The thermostat & marriage

In premarital counseling, there is one question they never ask that they should ask right away:

Are you hot-natured or cold-natured?

Cold-natured people should marry cold-natured people. And hot-natured people should marry hot-natured people. And there’d be a whole lot less of a need for marriage counseling. 🙂

As you might have guessed, Ben and I speak different temperature languages. He’s hot-natured. I’m cold-natured.

In the winter time, I like to crank the heat up to 80. In the summer time, I set the thermostat at 80. 80 is a good temperature for me. And it really is true, I would turn my mother’s gas fireplace on in July when we’re over at her house IF anybody would let me. 🙂

One of the ways I knew Ben was really serious about me was when we were on our way back home from a trip to New York in November. His dad was driving the car and the temperature was pretty cool. By the time we got to Ben’s car—some four hours later–I was miserably chilly. On top of this, we stepped out into the freezing Pennsylvanian air of late November and I was ready for a sauna.

Ben, clearly delusionally in love with me, cranked up the heat in his car to an outrageous high. He hates to see me shivering. So the car was like the Gobi Desert in the middle of a winter wonderland. The heat stampeded over any cold left in the car. I sat half-asleep from blissful heat stroke while he somehow drove us back to his parent’s house where I was staying. Fortunately he didn’t conk out from heat. But he was mighty glad to get out of the car by the time we arrived.

By now you might have figured out: Ben and I knew before we were married that we were from different climates. And we still got married. Love is funny that way.

God said through Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4,

Love is patient and kind.

I don’t think this verse is only about the big things in life. I think it’s about the little things, too, like what temperature the thermostat is set at.

Love is patient and kind in our house when Ben sleeps without the fan at night.

Love is patient and kind in our house if I turn the air down just for him.

I think some of the deepest bonding in marriage is done when one person gives up a little for another.

(Even if it means feeling a few degrees too warm or too cold.)

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The wait

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes I’m really jealous when I hear people say they’ve already been married five or ten years, and they’re my age. I feel like I’ll never “catch up”.

I know that if God blesses Ben and I with fifty years of marriage, it will be extraordinary (Ben will be 87 and me 80). I wish I could go back, undo time, and marry Ben when I was 18, just to have more time with him.

But then . . there’s the sweetness of the wait.

Oh, I don’t mean the wait itself is sweet. The wait is anything but sweet. The wait feels very bitter at the time. But the wait leads to something almost indefinably sweet: the time together.

Mathematically, it’s true: Ben and I won’t have as many years together as if we’d been married when I was 18 and he was 25. But philosophically, Ben and I maybe stand a much better chance of realizing just how good this marriage is than others who were married well before us.

Today I remember: Wow, this is good. This hand I’m holding? Wasn’t holding it when I was 25 or 26 or 27. This man who’s willing to dance around our living room with me? Didn’t have him when I was prom age. This kiss he gives? That Cinderella moment wasn’t mine until last year.

The wait feels bitter . . but the ending is so sweet.

It’s so much like that in our walk with God.

Right now, I can’t pick up the phone and call God. I can pray to Him (and I do!) but I don’t audibly hear His voice. A lot of times, I’m unsure of what decision to make. I don’t have the gift of walking with God in the cool of the day, as Adam did.

Waiting to meet God face to face can feel bitter. Maybe you’re filled with questions, or even doubts. Maybe you just long to get to know God better than you do. Maybe you want to be free of sin so you can worship Him exactly how He deserves.

For the believer, the promise is here:

One day . . one day.

One day the bitterness will become very sweet. And the waiting will be as nothing in eternity . . except . . it will do something like my waiting for Ben did: give us an awe for the gift when it comes.

When it’s time.

Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. (1 John 3:2,NLT)

Married

A few weeks ago I was filling out a form that asked my status: single, married, divorced.  I checked single.

Then I caught myself and scribbled it out.

Today, I was thinking about Ben and I spending more time with other singles like us and I realized again.

