Christian and I have been married for five years today. I can't believe it. In some ways it feels as though we have been married far longer for all that has happened in our lives in this relatively short amount of time. We have moved five times in five years (although three of those moves were in the Chicago area). We have traveled to Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Canada, Greece, and Germany since the day we vowed to be each other's in addition to the Lord's. We have laughed (a lot), cried (a lot), been angry, hopeful, discouraged, faithless, and faithful, feeling love, and not feeling love.
Christian has been a student since day one, and after a few years of having no clue what I wanted to do professionally, I finally landed on it only this year at age twenty-seven (see the about tab for more info). (So for those of you who are somewhere around age twenty-three and are anxious because everyone else on social media looks like they have their life together and knows what they're doing, be encouraged.)
A dear friend of mine actually prompted my thinking on my marriage a bit further last week by asking me what I have learned about being a godly wife in the last five years. I'll tell you what... after honest, prayerful consideration, I have arrived at the same conclusions at which many God-fearing women before me have arrived. And please bear in mind that the things I will write below are things that will always offer me continual growing opportunities because the Lord (and Christian) know(s) that I fall short in these things daily, and I say that with full honesty and absolutely zero false humility. But this is what bonds us in this world, women. Our honesty in our struggles, and our strength in uplifting up one another toward Jesus. So here it goes...
1.) Pray. Pray for your man. For his relationship with God. For his growth. That God would fill him with wisdom, discernment, confidence, strength and boldness. Because whether we believe it or not, the way our man is doing in these areas effects us as wives. A lot. If he is not spending consistent time with his nose in his bible, pray that God would compel his heart. If he is afraid of making the wrong decision for your family, pray that God would fill him with wisdom and discernment. If he struggles with knowing how to love you in ways that make sense to you, first of all, please gently mention it to the poor guy (once), and then pray that God would miraculously fill him with the "right kind" of love method.
And women, here's a big one: If he is struggling with confidence in his leadership-- in his God-given role as a man-- or struggling with temptations, pray hard that God would fill him with confidence, strength and boldness in his role and/or in overcoming the toxic, tempting voices of the world.
I am convinced that this is the greatest thing we can do as wives.
2.) Be best friends. Be available to him and prioritize him. I am not a mother yet, but I have seen so many families that revolve around their children, which I can only assume is super easy because, I mean, kids are just so dang precious! But what's more precious? Yeah. Our marriage. Because if we can't do that, our family falls apart and our men feel lonely and unloved.
And ultimately, we need to know how to play and have fun with each other.
This is, fortunately, something at which Christian and I are pretty dang good. In fact, most of the people that have seen us together think that we're siblings because of how we mess with each other. I know this is totally based on the couple, and we certainly have times of total mush (ask our housemates), but our romance is not the catalyst for our friendship... it's the other way around.
We also decided a long time ago that our priority for our life together was to fill it up with as many memories as possible instead of stuff. In fact, this priority helps get these two homebodies out more because otherwise we would probably most often be content to just stay home. But this way, we push each other to go out-- to experience wherever it is that we are and therefore make some seriously fantastic memories.
Also,we talk about everything-- bouncing ideas off each other, discussing what God is teaching each of us-- we pray together, read together, eat together and serve together. This is what makes us each other's best friend.
3.) Serve him. Ya'll... I have been learning that the best way to be my husband's best friend, and to show him my love and respect for him, is to serve him even when I don't feel like it. It also means that I take the time to listen to him. Not hear him, but listen to him. It means that I am quick to forgive him when he messes up or frustrates me. It means that I learn his habits, his likes and dislikes, what makes him feel loved and appreciated.
Back when we were first married, we talked about the big ways that we can express our love to each other in a way that makes sense to the receiver. At the time, Christian told me that affirming words are his biggest way of receiving love, but after observing him and how he responds to words versus random things like making the bed, keeping the kitchen clean, etc, I have discovered that Christian responds most (by far) to these acts of service that I do for him. Also physical touch, but seriously, like we didn't already know that....
And because I am not Super Woman, a short while ago I asked Christian to give me his top five things that I could do to serve him that would make him feel filled up with love. Seriously, it's been SO helpful. That decision to just ask him has allowed me to have significant grace with myself, and also given me the ability to know what to prioritize in my day-to-day.
Another thing that pertains less to the individual and more perhaps to men in general is that there will be times, wives, when we find ourselves needing to take our turn on the backburner. We as women are a crazy capable and gifted gender, am I right!? God just made us freaking power-houses and I love that. But here's the thing: God has made our men incredibly capable and gifted, too. And sometimes God calls our men out ahead of us to use them for something awesome and wonderful. And when that happens, we need to be willing to step back and watch for a bit. Sometimes, that means that we serve our men by waiting for our turn and, in the meantime, patiently watching and supporting, and then rejoicing when we see all of the ways God is growing and using them.
Plus, I have found that doing this just gives me even more ways to keep falling in love with Christian over and over. Trust me, as hard as it has been for me to sit on the back burner in the past, it has payed off big time.
Honestly, there is no greater struggle and no greater triumph than learning to die to yourself.
