Monday, March 11, 2019

God-Things and Dreams

The short version: Chris asked me to marry him. I said, "Yes."

The long version: 

God-Things and Dreams

My sweet Nana went to be with Jesus May 17, 2015. When she went, she willed her heirloom diamond to me. I was kind of mad about it at the time. I had just turned 27 and saw no hopes of every getting married. I even angrily told my parents to give the ring to my cousin, but they didn't. They kept it because they believe in God-things.

Fast forward to June 10, 2018 and my dear friend's wedding. For the first time probably ever, I came away from a wedding with the simultaneously sinking, yet buoyant feeling that marriage would be good for me. It might even out some of my idiosyncracies, provide support, grant companionship, and ultimately make me into more of who God wanted me to be. I didn't exactly have prospects or even a promise, but I somehow felt that I was next. That feeling wasn't because the bridal bouquet fell at my feet (which it did, because my friend and I, the last single ones in our college friend group, refused to catch it) or because I was technically "next" on the getting married list which we made in probably 2009 or 2010 (which I was). I just had a feeling.

My friend group is super faithful to pray for one another, so before we packed up and left the wedding, we stood in a circle and prayed. I asked my friends to pray community for me, something I felt desperately lacking in my new state of Arizona. Little did I know what God would do.

I came home that weekend to only having my parents for a few days. I knew they had to leave at the end of the week and that felt lonely to me. But I prayerfully approached the week and knew somehow I'd made it through. God has gotten me through before, and I knew he would again.

That week, I got an e-mail about a College and Career group event in downtown Prescott. It sounded fun and I had been trying to get more involved with the group, so I decided to go. And since I was the one of the oldest ones at our church and wanted to find more community, I e-mailed Chris. I thought he was an interesting person, but I honestly wasn't trying to make the first move. He just happened to be the only person my age I had contact information for and I felt very strongly that I should talk to him about going, so I did.

I had a lot of fun that night. I didn't realize until afterward that Chris and I were the only ones our age there, and that I was the only unmarried girl there. Whoops! Chris walked me to my car afterward (because I was parked far away in the dark, and that's the kind of guy he is). We stood on the sidewalk and talked for what seemed like forever, and then I left and went home to my empty house.

Chris and I hung out a lot that summer, and last fall, we started dating. There are a lot of God-details in that story, but I'll leave them out for now.

God Thing #1 (that I can bear witness to, because I see God's fingerprints all over this)

March 4, 2019: I told Chris that I was talking time off work March 11th. He'd already told me he wanted to do something together after church March 10th, but that wasn't the reason for my vacation request. I just needed time off. God knew, and he was preparing the way.

God Thing #2 

March 7, 2019: I was at the mall for work. Chris was in the jeweler's at the mall looking at rings. I was headed right for the jeweler's, but he saw me and quickly hid. I never saw him there. I actually didn't seem him until he was walking out. I wondered what he was up to, but was too busy to give it much thought.

God Thing #3

More March 7, 2019: Chris saw my car at my work and asked to go over and talk to my parents, assuming I'd be gone. Good thing I worked late that day! I'd actually seen his car at church next door and planned to go talk to him, but when I didn't see him, I went to the grocery store instead, something I don't usually do. That gave Chris more margin.

Chris asked my parents' permission to marry me, and when they gave it, he asked what kind of ring my mom thought I'd want. Mom gave him Nana's ring. Chris was surprised, because he didn't know it existed. (I mean, what kind of girl tells her boyfriend, "Hey, if you ever think of marrying me, I've already got a ring!" And we very specifically had set a dating boundary that we weren't talking about us getting married until that was the plan. So we'd talked about God and the meaning of marriage and our values and lots of other important things, but not about us getting married.) 

God Thing #4, a bunch of God-things wrapped up in one

March 10, 2019, The Proposal: The day dawned bright and clear, nicer than it's been in awhile, especially after our 27 inches of snow near the end of February. It got colder and windier as the day went on, but it was still decent weather wise.

Chris took me to hike Trail 28 on Mingus Mountain, the trail we hiked the day we decided to start dating. We hiked up the trail instead of down and back up, like we did the first time. Chris told me at the top that he thought he'd pushed a little too hard. I told him that he should have told me to stop. He said he was fine. I shrugged, not fully believing him, but not knowing what else to do. We rested a few minutes and headed back down. He'd told me he wanted to stop at the rock outcropping where we stopped the first time. We did. We took a few pictures and when he sat down on the rock outcropping, I went and joined him.

"So, I'm kind of glad we got to hike this trail again, like we did that first day. And I'm glad we had that conversation afterward." He said.

I laughed. "Yeah, I'm glad we had that conversation, too, or we wouldn't be here."

I could tell he was getting sentimental, but I didn't know what to do, so I just stared across the valley at the scenery.

"So I don't know how to do this, because I've never done it before," he said, "But will you marry me?" As he asked the question, he pulled out a box from his pocket and opened it to show me a ring. 

