice a day) or they post them on her website. Her best-selling book “Battlefield of the Mind” was the first of her books that I’ve read and I can see why it became a best-seller! She talks about how as Christians we now have a constant battle going on inside of us between our flesh and the Spirit (our old self and our new self). This battle to choose right or wrong, to be positive and happy, or negative and miserable, all of the time as we go about our days, mainly takes place in our minds.

Based on Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will,” she urges people to let God transform their minds to be more like his in order to win the battle and gain the peace and joy they’re missing. I really should read it again- probably every year or so would be good for reminding me of this battle and what I can do when I feel frustrated, anxious, stressed, fearful, or just unhappy. The truth is there’s no reason for me to have these emotions. I’m so incredibly blessed! The reason I, or we, get to feeling this way is because of the lies in our minds that we’re choosing to believe (which come from the enemy. But we can renew our minds with God’s truth which is his Word) and we’re allowing our emotions to control us. Boy, can I really relate to this! When I first realized how often I let my emotions control how I think, what I say, and how I behave I was really convicted. The majority of the time, how we are feeling isn’t based on the truth. For example, as a girl especially, there are days I feel incredibly insecure. I’m unhappy with everything about myself and I start to believe the awful things I think about or say to myself which leads me to think others view me the same way. It’s an awful spiral! Before we know, we’re grumpy and pouty (as my husband says) all day. Our day is ruined! All because we bought into the lies in our heads and dwelled on them. Or maybe we interpret something someone said the wrong way and we let it bother us all day. It causes us to change our view of that person. Or we take it personally when someone is having a bad day and offends us, not considering what all they may be going through that has nothing to do with us. I don't want to be controlled by emotions or by untrue, negative thoughts. I want to be controlled by the Spirit!

I have a really bad habit of dwelling on the negative. I know it’s a product of my childhood and past experiences (you know the old saying- if you don't get your hopes up about anything then you'll never be disappointed. I usually fall into that pessimistic world view). But it’s my goal to become victorious over this bad habit of the flesh and become a more positive person. After all, I am a new creation! I just have to take off the old clothes and put on the new. Also, as Joyce says, just because the first part of your life started off less-than-lovely doesn't mean your future has to be that way. You can choose to let go of the past, stop living back there, and walk in the abundant, good life God has for you. Letting go is a constant battle for me. Especially when the deeds done in the past have ripple effects that are still showing themselves today. You know, I love my husband’s optimistic and positive nature! There are days I can’t stand listening to or being around myself, so I’m sure others are tired of my pessimism too. I'm so glad God paired me with my opposite and I can learn from him. He blessed me with someone who came from a different background. I'm hoping  his good qualities with rub off on me.

One day I was really convicted when we were arguing over something silly (as it is more often than not) and he called me out on my pessimism! He actually said “You always look at the glass half empty. You’re so negative all the time.” Ouch! It’s what I needed to hear though. There’s nothing like marriage to reveal your faults and weaknesses that need God’s transformation! When I really stop focusing on everything I think is wrong with me or wrong about the imperfect circumstances I’m in, the Spirit takes over my mind and reminds me just how blessed I am. And that the things I’m thinking aren’t even true! That’s why we’re advised to think on “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy,” Philippians 4:8. The Bible advises us not to dwell on anything untrue, unworthy, wrong, impure, sinful or negative because God knows how it can drag us down into depression and away from him. We get wrapped up in ourselves and forget His goodness and all of his blessings. My discipler in college once told me a wise saying "Worry, stress, fear, pessimism, pride, all these things are not of God. In fact, worry is a sin because it's making a problem bigger than God- which is not true at all. He is bigger than all of our problems. And pride- or self centeredness- is a sin because it makes us bigger than God." Jesus knows better than anyone how we’re tested all day long in our minds and hearts (thoughts and emotions). This is why he warned us not to worry about anything, but pray about everything. He can help us win in this struggle and achieve peace of mind.

I learned so much more about this struggle in our lives, particularly for women, from the book “Me, Myself and Lies: A Thought Closet Makeover” by Jennifer Rothschild. It was a bible study I got to do over a period of 5 months at my church back in college. I highly recommend it to girls!

