Almost But Not Yet

It seems like from the age of seventeen on, we are continuously in the “almost but not yet.” Almost graduated from high school or college, but not yet. Almost working our dream job, just not yet. Almost dating, almost engaged, almost married, but slow down, not yet. Almost parents or homeowners, but not quite yet. Almost here, but not here. Almost there, but not yet there.

Not yet.

Imagine that you can see your future. You see the next few years of your life. It is filled with newness, wonder, and adventure. It has been promised to you your whole life. You have been waiting for it. You have been working for it. And now, you have been given some kind of sure knowledge that it is coming.

And just like that, you are placed in waiting. But not just any kind of waiting: desert waiting.

The kind where it is hot and sticky, where there is no food and water is scarce. It is the kind where your legs grow tired and the beating heat seems to suck all of the energy from you.

I know of two places that this occurred in Scripture: the Israelites wandered for forty years and Jesus wandered for forty days.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 4.46.43 PM.png

They were just on the other side of their promise land and He was just on the other side of His ministry. Yet these two scenarios represent two very different kinds of almost but not yet. The Israelites represent flesh.

 

Their story is filled with groaning and complaining. It is what our desert periods often resemble. Jesus’s story is filled with grace and resistance. It is strong and beautiful and what we so want within our waiting. It is also what we are least likely to do.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

(Matthew 4:1-4 ESV)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

While they went begrudgingly, He went faithfully.

The Israelites clearly and rightfully did not want to wander the desert for forty years. Yet they had to because of their disobedience. Their lack of faith. Jesus, on the other hand, went into His forty because He needed it. He needed time alone with the Father. He desperately desired that there would be no distractions before Him and that He would only rely on God’s glory to sustain himself within temptation.

Most of us have been in both of these situations. We have been disobedient and made to wait. We have listened to the call of God and stepped into a time of waiting obediently. No matter the reason, let us remember that we have a choice. We have a choice to either go with the knowledge that He will provide or be pushed into a desert. We can either drink of the Living Water or spend years searching for the waters of this earth.

They moaned.

He prayed.

They feared.

He prayed.

While they distanced themselves from God, He communed with God.

Which brings us here. The Israelites–though they were being punished–had a sweet, sweet opportunity to cling to God and grow with Him. They had forty years of seeking His presence.

Yet they searched for other idols. They complained about where they were. They wanted more from Him though they prayed to everything except Him.

And yet Jesus fasted. FullSizeRender 38.jpg

He could have walked back into the city and eaten whenever He wanted, but He chose to stay. He chose to wander. He knew that His Father would provide. He was God, and yet He still prayed earnestly. He could have made Himself full whenever He wanted, yet He chose hunger because He wanted to be filled only by God.

While they sold themselves to temptation, He resisted the Devil.

As the Israelites wandered, they took the jewelry they had from Egypt–the gifts God had given them–and melted them down to make a new god. They took their riches and flung it toward empty promises and vast sin.

Jesus faced Satan Himself and still didn’t budge.

He used His knowledge of God and Scripture to stand firm against the temptations of the Devil. You see, Satan understands the concept of weak spots. He gets that humans will be swayed by human things. He knew Jesus’s physical body thirsted deeply for food and water. But what He didn’t expect was His supernatural power to overcome. He didn’t see that that power is the same power that the Holy Spirit brings during times of temptation. He didn’t plan that Jesus would use His own words to push away His human desires.

While they cowered with fear, He moved with confidence.

And then God said, “Go.”

He showed the Israelites the way to the promise land. He showed Jesus that it was time to begin His ministry. He gave the go ahead. He whispered, “Now is the time.”

Just as you might expect, the Israelites responded to go with no. They were scared. They didn’t trust God to overcome what looked like barriers and bring them to the luxurious milk and honey that He had been promising for so long.

Jesus, on the other hand, knew what He was getting into. He knew that He was going to begin the three-year journey that would eventually lead to His cruel death. It would lead to His torture and betrayal. He would soon be without a home or any sort of consistency. He would be called horrible things and spat upon. But He went and He did not look back.

Now you are probably thinking, “Of course Jesus did all of that! He’s Jesus.”

To which I respond, then why do we doubt His Spirit in us to do the same?

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 4.53.49 PM.pngHere is the difference between God’s people pre-Jesus and post-Jesus: His dwelling place. Before Jesus died and rose, God dwelled in the inmost part of the temple. Post-Jesus, God dwells in the inmost being of His children. If you have confessed with you mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you have His Spirit living within you.

The same Spirit that went faithfully.

The same Spirit that communed with God.

The same Spirit that resisted the Devil.

The same Spirit that moved with confidence.

Our waiting time may be forty days. It may be forty years. It may even just be forty minutes! But we can choose how we sit within them. Do we give into our flesh? Or do we let the Spirit within us take over?

Do we question Him? Or do we trust Him? Do we spend our gifts on our own success? Or do we save them for His glory? Do we cower in fear and sit in our waiting? Or do we move when He tells us to?

We can choose the second because He chose the cross.

So choose the second, Sister. Always the second.

I imagine that if you are reading this, you are in an almost but not yet phase of your life. Can I just encourage you for a minute? Can I just remind you that what He has for us is beautiful? That He has granted us a hope and a future? That His presence is our promise land?

