Thursday, March 16, 2017

We are the story we tell ourselves

It’s been quite some time, not just from my absence from Facebook, but since I have found myself in this position--sitting in front of a blank screen, keyboard at hand, in the quietness of these early morning hours and attempting to write. Recently, I’ve been thinking about this whole giving up Facebook thing for a year and what I am doing with it. I have come to the decision that I want to carve out some space to process what this “giving up” has added to my life. That means, each quarter I am going to log on, poke around the ole Facebook world, see what has been going on, friend request some new people I have met along the way (because you all know that friendship is not real unless it’s FB official), and leave a little nugget of thoughts via my blog post. That’s right, I’m dusting off the webs and will at least have 4 blogs this year.

Let’s not waste any more time!

There’s a podcast I listen to every now and again, and one of their tag lines is “we are the story we tell ourselves.” It’s a great motivational tag line, right?! It’s one that I totally bought into. It’s an idea that makes you feel like you can do and become anything.

2016 held some major shifts for Melinda and me. Some of those transitions were great, while others were challenging and unforeseen. Life moved on, as it always does, and we went along with our “new normal.” With the start of 2017, I was beyond happy to close out that last chapter and to start writing our next one.

“We are the story we tell ourselves.”

My 2017 story, was going to be one filled with grand adventures. I would attempt to live this small uncomplicated life. It was a new story of leaving past hurts in the past, and being safe enough moving forward where no hurt would be too great to cut to the quick. And giving up Facebook seemed like a great way to kick it off.

“We are the story we tell ourselves.”

I was good with this plan. Really good with it. But somehow, sometimes, God has this way of seeing your plan, and then showing you something greater.

I’ve been camped out in the Old Testament these last few weeks because I’ve been wrestling with some ideas and scriptures that just do not make sense in how I see God and this world. In the midst of that, I found myself in Jeremiah.  Jeremiah 2:2 says, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me, and followed me through a land not sown.” It’s funny that in all of Israel’s history, God doesn’t remember their arrival to the promised land or the wonder years of David and Solomon. No, God’s favorite season to remember Israel by is their first season. The season when they were alone and completely dependent on him in the wilderness.

Reading this reminded me of my first season with Christ. How painful it was at times, how intimate and messy it often was, and how everything was new and real and beautiful. Maybe my first season with Him too, is what He is reminded of when I find myself in these seasons of wanting to toss everything old out and to create something new.

Perhaps this Facebook “fast”, if you will, is about returning. Not escaping.

Maybe this year, isn’t about replacing last year’s story. It isn’t about replacing yesterday’s hurts with today’s joys or trading yesteryear’s failures with today’s triumphs. As much as I would like to forget and escape those unexpected painful twists of last year, I am learning that they truly are a crucial part in the story to come.

The first month or so of this year, I have kept true to my 2017 “life goals” and have been intentional about living this simple uncomplicated adventurous life. We’ve ventured off to escapades that involved snow tubing, hiking, and wineries. We celebrated two years of marriage reminiscing in NYC where we spoke our vowels to one another. And I have done well in creating this space free from those hurts of the past by keeping arm’s length to almost everything.

“We are the story we tell ourselves.”

It’s been a great motto to get me to a place I am learning I don’t want to be, to a place that to the core of me I am not. You see I want my story to be free of hurt, to be free of failures, but I too desire a life where I lean into vulnerability, lean into an authentic me that does life with an authentic community, because it is there where I believe Jesus is best seen and experienced—in the mess.

This past Sunday’s message at Hill City was pivotal in bringing together these thoughts. In the new message series Revolution, we were reminded that the story of the cross and resurrection, yes, fundamentally to the story of Jesus Christ, is not the full picture. In order for those moments to be the climax, we have to know, we have to understand the story long before that.

