life of faith

taking baby steps & leaps & everything in between


Sometimes Life Isn’t Pretty, but it’s Beautiful

Do you ever have times in your life when you know God is doing something purposeful with you? I know nothing in our lives is an accident, but I’m talking about seasons when you can clearly see God teaching you something.

I am in one of those seasons. I love these seasons because I get so excited about what I’m learning, growing closer to God, and how He is shaping me to be more like Christ. But, from a quick glance from the outside, these seasons can look like a weird time to be thankful.

I liken these seasons in life to our house. Our house is a MAJOR blessing. Does it look straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog or a Pinterest “Dream House” board? No. Do we have any new furniture besides some thrift store items and a $69 IKEA desk? No. Have we finally removed the freaky Dr. Seuss-looking rhododendron from our front yard? No. Am I sitting on a folding chair in front of aforementioned desk right now? Yes. Is one of our spare bedrooms dedicated to cats? Yes. Do we have one room filled with unpacked boxes for the foreseeable future? Yes. And does the dehumidifier sometimes startle me when it runs because it sounds like a flock of crickets? Yes.

However, if you could see the heart behind this house… we LOVE this house. We see a future in this house. We are taking steps to make this house our own piece by piece. We are making memories and growing our family in this house. And the house is already beautiful, we just need to enhance its beauty! It’s a process. Our house still has spiders and stinkbugs and scratches on the hardwood and undesirable paint colors and mess (sometimes smell), but we are going to tenderly take care of it because we love it, we bought it, and we see its potential as our house.

Dayne & I in front of our new house on move-in day.

And that is what God is doing with me and my husband. He’s invested in us, and He’s growing us in Him.

So… what does that look like in this season of our lives?

Well, sometimes it’s kind of funny. Like… we have ringworm. Dayne and I have ringworm. I joked about it when Dayne got what looked like a little bug bite on his arm, like, “haha, you have ringworm!”, but then my doctor told me I have ringworm and therefore Dayne has ringworm and now twice a day we help each other apply Lotrimin to all our “bug bites”. SO sexy.

Other times, it’s not so funny, but there is the opportunity for growth. I am currently going through some undiagnosed pain issues that have caused me to miss lots of work and to stop drinking coffee in the mornings and to otherwise completely revamp my daily routine. I am tempted to feel guilty, and like everyone at work is going to hate me, and to constantly think about all the work I need to get done, and to worry about being fired. But I am realizing – through a lot of prayer, a loving friend, a supportive husband, an overwhelmingly supportive boss, and time in the Psalms – that I don’t need to carry these worries. I have zero control over how I am feeling and I can’t diagnose myself. I can’t force myself to feel better and I can’t do a very good job at work while I’m sick. Jesus is the only solace I have, and He is completely in control of every little detail of my life. If I get fired, I get fired. If I can’t get the work done, I can’t get it done. If I can’t drink coffee, I can’t drink coffee. He will take care of me. He’s using this situation to change my perspective, i.e.: what does this look like from the angle of a sovereign, loving God? I think David and other Godly men of his time asked themselves this question a lot (Psalms 1-150).

Same with our marriage. Guys, marriage is HARD. Like, harder than I ever dreamed or imagined it could be. Like, please tell me someone is going to pay me for all this work I’m putting into our marriage. But the payment is our spiritual & emotional growth. And you better be thankful for that, because you’re gonna be in a tough place if that’s not enough for you.

Other times this season is funny and not so funny at the same time, like the Sump Pump Disaster of 2012. For a couple of days, our sump pump starting mysteriously dumping gallons & gallons of raw sewage into our yard. Where was it coming from? Why was it running through our French drain? How were we going to deal with the smell? Wonderful, yet unanswered questions. Our sump pump hasn’t run for a few weeks. It just suddenly stopped. It’s a mystery. In that, I’m learning to be comfortable with the unknown, and to not have to have everything under control or answers for everything all the time. To let God be God and to let myself be His.

So, even though it’s uncomfortable and I find myself praying for bravery a lot, I’m kind of oddly happy to be in this season. God is close to me. He is shaping me. He is showing me the reward bit by bit. And I’m learning to let go. Freedom in Christ is a beautiful thing.