I am not saying that He will give us exactly what we think we want. I am saying that He will give us what is right and what is good. I am saying that He will fill our cup and be our Living Water and Bread of Life. I am saying that He will make you look more like Himself if you give your whole self to Him in this desert. I know it feels dry. I know it is hard and your legs are heavy. I know your lips thirst. Mine do too, and that is all the more reason to drink of Him. Sip His grace, Beloved. Drink His goodness.

Let Him teach you about Himself and let His Spirit guide you through this. He has already promised to.

Messing up My Order

At the start of my last semester of college, I sent in what I thought would be my best paper yet. It was for my advanced composition class, so I wanted the professor to know that I was indeed advanced. It was beautifully laced with headings, and each paragraph argued for the thesis. The grammatical errors were few. The sentences sung off the pages.

Days later, my email lit up, notifying me that the grade for my paper had been added. Confident in the A that I would receive, I opened to the website.

Only to find a C.

If you haven’t picked up on this yet, I really like to write. It is an ability I often pride myself on, a task in which I am confident. So receiving a C really stings.

Immediately, I ravaged the web page to find the reasoning behind the grade. What could I have possibly done wrong? After reading my professor’s explanation and sipping on a cup of coffee to calm my nerves—because coffee does that for me—I sat back down to look over my paper. In the comments, my professor said, I appreciate your organization, Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 5.35.14 PM.pngbut through trying to order everything so perfectly, you forgot to analyze how each section affects the other. Sometimes perfect organization is not the right order.

Order.

I giggled. Order is my thing. I looked back over my paper and realized that I had tried to fit every point in a perfect, two-paragraph-sized box. I neglected to let the words flow musically into and on top of one another. I organized my arguments in my own way. I should have let the instructions take control. It wouldn’t have looked as perfect as I wanted, but it would have been a better paper.

Two days ago, I sat across a table from a friend who has been one of my greatest joys in college (shout out to you, Kenz). As we chatted about the past year of my life, the last year of college, and as I encouraged her on how she should approach her final year of college, some words slipped out of my mouth.

“I would have never ordered this year in the way it has turned out. But thank God that He knew better than me.”

As I insinuated in my previous post about transitions, we human beings tend to be a constant state of change. In the moments where life seems stagnant, we are looking to something else. When we are in school, we are constantly being told to figure out our next step. When the kiddos are little, we are saving for college. When we are single, we think about our future relationships. There is always an ebb and flow to our lives. They are short. They are ever-changing. They are filled with new people by the day.

Upon entering college, I had a plan. Just like my paper, it consisted of pretty boxes and perfect organization that I could control. (My room, on the other hand, consisted of no organization whatsoever).

I would take my classes. I would spend my time doing speech. I would learn as much about writing, researching, and public speaking as I could through this activity. I would spend my freshman year learning, my sophomore year beginning to take on some leadership roles, my junior year would be filled with academic and competitive success, and my senior year, I would be helping run a church ministry and focusing on achieving a job afterward. I might have a boyfriend or two in between. I might even get married after college. But I would first finish my degree and implant myself into my own field. If he fit, he fit. If not, he wouldn’t get to continue on with me.

Two months into my freshman year, my whole world was turned upside down—in such a beautiful way. I met a boy.

This boy would not overtake my plans, but he would be the reason my plans were overtaken. Here is how it actually went down:

I took my classes. I spent my time doing speech. I learned about writing, researching, andScreen Shot 2017-04-28 at 5.32.11 PM public speaking. I spent my freshman year learning and getting to know the man who now leads me so beautifully. I spent my sophomore year fighting pride and learning to live in relationship with a human being—a really sinful but really great human being. Then it happened. He told me he wanted to marry me, but he did not feel that he needed to wait. We would get married a year before school was over. That summer, I wrestled with the Lord over whether or not it was wise to commit my life to someone while I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. He told me yes. He told me to go. I was still terrified. My life no longer fit into the perfect box. It would be ridiculed by people who thought I was being a foolish girl in love with a foolish boy. I spend my junior year engaged and fighting my need to prove myself to everyone. I spent it unsure of how Austin and I would make money, unsure of where we might live, but I was positive that the Lord was leading us in this way.

All my order—my perfect organization for what I thought would be a picture perfect life—got turned upside down. Not in a bad way. Oh, not at all. It was scary though. My nerves were rattled wondering if we were really doing the right thing. The enemy whispered lies into my ears over and over, telling me that I was just being silly. He told me that we would end up bankrupt because people aren’t supposed to get married until after college. He told me that Austin’s degree would get us nowhere and that mine was even more worthless.

Beloved child of God, your world will, too, get turned upside down. Your plans will get shattered. You will be asked to wade into uncharted waters. The enemy will whisper lies into your ears. He will tell you that the perfect boxes that society gives us are right. That they are good.

But while the enemy is whispering, Jesus will be calling. He will be all around you while the enemy can only be beside one ear. Listen to the voice that is louder, the voice whose Spirit lives within you.

