Tagged: truth

Stepping into the Light After Having Sex Before Marriage

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Someone once asked how Grant and I resisted sexual temptation before we got married. She was struggling with temptation herself and was hoping for some encouragement and guidance. I gave her the truth.

“We didn’t.”

Like many other couples in today’s sex-obsessed culture, Grant and I didn’t save sex for marriage. An intense relationship and long engagement paired with too much freedom led to a lifestyle of sin that we took much care to conceal. We loved our church community and being in student ministry together and feared that coming clean would mean having to choose between serving in ministry and serving our fleshly desires. To avoid that decision, we feigned purity in the public light and continued living out the opposite behind closed doors. Eventually we started to believe we weren’t doing anything wrong.

I know that our experience is not unique. Statistics show that a majority of young Christians are not waiting until marriage. Some are simply swept away by a passionate moment and then don’t get the help they need to make it back to shore. The current often carries them much farther than they intended to go and makes it much harder to swim back.

It’s unsettling yet not shocking that many of our friends, like us, are carrying around secrets of sexual sin to one degree or another. Some have been carrying around secrets since before they began a relationship with Jesus, while some started carrying them after. Some are in ministry. A few of these couples are married now; others are single. And there is one thing we’ve all shared in common: the fear of bringing our sin to light.

There’s something about knowing that you’re not living out the godly, pure Christian walk that is expected of you that makes it more difficult to ask for accountability or be honest about the difficulty of staying pure until marriage. Sometimes it just seems easier to cling to the excuses and justifications that make you feel as though what you’re doing is not that bad. Our culture’s way of normalizing sex and making purity a joke doesn’t help matters either.

Now that Grant and I are on the other side of it all, we realize that this is something we don’t want to see other couples get caught up in. We understand now that choosing purity is not a matter of checking something off the “good Christian” to-do list, but rather a path designed by God for our protection. It is not only the best way to enjoy relationships and marriage, but also what helps preserve peace and joy in both faith and ministry. It’s a fruit he and I will never get to taste. This is why I’m sharing our story today.

Instead of adding onto the fear and guilt that encourages men and women to conceal and stay in their sexual sin, we want to offer a message of freedom that can help get them out. And it starts with pointing to what Jesus has done. How he walked with Grant and I on our dirty, broken path. How he brought us into a covenant of marriage and breathed new life into our faith. How he showered us with immeasurable grace we could never earn or deserve. But most of all, how he transformed our “worldly sorrow,”  the kind that “brings death,” into “godly sorrow,” the kind that “brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Godly sorrow. This is what the Lord has been teaching me and what I hope begins to move in the hearts of those who know the pain of sexual sin all too well.

It’s true that now being married to Grant “softens the blow” in some regards; it makes our sin a little less scandalous or a little more easily forgiven, at least in our minds. But I still have sorrow. I have sorrow for the wedding night and first year of marriage that wasn’t quite what I had dreamt of. I have sorrow for the day when we will have to share this part of our story with our children, when we will be to them a warning to heed rather than an example to follow. I have sorrow for my relationship with the Lord that suffered as I carried around the weight of my guilt.

I also have sorrow because I know that as I confess this now, I am probably disappointing people I care about — family members and friends who believed Grant and I were doing things right, friends and mentors who encouraged me and gave me sweet advice for what they thought would be our first time on our wedding night, faithful readers who’ve applauded my authenticity and honesty, pastors and leaders within the church who expected and trusted me to pursue purity, and students under my leadership who looked up to me.

But when I say that we now have a godly sorrow rather than a worldly sorrow, I mean that while there is still a longing for things to have gone a different way, there is also an acceptance that this is our story, a desire to move on and heal, and faith that God will use it for good.

This is different from the sorrow I once had when I was grieving more because of my guilt than because of my loss, when I felt too burdened by what I had done to want to bring my sin to light or make amends with the Lord. The weight I was carrying became so heavy that the only way I could think of to keep moving forward was to pretend it wasn’t there. This is worldly sorrow. And it only leads to death — death of hopes and dreams for the future, death of authenticity and transparency, and death of a once vibrant relationship with God.

