Thursday, September 27, 2012

Allowing Myself Time to Recalibrate

It's W. In case there was any doubt, M and I definitely are twins cause we always want to post on the same days. And when I see that she's already posted, I typically decide to save my thoughts for later... and then I never end up posting them and she gets mad at me. So, please make sure you read her post below this as well!

It's hard to believe that T and I have been here in Nashville for nearly 3 months already. That's a quarter of a year! The time has FLOWN by. We've had more visitors than the past 2 years combined, we bought a second car, are adjusting to having only one TV, finally got internet and cable at the same time after 7 weeks of waiting, and are settling into a new church and a new Community Group within that church.

And I find myself crying a fair amount. Maybe it's because I'm still adjusting to life without mood-stabilizing medication (that conversation begins a few posts back, if you're interested), but I also think that I underestimated how much work it was going to take to rearrange our lives to a "new normal," even in this city that we love so much.

In my mind, Nashville was the promised land. It was the light at the end of the tunnel for two long, sometimes dark, and often lonely years. It seemed out of grasp for a long, long time and then suddenly it wasn't. And suddenly we're here. And suddenly I'm realizing that while the grass is certainly greener here in many, many ways... in some ways it's not.

You mean I can't ACTUALLY have it all? Dang.

I've always had a really hard time with transitions. It seems to take me a lot longer to recalibrate than most other people. I have long used a particular example to illustrate my trouble with change-- it's like I'm stepping off of a moving carousel onto a treadmill at full speed. It takes me a pretty long while to regain my balance, figure out which way is up, find a steady pace, and become comfortable again.  I'm still in this recalibration phase here. And sometimes, it makes me cry.

I'm learning that just because people you care about live close to you in proximity, it doesn't mean you have a community... unless you actually SEE them. And for me, seeing anyone with regularity has been difficult.

I'm learning that having T home at a reasonable hour, while AWESOME, also means I need to find my "me" time elsewhere in my day.

I'm learning that I need the Lord in the midst of my circumstances, even when everything is "right" on paper...especially when things aren't "right" in my heart.

And finally, I'm learning that there is no place (not here nor there nor anywhere) that, in and of itself, will give me a full heart.

Filling a heart takes a lot of work, time, and energy. It takes people who are actively committed to investing in you and your life. It takes boundaries and knowing when and how to say "No" to the demands of your job. It takes purposeful and intentional outreach. And it takes God, and specifically, it takes making time to speak with God and making time in your life for God to work.

For some reason (although I really should know better by now), I was expecting that this transition would be seamless. And in many ways, it has. Amidst all of these complaints that I've just laid out (ha!), things are really good here. And in navigating the places that haven't been, I'm growing as a person, as a wife, and as a Child of God. But I'm still ready to be settled, you know?

So, more prayers please. And to be really vulnerable... if you live here, please hang out with me!! Y'all have gone on to add a ton more friends to your circles these past 2 years and we haven't. We need you cause you're still the only people we know here. Please come alongside of us as we get settled here.

That's it for now. Dinner time, and hopefully T will be home soon. Love you guys!

Thoughts on this Season, by M

I have a lot of thoughts and ideas floating through my brain right now, and unfortunately, very little time to record them here. I'm hoping that after we get a few more "big wedding decisions" made in the next few weeks, my brain will regain some space and my calendar will, too. haha Here's hoping!

So, really, I'm just writing this time to give you all a little glimpse into my brain these last couple of weeks. I can't say that I've gotten anything all figured out, or that this is meant to be conclusive or profound in any way. Just the humble reflections of a simple girl who is dearly loved by God. Maybe it'll be interesting to you...?

This season of life has been a little strange for me. Not strange in a bad way, but strange in an "I can't believe this is really happening" kind of way. You see, like probably every other girl in the universe, I've been waiting for this season for a long time and I've watched many other people experience it through the years, thinking to myself "when will it be my turn?" And I'm not necessarily talking about just the engagement ring or just the wedding planning... but moreso this feeling of like "finally... things are right." I've been around long enough to know that these seasons are few and far between when it seems as though everything has fallen into place! And, honestly, it feels strange to be the one living it instead of being the one watching and (honestly) envying from the sidelines.

So I've been thinking and processing a lot about it. How can I enjoy this time, praise God for it, be a good steward of these blessings, and yet not forget where I've been, or what battles others may be facing at this time that I rejoice? I don't want to be so wrapped up in my own joy that I forget these things, you know? The best that I've come up with so far is this...

