Monday, October 19, 2009

The Best Present Ever!!!

Just before our second Valentine's Day since beginning to date, I had purchased Melissa a present that I was was ecstatic to give her. We had been dating for almost a year and a half and I wanted to show her how much I cared about her. I had put a lot of thought into what to get and did a little research so she was getting only the best.

The day before V-Day I could barely contain my excitement and begged her to allow me to give her the gift that evening. After some begging and my best impression of a puppy finally said yes. I ran up to my dorm room, grabbed the carefully rapped box and ran back down to the common room of my dorm where she awaited this amazing gift. She took the present and unwrapped it and I was excited to receive praise...

"You got me a Bible Commentary for Valentine's Day!?!?!?!? Did you not get any of the hints I had dropped about jewelry???"

This was not the reaction I had hoped for. A fight ensued about how insulted and offended I was versus how unromantic and stupid my gift was for Valentine's Day. I now can admit she was right...I bought her a necklace two days later but that night began an important lesson for both of us beyond thinking through gift choices.

There was actually a second reason why the gift of a Bible Commentary wasn't thought through enough beyond the obvious.

When it came to encouraging Melissa to grow deeper in her relationship with God I failed to consider the fact that possibly she didn't connect with God in the same way that I did. Up until that point in my life I had kind of put God in a box and had understood that connecting to God meant going to church once a week, spending devotional time reading your Bible every day along with a devotional or commentary to provide deeper insight, spending time in pray and then participating in a mid-week Bible study. This "formula" had worked for me in the past and again, I just assumed that was the way for everyone to connect with God.

When Melissa rejected my gift my first thought had been fear that, "I'm dating a girl who doesn't want to connect with God!?" Yet, that couldn't have been further from the truth. She insisted God was important to her but that instead of studying the Bible all the time she enjoyed connecting to God by taking a walk or painting. We spent the rest of the evening debating whether or not that "counted."

Shortly after that, I had to read a book called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas that proved me wrong on both counts of that argument that evening. In the book, Thomas talked about that in a similar way that people have different personalities or learning styles we also relate to God differently. Take some time and look through all the different ways God connected to people throughout the Bible - a whisper, a booming voice from a mountain, a pillar of fire, a cloud, a hand writing on a wall, in dreams, in visions, in the flesh and blood of Jesus and more. All different but yet the same result...God drew people to Him.

We have to have a lot of open communication and flexibility about that time spent. It looks different every time and we have to always ask the other person what they are feeling and thinking. Sometimes we talk deeply about a Bible passage or sermon, which I prefer, and other times Melissa has been honest about her mood and feelings and we just read a passage and silently reflect.

Sometimes when we pray together Melissa would rather pray in her head instead of out loud. At first, I was offended by that but I needed to learn to just let that go and allow her to be her quiet, shy self. It isn't any less a prayer offered silently instead of out loud. The point is praying together. Who cares what that time looks or sounds like.

Don't put God in a box...connecting with Him can look so different to so many people. Whether you are single, dating or married, it is so important to take some time to understand how you connect best with God. (And that way may change over time...) But then, don't project that one way onto everyone else around you. Be open to how creative God is and how others may connect differently with Him.

Not only will doing this save you from some conflict or coming across as legalistic but it will also allow you to see God from different perspectives and take your understanding of Him and how He works to an even deeper level.

Jake

P.S. To check out Sacred Pathways, click on the image below to head to Amazon.com

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Kayak Analogy

I can't tell you how many devotionals, chapters, and blurgs I have read on the topic of co-habitation. You know what they always talk about? Damp towels. Yes, it's true. The struggle is always over those damp towels that one spouse leaves on the floor or bed. The damp towel struggle is old news. I have a new one!

Sea Kayaks. If our book gets picked up by a publisher one of the chapter titles will be, " I Want My Own Damn Sea Kayak."

The story: Jake and I are on vacation last year in the Dominican Republic. We are relaxed, having fun, and on our best behavior. We are kind to one another, laughing, respectful, just plain in love and being nice. Wonderful. Enter: the tandem sea kayak. Nemesis of marital bliss.

I (Melissa) grew up pretty much on the water. I swam like a fish and my grandfather taught me everything there was to know about canoeing and kayaking and generally handling a boat of the self-propulsion sort. I know how to kayak. And I know how to steer.

