Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shout Out

Today...today has been a discouraging day. But, after I cried it all out and bucked up a bit, I had some time to think.

Jake and I might have a seriously high maintenance marriage. We are total opposites and both have extremely sensitive and emotional personalities. (can I get an "amen" from the Gordon people!) We fight more than most. Our career paths seem totally incompatible. Everyone...I mean everyone (and this includes a marriage counselor) has told us it's going to be near impossible to make life work with Jake being a youth pastor and me being a painter.

But you know what? Despite how much work our marriage is...and it does get tiring sometimes. Despite how many people tell us we're never going to financially make it as a youth pastor and artist. And despite how opposite we are...we totally love each other and are committed to supporting each other in who God has created us to be and what God has told us to do. It may seem impossible...but I support Jake in what God tells him to do (granted imperfectly, but I do my best) and Jake always supports me. We're hoping in a God that makes the hard things work out and the easy things seem foolish. I am a lucky woman to have a husband that sacrifices for me and supports me.

He supports me when everyone else thinks I am going to fail. He supports my dreams. He supports my art. He believes in me. Who could ask for a better husband than that? Jake has faith in me and he encourages me to go for it. He believes me when I say God has told me something to do. He believes that even when I do fail, that I will become better and have a stronger character because of it.

So thank you Jake. Thank you for being a wonderful husband and thank you for showing me that one of the best ways to show a person love is to believe in them. I'm thankful I have you in my life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hotlanta Musings

Hello, from Hotlanta! I know it's so corny, but I just can't seem to call it anything else. Jake and I have been in Atlanta, Georgia for the National Youth Worker's Convention this week. We've been learning a lot about youth ministry, God, marriage and ourselves.

The speakers have really been impacting my heart and making me think. I've felt that many of them have been brutally honest and it's been so refreshing. I'd like to share a couple of the key points they've made and how I think these things not only are important for ministry, but also for marriage and life.

1) Clarity trumps uncertainty every time.
2) Be steadfast.
3) Everything rests on a relationship with Jesus.
4) Change.
5) Conflict is not only inevitable until death, it is necessary for meaning.

Be clear about what you know. Retreat back to what you know in times of struggle or uncertainty. Sometimes all I know about marriage is that I want to stay married. It's as simple and unromantic as that. But knowing that I want to stay married gives me clarity when my emotions and problems seem insurmountable. Find what you know and go from there. It is a business model that saved Apple computers. When their company was failing...Steve Jobs came back and said, "We are going to make computers that are easy to use." It was what he knew how to do and he stuck to it. It took years for Apple to recover...but from that retreat to their basic company goal...well we all know where Apple is now! It's simple and it's biblical. Sometimes all we know is what God tells us. Everything else does not make sense. We retreat back to what God says...and we work from there.

Be steadfast when things get difficult. Yep...I think that says it all. I often feel too tired to continue with hard things. I want to quit painting, quit ministry, quit being married, quit some friendships. But if I quit...I will miss the opportunity to grow in character, to learn new things, to know wonderful people, to experience joy at succeeding, to be humbled and learn to lean more and more on Jesus rather than my own strength. Be steadfast. Sometimes I think all it takes is just staying put and holding on.

Everything rests on a relationship with Jesus. Francis Chan spoke about this. The speaker after him said it well when he said, "Man, Andy [Stanley] speaks and you just feel dumb because he is so smart and then Francis speaks and you think, Man I don't even love Jesus!" Francis spoke about losing his way in his relationship with Jesus for a while. He was honest about how life, success, and trials all pull us away from our relationship with Jesus. But when we pull away, we feel dead...like something is missing. I liked that Francis brought up that God does not want us to come to Him to find out secrets for making our life better. God wants us to know Him, Jesus, the Holy Spirit...and that's it. He just wants us to know Him. He wants us to read the Bible so He can tell us stories about Himself, about what He is like. We're supposed to learn about God, we're supposed to simply be in relationship with Jesus. This really challenged me to rethink how I spend my time with Jesus. It also challenged me about my marriage relationship. If God is that jealous for me to know Him and spend time with Him....my husband must also want me to know him better. How have I spent time trying to understand my husband? Have I listened to his stories? Have I learned anything new about him this week?

