Monthly Archives: March 2017

Would You Wanna Hang With You?

That was the question I posed to myself last fall as I again went on a rampage against my husband – but not in real life (…this time…). Only alone in my own thoughts.

I contradict nearly everything my husband suggests.

“I’m going to go hunting on Saturday.”

“We really need you to mow the yard, finish the deck, and sand that picnic table.”

 

“I think we should get those retaining blocks another day.”

“What other day? We’re not home together again all week.”

 

“Will you pick up something for dinner and we can eat quick and have a quiet night at home?’

“Well, we planned for pork chops and we could really use the leftovers.”’

 

Ugh. I am so annoying!! And I realized it on an “off” day.

I struggled to focus on any task at hand. I spilled food at dinner. I was basically acting like a normal human, which is not my strong suit, considering I’m a perfectionist. I looked at Jim and said, “I know what it feels like to not have things go well – and have what seems like everything fight against you. I know what it feels like to be you. And I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you to be you when I’m being critical.”

The man about. fell. over. He just looked at me with those big, defeated eyes and gave a breathy, exasperated, “Yea!”  

This revelation led to a single, simple thought: would you wanna hang out with you?

My simple answer: no.

I’m mean, critical, judgy, and definitely not a grace-giver. I’m everything Satan loves some days. And while we all know Satan is super fun to hang with (e.g., the dancing and drinking I did in college – which aren’t always sinful, but in my case…probably were a bit), we also know that Satan only provides a short term high, which ends in feeling totally lonely, isolated, and empty. And it got me thinking about when I’m more pleasant: when the devil’s on my shoulder, or God is guiding my thoughts and actions?

This seems like a no-brainer answer: when God is #1 in your life, right? But I honestly don’t know that I’m super fun in that mode. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve got a lot great qualities that come out when I’m focused on a demeanor that is God-honoring. I’m actually pretty authentic, a decent listener, and quick to serve. But when the devil’s on my shoulder, I’m more likely to take risks, speak before thinking, and let my cockiness overpower my confidence. Maybe those aren’t great qualities, but haven’t you noticed people who get attention have those qualities? It starts as young as grade school, with students who act out getting the most teacher time. We’re drawn to sensational reality TV shows, and we are living in an era of a narcissistic president. Everything in our world screams to us: be louder and bolder than everyone else. And get rewarded.

As reflected on that, I thought: being a follower of Christ is BORING! No wonder so many don’t spend their time with Him. But then I reflected on those times I feel lonely, isolated, and empty as a result of shrugging off God and choosing the Devil. And I realized I feel more fulfilled, at peace, and calmer when I’m in strong relationship with Christ.

It’s tough to be counter-culture. It’s tough to not want to feel the high of hanging with the devil. It’s tough to stop being critical and love on people like Jesus does for me over and over again every day. Luckily, my two-year-old is my consistent reminder of this love Jesus offers. And yet it is amazing how quickly I can go from adoring love for this beautiful, constantly-in-awe human…to complete exhaustion and on-the-brink-angry-meltdown (that my husband and I call tapping out – “He’s yours. I’m tapping out”).

But today I was reminded that long-term, consistent joy is so much better than exciting, short-term happiness. People flock to that attitude, and can see Jesus living in you (which, is kind of the goal, Christians). And…no one likes a crabby, critical curmudgeon. So today I choose joy. And I’ll need to be reminded of this month after month for likely the rest of my life. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to a point where more often I’ll be less critical to those I love the most, and want to hang out with me than not. And maybe others will feel the same too.

If that fails, I’ll just buy wine. Friends always show up when there’s free wine, right?  🙂

I tried spiritually reaching out to my husband

I love growing in my faith. I love learning new things about God and new aspects of stories and situations in the Bible. But it’s really difficult to get excited about opening the Bible and just start reading, when I need context explained to me to really understand the passage. And a daily devotional doesn’t go deep enough to meet my need for learning.

