My Favorite Things – Summer Edition

So I have this idea for a blog series, where I talk about some of my current obsessions, but sometimes I’m not great at follow through. I have hopes, though, of making this a semi-regular thing (thankfully, I get to define “semi-regular” – for all you know it could be once a year!), but I’m not making any promises. I think it’s so fun to hear what other people are enjoying, and learn about new products, music, books, etc. and who doesn’t like to share the things you are really loving?! So here are my current favorite things!

  1. Citizens & Saints
    This band is not new on the scene by any means, I’m just late to the game. I learned of them last year when they released A Mirror Dimly, which is so, so good, but I have really been killing their Citizens album. They are seriously my favorite right now. I am usually drawn to a slower tempo, especially in worship music, but many of their songs are more upbeat and fun, yet lyrically deep and rich. It’s so good.
  2. Amazon Music
    Don’t know if you knew about this but again, I was late to the game, but so excited to find out about this. I have never paid for Pandora or Spotify to get the ad-free experience because I’m cheap. At the same time, ads are super annoying. So when I learned that if you have Amazon Prime, you can stream music ad-free on Amazon, and through the Amazon Music app (and download to the app), I was like why have I been wasting so much time listening to ads on Spotify?!?!  Game changer, y’all.
  3. My tiny garden
    I have never grown anything, and thought surely I would be one of those people that kills everything. Turns out I’m not! OR it’s way easier than people make it out to be! It could also possibly be that I’ve chosen like the easiest things to grow: tomatoes and bell peppers. Thankfully we have a long harvest season here in the South, because I planted seeds way later than is recommended, and we are still a ways away from seeing actual fruit, but watching them grow is so fun! Note: I recognize it’s early and I may not be singing the same tune if we don’t actually ever get something we can eat.
  4. Curious George
    And by my favorite I mean my kids’ favorite which clearly = love. If there is anything I want to accomplish uninterrupted, it needs to happen between 8:30 and 9:00am…when George is on TV. No other show fully captivates them as this, and I make sure we watch it every day. I’m often torn between too much screen time and loving the moments of freedom it affords me, but I do love me some early morning PBS. I’m more confident their shows don’t present as many questionable ideas that I have to talk through with my kids. There aren’t as many villains, mean guys, or brats as there are with Disney and Nick Jr. That 30 minutes in the morning helps me maintain my sanity if I use it well.
  5. OGX Curl Defining Cream
    I’m no beauty expert by any stretch, I probably do things to my hair that any stylist would wince at. But I almost always wear my hair curly, and have tried a product or two. To tame some of the frizz I’ve tried gels, mousse, sea-salt sprays, but this is my first go with a cream, and I’m really liking it. I thought it would make my hair greasy, but it doesn’t, and it works surprisingly well. Maybe my low expectations are the reason I’m loving it so much.

Those things are at the top of my list right now. What are you enjoying this summer? Are there any products, books, or ANYTHING I need to check out? Let me know!

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What Does A Normal Friendship Look Like?

When I was in college, I loved to be alone. I had a very full schedule between school, work, church, ministry, dating, and friends. I would get home, and immediately retreat to my room for some alone time. I had deep, meaningful friendships, and was around people all the time. I felt no lack or longing in my relationships.

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Since graduating, getting married, and having kids, my schedule looks a whole lot different these days. I stay home with my kids, so time with other people is much more limited than it once was. I find myself each week mentally running through my list of friends and thinking okay, who am I going to hang out with this week? I grab my phone and start sending texts, trying to make some plans for each day. And after a year and a half of living in this town, there is something I’ve noticed.

If I don’t do this, it doesn’t happen.

Rarely, there are occasions where I have plans that I didn’t initiate. There is the occasional birthday party or group play-date. But typically, if I don’t take that first step to ask someone to hang out, I end up sitting at home by myself all week. Of course, there are the regularly scheduled church activities and mom-things where I am able to see friends on a pretty regular basis. I don’t go months without seeing a friend. But I could easily go months without spending intentional time with a friend if I do not make it happen. And I have.