In closing, Hebrews 11 runs through my head. Last year when our small group studied Hebrews 11, it was put upon my heart to memorize the chapter. Since, I have tried to recite it so it is not forgotten. To be honest, I have not it done it lately, and the thoughts pouring out of me here today is a reminder of why I should not forget it. I believe in what Hebrews 11:40 says, “…that God has something better in store, that their faith and our faith would come together to make a complete whole…”

We are the story we tell ourselves, but not apart from our past. Not apart from the pain and errors. Not about from returning to those raw intimate messy parts that have shaped us into who we are. In light of last year, I don’t get to close the door and to create something better. Something better is created by opening that door and letting it go hand in hand with what is being created.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Living in the gray

I grew up in a world where things were black and white, right and wrong. A world that could be kept tidy and organized by placing it in this box or that. It’s been a journey to explore the gray, and to find a posture of comfort in the land of “maybe we don’t have all the answers,” to lean into the mystery of God and embrace this idea that perhaps my feeble mind cannot possibly unwrap the grandeur of His plan.
As much as I would love to celebrate our victory as a society, a church family, and as individuals for being open to explore a story written in multiple shades of color, try as we may, we too often default to our safety zones, and attempt to categorize the genres of everyone’s story onto the shelves we deem appropriate.
In reality, the only story we know how to catalogue, is our own.
This past week, in small group, Melinda share a devotional from Jen Hatmaker. This line continues to play over and over, “Your vulnerability makes a path for my own. Your truth-telling says to me, “I will not despise, judge, or abandon you.” Ironically, it gives me the courage to be afraid, the strength to be weak.”
As true as I know her words to be, I am sure we have all experienced living them out to be a completely different account. I have seen first-hand how someone’s story can be empowering, and I have witnessed times where my own moments of vulnerability began to lay a path for another’s story to emerge. But there’s always another side ….
Lately for me, sharing my story hasn’t ended with abandonment like it has in the past. It’s been filled with more questioning about how I choose to share my story, like, why I chose to be so open about the “gay parts” of it. Too often I hear “it doesn’t matter who you fall in love with or lay your head down beside at night,” but here is the thing, if you don’t care that I am in love with another woman, then you can’t possibly understand that when we are sitting side by side in church and she reaches out to hold my hand, in an instant I am left with the decision: should I hang onto it or should I give her a quick pat and pull my hand away because I am not sure how the person in front of me or beside me or behind me will react when they see two woman holding hands in church. If you don’t care who I lay my head beside at night, then you possible can’t begin to understand the triumph I feel when I receive her hand and I do not let go of it, or how I feel like the biggest chicken in the room and I am overcome with such disappointment when I pat her hand, and pull mine away.
You see, it’s those unique and real struggles that make up my story. When those are dismissed, then I remain unseen.
If I can’t share my excitement about a book or a concert of a Christian artist who was disowned by the Christian community when she came out of the closet, without being questioned why I had to share the fact she was gay, then you don’t see me.
I will never forgot, one Sunday morning, after months of wedding planning and having difficult conversation after difficult conversation about same sex marriage and the church, Melinda and I, as we walked in, were stopped by a man, that did not stand on the same side of this issue as we did. He greeted us, smiled, and asked, “How’s the wedding planning going.”  I never in a million years thought he would acknowledge a part of our life that we knew he disagreed with. Instead of taking our story and tucking it away on some hidden black shelf never to be opened or read, that morning, he opened our book, stepped into the gray, and saw us.
Maybe living in the gray, for some, doesn’t mean they compromise their moral code of this being right and that being wrong.
Maybe living in the gray for some means they have learned to live with their own story, and because of it have a better insight into grace and understanding that it’s messier than it appears.
Maybe living in the gray doesn’t change our views of how we think it should be, it just means we stop putting the black and white above seeing people, in the midst of their own stories.
Perhaps it’s when we step into the gray, where Jen Hatmaker’s words become a little easier. Where our moments of vulnerability provide permission for others to pull their own books off the shelf and begin reading a few pages from their story.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A guest blogger: Kim Denmark: Leaves

