Quarantinaversary

Today is our 14 year anniversary. We will happily postpone our celebration until we can do something special, i.e. without children. How special it will be to celebrate after this quarantine is over!

I watched the wedding of a girl I used to baby-sit a few weeks ago on Facebook Live. They were unable to have the wedding they had planned due to the virus, but she had moved her wedding date up so her dad could walk her down the aisle. He has been in treatment for stage 4 colon cancer. He was a youth pastor in Springfield, and I worked for him for a few months during and after college. As I watched him walk her down the aisle and then perform the ceremony, it was such an emotional moment.

I listened closely to the wedding message as his marriage to his beautiful wife and my friend is one I have admired for two decades now. He talked to the newlyweds about how to relate to each other when life gets hard, and it will get hard. He talked about being grateful, and as I listened I thought about how God has been teaching me that very lesson for the length of my marriage as well.

I thought I was in good shape getting married at 28. I figured I knew a lot more than the kids who get married at 20, 21, 22. But as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. I had an expectation that because I had made some great choices and had followed God’s plan for my life as a single, I thought that I would be rewarded with a perfect(ish) marriage. I forgot we were both human. Sinners. People with flaws joining their lives together is a recipe for some conflict. I didn’t talk about this expectation nor was it at the forefront of my mind. It lingered around the edges, tempting me with unhappiness and frustration at every turn. God used a lot of unpleasant, frustrating, devastating circumstances to strip away the fluff and show me the truth: I didn’t deserve anything. Marriage isn’t easy for anyone, and as I let God reshape me personally, I saw my perception of marriage change as well. Is it about what I can get? Or what I can give? Is it about who is doing their part? Or is it about doing everything I can no matter what he does?

The more I grew, the more I saw all I have to be grateful for in life and in marriage. I am not the woman I was 14 years ago. I could wish away the struggles, the hard years and the time I spent clinging to what I wanted instead of letting go and taking what God wanted to give me. But I don’t wish it away because every bit of it has brought me to today, to being able to be grateful for 14 years and 3 kids and life doesn’t look like what I planned or dreamed 14 years ago. It is much better than I could have put together, because the One who knows us best put it all together. He is still fitting the pieces in place, but I am so grateful I can rest in knowing that He loves me, He is for me and my husband and my marriage and my family.

Happy 14 years, Matt. The best is yet to come. I know it is. ❤️ I love you.

Next Stop…the Middle of Nowhere

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I attended Bible college for four years, where the biggest joke was that women chose the school to earn their “MRS” degree. And…that may have been an expected side effect for many of us. It didn’t happen for me, though. I am not sure I had one official date during my four years. I would say that the unmet expectation of getting married in Bible college (or even having a prospect or two) was disappointing as graduation came and went. I knew some churches would hire a single woman, but I had not majored in pastoral ministry or youth ministry or even children’s or music ministry.

I majored in Administration of Christian Education.

I wanted to be practical, to have a major in educating Christians (also known as discipleship) seemed to be something that would apply in a variety of situations and could be useful if married to a senior pastor or a youth pastor. Which I was not. Married to one, that is.

I minored in music, but I did not have the confidence to major in music. Being ever so practical, I did not want that to be my only option for employment, either. So there I was. Stuck with an education that, in my mind, was kind of useless for a single woman. But God disagreed.

I earned some interesting experience working at the Assemblies of God headquarters in the National Youth Ministry. I loved it. Organizing events, planning travel, scheduling, these are all things I loved, and they had a great eternal purpose. I was thrilled. After three years, however, my friends were moving away and on to other things, and I started to feel the desire to do the same. I called my youth pastor and left him a message asking what type of job he might have for me if I wanted to come there. We had talked a few times since my graduation, and he always mentioned that he wanted me to come whenever I was ready. I remember where I was when I made the call. I am even pretty sure it was New Year’s Eve 2001.

I have to admit, my expectations were LOW for this particular move. Oh, I was very excited to work for my youth pastor and his wife. Over the moon about it. I could hardly think of a man I respected more who invested more in my life and future during my pretty unstable teenage years. But as a 24 year old single woman, it made little sense to move from Springfield, MO – a place filled with young Christians and people who were and wanted to be in ministry – to Waverly, IA. I had visited Waverly one time. I was sure it was a place “filled” with farmers and very few places to exercise my right to shop. (This is before online shopping, at least, before I was doing any online shopping.) Also, I had only lived in Des Moines, IA, and Springfield, MO, which I considered to be decent-sized towns. The idea that you could count the number of gas stations and grocery stores on one hand COMBINED was absurd to me. I was not meant to live in a place like that.

How exactly did it make sense to reduce my prospects for dating/marriage by such a large number? Once I moved to Waverly, I soon discovered that 93.8% of people that attend high school in a small town also get married within 2.5 months of high school graduation. (I promise I could find a study to back that up.) For my analytical brain that loves a good pros/cons list, this was a terrible decision. My assumption was that I would “sacrifice” a year or two because I really wanted to work with my youth pastor. After spending that time in small town purgatory, I would be released to live somewhere awesome forever and ever amen.

The interesting thing about low expectations is that something or someone will rarely rise above the level you expect. I had my own ideas and very low expectations for Waverly, and for a couple of years, that was exactly what I got. When I finally (FINALLY) surrendered my plans and let God have His way, my heart and mind changed in a hurry. I had a few dates (seriously!), and in the meantime I was learning so much about ministry, I had earned my ministerial license, and I was developing a lot of other amazing relationships.

I was really narrow-minded when I moved to Waverly. I assumed I was leaving all the good people in Springfield, and there could not be much left for little old Waverly.

I was dead wrong. I am regularly overwhelmed by the deep relationships I have encountered here. I can think of a dozen friends who have the spiritual depth, godliness and knowledge of the Bible coupled with a love for others that could easily earn them the same ministerial license I have. They live their “regular” lives with the passion of a full-time minister of the gospel, and they love others with a grace and joy that often challenges me.

High expectations. Low expectations. They are both so dangerous to our ability to experience God and allow Him to meet us right where we are. Do you know a terrible place to put your hope? Things that are seen. Don’t put your hope in anything you can see. People (including family), possessions, money, position…we want to hope in these things so badly. But they will fail you. One hundred percent of the time, they will not meet your every need and supply you with all joy and happiness. Never. Ever.

Where do we place our hope? Jesus Christ.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

These are my life verses. They came to me at my time of greatest desperation, and they have spoken to me countless times since that moment. I am a realist, hopefully not all the way to a pessimist. I have a real tendency to lose heart. I love the regular loving reminder that these verses are to me.

I will talk about meeting my husband later. I don’t want to dilute the fact that changing my expectations by focusing on God and not myself was the key to experiencing full, rich life in Waverly. It was not finding a boyfriend or a husband, although I am grateful for that bonus. 🙂