There was a time when I would have taken this personally and been hurt by it, and most likely would have stopped asking a person to hang out if I felt like I was the only one pursuing a relationship. But then I had 2 kids 13 months apart. And during those first 2 years of being a mom, I was a really terrible friend. I pursued people very little, because I was constantly needed by my little boys, had very little spare time, I was really tired, and all my mental space to think about other things was depleted. As my boys have gotten older and more independent, more flexible, our schedule has opened up a lot. Looking back, I did very little to initiate relationships, but it wasn’t because I just didn’t like someone or didn’t care about my friendships. I neglected relationships and didn’t return calls to people that I genuinely loved, and it had nothing to do with them.

So, I realize it may not be a personal thing. It may be that my friends are just tired. Also busy, because everyone is (except me, I guess). Thankfully, my friends don’t dodge me when I try to make plans, so I don’t think it’s entirely that they are uninterested. I could be wrong, of course.

I used to inwardly whine about my lack of community and real friendships. You know what I’m talking about. There is a difference in those you see every so often and catch up with, and those you share your life with. But in this area at least, I’ve learned not to whine so much and blame others, but take responsibility for making these things happen. If I want friends, I need to initiate. I’m not saying I’m great at this now. I still could be a much better friend, and much more intentional. But I’ve become more active in this whole process, and less offended when others aren’t.

So I’m at this place where I am kind of trying to figure out what is normal in this town/in mom-of-little-children world/in my circles. My husband and I feel we often want to be with other people more than others want to be with other people. I would feel great about hanging out with the same person several times in a week, but I feel like I would scare some people off if I actually asked them to hang out a few days in a row.

I spent time with a new friend the other day, and afterwards she texted me and said she had fun and we should do it again soon. My initial response is great, me too! Want to get together again tomorrow?!? But then something kicks in that tells me my new friend will think that is too much and will be all like whoa, slow down, maybe next week.

So, am I wrong? Would other people be happy to get together more often, but maybe like me are hesitant to ask? Or is there actually some unspoken rule that you can’t see people too frequently? OR am I way off and everyone else actually is hanging out with people on a pretty regular basis and I’m missing something??? Friends, I need answers.

There are definitely days I retreat in my little home in the woods and don’t engage with the outside world. I know I can’t do this for too many days in a row, or I will, in fact, go crazy. But for the most part, I know my days are much better spent when I am walking through life alongside other people.

One of the things our family is passionate about is community. We desire depth in our friendships. We want to share our lives, and be on the receiving end of others sharing their lives. I know some people are pretty protective over their “family time” and I understand that when we have this built-in community in our own houses, our need for other relationships may not be felt the same way. But I feel like there must be other barriers that prevent people from pursuing relationships outside their homes. I also feel like there must be people like us that want to be with other people. So, how do I find those people? The ones that won’t think I’m weird because I keep asking to hang out? OR AM I WEIRD, I DON’T KNOW GUYS?!?

I read a great book recently about sharing our lives with others. If you find yourself, like us, desiring community with other people, you may enjoy The Simplest Way to Change the World. It is a super helpful, practical, challenging book that will help you think through your approach to building relationships, and leave you wanting to put yourself out there, and invite others in. I have a feeling I’ll come back to this book more than once.

I’d love to hear what your expectations for friendships are? Do you feel like you are constantly initiating? If not, what keeps you from pursuing other people? Let me know your thoughts!

 

Photo credit: Foter.com

Why I Loved 2016

Despite public opinion of the year 2016, for me the year could have been much worse. About this time last year I was anxious to start a new year and put 2015 behind me. I had plans to write up a post about 2015, because it was one of my hardest years yet. I know time has a way of making things seem not as bad as they were, so I like to write stuff down to try to capture the reality of it all. But here we are, just hours away from 2017…and I never did write that post.