Godly sorrow, on the other hand, leads to repentance, salvation, and a life not hindered by regret. It leads to freedom. And the only way to get from A to B, from this worldly sorrow to godly sorrow, is to take your eyes off that sin and instead put it on the Son on the Cross. Believing that the only reason you could ever be victorious over that sin is because of the victory Jesus won for you. Trusting that “his divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). Allowing yourself to accept that it’s never too late to turn back, to run into the Heavenly Father’s open arms and take hold of the mercy and grace he’s so freely offering you.

Grant and I don’t live with much regret anymore. We live with freedom instead. And if we had only believed that we could live with that freedom back then, things would probably have gone a lot differently. I don’t think we would’ve hesitated to get help and ask for accountability when we needed it. I don’t think we would’ve made excuses or tried to hide from God or from the church. I don’t think we would’ve wanted to remain in our sin. Not if we had truly tasted freedom, if we had remained captivated with the Cross.

The reason I’m sharing these things is because I believe in the power of godly sorrow, of repenting and allowing yourself to receive God’s grace to start anew.

If you are feeling the weight of worldly sorrow and the regrets of a sin you just can’t outrun, I wish I could be sitting across from you right now. I’d put down my coffee, grab your hands as I meet your eyes, and say these words with the sincerest love and longing for you. “I understand you. I don’t judge or condemn you. And I want more for you. The Lord wants more for you. Even now, no matter how far you’ve gone, he longs for you to know his love and choose a better way.” I hope that in that moment, you would realize you still have a small voice inside of you saying, “Actually, I want more for myself, too.”

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

In the light there is relationship and community. Renewal and cleansing. It’s a place where perfect love trumps fear. There’s no room for shame; it’s just a wide open space of freedom.

And you, my dear friend, are invited to step in.

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If You Want to Love Your Kids

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Everywhere we go, we’re given messages of what mothers should do or ought to do to prove her love for her kids. We’re covertly told that a mother’s love is based on her works, that every decision she makes is a statement about how much she cares for her child. Natural birth or medicated. Breastmilk or formula. Working or staying at home. Vaccines or none. Public or homeschool. Positive parenting or spanking. Crafts or TV. Processed or organic.

I am guilty of believing the lie, of putting certain things up on a pedestal. I wouldn’t dare claim that any of these things make or break a mother’s love, but I like to cling to my “camps”, the moms who are doing it just like me. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that I’m “doing it right” and I need to do the world a favor by showing them what’s best.

But the Lord is in the business of kicking legalism to a curb. He finds ways to remind me that I have nothing and can do nothing to earn the approval I so desperately crave. He’s humbling me as I allow him to guide me closer to his heart for motherhood. And I realize now that his motto is not “breast is best” and his priority is not to put every mother into the home. I notice that he doesn’t favor the moms who only feeds her kids organic and he doesn’t punish the ones who send their kids off to public school. I see that he equips parents to love on their kids in unique, individualized ways and that he is found in many different kinds of parenting and discipline.

I know now that the biggest favor I can do for any mom isn’t to go on and on about why they should choose a certain style of mothering or why they should follow my example. The biggest favor I can do for any mom is to point them to Jesus. Why?

Because that “love” we’re putting all our hope and boasting in? The love that’s merely a collection of our good deeds based on our society’s ever-changing standards? The love that’s equated with what we put in our babies’ mouths, how many shots they’ve had, and who’s watching them? Well, it can’t hold a candle to the love of Jesus, the love that led him to the Cross. The love that defeated death for the undeserving. The love that throws shame to the curb. The love that promises fullness of life, both now and for eternity.

The love that he wants to shower you with so you can stop the useless striving and comparing and live in freedom instead. The love he wants to use through you to bring his kingdom near.

You want to leave a legacy? To love your kids in such a way that it stands out, transforms your family from the inside out, and doesn’t leave you exhausted or empty in the process?

Then love your kids as a mom changed and led by the Gospel.

Love your kids as a mom who’s freed from the pressure to attain perfection, who allows herself and others to be the messy, amazing people they were made to be.

