Wednesday, January 25, 2012

This Broken Path

Blogging about marriage is a tricky, tricky thing, and here’s why.  When you’re married, and especially when you marry young (I’ve never married old, so this is speculation) you want the whole world to think your marriage is Perfect with a capital P.

I want to tell you about the Saturdays when we stay in bed for an extra hour just chatting and laughing.  I want to tell you about the time when he let me stay in the car while he ran into the grocery store to satisfy my chocolate craving.  

And then I read other newlywed’s blogs full of these types of stories, and throw up in my mouth a little.  I roll my eyes and click to something else, secretly calling them liars and silently hoping I’m not the only one who doesn’t make dinner for my husband in heels every day.

The good moments are certainly glorious and worth noting, but it’s not the whole story.  

Simply put, marriage is not the solution.  Really, no matter what the problem is, marriage is not the solution.

You’re lonely? Marriage is not the solution.
You got pregnant?  Marriage is not the solution.
You’ve been dating for five years and are bored?  Marriage is not the solution.
You’ve always dreamed of a beautiful wedding?  Marriage is not the solution.

Am I making my point here?  At the risk of hearing all my married friends gasp in horror, those beautiful moments I mentioned?  They are simply NOT everyday life.  And I want to make sure I don’t present them as such.

So here’s something I’ve learned about marriage that is not all unicorns and glitter.

Even when you’re married and spend about 93% of your time with another person, sometimes you’ll still feel alone.  Forgive me if I sound unforgivingly emo and tragically poetic, but I can literally be sitting in the same room as Sir Huzz and still feel sad/depressed/just.plain.lonely.

And the truth is, there is something beautiful in that, though I can’t put my finger on it yet.  I know that loneliness is leading me to Someone else who can fill that slowly leaking hole, but I haven’t mastered the path to get there.

Because somehow, for me at least, the path changed a little when I got married.  My relationship with God is no longer between just Him and I, but with a third person thrown in.  And to be perfectly honest, I’m not always sure how I feel about that.  I’m not sure when I should just relish the tiny second when I felt God’s presence today, or if I should share it as an encouragement.  I have trouble knowing when to pray with my love and solidify our foundation, and when to pray by myself so I can beat my chest in fear and desperation with no worry about who is listening.  

I am trying to figure it all out, and someday this will (not) make a great party story. But in the meantime, I am trying to remember that it’s ok when it’s not always easy, and that God will meet me anyway, even if I do take the wrong path.

P.S. For those of you who are savvy detail-oriented people, I said in my last post that I would talk more about finances, but I didn't like what I wrote. So I deleted it, and you got this instead. I can be ruthless like that sometimes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Silver Lining

The Good:  So, I have this spreadsheet. (What good story doesn’t begin like this??)  It has all the information I could ever want on my student loans.  Every time I get a bill or a statement, I update it so I know where I’m at.  For some reason, my federal loans weren’t sending me bills, but I knew how much those loans were, so I just marked in the amount and called it good.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I got a bill.  My federal loans amount to about $27,000, and that’s what this bill confirmed.  So I went into my handy-dandy-nerdy spreadsheet and updated the information.  But as I was doing this, I got confused.  To make a long story short, by my own error, I had counted one of my loans worth $10,000 twice on my spreadsheet.  I did this because it was a federal loan, but it was being serviced by Sallie Mae, who I had received a bill from and therefore counted already.

Now, I know there aren’t too many of you out there with loans of my enormity, but I think anyone can relate to this feeling.  We had been telling ourselves (and you all!) that we had $105,000 in loans to pay off.  On this day, these were suddenly decreased by $10,000.  I was shocked.  Dumbfounded.  Blown away.  Whatever you call it, it was like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders.  (Actually, a huge burden had been lifted.  In the form of $10,000).

The Bad: Last week, I had what some scholars might call the worst day in the history of mankind.  I was running around getting ready for work, and as I stuffed my water bottle into my purse, I noticed something didn’t seem right.  My wallet was missing.  Ohmygoshmywalletismissing.  I did a quick search, but I had to get to work, so I got in the car and drove to work (illegally).  

Well, about halfway to work, my engine makes a funny sound.  Being the expert in foreshadowing that I am, I think you know what comes next.  I look in my rearview mirror and see a roundish black thing bouncing in the road away from my car.  Hmm, I think.  That doesn’t seem good... Instantly, my steering wheel locks up and my battery light comes on.  I pull into the middle median and hold my composure for about a millisecond before freaking out.

A. I’m going to be late for work.
B. My knight in shining armor can’t save me because I have the only white horse our family owns.
C. That white horse just died.  Or is at least seriously injured.
D. I can’t call the cops because guess what the first thing they’ll ask me for is?  My license.  Which I do not currently have.
E.  We have very few friends, and they all live 30 minutes away.

So I called my employers, and they rescued me in 1,000 ways that day.  The father came and drove my poor sick horse to the vet.  This means the car repair shop in case you are bad at following metaphors.  It was expensive to fix, and we are obviously broke, but we did what we had to do.  At the end of the day, I wished I could karate chop that Tuesday right in the throat, but I just went to bed, defeated.