So, I’m thinking that meaning in life comes from our ability to create change and sometimes the beauty seems to be in our capacity to yield to it. The struggle for me, at least at the moment, seems to be in discerning which one will be the most advantageous. Should one only yield to change when she is powerless to change the situation? Our culture seems to teach us that, always telling us to go after our dreams, chase down success. The questions occur to me: Do dreams or success ever just come to us? Could the yielding to or accepting of situations that we perceive to be less than favorable actually be a step in the right direction in helping one achieve a dream or success?
I was walking through the woods today and I kept getting hit in the head with falling leaves. Finally, I decided to stop and look up at them. So, here are these leaves that were once all green and beautiful. I mean, don’t we consider the green leaf to be the normal leaf, the leaf in its most natural state, its truest self? It seems to me that if I was a leaf, I would be the proudest after I pushed out of my little bud and was displaying my newborn self proudly on my branch. Great work, right? Tremendous effort. Way to push through and get what you want, leaf. Right?
Except see, I’m not so sure anymore because here comes fall, demanding change. I mean nothing stays the same forever, right? Geez, come on life, you almost seem to want it both ways. So the leaf must yield. That must suck to have no power to control the change that is coming your way. I can relate. But then, the most amazing thing happens…the leaf turns into a beautiful color. I love colored leaves. In fact, I prefer them to green leaves, even if they tell me green is the best. Yielding.
Then, like today, when I was watching the leaves, they finally have to leave their little branch. The wind demands it. No choice. Powerless. I watched them coming down at me. It made me laugh and cry all at the same time. They almost seemed to be having fun. I’m not kidding. They were spinning and twirling and going back and forth every which way before they just landed, very softly and graciously, I might add, on the ground. Dead. For goodness sake, surely this is taking it too far. My god, leaf, do something. Don’t let them kill you!
But, then, here’s the thing. The leaf helps keep the forest alive in its dead, decomposing state. I learned recently that the dead leaves in the swamp create peat, which ultimately, many yielding leaves later, creates a new forest floor. A new forest where there used to be a swamp. The leaves made that by just giving up and dying. Great job leaves. Way to go!
So do we only yield when we perceive that giving up will cause more good than harm? Or when fighting for what we want would cause more harm than good? And who’s to say what is good? It’s hard to know sometimes in the moment, especially when all you can feel is the losing, the not getting, the dying. To fight or yield, that is still my question.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Happy One Year!

Well baby, it’s February 25th, 2016. It’s been a hell of a ride, ain’t it?!! But we are here---we’re together!
Happy One year my beautiful bride.
It’s funny, at times, how it feels like more than 365 days fill the gap between then and now. And yet, this morning, the emotions and memories flood in and it feels like only yesterday we stood, hand in hand, making a promise of forever. 
Man, you were beautiful that day! Your hair fell perfectly, your eyes sparkled with anticipation, and your smile was as exquisite as it’s ever been. Our feet trekked through the snow sprinkled park, and our fingers fidgeted to stay warm under the tile ceiling of the Bethesda Terrace. As we made promises that from then on forever linked our lives, we were surrounded by a support system, which to this day, seems too good to be true. From our stolen moments in The Village after the ceremony to the laughter and friendship that filled the walls of Philip Marie, our day was truly perfect. 

As perfect as it was, we knew that the road ahead would hold more imperfect days than not. And that's been true. Marriage at times seems to be an odd choice that we love birds make. It's a choice to live a life of selflessness, a life of mutuality.  It's a decision to love, a decision to consistently play second fiddle to one another. It's a life spent laying down of one's own way, and embracing a never ending compromise. It's making a lifelong covenant that joins our lives together without knowing what the future will unfold. It's saying, that even though we aren't guaranteed any particular outcome, I choose you. I choose to make this thing work. It's beautiful, and messy, and complicated, and fun, and frustrating, and rewarding, and crazy ... and yet, it's a choice, with you, I would make over and over and over again. 
This year we have celebrated each other’s joys and we have cheered on each other's successes. We have seen one another's flaws and we have witnessed each other's imperfections---we know each other better for it. This year has held many 'honeymooner' moments, where we couldn't get enough of one another---where our faces hurt from all the smiles, our bellies ached from all the laughter, and our hearts overflowed with gratitude. It's been filled of moments where we have disagreed passionately, where we were stubborn and uncompromising, and where doubt fought to rear its ugly head.  And yet, by God's grace, we clung tight to the promise we vowed and made the choice to love, even when we didn't feel it. 
In the day to day routine of life, it feels as if so little has changed. While all the crucial parts remain intact, looking back over the past 12 months it continues to catch me off guard at how much change has been a part of our story ... how much we have grown, and how much farther we stand from where we began. It's truly an unimaginable gift, this marriage thing, to share life so intertwined with another soul, yet remain equally and uniquely independent, moving forward together, into a land of the unknown.   
As messy or as breathtaking our journey may be, I am honored to do it by your side. May the next 40 years be as adventurous as our first. May the next 480 months push us into those waters that have no borders, where we lean hard on our vows, lean hard into Christ, and find amazement and wonder every step of the way. May the next 14,600 days hold more laughter than we can stand, and more grace than we know how to give. 
Our marriage is far from perfect my love, but it sure has been, and no doubt will continue be an awesome ride!!
One year down .... Forever to go!!



