Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage

I read Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage this past spring. I typed up five pages of notes. I thought it was (mostly) fantastic. I do believe that marriage takes a lot of time, work and intentionality in order to thrive. I believe we need to become experts on our spouse and choose to love and respect them because of who they are (who God created them to be) not because of what they do. I do not believe any of this can be accomplished on our own. We cannot--in our own power--love, serve, forgive, sacrifice, and respect as Christ calls us to. It is the One who created man and woman, the one who created the covenant of marriage, who gives us the strength and fortitude and eternal perspective to love...to honor our commitment...to suffereth long...to put their needs before your own...to run the race set before us. It is only through and because of what God has already done for us, that we are able to love as Christ has first loved us.  

The following are a few quotes from the book:

"Relationships seldom die because they suddenly have no life left in them. They wither slowly, either because people do not understand how much or what kind of upkeep, time, work, love and caring they require or because people are too lazy or afraid to try.” (this quote attributed to 
David Viscott)

"Your heart follows whatever you focus on (or pay attention to). If your focus on is on God and the Kingdom of God, His desires will become yours. When we take each other for granted, we lose the desire to work out our differences when they arise. The reason many relationships die is simply that no attention is given to them and desire is washed away."

"
Why doesn't God have a special person just for you? Because He knows that His principles of love, acceptance, patience, and forgiveness work, and they work all the time, every time—no matter to whom you are married. That is why the apostle Paul never told us to find that ‘special someone’ but rather to make sure we find someone who truly believes and lives by the principles of love, acceptance, patience and forgiveness. He referred to such a person as a believer.
Now here’s an honest question: if being a believer is the key, then why do so many marriages fail, even with people of faith? Simply because many people of faith fail to live out these principles. The apostle James touched on this problem when he said, “Faith without works is dead.” In other words, if you don’t actually do the right thing, believing the right thing won’t do you any good. In fact, he teaches that our lack of action can nullify the very faith we claim to have. It doesn't matter how spiritual or holy you think you are, if you are an impatient, demanding, whining unforgiving person, your marriage will suffer."

"Dare to believe marriage is good, that the one you are in is good. Dare to ask God to help you treasure it, appreciate it, and stay committed to it, even though there are times you feel a little shaken up and buck naked with your needs going unmet."

"The truth is, a successful marriage is not the result of marrying the right person, feeling the right emotions, thinking the right thoughts, or even praying the right prayers. It’s about doing the right things—period."


"Today, many believe marriage is like a sprint, that the start is what is criticial. I never cease to be amazed at how many struggling couples point to the start as the reson for their struggles:  “We were too young.” “We didn't know each other for very long.” “We didn't have enough money.” They are convinced that the poor start is the reason for their troubles, but they are wrong. Marriage is not a sprint; it is a marathon. It is not the start that leads to a failed marriage, but the unwillingness to endure the race. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gratitude clipboards

Earlier this week I posted a link to my work blog. My latest post was about the topic of gratitude.  

A couple days ago I met with a friend and we created gratitude clipboards. As a result of reading One Thousand Gifts, (a book in which the author chronicles the impact of writing 1,000 things she is thankful for) I have decided to embark on this adventure with my family.

I am choosing to do this because while I'm in a waiting season, I want to practice gratitude in a very intentional and specific way. I want to recognize the blessings around me and in my life, while we wait for our prayer for employment to be answered. 

1 Thessalonians tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. If I can learn the importance of this, and teach my children the value in this...I think the outcome could be quite powerful in shaping their our attitudes. Sadly kids today struggle with depression, anxiety, worry, and stress. Not surprisingly, many parents struggle with those as well. 
 

So my friend and I painted clipboards, cut out the words gratitude, stuck them on the clipboards and tied some ribbon on top. I then created a template for us to write as a family all the things we're grateful to God for. I also decided to make small clipboards for Samuel and Lauren and I'll list the items they say they are thankful for. We just started this last week, so we only have one family page so far. 



Gratitude items mentioned by the kids that I found of particular interest:
Mommy - 4 times
God/Jesus - 4 times
Avocado - Lauren wanted me to write this (I do love them!)
Chips - Lauren
Cherry pitter - Samuel


They repeated some of the same things (see above list) every time I asked what they were thankful for, but I've decided I'm just going to go with that. When else in life am I going to hear so frequently that my kids are grateful for me? This gratitude practice is good for my heart in more ways than one!

Looking at this list I realize this will become a journal for our family. As I glance at the items listed, memories and experiences are associated with them. And the most beautiful of all, is the simplicity with which the kids tell me what they are thankful for.

I have so much to learn from them. 


