Priorities

“A Woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.”

I’ve always thought that was a powerful statement. That in order for any man to find a woman that he should have to seek out God before he can find her. It’s one of those things that I can’t express loud enough to my single friends and daughters. But as incredible as that statement is, it shouldn’t stop there.

It’s easy to see that statement and think about what it looks like before we get married. That in order to find the man we’re supposed to marry that our walk with Jesus should be solid. And it should be. But we married women need that reminder too because that statement should follow us throughout the entirety of our lives. Even once we are married. Because once we’re married we shouldn’t give up on our pursuit of God. He should still be our number one priority. We should be so in love with God that it draws our husbands to Him. We should be so in love with Jesus and spending time with Him that our husbands can’t find us unless they’re sitting with Him too.

It’s easy in marriage to become cynical. It’s even easier to become bitter and resentful after years of unmet expectations and disappointments. It’s easy to cling to hurt and focus on what we don’t have. We women are amazing at doing that! But when we focus on our Creator those things sort of wash away as we take our eyes off our circumstances and look at the One who gave us our spouse to begin with. We can’t go wrong when we’re focused on the right things. Our heart won’t grow cold when our heart is full of love for our Creator.

If you’re struggling in your marriage today, if the love you once shared has run cold and you’re just ready to give up…don’t look in any other direction but up. Go to the source, the One who brought you together to begin with. Focus on God’s love for you and allow Him to place His hand upon your heart and as His love fills you up it will pour out of you and into your spouse. Because the more we pursue God, the more our love and affection for Him trumps all others and the more things in our life will start to make sense leaving us more fulfilled and content.

Those are big words and big steps to take if you haven’t already been living that way. Trust me. I know. It has taken a lot of painstakingly new habits and daily reminders to focus on the things above as a way to remind me to turn my eyes in the direction of the cross. But on the days that I remember to do those things life is different. My day is different. My attitude is different. My heart is different. My reactions are different. The way I love is different.

When we pursue Jesus with all of our heart and allow the Spirit to move within us…everything changes. So be that woman. Be that woman that chases after God so hard that the only way her husband will ever find her is through his own pursuit of God.

2 Week Notice

One of the hardest concepts for me as a spouse and parent is fighting the temptations of this world to do life (marriage and parenting) the world’s way. I struggle to embrace truth at times because the world is often offended by God’s design and the people pleaser in me wants to make those around me happy. Sadly, I oftentimes do go the way of pleasing others at the expense of being obedient to what I know Truth to be.

Between movies, tv programs and books, the world spends countless amounts of time attempting to paint a picture for us as to what marriage, parenting and family should look like. A portrait that most of the time is far from the way in which God designed any of it to be. The Bible paints a much different picture than the world and throughout my 27 years of married life and 24 years of parenting, I have learned that following God’s design instead of my own or the world’s leads to blessings and joy that this world has yet to offer me.

A few years ago, I listened to a sermon titled Time’s Up (The Summit Church, JD Greear, 11/10/19). I decided I needed the reminder and listened to it again. As the sermon began, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but it hit the nail on the head for me and where God is trying to take me as a spouse and parent.

I have spent years praying and asking God to reveal Himself to my children the way in which He has revealed Himself to me throughout the years. I want them to know Him the way I do. To experience the joy of walking in His way and living life by His design instead of what the world would offer. To live the “best life”, a life experiencing the goodness and faithfulness of God and not the life (plan) I want or think they should live. God has purposely designed each of them for a part of His story and I desperately want them to know the joy that comes from walking with Him.

As we listened to the sermon yesterday the pastor talked about a conversation that took place between himself and his mom when he decided to have a conversation with her about what God was doing in his life when he was in college. It was a conversation he was nervous to have because he was afraid she would be disappointed in him.

He began by saying, “Mom, I know this is probably really disappointing. I know you must have had this vision of me living close, making a comfortable living, and raising your grandkids in a place where you could see them every day. But I feel like God wants me to go live overseas where people don’t know about Jesus.”

And here was his mom’s response, “J.D., your father and I have been praying for God’s will for you your whole life. And if this is how God wants to use your life, we won’t stand in your way. There’s nothing that would make us prouder than knowing you gave your life back to God for his service. We’ll have all eternity to enjoy the blessings of our family,” she said. “So, if we miss out on some of them down here, that’s ok. We’ll have all eternity for that. We’ve only got a few years to ensure that people’s sons and daughters around the world have a chance to be included in our family.”

Only one life to live… That’s the legacy JD Greear was given by his parents. And he said it was greater than anything else they could have given to him. THAT is the legacy that I want to give to my children! That is who I want to be for them. I want them to know that the eternal destination of those around them are far more important than anything else. That following Jesus and sharing Him with the world is by far, more significant than a full table on Thanksgiving.

JD Greear followed up his story with this: “So, one simple question for you: What legacy are you leaving? What kingdom are you leveraging your resources for?” He said, “You see, there is one thing we CAN’T do there (eternity in heaven) that we can do here: tell people about Jesus.”