Love your kids not as a mom who’s enslaved to her circumstances or emotions, but as one who’s dancing in the grace freely offered from heaven and rejoicing in her redemption.

Love your kids as a mom whose eyes are fixed upward on the Giver of all good gifts and whose hands are raised in praise to the only One worthy of glory.

Love your kids as a mom who’s not moved by the pressures of this world or seeking to outdo the moms next to her, but is rather chasing after God’s best for herself and her family.

Your heart’s attitude and the perspective with which you view motherhood changes when you realize that you need Jesus and his die-to-self, unrelenting love just as much as the next mom. When you embrace this sort of love, you no longer care about how you compare to the moms next to you or who’s “doing it right” and who’s not. You’ll be too busy living out your calling of motherhood with the One who called you to it.

Can you imagine it?

Every day I am amazed at how much the Lord has left to teach me about love. As long as I’m trying to prove my love for my baby through every little thing I do, I know I still haven’t gotten it quite right. As long as I’m secretly comparing and competing, I know I still haven’t the faintest idea of what love is really all about. I mean, forget trying to learn how he wants me to love my kids! I still haven’t figured out how to be loved myself! But I want to.

Because one of the best and most freeing parts of his love is that it doesn’t depend on my perfection. It solely rests on his.

And if I can get this and embrace this with what little time I have on this earth, what can stop me from raising a family of planet-shakers? If the Lord is for me and I actually believe it, who can be against me? Is there anything quite so powerful as a mother on a mission, equipped with the truth that the world so desperately needs?

I’m daring to find out.

When You Don’t Feel Beautiful

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Having a baby changed everything about my body. Every single part. I’m gradually losing my hair, breaking out in pimples like I’m back in high school, still dealing with swollen fingers and feet, and don’t even get me started on my jello-like belly and thick thighs.

I like to talk about my postpartum body because it’s real. And for the most part, I like my body, too. I’m still so fascinated by the fact that it housed a tiny human for nine months and is able to produce the only source of nourishment that tiny human needs. When I look in the mirror, I often see a strong woman, a mighty warrior, and a great mom. But when I take the time to really examine my body, I begin to remember the way it used to look and start to notice all of its flaws.

Lately I’ve been noticing the flaws more and more. I’m no longer on that “new mom high” and I’m paying more attention to things outside of my life with a baby, like what other people are wearing or what size they are or how flawless they look on social media. I still want to appreciate my body and feel confident in my own skin, but I can’t shake the feeling that I should be thinner, tighter, and trendier. I don’t like that none of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit me. I feel frumpy in my seamless nursing bras. It bothers me that I still look like I could be four months pregnant. And if I’m being totally honest here, I feel far from sexy with this saggy, squishy body.

I could spend the rest of this post ranting about how our society has failed us –how it’s difficult to find flattering clothing for curvier women, how we’re surrounded by pressures to get rid of our baby weight, how filters and editing apps create an unrealistic expectation of how women should look, and how Victorias Secret doesn’t even carry plus-sizes (I may or may not have shed tears at the mall after discovering this) — but I know that my problem isn’t just with society. The problem also lies with me.

I’m the one who has a problem with the way I look. Sure, I call myself “beautiful” because that’s what I’m supposed to believe about myself, but I still pick myself apart like most women do. I’m the one doing the analysis. I’m the one who’s deciding I don’t like what I see.

This past Sunday evening at church, I was trying to focus during worship, but all I could think about was what a disaster my shopping trip had been that day. I went to the mall with expectations of finding clothes that would make me feel pretty and I instead left empty-handed. It’s not wrong to want to feel pretty or to want to dress up and look nice. But because I failed at fulfilling this vision for myself, I began to question my beauty as a whole. Am I really beautiful? Because I think my muffin top says otherwise and my greasy hair disagrees. How I would love to be just a few sizes thinner! Or have amazing, long hair or a smaller chest or a nicer wardrobe.

But the Lord had something to say about that.

“You don’t get to pick and choose what parts of you are beautiful. You either are beautiful or you’re not. And my darling, you are beautiful.”