Well, that pretty much sums up what God has been showing me about what it means to not just be a wife, but more like Jesus in the last five years of marriage. Even though it's been challenging and unpleasant at times, reflecting on it all has just filled me up with so much thanks that God would love me enough to teach me these things, allbeit the action on them still is left wanting in many ways.
It also has reminded me of how great of a gift I have been given in Christian by God's grace and mercy.
*Note: Sisters, if you are single right now, I encourage you-- please, please keep your standards crazy high. Don't compromise on a man who is "okay with your religion" or just "goes to church" or "is open." Hold out for a man who already loves God fiercely, is passionate for His Church, and who pushes you to be better rather than encourages your bad habits (because we all have them). The decision will forever effect the rest of your life, for better or for worse.
**If you are married already and are struggling... girl... first I want to say that my heart breaks for you. I hope that I can encourage you to keep loving Jesus and to serve your husband for God's glory, as awful and as difficult as it may be. I have seen God change a life in minutes (and to be honest, also years), but I hope I can encourage you now by telling you that your prayer, your service-- it's not in vain.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1
Keep praying, keep serving, keep loving.
And happy anniversary, Schatz. Ich leibe dich mit alle mein Hertz.
Thanksgiving is already past. That's crazy, right!? I've been telling people lately that I feel as though June ended maybe two weeks ago. And while I wholeheartedly love this time of the year, and while I have been anticipating it with excitement, I don't feel ready for it yet. Do you?
Making lists of things I'm thankful for is (thankfully) rarely a challenge. One thing that I have been continually thanking God for is our church fellowship. The people that congregate there are yes, faulty, but wonderful people. And lately we've been going through the Gospel of Mark, which honestly has prompted me to think so much more deeply about John Mark's accounts of the things concerning Jesus.
A couple of weeks ago we learned a bit about Mark 10, and the account of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to "inherit eternal life."
"Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'"
And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth."
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
The story goes on and the lesson shifts a little, but something that I have been learning for the first time in my life is how completely deep and overflowing with meaning these accounts really are! I have read these accounts innumerable times throughout my life and never taken away so much as I have over this last year. It's sad, but at the same time completely amazing!
The great take-home reminder for me in this text is the attachment not to money necessarily, but to lifestyle. To material. To comfort. To ease. Even to "stability." I often considered this text to be about attachment to money, which after some great time assessing, I don't really think that is something that Christian and I personally struggle too much with, although the temptation is certainly ever-present. This has caused me to gloss over this text far too much over the years until I realized that Jesus' point was not simply addressing an attachment (idolization) of money, but of everything and MORE that I listed as my struggles above!
The reasons why I find this text is relating so heavily to me now is because it seems that the Lord may be parting the waters in our life once again by leading us to Austria this coming summer. Christian will be done with school, and through some friends of ours who are already serving in Vienna, we have been offered an apartment as well as helping to foster a discipleship/hospitality program at the evangelical church in one of Vienna's nearby villages. I italicized "the" because it is literally the only evangelical church in that area.
Our tenative plan is to scout out Austria for those three months, and upon leaving Europe, immediately continue on with traveling for the purpose of raising support to go back long term. This means lots of moving, lots of change, lots of hellos and goodbyes.
For those of you who know me/us or have known me/us since we were kids, you'll know that working among German speaking people groups in Europe has been our dream. Our burden. What I personally have been working toward for the bulk of my teen/adult years. And now it's coming. And honestly... I never would have thought that I would hesitate even for a second once the opportunity came for us to go.
For so many years I was telling God,
"Fine, I'll wait 'til I'm 18."
"Fine, I'll wait 'til I'm done with uni."
"Fine. I'll wait for 3 (which has actually been 5) more years when my husband is done with uni."
It wasn't until a dear friend lovingly admonished me for my desire for control and idolizing this concept that I finally quit telling God how long (or short) I was okay with before He needed to get His act together and get me over there.
Then God moved us to Chicago. A place where we swore we could never live. A place that was too big, too busy, too impersonal. Yet God inexplicably filled our hearts with joy. He gave us the most beautiful apartment. He furnished it with gorgeous pieces. He filled it with friends who have become family. He gave us a solid, beautiful community in our church where we have been serving, learning, growing and celebrating. He's given us such a wonderful life, here.
The thought of having to give it all up... again... stirs up inside me the same reaction that the young ruler had: I feel disheartened. And for that I feel shame, because if am disheartened when the Lord seems to be asking me to again give up, doesn't that say something about the arrangement of my priorities?
The things that God has given us here are good. What the young ruler had was also, on it's own, good. What was bad about it was the tightness of his grip.
The other thing that has struck me hard in this text is that John Mark takes the time to point out that
And Jesus, upon looking at him, loved him...
I think it's interesting that out of love for him, Jesus tells him that he lacks one thing. He must go, sell all that he has and give to the poor and come follow.
Jesus cares so much about this guy's growth-- loves him-- that He asks him to give up all he has to follow Him. This is why He asks me. This is why I must give up. Why my clenched, white knuckels must release, and the contents of my hands must be held upward and open.
Am I willing? Are you?