That is the message I want my children and the children I love as my own to hear. That is my heart for them. I LOVE being a wife. I LOVE being a mom. But both for me are completely worthless if both of these titles are all about me and my happiness. I want to leave this earth knowing that my husband and children know/knew that following Jesus and leading others to follow Him were the MOST important things.

As JD Greear said in his message, we have all been given a two weeks notice. The death rate is 100%. We never know when our last day will be so we must live as if that day is today.

Our notice has been given. What are we going to do with it? “In that last day, when Jesus returns, the ONLY thing that will matter is whether we were a faithful steward and used our resources for His purpose.”

#OnlyOneLifeToLive

Silenced

Twenty some odd years ago, I was preparing for a life of marriage and family.  Learning to become the wife I thought I should be. Soaking up all the knowledge being thrown my way.  I was bound and determined that I would do this marriage thing right. I was nineteen years old and had dreamed for a very long time about being a wife and a mom. And it was all about to come true.

During an extended weekend of marriage counseling, it was repeated more times than I can count that, “you never speak negatively of your spouse to anyone.” The reason being that for you, a situation may arise that causes hurt or frustration that you and your spouse might encounter but later end up working through and are able to move on from in a positive direction.  But for those in your life that you might share this struggle with, they are stuck in that moment involving what you have shared and may not be able to look past the offenses of your spouse and so they then hold it against them.  That made sense to me and so that became a principle I held to with everything in me.

Fast forward many years later. I had spent many years married. Many things happened. Many things kept a secret because of a principle. I did not speak a negative word about my spouse. I followed those words of instruction as if my life depended on it and it cost me. a lot.

It wasn’t until yesterday, when I was having a conversation with someone that this was pointed out to me. I have been through YEARS of counseling trying to reconcile what had been done to me by family and friends.  I experienced some of the worst forms of betrayal, and I have been unable to figure out why. But now I better understand.

The lesson I thought I learned, and what I thought was good advice, ended up being anything but.

I had never once spoken ill of my spouse or the things happening in my home.  I never shared with anyone until it was too late.  And because I never spoke up. No one believed me.

A few months ago, our pastor was talking about marriage. One of the things he shared that stuck with me was that by the time most people turn to their pastors for help, things have gotten bad.  To the point, that it makes it difficult for staff to determine what is happening or how they can help.  He also said that usually by the time someone comes forward they have reached the point that they are beyond wanting to save their marriage.  As I thought about his statement, it made a lot of sense, and it can be applied to the “principle” shared with me all those years ago. Talk to someone before things get worse. Do not stay quiet!  Find a trusted person that you can confide in about what is taking place. Keep a journal. If you are not in immediate danger, write down events as they happen and then check in with someone who can help you process and decide what steps to take next.

At the end of the day, people mean well. But people are not always right. And this goes for believers too.

The takeaway of this story: no one needs to trash or demean a spouse to ANYONE because they are mad at said spouse. That is NOT okay. However, if someone is causing you harm, repeatedly, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally, DO NOT STAY QUIET. Tell someone! Abuse of any form is not okay and should not be kept quiet.

eHarmony, soul mates and fairy tale endings: Does true love exist?

Aviary Photo_130529366665843201You have captured my heart,

my treasure, my bride.

You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes,

   with a single jewel of your necklace.

Your love delights me,

   my treasure, my bride.

Your love is better than wine,

   your perfume more fragrant than spices.

Your lips are as sweet as nectar, my bride.

Song of Solomon 4:9-11

 

I suppose I’ve never mentioned the fact that one of those dating sites “matched up” my husband and me.  A little back story.  I have known my husband for over twelve years.  In a previous life, our families were friends and they moved away.  Life happened, circumstances changed and we crossed paths once again.  In our former lives our commonalities were few except for our faith.  We spent more time arguing theology than we did having pleasant conversations.  Let’s just say that when he moved away, I didn’t cry.  Sorry if that sounds harsh.  We were different people back then.  Through a mess of circumstances we were reunited. We both had become very different people. He became a good friend to me during a dark time in my life.  One day he moved away again. (At my request.)  Having been through a terrible divorce, romantic relationships and men did not rank high on my list.  And so he honored my wishes and left.

 

With that said, I had a meddling teenager who sensed his mom needed to date.  Unbeknownst to me, he put together a profile on eHarmony for his dear old mom and set it loose.  UGH.  When the email came through I laughed with feelings full of fear. His thoughtfulness left me unsettled.   The day I logged into my profile I decided to give it a go and properly fill out the required information.  I answered the questions and hit submit.  In the beginning it was fun to see who I was compatible with and whether I agreed.  But knowing I was not into the dating scene I knew I needed not to waste anyone’s time. I did however mention to my now husband that he should sign up and answer the questions to see his matches.  Just for kicks.  So he did.  And guess what?  A match.  Not only did it match us up but it listed him as a “perfect match.” Total compatibility. Oh the irony.  Years earlier I didn’t have much in common with him and now, my perfect match?  Who would have thought?!  Could it be “true love?