Me? Really? I’m beautiful?

I let this sink in for a moment. And I had to ask myself, is it enough for the Lord, my heavenly Daddy, to say that I’m beautiful? Is that enough for me? If I stopped getting likes and comments on my photos, if I stopped wearing makeup or curling my hair, if I didn’t have anyone around to compliment my looks, would it be enough for me to know that God himself sees me as beautiful?

I don’t like my answer to that question. Because truthfully, it’s a no.

I don’t have that confidence yet. I don’t have that security in myself. I don’t have that positive body image. I want it, but I’m just not there.

Praise the Lord for grace upon grace.

I was created for more than this world, but I still get caught up in it. The Lord formed my body, but I tear it down. I am blessed with life, but I curse the vessel I’ve been given. My Father in heaven calls me beautiful, but I act like he’s a liar.

But I know there is immeasurable grace for me in my moments of weakness. And I know that if I come to him with a desire to change, to see myself as he sees me, he’ll give it to me. It’ll take time to believe the truth he whispers in my ear and it’ll take effort to cast out the lies the enemy whispers in the other, but one day — Lord willing — I’ll get there and it’ll be so worth it. I have hope there will be a day when I will be able to stand in front of the mirror without a made-up face or the pretty, frilly things of this world and fully, completely, irrevocably see myself as beautiful. From the top of my head all the way to my toes.

But for right now, when I am asked to believe that I am beautiful, I at least pray, “I do believe… but help my unbelief.”

 

When You Become a Submissive Wife

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Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:22-24).

I’ve heard a lot of opinions on the passage in Ephesians 5 about being a submissive wife. I’ve heard it described as outdated and sexist. Many women protest the idea of having to submit themselves to any man, even their husband. Some point out that submission should be completely mutual, that Paul was implying that husbands and wives ought to be subservient to each other. On the other hand, I have also heard that it’s a beautiful, even essential component of marriage and it’s a specific calling for wives.

I’m writing this post to share what I have learned over the past year and specifically these past few months on what it means for a wife to submit to her husband. I’m not sharing this to point fingers or make women feel like they’re doing a bad job at fulfilling Ephesians 5. I’m also not sharing this so that my definition of submission can be fully adopted by others. What I desire is an honest dialogue on the struggle of figuring out what submission means in the twenty-first century, particularly when every marriage looks so different and every woman is unique.

But I suppose I have to start by sharing how I began to figure out what submission looks like for me.

. . . . .

This past summer my husband crashed and totaled his car. It was his fault. And shortly before this happened, he had changed his car insurance to where he was no longer covered like he should be for incidences such as these. So as a result, he had to spend thousands of dollars, the money that him and I had been saving for us to have after we got married, on a new car. A clunky, dirty Ford Taurus. I hate the Taurus.

And for that week that we hunted for a new car, I almost hated Grant. Because here I was, having to drive him to dealership after dealership to help him find a car. Here I was, having to say goodbye to the money that we had put aside for OUR future just so we could pay for HIS mistake. I remember complaining about Grant and his irresponsibility to all of my friends and family. I could not believe that he allowed this to happen. I was so, so angry and let down.

And then we bought that Ford Taurus. And we were fine again. Life went back to normal. Except Grant didn’t go back to normal.

I saw guilt slowly eating away at him. The harsh words I had spoken were still piercing his heart. He felt like he had lost his dignity and my trust. To this day, when we speak of that car crash, I see the fallen look on his face and the regret in his eyes. He carries that time with him, and as a result, so do I.

I now know that the men in our lives will always do stupid things. But we are often guilty of doing stupid things in response to them, too.

Beating him up for this, along with all the other mistakes that he had made over the years, always seemed like the right thing to do at the time. There should be consequences for his actions, right? Why should he be let off the hook? Why should I show him the same amount of love and respect and trust after he makes these irresponsible, immature decisions? He needs to learn his lesson, I always reasoned with myself.