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2016 was not without challenges for sure. More job changes, financial strain, marriage strain, being home alone with the boys all week while my husband works 3 hours away – it hasn’t been the easiest year. So, this isn’t a post about how 2016 was the best year ever. It wasn’t. But it’s about the good parts. The things I did, by God’s grace, that I am so, so thankful for. Challenges and all, 2016 has been a sweet year for me. The Lord has shown us so much kindness, as He always does, but He has made His blessings really evident this year, and has shown me that He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).

D-GROUP
I joined a D-Group (discipleship group) in the Fall of 2015, and started leading a group in February of this year. I can’t say enough about this. This is easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m thankful I don’t even have to think about what this year would have looked like without it. The accountability that D-group has provided has helped me to create good habits in spending time in the Word, memorizing Scripture, and applying what I am learning through study each week. I have developed deep, meaningful friendships and beautiful community as I have studied, been stretched, and wrestled with Scripture alongside others. I have gained a deeper understanding of the God of the Bible, and a deeper love for Him, because of my time in D-group, and have constantly been challenged to live out the faith that I profess. D-Group helps me to remain focused on eternal things. Everyone has seasons where they are slack in their relationship with the Lord, where we don’t spend as much time with Him. Those times will inevitably come, but those periods definitely don’t last as long, or have as detrimental an impact when we are walking in community with other believers.
#ilovemydgroup so much, and think every believer should be involved in this type of study. I’m learning that it isn’t entirely normal for churches to provide this type of discipleship, so if you’re looking for something like this there are D-Groups all over. Check out the website and join a group near you, or START ONE!

WE JOINED A CHURCH
This is, hands down, my favorite thing we did this year. The last time we were members at a church was in 2012. We moved away from that church family, had 2 babies, and were very unsettled over the next several years in terms of location. We struggled to find a church, and just when we thought we had found somewhere to call home we moved again. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This drained me. This was hard and heavy on my soul. The local church is my heart. Not being committed somewhere and serving somewhere left me restless and uneasy. When we moved to Florence, we were sure the struggle would continue. Thankfully, God was so kind to quickly lead us to our new church and we joined this past May. It is far from perfect, but it is our home and our family now. My soul is at rest. It brings me to tears when I think of it. And maybe if you’ve never felt homeless, you don’t understand why it’s such a big deal, but I cannot think of the Church at Sandhurst without thanking the Lord for bringing us here. Not only do we love it, but our kids love it, too. I have been very intentional about teaching our kids the gospel in our home since the day they were born. Interestingly enough, one of my kids seemed to harbor some sort of animosity toward God. He was not only uninterested, but seemed to not really like God. I wouldn’t have believed a kid (who was 2, 3 years old, mind you) was capable of this if I hadn’t seen it. But since we’ve been at our church, all that hostility has disappeared. I’ve been amazed how much both of my boys have grown in knowledge of God and the Bible. It’s been so sweet to see how much our kids need community, too, how it actually takes a village. Consistently having what we teach them at home reinforced by others has made all the difference. Now, I work part-time with the children’s ministry, and we are partnering with D-Group as one way to get the church body involved in discipleship. I’m sure I’ve leaving some other great things out, but anyway, finding a good church home is so important, and I’m so grateful for God’s kindness in providing us a place to settle down, for now.

MOPS
I’ve been in MOPS (mothers of pre-schoolers) for several years now. There have been times I’ve loved it, and times I haven’t, but the past year has been really sweet. Having two young kids is really hard. Having a group of people that know what I’m going through and are in the trenches with me has been like a life-line. The struggles of motherhood are unique and universal all at once, and the support and encouragement that these ladies have offered me and each other is a breath of fresh air. To be surrounded by women that are truly for each other (instead of busy judging each other) is something special.