I’m not single anymore.

I’m still in limbo between calling myself my old last name and my new one.  Because I haven’t gotten everything transferred over to my new name, I still get people calling asking for me by my old last name.

And, most of the time, I forget to wear my wedding rings.

This time of learning to be married but still sometimes thinking like a single reminds me of how, as believers, we sometimes act like beggars and orphans, even though we are really royal children of God.  This new identity can be difficult to live out simply because we are so used to being who we were before.

This is all the more reason to be gracious towards our family of believers, especially new believers.  We are all learning what it means to be a new person, and we are all growing into our identity as children of God.  We should be gentle and encouraging when we remind our family in Christ who they are in Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2, NIV)

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NLT)

Published in: on June 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Beautiful Waterfall

On our mission trip in Guatemala, our group of 40 all stayed in at a hotel commonly used for weddings.  When we got there, it was easy to see why brides and grooms would want to say I do on the grounds.  Guatemala is beautiful, and this hotel was master planned to be gorgeous.  Although the flora & fauna were magnificent, the best part was the waterfall.

Just about every time I passed it (as my roommate Sarah will remind me), I said, “That’s a beautiful waterfall.”  I could hardly help myself!  It was!

I wasn’t the only one who thought so.  A team member on our trip–a stranger named Ben–sat by the waterfall every morning listening to music.  In fact, he didn’t even go to the luxurious breakfast with the rest of us.  He sat by the waterfall.  Every morning, I could depend on seeing Ben out by the waterfall on my way to and from the main hub of the hotel.

I didn’t think much of it, and I certainly didn’t pay attention to him, other than to avoid him.  I didn’t know him and I wasn’t in love.

And then we began to talk.

It started at a restaurant on our last night of the trip.

I am so thankful for that last night.

Without it, I would have missed the love of my life.

I found out so much about Ben that I didn’t know, simply because I’d never spent time with him.  I found out his interest in me, and I was on a journey of beginning to find out how much he would love me.

If Ben and I went back to that waterfall now (which I would certainly love to do on one of our anniversaries), the story would be entirely different.  I would be sitting right beside him or across from him, relishing the beautiful waterfall with him.

I had no idea at the time, but what a powerful illustration this is for our relationship with God.  For many, He is simply a stranger, and, though everyone has opportunity every day to talk with Him (because of the gift of Jesus Christ), most people ignore Him.  They don’t have a relationship with Him, and they don’t want one.

But when we begin to read His Word, or when someone begins to tell us Truth about Him, we have the opportunity to open our hearts to Him.  And at that point, it doesn’t matter whether we’re in the prime of our life or on the very last day:

We can receive Him and have the most delightful relationship in all the world with Him.

Have you been passing by God every day, not recognizing His open arms to you, clueless to the deep love He holds in His heart for you?  If so, now is the time to stop at the waterfall.  🙂  Now is the time to fall in love with God.

All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37, NIV)

The Empty Seat

God works amazing moments in our lives where one decision that seems small turns into something we could never have imagined.

One of those moments happened for me in a South American restaurant on a rainy night in Guatemala.

We were on the last night of our trip through Compassion International.  About 40 of us had gathered from across the country, across denominations, across age groups, all to visit children we sponsored in Guatemala (or, for one couple, planning to sponsor).

We’d all come together to meet our children, and now we were getting ready to disperse back into ordinary living in the States.  The wake-up alarm for me would be 4:00 a.m. the next morning, and somehow that meant none of us were in a hurry to go to bed.

It was black outside because we were in Guatemala’s winter.  It was warm, but wet.  I don’t remember anyone having umbrellas, or anyone caring how they looked as we entered, single-file, through the separate meeting room in the restaurant.  We went through an outdoor patio, and then seated ourselves in a large, fiesta-decorated room with tables long like giraffe necks.