People will argue against the true love, soul mate, fairy tale love kind of thing.  I know because I often made the argument.  I don’t claim to be an expert on love in any way whatsoever. I am however someone who has found the legalism within my “religion” to be full of frustrating untruths that affected my life in many negative ways.  As someone whose first marriage failed after fourteen years, I set out to find the truth about where it all went wrong.  With great hope that someday my children will not fall into the trap of legalism and settle for anything less than God’s absolute best, here are my thoughts.

 

 

Over the years, books and articles written by Christian writers debunking the myth of true love fell into my lap.  I read many and began to believe the words.  I found myself settled in a place without any expectation of love or honor.  I began to accept the writings on love as truth.   To me, they became frustrating lies.  Untruths leaving me empty and cold.  Becoming more cynical, I grew to accept that I did not deserve love without condition.  I did not deserve to be honored.  I did not deserve to be desired by someone. Feeling as if I did not matter I began to doubt God’s love.

 

 

Before I go any further, let me begin by saying I do not believe in the soulmate theory found in movies. The one defined as one perfect person in the universe for each person.  As beautiful as it plays out in movies, love is more complicated. However I do feel there are people out there who, pardon my phrase, “complete us.”   Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines soul mate as a close friend who completely understands you, a person who is specifically suited to another in temperament and a person who strongly resembles another in attitude or beliefs.  That definition has changed the perception I have of a soul mate.  Partly because I found a soul mate in my husband but I also have found a soul mate in my closest girl friend.  Both people ‘resemble me in attitude and belief” and are “close friends who completely understand me” making the idea of a soul mate very real to me.

 

My husband is my soul mate.  He is so much my other half that oftentimes I do not know how I survived the first thirty-six years of my life without him. I say that in jest but truly, walking through life with him makes everyday so much better and easier.  Because of him, to me, “true love” exists.  Now the existence of true love did not begin with my husband but instead because I found security and fulfillment  in my relationship with Christ.  Once I allowed Him, Jesus, the room to fill me up and take His rightful place in my life, my heart changed.  My heart was made ready to love the way in which God designed it to be loved and to love.  On December 1, 2012, I married my soul mate.  I married my “close friend who completely understands” me.

 

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

1 Corinthians 13:4

 

 

With that said, our marriage is not perfect.  Love is not perfect.  Love is work.  Daily work. (As seen in the above passage.) Love is a choice we make to live out each day. The love we share is not butterflies and roses.  We can argue with the best of them. We would not be human nor be experiencing real life if we did not disagree every once in a while.  Disagreements balance us out.  They keep us in check because it is those moments I realize what I have with him.  In the middle of an argument, I see or hear the hurt, and I want nothing more than to grab hold of him and not let go.  In those moments I see the man I absolutely adore and no longer care if I am right or wrong.   I know it sounds crazy but those moments come because of  his selfless love for me. He loves me like he is called to love me.  He loves me as Christ loves the church.  A selfless form of love. Outside of his relationship with Christ, there is nothing else he puts before me.  I am his priority in everything. My husband’s love for me  is perfect. However it is because of his love for the Lord that he loves me in this way.  His love for me is an overflow of his relationship with Christ.  For the first time in my life, because of my husband, I get a taste of how my Father in Heaven not only sees me but loves me too.  It is amazing.  It is a gift.  It is a blessing.  It is the truest form of romance.

 

Every day we work to make our marriage the absolute best it can be and sometimes we get it wrong.  Some days are harder than others but those hard days do not ever negate him as my “one true love.”  But there is another part of our equation, the most important part which is God.  He sits at the center of our relationship and our home.  He is the driving force behind all we do and the reason we love as we do. I believe that without His perfect love, true love does not exist.  He alone makes us complete and solely satisfies the need within us. It is because of God’s sovereignty, His plan, He gives us someone to walk life with and to love. When we make the choice to trust Him completely, He perfectly picks our “other half.”  He knows where we lack.  He knows the person that will be our compliment.  We just have to trust Him.    

 

There are a lot of cynical people out there with a legalistic view of marriage who will try to argue against true love and to those I say, I’m sorry.  I used to be one.   I too did not get it or have it the first time. I get told a lot now a days the marriage I have is rare.  I learned a hard lesson the first time around.  I know the difference between walking in my owns ways and walking in obedience.  I know the meaning of selfless love and self-serving love. I now know what it looks like to wait on God’s very best.  I would not have believed this kind of love, this type of marriage existed had God not been so loving and full of grace that He allowed me to find it this time around.  For me it has become living proof that when we walk in obedience with God, He truly blesses our lives.  It is fascinating to discover that God’s truth is real.  When things are lined up the way in which God has arranged them to be, everything falls into place.

 

So to my five precious babies, for those questioning love, or those patiently waiting for the “right one” my words are simple.  Be patient.  Don’t settle. Wait on God’s perfect one.  It is real and if you trust God with your heart and allow Him to lead, He will give you that someone to walk with you.  It won’t be all butterflies and roses because that is not real life. Love is work.  But you will discover that through the darkest of days, there is no one you would rather have beside you than the person God chose for you.

 

Originally published on All Things New.