I CUT OUT SOCIAL MEDIA FOR A WEEK
A week isn’t a long time, but that week was easily one of my most productive weeks of 2016. I used to feel bad for people who couldn’t keep their social media lives in check…then I became one of those people. Picking up my phone and checking feeds has become so impulsive, and I waste so much time on social media. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love social media. I have learned so much from others, and consistently enjoy seeing other peoples’ lives and hearing others’ perspectives. My world-view has been stretched and challenged thanks to social media. I don’t see myself ever cutting it out completely. At this point, it isn’t necessarily a struggle with jealousy or comparison, or that it makes me cynical, but it is a major distraction from what is going on in front of me. I am going to cut out social media again, this time for one month at the beginning of 2017, with hopes of entering back in with clearer boundaries, and more clarity about the effect it has on me.

Obviously, this list isn’t comprehensive. We did some fun stuff with the boys, they grew some more, we saw some victories in our marriage, there’s more I’m sure. But these are some of the things that have had the largest impact on the year.

I used to not be one for resolutions, but this year I’m actually excited about some of the goals I’ve made. Among them my temporary leave of social media, working out (somewhat) regularly, trying out Whole30. I’ve been able to tell this year more than ever how unhealthy I am getting, how much my lack of healthy eating and exercise has been affecting me. I’ve felt more tired and sluggish than ever, so hopefully this time next year I won’t be saying the same thing. I’m also planning to read through the Bible again, and fast once a month, a goal I set for myself this year – but failed miserably, so it’s going back on the list.

I used to be rather thoughtless about the new year, but I’ve learned that I literally have no idea what the next year may hold. My plans are always changing. But my highest hope for 2017, is that I would love the Lord more, love His people more, and serve them both well.

From Millenial to Millenial

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I know I’m late to the “voice your opinion” party, but I’m hoping some form of verbal processing will maybe help loosen the knot in my chest.

There has been much to be disheartened by in the past 24 hours. The night was bound to be sad before it even started.

• • •

Up until today I’ve been pretty proud to be counted among the millennial generation. Proud to be a part of an intelligent, informed generation that would voice the things no one would years ago, that would seek justice and equality, and that has honestly shaken things up a bit.  But today I have been incredibly disappointed in my peers. The same peers who have held high the #BlackLivesMatter movement, fought for rights on behalf of others, accepted diversity in every demographic, and been passionate about doing work that matters. But today I don’t feel that same pride. In fact, I feel a bit ashamed.

To be honest, our response to this election has been terrible. I feel like I’ve been watching my 4 year old whine when he doesn’t get his way, except it’s way more horrifying when it’s grown adults. Mourning is one thing, but lashing out is another, and I have seen the viciousness that we possess, and I feel an almost physical burden brought on by the exposure of just how similar we are to the generations that sat by watching all the atrocities history has to offer. The lines may look a little blurrier now, but they are there all the same. For all of our progressivism, we’re no better than those who have gone before us. We say we want more for our country. We try to pretend we’re inclusive, but we’re not really interested in unity…unless, of course, you agree with me. We’re more like those we hate than we want to admit.

I’d hoped we’d be more resilient, more all of the things we claim to be and less of the things we claim to be against. We are as divisive and as bigoted as the other side, whoever they are, and it’s worse because we’re louder. Redirecting hatred is still hatred.

I am trying so stinkin’ hard day-in and day-out to try to teach my two boys to be kind people. Considerate, conscientious, loving people that treat others with respect. It is painful to think of a future where common decency and compassion have no place.

I feel sad and nervous about what could happen in the next 4 years with Trump as our President. I would have felt sad and nervous if Hillary had won. I wish we hadn’t put ourselves in this position. But right now, what breaks my heart more is the hatred we are spewing. The hopelessness and despair. The talk that all of the strides we’ve made as a society are now rendered useless. Are we that frail? That weak?