I was close to the front of the 40 of us.  As we filed in, I was aware of two things:

  • Ben was close behind me.
  • I had two seats to choose from:

1.  Sit next to the wall.  (My friend behind me would be the only one able to sit next to me.)

2.  Sit one seat away from the wall.  (My friend behind me and I would leave an empty seat.)

I remember praying, “God if you want something to happen between Ben and I, then have him sit in the seat next to me.”

And I chose to sit with one seat for my friend and one seat empty.

Ben came in and sat next to me.

I didn’t know much about Ben.  I knew he was quiet and didn’t eat breakfast.  I knew he was interested in me–well, he’d been pursuing me from the get-go . . but in shy ways.  He would try to sit next to me on the bus if my seat was empty.  I tried to make sure it wasn’t.

But that afternoon, an older gentleman on the trip had basically asked me, “Have you taken a look at Ben?”  At first, I’d brushed him off.  But now, I was really thinking about it.  What about Ben?  Could he possibly be the man I’d been waiting for the 10 years of my adult life?  Could he possibly be the man God had for me?

Ben slipped into the seat next to me, and, at that point, our lives together began.

I am so very thankful to God for encouraging me to leave that empty seat.

.                     .                     .                     .                     .                     .                     .

Did you know that there is someone waiting for you to leave an empty seat next to you, too?  No, I’m not talking about the love of your life, but the love of your eternity.  God.

God is waiting for you to leave an empty seat next to you.  He wants to talk to you.  He wants you to listen to Him.  And He wants to listen to you.  God wants to be not just a part of your life, but He wants to be your Life.

God is waiting for you to leave an empty seat next to you.

Asking Christ into your heart isn’t just an emotional high or some kind of one-time ticket-to-Heaven.  It’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship, made to last for eternity.

The question is not whether God is waiting.  He is.  The question is, are you ready to leave Him that seat?

Jesus,

I want to know the love of my eternity.  I want to know who You are.  Please forgive me for waiting so long.  I realize now that you’ve been pursuing me my whole life.  I believe in You and what You say in Your Word.  I want you to be the romance of my life.  I want you to be my King of Kings.  You already love me more than I could ever dream.  Now I want to love you more than anything.  Please forgive me of all my sins that have separated me from You, that have taken up Your seat.  I love you.  I want you to be my Savior.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Pursue love . . (from 1 Corinthians 14:1a, NASB)

The Chapter of Love I Didn’t Understand

We were only going to be in Guatemala for 4 short days on a mission trip and, at the Miami airport, I made it clear to the new guy I’d met: I didn’t want to see any more of him.

Or I thought I’d made it clear.  As my roommate for the trip talked to him, I held my socially-polite-but-clear distance.  I thought immediately he was interested in me, and I wasn’t interested at all in him.

First, he was waiting for something, and I didn’t understand what.  He was sitting on the wall of the airport, not in a seat, even though there were lots of empty seats.  It was like he was lurking there waiting for me–even though he didn’t yet know me–to come into the airport.

Second, he looked scary to me.  He had eyes that are the color they usually give to serial killers in movies.

Third, he was doing something I didn’t understand.  He was seated there cross-stitching.  I don’t know guys who cross-stitch and, even though it was a mountain scene, I immediately drew the conclusion that he had to be a weird guy.

Fourth, I thought because of all the other reasons he was not cool.  I lived my whole teenage life in this category, and I didn’t want to associate with the not cool, not this time.  In every day life, sure, God, but not on this mission trip.  (Very logical.)  My roommate was a beautiful, immediately magnetizing young woman and I wanted to be with the in-crowd like her.

The thing I didn’t understand was that she kept talking to Ben.  She made a point to seek him out during our trip.  She would invite him to sit with us, stop to say hello when we walked past him, and just chill out with him.  He was a part of her family group and she just simply got to know him.  She would talk with him and about him casually, and I could tell she was neither afraid of him as a serial killer or for the possibility of making her uncool.