But my punishments for him always ended up being punishments for myself, too. Because I was turning into a woman that no man should want to marry. My efforts to control the situation only made me feel more out-of-control. I couldn’t stop my anger from being unleashed. I couldn’t hold back my tongue from swearing and yelling and saying things I didn’t mean. And that’s a pretty bad place to be in.

How did I let myself break all of my promises to not become the monster I once was? It was always a joke among my friends in high school that I was the meanest, most demanding girlfriend, but it all of a sudden wasn’t funny anymore. Not when this man who was so good to me was carrying around so much guilt that he wasn’t even capable of forgiving himself.

My efforts to be in control, my desire to punish and yell at Grant for his actions, are what I consider to be the stupidest things I have done. And it’s these stupid things that I myself carry around with me. And when it comes up in conversation, it’s what makes my face fall and my eyes fill with regret. We both have felt deep shame of our pasts, of the things we’ve done that have affected and hurt one another.

And it was only when I finally saw this damage inflicted on our hearts did I realize that maybe showing him some respect, regardless of whether it’s well-deserved, could do a lot more for us than being in control.

And that was what I was always after, really: control.

Isn’t that part of the reason for why the idea of submission sounds so horrifying to some? Women, especially the ones who have grand dreams for their future and perhaps have been hardened by their past, just want some sense of control in their life. And if that means controlling their man, so be it. Anything to keep the attention and affection on them. Anything to have those large holes in their heart filled. Like the wicked queen from Once Upon a Time, we destroy anyone and anything in our path to what we think will finally make us happy. But happiness never comes.

I’m so thankful that I was finally able to open my eyes to just how little reward there is for gaining or maintaining control. There has been no gain to justify the hurt and anger that accompanies it. Respect between Grant and I, on the other hand, has gone a long way over time. It has even begun repairing some of the damage from that car wreck.

And the way I show respect to Grant is by submitting to him — small, daily acts of surrender. And God has used my small, daily acts of surrender to transform me into a woman who not only is able to submit to her husband, but is actually joyful to do it.

My small, daily acts of surrender may not look like much from the outside, but I know they mean a lot to Grant. They have meant a lot to our marriage. Submission has not always been convenient or easy for me, but it has been worth it.

I submit to Grant by bringing our household responsibilities before him and laying them at his feet. I maintain some control by handling most, if not all, of the budget, the groceries, the errands, and the housework (yes, I am that housewife), but I still give him a voice. I show respect for him by asking for his input on our finances and delegating responsibilities to him that I could just as easily do on my own. I trust him to provide for us instead of constantly pointing out where our money is falling short. I thank him for the things he does around the house, regardless of whether the tasks were completed in my desired time-table. Believe it or not, I even trust him to handle the insurance. Grant has given me the power to do all things for our household on our own. But out of respect and honor for him, I allow us to share the power.

I submit to Grant by holding back from making decisions without first asking him. All questions such as whether I’ll look for another job after graduation or if I’ll focus on my writing or if we’ll stay in our one-bedroom apartment or if we’ll save money for a vacation are answered through a dialogue between my husband and I. It sounds silly to bring all of these decisions to him when I could so easily make them myself. After all, wouldn’t he want me to be happy? Of course, he will encourage me to chase after my dreams and be wise with our finances. But that’s not the point. The point of bringing these things to Grant is not so that I’ll gain his approval of them, but rather so that he knows his opinions matter.

I submit to Grant by putting him first, like when I wake up at 4:00 AM on the weekend, on the mornings that I could otherwise spend sleeping in, to help him get ready for work and make him breakfast. I learned this from my mother, who does the same for my dad, and I remember many friends not understanding why my mom willingly does this. Now those same friends don’t understand why I do, too. Even Grant questions why we like to subject ourselves to cold, dark mornings for the sake of our husbands. He feels selfish for letting me cook him eggs and toast when I could still be in bed, but he lets me do it because I tell him that it fulfills something in me that was never fulfilled before.

My heart was so self-centered for so long that I felt empty and unloved the moment that Grant chose himself over me. But now that I’ve allowed myself to be more husband-centered instead, I feel whole and loved the moment that I choose Grant over myself. 

