Thursday, September 24, 2020

When Your Love Languages Differ

Love languages are something I am constantly learning. Living with my parents taught me to look for differences in love languages and cater accordingly. Marriage is providing a new learning arena, teaching me that love languages differ not only in type, but also in expression. Admittedly, my husband and I have distinct differences in our preferred love language. Quality time is right near the top for both of us, however. I thought this would make sharing love easier. Nope! While we both value quality time, what quality time means looks different for each of us.

For my husband, as with many men, quality time means side-by-side. That means that eating meals together, watching shows, sitting at our computers is quality time. These types of activities don't make me feel loved, however. When I want quality time, I want connection, engagement, processing. I want to be able to share my heart and have my husband respond in part. But do I tell him that? No. I badger, nag, try to force him to engage in quality time the way I prefer. I continually and repeatedly tell him that I need time. He gets befuddled, saying we've had time.  It's a vicious cycle. 

I listened to a podcast recently about sticking together when the world falls apart. If the world we're living in isn't falling apart, I don't know what is. And my husband and I have committed to staying together through it. So we have to figure out this love language issue. The speakers in that podcast talked about meeting their spouses where they were, serving their spouses according to the spouse's needs, not their own. That is hard for me. When I am low, when I feel empty, quality time without interaction is one of the hardest things for me to give. I can serve. I can give gifts. I can encourage. But I struggle to sit. To be. To give presence. But what if that is what my husband needs? Do I love him enough to give it?

The speakers in that podcast also talked about the power of the check-in, of coming to their spouse with a stated need, and the other person making time to process that need. A simple concept, but hard to carry out. Something I am guilty of failing at, both in the asking and the receiving.

I've written about love languages before, but here I am again. Why? Because I am still learning. And perhaps you are, too. My husband and I have mismatched expressions of our love language, but we love each other. So we're communicating. Realizing that our love languages and our expressions of love differ. Practicing speaking each other's love languages, even if we don't get them right. Isn't that the key to language learning? Practice doesn't make perfect, but it does make better. And better is what we're after. Better. Together. Forever.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Going to the Word

It's been a dark season. I'm not sure it's over yet. But over the past few days, I've been pushed more towards the Word, drawn to it even. Here are a few recent reflections--

Regarding burdens:

Very recently I had an evening of almost oppressive sorrow: my own grief over unmet expectations, lost opportunities, etc.; grief for the loss of loved ones; grief over hardship for loved ones. The verse playing through my mind was, "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2, New International Version). 

But Lord, I said. Who will carry my burdens? I am carrying so much. I have no one. (Or at least that's the way it felt.)

But the verse kept weighing on my heart. So I started praying, Lord, will you bear my burdens? God, I need you to bear my burdens.

And then the Spirit drove me to study burdens in the Word. These are the verses of reassurance that I found:

Psalm 54:4
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Psalm 68:19
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

Isaiah 46:4
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you

No confident pie-in-the-sky hope here. Just quiet reassurance rest in the ONLY one who can bear my burdens perfectly. Praise the Lord!

Regarding the hard:

And last night, I felt empty, needy, so I pulled down my Romans journal and read chapter eight. Verse 28 jumped off the page.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

(English Standard Version, ESV)

All things. Not just some. God works all things together for good. Not necessarily for my personal local good, but for  global, holistic, God-defined good. All things. Even the hard now. Even the past that was hard. Even the hard that may come. All things.

I'm not sure my hard, the world's hard is over. I really think it's not. But God. But God's Word. It still stands. It stands the test of time even. 

I need daily sustenance. God is giving me His Word as daily bread. I am a fool not to receive it. May I ever go to the Word and never forsake it, even in hard. Especially in the hard.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Dear 2020

Dear 2020,

You have not been the year we'd dreamed you'd be. And you're not over yet. I didn't expect your year to be easy, but I had vision, goals. After all, 2020 is perfect vision, right? So far, it seems you have been anything but.

My word for 2020 was faithful. The end of 2019 was challenging and I felt unprepared for all 2020 would throw at me (even before COVID). I wanted to be faithful in what was set before me, though. Faithful to God. Faithful to my husband. Faithful in my work. Faithful to challenge myself and have some adventures. Well, let's just say 2020, you have been giving me a run for my money.

This year has been one of the hardest years of my faith yet. Maybe it is because I am finally feeling my feelings instead of dissociating from them. Maybe it is because I have been separated from people who helped keep my faith on track. I don't know. It's just been hard. I've felt so guilty for my selfishness. I've wondered if my seeming inability to get over my selfishness means I am not saved or incapable of being saved. I have had many dark days and nights. I have struggled with hopelessness. I try to keep up with spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible reading, but even those sometimes seem empty. Faith full? I'd say not. Faithful, as in walking with what I believe? Maybe in action, but often not in words to myself or my emotions.

I knew marriage would be hard, but boy is it! Not because I married a hard person, but because I am a hard person. Marriage constantly exposes my selfishness. I find myself angry at or with the man I love far too often to count. I don't approach marriage as team. I try to go it alone too much of the time, and then get ridiculously needy. Have I been faithful to my husband? Yes. He feels like family now more than ever! Have I been faithful to my marriage, committed to improving it? In some ways yes. In some ways, no. I definitely don't get an A grade.

Work, well, it's always been hard, but this round especially. Balancing marriage and work has been more than I bargained for (still on my side, not my husband's). I wanted to be faithful, though, to put in my time and hours well, and leave the rest up to the Lord. Then came COVID and move to online work. I am still working, but faithfully? Most days are a struggle and I pray for strength to get through.