I began to realize something.  I didn’t understand Ben.  And the more time I edged out of my judgmental shell to get to know him, the more I realized how much I didn’t understand him.

He didn’t like to lurk; he just likes to sit places at different angles than most people and contemplate things.

He couldn’t help the color of his eyes and, even though they were frightening to me at first, they became stunningly beautiful the more I began to trust him.

He does do things that most guys don’t do.  He still opens car doors for me; he picks up around the house; he works on projects for me (like this website) for hours at a time without expecting a single thank-you; he’s gentle when he has every right to be angry with me; and he takes care of me when I’m sick in a way that’s more nurturing than I’ve ever known.  He does do things that most guys don’t do.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Is he cool or uncool?  I don’t know.  Probably depends on who you ask on what day at what time.  Like me, he’s different than most people.  I wasn’t willing to risk the uncool even though I myself am the queen of uncool (what an irony) to get to know him.  But once I began to see the possibility for love, the quickly-morphing status of whether we are cool or not began to slip from my mind like sand between my fingers.

I didn’t understand Ben, and, in a way, this story reminds me of someone else I didn’t understand: God.

First, God was waiting for something from me, and I didn’t understand what.  I thought maybe I had to do better to earn His love, or find just the right words to please Him, or repeat prayers over and over.  I didn’t really realize that what He wanted was for me to believe in Him.

Second, God looked scary to me.  I didn’t trust His nature.  I didn’t understand who He was, and I based my perceptions of Him more on what people had told me and twistings of Scripture than on what God really says about Himself in Scripture.  I hadn’t read much of the Bible, and as I began to read (especially John and Romans), I began to see the character of who God really is.

Third, he was doing something I didn’t understand.  He was pursuing me, and we have it ingrained in our mind that God does not pursue wretches.  The cross is easy to understand from a factual standpoint, but hard to understand at the heart level.  That God–GOD Himself–would give Himself for us is beyond our understanding.  The more we delve into and contemplate this, the deeper the mystery becomes.

Fourth, I thought God was not cool.  I was afraid of Him, I didn’t understand Him, and I thought the people who have all the fun are unbelievers.  What I came to see is that, when you hear God’s heartbeat, you are astonished you ever worried about anything other than His love.  To have God’s love is to have everything; to miss out on God’s love is to have worse than nothing.  Losing friends, parties, social status, or facebook ‘likes’ because of God is no hardship when you realize that you have gained the love of God.  God’s love is the greatest romance of all and being known by Him is the most unbelievable privilege in the universe.

. . are you unaware of his rich kindness, forbearance, and patience, that it is God’s kindness that is leading you to repent? (from Romans 2:4, ISV)

 

Published in: on April 26, 2014 at 8:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Pepsi

In Guatemala, we got soda for free with meals, and saying no became a lot harder.  But, I had to pick the bottled water.  See, I can’t drink high fructose corn syrup and, as tempting as it is, I’ve said no to mainstream soda for years.

The last night of our stay–the night I began to fall in love with Ben–I learned something.  South America is known for its soda, because they use real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup.  All the drinks I had turned down . . I could have had.

And now the waiters were coming around with trays of sodas for all of us, as many as we wanted.

Sometimes we feel like, if we’ve missed something for so long, we might as well not try to have it anymore.

But than night I splurged.  It was the first time in years I’d had Pepsi and what a thrill!

I was 28 years old–almost 29–that night.  That night I had the choice to sit in the chair against the wall, with a friend blocking any chance of Ben sitting next to me . . or I had the choice to sit one down from the wall and see what God would unfold.

I could have looked at the years gone by, the impossibility of ever finding the right man, and passed up the opportunity to leave an empty chair beside me.

Sometimes we feel like, if we’ve missed something for so long, we might as well not try to have it anymore.

But that night I left the chair open.  And Ben sat down beside me.

And so it began.

.               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .

