Enjoying Quality Time on His Terms

Stepping outside of your comfort zone is not just for the dating arena, where being impressive is the name of the game. It actually becomes even more important in marriage. Sometimes in very big ways like supporting a job transition, and other times in very small ways like…agreeing to play a video game? Yes, like agreeing to play a video game.

I do not like video games. I think video games are silly, distracting, a poor investment of time, isolating, and sedentary. Until I met my husband, who happens to enjoy video games, I had a very rooted stereotype in my mind of what a video gamer was like. So when the latest (and greatest?) Pokémon Go was released, my response was the equivalent of a tsk and an eye roll. Think about it… it is all about wandering around to catch imaginary creatures on a cell phone! It sounds absolutely nuts.

What I do like, however, is going on long walks. I think the fresh air, exercise, and interaction does my heart and mind so much good. It gives me opportunities to decompress and destress and it’s where some of my favorite conversations have happened.

Last week my husband asked if I wanted to bring Leia, our puppy, and walk around downtown Indy to play Pokémon Go together. My first reaction was to tell him how stupid I thought this phone game was. I proceeded with my first reaction. As someone who strongly dislikes playing video games, why in the world would I be interested in playing? He usually doesn’t jump at opportunities to go walking with Leia and I, especially not for two hours, but because of Pokémon Go he is actually suggesting it? At this moment I realized that I had two options. One, I could concede to my rooted dislike of video games and refuse his offer to play the game with him. Or, I could choose to be thankful for the way Louis was reaching out to spend time with me and do something I normally wouldn’t.

…………………………………………………….

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We brought a backpack just to carry water for Leia!

Louis and I spent somewhere between three an four hours downtown that afternoon. Leia and I walked with Louis as he guided us through the streets of downtown to the nearest Pokémon and the plethora of Pokéstops located at various monuments downtown throughout the city. Louis and I held hands and threw digital Pokéballs. We talked about life and we talked about who had control over the closest Pokémon gym. I got to work on training Leia among the people and distractions while Louis got to work on training his Pokémon in the game. Leia, too, enjoyed the new sights, smells, and various people who were eager to pet her.

By the end, all three of us were sweaty, tired, and very happy. 

After getting married, it has been easy for me to fall back on my personality (whether by nature, nurture, or both) and stop getting out of my comfort zone to please my (now) husband. I figure that since my husband already knows X about me, I am justified in not having to do X. X becomes all sorts of things, from playing video games, to staying out late, to listening to certain radio stations in the car. All of these are small examples, but they do reveal something about my heart and the limitations I’ve put on how I will love my husband.

Don’t draw the line at stepping outside of your comfort zone to impress a date. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone to love your husband, too.

Fourth, I am a PA Student.

I often spend life as if I am frantically running with my head down. I load a lot of things on my plate and let each day pass without taking the time to look up and enjoy the moments. I am a creature of habit and routine, always looking to feel settled and comfortable.

 

Tragedy interrupts that.

 

It could be tragedy very close to your heart and home. It could be tragedy in a country overseas or something you read in the news. No matter the source, tragedy puts a brick wall in our path and forces us to stop. It reminds us that this life is just a vapor and that we can never know when it will come to an end. It forces us to consider the deeper questions of how we are investing our life and what is truly important and worthwhile. The last 24 hours have made me look at my priorities, my commitments, my responsibilities, and my relationships and wonder…are they working in tandem as part of a life that is purposeful and fruitful?

I just started PA school at IU at the beginning of May and I have less than a month until I have one full semester under my belt. Becoming a full time graduate student changed a lot of things for Louis and I. It put new demands on our schedules, finances, and our energy. It made us say “no” to some things and opened us to say “yes” to others. I feel so confident this is where the Lord wants me and I desire to be faithful in that by being a good steward of my time and resources to do my absolute best. However, I have had to wrestle with what it looks like for school to fit within the hierarchy of what is important (based on how the Lord defines important).

First, I am a Daughter of the King.

Second, I am a wife.

Third, I am a daughter, sister, and friend.

Fourth, I am a PA student.

Yesterday I was reminded that I will never be disappointed when I choose the Lord or important relationships over school. How well I perform in PA school is not going to matter in light of eternity, and it is not what I would want to prioritize if tomorrow were my last day. It is worth it to forgo an extra 2 hours of studying for an extra 2 points on my test in order to spend quality time with my husband when he comes home from work. It is worth it to put off homework for an hour so I can call a dear friend and we can catch up and encourage each other in the Lord. It is worth it to miss class and arrange to make up the work in order to attend the weddings of people that I love. It is worth it to put away my books on Sunday so that I can enjoy fellowship at my church and dinner with my family.

PA school is not first, it is not second, and it is not even third. It is fourth. I want my life to be spent for the sake of the gospel and for other people. At the end of time (or even just at the end of my time) everything else will fade and pass away, including PA school.

Externally Processing or Gossiping?