When I went back to rewrite my paper, I carefully studied my rubric once more, only to find that I had completely missed the point of the paper. I had been so focused on making my paper pretty that I had lost sight of the goal. I unlaced the headings. I mixed together all my argumentation. I finished with something that I would not have written on my own volition, but that stated a much stronger point and highlighted my strengths better than I could have ever done on my own.

I wonder how often we miss the point of the lives we lead. How often we try to lead a pretty, Facebook-perfect life. I wonder how much we look to people who look like they have everything together, all the while forgetting that everything in this world is messy.

Christian, unlace your life.

Let’s stop organizing everything into our perfect squares that fit into faded Instagram filters.

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 5.36.35 PMLet’s recognize that Jesus often messes with our plans because He holds the answer key. It may not look like what we want it to. It may be really hard. It could look like being single forever. It could look like trusting a man when everyone before has let you down. It could look like moving to a new city alone. It could look like jumping into ministry when you had a career path planned out before. It could be starting a family before you planned or not getting to start one at all. Whatever it is, however, our ideas are being torn apart, we already have the rubric: His voice, His word.

The Lie That will Ruin Relationships

 

That’s just the way I am…

I just like to be in control.

I’m just a yelling kind of person.

I just don’t like talking about conflict.

I just can’t find the time to get into my word every day.

I just can’t help but gossip.

I just tell little lies. It’s for the good of those who I love. Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 12.41.34 PM.png

That’s just the way I am…

At the very beginning of my relationship with Austin, we got into a fight over my desire to have control over everything. “Austin,” I said, “It’s just the way I am. We need to figure out how to work our relationship around that.”

“I will not accept that. You don’t have to be that way.”

No one had ever said that to me before. Not that bluntly at least. Many had figured out how to work around my sense of control. Some had walked away completely. But no one had ever told me that I would change and they would not accept anything less.

My first inclination was to walk away, be who I was going to be, and find someone who would just deal with it. Yet was the one who had hurt him. I was the one who was in the wrong.

Let me tell you, that was the last time I ever said, “that’s just the way I am.” Not because I am any less prideful, but because I was embarrassed. Here I was, someone who proclaimed the Gospel–the Gospel that is forever changing and altering our hearts to look more like Jesus–and I refused to take part in my own sanctification.

It was in that moment that I realized the single attitude that had destroyed my friendships and relationships in the past–both with man and God. That attitude would eventually destroy my relationship with Austin, my family, and anyone else I tried to get close to. It would hinder my relationship with my Savior and completely taint my witness if I allowed it to go any further.

The crazy thing is that I actually believed that I couldn’t do anything about it. Then this passage entered my life and turned everything upside down.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I was forgetting about my great cloud of witnesses.

Sisters and brothers and all who read these words, let us not forget that the church is not the building we walk into on Sunday mornings to pray our prayers and get a twinge of conviction. It is the body of believers who God has placed on this planet to bring glory to fullsizerender-22Him. It is the people who love Him more than any pleasure of this earth. If we are in Him, we are part of it. We are surrounded by it. We are to utilize it and be utilized by it. While Austin and I were involved in a romantic relationship, he was acting as my brother in that moment. He was holding me accountable to the God I represented.

Had I ever gotten so vulnerable to admit that fault before, I am sure that someone else would have called it out. Let us be surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses. Let us be involved in families of faith around us that we might not grow complacent in our sin. Let us build interpersonal relationships with people who are not going to allow us to stand stagnant.

I was running my race with baggage.

I really like to run. I try to run at least 10 miles per week and most of the time 15.

For the life of me I cannot figure out the people who run with a sweatshirt on when it isn’t cold! I mean no offense if that is you, but how can you possibly do that with all the extra weight and heat. Heck, I can barely let myself run in long pants. You see, running is most enjoyable when it feels freeing. I love the feeling of a breeze flowing through my shirt and my feet feeling weightless on the pavement. I love the sensation of moving faster than I actually am, pretending that I am running toward my Father and away from the sorrows of this world.

I often forget that I can actually do that in my life. I don’t have to just pretend in my running shoes. fullsizerender-21

Sin is like that bulky extra baggage that makes running feel weighty. It might seem cool or look cute, but the experience hurts a lot more. You better bet that I was running the race when I refused to throw off my sin, but it hurt. It was harder than it had to be. Until I rid myself of this arrogant attitude, I was not going to feel free in the race I remained called to run.

I was not fixing my eyes on Jesus.

In fact, I was fixing my eyes on myself. I was so consumed in “that’s just part of what makes me…me” that I was neglecting to reflect my Savior.

Had someone walked into that room and listened to the conversation I was having with Austin, no one would have ever assumed I was a follower of the world’s Savior. They would have assumed that I was a worshiper of self. That I wrapped my worth in my own being rather than the founder and perfecter of faith.

Christian, I have good news. That is not my attitude any longer. And I can take none of the credit for it.

We do not have to live in the land of “that’s just the way I am.” That land will destroy the relationships we are called to be in. It will ruin our witness. It will strangle our joy.

Yet Hebrews reminds us that through His power, we have the ability to cast off this sin. We are saved by the One who holds all things. If He has the ability to create the earth with His breath, move mountains with His fingertip, protect a people group with His thoughts, He has the power to take the sin out of our lives. He has the power to sanctify us and transform us from one degree of glory to the next.