Sometimes we feel like, if we’ve missed something for so long, we might as well not try to have it anymore, and sometimes the things we pass up are way more important that Pepsi . . and even more important than finding the love of your life.

Like eternal love.  Everlasting peace.  True joy.  Real forgiveness.

When we discover that God is holding these gifts out to us, we feel such a surge of regret that we haven’t received them before . . that we can actually miss receiving them now.

But I have opened my heart to Christ.  I receive His gift.  And no matter how many years were wasted, or how deep the sorrows made, I am ready and willing to receive His grace for me that He holds out . . right now.

It’s amazing what a Pepsi can remind you of.

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17, NLT)

 

 

 

Crummy

I am one of those people who, 8 times out of 10–or maybe 9–when I feel crummy, I look crummy.

As a bonus, other times, when I don’t feel crummy, but just tired or preoccupied, I have the uncanny ability to look crummy then, too.

It wasn’t long into my relationship with Ben that he got to see one of my crummy days.  I’m not very good at hiding things like that and, if I’d had to wait until we were married to show him what I look like on those kind of days, he would have had to propose to me, well, actually about two days after he met me.

Guatemala.  4 a.m.

The funny thing is, I hadn’t planned to take a shower.  Walking around looking crummy stopped bothering me years ago.  But I’d had my first “date” with Ben the night before at a restaurant with everyone else on the mission trip, and I was afraid of what he would think if he saw just how crummy I looked at 4 a.m. without a shower.  So I did take a shower.  I even put on minimal makeup.  I was pretty proud of myself.  4 a.m. is pretty early to do this kind of thing.

I still remember the fateful moment when we all met up in the hotel lobby and I said something to Ben like, “Would you take a picture of me, even though I look sort of crummy?”  (Yes, I was flirting pathetically, but that’s another story.)

He said,

and I quote,

“Sure.”

WRONG ANSWER, Ben.

Because I’m me :), I did tell him that was the ‘wrong’ answer.  I told him the socially apropos  answer was to say, “Teej, you don’t look crummy!  You look great!”  That joke became the icebreaker in our relationship, and the beginning of a beautiful realization that Ben could see me–even when I didn’t look (let’s be honest) great–and love me anyway.

Back in the states, when we started long-distance dating (he in Pennsylvania and I in Missouri) I realized I had a big weight already lifted off my shoulders.  Ben had already seen me on a mission trip.  He already knew what at least somewhat crummy looked like.  And he still wanted to date me.  What a relief!

Over the next several months, I gave him ample opportunity to see what really crummy me looks like.  He even got to see what my hair looks like after snowflakes fall on it.  (Not like it does in the movie, girls, let me just tell you.)  And it seems totally fitting that, just a couple weeks after our honeymoon, I caught the flu and he got to see an even worser, really very crummy version of me.

You know what?  I am so relieved that Ben sees the crummy me and still loves me.  If I had to hide when I was tired, sick, or just too preoccupied with writing to look beautiful, I’d be in real trouble.  As he can tell you, I’d have to do a lot of hiding.

You know what?  I am so relieved that God sees the crummy me, too.  It’s the most terrifying thought in the world at first–but when I realized His grace for me, it became such a relief.  No need to hide the pieces of me I’d never want Him to see–He already knows.  No need to run for the hills anytime He comes near–He’s already seen.  No need for vicious anxiety attacks in the turmoil of wondering if He loves me–He already does.

This is grace, and it is grace at it’s best: while we were still crummy, God loved us.  And this isn’t the kind of crummy that comes from not showering or having the flu.  This is the kind of crummy that’s the very filth of our souls–the very truths about ourselves that we know would drag us into the pit of Hell.  It’s those things that God knew–and He loved us still.

If you have been hiding from God, the time to hide is over.  If you have been running from God, the time to run is over.  God already knows you.  And, most importantly, He already loves you.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

Thanks to Max Lucado and his story about Salty in He Chose the Nails.  See it here.

