Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Expectations can be Dangerous


Expectations can be dangerous in the life of a Christian.  Sure they are just ideas, but they can lead to sin before you even realize it. 

It was something I didn’t know would be a problem when I got married. I mean seriously, what woman from the time she’s a little girl doesn’t start planning her wedding and thinking about her prince charming, and the life they will have in the castle he takes her to, after hopping down from their horse ride into the sunset… Okay, they weren’t quite that grandiose, and that is probably why I didn’t expect them to cause trouble.  I had very basic ideas of what being a wife would entail. 


I imagined that my house would be tidy and apparently the bad habit of leaving clothes lying on the floor would disappear when I shared a bedroom with someone else. I imagined cooking meals with my husband and eating while discussing our days, then putting the dishes in the dishwasher and snuggling on the couch to watch a movie or read books. I imagined us going on walks hand in hand around a park and exercising together.  I pictured morning breakfasts and occasional picnics.  But upon returning from our honeymoon and going back to work just 3 days later, reality dawned.  And the busy life of meetings, Bible studies and work that I had when I was single didn’t go away, it was now combined with someone else’s life who had more meetings and obligations than I did. So, many nights supper was picked up on the way home and eaten quickly, so we could be out the door.  Now sure, there were the nights I could actually come home and fix a meal (thank you Pinterest, I fell in love with you my first year of marriage looking for quick recipe ideas and I still use you today) but not as often as I expected I would.  And there were snippets here and there like what I described above but over all I couldn’t keep up with the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the grocery shopping and we DIDN’T have a DISHWASHER! My expectations of what life should be and the reality of what life really was created this idea inside me that I wasn’t a good wife.

There would be weeks where I would be exhausted because I had been cleaning and cooking and trying to fit into this ideal wife scenario only to crumble from the weight of it.  There were many times that I allowed feelings of inadequacy to creep in and eventually I would be crying my eyes out on my husband’s shoulder, while I finally admitted to him that I felt like such a failure as a wife. After a few months of me going from fine to I-am-a-horrible-wife, my husband started noticing that my mood shift directly related to housework.  And I would come home to find he had done all the dishes or cleaned off the table or done the laundry.  Which was wonderful, but still I had this expectation that I was supposed to do those things, or at least help with them because I was the wife.  And because he had done them, I was a failure.  Just as an aside, I will tell you that my husband routinely helps around the house, with laundry, dishes, cleaning and trash and never expected me to single handedly handle the housework. But we are very similar in that neither of us are neat freaks, so our house does tend to be on the “lived-in” side more than the clean side from week to week.  And it was in the extended periods of “lived-in” state that I would start to struggle with my self-worth and the feelings of inadequacy. These expectations were fed by comparisons to other women and a product of the era and location I was raised in probably. But wherever they came from they were there.

And there were other times that first year, unrelated to cleaning, when I had expectations of what marriage would be or how I thought my husband should be and when reality didn’t match the expectations, I overreacted, either in anger or sadness.

I was allowing the expectations to become an idol in my life and I didn’t realize it. Instead of living in reality, I was allowing my expectations to dictate my moods causing me to shut down in tears or snap out in anger when he or I failed to live up to the expectations I had.  My focus was on me and my ideas.

Something becomes an idol in your life if it takes your focus of off Jesus. It can be tangible things or people, social media, or even ideas as it was in my case.  And so strong was my desire for my idol that when the expectation wasn’t met I reacted in un-Christ-like ways. When we lose focus on Jesus we stop living our lives the way He would live.  Instead of dealing with ourselves and others with love and patience we react with anger and hostility.  When our desire for things to be our way supersedes our ability to respond to others with kindness and gentleness we have a serious sin issue. And at the root of that sin is pride.

The way we need to deal with this pride and our idols is to replace them with Jesus. My husband pointed out to me that I was expecting to be a perfect wife, when there is only one who is perfect and that is Jesus.  Only by focusing on Jesus, was my true identity as a child of God revealed to me.  So instead of trying to be a perfect wife, through Jesus, I could truly be the wife that God created me to be.  It is in seeking Jesus and focusing our hearts and minds on him and who He is and the work he accomplished on the Cross that our desires are for him and not our idols.  Then we begin to worship Jesus and not our expectations. And through Jesus we can let go of our pride, so when things don’t go as we expect them to, we can respond with grace and love instead of frustration and annoyance.

I will admit to you that I haven’t stopped having expectations.  I did have expectations of what being a mother would be like.  And in the past almost 9 months, some have become reality, but most of the time life as a parent is completely different than I expected. But thankfully, those expectations aren’t idols to me.  So when another night passes and my son is sleeping in our bed instead of in his crib, or when I made the decision to stop trying to breastfeed our son and just get him nourished through formula I still feel like a good mother. Because every day when I seek more of Him and less of me, I have peace that I am the wife and mother God created me to be.