I took a day off between Christmas and New Years, while my son went to daycare. I needed time to realign with my spiritual needs. So I went to a Christian bookstore and bought a few devotional books. I found a few and quickly swept them up for an inexpensive $30 (hurray, sales!). And I got started. But there was no one else reading with me. I wanted to have conversation about what I learning; that helps me process it and make it stick. And it is usually difficult to be motivated to do this reading after 9:30pm…once I’ve helped put the 2 year old in bed, finished any necessary household chores, attempted to do yoga (half the time I get sucked into other YouTube videos on the way to Yoga with Adriene), touched base with the husband, and accomplished my ready-for-bed routine.

So, I chose to be bold and ask my husband if he wanted to have a quiet time every evening together. We’d start small: read anything Biblical-focused for 10 minutes then pray together. He was a bit hesitant (due to nerves for what this might “look like” – and let’s be honest, probably more fearful of what a huge deal I might make it. I am an overplanner. That’s not always a good thing.) The only problem: I had material from the bookstore and he didn’t have much to work with. He asked me if I’d be willing to seek out something for him, or us to read together. I didn’t prioritize that action; I simply kept it in the back of my mind. But we stuck with this 10 minutes or reading and praying as best as possible – and only missed one or two nights per week. But it felt very separate. I liked the reading, but I was missing the “growing by talking about it” piece, and the actions we were taking weren’t totally helping us grow with God either (granted, this was a month-in, so a bit preliminary to make those kind of accusations).

Fast forward to the first week of February, and my decision to spend a Friday evening and most of Saturday attending the IF:Gathering in Lincoln. This was a choice I agonized over for weeks. When you work outside the home and away from your family full-time, evenings and weekends are extremely coveted time for the three of us. In addition to the mom guilt I feel for being away from lil O, do I really want to spend this time away from my boys? Jim, like the dreamy husband he is, encouraged me to go. And I got a friend hooked in too, so there was a bit of accountability factored in as well. 

But when I made the decision to commit, God showed up. IF:Gathering is a large women’s conference held annually in Texas – and live streamed across the globe. It’s just what I needed: to be reminded of God’s presence in my life, via inspirational speakers who are clearly walking close to Him. I learned about the many IF tools, and noticed their IF: Gathering app, a totally free resource with devotionals that involve reading, a short video, and a place to comment and connect with others in that community. It was designed for women, but I approached Jim with the tool to see his interest in it potentially being our “together” thing.

The verdict so far? I’d say it’s working. We connect most nights sometime between 9 and 10 o’clock to read a short IF:Gathering devotional (we’re in the Acts study right now) and, more importantly, use the one discussion question to spark conversation. Jim has said he’s enjoyed having something intentional to talk about that isn’t “the schedule.” I couldn’t agree more. When you’re in the day-to-day grind of who will pick up the kid from daycare, what meal to put on the table, and setting up numerous appointments, your brain runs out of energy for anything meaningful. The one conversation-starter question typically leads us onto other topics that challenge us, but best of all, reminds us of why we’re together: to grow together.meg-6-27-2010-wed0292

I was reminded of my favorite verse that can be related to married couples. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

We symbolically put this verse into action during our wedding ceremony, with us braiding a cord with three ropes. And it hangs in our bedroom as a reminder of our need for God in order for our marriage to survive – and, hopefully, also thrive.

I was really nervous about reaching out to Jim and asking him to do a quiet time with me. I was afraid of his rejection and also fearful he would be intimidated by me taking initiative on this ask. He knows I’m a very independent person (I can practically see him raise his eyebrows and speak under his breath, “you think?” to that statement), but I know I can be a little overpowering. But just like sex, money, or what to have for dessert at a restaurant, spiritual matters can be tough to bring up. Jim was all-in.

But God was at play in our circumstances. He knew we both needed time with Him and each other, and I’m thankful for his presence.