Anyway, back to my first point. I like to read Joyce’s devotionals and today’s really resonated with me:

Ephesians “For He is our peace. He has made us both, Jew and Gentile, of one body and has broken down the hostile dividing wall between us.”
She says that for many years, she put up walls as a result of experiencing difficult and unfair trials in her life. One day, the Holy Spirit showed her that her life was meant to be a bridge instead of a wall for others to pass over and find their place in God, just as she had. Over the years, she’s torn down those walls she put up to protect herself from others and erected highways in their place so others can pass over and find the same liberty that she found in God. She ends with “Make a decision to tear down your walls and build bridges. There are so many people who are lost in their messes and need someone to go before them and show them the way. Someone who’s been through it before and can relate. Why not be that person for them?”

This really touched me because for one, I’ve experienced numerous trials I would consider unfair and certainly difficult since I was about 11 (so for over a decade/the majority of my life). Secondly, I too have felt the leading by God or calling of the Holy Spirit to tear down the walls I’ve built (to protect myself from people and more hurt) in order to be a bridge for others to come to know Christ- the one who changed my life. He made my life better. He completed me- to be cheesy. He wants others to know the fulfillment, unfailing love, endless mercy and joy he can give them. He wants everyone to come to know the truth and be reconciled to him. As Jesus told people whom he healed, "Go and tell everyone what God has done for you," Luke 8:39. We have an assignment from God to tell others what he's done for us- not keep our knowledge of him and the gospel to ourselves.

I want to note here that just because I came to know Christ doesn’t mean the trials went away and life became easier. In fact, I would say as a Christian life becomes harder. For one, because you become aware of your sin and the struggle between your flesh and the Spirit. You can no longer do wrong without feeling anything. You recognize it, feel guilt over it and yearn to change. This makes daily life harder. In relation to this, you start a journey of transformation that will last the rest of your life. God starts a work in you and it will never end. Just as you come to understand one thing, overcome one thing, or endure one thing, there’s another thing waiting around the corner. It’s like going to school and never graduating. The growth is endless and being transformed by God is a painful process- though beautiful and well worth it all.

Secondly, you’re likely to be persecuted for your new faith and being a new person. This can be experienced in different levels of severity obviously. For me, it was having to change my friends and who I hung out with entirely. It also has led to a significant disconnection and strained relationship with a parent. As Jesus said, “I have come to set the world on fire and I wish it were already burning. I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished. Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other. From now on, families will be split apart- three in favor of me and two against or two in favor and three against. Father and mother will be divided against child and child against father and mother” Luke -53.

Lastly, God never promises that because we accept Christ as our Savior and choose to believe in him will we be free from pain and troubles. In fact, Jesus guarantees us that we will have trouble as long as we’re here in this life, but we can have hope and comfort in the fact that he has overcome the world and one day we will share in his glory over all sin and suffering (John 16:33). What an encouraging promise! Bitter-sweet actually. So many Christians unfortunately think that once they’re “saved” God will solve or take away all of their problems and bless them abundantly. Though He can do this and sometimes does, it’s not a promise.

Sure I’m blessed and I’m thankful for all the blessings he’s given me, but I want to be honest and realistic- he didn’t take away all my suffering (in the past, right now today, or in the future trials to come). And really, it’s okay. It’s actually for the better. Because our suffering in trials on earth allows us to relate to the suffering Christ endured for us. What a supernatural feeling to relate to your savior and redeemer- the one who covers all the wrong you ever did and will do, who paid the highest price so you could be reconciled to God! Isn’t he worthy of our suffering? It’s the least we can do for him- to endure the trials we face.

I don’t want to make light of some of the things people experience. What I’ve gone through isn’t near as horrible as what most people do! But by relating to Jesus in his suffering we also will get to relate to him in the experience of his glory when he returns or when we join him in heaven! Also, our suffering is the primary means through which God brings other people to know him. This gets back to the point Joyce was making. It can be counted as a blessing- or at least, be more tolerable- to us when we realize that God can use all the bad we’ve experienced and turn it into something good by using it as a witness to others. We just have to allow him to do this through us! It starts with tearing down the walls we build up.

The hardest thing for me to grasp on a daily basis (it really doesn’t help that I have a perfectionist personality) is that people are imperfect. People are sinners- every one of them! Including myself especially. For all are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Not one person is good (Romans 3:23). I tend to forget this fact and hold myself and others (but particularly those I love/my family) to such impossible standards. My expectations for how they should live and treat me is so high that I’m often disappointed. My standards fow how I should live and treat others exhausts me. It can't be done without help from the only one who nows how to live a perfect life and by God's grace!