“[Jesus] is not saying, ‘I will put you to bed, hold your hand, and sing you to sleep.’ But, in essence, He is saying, ‘I will get you out of bed – out of your listlessness and exhaustion, and out of your condition of being half dead while you are still alive.'” – Oswald Chambers


He Said/She Said – New Year’s Edition

I’ve been wanting to do another His & Hers for a while now, since we both enjoyed writing the first one, and we heard that our readers enjoyed it. 😉 I had written one up for Christmas, but since Christmas is over and ours was so crazy, I figured a retrospective/future perspective New Year’s Eve one was even better!

We have plans to celebrate New Year’s Eve tonight with some of our closest friends – Molly & Doug, Amy & Omar, and Megan. Some delicious food, fun games, and lots of laughter are on the way!

We also got to visit Katie & Burt in Delaware yesterday, and finally meet their baby boy, Ben! What a treasure he is 🙂

Baby Ben chillin' with Dayne!

I especially love hanging out with other peoples’ babies, since we’re not quite ready to have our own! It was very fun to be able to spend time catching up with Katie & Burt and snuggling with Ben yesterday.

Now, read on for our 2nd Official His & Hers

Again, according to the unofficial rules of “He Said/She Said”, we answered these questions completely separately, but we did do some post-editing afterwards, mostly for grammar and length.

Looking back, what has been the best thing about 2011?
Getting married of course!  I say that because I have to say that.  Actually, I’d say “Getting Married” is pretty far down on the list, but “Being Married” is number 1.  There is a big difference between the two.  One was a lot of planning (by Lisa) and a lot of stress in general, while the other has been super fun.
Lisa: Obviously, getting married was the overall best thing about 2011. I also think I grew a lot personally and spiritually this year, possibly more than any other year of my life. I feel like an entirely different person than I was in the beginning of 2011 – a little bit more complete and whole (not because of Dayne “completing me”, but because of what I’ve learned and experienced).

What have been some of the more difficult things about 2011?
Being Married.  As we say to anyone that asks us how it feels to be married, the first few months were difficult.  I can’t even tell you what it was though – just that there seemed to always be something that didn’t seem to click between us.  The first day back after the honeymoon we were fighting about something (that day it was the fact that I felt the kitchen counter was cluttered – which to be honest, was a stupid argument on my part).  It went on like that a lot with little things coming up that were borderline petty, but for some reason, we both felt very strongly about.  I think it was mostly just getting accustomed to not always being able to make our own decisions.  For me, it’s difficult trying to make a joint decision about something small.
Lisa:  Some of the difficult things of 2011 were the job transitions I went through (nannying to innkeeping to receptionist-ing) – none of them were easy, though they went smoothly. My engagement was not the easiest thing, due to a number of factors; I struggled with major anxiety and panic attacks throughout at least half of our engagement that had nothing to do with my relationship with Dayne. Then there was the baseline anxiety of losing my identity. Getting married is psychologically very scary, even though it is incredibly exciting and good! One of the hardest things about 2011 has been letting go – some friendships have not lasted through all the changes, and I also truly miss the little girls I nannied. Thankfully, I still see the girls every once in a while.

What are some of your favorite memories of 2011?
It was two things, Aruba and the wedding ceremony, in that order.  I might get in trouble for saying that, but I have to say that I have never felt as relaxed as I did on our honeymoon.  The wedding ceremony is number two because it was a big change in our lives and I thought our wedding was great (I may be biased though).
Lisa: Some of my favorite memories: every major event associated with our engagement and wedding, from Dayne’s proposal to my bridal shower to my bachelorette party to our rehearsal & dinner to the big day itself and then our amazing honeymoon.
My friendship with Erica got stronger through the whole process, and I realized very clearly how meaningful my relationship with her is.
I also loved the college girls’ reunion I had with Megan and Molly and Amy this fall! I love them and am so thankful they’re in my life, and that we can have so much fun when we’re together.