Tea Time

cupcakes dessert

As a little girl, one of my favorite times was tea time with my mom. Not much has changed since then. Talking around coffee or tea-especially with cupcakes-is simply quintessential for many girls like me.

Why?

We are creatures who long for communication (like girl time) and affirmation (like cupcakes). It may sound crazy, but eating dessert with a friend feels like sharing approval of any conversation that happens.

That’s why it’s so important to watch what we say. It’s so easy to get caught up in the girl time and cupcakes, and forget that God is listening to our conversations. In this life, what was say might never be repeated outside the tea shop (or it may), but it can still damage the reputation of others. Even if what we say is true (and not at all exaggerated), most of the time it’s not necessary.

Scripture tells us to build each other up-and not just because it isn’t nice to say bad things about others. When we are negative, we not only dampen the atmosphere and spoil the cupcakes, but we have the potential to damage relationships that aren’t even at the table.

Suppose someone has done some harm to you, and she’s good friends with the friend sharing tea with you. Do you harm their friendship and share the grudge? Or do you let it go and enjoy the frosting? What’s more, what if a friend of one of your friends had a grudge against you (maybe rightly so)? Would you want her to share what you did over cupcakes?

The choice is always ours in this life. We have the God-given gifts of communication and affirmation. We can honor Him with them or we can dishonor ourselves with them.

Let’s choose to share cupcakes, not gossip.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)

 

Published in: on March 24, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ten Ways to Show Your Husband You Love Him

Happy couple in love

1.  Make a dessert out of his favorite flavor (i.e., chocolate, peanut butter, orange). It doesn’t have to be hard; cake mix deserts (cakes or cookies) are very simple and can be made more special (see supercook.com).

2. Ask him about his day, and interact with him about it. Encourage him in any ways he’s discouraged. Affirm him in any successes that God brought his way. If he’s not ready to open up about his day, you can still greet him at the door with a hug and a kiss (and maybe cookies).

3. Every once in a while, when you pass by him in the house, reach out and touch his arm with a smile, give him a pat on the back, or tell him something you admire about him. (Make sure not to ask for something after this or he may question your motives!)

4. Buy him a new shirt (you can find them at thrift shops for a few dollars). Or, for an act of service, put away his out-of-season wardrobe (i.e., winter clothes) and hang up the new season’s clothes for him.

5. Put a few pieces of his favorite kind of candy into his lunchbox. Or write a note telling him something you respect about him and slip it into his lunchbox when he isn’t looking. (For a variation, put a note in his coat or pants’ pocket the night before-but be sure to tell him the next evening if he hasn’t found it!)

6. Once in a while, invite him to sit down and relax while you clean up dinner, get the house ready for guests, or vacuum.

7. Encourage him to spend a weekend at a men’s retreat or go on a travel adventure for guys. If he’s interested in taking a mission trip, support his time preparing. In all cases, help him save the money needed.

8. Instead of going out for a date, offer to cook a meal. Even if you don’t cook, you can pick up a meal to go and set candles out on the table. Buy or make a special place mat for your husband, and sprinkle it with heart confetti.

9. Invest time in your husband’s interests. Does he want to go back to school? It would probably mean a lot to him for you to do a little research on his options. Is he a good writer? Tell him so and do a few extra chores or errands so he can have time to write. Does he like to fish? Go fishing with him, and try not to catch more than him. 🙂

10. Make a list of several things your husband does that you admire each day. At the end of a week, surprise him with the list in his lunchbox or read it to him (and the kids) at dinner. If your husband’s job is flexible and his personality is amicable for such a surprise, you could even drop in on him at work to drop off the list and his favorite snack.

These ideas are each based on Dr. Emerson Eggerich’s Love & Respect and one or more love languages from Dr. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages series. Even if a few of these ideas don’t work well with your spouse, others should based on his or her personal love language.

You are so handsome, my love, pleasing beyond words! (Solomon 1:16a, NLT)