I’m sure my fleeting optimism and hopefulness will return soon. But today, I feel sad as I witness, over and over again, the vitriol fly every which way with no regard for anyone. The lunacy of embodying the very thing we hate.

I’m not even ready to offer any solutions. For now, I will just pray that the weight of our hypocrisy and inconsistency will sink in. That we would sit right down in the repulsiveness of our self-righteousness and see what poison it is. Because what would be even more disheartening, is if we looked all this in it’s ugly face, and just didn’t care. If we saw ourselves for who we really are, and didn’t resolve to be different.

“No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.” – Randy Pausch

A Letter to College Students: This Is The Real World

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After graduation, there’s a lot of talk about “living in the real world”. I think this is really referring to the world of 9-5 jobs and professional attire. The world of going to bed at a reasonable hour. I understand these things may be different from the life one typically leads as a college student, but the references to post-college life equaling the real world leave us to infer that college, indeed, does not qualify as the real world. Now, there are some major differences in schedule and responsibility as a college student, as opposed to someone working a full-time job. Most college courses are set up so that only you will suffer if you decide not to show for class. In some cases, there is no accountability at all. Many college students don’t have anyone depending on them for anything, and you have more free-time and flexibility than pretty much everyone else. There are certainly some big differences between the two.

• • • •

I went to college alone. My mom helped me move in to my dorm room, but after that it was just me. Most of my friends from high school had gone off to Clemson. You would think when you go to school only an hour from your hometown, that surely there would be some built-in friends on campus. Of course, several people from my high school had also come to the wonderful University of South Carolina, but none of them were people I would spend time with.

On top of not knowing anyone, I’d spent my whole life being shy, and didn’t know how to introduce myself to anyone without the help of a more outgoing mediator. I’d spent all of high school with an “I can’t wait to get out of this town” attitude, only to flip the switch half-way through senior year, when it started to sink in that my time at West Florence was coming to an end. I was nervous all summer about leaving behind all I’d known, but it hit me like a ton of bricks when my mom drove off. I was scared, overwhelmed, and alone.

I did not feel like I was hidden away on some college campus, oblivious to the stresses of “real life”, real responsibility, real burdens. I didn’t feel like I had just landed myself in one four-year-long party. No. Sitting on the 4th floor of Patterson Hall in the heart of a city much bigger than the one I came from, away from the comforts of home and familiar faces, roads, places to shop and eat, I felt like I was in the real world for the first time in my life. Unprotected, exposed, on my own.

That first week was rough. I later realized I understood college to be the place where you meet the people who will be your best friends for the rest of your life. I somehow believed this would happen right away, that they would just happen to come introduce themselves to me the moment I arrived. I spent a good chunk of the first semester of my freshman year contemplating whether I should transfer back home, or to Clemson. Not that I was bored, I wasn’t. I managed to make some friends and spent most of my time with other people. I was still lonely, though. I was craving real, meaningful friendships. I didn’t know that it would take time, that it would get much, much better.

I spent the next 4 years meeting and getting to know a very diverse group of people. Rich, poor, homeless, gay, religious, depressed. I knew people who had been raped, abused, dealt with eating disorders, lost loved ones. The people I came to know during my time at South Carolina didn’t get to press pause on life. We didn’t get to ignore reality. Life still happens, no matter where you go to school, no matter whether your campus is on a hillside or in the city.

Despite what our culture would tell you, this is not the time to “get it out of your system” and do whatever the heck you want (unless whatever the heck you want is honoring to the Lord). These aren’t years that should be wasted, and these years aren’t just about your education. These years can be so full if you handle them well. College is a gift, a unique experience and time in your life. No other period in life will look the same.