So stop.

Stop saying “That’s just the way I am.”

You may–and probably do–have a lot of sin in your life. 

So do I. But we have a Savior who is bigger than those struggles. 

You may have struggled with anger as long as you can remember. Yet He says, I can put away your anger (Ephesians 4:31).

You may deal with lust. He says, I can give you the Spirit to quench your fleshly desires (Galatians 5:16).

You may have been taught that one culture is less than your own. He says, I can give you a heart that desires equality for all peoples (Galatians 3:28).

You may have been raised in a family of yellers. He says, I can turn tribulation into peace (2 Thessalonians 3:16).

You may struggle to find time to get into your word. He says, I can make time for you to spend with me (Matthew 6:6).

My friend, my fellow believer, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I walked down the aisle to the lyrics, “I fix my eyes on you. The founder and the finisher of my faith. I fix my eyes on you. The solace in your suffering is my strength.” The Lord made a way for me to get past this stronghold in my own life, and He promises to do that for all of us when we are willing to give it to Him.

My relationships with my husband, my family, my co-workers, my friends, they’re so much better when I choose to say, “That’s just the way I was. Now the only thing I am is a follower of Jesus.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To My Fellow “Young-Marrieds”

From the moment our lungs first fill with air, we become burdened with expectations. We are expected to smile when we dream as infants, learn to say “mama” or “dada”, and walk at a certain age. Then the expectations grow. Standardized testing in elementary school. Actions that reflect well on family. College. Career. Marriage. In. That. Order.

I decided to break that expectation order at twenty years old and marry the love of my life before graduating college.

We could have waited an extra year to get married. We could have held off until I graduated  and had a career lined up. But oh how loved each other. How we were confident that the Lord wanted marriage for our lives now. That He wanted to work through us together as one in this moment.

Austin had three side jobs and a beat up ford escort. I had a part-time internship. He had to sell his trumpet to buy a ring. So we asked our God to make a way.

He faithful to provide. He provided confidence in our own hearts, a monetary means to become married (not a ton, but more than enough), along with affirmation from our most trusted disciplers.

Yet while the Lord was providing deeply, the enemy was seeking to destroy the assurance we held. That destruction often flooded my mind in the aftermath of some sweet, well-meaning phrases I heard…

“What’s the hurry?”

“Don’t you want to be established first?”

“Marriage is hard, girl! Give it some time.”

“What if you get pregnant before you graduate?!”

I would be lying if I told you that some of these concerns don’t still resonate in my head when the going gets tough. Don’t get me wrong, these burdens do have serious merit. Marriage is not something we should just rush into. For the believer, it should only be considered when Jesus is the center.

But if you’re anything like me, you were created for this moment. You were assembled for this relationship. You are most effective for God’s kingdom with that sweet human as your partner.


So these words are for you, sister. You who are either married young despite the opinion of oscreen-shot-2017-01-26-at-3-17-52-pmthers, entering into that season soon, or even feeling called toward that direction. Because guess what: the doubts don’t go away. And they will eat at your marriage. They will turn a productive, kingdom-seeking relationship into a destructive, saint-tearing opposition. Rest, my fellow kingdom builder. Rest in this sweet, sweet blessing He is giving you. Rest in His promises, rather than the world’s superstitions.

Yes, you might miss out on a traditional college experience, but yours will be just as sweet, if not sweeter.

Friends, if our longing is for Jesus, He will stir up His desires within our hearts. For some, He has prepared a young-adult life filled with singleness and discipleship. For others, He has prepared a young-adult life centered upon partnership with another.

While the heart may be pure behind the words of warning we so often hear, our experience must be guided by Him and Him alone.

Before He called me into this marriage, I found my joy in spending time with the church as many evenings a week as possible. I thrived off of the encouragement from sisters in Christ.

Today, my first passion lies in spending time discipling younger believers with my husband. I find tranquility in encouraging him, doing life with him, and growing closer to Jesus through our relationship. I have found more delight in living this life than I could possibly find in singleness because this is where Jesus has placed me right now. Love the life He has given you. If you allow Him, He will grant you immense joy because of it.

*To my single ladies reading this: same goes for you, sis! Check out last week’s post for some more insight into your heart in this time.

Listen closely to the wisdom of others–even if you don’t initially agree.

“Marriage is not for the faint of heart,” I heard often. But rather than really digging into what that meant, I assumed I was being told, “marriage is not for you.” My heart is not faint! I thought. Even in the first weeks of marriage, I wondered how it could possibly be that hard. Then Austin started having to drive an hour to work and back every day. He was tired, not as lively as he was just a week before, and my insecurities set in. 

15078626_10207710392454727_4860694219943418279_nI wondered if it was me.

I wondered if I was falling short

I questioned whether I should be his wife or if we really did rush into it.

But he was simply tired, and I was neglecting to find my strength in the Creator.

What I should have done was prepare my heart to be completely enveloped in another person. I should have sought council on how to pray for strength when both he and I are weak. Marriage is not for the faint of heart, and had I taken that wisdom rather than pridefully acted as if I knew exactly how to enter this kind of companionship, I would have called upon the Lord’s strength rather than struggle to find my own.

Hold tight to Jesus’ promises, not this world’s opinions.

