Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Together - A Reflection on a Post About Marriage

I read a blog yesterday a friend of mine had shared on her Facebook page. It was about a woman, who after several years of marriage, six children, and countless other life experiences with the man she had married in her early years, still reveled in their love of one another. Sure, the premise of the blog had a physical undertone, but more than that it allowed the reader to relate to the fact - sometimes you just have to come together to get through it together.  I know I could relate.

This post garnered many comments from other friends, and while I was unable to meet the level of understanding several of the others who commented on the post did, I still understood.  You see, unlike many of those who commented, I have been divorced and remarried - this gives a completely different view on the subject.

Upon the first read, I was reminded how much stock we place in perfection while in a relationship. We, as a society, have gotten to a point where we believe a relationship needs to be conflict free in order to be good or "meant to be". We have also gotten to the point where we ignore the differences and refuse to express ourselves in front of our families (read that: children) for fear they aren't going to grow up with any sense of security. In my opinion, both of these ideas are hogwash.

Marriage is messy. Marriage is digging in the trenches and coming out covered in mud and grit and heaven only knows what else. Marriage is deciding, up front, no matter what else may happen, you are in it for the long haul.  Marriage is a daily choice of picking, rather choosing, your spouse above yourself.

All this for no other reason than, you have to. In order to make it work you need to see a few things. (I'm not a professional, these are just my observations.) First,  you are not the same person he married any more than he is the same person you married. It is true.  Every moment of every day we change. We grow a bit older (biology), we change a little physically (wrinkles and sagginess in all the wrong places), we learn something new (academically or otherwise), and we live in an ever-changing society that, like it or not, does imprint itself on us in some manner (large or small).

Second, we are the example to our children. If we hide everything, they learn nothing.  The inverse is true, too, and this is where we as parents have an even more important role. Letting the Littles see you work through hardship and conflict is actually beneficial. No, not the knockout, drag-out, in your face yelling all that is ugly in the world to each other, but because no two people are ever going to be symbiotic and there will be times those differences need to express themselves. Let them see that differences are a good thing and that there is a way to work through them together.

Third, and yes this one was saved for last because it is honestly the best. Love God together. Love God individually. Love God as a family. For all other things will become what they are when this is the primary focus.

The biggest issue I had with the blog was the fact she was reflecting on a relationship she had with the man who fathered all her children. The man who she was still married to after two decades, a man who literally watched her change emotionally, physically, and spiritually - sometimes by his help and definitely by the natural progression of life - maturing and aging. That left women like me who read the blog on the fringe. After all, I'm not married to the father of my children, nor am I the mother of my husband's children. I didn't marry him in my prime nor his. And I didn't marry him during the infancy of my faith any more than he was in his. I believe this is where some miss the beauty of remarriage.

This man I am married to, he loves me despite the stretch marks that were made growing another man's children. He chooses me even though time has added a few more wrinkles and parts of me are no longer perky and perfect to look at. He picks me at the end of a hard day; I am the one he comes to. Sure, sometimes we have to make a choice to make a choice - life is hard and marriage doesn't always make it easier.  Yet I couldn't imagine facing a day without him by my side. We fight fights that other married couples - like the one represented in the blog I read - don't.  However, we make it a point to fight them together and sometimes, we have to come together in order to get through it together. (Some things are simply universal.)

In the end, the blog gave me pause enough to be thankful for the life I have because I am married to a man who chose me not because he had to, but because he wanted to. And that alone is enough to make everything worth fighting/working for - worth doing together.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Encouragement of Easter

This morning, like many others, I awoke to numerous notifications on my phone.  One of which, was for a post made in the Christian Moms Who Write group I am a member of. The post was a simple question, made by the group founder and admin, "What encourages you most about the Easter celebration?"

I didn't hesitate in penning (errr...rather swyping) my response. After all, the answer had actually been heavy on my heart since I awoke Friday.

Good Friday is many things to many people. I look to it and see the good it holds - perhaps why it was coined as such - the fact my Savior willingly died for me.  However, to look at it in those terms only, in my eyes, is to miss the sorrow and to mourn its occurrence. I woke yesterday with the hymn, How Great Thou Art playing on repeat in my head. (My absolute favorite hymn.) And truly, who could deny His greatness?

My verbatim response to her question was:
"Easter encourages me on so many levels but before it does that, it humbles me. It begs me to ask, who am I? Then it reminds me it isn't about me at all. Then Easter gives me the hope that no matter what I think and feel about myself, no matter what I've done, come from, or may face going forward - it's covered. Each and every thing. Again, not because of me but because of Him who chose to create me. That somehow He decided on me and He never once gave up searching for me. And I found Him. We met. We flirted from time to time. I left Him for a while. Then I came crawling back. And there He was - waiting. And only because of Easter did that happen. And because of Pentecost which only came because of Easter can a piece of Him live in me. I'm not worthy but any stretch but He who is in me. And by God's glorious grace and intimate love can I sit here today and proclaim Him as mine. All mine. And to think, 2000 years ago, He already knew. #humbled #mindblown #iamsaved #iamhis"

For me, Good Friday is a humbling experience. We don't get the joy of the resurrection without the pain of the crucifixion. We don't get the honor or eternal life without accepting the price that was paid. In service last night we were reminded the cross is not a cheery symbol, but one of pain, anguish, and severe punishment by death. It is not a clean, pristine, and scar free symbol, but rather one that left the weight of the world and all the sin before and after embraced for all eternity. The cross, as shared by a friend at church last night, is a reminder to us that Good Friday was the death of death itself!  