There are times I really get it and I’m able to let go. But usually I really struggle with letting go of offenses and forgiving people of their sins that affect me. Therefore, since a young age, I’ve built up walls to lessen the harm done and pain felt by peoples’ sins. All this has done is caused more problems for me. I’ve harbored resentment, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, and judgment resulting in emptiness, frustration, anxiety, sadness, negativity, misery, and insecurity. If you can relate, I want to note that Beth Moore’s "Breaking Free" bible study based on scriptures in Isaiah is a wonderful, helpful study to do to deal with these things. I've done it twice! Also, her new book “So Long Insecurity, You've Been A Bad Friend to Us.”

I digress, so the more I realize my sinfulness and need for God, understand and meditate on all that he’s done for me, the easier it is to see the people in my life as he does and forgive them of their sins. It’s humbling to remember who are we to hold grudges and not forgive people after all that God has done for us? If he can show me mercy every day, then I should be able to too. Colossians 3:13 Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And I desperately want God to use my experiences- the bad, unfair things that have happened- to comfort, encourage, and lead to the ultimate Comforter others who have perhaps endured similar things!

Luke Then Jesus said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” I believe all of us has experienced or carries with us daily at least one thing that God can use to help us relate to another person’s pain and reveal himself to them. It could be something that someone else did having an affect on your life or something you're dealing with as a consequence of your own sin. Either way, we all have had trouble in this life. Every person knows pain. Our personal cross and how we carry it (by showing love and maintaining our faith along the way or not) can affect others’ views of Christ and belief in him. I pray God takes my pain, my story, my experience of how I cam to know God and have a relationship with him- and uses it to bring even one person to know who he is, for his glory. After all, that’s why we’re all here- to know, believe, love, and glorify him. We glorify him most by finding wholeness and satisfaction in him and by advancing his kingdom. So what’s something you’ve been through that you can hand over to God to use for good in advancing his kingdom? What was intended for harm, God intended for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20).

**You can watch Joyce Meyer's teaching series or read her daily devotional on her website found on the right side of this page under Sites I Follow.**

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why did I get married? I'm glad you asked.

I don't even know where to begin. Marriage is such a hard topic to discuss, such a big part of our lives- whether we choose to get married or not, are married or not- and one of the things God has placed so heavily on my heart to discuss with other women. It breaks my heart that so many girls today are cynical about love. I know it stems from years of experiences- usually numerous experiences that have left them with that cynicism- whether that's from family or relationships. I know that because I was once cynical about true love and was so uninterested in marriage or afraid to get married. It was through my own experiences and relationship with God throughout them all that I slowly and gradually started to realize God's intent for marriage and the blessing (as well as high calling) that it is. Like everything else, it has its pros and cons- it's good and bad parts- and it's hard work but it's also so wonderful and worth it all! I'm going to talk about it from the perspective of one who not only believes in God but believes that God must be the center of our lives. Therefore, also the center of our marriages. Marriage was after all established and created by God. Marriage involves God- it is a covenant (a promise) made between you, another person, and the Lord. Marriage cannot be sustained and last for forever without God. Both husband and wife need his help to love the other person the way they need to be. We need God in our marriages in order to forgive, serve, respect and nurture each other. As humans, we are too selfish at our core in order to love someone unconditionally and selflessly (the way God loves us) without help from the only One who can!

I had every reason not to ever get married- by the world's standards and way of thinking. For a long time I even felt that way. My parents divorced when I was 11 and since then i've met many more of their friends or parents of my own friends who are divorced. I haven't exactly seen great examples of marriage in my life (I'm so glad Patrick did with his parents!) We all know the current statistics of divorce and how high they are. Divorce seems like a common thing. So I thought, as i'm sure most girls do, why even bother? Other than to throw an awesome party for ourselves, why bother getting married? Or even sadder are those who think marriage is no big deal to be honored at all and enter into it multiple times feeling assured that if it doesn't work out they always have a way out. Both scenarios are awful- fearing ever entering marriage because of doubt that'll it'll last or entering marriage numerous times leading to more emotional damage for yourself and others.

