Trying of our faith

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” James 1:3

If there was one takeaway from the days leading up to and including our first week in our new life together, it is that we need faith and patience. Further, that by trying and proving our faith, we gain some patience, too.

Saying “I do” is only the first of many steps that we knew we’d have to take in the course of our marriage. Other steps include developing a closer companionship, building habits of things we should do together, (like devotions, conversations about our relationship, and book reading) and of course, figuring out how to simply live together. So many folks struggle with being good forgivers and recognizing that they live with another imperfect being – we figure we’ve got a leg up on being good forgivers by simply asking for it and giving it often.

Our wedding was our first source of fun and some frustration – naturally, we had friends come out of the woodwork offering to help us, and we’re grateful for all the help we received! However, the more and more “stuff” you put into a wedding, the more possibilities you invite for things to go wrong. So, we constantly had to keep reminding ourselves of the purpose for the day, and who is was for. Then, we had to decide what amount of stress was OK, and how we would deal with it. We struck this balance fairly early in the planning stages, and it made things so much smoother on wedding day for everyone.

By planning ahead and doing what we said we’d do (both in the plans and for managing stress) we ended up not spending a ton of money, had a great time, and made a wonderful memory.

The next few days after our wedding are known as “the honeymoon” – complete with celebration, holding hands, kissing, and stuff. Now, skip past the TMI, PDA, and constant giggling at each other, and you have a few really awesome memories in Tulsa and in Branson.

In Tulsa and Broken Arrow:

We stayed close to home the first couple of nights and got used to the idea of spending every breathing moment together. We powered through a few communication issues and started setting the tone for how we would handle conflict. How fun to get to work through these things! I hear a lot from folks who are struggling with one thing or another, and it hits me that this is a privilege! We’re being given the opportunity to practice showing God’s love, by being patient with each other and calmly working out differences and misunderstandings.

Come to find out, when you mix a computer nerd who loves to plan things out, with a somewhat spontaneous ball of fun who likes to come up with new names for everyday things, you can have misunderstandings! The great opportunity comes in how we respond to those!

In Branson:

So many ways to spend money, and so little time! We spent some time each day “window-shopping” the area and figuring out what we wanted to do the next day. Luckily, some of the trip was pretty well set in stone, based on the deals we had scouted out during the planning phase. But, for the ad-lib times, we did a swell job of not being too worried about how it all turned out.

We took our first helicopter ride, played a round of minigolf with pirates, hiked through the woods, met with friends for dinner and dessert, saw a concert, and had our first “couple’s massage.”

Now, lest you be confused and think this all went off without a hitch, I’ve got news for you — it took a few small miracles from the heavens to keep us on course. Let’s talk about how Branson works.

In Branson, everything has a catch. There’s a sales pitch, a gimmick, or some tradeoff to everything, even your chicken dinner. So you’ve got to figure out what that is before you get in too deep.  We realized early on that the line between “what we paid for” and “what we’re being ‘sold now” was getting very blurry. We narrowly avoided a pit of snake oil salesmen in the form of “timeshare opportunities” by taking time throughout the first few hours in Branson to be “constant in prayer” and ask for wisdom and guidance. We also just wrapped up “Financial Peace University” with Dave Ramsey, and he instilled some great tactics for not only managing money, but avoiding the vipers that reside in some salesmen. (Not all, but some – sorry not sorry)

I’m not a fan of what is commonly marketed as “haunted house tours” or “paranormal activity” — but I do believe in a God who teaches that there is spiritual warfare going on daily. There is a battle for our hearts and minds, folks, and Carol and I couldn’t get over an ‘uneasy feeling’ in the first hotel room we stayed in. It could have been the sales bit weighing on our minds, or the odd room layout, or lack of feeling “at home” due to the amenities. Whatever it was, it wierded us out and between that and a rock hard mattress (slight exaggeration), the hotel was very happy to relocate us to a more comfortable room.

We had a phenomenal rest of the week enjoying married life, spending our days and nights together, and generally, just being present with ourselves.

I got us started in a devotional series, establishing a precedent for spiritual development. It’s not the final goal, but it’s a step to keep us growing together by growing with God.

In the last month, it’s been easy to get bogged down in all the many things that we used to do separately, now being done as a team — so we’re having to stop doing some things, in order to give appropriate attention to other things. We’ll share some lessons learned in future posts about these types of compromises opportunities for growing together.

Through it all, we know God is in control – He shows us daily!

Love God, Love others, Love yourself,

Being Pro-Choice for Life

There are many controversial issues in life that divide our culture. Sometimes, they are important matters worth fighting for, and sometimes they are not. Yet here we are, day by day, running around leaving comments on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, and poking our fingers in the faces of people we see at the mall trying to prove that our way is best.

But is it?

I’ll admit that my title is a bit tricky. I actually have no plans to discuss Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice here today in the way you’re probably expecting, but rather how some things we choose are important enough to choose not just for today, or this week, or this month – but for life.