In a way, I am using the control that I have to relinquish control to Grant. And this, to me, is submission. 

I think that submission sounds like a dirty word to some women because they think that it implies a lack of power. Like women are weaklings who are only designed to serve their men in whatever capacity their men see fit.

But what I have experienced is that submission IS power. It gives me the power to let go of the meaningless things that I clung to for security and happiness. It gives me the power to become a woman who is modeled after Christ in the way she loves and serves. It gives me the power to choose a calling — the calling of a wife as a helper and family-builder — that is greater than my selfish ambitions.

The more I give to Grant, the more free I become — free from selfishness, greed, laziness, unwholesome thoughts, bitterness, and anger.

I remember when I always expected Grant to cater to me. Before we were married, I would complain when he’d leave for work because I knew that it meant I’d be alone. I would expect him to always be on his A game, planning the loveliest dates and surprising me with thoughtful actions. I made him feel immature and foolish for the way he spent his money and his time. I scolded him and yelled at him for decisions he made without consulting me. I put burdens on his shoulders that he shouldn’t have had to carry. I was not willing to relinquish control by any means. And all of this was just my way of seeking fulfillment and happiness, which never worked.

Submission, instead of control, is how I now pursue my fulfillment. And it does fulfill me. Because I get to watch my husband feel loved and respected. I get to play a part in the restoration of his dignity. And in return, I also reap the benefits of a fulfilled husband, one who is free to respond with love for me, just like the vision of the husband and wife I had always read of in Ephesians 5.

When I submit to my husband, I am sending him the message that he is capable and smart, that his thoughts and opinions do matter, that his mistakes are not unforgivable. And I realize through this that my mistakes can be forgiven, as well.

I am not perfect. I am no saint. But I am a woman who is committed to loving and respecting my husband, even when that means relinquishing parts of my life that my flesh would rather keep under my control or use for selfish purposes. I am a woman who, though she might fail to choose love and surrender in the moment, is willing to eventually put down her pride and guilt and try again.

Our marriage counselor once asked Grant and I, “What hill are you willing to die on?” And I remember realizing in that moment that I pick a lot of foolish hills to camp out on, fully prepared to give up what is most valuable for something that is hardly worth it.

I now know that I shouldn’t be picking battles with my husband. I should be picking battles with satan, the real enemy. And I bet that he hates what I’m now doing to Grant: letting him come first, letting his voice matter, letting him feel loved, letting our marriage honor God.

I have a piece of paper taped to our bathroom mirror that I look at and read every day. At first, I was embarrassed to tape it there because I knew that many people would see it and would perhaps question it or judge it. It’s a glimpse into our personal struggles, the things that many wives, including myself, would probably want people to think are under control and totally fine in their marriage. Regardless of the fear I felt, I taped it up anyway. And I’ve allowed it to encourage me on a daily basis to be the woman I know God has ordained for me to be.

It reads as follows:

I am on my husband’s/wife’s team and he/she is on mine.

I will fight for my husband/wife every day of our lives together.

I will pursue peace with my husband/wife.

I will protect my husband’s/wife’s dignity.

I will bear my husband’s/wife’s burdens.

I submit myself to my husband/wife.

I will release all anger and bitterness toward my husband/wife.

I will believe in my husband/wife.

This is my personal motto and vision for our marriage. I don’t live by it all the time, but I so badly want to. And maybe you want to live by it, too. Maybe you, like me, are tired of seeing your husband’s fallen face and feeling your own regret. Maybe you have experienced enough “control” to know that it does nothing but cause hurt in relationships. Maybe you want to be the woman that submits to her husband, even if you aren’t fully sure of what that means just yet.

Submission will probably look differently for a lot of wives, but I believe that is one of the reasons for why it is so beautiful. It is a personal, intimate act between husband and wife that will mean something special and unique to the both of you. It doesn’t have to be explained or meet others’ expectations. It just has to do its job of forging love within your marriage. And it will.

My call to other wives, and even women who are not yet wives, is to pursue what submission means for you. How can you lay down your life for your husband or your future husband? How can you relinquish some of the control that you have fought to hold onto? How can you choose service over selfishness, love over laziness, and purposeful submission over power?