The Silver Lining: There are actually many of these.  First, the people of our church really came around us in love.  We had offers of services, books, and even cars.  We had prayers aplenty and loving emails in abundance.  Every time I began to despair, I would receive another reminder of love and support.

Second, we had an emergency fund.  I am the kind of person who doesn’t like using the emergency fund even for emergencies, but we did have it, and we were able to repair the car without biting into our savings/daily living expenses.  This whole disaster could have been an actual crisis, but it wasn’t.  It just sucked.  It might seem crazy, but I truly believe that emergency fund was one way God has blessed us for being obedient to Him and for attempting to be good stewards even when we don’t have much.

Third, though there were (of course) TONS of extra repairs they recommended, the ones we chose as necessary all came in under estimates, and we ended up spending about $400 less than what we thought.  Again, even though the day was horrible, God rescued us and provided for us, even though it may not have been in the way we would have chosen.  
Fourth, I was (mostly) able to keep my perspective. I was able to come back, again and again, to a quote I read on another blog that I have tacked onto my bulletin board. "It's one thing to despair over a life or hard circumstances, but things- no matter their price tag- certainly do not deserve to fall into that category."

I’ll continue some of these thoughts in my next post!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Growing in Winter

One thing everyone talked about upon discovery of my impending move to Oregon was how green things stayed in the winter.  Now, for a word of context here, when you tell someone you're moving, you discover that every single person on the planet has traveled to the exact coordinates you will be moving to, and they are a virtual guidebook of advice, recommendations, and words of warning.

Many of these are false, and you should ignore approximately 74.3% of all such outpourings.  However, this green winter thing is completely true.  I didn't realize just how true until I visited Oklahoma over Christmas and sliced my foot open on the sharp, dry, brown, drab, yucky "grass". (Exaggeration.  No such slashing occurred.)

Despite what "those people" told me, all trees here are not evergreen trees, and some do lose their leaves and look just as dead as any of their Midwestern counterparts.  Or so I thought.  Imagine my surprise, then, when last week I noticed all brown trees and bushes beginning to grow fur.

Or at least that's what it looked like.  Upon closer inspection, there is a variety of grayish-green, fuzzy-looking moss-ish substance on these "dead" trees.  At first, I was horrified.  This ugly, parasitic growth was disgusting!  Preying on these innocent trees attempting to hibernate for the winter, how dare they/it??

However, the longer and closer I looked, the more beautiful it became.  There is something magical about seeing the foliage I had assumed was done producing, ready for a long season of barrenness, coming to life again.  Though it was not the life I anticipated, it was lovely in a completely unexpected way.

What that tree is experiencing resonates with me and gives me hope.  Though there is no snow on the ground, I am experiencing my own winter.  I feel barren quite a bit lately.  My heart's desire is to pray, yet no words come.  I long to read my Bible, but I can't seem to focus on the words.  I ache to cry out to God, but I seem to have lost my voice.

And yet.

This tree assures me that something is happening inside of me.  Though I feel no movement, I find hope that there is a slow growth occurring inside my heart, a clearing-away of that which seems beautiful but lasts for only season.  Though it may appear ugly at first, it will become enchanting.

As I continue to struggle toward a firm foundation for my life and my marriage, I will take comfort that winter does not exist for God, but instead He is always planting, watering, and waiting for the fruit to appear.  I will take notice and eagerly wait alongside Him.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Those Darned Priorities

Happy New Year everyone!

I apologize for my brief hiatus; I was busy learning to skydive.  And taking synchronized swimming lessons.  And running a marathon. 

Okay fine, those are all lies.  Really, I was just busy.  The holidays punched me right in the gut and I didn’t feel like getting up until just now.  That being said, I missed you.  I missed this.  Not writing made me realize how much I really like writing.  So thanks for waiting for me.

It’s funny though, that writing on my blog fell to the bottom of my priority list.  Why is it funny you ask?  Fantastic question, ever-intelligent reader.  It’s funny because sometimes I feel like writing a blog post is the best part of my day, yet I choose to do it last because…why?  I’m not sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with my priorities.

I get really caught up in the day-to-day worries, like dirty clothes on the floor or dirty dishes in the sink.  So I take care of those and neglect the things that bring me real happiness.  But today is a new day, and though I have both dirty clothes AND dirty dishes, I’m writing anyway. (Just don’t be offended when I don’t invite you over for a while.)

This little business of priorities really convicted me in another way, too.  I’m scrubbing countertops and vacuuming floors like there’s no tomorrow, but I’m not even finding time to spend with my Creator

What really triggered all of this was my nasty selfish demeanor on Christmas.  I’m supposed to be celebrating my Savior’s birth, but instead I mostly just focused on counting my gift cards and figuring out which gifts to return.  Do you ever just feel grossed out by yourself?  Because that’s how I felt/feel.

So that’s why you’re getting this post, you lucky dog, you.  I’ve decided that I’m going to ignore the little things today and focus on the things that matter, the things that bring me real joy.  So I’m going to write, I’m going to spend time with my friends and my loverface, and I’m going to go talk to Jesus and ask Him to keep right on fixing me.