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jen Hatmaker on adoption

"Get your "YES" straight at the very beginning. Decide on it. Roll around in it. Put it on the table and shellack it. Because you cannot let every delay and snag derail your certainty about adoption. When you say YES, you are saying YES to enter the suffering of the orphan, and that suffering includes WAITING FOR YOU TO GET TO THEM. I promise you, their suffering is worse than yours. We say YES to the tears, YES to the longing, YES to the maddening process, YES to the money, YES to hope, YES to the screaming frustration of it all, YES to going the distance through every unforeseen discouragement and delay. Do not imagine that something outside of "your perfect plan" means you heard God wrong. There is NO perfect adoption. EVERY adoption has snags. We Americans invented the "show me a sign" or "this is a sign" or "this must mean God is closing a door" or "God must not be in this because it is hard," but all that is garbage. You know what's hard? Being an orphan. They need us to be champions and heroes for them, fighting like hell to get them home. So we will. We may cry and rage and scream and wail in the process, but get them home we will." --Jen Hatmaker, Author of Interrupted and Seven and mother of five (two all the way from Ethiopia)

Monday, July 16, 2012

My other blog

If you don't get enough of my writing here on In Its Time, feel free to check out the Gestures of Generosity blog. This is where I am learning and growing and challenging others to pursue lifestyles of generosity. I would be honored if you would join me on this journey.

http://gesturesofgenerosity.com/author/stacy-may/

Monday, July 9, 2012

Life-punch-you-in-the-gut kinda hard

Yesterday I posted a link to Hope: handmade.

I can intimately identify with some of the author's descriptions about life:

"Hope becomes difficult when it seems all you know is disappointment. And I don't mean the
 my favorite TV show was cancelled after just one season! disappointment. I mean the kind of disappointment that hits you so hard it knocks the breath out of you, and it feels like someone took a crowbar and cracked open your chest."

and
"The thing is, life lately has been hard. And I don't mean like stressing out about finals hard, or like I had an argument with my boyfriend hard, or like juggling work and school and family and friends and laundry and dishes hard. I mean, like when life punches you in the gut and you double over because you didn't see it coming, hard." 

The month of June my friends, was a life-punch-you-in-the-gut kinda hard for my family.

Ryan studied all of April and May for a couple tests that we thought we're the first steps into a new career for him. We had prayed hard, sought wisdom and considered all options. Ryan interviewed with a number of companies in this area and ultimately took the courageous step to pursue a new career.


On June 2 that option came to an unexpected end. Later that week another possible job opportunity was taken off the table as well.

When I read the text from my husband that delivered the news, I felt exactly as the quote above describes: as though the 
crowbar of life had cracked open my chest and sucked all the air out of me.

Two years of seeking employment and we were left, once again, with no job options.

The tears streamed down my face.

And they continued to come frequently for a couple of weeks as I grieved over what I thought our future was going to be.

It was painful.

It was beautiful.


Some of you have been in places like that. It lasts days for some, weeks for others and possibly even months. You know if you have been there--desperately on your knees before the Lord. A place where God alone fills your desperation...with Himself. His Word becomes like air. His truth is your hope. His arms are your comfort and His face is all you seek.

Three times in life I have experienced this kind of pain as an adult:

When a five-year relationship came to an end during my college years and I was physically sick with grief.

Punch.

And the two times when a ultrasound tech told me that the baby in my womb had died.

Punch.

Punch.


Can you identify with disappointment that is so great that you feel like your chest was cracked open with a crowbar?

Have you experienced pain that causes you to double over from the shock of the news you just received?
 
It's in these times when I have run to those who love me...family, close friends, small group, prayer circles.

But this time was different. I ran to the Lord--my strong tower. I met him in the early hours of the morning as the sun rose and in the humid, dark evenings of summer. I met him through my tears. I met him out of desperation.
 

In June it was God alone who could minister to my heart. I told no one for days. Some friends still do not know because I'm not sure how to start that conversation...."Hey I like your new haircut. How's your summer going? Oh, by the way, the new career that Ryan has been working toward the last two months ended rather abruptly and now we're back to where we started. Keep the prayers coming and have a great summer! (Smile)."


We didn't even tell all of our family members initially because it's emotionally exhausting replaying the series of events and receiving the awkward reassurance that something better will come.

My flesh seeks the comforting hugs and the reassuring words of others. But the comfort and reassurance that I truly need can only be met and found in the Lord and the timeless truth of His Word. 

I knew that. 

But now I know it again.
 

In a deeply personal way.

Tears are healing. Time is healing. But true healing only comes from the Maker and Creator of life. 

So here we are. 
June was the two-year mark of unemployment. We are hopeful again with a few opportunities on the horizon. But our true hope lies in the One that gives and takes away. 

Friends, multiple times in life I have experienced waiting that has not lasted days nor weeks nor months...but years. I write from a place of personal experience. From tasting the salty tears and overwhelming joy that comes with serving a God of waiting.

Why, do so many of us ask, is waiting our story?

I have no idea.

But this I know: when I experience a life-punch-you-in-the-gut kinda hard, God is right there waiting for me.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hope: handmade

My friend sent me a link to Hope: handmade a few weeks ago and suggested I read the author's story about their journey to parenthood. The author is named Stacey as well. 

In February of this year, she and her husband experienced a failed adoption when a little boy they were in love with went back to his birth mom. Stacey writes from a place of brokenness and authenticity. She writes about choosing hope in the midst of heartache. Her latest post about how they came to their decision to adopt made me want to cheer.