I'd kind of wondered if he might propose that day, but I didn't want to be presumptuous. I'd prayed to just enjoy the day (because it was a dating anniversary for us) and see what happened. I'd prayed and planned my response, too, however, because that's the kind of person I am.

"It would be a privilege to marry you," I said. "So yes."

I picked up the ring and looked at it. I was pretty sure it was Nana's, but needed to see. Chris told me that we could go to the jeweler Monday to get it "fixed" or reset. Good thing I had Monday off!

We talked, took more pictures, and then headed back down the trail. Good thing we were headed down, because that meant we could talk while we walked. We decided at the car to go to Wal-Mart and get rubber rings to wear while we waited for my ring to get remade. Chris asked if he could wear a ring, too. I said, "Why not?" We're both committed to this process of marriage at this point, so I don't see why he can't have a symbol of that process, too.

God Thing #5

Later that day: We went home to my house and told my parents the news. Mom told me that she'd secretly been praying that I wouldn't move out until I got married. She apologized that the house I was buying fell through, saying it was her fault. I told her not to worry about it. That house wouldn't have been good for me anyway.

Chris and I were debating dates, but worried about what people would think of our timeline. The people we value most told us to make our engagement short. We didn't expect that, but took it as confirmation from the Lord. I don't do things lightly, but when I do act, I tend to do it quickly and jump in with both feet. Here we go....


Since I was a little girl,  I dreamed of being proposed to at a high point on a hike. I'd heard a similar story from friends of the family and always had that stuck in my head. I'd always wanted to date and fall in love with just one guy. And I'd always wanted a summer/sunshine-y wedding, but didn't think it would happen. Now it is. God is such a good God.

Life's an adventure. I said that when I moved to Arizona, and I had no clue at the time that I'd fall in love and get married here. But that's the way God works sometimes: unexpectedly, silently, and then larger than life. I'm thankful for where I am, for where we are, and looking forward with hope to what God has next for us. May He get the glory in and through it all.

"Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness."
~Psalm 115:1, New International Version

Friday, March 8, 2019

And Just When You Think You Have It...You Don't

"If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves."

~Galatians 6:3, New International Version [NIV]

I found myself doing and saying things I normally wouldn't. I found myself trying to prove something. I found myself wanting to be better than others. I found myself prideful.

I don't normally think of myself as a prideful person, but there I was prideful, puffing myself up, and in so doing being derogatory towards others and pushing them down. I wasn't being my true self, either. The Spirit convicted me, and I confessed. I thought I was good, and then a big crash happened. And I was further humbled. Pride goes before a fall, and man, did I have one (Prov 16:18). And I was prideful even in that crash. I had to repent of that, confess my sins to others, and ask for forgiveness.

The trick in my field of work is to remain curious, to never think you know it all. I didn't think I knew it all, and the fall still happened. And it was epic. I got to a point of pretty utter desperation and despair, and it wasn't pretty.

Humility is a fruit of the Spirit. It's a Spirit work, not a me work. And man do I know that now. I just hope I learn the lesson a little easier next time....

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Life is Full.

Life is full. Life is messy. Life is busy. And at the same time, life is rich.

There are so many layers to life right now that I can't quite figure them all out. Sometimes I feel unexplicably happy and grateful. Sometimes I'm just tired, emotionally tired, and I don't know why. Sometimes I'm sad. Sometimes I'm grumpy. Sometimes I'm all of the above.

In it all, I'm just trying to show up. I'm trying to learn to be present. I'm trying to soak up this season because it will pass and soon I'll be on to the next one.

“Be messy and complicated and afraid and show up anyway,” Glennon Doyle Melton says. By God's grace and the Holy Spirit's power, that's what I'm trying to do.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Difference Between Happiness and Joy

Happiness and joy. Joy and happiness. I always wrestle with these two. Happiness is fleeting. Joy endures. Happiness is more of an emotion. Joy is more of a state of being, a choice. I always say I want joy, but that reality is that I want happiness, too. At times I've felt a little more happiness, I've felt almost guilty, like I should have joy instead. But what's really the difference between happiness and joy?

As I've thought about joy and happiness more lately, I've thought about how joy really can't exist without some pain. I don't really have to choose joy when I'm feeling happy. Happiness is just a pure feeling of exhilaration, bliss, contentment. Joy, on the other hand, exists because something has been hard. It's the sunshine from beyond the shadow, the belief that there is beauty in the pain, finding purpose in the waiting. Joy hopes. Joy has faith. Joy is strength. Happiness just is.

Happiness isn't bad, I've realized. It is a gift I need to recognize and appreciate, without feeling guilty for it. Happiness is like an adrenaline shot that brings attention to our joy and re-infuses it with energy. It has a purpose, and it's a good one.