Some “advise” will be simple ramblings of the world. And that is okay.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-3-20-27-pmWhen the world tells us that we won’t aren’t yet ready to take on that kind of responsibility, we lean on, “my grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When the world tells us that we will set ourselves back by not shooting ahead independently, we rest in “For I know the plans I have for you” (Jeremiah 29:11).

When we are told that one can’t be content in marriage because it means relying on another, we remember “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13) and know that if Paul can be tortured for the Gospel, even the hardest days of marriage will be possible, and even joyous, with Jesus’s provision.

When the world declares that we are too young to know anything about anything, we have confidence in His promise that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5 ).

Sisters, let us continually remind ourselves that He is the only one who can make this work.

He will sustain us when we have no idea what we are doing. He will be our foothold when the world crumbles around us. He will strengthen us when our husbands are weak. He has already blotted out our sins with His blood and is making us new from each day to the next. If we are leaning into Him completely and allowing Him to sanctify, we will be a much better wife years down the road than we can ever imagine being now. Yes, marriage is hard. No, it is not for the faint of heart. But boy, our God is faithful anyway.

Dear Husband… Thank You

 

 

Three years ago today, my life-long love asked me to be his 554791_10201789359032592_560735192_n.jpggirlfriend. When I think back to that day, I had absolutely no idea that I might be sitting here, three years later, his wife. I was so young. I am still so young. But I could not be more grateful that the Lord has allowed us to embark on this sweet journey as one. So today, my words are for him. They are a thank you for the last three years and more importantly the last few months. I hope that through whatever relationship you may enter or even whatever relationship you are already involved in, you have an immense amount to be thankful for. I could never thank my man–more importantly, I could never thank my Maker enough for giving me this marriage: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

My sweet Husband,

This is the first time I have written directly to you on here, and I hope you don’t mind letting the world in on us a little more. My prayer is that this letter is one that many can pass along to their husbands, one that will let others in on sweet secrets we have discovered together, and above all one that will glorify our Maker through the marriage we have embarked upon together.

 

At the start of our relationship, I worried about a lot. I worried about it ending and the whole world knowing. I worried about committing to someone I knew would break my heart in half because I loved him so much already. I worried about what others would say about our commitment level (because I knew the direction I wanted to go in). Yet you calmed me; rather, Jesus calmed me, and He used you.

I think that’s the recurring theme in our relationship: Jesus did {insert cool thing here}, and He used you. That’s why I love you so much. Because you have been the one that Jesus has over and over used in my live to make me know Him better–more deeply. So here are a list of thank you’s. While they are written to you, I understand that you were not able to do any of this by your power alone. I realize that He did these things and allowed you and me to be part of the story. So thank you for being used. I love you because of that.

Thank you for growing up with me.

10488008_10202537908505861_7774141712368675518_nAt eighteen years old, I had no idea I was about to meet my husband. I never dreamed I might get so lucky so young. But together, we embarked on this journey anyways. I have eaten meal plans with you, gone to every midnight premier of Hunger Games with you; I have watched you work three jobs tirelessly to finish your degree, walk down the line, and start your first big kid job. You have watched me as a teenager. You have been patient with me as I struggled with all my many immature sins. You have walked with me as I have discovered my callings.

The best thing is that we aren’t even really grown up yet. We have so much left to go, and I could not be more excited to do it with you, my love. God knew what He was doing when He gave me you as a partner. I am ever grateful for your grace, your kindness, your understanding, and our mistakes together. We are learning, and I love you because of that.

Thank you for learning hard lessons with me at a very young age.

Along with all this growing up we are doing, we have learned some pretty hard lessons. We have lost relationships, we have endured conflict, and we have clung to one another all along the way, learning all the while that Jesus is who we are to cling to first. You helped me in many ways before we were married and lead me well since. It has been such a short time, but I know that the Lord has taught me so much more with you than I might be able to know on my own. I love you so much because of that.

Thank you for being poor with me.

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 2.47.24 PM.pngI know you love those ribs and that its really hard to give them up right now, but you’ve been a real trooper.

My love, there is no person in this world I would rather shop with at Aldi. There is no person I would rather explain finances to when I don’t really understand them myself. There is no one I would rather pay off student loans with. We have made our own fun over these last three years and especially these last few months. I will forever cherish the beginning of our life together. It may not be glamorous, but it sure is enjoyable. I love you during all of this.

Thank you for having patience when I forget to do things the way you like.

Man. You are so kind when it comes to my poor dish-rinsing abilities. There are about one-hundred ways I could be better, and while neither of us are perfect, you have had more patience with me than I can fathom. I love you so because of that.

Thank you even more for the “learning-how-to-do-things-together” moments.

We struggle sometimes. My very favorite marriage memories though are the ones that we learn, for the first time, how to do adult things: putting up a real Christmas tree, taking down the real Christmas tree because it apparently isn’t allowed in the apartment, getting a smoke alarm to turn off. There are so many moments that could have easily been nightmares, yet you turned them into joys. You’re fun. I love you because of that.

Thank you for loving me through all this learning.