Thursday, February 11, 2016

From Ashes to Ashes

Last night under the dark skies of the country, far from our home in suburba, we entered into a room dimly lit, filled with church family, and home to a small table placed as the focal point, topped with candles and ashes. We were there for an Ash Wednesday service—a service that marks the beginning of Lent. A night designed to help us pause and to come face to face with our humanity. A humanity that encompasses selfish gains, failures, disobedience and brokenness. It’s a night that reminds me to come down from my high horse, to sit with my short comings and to speak humbly the prayer of confession. There is something slightly uncomfortable yet, beautifully sacred about it all. Perhaps the uncomfortable part comes from not being raised in a church where this time for confession was set aside---where this idea to reflect and lean into our weaknesses was given space to breath. At times, attending such a service feels alien, yet, in the depths of my soul, it calls me to partake.  This summer, in my season of "withdrawal" if you will, I drove downtown and walked into the doors of a Episcopal church, alone, not knowing what to expect, and for the first time spoke the words of this prayer:

Most merciful God,
We confess that we have sinned against you
In thought, word, and deed,
By what we have done,
And by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
Have mercy on us and forgive us;
That we may delight in your will,
And walk in your ways,
To the glory of your name. Amen.

It was a pivotal moment in my faith, and continues to be so. Last night we spoke similar words, and the reality of my humanity stumbled out of the dark corners of my being.

Mother Teresa said, “The reality of my sins must come first …”

It’s impossible to encounter the power of the Gospel and the mystery of Christ if we never come to face to face with our humanity. If we never deal with the reality of our sin. If we never acknowledge that we are broken. I won't lie, it is not a warm and fuzzy place to rest, however, it is a reminder, I need more often, to not only show me what I am not, but to show me who He is. 

Ash Wednesday, for me, is a day to face those dark corners. To confess that I fall short ... and to know that it's OK.  It's a time for my soul to lean into the words found in Joel 2:12-13, to tear my heart wide open in the presence of a God who's grace and love will forever far exceed my understanding. It's a time that marks an intentional  40 day journey to throw off all that hinders, to flee from the sins that so easily entangles, (Hebrews 12:1) and to run this path of set before me in order to seek Him more deeply, and to draw close. It's a path that will lead to celebration, and resurrection, and life. A path that will remind me of His love and His grace upon grace upon grace that he continually lavishes over me. 

From ashes to ashes, from dust to dust. 

Let the adventure begin!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Goodbye 34, Hello 35.

In five short days, my life as a thirty four year old woman will be over. (For anyone who lives in the digits above thirty five, I ask that you please keep your eye rolling to respectable minimum.) It’s true, I will make my camp in <deep breath>the land of the mid-thirties. I’m not excited. And in fact, for most of you, you have heard me do quite the belly aching. I mean if you want to put this in concrete terms, I will no longer be able to check the twenty something to 34 year old age bracket on surveys or questionnaires.  You might ask, “how often do you fill out surveys or questionnaires Mel,” and the truth is, rarely. But it will happen, I’m sure, and when it does I will have to check that box that say 35-44, and I am pretty sure that is going to sting. Get this, 15 years from now, I will be 50! And just think it was 15 years ago that I was in college, which seems like yesterday, which is a pretty good indicator of just how fast 50 is going to hit me like a ton of bricks. And if I think 50 is coming fast, in five days I will be half way to 70!