For Christians, it may be tempting to jump into whatever community you find first (which can be good or bad). So many of my friends spent their first semester (or longer) making decisions they would go on to regret. And thankfully, grace was there to meet them then. But what if we recognized the importance of these years? What if we treated them as though they matter? Wouldn’t it be incredible if we used our college years for glorifying God and furthering His kingdom? These years will be a part of your life forever. You can fill them with whatever you want. But if there is one thing I learned in college and in the years since, it’s that living for the Lord is the best, most satisfying use of our time. How you spend your days matters, so let’s not let the world convince us that it’s okay if our lives look a little meaningless for a few years. This is special. Different? Yes. But, this is the real world, with real people, real souls. You can use this time in a million different ways, but there is true, full life in Christ, and using these years to seek Him, love Him, and live for Him will be one of the best decisions you ever make.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39

Photo credit: Tulane Public Relations via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

What 5 Years Of Marriage Has Taught Me

Sometimes I wonder what I would tell unmarried me. What things would I really want to sink in? If I’d really known some of the things I know now, beforehand, how would that have affected my marriage? I’ve learned that you can tell someone something, but until they’ve experienced it, a lot of the time it just doesn’t stick.

I have to be honest. I was totally unprepared for marriage. I didn’t have a clue about how hard it would actually be. I think most of us can talk about our parents’ marriage problems, and it seems like we think after watching ONE couple for our whole lives, we know how to do everything right. Maybe that was just me. I understand that as a child and a teenager, and even into young adulthood…I didn’t see a whole lot of marriages up close. I got married at 22. Most of my friends were still single. No one close to me had walked through a tough marriage before. So I found myself blindsided by how difficult it can actually be. But like I said, there’s only so much you can know about something you haven’t experienced.

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There’s a mystery about marriage. And by that I mean that many people aren’t exactly real about their marriages. Many people portray that everything is awesome, even when it’s not. You could be totally deceived about the state of someone’s marriage, because for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem like people talk about their marriage problems.

I think people are starting to be more transparent about things, in general. We can probably thank social media for that. The masks and filters are starting to come off, because people immediately post their very real thoughts on social media, before accurately judging whether it’s a good idea or not. We’ve somehow raised our tolerance for hearing about others’ problems, the real things we are going through, while simultaneously raising our judgmental attitudes. I haven’t really seen many people comment on a thread with, “you should really keep that to yourself”. I’ve seen lots of opinions, support, and condemnation, but it doesn’t seem that too many people are surprised by someone posting about their most personal thoughts or issues. But for some reason, marriage is different. It just isn’t talked about much. I definitely don’t think social media is the place to be blasting your spouse or anything, but I find myself wondering about single people, and young people, if their view of marriage will be…unrealistic. In this era, so many beliefs and opinions are informed by what we see on social media, whether we are aware of it or not. And what I see on social media is often marital bliss. People posting about their date nights, the gifts their spouse showered them with, the way their spouse serves them and their family. And, by all means, I hope people continue to post those things. But when we see mostly easy, we can tell ourselves there will be spats here and there (because, duh), but we (I) somehow believe it won’t be so much work.

The Lord has a tendency of teaching me the same lessons over and over again. I guess that means I’m stubborn? Or that I need lots of reminders.

1) Marriage doesn’t cure loneliness. So definitely don’t let that be motivation for getting married. I have felt more lonely (at times) in marriage than I ever did when I was single. Not only do we expect our spouses to be the solution to loneliness (which is a wrong, harmful expectation), but so does everyone else. It’s like people think “Well they’re married now and they don’t need anyone else. Their spouse will check on them, make sure they’re doing alright.” It seemed like people readily shifted their responsibility to be a good friend to me, to my husband. And I did, too. (As a side note, not at all saying I was a good friend. I wasn’t.) It’s an easy thing to get caught up in, especially early in marriage, thinking your spouse can meet all your friendship needs. But men and women are different. There are things my husband will just never be able to relate to. There will be things that I can never properly communicate to him. I realized early on men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and my expectations to have someone to “connect” with all the time were not met. Because sitting in the same room with someone doesn’t mean you’re connecting, and feeling like you are on a different planet from the person you’re sleeping beside is a hard kind of loneliness.