When conflict arises between you and a significant other, do you ever reach a point where it feels like any discussion will be unproductive? Do you both get so buried in the disagreement that emotions start to dominate, gentleness is abandoned, the tongue becomes unrestrained, and it ultimately becomes one side against another, as if compromise is no longer an option? When I have found myself in these situations, it has been abundantly helpful to go to specifically chosen people in my life in order to externally process through the conflict with someone other than my husband. This allows me to get out all of my bent up emotion and hear an outside perspective so that I come back to my husband ready for a productive discussion.

However, there is a boundary we need to be careful of for there is a fine line between externally processing and simply gossiping. Therefore, it is important to be selective and intentional about the people you open up to in the midst of conflict with your significant other. In order to guard yourself from gossiping, I believe there are five qualities you should look for in a chosen confidant.

  1. They are not for you.

Find someone who is for your relationship. (Caution: If you can’t find anyone who is for your relationship, that should be a red flag!) The more partial and inclined to side with you someone is, the more he or she will fuel negative talk about your significant other without giving you any real perspective. You can’t externally process with someone who has already decided to agree with you.

  1. They know your significant other.

Often times when we are in the middle of externally processing, we believe we are 100% in the right and our significant other is 100% in the wrong, which is almost never the case. However, talking negatively about your significant other to someone who doesn’t personally know them can ultimately damage the way they view him/her. Only confide in someone who is not going to think any less of your significant other because of your biased presentation of them.

  1. They are willing to tell you the truth.

It is not helpful to go to a non-confrontational friend who will listen to you vent, but is unwilling to speak truth to you. Externally processing has the goal of understanding, which means sometimes you need to be told that you’re wrong. If no truth is exchanged, it is futile gossip.

  1. They have an opinion you respect.

If you are truly looking for perspective and good advice, you will go to someone whose opinion you actually respect. This may not be the person you hang out with the most, and that is okay. If someone is your best bud but you don’t value their opinion on a particular topic, then you will never give weight to their perspective.

  1. You can trust them.

Even if you are well-intentioned when you share information, it can quickly become gossip when it starts to spread. Only share personal information about your significant other when you know it will end there. It is wholly unfair to your significant other to allow information about him/her, which is usually biased and negative, to spread to other people.

Once you determine the people in your life who have these five qualities, intentionally ask them if they will commit to being there to help you externally process when you need them. Don’t assume. Make sure these people know the role you are asking them to play in your life. Then, tell your significant other who these people are. You want to be on the same page so that when conflict does arise and you do go to those people, there is mutual understanding and no miscommunication about the information being shared.

For those of you who are not in a romantic relationship: take advantage of being single! Use your time in this season of life to be fully investing in quality, lifelong friends who will be those people you can go to when you do enter a relationship. This will prove of so much worth to you later on!

I strongly believe that externally processing can be a healthy part of resolving conflict in relationships, but there is a fine line between that and simply gossiping.

May we people who honor our significant other by walking that line wisely.

 

Do Not Believe the Bible Because I Said So

When we are told to accept truth based solely off of someone’s presentation of it, it doesn’t usually produce deep roots that can withstand external pressure. Here lies an important distinction: assuming truth verses actually believing it. The best way to come to believe in truth and not just learn about it is to struggle with it. Is it not true that we are often the most certain of the things we once questioned? There is something about the process of questioning, investigating, and pondering that acts as Miracle-grow for truth. It ultimately becomes more deeply rooted in our hearts and minds and then produces even more fruit in our lives.

Unfortunately, this nearly absent in the Church. Average people tend to believe questioning is only for theologians while they go through life simply accepting what their pastor tells them or what they are reading in the latest Christian best seller. If doubts do come to mind, there is often a sense of guilt that keeps them quiet, as if their faith is not strong enough and they just need to pray for it to be stronger. We have churches full of people who have most definitely struggled, at one point or another, with wrapping their minds around how God can be both loving and just or wrestled with how tragedy can be a part of God’s will or doubting the reliability of the Bible, but everyone is too afraid to say anything as if it were a sin to not have all the answers figured out.

You shouldn’t assume something about God or the Bible is true just because I might say so or because someone else tells you so. As a Church, we should be doing a better job of creating a culture where doubt, struggling, and questioning are not only okay, but are welcomed. Being a Christian does not mean that you have to abandon critical thinking at the door or use “faith” as a justification for being uninformed. The entire body of believers, not just pastors or theologians, should feel well prepared to give a defense for what they believe.

And if questioning and critical thinking is not typical of adult churchgoers, it is even truer of our youth. In fact, many teens and young adults end up abandoning the church once they grow up. Is it because the church isn’t relevant or because it is too strict? I would argue it was because the truth they learned never took root. When children grow up under the assumption that the Bible is truth, they become young adults, bombarded with a variety of worldviews and an overwhelming number of skeptics, and the Bible stories they once learned now seem much more unbelievable; what they once were so accepting of now seems much less certain. In assuming what they were told was truth, they never decided for themselves to believe it was true.