Believe me, I can whine about getting older, and it might even be true that make-up remover, SPF 50 and wrinkle cream at my age are no longer accessories, rather assets, but perhaps my petty complaints about turning 35 run deeper than these surface grievances. Year 34 has been a pivotal year for me. It forever will be the year that is the guardian of some of my most sacred moments, as well as the keeper of the parts of my journey that almost crushed me in defeat. It’s been year 34 that has taught me that maybe our journey isn’t about becoming this ideal, or living up to the absurd expectations that weigh upon our shoulders. But, that maybe our journey is more about unbecoming. Unbecoming what others tell us we should be. Unbecoming what we tell ourselves we should be. Unbecoming to the point where are left naked, uncovered and vulnerable, bearing only our souls at the feet of God who’s grace is the source of our completeness.

And there lies the depth of my fear. Not necessarily in the actual turning of 35, but in the moving forward. I know how hard it will be to remain in this place of contentment, where I am stripped down to the bare bones of my soul, where God has chosen to scoot in close and where I have been embraced by this simple peace, this humble confidence and understanding of who I am. As the pages turn into 2016, and into the 35th year of my existence,  I know that there will be chapters of life that blindside me, there will be weighty expectations I struggle to fight off, and there will doubt that creeps in to challenge my understanding of God’s grace. The fear isn’t paralyzing, and most days it’s not loud enough to cause harm. But it’s there. And for some odd reason, the face of year 35 has taken on this burden of anxiety.

But, if year 34 taught me anything, it taught me that God, who is full of grace and is abundant in this amazing, unwavering love, meets us where we are, every step. This year He met me in Central Park as I made an everlasting covenant with the love of my life. He met me when the church, and family, and friends drew their line and stood on the other side, opposing our marriage. He met me as new friendships blossomed, as a new support systems emerged. He met me in the lonely times where work kept Melinda away. And He met me on the adventures we spent together. He met me when a drink or food couldn’t fill the void. And He met me on the mountain tops of the Shenandoah Valley.  Looking back it’s easy to see that in every step He was there, in every storm He was there, and in every victory He was there. Despite my fears, He was faithful.

Therefore, 35 here’s your apology. I have moaned about your coming long enough. You are certain to hold what I fear will be: days of failure, moments of defeat, the pain of loss, and times of trouble. But you too, will be the protector of my sacred days, my holy moments, the beautiful blessings, those times where I am reminded that God loves me too much to let any failure, sin, defeat and pain be the final word.

So bring on the wrinkle cream, the spanks, and let the gray hair take over. Perhaps 35 won’t be so bad. I mean I can still touch my toes, I can afford wrinkle cream, and in 5 days, I will be old enough to run for President!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful for love