I'm feeling overwhelmed at this point because there's so much I want to say about marriage! I know I can't all in one post. Probably even a week. But if I say anything at all to the girls in my life and strangers who may be reading this, it's that marriage is a good thing! Marriage is not to be taken lightly. You should feel daunted by the thought of it. You should be cautious about who you enter into it with. But you should do it! Here's what I have learned is the reason why: Marriage is an earthly relationship that reflects our relationship with God and is how God can mold us to be more like Christ. If you're a Christian, this is what you want more than anything and it's something God has already started in you. I believe that marriage and parenting are the two greatest aspects of our life that God uses to bring us closer to Him and become more like him. Where else do you get the opportunity and face the decision every day to love another person(s) selflessly and unconditionally? Where else are we the most tested to be a better person and overcome bad aspects about ourselves (that are from the flesh, of course)? Where else can we experience even a little bit, the great love that God has for us? However much we love our husband and our children, we can magnify that by a thousand and that's how much God loves us and that person too! Isn't that amazing?! So one thing that always comforts me is that he knows better than me, better than anyone, what that person needs and how they feel loved. He can help me do that! And he can help your spouse love you. When that happens, you don't have to fear the marriage ever ending. But it all goes back to God being at the center of your relationship. You both have to be going to God for help when your marriage hits the bumps in life and one of you is tempted to give up. This is why the Bible warns against believers marrying unbelievers. How can your marriage work at all or last if one of you, or both of you, isn't getting God's help? I believe this is why the divorce rate is high. So many people aren't believers in God at all or they haven't realized yet how much they need him in order to deal with life's trials and be able to love someone else more than yourself, especially in the midst of the trials! But what a blessing to have someone belong side you in this life! 

As my wedding day to Patrick approached, one of my girlfriends asked me if I was nervous or scared. How did I have the desire and courage to get married considering the family I came from? It's a valid question. Because of God!!!! That's all I can say. That's all I could share with her and every other girl I know or will ever know. You're right, it's not natural for a human to be so vulnerable and step into a commitment (I want to stress that marriage is a commitment. Whether you feel love for your spouse some days or not, you choose to love them because you promised them and God that you would) without a reason for it. I would've asked myself the same question just a few years ago. It's amazing what God can do! He can change our heart and mind so fast and so significantly! I'm so thankful he did when I asked him several years ago to show me the meaning and importance of marriage. To show me why I should do it and how he intended it to be. He showed me why my parents' marriage didn't work out. He showed me how desperately we need him to be the center of our life and the priority above all other things. He showed me how, even more than an earthly love, I need a relationship with him and he alone can fill the deep emptiness inside of me to feel completely loved, accepted, forgiven, and worthy. For so long I looked to relationships with guys to fulfill me. Or to my dad- hoping everything would go back to the way it use to be and my parents would be there for me like I needed. I felt like I was unloved, abandoned, not worth it, not good enough, not fought for, not protected, not special, and so on because of the divorce and my dad leaving (as so many children and girls do). But one day I finally got it like never before. I finally got the gospel. What a wonderful day when I realized that God was my true and ultimate Father. He loved me like my parents couldn't and no human ever completely can. They just can't! As much as I want to love my husband that way and he wants to love me that way, we're human and imperfect. We just can't give each other that kind of love. And we shouldn't or we'd idolize each other instead of God. I realized based on scriptures in his Word that he would never abandon me, he would never let me down or leave me, that I was worth fighting for (look at what he did for me! He sacrificed his only Son to save me from the destruction of myself and from eternal separation from him, even if I had been the only person who chose to believe in Him. Wow!) and that he only wanted good for me. He could never be coming from a selfish or evil place because it's not in his nature. He alone is perfect. Therefore, I realized that the love, acceptance, worth and validation i'd been looking for in relationships was pointless and all wrong. I felt like a fool and like I had wasted so much time! I felt sorry for the people i'd hurt and it gave me a new perspective on my parents. I had too high of expectations for them. Sure, what happened was wrong. But we all sin and do wrong. I have to forgive them like God forgives me (we have to forgive each other in marriage too). He continued to show me that as long as I turned to him for complete fulfillment and satisfaction, that an earthly love relationship (marriage) was just icing on the cake. He would bring that person into my life at the right time and it would be the one he set aside just for me. He wouldn't bring us together until we both understood our need for him and that he comes first. But when he knew we were ready to step up in spiritual maturity and take on the responsibility of marriage, he would bless us with it. God designed Patrick and I for each other in such a way that no one else could fit us. Call it what you want- a "soul mate" perhaps. But I believe from the time we're born God has planned someone just for us and us for them. I believe the one God has ordained for me is the only person on this earth I have even a fighting chance of making it with! God is on our side to make it! He planned for us to be together, brought us together in the way we met (our story is so cool! i'll spare you the details for now but God's work in our lives leading up to our first meeting and how he wrote our love story is just amazing!), knows us better than we know ourselves, wants to help us carry out our vows in marriage and can help us do it!