I have made habits out of screwing up. Over and over again, I neglect to show you respect, love you in the way I should, and so many other things. I forget to encourage you when you are down, yet I expect you to build me back up when I am crumbling myself. Over and over again, you love me anyway. You have graciously cherished me as God sanctifies me. You have pointed out my wrong doings with compassion. I pray that I have been able to do the same for you. I love you with all of my heart because of that.

15027450_10207710620060417_5523295692430828169_nAnd finally, on this day, I recognize that I could tell you thank you for one hundred thousand things. I could say thank you for sweeping the floor any time you see a crumb. I could say thank you for watching my TV show with me when there is a game on you would rather enjoy. I could say thank you for sweeping my hair out of my face and choosing me daily and all the sweet things you do. But most of all, my love, I want to thank you for loving Jesus more than you love me. If it weren’t for Him, we would so much more easily see the flaws in one another. We would focus first on the others’ faults rather than our own.

We are here in this moment. We have so much further to go if He allows. We are going to keep being poor together and growing up together and learning hard lessons together. We are going to keep being sanctified and being patient with one another through it. Thank you that you are trusting Him through the story that has been written for us. Above everything else, my sweet husband, I love you because of Him.

 

 

To the Girl who is Tired of Waiting…

When I take a step back and look at this blog from a distance, I can see how it might be a little off-putting to some. Some specifically who may be single and frustrated, in a messy relationship, or too young to be considering this kind of relationship. It looks like everything is perfect, right? It looks like everything is all-good.

Let me start by nixing that. Yesterday Austin and I had our first big fight. I am talking melt into a puddle of tears and wonder how the heck this whole marriage thing works kind of fight. The kind where we dishonored one another and our Maker all at once.

You see, we are people. Messy, broken people who struggle with pride and anger and selfish ambition.

And you are on the other side of the screen, only seeing the beautiful.

Here are the words I have for you, beloved. Here is some encouragement for no matter where you are. Words that I am not qualified to give you, but that He promises in His Word.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 You are loved right there. Right where you are.

There is a Jesus who left His fullsizerender-11throne. Who came to this earth that His children might love Him above everything. Grasp to that. Hold tight to the husband that will never leave you, never yell at you, never let you down. When you want to be going on a date, go to a coffee shop and spend intentional time with Him. When you go to a wedding, come home to time in His word. He has already loved you. He has chased you and sought you more than any man ever will or is even capable of doing. He does not ask you to get yourself together first. He isn’t concerned with any dirty appearance you may harbor in this moment. He is only concerned with you loving Him and loving Him deeply. He has the rest. He loves you more than you can fathom and wants you to cling to Him now.

There can be joy in singleness.

In last week’s post, my sweet friend Abby wrote, “Singleness is a fun, interesting stage of life that I’m dead set on taking advantage of. You could do as many Proverbs 31 studies and maybe learn to sew, but I think preparing for marriage looks like working for God’s kingdom.” 

fullsizerender-12Take a look at Paul, the Biblical MVP. He says in 1 Corinthians 7:6-7, “Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”

He treasures his singleness as a gift. An ability to focus on Jesus alone. To give His life to the only One who is 100% faithful. A part of me is jealous of Paul.

I am convinced completely that God gave me a relationship so early on because He knew that I would sin in singleness. I’m not hard core enough to handle it. He knew that I work better with a continual accountability partner than I might on my own. Praise Him for that. But I am beautifully envious of those who can ride this roller coaster with only Jesus and the church in their car. You inspire me, sister. You make this whole loving The Lord thing look easy. You are a testimony and a witness and if you need me to tell you that I look up to you humbly because of that every day, I will.

Do NOT settle.

Please. I spent years settling. Literally jumping from boy to boy to boy searching desperately for the picture perfect relationship that might lead to a marriage. Yes, I found the relationship The Lord intended for me. I was brought a good man. But is our marriage picture perfect? Heck no.

You will get hurt if you seek to fill a void that media–even Christian media–tells you you might have. Wait for Jesus to bring you your man if He has one for you.

I remember sitting in the car one day in high school. I was getting ready to get into a relationship with a really good guy. A guy who loved Jesus more than anything. He was searching for a partner to join into a God-glorifying relationship with. He was handsome, polite, loved by the parents, everything I could imagine I might want.

I pushed shuffle on my phone and the song “You’ll Come” by Hillsong began. “I have decided, I have resolved to wait upon You, Lord,” sang into my ears. Crap. I thought. I knew that God was calling me to nix it. I had no clue why. Honestly, I still don’t really know other than the fact that Austin Groves was living in a dorm 10 miles down the road. Some times He tells you to wait, even when it doesn’t seem right. Listen closely.

Surround yourself with other single, Jesus-loving women.

I know it’s hard. The Church is filled withfullsizerender-13 ministries that promote the family. Dig deeper. Find someone who can disciple you. Someone who has done all these things well and taken advantage of this single gift she has been given with angst. I can give you my words all day long, but you have been given people of The Church for a reason. Surround yourself with people who are in the same boat as you. That beautiful, sometimes unbalanced, but never sinking boat that The Lord placed you all into. Don’t try to swim to my boat or the boat of your friend who is dating or wherever else you want to be.

Most importantly…

He is the best husband you could ask for.