Change. Ugh....barf. I hate change and I love change. We have a tumultuous relationship. I get bored when things stay the same, I get anxious when things change that make me uncomfortable. Yet...life changes. The things that worked in ministry last year, may not work this year. The things that worked in my marriage last month, may not work this month. Successful businesses thrive on a key goal and then being constantly willing to change their plans in order to achieve that goal. The goal stays the same, the plans change. It holds true in marriage. My goal is to stay married. My plans on how to do that will constantly change as I change, my husband changes, life changes, money changes, family changes, job changes, health changes. Our marriage vows are truly a vow to be in a state of constant change. It feels so exhausting. But it can also feel empowering and exciting. To view challenges as opportunities to be creative...to have a good attitude and learn to adapt. I wish I knew how to do that well right now!

And finally conflict. Donald Miller talked about conflict in the context of story. We don't care about stories that have no conflict. The Bible would have little meaning without conflict. We live in a world after the fall of man...conflict will be a way of life until we die and are made perfect with Jesus in heaven. Conflict means growth, means struggle, means overcoming, means...well meaning. Everything in life that is meaningful involves conflict. I can't tell you how much Donald's talk meant to me. I am hardwired to want things to be easy, but I find much of my life is not easy and I often wonder if I am getting it all wrong. Everyone else seems to have things much easier than me. To hear that conflict should be expected in life...until I die...was almost a sigh of relief. It made it less scary. It made it feel more normal...and almost more exciting. Maybe conflict means I'm on the right path instead of I'm on the wrong path. Maybe doing something hard...is worth doing because it is hard. It gives my life meaning. Obviously, marriage involves a lot of conflict! It can be disheartening. But you know, when I die...it will mean something that Jake and I struggled through and stayed married. I think it will mean a lot more to us and to others than if we said, "Oh our 60 something year marriage was perfect, we never fought, it just rolled along without a bump or a hitch all these years...it was just so happy and wonderful all the time." Who cares!!?? It will mean so much more to have grown together and worked together and made it through. Man, that gives me hope!!

So I hope these thoughts shared by the YS speakers are as encouraging to you as they were to me. As always, we love to hear feedback and discussion!

-Melissa

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Molysmophobia, Rhypophobia and Manure

Lately, I have just not been able to shake a question from my head that frustrates me to no end.

Why are so many people afraid to admit they have issues/problems/junk??

I find this especially true in churches and it drives me crazy! For some reason, many Christians, especially those in leadership, think that we have to portray this aura of happiness and joy and being "good"...ALL THE TIME!

Check out this YouTube video to get what I mean:


I just met with a friend recently who was struggling with this same thing. They are currently struggling with a lot of issues but yet felt they weren't allowed to tell anyone. They felt like they had to keep putting a good face forward and do everything on their own. Why? Because they felt it would disqualify them from helping and serving others. Because they felt they would be judged by others and met with disgust and disapproval.

From Jesus' perspective, we should have the exact opposite response towards one another and our junk...and this includes issues faced within a marriage or dating relationship!

Jesus, speaking of himself as a doctor said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." (Matthew 9:12) Paul reminds us that all of us are sinners...not just some people. (Romans 3:23) James challenges us as Christians to confess our sins to one another and pray for each other...so that you may be healed! (James 5:16)

In John 15, Jesus talks about being the vine and his followers are the branches. Specifically, in John 15:5, He says that if we remain in him then we will produce fruit. A lot of us get caught up in that part about producing fruit and feel we need to prove ourselves to everyone else by displaying that "fruit" whether or not it is in fact real.

Yet what we forget about the farming process is that often time to make fruit grow, what you need is a good heaping pile of manure. That is nothing to be ashamed of but yet a natural, normal thing. At the beginning of Jame's letter he tells us to consider it pure joy whenever we face troubles...because it will teach us endurance...which in turn, and over time, will "make us perfect." (James 1:2-4)

So here's the challenge: don't be afraid of the "manure" in your life! God will use it for great and mighty things! But in order for God to use it...you need to be honest with it and face it head on. And you shouldn't do it alone!!

Whether it is a good friend, your spouse or significant other, or whether it is a pastor or counselor, don't keep your "manure" to yourself but find someone to talk to so that together you can tend to the garden that is your life and stay connected to the vine of Christ and produce the best possible fruit of which you are capable.

Jake
Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.