When I finally realized what God had orchestrated in my life, I decided it was good for me, and I chose it. I don’t take this choice lightly.

I choose to love.

I choose to forgive.

I choose to be kind.

I choose to do these things, and many more — for life.

I choose Carol, my future wife — for life.

It was interesting, the thoughts in my mind, when I first chose her. There was a flurry of mental battles, waging war against each other, debating the risks of being “stuck” with someone forever, knowing their imperfections, their faults, their little ticks that might be annoying sometimes — while the benefits of companionship, support, admiration, friendship, and of course, intimacy, race ahead for their place. Yet somehow, amid the smoke and noise of war in my mind, there’s a remarkable peace and calm. There’s an inner voice, my sub-conscious, my spirit, guided by the Holy Spirit, telling me, “Hey, I’ve got this. Let me have your worries, give me your burdens, lay your cares at my feet. I will give you rest. I will carry you. I will guide you.”

“God, I don’t want to screw this up!” I plead.

God spoke, “Sleep peacefully. I am awake.”

The battle ceased – the war over – the victor standing in the smoke as it clears, hands raised, feet caked in mud. The choice is clear. Jesus has done so much for me, how can I not do those things for my future wife?

Jesus chose me, I can choose her.

Jesus forgave me, I can forgive her.

Jesus is kind to me, I can be kind to her.

Jesus loves me unconditionally, I can (*swallowing pride*) love her unconditionally.

For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

What better way to be His hands and His feet, than to start at home?

What fears do you have about marriage? What advice would you give yourself before you got married, knowing what you know now?

 

Love God, love others, love yourself,

 

Communication is key. Also talking.

As we are taking time out of our evening to complete some homework for our marriage counselling, we are discussing (and re-discussing) the things that we have observed in other relationships and marriages, and (pun intended) for better or for worse, deciding and talking about what we liked or disliked about them.

One thing is abundantly clear. The people we see succeeding – communicate. The ones who have trouble – have room for improvement. Well, I mean we ALL have room for improvement, but there is definitely a difference between the ones we see thriving and those we see surviving.

The funny thing is that not all of communication is talking. Some of it is non-verbal; facial expressions, body language, and the like. You say a lot without words, and the scary thing (at least for me) is that many times what’s said without words is either TOO accurate or not accurate at all.

Sometimes, I don’t want to show that I’m upset, because I want to not be upset at whatever occurred. Sometimes, I look upset and I’m really not at all. It’s just a lack of any emotion on my face.

Silly humans. We’re all weird, aren’t we?

Over at Eastland, our pastor taught about choosing happiness yesterday. Wouldn’t that be great? Just to choose to be happy? Well, I got good news and bad news — good news is, you can! Bad news? It’s all your fault if you don’t!

So choose it – choose happiness. Help a friend choose it, too, by smiling and showing your inner joy.

Love God, love others, love yourself,

God is Good

God has put some really good people in my life.

It’s refreshing to see how He orchestrates things and pulls your thoughts toward Him and toward specific ideas day after day, weaving together the fibers of different conversations and creating a special blanket of love, hope, and grace to cover my shortcomings. To see Him answer prayers that no one else knew that I prayed, in a way that proves His reality.

In the roller coaster journey of life, He is there to pull on the seat belt, check the safety bars, and assures me that I can trust Him not to let me fall out.

I’ll be better for it all on the other side.

What’s amazing is that while I dislike hardship, I can always look back and see how God uniquely prepared me for the journey. It has become quite apparent to me in a couple areas that things are not going to be easy – and I keep wanting them to be easy, and trying to make them easy, however it ultimately only causes more frustration for me. When I decide to chill out, keep my head down (in a ‘working hard,’ not ‘depressed’ sense) and I hand over my worries to God, he begins to clear the thickets and let me see a little bit further ahead and helps me be at peace with what I cannot see.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to surround myself with people who are encouraging, and blessed by a God that shows himself strong every time I give Him control.

I’ve been doing some of my “blogging” or journalling offline in a little red journal. I decided that there were some things I needed to say, but I didn’t need to share right now, or didn’t need to share with the whole Internet. From time to time, I might translate some of those things into a format that’s good for this audience.

I like being transparent from time to time, liberating myself from secrets, making myself vulnerable, and sharing my life as an example of what God can do with imperfection.

For now, let me just remind you of this:

Be good to yourself and pay it forward. Write yourself a note of encouragement. Keep it near your list of goals. Those two will get along just fine – trust me.

God is so good. My life isn’t perfect, and I’m not always on some emotional high. However, I’m learning how to deal with the lows better, by understanding and submitting myself to their purpose.

This has been a good start to 2017 — and some of my favorite people, friends and family, are in it. Thank you, all of you, for your part. My cup runneth over. I just thought you should know.

Love God, love others, love yourself,