Love in Christ,

Alyson

Friday, January 10, 2014

Being Single Really Isn't Bad


Me and my nephew, Noah, in Germany in January 2010

You may be asking what I know about being single since I am married and even have a child. But I well remember those single years. You see, I got married 2 years ago, when I was 30. And if that made you think any thoughts along the line of "wow so old", or "almost an old maid", or "can she still have kids" thoughts then this post is definitely for you.

Just so you know there are many things I loved about being single and many things I hated.

First on the list of things I hated were people thinking I was on the prowl.  This encompasses many variations. There were always the well meaning people asking if I was dating anyone. And the people who made the comments about going here or there with other single people- "maybe a good opportunity to meet someone" with a twinkle in their eye.

For the record, just because someone is single does not mean they are constantly looking at every person of the opposite sex around their age and measuring them on the future-spouse-o-meter.  There are those that do, which is quite sad.  But there are many who don't. 

There are quite a lot of single people who are content living the life that God has placed them in at this moment.  They may be using this time to grow stronger in their relationship with Jesus.  Or perhaps focusing on school work, or technical certifications they can use to build their resume and further their career.  Or they may be enjoying freedom from school and parents that they never had- traveling the world and seeking adventure.  They only have themselves to answer to and no concern for planning around a significant other's schedule. And those are the things I loved about being single.

Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE my husband immensely and can't imagine life without him or my son.  I'm not sitting here harboring negative thoughts wishing for a life I don't have.  I'm simply explaining a life I did have for many years, because I can.  You see, if I had written this post as a single person it would be viewed as complaints from someone "who's just saying that so they don't seem like the pathetic lonely person I'm sure they must be"- which is another think I hated.  People who give the impression that there must be something wrong with you if you are single.

Not everyone has aspirations of being just a wife and mother.  There is nothing wrong with getting married or staying at home and raising your kids, if God has called you to that then that is what you are to do for His glory. But I haven't (yet) felt that calling on my life. My parents raised me to be independent and to get an education so that I could support myself and not have to depend on a man- because Jesus is the only one you can depend on always.  And I tell you, they did a good job of raising me independent.  So much so, that I really had to pray hard when I felt God leading me to marry TJ, because I wasn't sure I was ready to give up my single life.  And when he asked my dad for his blessing, my dad warned him that I was very independent because he had raised me that way, maybe too much- true story, thanks Dad!

Being single isn't a placeholder where your life stands still while you wait for your future spouse to come along and sweep you off your feet.  Being single is an opportunity to focus completely on God and his direction for your life.  It is an opportunity to go on Mission Trips around the world and be used in a mighty way for His glory as you further the gospel. Yes, those things can be done by those who are married, but that's another chapter that perhaps God hasn't placed that person in yet.

So those who are single- embrace your singleness, singlehood, independence and seek God.  Don't wait to have someone by your side before you feel that you can serve- do it now! Go now! Live content where God has placed you. Don't wait for your life to start- your life started when you were saved. Jesus didn't extend grace to you and say here is salvation but you have to wait to serve me until you are married. He saved you. Your salvation is yours.  You have a spiritual gift that God has given you. You have a purpose that he has created you for.  And yes calling on your life may change, but that may be when God is transitioning your life for your next chapter to begin.  And one more thing, single friends, there will be lonely days.  I remember them.  They don't mean that you are discontent, unless you revel in them.  Just face those days by running to Jesus, by reading your Bible, by going on a date with him- maybe hiking or to a park.  Just reading the word and singing his praises.  Something married people with kids dream of doing! ;-)

To those who are not single, we need to encourage our single friends to serve in our churches and to use the gifts that God has blessed them with in ministry. Before my husband and I met, I lead the youth group at my church, taught Sunday School and led the Praise and Worship Choir. All ministries that I felt God leading me to at those particular times and luckily, I had a Pastor and church who encouraged and valued my gifts and role within the church.

And if you met your spouse in high school or college, were married in your early 20s and had 3 kids before you were 30 you may not be able to relate to the single life, because you didn't live it.  But you can still be considerate of your single friend's feelings.  Please don't constantly try to push your happily married life on your friend.  I get it, I really do, because I am SO happy now with my little family, living life, having a partner- BUT that doesn't mean I was unhappy when I was single.  And I certainly didn't need to settle for less than God had planned for me by going on dates every weekend just because.  So us unsingle people don't need to assume that our single friends will be happier dating, because honestly they may be exactly where God has placed them. And isn't that where we all want to be?


Love in Christ,


Alyson





Monday, January 6, 2014

One Word for 2014

So in my last post I shared how I struggle every year with resolutions.  So when my husband shared a blog post he had found about choosing One Word for the year, I was intrigued. 