Why would he want to do that? Well, like I said, because when it gets difficult it causes us to need more of Him. Marriage also reveals to us the bad traits we have and need to change to be a better person. But importantly, it also glorifies God and can further his kingdom. People need to see godly, lasting marriages to see the love and forgiveness of Christ displayed here on earth in the day to day. Children need to see it! So many of us are broken and hurting because of what happened during our childhood years and because of divorce! I'll share more on that later (I could write a whole book on it) but a loving, committed married couple can lead other singles and couples and the children they raise to Christ. We must show unconditionally love and selfless mercy to our spouse in marriage and to our children in parenting. When people see this, they just might realize it's all because of God! Then he gets the glory. And you get the blessings of marriage!

I don't want you to get the wrong impression since I mostly talk about the serious and hard parts of marriage, but it is fun and beautiful and brings such comfort and joy to our lives! After all, it is God who is loving you and giving you what you want and need through that person. That's why i'm so thankful for my husband! He is a blessing- a gift from God- that makes my life on this earth better. His companionship and love is wonderful. When he's treating me the way God would have him to, I can see God in him! I don't have to worry about all the things that could go wrong in our marriage. I don't have to fear divorce. Because for one, it's a choice. I can choose if i'm ever faced with the thought to not give up. Also, I know that no matter what happens I have God and that's who I need most! I also know that when he or I don't know what to do or a trial is staring us in the face, we have God to rescue us and guide us in the right direction. He already has! We have him to help us forgive one another and move on.

Oh, I could tell so much more right now! But i'll save it for another day. I just want all of my dear friends to know that marriage doesn't have to be something you fear, it doesn't have to be undesirable, it doesn't have to end. First, we must change how we think about it and approach it. It can't be as the world does. We have to see it the way God does with it's glorious intentions, lasting effects, beauty, sacrifice, and down right hard work. Love, true love, is always costly. It always calls for sacrifice. Just like God loves for us called for the sacrifice of Christ and cost God greatly. Secondly, we have to know our ultimate satisfaction and everything we need and want comes from God (including our spouse!). Also, we must trust God with our love life- with who we date and marry, with the timing of everything. We must rely on God for the ability to embrace the high calling of marriage and walk it out every day (it is only by his grace that we can fulfill our covenant). I have to add in right here that at our rehearsal dinner, Patrick's father gave us a simple but powerful piece of advice that i'll never forget. I think about it quite often and want to share it with whoever I can. I think it can be said not just with our spouse but with our children, our parents, and our family when times get tough:

"We say we'll love each other for forever. But forever can be too overwhelming for us to think about, especially on days you're not feeling it. Instead, just focus on one day at a time. If you wake up and ask God to give you the grace (and thank him for the opportunity to love your spouse) just for that day, then today turns into tomorrow which turns into forever." Well said!! So girls, don't get discouraged by the frequency of divorce or work that marriage entails or all the things that could happen. We can't live like that! We can't live in fear. We don't have to because we have God who will be with us, always. I'm not saying something bad might not happen in your marriage. I'm not saying that you won't have bad days together. In fact, I promise you you'll face trials, temptations, hurt and disappointment. You'll fail giving your husband what he needs all the time and he'll fail you- leaving you disappointed that you don't always get what you want. But the pros outweigh the cons- the joy outweighs the sorrow- in all parts of life including marriage- when we have God.

I love to read and it's been through many different authors and their books that God had spoken to me and increased my faith. I'm so thankful for God speaking through these various women, using their testimonies and experiences, to relate to me and change me. As I read each book, I couldn't see at the time how significantly my life was changing. But looking back over the past 5 years to when I was 18 I can really see the work God has done in my life since I started reading Christian books regularly. Here are just a few that were really influential in showing me God's love for me and the wonderful earthly love I could have through marriage. I'd suggest these to anyone of my girlfriends and just every young lady in general!