1) I can praise God shamelessly for doing "immeasurably more than all [I] asked for or imagined." (Ephesians 3:20). Seriously. My life these days is unbelievably good beyond all my imaginings or the things I thought to ask for. God has truly searched my heart, taken account of my needs, and graciously given me so much more than I have ever dreamed of. And I say this not from an arrogant heart but from a humble heart that is IN AWE of how great God is. A friend recently quoted some wise theologian and said, "we say 'God is good,' but the reality is 'goodness is God.'" Amen!

2) I can remember how far He has brought me. The Bible makes much of the discipline of remembering. How many times did prophets in the Old Testament proclaim to the people of Israel that they were meant to remember God's works on their behalf and then repent of their sin? Over and over and over, they were reminded... "hey, remember that time God fed you in the desert?" "Remember that time he led you safely out of Egypt?" "Remember that time that God spared your first-borns?" Etc, etc. etc. We are meant to remember as an act of worship. It helps put us in proper context with God. "I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago." (Psalm 77:11). In my life, in this season, remembering helps me to praise God for how much He has done for me; yet,  it also helps me to keep in mind that seasons of joy come and seasons of pain come, and neither last forever. I can have confidence that just as the Lord walked with me and delivered me from seasons of pain in the past, He will be faithful to do the same for such seasons in the future. And they will come, but I need not fear it.

3) Finally, I can trust in the fact I am blessed and dearly loved outside of my circumstances. I'll be honest, it feels great to be in a stage where things are happy, easy, and comfortable(!). I waited a long time for this stage! However, I don't want to preach the prosperity gospel, or send a message to anyone that this season for me means that I'm somehow "more blessed" than I was in the past, or "more blessed" than anyone else in this life. I want to praise and worship the Giver and not the gifts. I want to praise God for who He is, outside of what He does. So, I'm blessed now that I'm getting married in less than 6 months, and was blessed 2.5 years ago when I remember vividly being a sobbing heap on my closet floor (yes, that happened). Our prize is not jobs or husbands or income or anything, but God himself and the "glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)

So, those are my thoughts. This turned out much longer and deeper than I anticipated. Hope y'all enjoyed it... or at least kept reading until the end!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Perspective, by M

I am so thankful for this very moment - to sit on the couch during a lazy Saturday, spend time with the best twin sister a girl could ask for, do some preliminary bridesmaid dress shopping (or, rather, looking), and have a few minutes to update this blog.

I have to say, this whole engagement "season" (as they say) has thrown me for a BIG loop. Or maybe it was the move I made a month ago? Or maybe it was starting that new job? Or maybe it's that my whole life was turned upside-down in the best of all possible ways in the course of 20 days!? haha In any case, I have a lot going on right now and, honestly, it has been thrilling, but also extremely overwhelming. I am SO HAPPY to just sit here, return emails, do my laundry, and pay my bills. Seriously. Who ever thought that that'd be my idea of a great Saturday afternoon!? haha

Before I got engaged, I always wanted to punch girls in the face who acted like being engaged and planning a wedding was anything less than a wonderful, blissful experience. I wanted to be like, "seriously? It's so hard being in love and picking out flowers...? Tough life." Now I know better. It's like, you and your future spouse both have 100% full lives before the engagement - full-time jobs, families, friends, each other, hobbies, service activities, sleep, etc. And you struggle daily to find the balance (as we all do). Then, one particular day you get engaged and it's like SURPRISE! Here's another 20+ hours of work to do each and every week leading up to your wedding. It really becomes a question of "where the heck am I going to find this time?" I still don't know the answer to that.

So, I've been far more stressed in the last two weeks than I really care to admit. It's like, I don't want to be that girl (you know, the one that I always used to want to punch in the face). I don't want to operate my life for the next 6ish months like my wedding is the be-all, end-all of life or that planning the wedding is the highest of all my priorities. And honestly, maybe the stress isn't coming from that place at all, or maybe it is? Either way, I know that I want to enjoy this season and enjoy the process of wedding planning with my family and my fiance. How do we accomplish that?

A few days ago, during a nearly-to-tears moment shared over some of the best tacos in Atlanta, I grabbed a napkin and asked V if we could brainstorm some goals for our engagement and wedding planning. Specifically, I wanted to empower him to rein me in and focus me on some "big goals" in case I ever get bogged down in decision-making or become bride-zilla from all of the attention (doubtful, I hope!). Likewise, I wanted both of us to have a shared vision for what our wedding will be and accomplish, outside of just celebrating ourselves, you know? So we jotted down a few things and finished up our tacos feeling much, much better.

V offered to type it all up to help us keep these ideas front-of-mind (he's so helpful and so great!) and he sent me the finished product two nights ago. It's so beautiful! What an added bonus to marry someone who is skilled at graphic design and photoshop! haha Anyway, I thought I'd share it with you because it's really important to me that we keep a proper perspective on things. I don't want to be that girl and I think that means having to be proactive about it. So, here are our "perspective-keeping" questions and our big goals... Please hold me accountable to this, okay?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The "Working: Serving" Trap

Before I really get into this post, please take a minute to scroll down and view M's last post. Why?

