{Marriage Journal} Resetting

1613976_10152374377448109_1231145455_nAndrew and I have been married a little over three years now and it has been an amazing, rewarding, and fun journey together. As every  human does, we’ve encountered some valleys, varying in “categories” and levels of difficulty.

A few weeks ago, we hit a trial of a new genre. I hesitate to even call it a trial, because on the scale of difficulties, it ranked pretty low. But often whatever challenges God gives us feel very big in the moment, even if we know in our heads that they are comparatively trivial.

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, in the middle of the semester, we moved to our new apartment and immediately started functioning as the managers, taking care of the property, fielding dozens and dozens of phone calls and emails, and giving tours of our vacancy. We weren’t settled into our new home yet, I was extremely nauseous and exhausted almost 24/7, and Andrew was getting increasingly behind on his homework.

Tension started to build. Every time the phone rang, we’d exchange glances, hoping the other would offer to get it. Every “failed” tour left us more frustrated. Every new wave of nausea increased my stress levels. Every buzz at the door broke Andrew’s concentration. We began getting short with each other, feeling on edge and cracking under the pressures and exhaustion. Our edginess continued for about two days. We weren’t even really arguing, we just felt at odds and annoyed with one another, and we didn’t talk about anything but work.

The next morning, I happened to read a chapter in a book claiming that love is truly tested in times of trial. I was immediately convicted as I realized that this season was a new “hard” for us, and we were letting it pull us apart instead of coming together and growing stronger in our commitment to and love for one another. At a time when we needed each other, we were functioning independently. Talk about a humbling eye-opener!

I came home and poured out my heart to Andrew. We talked for a good long while about the various frustrations and pressures we were feeling. We asked and granted forgiveness for the ways we had sinned against each other. We promised to choose to make this new season of life draw us closer together as a team instead of letting it distance us. We discussed our need for one other’s support. Most importantly, we acknowledged our need for our Savior and His sustaining grace at every turn. Ultimately we’d gotten our eyes off of Him in the midst of the craziness.

What a change this conversation brought about. It sort of “reset” our relationship and helped us head into the following days with zeal and different perspective and goals. We’ve learned how to work together, give and take in the responsibilities, and communicate clearly our expectations/desires so that we can work out a plan instead of just guessing each other’s thoughts. We’ve been happier, more efficient and successful, and grown closer as we work as a couple in brand new ways. The challenges haven’t disappeared, but how we face them has changed.

If you are in the midst of a day or a week or a month of being at odds with your husband, don’t wait. Stop and communicate, humbly acknowledging your part in the tension and asking him to help you work out a “plan of attack” going forward that will keep you playing on the same team and keep lines of communication open. It’s miserable to waste hours disgruntled with your best friend; it robs you both of joy and accomplishes nothing good.

I’m grateful for a husband who is willing to listen, talk, and implement change, and for a God who always forgives and lets me start over when I have failed. It is deeply encouraging that we can totally blow it but start fresh the next day, going forward in the grace of Jesus Christ. We are never beyond His reach and it is never too late to repent and begin anew!

{Hebrews} I Have a High Priest

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Just a quick tidbit from last week’s Hebrews study to close off this good weekend…

After defining the term “priest”, my homework posed the question, “Do you think believers today need a priest? Explain your answer.”

“Yes we do, but we have One! We cannot come before God without someone to intercede on our behalf. Since we have sinned, someone must make a sacrifice for those sins so that we can come to God. God provided a High Priest in Jesus, Who paid the sacrifice for our sins once for all.”

Not profound in articulation, nor a complete explanation of the Great Exchange by any means, but I’m glad I had to write a simple answer to a simple question, because it struck me for the hundredth time how incredible it is that Jesus was qualified to make ONE atoning sacrifice that forever covers me…and that He did so!

“For God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”

No compromising of justice, no ignoring of evil…but I have a High Priest who took care of my sin…all of it…permanently. Praise the Lord!

Fervent Love: Prayer

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“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” (Col. 4:2-4)

I believe that one of the the best ways we can fervently love the body is to bring one another before the throne of grace. Yet I find that this takes discipline.

It’s easy to say “I’ll be praying for you,” and then proceed with your day or week and never think of that conversation again. About a year-and-a-half ago, I realized I was doing this frequently. It’s the expected Christian behavior when hearing about hardships to respond with a promise of prayer, and although my words were full of good intentions, I often didn’t have the discipline to carry them out. Now, I only tell someone I’ll be praying for them if I truly intend to. Then I ask God to bring them to my mind in the coming days, and He’s faithful to do so. When I run into them later, it’s wonderful to be able to genuinely say that I’ve been praying for them, and to ask for an update on their situation.

I’m also learning that God uses my prayer for others to keep my heart tender toward them. When I’m struggling in my attitude toward a brother or sister, there’s no better way to fight that than to bring them to my Heavenly Father. I’m trying to make that my default reaction to feeling hurt or offended. It reminds me that I, too, am a sinner in need of grace and forgiveness daily.

Here are a few general suggestions toward fervently loving your spiritual family through prayer:

  1. When you say, “I’ll be praying for you,” discipline yourself to carry that promise out. Make sticky notes or set a cell phone alarm to remind you.
  2. Make a prayer schedule if you’re not remembering all the people you want to be praying for.
  3. Redeem your time. Pray in the car, at the kitchen sink, in bed as you fall asleep. You don’t have to be sitting on the couch with your hands folded to talk to God.
  4. Pray for the people who have hurt or are hurting you. Besides blessing them in ways you’ll never know, it will help you to forgive, love, and move on in your heart.
  5. Text, email, or call your brother or sister and let them know you’ve been praying for them. That can go a long way.
  6. Combat gossip with prayer. Stop talking about your church family and pray for them instead.

Fervent Love: I Am SO Done

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“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)

“I am SO done with them!”

This is a statement I’ve caught myself angrily declaring more than once to Andrew about people that I’ve had to work through struggles with. While it’s true that there can be situations that we eventually must simply move on from, the attitude that we have reached our maximum patience level with someone and can therefore declare ourselves “finished” with them is far from the Christ-like love and forgiveness we are called to as believers. It’s also far from the treatment we receive from our Savior on daily basis.

What if He had a last straw?

What really got me mid-sentence the last time I found myself saying this was the thought, What if God decided He was done with me after I’d sinned against him for the umpteenth time? What if He gave up on me this easily? What if He had a “last straw” and I finally broke the camel’s back and lost my child-of-God status?

Jesus doesn’t give up on me.

When Jesus claimed me as His child, He promised never to give up on me. He promised to love me forever, regardless of the sin that still so often entangles me. He promised to forgive me over and over. And that’s the kind of love I should be more than happy and eager to bestow on my fellow brothers and sisters.

As a sinner who is the undeserving recipient of grace and mercy daily, “I am SO done!” really has no business ever crossing my lips.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”(Ephesians 4:32)

“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21-22)