I can imagine that there are days you get tired of hearing this. But my sister, that doesn’t make it any less good and true. Take it from me, someone who has an AMAZING husband. My husband lets me down. He is broken. He is being sanctified. As deeply as it might hurt, I could live without Him if I were put in that situation.

I could NOT live without my God.

Perhaps that is what marriage has taught me. In the most intimate human relationship there is, I have come to love He who isn’t human even more. I have been reminded that my earthly hero is made of dust. My heavenly hero is never ending, never failing, always good. Ephesians 5 commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Austin will say that he fails at that daily. That’s okay. I don’t hold up my end of the bargain either. That’s what we signed up for–to learn to be better in these areas daily and get rid of them ASAP.

fullsizerender-14But please, sister, realize that He loves you better than any man ever will. Find joy beyond imagination in this life stage. Do not settle for what the world would have you settle for. Put the time and effort into your Savior as you might your husband.

He is holding you. He has a plan for this–whatever it may be. He loves you beyond comprehension and wants you to love Him first. Maybe after that, He will provide a husband. Maybe He won’t. Either way, I promise you. He is the best that it gets. 

Lifetimes of Wisdom to and from Women: How to Perceive Marriage

After a few short months of being married, I understand more and more that learning from others is the best kind of learning. My last few years have been a whirlwind. I went from a year and a half of singleness to two years of dating, eight months of engagement, and am now sitting in my fifth month of marriage.

To say I know nothing would be an understatement. To say I have learned enormously would also be an understatement.

I am currently doing Beth Moore’s, Entrusted. This morning’s audio message communicated something to me that I hope we can all take part in. She explained that we cannot be servants in ministry without the church there to guide us along the way. Friends, if I didn’t have women in the Church speaking wisdom into my life, I would fail in my marriage and every relationship I hold over and over again because I would make it all about me when everything is about Jesus

My last twenty-four hours have been filled with the hasty gathering of wisdom from men and women I look up to in their individual stages of life. Today, ladies, you will hear from the women who have taught me how to seek The Lord as I seek relationship here on earth. Tomorrow, men (if any of you are reading this), you will hear from men who are following Jesus that they may lead a family one day. Learn from these as I have. Soak up what The Lord has given them.

Whether you are single, dating, engaged, a newly-wed, or even years into marriage, let us learn from the hearts of others. As Beth Moore said, “Let us ask one another about our mistakes. Let us learn what delights one another most” that we might know our Savior all the more in the way we yearn relationship with His creation.

• • • • • • • • • • •

To my single girls…

Abby Watkins, Single Senior at WKU

Singleness is a fun, interesting stage of life that I’m screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-8-29-32-amdead set on taking advantage of. You could do as many Proverbs 31 studies and maybe learn to sew, but I think preparing for marriage looks like working for God’s kingdom.

The desire for a husband is not bad–Eve was made to be a helper to Adam–but, things get screwy when that desire is crippling to gospel ministry. Single women have an incredible opportunity to leverage their singleness and pour into younger women for the sake of the gospel.

A beautiful, wiser woman told me once that a mark of discipleship and ministry is that people know where your silverware drawer is. Ok so maybe you don’t own silverware or even a drawer, but I hope you understand that singleness gives you so many opportunities to invite people into your life and share Jesus with them. Your current stage of life is about developing life skills that glorify God, and then those can carry into marriage if the Lord wills.

Think of Paul, a hard-core single apostle. He writes to the Corinthians, “So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better (1 Corinthians 7:38).”

I was genuinely annoyed when I first read this verse.

Yet if you read the few verses before, Paul explains that an “unmarried woman is [only] anxious about the things of the Lord.” So that’s my prayer in this crazy, funny time of singleness. Can I learn to cook so my future husband (Lord willing) doesn’t starve? Sure. Can I pray for a future spouse? Absolutely. Can I pray for lost souls to know the grace of Jesus?  All the more.

When you Start Dating…

Brianna Hamlin, Dating for Marriage

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-8-32-57-amAs far as I can remember, becoming a bride was in the forefront of my mind whenever I was planning my future. I dreamed of the absolute perfect wedding with a flowy lace gown and a smiling groom to await me at the end of the isle.

When I began to date, my dreams started to shift into reality as my fairytale became practical.

I began to focus more on how our future together would unfold, rather than how our marriage would be grounded in God’s will. Soon to realize that the covenant of marriage is not wholly significant here on earth, but it represents the holy bond we hold with our heavenly groom.

My responsibility has now become to guard my heart in the Lord so that I may show my husband the same unconditional love that He has lavished upon me. To mold myself into the wife I know God expects me to be as His daughter, I have to put my relationship with Him first, above all else, so that He is priority. This goes for my dating now and my marriage to ensue.

He is the solid rock upon which I want to build my marriage, and by preparing my heart in advance, I hope to one day treat my husband as Christ’s bride treats Him.

From the Eyes of a Newly-Wed…

Olivia Haga, Married 1 month

There is no handbook on how to become the perfect 15747571_10102076559546927_5745194869192624985_nnewly-wed wife. Every woman is different. Every husband will be different. If you’re like me–always concerned with being perfect–this was a hard realization.