So this year, let us hold joy and happiness in the same hand, and let us pursue both. May we not shun sorrow, for it promotes growth, a greater sense of joy, and perhaps a greater enjoyment of our purely happy moments. May we see life in its entirety, happiness, joy, and sorrow, as a gift, because that is what life is.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Repressed Feelings

I work with children in the behavioral health field. Something we talk about time and time again are seasons and how they affect kids. We often find that kids get dysregulated around certain times of year, not because of the times of year specifically, but because of the things associated with those times of year. Guess what? Adults are the same way!

I've had several times recently where I've found myself unknowingly upset about something. I've despaired about a move, even though it was exciting. I've been sad around a holiday, even though there is no sadness this year. I've felt trapped by weather, even though I'm not actually trapped. In each case, the emotions I felt were associated not with the actual events or seasons, but were brought up by associations with previous events and seasons. I've had moves that were traumatic. I've had sad holidays. I've been trapped by snow, tornadoes, and other tumultuous weather. The brain is a powerful machine, and the external stimuli associated with current events are bringing up unpleasant feelings associated with past events.

Why do I share all this? Because I think a lot of us have feelings that upset us. We judge ourselves for the feelings without realizing where they might be coming from. We think we should be past the past and we give ourselves no grace to feel the way we do. And in so doing, we miss the change to reprocess times and seasons of our lives so that they might become good again.

So in this new year, if you have some unpleasant feelings, I encourage you to acknowledge them, to sit with them, and to see if you can find out where they come from. If you can, process those feelings. Let yourself feel them. And then resolve to redeem the current seasons and events. And if you don't know where the feelings come from, still let yourself feel them. Let yourself grieve. And then move on. This is the way to authentic living, to living in the moment, to feeling the joy, even if there is some associated pain.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

How The Fifteen Minute Rule Is Helping Me Give Myself Grace

I have a new rule for life: the 15 minute rule. It started as our rule for work appointments. We wait 15 minutes, and if you come in 15 minutes, great! Otherwise, we cancel the appointment.

I don't cancel on life if I'm 15 minutes late, but if I get to something within 15 minutes, I count it as a win. I'm specifically using the 15 minute rule for bedtime. I've been onto myself for not getting to bed on time, but I rarely ever make that time. So I've decided to give myself 15 minutes from that set time, and if I get in bed by then, I congratulate myself. So far, it's working.

The 15 minute rule is a way to give myself grace, with limits. It's not a free-for-all. It doesn't mean I can purposely dilly-dally. But it allows me to give myself a little wiggle-room and less stress.

This rule obviously doesn't apply to all life things. I need to leave for work on time, get to work on time, go to the doctor at the scheduled appointment time, etc. But when it comes to non-essentials, like bedtimes and exercise times and preferred deadlines, it works.

Shauna Niequist wrote on Instagram a while back, “Six weeks. Give it six weeks. Extra grace, patience, and understanding for all parties for six weeks.”

I'm revising: “Fifteen minutes. Give it 15 minutes. Extra grace, patience, and understanding for all parties for 15 minutes.”

Grace with accountability. I like it.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The World is My Oyster (Or Is It?)

I remember that morning very clearly, the day of my masters graduation. I went for a jog in the crisp clear air, and as my feet hit the pavement of my oh, so familiar route, I thought, “The world is my oyster. I can do anything.” I felt a sense of freedom that day, a sense of exhilaration, a sense of anticipation. Little did I know that my decision to pursue counseling licensure in Arizona would require nine months of back and forth correspondence with the state counseling board, or that finding a job and community in Arizona would be so hard or so time-consuming.

But here I am, two and a half years later, living in Arizona, working as a counselor. As 2019 has begun, I see many open days before me. I know that I can fill the pages of this book of my year as I choose, but I also realize that my time and energy are limited. I can do anything, but I can't do everything.

I enjoy fitness, but it isn't my life. Besides physical therapy, I basically have 30 minutes a day to commit to exercise. That means I can choose weights or cardio, but not both. I have to choose what is more important. I just don't have time or energy to throw around the weights and hit the streets for my preferred three mile plus runs.

I've finally gotten to the point where I'm getting more invitations to do social things, but I just don't have time for all of them. Sometimes, I need to stretch and expand my horizons by hanging out with new people and doing new things. Other times, I need to say, “No,” in order to focus on investing more deeply in the relationships that are most important to me.

Work presents dozens of opportunities for training and learning, and frankly, just more hours, but I need to decide what I'm called to do and what I'm not. Work is a big part of my world, but not my entire world. I don't want it to become all-consuming.

I have numerous hobbies and activities I'd like to do in my spare time, but there just isn't always time for everything. I need to rest, too.

So the world is my oyster, but it's also not. Many opportunities lie before me, but I have the responsibility to choose which ones to crack into, and which ones not. I have to choose where to mine for beauty, and what mines to let others tend to. Life is beautiful, but I miss the fullness of that beauty if I never stop to appreciate it.

May God give me wisdom as I anticipate the days ahead and traverse with him the sands, waves, and seashores of this life.