For the last few months, I have lived in a season of Hebrews 13:13.
“Go to Jesus outside the camp . . . “
Those six words found me months ago in a place of discouragement, disconnect, and defeat. And it was those words that gave me the permission I was seeking to walk away.
And I did.
Instead of waking up on Sunday mornings and heading to “camp,” I drove two hours to climb mountains. I hopped on my bike and enjoyed the wind blowing freely through my hair. I hooked up two pups and walked among quiet streets. I stayed in my PJs and enjoyed a mug of hot Joe on the back porch. I attempted to build an outdoor fire while curled up under a wool blanket with a good book.
Outside the camp, I found a place to lean into the pain I was feeling. To lean into the loneliness. To sit with the questions and the doubts. To live into the tension of the now and the not yet promise to come. I sat with the wounds, with the hurt. I searched for answers. Sought clarity. Do I stay? Do I Go? I yearned to forgive. To find a place at the table. And pursued release.
Perhaps selfishly, I was hoping Jesus would show up---in my corner and validate all the reasons I had for wanting to step out, and relieve me from it all. But the only thing I heard in the depths of my soul was, “I love you.” Over and over again. I would pray, and hear “I love you.” I would whine and complain, pointing fingers, and hear “I love you.” I would cry out, and hear, “I love you.” I would yell, kick and scream, and hear, “Melissa, I love you.” I would read the Scriptures, and hear “I love you.”
His love changes everything you know?!?!!!
On my journey outside the camp, I was reminded that I am unable to freely love when my self-worth is tangled up in someone else’s free will. It’s so easy to let the imperfect bits of our humanity tell us that we aren’t good enough, that we could never be loved completely and accepted fully, it diminish our worthiness, and robs us a seat at His table.  It’s easy to let our pain build walls of protection, to harden our hearts and to push love out. But Jesus challenges us to belive that we are beautiful, worthy and celebrated. He challenges us to trust that our short comings, our failures, our hidden thoughts, our secret deeds, cannot and will never alter His love towards us.
Pain will always be a part of my story---in some way, it’s a part of all our stories. But I am learning that when we stop running from it, when we stop letting fear and judgment keep us stuck in the pain, when we lean into it, and are satisfied that Jesus too, is there with us, it eventually gives way to blessed release, hopeful joy and a way to rest in His love.
I thought with Hebrews 13:13 I was getting a free pass to run away from pain. But in hindsight, I was given the opportunity to run into the arms of love.
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I am thankful for love.
I am thankful that I continue to be a person whose God’s love is at work in. I am thankful for the gospel that mandates grace upon grace upon grace upon grace. I am thankful that I am continually confronted by the love of the gospel that gives me no choice but to love my enemies, my neighbors, my friends. Those who think like me, and those who don’t. Those who make their home inside of camp, and those who dwell outside its walls … all because, me—a sinner saved by grace, is found worthy of His perfect love.

Friday, August 21, 2015

I didn't want to write. But here you have it.

I don't write much these days. It's not that I don't have anything to say, or don't need to process--quite the contrary. For reasons that are beyond my understanding, people have noticed and have been asking as to why I have stopped.  "Time" is the most convenient answer I usually give, and in part it's true. (Finding a rhythm within marriage is proving to be more challenging than I thought.) But it's not the whole truth. 

It's the vulnerability part of it all. 

In being vulnerable you expose all, share all and risk all. I have discovered that it can be an absolutely beautiful thing and believe to my core that is how we are called to live--being real, and honest, and exposed. Being vulnerable has allowed me to explore depths of myself and depths of relationships that I otherwise would not have known. I have learned that in being vulnerable you can find healing and you can discover hope. But not all sides of vulnerability are great, it can often be accompanied by pain and hurt.

And maybe that is where I am these days. Tired of being vulnerable. And even more, it's that thought: "[I'm] tired of being vulnerable" that has me in this season silence. 

Rachel Held Evans expresses this beautiful thought that our lives are full of moments of death and moments of resurrection. 

And in my soul it feels like a season a death in some part. I've lost some joy, some passions. I've lost my my will to stand and to be bold in certain areas. I've lost a part of myself that use to be so important ....but yet, there has been room. Room to explore new passions. Room to discover new joys. Room to uncover new courage.

So in this season of silence, may I mourn what was, but hold out hope that in some place and time, new life in those areas will be resurrected and vulnerability will be desired. Until then, I'm liking the room. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Exhaustion, Marriage, and God

Time is just a flying. 

In twelve days, Melinda and I will be able to tuck 3 months of marriage under our belt! (I still find the fact that I married such a catch a CRAZY blessing!!!) In all honesty, it feels as if that perfect day is far in the distant horizon. Perhaps because upon our return to the real world, life went full throttle. Melinda returned to work picking up 80+ hours a week with very few days off, our "church world" got turned upside down, my work load picked up due to temporarily being short staffed, and Charley is living out her puppy stage every chance she can get. Melinda is exhausted. I am exhausted. And even though the effort is there for making time for one another ....for friends, for family, for church, for puppies, for serving, for fun, and for you name it, it's all rather challenging to balance. The burden of responsibility has this way of sucking the joy out of everything that is suppose to be joyful. .