Cause she's engaged!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Woooo! My excitement level is so high about this, and our family just loves her new fiance and we couldn't be happier for them as they plan their life together. Plus, she also posted some great pictures. So if you didn't see the post before this one, now's your chance to skip on down to the bottom of this post and view it for yourself.

Alright, back to the topic at hand.

I've been feeling really convicted lately about how self-righteous I can get about working in a service profession. In fact, my last several jobs have all been in service professions-- teaching, teaching, more teaching and now I'm at a non-profit. And not just any non-profit, but one that directly serves a population that Jesus showed extreme care for and attention to: people with disabilities.

I LOVE my job. I probably love my job more than anyone else loves their jobs. I truly believe that I was made for this work and that the Lord has blessed me abundantly by allowing me to do it. This job truly represents the intersection of my gifts and passions with a huge need in our schools and communities. I love it more than I ever thought I could possibly love a job.

And yet, it's way too easy for me to jump on the "holier than thou" train because of it. Because clearly, I am "the hands and feet" out there in the field while y'all sit in your offices drinking your iced coffees and making two or three times more money than I do. Oh yeah, and being praised by society for climbing the economic ladder and adding value.

My office doesn't even have a color printer and consistently smells like the bathroom it sits next to. Woe is me.

Sometimes it feels like the trade-off for the lack of prestige or money that comes from working in a service profession is this idea (that we secretly internalize) that hey, at least we're better people. We come to believe that the Lord probably loves us more, or regards us more highly, or excuses us from our other obligations as Christians because we believe, in our own minds and hearts, that we sacrifice so much more than others in order to do His work.

Anyone else? Or just me?

What the Lord has been showing me recently is the danger of comparison. What the Lord requires of me is LOVE, all day and every day, regardless of what I've already done or what I view other people have not.

He's also showing me that being faithful isn't a matter of filling a daily quota.

It's become to easy for me to shrug off a whisper from the Lord with the excuse of, "Haven't I already given enough? I spend all day serving the "least of these!" And the answer is always no.

Regardless of the hours we work or don't work, the money we make or don't make, the people we touch or don't touch, the Lord's answer is always "do more." And he promises that he will give us the resources to do so.

So, that's what I'm working on this week-- I hope this will challenge some of you who also work in service professions to analyze your own hearts.

Serve on, fellow servers.... no matter where the Lord has planted you professionally.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Proverbs 18:22

Hey everyone!

Those that know me (or those that are at least my friends on facebook) are probably VERY familiar by now with the big news... BF and I got engaged last weekend!!! wooooooo hooooooooo!!!

I've resisted posting about it on here, halfway because I've been swamped with the beginnings of wedding planning and keeping up with all of the calls/texts/emails that have been coming my way, but halfway because I'm just not sure quite what to say. As I've come to find, being engaged brings with it a flood of emotions about a variety of different things... and it's hard (at this moment at least) to synthesize it. Suffice it to say that there will likely be many engagement/wedding/marriage-themed posts in the coming months.

(I also haven't even posted at all about my new job... which is awesome, by the way!) 

So, I guess BF needs a new name on here, and this is getting complicated because his name would be W, except that's already taken. Instead, let's go with V... which kind of suggests that his name is Vladimir or something, but whatever. Anyway, V did a PHENOMENAL job with the proposal and anyone who is my friend on facebook (or, even a "friend of a friend") should stop what you are doing and login to see the whole story in pictures. I think it's more fun to learn the story that way, and it also makes things easier for me. Win-win! Also, W will probably be helping me make a wedding website soon, so perhaps stay tuned for that if you want to know more. 

Before I forget... did y'all like the title? Proverbs 18:22 - "He who finds a wife finds what is good..." Yippee!

For those of you who can't access the photo album on facebook, I thought I'd lift the veil (haha wedding pun!) on this mysterious fiance of mine... so, here he is! I know I've posted about him from time to time on here (although, not much, in an effort to respect his privacy) but I don't think I've given him full, public credit for how wonderful he is. Truly, he is the kind of man that many single gals (myself included, before I met him!) doubt exists - he is sweet, smart, godly, creative, funny, romantic, a great communicator, and so much more. He treats me like a princess and makes me feel so secure and so safe. No games and no drama is our motto! haha We both knew from very early on that we thought it was the right thing, and I am so thrilled to know that we were right! We love how God has written our stories to prepare us for each other and we look forward to the chapters that are to come. 

Thank you to so many of you who have encouraged us along the way, and to all those who have already shared in this special time with us. We feel so loved and so blessed!