Adventures, oh adventures. I signed up for two big races (to me!) this year and was more aggressively training than ever before. Then one and both got cancelled. I quit running for a month. I haven't quite picked back up where I left off. To be honest, my body continues to show signs of stress and strain and I don't want running to add to it. I miss the races and tangible goals, though. Maybe someday. Whether I am being faithful to adventures and faithful to my body and its needs is up for debate.

Perfect vision? Nah. 2020 hasn't been a year for that, at least according to my vision. It has been a year for seeing myself and my sin more clearly. It has been a year of realizing more and more how much I need Jesus and salvation. Have I been faithful? No, well not as much as I wanted to be, could be, or should be. But this year is showing me how much I need faith, and need to be full of faith. And if that's what life is all about, maybe 2020 is a year that will help me see more clearly after all. 

*This post was inspired by Debra Fileta's August 28th Instagram post.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Afghan 60

It's been awhile since I posted a crochet project, so here's the latest:

(Yes, I missed posting afghan 59. Oh well.)

Some of you followed my Instagram #OneHeartOnePrayer journey earlier this year in which I crocheted and prayed for one person a day during our state's shutdown. I ended that project when our state reopened, but after a rather prompt return to shutdown, I needed a new project. Enter "crochet a row a day" and the birth of this project. It was really a way to use up yarn on hand and restock my baby blanket stash. (I don't crochet like I used to due to time restraints and my focal dystonia.) I followed Bella Coco Crochet's easy and fast free crochet baby blanket pattern. I will say that the pattern was easy. Fast? Maybe not so much. But I got it done. Praise the Lord!

Praying for the babe that this blanket goes home to...

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Real Life Marriage: We Are Family.

Another tenth day, another month. We are thankful. We've been learning a lot this past year and three months, but I think the most enduring lesson is that of family. We are our own family, and it is really starting to feel that way.

I struggled separating from my family of origin. Having lived with them the two and a half years previous to marriage, leaving felt hard, and like loss. It was loss. I had to give up the primary support of my family of origin in order to make room for my husband to be my main support. I wrestled with this for a time, wanting to go to my parents for help, but forcing myself to instead go to my husband. It got easier with time, but I hadn't realized the extent of the change that had taken effect until my husband left on a trip for four days. I felt bereft, lonely, longing. My parents called and even would have come to visit had I asked, but it wasn't the same. I needed my person, my family. When he returned, I felt more whole and complete. My family was back together.

We have visited my parents and my previous home several recently. We even stayed in my old room. While we enjoyed our time, it wasn't home. I felt the familiar sense of balance and rest that means home not there, only upon returning to my own home with my husband. I love my family, but I have my own family now.

Warm fuzzies are great. I still feel attracted to my husband, sometimes more, sometimes less. More than that, though, I feel a sense of settledness, of commitment. We are family. There is no going back, no turning back. We are in this thing together, and just like I love my family, I will always love him. This is real life marriage.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Walking the Trail You're On

My mom and I took a hike this past weekend. It wasn't the trail we planned to take, but rather a connector to said trail. Mom kept commenting about ways she thought we could get to the other trail, where that trail must go, etc. Eventually, though, she said, "Well, this is the trail we're on." 

And I thought, "What a great metaphor for life."

Many of us right now didn't choose the trail we're on. Whether we're wrestling with COVID restrictions, COVID itself, changed work, no work, homeschooling, online school, making hard decisions, missing family, missing events, or something else, this isn't the life we chose. Even if we did make decisions that got us here, we didn't expect to be here. Or still here. And yet here we are. My tendencies when I'm not where I want to be are to first, complain. Then I might try to see if there is a shortcut to get where I want to be. Next I might try to rush to the next destination. Then I might gripe again. I don't want to enjoy the mile I'm in.*  I just want to get out of here and get to the next place. Life doesn't work like that.

I said to Mom many times that I enjoyed the trail we took. We felt the warmth and cooling of the air as the trail rose and fell. We watched the sun rise. We absorbed 180 views of the mountains. We spent time together. We got in our daily exercise. The hike wasn't the one we chose or even set out to do, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. We enjoyed it because we chose to do so.

How, then, can we apply this to life? How do we enjoy the trail we're on, even if it's one that chose us, rather than us choosing it? We can look for little joys: new experiences, flavors, tastes, touches, smells, sounds. We can choose to capitalize on what this time has, even if there are a lot of have-nots. We can use our eyes to look at the scenery, because even if it's not what we wanted to see, it might give us perspective, and we might not see it again. We can enjoy fellowship with the people God has placed us with now. We can feel our feelings and work through them. We can journal and write and take photos and document this time and this place. We can learn.

Mom and I had a good hike. We found some new trails we want to take. We think we figured out how to get to the trail we wanted to do in the first place. We're looking forward to the next hike. May the same be true of us in the seasons we find ourselves in now. May we look for the good, look for God, faithfully walk the trail we're on. And when we reach our next destination, may we look back and give thanks, walking the next trail with gratitude until we reach our final destination of heaven and roam no more.

*'Run the mile you're in' is a phrase attributed to Ryan Hall. I haven't read the book, but appreciate the perspective.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

You Have to Fail Sometimes.

I had great plans, plans to make a fantastic breakfast, enjoy eating the fruits of my labor, and have a productive day. Well the pancakes took longer to mix than expected. The heat of the pan wasn't right. The pancakes stuck. Literally, the whole morning was a flop. I was ticked. But then I remembered, "You have to fail sometimes."

Failure is an inevitable part of life. We realize what we don't know when we fail. We then have the opportunity to practice and learn.

Failure leaves room for creativity. Some of the greatest successes in life have come from failure: penicillin, Post-it Notes, pacemakers. I don't feel like I have time to fail, and my perfectionism hates it when I do. But if I don't fail, I don't really have a reason to fail.

Failure is uncomfortable, often to the point of pain. I don't like it, but you really do have to fail sometimes. Only when you fail do you learn what really works.