The idea is to choose One Word to focus on for the year and to focus on that word in every aspect of your life.  But know that they offer fair warning :
You know the phrase, “Be careful what you pray for.” It is like when you pray for patience and all you get is trials, problems and situations in which you need to practice patience. Well, the same goes for One Word. We guarantee that as soon as you find your word, the battle will begin. Do not approach this exercise half-heartedly. You will get slammed, we promise. This exercise is not for people who want to pick a nice, comfortable word that will have no significant impact on their lives. It truly is a discipline for those who want to press in and see God do great things in and through them. It is for those who want to live life to its fullest. No retreat. No regrets. It will also be a process of teaching, correcting and molding, as God will certainly bring you to a point of brokenness in relation to your word. But when you are soft in the Creator’s hands, He can form you into His vessel! You will be a changed competitor.
And as it is now January 6th, I have been praying and pondering about what word to choose since my husband shared this with me at the start of the new year.  He has even chosen his word and has written about it on his blog here.

So after much prayer and thought...

How awesome is that, you can make a free poster of your word at the website on the poster!

 
Grace. Not because it's my mom's name, though it is, but because I truly struggle with Grace.  I struggle to offer it to others, I struggle in my understanding of it.  It is a word that I want to know more about. And in knowing and understanding, hopefully be able to extend more freely to others as well as myself.

I hope to share my experiences with my One Word throughout the year here on the blog.  And I encourage you to join me on this journey.  Choose your One Word and share it below.  I'd love to pray with you through the journey of seeing what God has in store for us this year!

Love in Christ,

Alyson

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Resolutions


I am ashamed to admit that I have continuously been part of the group of people who make New Year's Resolutions and never see them through to the end of the year. I haven't failed every year, but only because some years I didn't make a resolution! But for the years when I did, they included losing weight, reading my Bible daily, reading the Bible through in a year, reading a classic novel every month and so on.

There were tangible goals set and in some instances even specific numerical goals, but alas, after a day, a week, a month, the site of the goal was lost and therefore the goal itself.

I hadn't actually given much thought to my resolutions for this year until Sunday.  My husband was given the opportunity to preach at our church and his sermon was about resolutions. At the beginning he shared a couple of videos that you can search for on the website Sermon Spice. The first is "New Year's Resolutions- Deep Thoughts from a Shallow Christian"  This video begins innocently listing resolutions that many of us have probably made before: "Getting closer to God, growing in your faith, and using your spiritual gifts." I'm thinking yes, those sound good... then the video sarcastically says that these are important because they are vague and that even if you don't work hard at them no one will notice and you can still look like a great Christian.  It says the trick is to not make resolutions someone can keep you accountable for."  So I chuckled a little but mainly because I had never thought about it that way before and wow, it's so true. 

How many years now have I made the resolution to grow in my relationship with Christ.  It's not a bad resolution, but there is no tangible accountability that can happen there.  There is no plan for how I can accomplish that. So yes, this year I want to grow in my relationship with Christ, but the plan is to accomplish that by studying his word daily, by gathering with other believers in worship and Bible Study, by allowing those called by God to teach and lead me, by honoring God through tithing and giving offerings above and beyond the tithe he asks for, by telling others about him and showing others his love, and ultimately by focusing on him more.

Which leads to the second video my husband shared which is God's Resolutions.  It shares the statistics of failed resolutions and says that maybe this year it is best to focus on God's Resolutions. Then it lists the truths about God that you can find throughout scripture:
He is resolved to never leave you or forsake you- Hebrews 13:5-6
He is resolved to guide you and direct you- Psalm 32:8
He is resolved to give you hope and a future- Jeremiah 29:11
He is resolved to meet all your needs according to his glorious riches- Philippians 4:19
He is resolved to pick you up every time you fall- 1 John 2:1
He is resolved to finish the work he began in you- Philippians 1:6
Then the video reminds us why God's resolutions are better than our own.
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should change his mind.  Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?  
Numbers 23:19 NIV
 God isn't human.  He isn't going to make a resolution and not fulfill it.  It won't fade away or be forgotten. God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.  And if we resolve to seek Him more, giving Him control over our lives making him the Lord of our lives then we will want to serve him in the ways I listed above: studying his word daily, gathering with other believers in worship and Bible Study, allowing those called by God to teach and lead us, honoring God through tithes and offerings, telling others about him and loving others like he does.  We will want to demonstrate our love for him through our obedience to him.  Going to church, tithing, reading our Bibles stop being things we have to do and become things we want to do.

I doubt my husband realizes the impact his sermon and the videos had on me but I just had to share with all of you the great things I learned from him.

So where is your focus going to be in this brand New Year- 2014?  Will it be on you again or will you finally allow Christ to be your Savior and Lord?

Will you make another vague resolution or will you allow your brothers and sisters in Christ to hold you accountable? 

Accountability isn't easy to give or receive, but if honoring and glorifying God is our ultimate goal then it's worth it.

Happy New Year!

Alyson