Today I can sit here with 2000 year's worth of knowledge reveling the outcome.  I already know, in my heart and soul, the tomb was empty. Not because some book told me, but because I know Him. Personally. Intimately. Relationally. He is REAL to me. But there were almost two whole days where others didn't know. I can almost feel their pain, sorrow, and heartache. I can earnestly believe and share in their mourning. Here their beloved Jesus was dead. Their Messiah, my Messiah. YOUR Messiah. Immanuel. Dead. Buried. And then....then...

He rose!  He conquered death.  For all of us. He, Himself, took my pain, my shame, my past, my present, and my future, and He covered it. Completely. Better yet, He did this for you too.  For no other reason than, you were worth it to Him.  You and I meant the world to Him. He not only did this for us, but for those who came before and those who will come after us. 

And that, dear readers, is the encouragement of Easter. No matter where you are in life, no matter what you have done or will do, He still died for you.  He paid for it. ALL. OF. IT.  There is only one requirement He has - believe - and then accept Him in faith into your life.  (I encourage you to listen to this song: WE BELIEVE

May you have a blessed Easter and find the encouragement it holds for you.

- M

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Faithful Pour

I am not a very trusting person.  You can blame it on the number of ways and times people, and life in general, have let me down - I do.  I keep people at arms length because I don't inherently trust.  In new environments I rarely talk, and if I do it is about those things I feel are worthy of discussion.  To be honest, even if I know you for a long time, there is still a part of me that doesn't trust you.  Not that you are secretly plotting to do ill towards me, but because I don't even want to give you a chance to.  Call it what you will, I call it self preservation. It's an ugly beast of a thing that lives in my head. It causes me to destroy friendships before they get off the ground and alienate myself in many social settings (my social anxiety does a lot of this too...so it is hard sometimes to tell which beast is gaining ground).

I find the older I get, the more introverted I become.  I don't know if it is from my general need to declutter my day and get home where I feel safest, or if it is something altogether more bothersome.  Either way, I long to not be this person. I would very much like to be bolder, more outgoing, and more trusting of others. But for now, we will call my desire and who I am a work in progress!

Then today happened. I love Sundays - for a number of reasons but mostly because of church. We had a wonderful service today.  Perhaps it was because today we had a guest Pastor who brought the message and the gospel to life like all the messages I had heard growing up.  He kicked it old school and it was exactly what my heart and ears needed to hear. There's just something about going to church and hearing an older pastor preach that makes you feel like a kid again, like you have your whole life ahead of you to do what it is you are called to do.

After the service I took time to talk with our Pastor and catch him up (in roughly 3.2 minutes) on the outcome of the past 16 months of our lives. It was a hurried conversation, to get all the words out that needed to get out and not press on and monopolize all his time (I can do that when I trust someone). I got the highlights covered. I also shed a couple tears, which I do each time I recount the outcome because I am still amazed at how God worked out the details. Pastor gave me a perspective on this and I paraphrase, "if you had been told 16 months ago this was going to be the end, would you have managed the situation the same way?" I don't recall giving a straight answer at the time, but without a doubt, it would be a NO.

What do all three of these things have to do with each other?  The guest Pastor said something along these lines this morning while giving a story about a Bishop in the Methodist church, "our past times in worship lead to the present shape of our life."  The purpose for this was to say, that sometimes it takes a long while to answer our call - while some know straight away and work it from a young age, others take a longer time to build their shape. (Meaning it takes years of hearing the gospel and learning God's truths.)  It is that shape we go to church to get filled up in order to pour out into the lives of others. But, how do I do that when I don't trust people?  Well, the truth of it is, I have to trust God.

If there is one thing these past 16 months have taught me, and it goes along with what Pastor asked, it is that faithfulness begets trust. It is quite easy to say I trust the Lord, but another thing altogether for me to actually do it. Simply because trust often requires the action of inaction. For each step I tried to take on my own, the more out of shape I became. I would work myself into a hairied mess and reduce myself to an anxious blob of a person. I wonder if that isn't a reason why it took so long?!  God had to teach me to rely on the shape (past messages and teachings) of my upbringing and not try to reshape myself during this situation.  He didn't give me a timeline in the beginning because I needed to get to the point where I gave Him total control.

The thing of it is, once I did, the end came that much sooner. Not in time, but in my not working for it. Throughout the entire process we did the right things. We remained faithful to what the Lord asked us to do.  Not only did we remain honest and truthful, but we prayed continuously - for all involved. In each and every step, even when we didn't know what or even how, we did what needed to be done. And wouldn't you know it?  The more faithful I was/we were the more my trust in God grew!  It had nothing to do with the outcome (afterall we didn't know what or when it would be) but everything to do with how my shape was being filled.

That is just it, people. This entire process was another way God was teaching me to trust Him all the while He was growing and filling my shape. All for the day when I could take this situation and share it with another; so I could pour out the blessings and the truth of what God reveiled to me, to us, through this. It is because of this I challange you, in the face of any trial, to remain faithful and trust God. Continue to do what is right even when it is hard, even when others are telling you otherwise.  You never know, someday it could be you pouring your story into another and filling them up so they can pour theirs into yet another.

In His Name