Jake....not so much. But he thinks he does! Delusional...but determined. So we got into the dual sea kayak blissful and excited to try out a new water sport together. We lasted about ten minutes. I let Jake be in the back and try to steer. Didn't work out so well. Then we tried me yelling orders to paddle to the left or right depending on the currents...didn't work out so well. Then we tried "enjoying the ocean" by neither one of us paddling and just lying back and getting a sunburn. Two minutes or so that lasted. So we tried paddling again. Both of us going opposite ways...both of us convinced we knew the right way to steer. I ended up yelling in the middle of all the other cute happy couples..."I Want My Own Damn Sea Kayak!!!"

It's a funny story really. We laugh about it all the time. It serves as an example to Jake and I about the changes of living together. We thought it would be easy...I mean we spent college conjoined at the hip. Seriously...it was kinda annoying to everyone else. Sickening really. But we thought, "Living together...no problem...we are SO alike!" The first year it really was not so bad at all. Maybe we argued about toothpaste caps?! But that was really about it.

It was after a year that we realized...the sea kayak says it all. When two people get married they will "live" differently. They are two unique people with different pasts and different ways of doing things. One will think, " You steer the sea kayak this way." The other will think, "No, I have been taught to steer the kayak this way and I know it is right."

This principle rings true for so many things. Money. Friends. Communication. Budgets. Kids. Chores. Down Time (Fun Things), Family, Traditions, Jobs...the list is endless.

It's not just damp towels ya'll....it's what the damp towels and sea kayaks represent. They represent two people sharing a space and a life. The way two people live will clash at some points and work wonderfully well at others (Jake and I don't do sea kayaks so well, but budgets...man we work great together!!).

The thing we have learned so far is to acknowledge that sometimes you need individual sea kayaks. It's just better for your marriage. And sometimes you both have to pick up each other's damp towels. And sometimes you have to let him play video games. And sometimes you have to be flexible on the budget. And sometimes you have to compromise on how to raise the kids or spend holidays with family. It's all about working together....to realize when to acknowledge differences and when to compromise. The sea kayaks have taught me much.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Follow

"Please tell me.....why are we.... trying so hard?
Why worry, it's over,
We always fall right back to where we start.

There goes another on of our sure fire plans,
It backfired again." - Mute Math

"Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of self control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God." - Frances Chan

I like to be safe. I like to be in control. I like things to go well. I don't like living in the tension that is following God. It's a tension between the wisdom of the world : money, cars, houses, success, career, 401K, dental insurance, life insurance, happiness, wishy-washy morals, secure job, social standing, and the wisdom of God: trust, reliance, faith, sacrifice, calling, commitment, grief, morality, endurance, truth, peace, giving.

In life, in marriage, it is easy to fall into the easiness. Right? It's easy to hoard, it's easy to control, it's easy to manipulate, it's easy to be selfish, it's easy to focus on all the things in our lives that don't really matter in terms of eternity.

Why do we try so hard? Because the alternative is so frightening...live a life devoted to God. Have a marriage where both partners are radically committed to Christ and each other.

It means change. Big change. It means being uncomfortable. God will call you to be uncomfortable. He will call you to be unselfish towards your spouse. He will call you to make some sort of uncomfortable financial decision. He will call you to trust Him with your heart, your dreams, your goals, your aspirations. Many times He will gently but firmly say, "No. These are the plans I have for you." Usually the plans He has for us are not the ones we had for ourselves.

How do you figure it out? I don't know. God is a mystery. We all wish He was a bit less mysterious sometimes. But He's not...He's God and well....we won't ever be able to figure Him out completely.

All these carefully laid plans I have devised...they are nothing. All these selfish desires I have...God will turn them into His will and goodness. All the things I want out of marriage...He will smash those ideals and have me search my heart....and it will be so much better than I ever imagined.

Hope. Trust. Follow.....follow Him. No matter what He asks you to do today. If it's to smile at someone you don't like...do it. If it's asking your spouse what they want to do tonight...do it. If it's realizing God is calling you on a different career path...do it.

I am realizing how short the time we have is. It's worth it to lay aside being safe...and following the one who will keep me more safe than I could ever dream of.


(Not totally marriage ya'll...but it's been on my heart...thanks for reading - Melissa)
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.