2) I’m not alone. For several years, it felt like I was the only one that was struggling. I knew people had said marriage was hard, but I didn’t see it anywhere. I think there can be a certain amount of shame over having marriage struggles when you’re a Christian and it doesn’t seem like anyone else is going through what you are going through. Because when you love Jesus, and understand the Gospel, all your problems should just melt away, right? No, but it does seem like if you’re a good Christian, at the end of the day husbands will be loving like Christ loves the Church, and wives will be submitting as the Church does to Christ and all will just be dandy. But at the end of a lot of days, we fall short. And the more I have been honest with people about this, the more I have found that A LOT of people know from experience what trial in marriage is like. I’ve said before, divorce rates are high, even among Christians, and many people who stay married are not happy in their marriage. So clearly, I’m not the only one who has gone through struggles. One of the most amazing gifts the Lord has given us is the Church, and it is a beautiful thing to get to learn from one another, to be honest and open about our junk, to have people speak truth to us, pray for us, and encourage us. Sometimes you just have to go first.

3) Marriage is work. Everyone “knows” this. But for us, there are lots of days we don’t put much in. It can be easy to float along, especially in the midst of having little children that require most of your attention and energy, little sleep, housework, careers. It can be easy not to enter in, to engage. To come home and detach instead of initiating a conversation, to “just move on” from the argument without working through it, to take the easy road. (We happen to be bent towards that.) And it’s easy to remember this from the outset, on the wedding day, to acknowledge the work it takes, and commit to giving it your all, but then forget as you go through those long days. But it requires constant effort. Maybe for some people it comes easier, but there is a constant dying to yourself, pursuing when you want to flee, giving grace when no one deserves it.

4) God can change people. Again, I know it sounds like I should have known that already. And I did to an extent. But when you see the same sin, the same hard heart in yourself and in your spouse day-in and day-out, it can be tempting to believe things will never change, that we’ll be the same broken sinners, struggling with the same sins for the rest of our lives. I have felt hopelessness in a way a Believer probably never should, but thankfully God’s work in our lives doesn’t depend on my ability to believe that He is willing to grow and change us. He is faithful to work in the lives of those who love Him, to transform us to His likeness. There have been times where I couldn’t see His work, couldn’t see growth in either of us or our relationship, and have had to fight to believe that God was still with us, still shaping us. Thankfully, the Lord has given us small (yet big) victories, and it has increased my faith in Him.

5) Jesus is everything and He is enough. There have been times when I’ve found myself wanting Jesus…and something else. Jesus + a happy marriage, or Jesus + a church home, or kids, or steady income, or whatever. Of course, those things are good things, and it’s not wrong to want those things, but I’ve come to a place where I will be okay without those things. If He chooses to give He is good and He is enough. If He chooses to take away He is good and He is enough. Everything that I have earnestly longed for in this life, namely marriage and family, has left me wanting. The things I have desired more than anything else have not satisfied me. And that’s because those things are not enough. God never intended for my soul’s needs to be met through His gifts. He gives gifts because He is loving and generous and gracious, but He is the ultimate Prize. He is the only One who completely satisfies. The only thing that doesn’t leave me wanting is Him. HE is so much better than a happy marriage, and my most intense pursuit should be Him, not a healthy marriage or anything else. My marriage has been a means to know and love Christ more, and that is worth every day of fighting for this thing.

I’ve also learned there is a sacredness to marriage and our relationships with our spouses that should be protected, and some things need to stay between us. We have to have the wisdom and discernment to know when we need to let other people in.

I’ve learned a lot of bright and cheery things along the way, too, but these are some of the hard-earned lessons. The ones that required some flames. I’m so thankful that God has taught me a few things along the way, that He has given us marriage as a gift, and uses it to sanctify us and glorify Himself. God, in his infinite grace, has shown me that He is good and perfect, that He is for me, that He loves me, and He has used my marriage as a way to teach me more about Him.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

What Do You Mean By Self-Care?