I often became stressed at the thought of not meeting expectations: not being everything my soon-to-be husband wanted in a wife. This is when I had to start hitting my knees and seeking counsel from other women. I began praying that God would show me my worth in the way He saw me.

Because I was marrying a God-loving man, Seth would view me in that same light. I also prayed that God would be working in Seth’s heart to see me as Christ sees the church, with abundant love and unending grace. So even when I fail to meet all these expectations, his love might remain unconditional.

Talk about bringing peace to my anxiety.

In addition, I had many long conversations with other new wives. Not that I expected them to give me the answers on how to be the “perfect wife,” but because being vulnerable and relying on community makes a world of difference. I expressed my worries and allowed them to tell me about their hardships. I was then able to clear my head and process through my concerns. Leaning on these friends showed me that I was not the only one who has these nerves.

The wedding day came and passed, and we’re almost a month into marriage. I have never experienced anything greater. Just as I prayed, Seth is showing me unconditional love and grace, and I see a picture of God more clearly through my husband.

If marriage is something you believe is in your near future, do not be afraid of it. Allow God to reveal his plans for you and rely on Him to prepare you. He has created this wonderful gift, and a gift it truly is.

A Few Years Down the Road…

Gwen Sledge, Married 25 Years

15665843_10209671290077184_2788525382149343566_nMarriage is a beautiful gift from God. After 25 years of marriage, I can honestly say that fulfilling the role of wife is hands down one of my favorite things in life. I am thankful that I have a man who is easy to be married to, but marriage is not always easy.

No matter who you are, there will be challenges along the way. Looking back, I realize how God has used the years to teach me a thing or two. I am still learning.

If I could have a conversation with my 20 year old newlywed self, this is what I would tell her….

  1. Allow him to lead. God has designed our men to be the leaders of our families. As your husband seeks the Lord, his desire will be to protect and serve those who have been entrusted to him. He will seek and value your opinion, and you will always have a vote. But when you absolutely cannot come to an agreement, he ultimately gets the final say and takes the responsibility for that say. There will be times he falls, but you will be amazed at the wisdom and perspective that God will grant a man who is striving to be a godly husband.
  2. Do not seek to change him. God has placed a man in your life that you have chosen to marry. It is not your job to change the things you don’t adore. Work on you. Let your man work on himself. Pray for him. God will handle the rest.
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Does it really matter which way the toilet paper goes? Work together to compromise on the things that really bother you, but don’t allow small annoyances to create arguments. SO not worth it.
  4. Remember the who is more important than the what. Almost always, the person will be more important than the win. Protect your man’s heart first. Never belittle or talk down to him. Never put him down to his face or behind his back. Be his biggest cheerleader.
  5. Communicate often and clearly. Do not hold unspoken expectations. If you need something, ask. He is not a mind reader. Chances are that he would love to know how he can best love and serve you. Do the same for him. Get to know him well enough to know how you can best love him. Learn his love language and speak it. You will both be blessed.

Laugh, girl. Love hard. Be real, and be transparent. Life is short, and God is good…

Reflecting on a Marriage…

Celeste Sledge, Married 57 years. Widowed two Months.

217717_1767691550233_6672462_nWhen I was 20 years old, we met and he swept me off my feet. He was a sailor stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. So I hopped on a plane and traveled across the ocean to marry this man I knew only an ounce of as I reflect. As I look back on our years together, it was a miracle that our marriage lasted. I can see Gods hand working through all those years.  We had many ups and downs but weathered them all. Here are some things I learned along the way:

  1. One thing I would like to say is that you can forgive anything, though it takes prayer and trust. As in anything, we need to make up our mind and our heart what we’re going to do and trust God to help us through it. So develop a forgiving heart.
  2. We can’t always have our way; marriage is a two-way street.  It’s give/take both ways. 100% BOTH WAYS. Not 50/50 but 100% give and 100% take.
  3. It’s really hard to say “I’m sorry.” and mean it. We must realize that we can’t always be right and be willing to admit it.
  4. Tell him you love him daily. Show him too.

The last is the most important, and it took me a long time to learn it. I was raised in a home where “I love you” was not expressed openly so it was difficult for me to say or show the words. Let your mind and heart be creative. Leave him notes. One of my favorites is to leave a message on the bathroom mirror.  I used my lipstick to draw a heart and leave a “sweet nothings” message. Use your imagination, but don’t let a day go by without expressing your love in one way or another. Even a gentle hug means so much.

My husband told me that one of the most important things I did was put my arm around him. He said it meant the world. It showed him I cared even on the hard days.

One piece of advice that came from my mother: “There will be some days when you can’t stand him, but if you will wait a while, the spark will come.”  Don’t give up though you may be tempted. Don’t give in. Keep on working to make your mate feel loved and appreciated and loved and loved and loved. 

• • • • • • • • • • •

Marriage is one of the most tangible views we have of Christ’s love for us here on this earth. But that doesn’t mean it is easy.

My friend, if you are in it for a fairytale, I’ll tell you straight up that you must reevaluate. It is messy and hard and costly. It has nothing to do with us. It is all about creating a unit that will glorify God more than one might do by him or herself. We are not all called down this road. Whatever way he leads you–may it be singleness or marriage–make it about Jesus. When it is reflecting Him, you cannot lose.