Our faith is not blind and our God is not whimpy. He can stand up to our questions, doubts, or skepticism. He is Truth and when we seek him earnestly, He will not lead us astray. So, do not feel shame in wrestling with truth because it is through that process that you will develop deep roots that can withstand even the hardest circumstances. Go to God with your questions, and invest time into reading and searching through your Bible. The Bible is not just ink and paper; it is alive and active for through it, God reveals both Himself and ourselves to us. Go to other believers. Ask your pastor, bring it up in your small group, or ask an older, wiser person in your church. Don’t be afraid to start the conversation, because more than likely, you are not alone. Go to extra-Biblical sources and references, including in the areas of history and science, and see how that lines up with what Scripture claims.

Do not believe the Bible because someone says so. Whether you consider yourself an agnostic or have been in the Church for years, don’t assume something is true (or untrue for that matter), go look for yourself.

Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself.
-C.H. Spurgeon

Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

In the Wilderness: A Walker or a Wanderer?

Do you feel like you’re in the wilderness? Like every time you stand up, life just knocks you down again? Like every time you get over a hill, hoping for an oasis, there is just more desert?

I’ve definitely been there. A lot. Sometimes those seasons have lasted a whole semester, and sometimes just a couple of weeks. But from experience, with the guidance and conviction of the Holy Spirit, I have learned that when you or I are in the wilderness, we are either walking or wandering.

Mark 1:12-13  “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”  

Numbers 32:13  “And the LORD’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD was gone.”  

Are you walking in a wilderness because that is where the Lord has sent you? Despite the difficultly and struggle, do you see its purpose and do you see your faith developing perseverance? Are you looking for the ways He is testing you and ministering to you throughout this season? Remember, God is not punishing you; He is refining you for your good. When Satan in tempting you, use Scripture which is your best weapon. Meditate on it day and night. Let it readily be on your lips. In this season God’s voice may not seem loud, but His presence is with you and He knows exactly where He is leading you.

Or are you wandering through a wilderness due to your own sinful choices? Like the Israelites, have you chosen to be in the wilderness due to your disobedience and unfaithfulness? Maybe it is bitterness, selfishness, anger, love of money, or desire for autonomy and control. Do you feel drained and defenseless? Do you feel like you have no purpose or direction? Please know, there is hope if this is where you find yourself. In Christ, there is no condemnation; on the cross, Jesus drank God’s wrath meant for our sin so that our sins can be forgiven. Our God is gracious and abounding in mercy. He disciples His children, but does so like a father, disciplining us out of a loving desire for us to grow and experience freedom and fullness of life. Repent and know He can redeem even this season of wilderness for His glory!

Whether you are in the wilderness where the Lord has sent you, or you are finding yourself wandering because you have forgotten (or maybe not have ever discovered) the greatness of our God, look to Him. God isn’t about our happiness, He is about our holiness; He may not pluck you out of the wilderness, but He will surely walk with you through it.

 

If you get a chance, look up “Desert Song” by Hillsong.

 || Sometimes music can speak to the soul in ways that words simply cannot. ||

Pro-choice or Anti-abortion?

I’ve heard the Christian mantra: people should know what we are for, not just what we are against. As a mantra, it’s pretty useless, but as a lifestyle, it may actually be worth something. Being redeemed, yet nonetheless, broken people, we aren’t always great about actually living this out though. It is more work to be for something than against something; it beckons us to participate, engage. It requires us to be proactive, not reactive. And there is one area we, the Church, have greatly missed the mark.

Are we simply against abortion or are we really for life?

There is a difference. The sociopolitical world associates Christians with being on the pro-life side of the choice-life dichotomy. We invest money, time, resources, and political discussion to compile and present all the reasons why abortion is wrong. Now don’t misunderstand me, advocating for the rights of the unborn and educating people on the gruesome realities of abortion procedures are both very commendable and necessary endeavors.

However, I think there remains a gap. For the mother who feels she cannot manage another baby, or does not have the financial resources, or was impregnated due to horrific circumstances she doesn’t want to remember, or even to the mother that prioritizes the freedom of not being a mother…without another clear option besides an abortion, desperation, more often than not, will ultimately guide their decision.

This is where we have failed. To fill that gap and move from  simply being anti-abortion to truly pro-life is to be strong advocates for adoption. Adoption does offer an alternative choice for those who feel caught in this desperate gap. But is it a clear choice? Now I am no statistician, but I can tell you that the pro-adoption message is not overwhelming. As the Church can we say we are known for the way we welcome orphans into our home? Are we known for the way we seek out those who are unwanted and abandoned?

No I don’t think every Christian should necessarily adopt. But, I do think a lot of capable Christian couples are close-minded or possibly even naïve about the prospect. I do think it is a topic that is often neglected, possibly even avoided, in the Christian sphere. I do think local churches can be doing more to get involved by providing support for parents who adopt. I do think that Jesus advocated for adoption.

What does this look like for you? What does this look like for your church? What does it look like to shift the culture of the global Church to be more proactive about adoption rather than just reactive against abortion?

As someone who is fiercely passionate about healthy pregnancies, healthy babies, and healthy families, and as someone who is abundantly thankful to be an adopted daughter of the King, I think those are questions worth pondering.