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I’m not totally sure whether it’s a good idea to make blog posts out of my personal preferences, but I’m going to do it anyway. We’ll see if I regret it later.

I’ll be honest. I cringe a little when I hear the words self-care. Have you ever sat around and done absolutely nothing on a Saturday? Or even just an evening after work, maybe watched a few shows, scrolled mindlessly through social media? Or gone on a vacation? If you’re anything like me, these things in and of themselves don’t leave you feeling refreshed.

The term self-care implies that we care for ourselves, clearly. But further than that, that we sustain ourselves, that we are self-reliant, that we know what is best for us, and that we provide for our own needs. But we know this isn’t how the Christian life works. We know we are to be dependent on our Heavenly Father, to rely on Him to get us from day to day, to sustain our souls. We know that He is the One who gives every breath, much less every physical provision. I think deep beneath the surface of “self-care” the real meaning behind it, is rest, or Sabbath, if you will.

Truthfully, we spend our lives working towards something. Most of what we do is work. Raising kids, pleasing clients, or friends, or bosses, pursuing relationships and the list could go on forever. We are stressed because of this work.  We feel the need to rest from this work, but the cure to our stress and tiredness is not self-care. It is true rest.

This has nothing to do with the activities that encompass self-care and rest. They can look quite similar. Rest for one person isn’t rest for another. The issue is the mindset behind it; where we are turning in those moments that we want to feel refreshed. The problem is the source.

The whole idea of the Sabbath is to remind ourselves that nothing depends on us. That God is the One who holds everything together. Not pointless rest, or resting for the sake of rest, but God-focused rest. I am bent towards independence and self-reliance, as I think many of us are. But as Christians, we know we don’t take care of ourselves. We can try, of course, but over time this won’t be enough.

In our culture it’s totally acceptable that “there’s a time to be selfish”, a time to lookout for yourself. Like we take turns caring for other people and then caring for ourselves, and I so easily buy into this. I think that’s where this whole idea comes from.

Just after Jesus was nailed to the cross, John 19:26-27 says “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

In the midst of His suffering on the cross, hanging on a tree, He notices these two people he loves, and cares for them. In my own suffering, I tend to turn inward, to even allow myself to think it’s my turn to be served. But we don’t get this idea from Scripture. This isn’t the life that Jesus models. He constantly pours Himself out throughout Scripture. Retreating to pray and spend time alone with His Father is not the same thing as self-care. It’s the opposite. It is coming to the True Source for rest, counsel, intimacy. Our time alone with the Father is not self-care, it is looking outside of ourselves for true care. And when we come to Him as our source for rest, He can give us wisdom and peace that enables us to face our lives with an appropriate, eternal perspective. He reminds us that He is good, and that He is sovereign.

There’s a Charlie Hall song with the lyrics “Sweet Jesus Christ, my sanity, sweet Jesus Christ, my clarity.” And those words are perfect; exactly true. HE is my sanity, my calm, my peace of mind. No amount of pampering, of bubble baths, or running, or wine or chocolate could give me the true rest that He provides. Sure, some of these things can point us to Him, but we have to remember that HE is the wellspring that satisfies every need.

So I motion that we move from calling “self-care” to rest, or better yet, Sabbath. I know myself well enough to know that I am easily tempted to believe I can do things on my own. This is just one way I can remind myself that’s not true. We can keep the focus where it should be, on the Provider of rest. We, as Christians, can claim to the world, each time we say we are going to Sabbath, that we are turning to the One who knows how to care for us, not mustering anything up on our own.

We wouldn’t have had to come up with this whole self-care thing if we knew how to properly rest. It’s something I’m working on this year, and I am praying that the Lord would teach me what it means to come to Him as my source and my Sustainer. Because I can’t even do that on my own.