It will not always be an easy decision. There will be choices that don’t seem quite so black-and-white. But I challenge you to bring even those choices to your husband and let him join you on this journey. We don’t have to fend for ourselves or be left to our own devices when it comes to figuring out how to be the wife God wants us to be. We can lift each other up — husbands and wives, women and friends, mentors and mentees — as we pursue both our personal and universal callings.

Submission matters. I needed a car wreck to open my eyes to this truth, but you don’t.

When You’re Married and Want More

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As many of you know, I’ve been married for almost a month. I now live with a man who I so dearly love (and our sweet puppy). And let me tell you, there are both blessings and challenges from this.

First, I adore sleeping next to my husband, but I’ve discovered that snuggling and spooning lasts for less than an hour because we are both so desperate to get a good night’s sleep when we have to wake up in the early hours of the morning. Also, he sometimes sweats profusely when he gets too hot and I insist on using my own blanket so we don’t fight for covers when I get too cold. Bedtime is almost like a game. We have to run through a list of questions: Should we keep the AC on? Whose phone are we setting the wake-up alarms on? Which side of the bed is Buddy sleeping on? By the way, it’s a horrible thing to realize that your dog would rather sleep next to this guy he’s known for like two years versus sleeping next to you who he’s known ALL HIS LIFE. It’s just not fair and I pout about this regularly.

Second, I love spending time with my husband, but I’ve realized that this can quickly turn into suffocation. HE’S ALWAYS THERE. Yes, he does have work and I do have class, but for the most part, he never leaves my side. There are days when him and I are not separated for longer than an hour. And that’s probably not healthy, but it’s the way things are right now. Especially since it seems as though friends are avoiding us like the plague, thinking the newlyweds need tons of space and time for adjustment. Just so you know, I MISS MY FRIENDS. AND I SO DESPERATELY NEED A PLACE TO ESCAPE TO. SAVE ME. There’s only so long I can hint to Grant that he should make plans with somebody or go to the gym before I violently kick him out of the house so I can watch Grey’s Anatomy.

Third, I highly enjoy being served by my husband, but I’ve noticed how my independence and self-sufficiency is slowly dwindling. When he doesn’t have work in the morning, he gives me a ride to class. He makes me breakfast almost every day. He makes my coffee before I even get a chance to think about it (just wait, there’s more). He gets me out of bed when I’m feeling lazy. He sets alarms for me when I need to wake up. He always minces the garlic (which explains why I didn’t know how to peel the cloves for the longest time). He cleans my makeup brushes while I get ready in the morning (yes, ladies, keep swooning). When we run errands, he always drives. I know acts of service is his love language, but is this normal? To be served this much?? I may actually be forgetting how to drive myself places. It’s nice to be doted on, but I’m eventually going to need it to stop. And right now, he’s giving me a shoulder massage. I just can’t.

Lastly, I feel highly fulfilled as I live life with my husband, but there is a deep longing for more. And what I mean by that is that we both have a vision for our marriage that far exceeds where we are right now. We’ve only been married for a very short amount of time, yet we are already dreaming of houses and babies and promotions and new opportunities. And this makes it hard to stay put. We want what’s next. Grant and I are struggling to find contentment — not with each other, but with this place that we are in. And we wonder if other newlyweds experience this, too. The good news is that Grant’s old, homebody soul matches mine real well, which means that this deep desire for a home, family, and stability is not an isolating experience for either of us. God knew what he was doing when he placed us together. And he knows what he’s doing by bringing us through the simple steps before we reach the big, difficult ones. Even still, we long for answers to our soul’s cries for more.

My prayer is that we find a way to hold onto contentment and peace right now even amidst these strong dreams and desires for our future. I also am praying that God gives us discernment through the Spirit as we decide the right opportunities to accept and the right changes to embrace. We’re slowly finding our place in this world — both individually and as a unit — but there’s still so much left to unearth and discover.