So often we think (and write) from a place of trying to control how and when and where...Stacey has been there and she knows the joy and peace that comes with walking hand in hand with a God who loves her unconditionally and holds her heart tenderly.

If you are struggling to conceive, or considering adoption, or just want to read beautifully written words by a woman of faith who is seeking God in the midst of her waiting, take a peek at her blog. You'll be inspired and I'm sure you'll find yourself saying, "That's exactly how I feel."

Also, her online store goes toward supporting their adoption - so go do some shopping!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My fairy tale marriage

How's that for a title?

The below article is about a woman who entered into marriage believing her prince charming was going to make all her fairy tale dreams come true.

Then life happened.

And for them that included 2 1/2 years of unemployment.

I identified with this article in so many ways as far as the emotional strain that unemployment puts on a marriage. The loss of a job is so much more than just the loss of a job....it impacts every part of your life: financially, relationally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

Do me a favor and read this article. And if/when someone in your life (not me dear friends :) faces a season of unemployment, remember the struggle it can place on their marriage and lift them in prayer.

http://www.kyria.com/topics/marriagefamily/marriage/healthhome/fairytalemarriage.html

Sunday, July 1, 2012

That’s fine for you, but I don’t want that for me

Written May 2012:

“That’s fine for you, but I don’t want that for me.”

Those words were spoken by a friend when Ryan and I had lunch with him recently. That’s how he described people’s responses to his family: a daughter with Neurofibromatosis and a son with Down Syndrome.

No one has actually said that to him, but it's likely that many are thinking this about his situation.

He wasn’t bitter. He’s not angry. He is exactly the opposite. He is open. He is accepting. He is willingly receiving what God has for him and his family.

His response is not the norm.

We are a culture and society that does not willingly receive what God has for us…

Disease or chronic pain – no thank you.
Financial struggles – maybe another time.
Death and loss – come back in a few decades.

And when it comes to children, we certainly put high value on health and happiness. How often do you hear it? “It doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or girl as long as they’re healthy.”

We pray they are born healthy and strong and whole. That’s certainly what I prayed for. And every night when I put my children to bed I pray for continued protection, safety and health over their little bodies.

This is what our human hearts believe is best.

But is it?

If health and wholeness isn’t what God has for them…for us…do we know better than God to want something different for their life? For ours?

Friends, I’m just beginning to think through this. I’m pondering and chewing on it and going over it and over it in my head. And it’s freeing and terrifying all at the same time.

 I want health for myself and my loved ones. I want wholeness. I want security and comfort and a sense of what’s next.

The unknown. The unexpected. The trials. The suffering. We’ve already established that I run from those things. I run hard. And I run fast.

But why? Why do I run from hard things if that’s what the loving hand of my Creator is allowing?

“The greatest Christians in history seem to say that their sufferings ended up bringing them the closest to God—so this is the best thing that could happen, not the worst.”—Peter Kreeft

Our friend and his wife have such an eternal perspective. It’s from the Lord and therefore it just is what it is. They certainly have hard moments and tough days. But they see things through a Big Picture lens. And that lens is about a broken world and God’s plan for redemption. And how a little girl and a baby boy can be part of a Grand Plan to tell the world about a God who loves them to a depth and breadth and width that’s incomparable.

So here’s what I’ve been asking myself:
Do I long for God more than I long for a life of comfort?
Do I long for God more than I long for health?
Do I long for God more than I long for financial security?
Do I long for God more than I long for a spouse or a child?
Do I long for God more than I long for contentment?
Do I long for God—and His perfect ways and His perfect plans—more than my timeline, my agenda and my plans?

“That’s fine for you, but I don’t want that for me.”

Here’s the thing: if it’s from God, we should want it.

Because God allows things—especially hard things—to draw us to Him. Not as a test or trial, but so that we lean hard on Him. Run to Him. Find rest in His arms. Be renewed in His presence. Live insanely dependent on Him and walk humbly with Him.

“These hard places give us the gift of intimately knowing God—in ways that would never be possible in our comfort zones.”—Ann Voskamp

As another friend told me: “It’s my heart’s desire [longing for God and God alone], but not yet my heart’s cry. How do I get from one to the other?” She’s on the journey. She’s moving toward embracing what God has gifted her with…even though it is a gift that is hard to unwrap.

I totally get it. If I’m absolutely honest, and dig deep into my heart, I don’t always want what God sees fit to give me. Because it’s hard. And it hurts. And we are forced to grieve over what could have been and readjust our expectations to what will be.

“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”―Joni Eareckson Tada

Though we might eventually accept that it’s from God, and decide to lovingly embrace what He’s gifted us with, the world may never.

And that’s the hard reality of living this side of heaven.

Lord God do a work in me that is so grand and so powerful that I would long for nothing more than I long for you. Create in me a new heart that longs simply and wholly for your plans, your purpose and your ways. Make me steadfast and unmovable in Your presence. For each one of us, transform us so fully into the image of Christ that out of the overflow of our relationship with You our response would no longer be: “That’s fine for you, but I don’t want that for me” and instead become: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”