What did you learn in 2011?
 Patience.  Lisa usually gets a thought into her head on a topic, and sometimes, reason doesn’t seem to filter through to her.  While this is frustrating for me, it also has taught me to slow down my explanations on things and attempt multiple ways of explaining what’s going through my head.
Lisa: I learned what is my responsibility and what’s not – although I still have trouble with this. I can’t be everything to everyone, and sometimes it’s better to step away or let go.
I learned what it’s like to live in marriage with someone… and that it is truly difficult as well as beyond rewarding.
I learned (again) how very patient God is and how much grace He extends to us. I am learning that He is in control all the time and working things out for His good purpose, even when we can’t see or understand what He’s doing.

What do you hope to accomplish in 2012?
I don’t really look too far ahead, so I don’t really have any things that I specifically want to accomplish.  I think I want to be more conscientious about my free time.  I enjoy playing video games, and I’m not planning on stopping that, but I would like to read more and do more side coding [Lisa’s note: “side coding” means programming; Dayne is a software developer.].  Also, I think I’d have more energy during the week if I was physically active, which I should work on.
Lisa: I hope we get a house in 2012. I hope I get better at my job and possibly get promoted (although I’m fine staying in my position indefinitely). I hope I get better at something – whether it’s writing or fitness or a new hobby. I hope I also get better at loving others (including Dayne) more than myself.
Oh, I also hope we’re able to set a good foundation for our family financially – that we are able to save and give abundantly.

What do you foresee being some of the biggest challenges in 2012?
Dayne: Buying a house. This just worries me because Lisa and I aren’t the best at making huge decisions like this together.  I think we both see it as a big investment and form our own opinions.  When we then talk it over, we both are trying to convince the other one that we are right when we should simply be working together through the process.
Also, budgeting.  I enjoy the process, but Lisa has a more difficult time seeing it in practice.  I just hope that I can be patient and Lisa keeps an open mind.
Lisa: I think house hunting and our finances will be a challenge for us. I think as we get more involved with our church, there will be challenges associated with that (just because Satan doesn’t like spiritual growth).
I think growing in our marriage will be a challenge, as well as sorting out how to embrace our differences and be sure that each of us is growing and happy. Figuring out how to make our marriage a priority as well as our family and friends… that will continue to be tough!

In what ways do you want your marriage to grow in 2012?
I want us to read more together; we had started a couples book, but only read one chapter together.  I think we can do better on that.  I do think that reading is more on my side than on Lisa’s though since I believe she’d be ready to read together if I just said the word.
Lisa: I think the biggest thing for our marriage at the forefront of my mind right now is that we need to set aside quality time with each other. We need to make date nights a priority, and try to do new things at least once or twice a month so our relationship doesn’t get stale.
I also want us to get better at communicating, and it would be great for us to spiritually grow more together – maybe doing more devotionals or praying more together. I am really looking forward to joining a couples’ small group this year.

In what ways do you want your relationship with God to grow in 2012?
I don’t know for sure, but I am very excited about our new church and I can’t wait to see how our involvement in it enables us to grow.
Lisa: I am really looking forward to digging into the Bible in 2012. I expect that will change my relationship with God in many ways. I would like to see myself become more intimate with and dependent on Him. I’d like to trust Him more and not struggle with anxiety and worry as much as I currently do. I’d like to naturally seek Him in prayer before I make decisions. I’d overall like to see myself become more consistent in my relationship with Him.

In what ways do you want to grow personally in 2012?
I’m 5’10” right now, I’m praying for 5’11” by the end of 2012.
Lisa: Oh man. This is a doozy. I want to become more patient and extend more grace, especially to Dayne. I want to be less of a people-pleaser, because in a lot of ways it is unhealthy and rooted in deep insecurity. I want to know myself and my own boundaries better.
I want to write more and grow in a hobby or skill, even if it’s just cooking more recipes and using better techniques.
I want to become better at accepting loss or change. I’d like to experience freedom in that.