"Redeeming Love" A Christian fiction novel based on the biblical story of Hosea
"Authentic Beauty" Seeing yourself and your earthly relationships as God does; seeing His love for you
"When God Writes Your Love Story" Handing the pen over to God and letting him write your earthly love story
"Wilderness Skills for Women" Surviving heartbreak and trouble in this world

Friday, March 4, 2011

What we've been up to..

I’m so glad it’s Friday and the weekend is about to start! Patrick and I are headed to Oxford this evening after I get off work in about 4 hrs. Our last visit was in the fall for a football game before the wedding and holidays got us swept up in a busy frenzy. Now we’re going back as newlyweds! I’m so excited to be back in the college town where I went to school and re-visit the places we made memories at while dating my senior year. I’m also looking so forward to seeing Rae (Rachel) who’s one of my closet college friends and was my maid of honor! Patrick and I intend to start a tradition of visiting Ole Miss once in the fall and once in the spring every year. We really wanted to wait until April when we could go to the Double Decker Art & Music festival, but this year it’s the same weekend as our friends’ wedding. So of course we’re going to go to that instead! It’s one of the couples from our small group getting married. I’m really excited about that since it’s at the American Village and will be beautiful outside with all the Spring-time flowers and weather! So we’re going now and even though it’s suppose to be turning colder and thunderstorming all weekend there it’s ok because we’ve got to tickets to the basketball game (indoors)! I can’t wait to walk around and go to dinner on the square, eat at our favorite breakfast spot (Bottletree Bakery) and maybe watch Ole Miss win one. Go Rebel Blackbears! haha

Anyway, last weekend was a great one! Friday night Patrick cooked dinner for me (he was really itching to use his grill again!) while we sat in front of the fire pit in our backyard. It was delicious! Pork loin with caribbean jerk seasoning, yellow rice and a mango salsa. Then we roasted marshmellows over the fire and talked until he had to go into work. He’s working the night shift at Children’s Hospital right now. It’s not a super great schedule, but luckily it’s only 7 days on then 7 days off! Saturday while he was sleeping the girls from small group came over and we had bible study upstairs. I’m really enjoying the book we’re study: A Woman After God’s Own Heart. It’s about becoming the woman, wife and mother God wants you to be. It’s based on David, who was a man after God’s own heart, and seeing what those qualities or characteristics are that led him to be described that way. Thus far, I’ve felt really challenged by what the author says and excited to start making some changes in my life! It’s also so nice to meet with just the girls and chat as long as we want. After the study, we all grabbed lunch then met up with the guys at the Lovelady Center which is a local ministry/organization that houses low-income women and their children who come from all different backgrounds and need help getting back on their feet physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually. There are numerous ways to serve and volunteer at the center and Saturday us girls led a Dance and Devotional time with several young girls while the guys played basketball outside with several young boys. It was a really enjoyable afternoon spending time up there and getting to know some of the kids. We were all excited that it was our first opportunity to serve as a group and we hope to go back at least once a month!

Sunday Patrick decided to stay awake all day, even after his shift ended, to go to church with me then over to his parents’ house where we celebrated one of his brother’s birthdays over lunch. With such a big family there’s always birthdays going on, I love it! Then that afternoon we went with his parents and brothers to a gun range near by and practiced target shooting. I love that he’s into typical guy stuff, such as this, and enjoys doing adventurous, outdoorsy, man stuff that most guys today don’t do anymore. I love it even more that he likes to include me and bring me along! I have a more hesitant personality, but I’ve never regreted following him and trying something new! It’s always been fun. This was no different! The weather that day was gorgeous so we took his jeep and had a nice drive out into the country where the range was, then I really enjoyed shooting all the different guns they had. I didn’t realize how good I might be at it! I was hitting just about everything I aimed at, which I think made him a little nervous haha. So after a couple of hours we drove back into town (I love riding with the top down, hair blowing in the wind, country music playing and head thrown back looking up at the blanket of stars above) where we went to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. Patrick really wanted to see the Miami Heat game and I like being in the noisy atmosphere eating wings with the guys! haha. We might go to a Heat game in April when they come our way to Atlanta! Then we got home and crashed. Such a fun weekend! And I think this one will be too. Hope you have a good one!