It doesn't happen often--not audible anyway. but yesterday, for the entire forty five minute commute home, I poured my heart out to God--out loud. I am sure anyone who pulled up beside me thought I was loosing it---perhaps you are even thinking that now ....and it's ok. I have learned that in order for me to process, I, a. either have to write, or b. I have to verbally talk through it. And I haven't been doing much of either lately. So there was a lot to say, there was a lot to confess, there was a lot to let go, and there was a lot of listening that needed to be done. As I pulled into the driveway getting ready to walk into our home where the puppies were waiting, the cats were waiting, where laundry needed to be folded and put away, where dinner needed to be prepared and cooked, where the dishwasher needed emptying, where the floors needed to be vacuuming and the furniture dusted, where the bed sheets needed to be changed, where the yard needed to be cut, and where my wife would soon be home needing a piece of me too ... I, the first time in a while, felt at peace. It was a peace that calmed the depths of my weary soul.  

In small group this past Monday, we talked about how God calmed Isaiah through forgiveness (Isaiah 6:5-7) and how He calmed John by reminding him of how BIG He is. (Revelation 1:17), and in that car ride home yesterday, He did the same for me. He reminded me that He is God and I am not. He reminded me that through Christ I am justified and found righteous. He reminded me that when I come to Him, He is faithful, He shows up and He offers a renewed spirit. And it's in His presence where I am reminded that it has so little to do with me, and so much to do with Him. 

Last night in the midst of our running around the house, I peaked out from the kitchen (by the way I made a delicious dinner that involved homemade chicken gravy, YUM) and saw Melinda standing in the living room flipping through the pages of our wedding photo book, smiling. In that moment, all of the crazy days we have shared in the last few months seemed but a faint memory. I was taken back to that forty degree day in February, where we stood under the tiles of the Bethesda Terrace Arcade. In preparation for that moment we knew life wouldn't always be easy. We knew that we wouldn't always get a long. We knew, not only the huge challenges of life would mark this path difficult on days, but also the obstacles of our daily routines, being pulled in fifty directions, and running on fumes would remain a constant struggle. We knew that on our own, we would fail. We knew if we made it about us, our journey together would be short. Our marriage isn't about how frustrated I may get at household chores, or how exhausted Melinda may be from putting in 12 hours of hard labor, but rather, it's about how well we navigate this (and every other) trying season that arises. Remaining true to our vows and glorifying God in the processes. 

Perhaps this is as much as individual journey as it is one we share together. Maybe the health of our marriage relies solely on the health of our individual relationships with Christ. Possibly our biggest role for the other is to make sure Christ's relationship above all else is nourished. Most likely we aren't going to get this right all of the time. (Thank goodness for forgiveness.) And there will be days, were we forget that it is not all about us. (Thank goodness for grace.) But just maybe, we will have those days, where we step back, where we remember our promise, where we remember how faithful and big and how good our God is, and in those difficult seasons. not only find joy, but bring Him glory.

"In the presence of God, our family and our friends I choose you, my best friend, to be my life mate.
I promise to cherish you, to pursue you, and to protect you. I promise to cheer for you in all of your passions and dreams.
I promise to pray over you, to serve alongside of you and to find contentment wherever God may lead us.  
I promise to you my fullest devotion, through the trials of the present and through the fears of the future.
I vow to you to be faithful, to forgive and to demonstrate unshakeable commitment.
I promise to be by your side forever.
When you are happy I will laugh with you, when you sing I will dance with you, when you are healthy I will run with you.
When you are sick I will take care of you, when you mourn I will comfort you, and when you are angry I will calm you.
When we are rich, I will keep you humble.
And when we are poor, I will remind you of the richest of love.
When we walk through the shadows of this life, I will retell you of God's faithfulness and of His goodness.
As we step into the unknown together, may this covenant of love, above all else, exemplify the love of Christ and His commitment to us, His beloved.
May our marriage forever bring Him the glory and honor that He alone is worthy of.