If you were to make any additional New Year’s Resolutions, what would they be?
 I don’t make resolutions because I know better than to believe that I’ll keep them.  Why lie to myself?
Lisa: Um, I would like to get fit. I feel disgusting. This job is the most sedentary job I’ve ever had, and it makes me feel like a huge, mushy baked potato. I need to at least start walking regularly, if not getting involved in yoga/pilates or running. I also need to overcome my fear of having a heart attack mid-workout and just pin some emergency information on my shirt or something (I have heart palpitations and chest pain at random times – I’m told it’s benign, but it’s uncomfortable and scary… hence my fear of dying on the treadmill).
It would also be nice to use our Wii Fit more often, since we have it!

What are you looking forward to in 2012?
The Mayan New Year.
Lisa: I’m looking forward to a big trip for our first anniversary, and our first house (hopefully), and getting more involved at our new church, and growing friendships with new and old people! I’m looking forward to experiencing more of our marriage as it gets deeper and stronger. I’m looking forward to having a better, more holistic knowledge of the Bible! And I’m looking forward to some new experiences and traveling more. And Dayne promised me a puppy by Christmas 2012.

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In search of the hum.

My next blog entry was supposed to have been posted a long time ago, but I’m going to be real: I’ve been struggling a lot with blogging. I have all the awkward false starts and notes to prove it: 3 half-written wordpress “drafts”, random cryptic notes on my Blackberry about song lyrics and noteworthy events that happen, and thoughts rattling around in my head about what God’s doing with the world and in my life.

It’s not that things haven’t been happening, or I haven’t felt inspired, or I don’t want to blog – it’s just that I’m having trouble figuring out who I am and what I’m doing. All the blog entries I start writing end up not feeling or sounding like me, and once I let a moment of inspiration pass, it seems gone for good.

I am learning a whole heck of a lot — it feels like everyday is different, and that’s good and bad. Good in the sense of I’m learning and growing and adapting everyday, but bad when I struggle with just wanting to be comfortable and cozy and self-focused.

Things that have changed in the past three months: I moved; quit my job; got married; gained in-laws; went on a honeymoon; Dayne & I had to start communicating about and figuring out sex; Dayne moved in; my best friend (Erica), who is also one of my closest family members, moved to Cameroon to teach; I started a new job which is really a brand new profession and a whole different set of hours; my brother moved to college; I became a family cook, meal planner, and housekeeper; Dayne and I joined all of our accounts and started financial planning and looking for a house; we started looking for a church; and we started filling and decorating our apartment.

I have gone through some deep depression as well as some overwhelming gratefulness for where I am and who surrounds me in life right now. That’s the thing with all the changes: some of them I truly wrestle with, and some of them I learn to settle on. And others I am still figuring out, and I’m not sure which side of it I’ll come out on. I think that’s why I’m hesitant to write a blog — because one day I’ll be feeling really good about marriage and my job and my husband and sex and God and myself and my friends and family, and then the next day, or maybe even later that night, everything will reverse.

Soooo, all of this makes me look pretty unstable, right? 🙂

I went out to breakfast with Dayne’s mom a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about marriage, and I basically described how it felt right then as a roller-coaster – sometimes it’s so awesome and fun, and other times it’s so gritty & awful. The gritty & awful times are when you are confronted with your (and sometimes your spouse’s, at the same time) bare-bones humanity, how you really tick deep down in your core, which is almost never pretty. Marriage pulls out your selfishness 24/7. Actually, that’s a great definition of marriage: a day-by-day weeding out of every ounce of selfishness. It is not for the faint-hearted or those who think they are super-awesome-great and don’t need to change anything!

But: everything gets better and deeper and stronger everyday. Even when it all feels absolutely crappy and overwhelming and hard. God is working some kind of plan out in our lives, in our marriage, in the people around us, and in the world. And I can see glimpses of it along the way that feed me peace, satisfaction, and purpose.

I don’t know what tomorrow or next week will bring. I’m still trying to figure out today, and tonight, and last week, and why girls get their periods.

But I’m going to try to keep blogging when I get these moments of clarity — even if they’re rare. And as I get used to marriage, and living with a man, and searching for a home and a church, and figuring out relationships around me, and cooking substitutions, I’m hoping that time and experience further smooths the highs and lows to a stable everyday hum. And that I can learn to whistle and sing and talk and write and skip and jump and worship and dance and blog through and in the midst of and with and above that hum.