This post is personal and maybe not the most relevant to everybody who is reading it. However, I wanted to share these things because I believe it is important to talk from reality instead of wishful thinking. I don’t want to put up a front that gives people the idea of us having a perfect marriage and a grand old time. I want people to know that the initial stages of marriage are both fun and difficult for us for various reasons. I want people to know that even though Grant and I are thrilled to be each other’s husband and wife, we are still ignorant on how to balance our time together, we still have fights and issues, and we still don’t fully know what a God-glorifying marriage means for us.

Most of all, I want people to know that we, just like everybody else, are not entirely content. There are beautiful parts to this marriage, but there are also many areas we wish to improve and grow. Our prayers of desperation reflect that regularly. We just got married and it seems as though this should be the greatest and most joyous time of our lives, yet there is still a lot of junk and confusion we are both dealing with. We have a structured routine and it is pretty great, but stability on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean our minds and hearts are in stable places. Him and I are still learning how to battle the real enemy while continuing to mistakenly battle each other. And this doesn’t take me by surprise because I learned long ago that Hollywood and social media tells us a lot of lies about the way our marriage and our lives should look. I knew the journey to the altar would be a hard one and the road after it wouldn’t be any easier.

The last thing I want is for my marriage to do to others what Hollywood and social media has done to me. I know the way those lies have harmed me — making me loathe myself for wasteful purchases because I thought I was supposed to be a coupon-savvy wife, making me beat Grant and I up for forgetting to have our time with God because I wanted to be the perfect spiritual couple, making me buy new clothes and get a new haircut because I thought I needed to play the part of “sophisticated housewife.” I want to be absolutely done with believing lies about the way my marriage should look. They have done nothing but place unnecessary pressure and guilt on us. And I definitely don’t want to allow myself to be a conduit of these lies either.

For this reason, I am striving to not give off a perception of perfection. I think I may have failed at this many times over the years, and I am sorry. I want to make it my goal to continue sharing truth and reality with people, even if I have to write less eloquent blog posts, share uglier photos on Instagram, and admit to having a fight with Grant before walking into a friend’s house or Bible study. I don’t believe it is wise to broadcast all of our deep struggles and issues to the world, but I want to be a person who is willing to talk about hard things, especially when other women are asking the same questions as me or other couples are dealing with the same issues. Today’s post was only a snapshot of a few things on my mind. I promise there’s a lot more underneath it all, but there’s a time and place for such discussion.

I also want to ask you to take some time to pray for Grant and I — for our everyday battles and the long, arduous road to contentment that we are still trekking on. It might sound selfish and vain to ask that of you, but I know it’s not. This is the way God designed us to be — lovingly truthful and vulnerable. It is out of love for my husband that I ask for other prayer warriors to pray for our marriage. It is out of love for God that I admit our failings and desperate need for his strength and peace in our lives. And it is out of love for you that I’d rather give you an honest picture of our marriage and our need for prayer than let you think for one minute that we have it all together. And in return, I want to bear your burdens and lift up your prayers, too. There’s no reason for us to walk through life alone.

Grant and I are so, so new to this whole marriage thing, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have encouragement or some wisdom to give. We have found that there is value in listening to honest novices, just as there is value in listening to the experienced. Both of these acts open our hearts to each other and give us more opportunities to learn, relate, and love. I am not ashamed to admit that much of the wisdom I feel as though I have on the subject of relationships and marriage has just been passed down to me from my amazing parents and grandparents. Some conclusions I have come to on my own, but I have always welcomed help and advice from those who have come before me. I am a better woman and wife for it. You would be a better woman and wife for it, too. Find those people who will be honest with you and provide you real pictures of marriage and life. It will help you battle the lies that we all end up having to face.

I love getting to share my life with my husband, but I also love getting to share my life with other women. Thank you for allowing me to do so and for also extending grace when I am not doing so well. In a way, I get the best of both worlds — a man who has come alongside me and women to encourage me to stay there (all laughs aside, this statement rings quite true). Don’t be a stranger, my friends. We could all use some friendship these days, including this one newlywed right here.

Take the Pressure Off: A Guest Post by Allie Shirley

Allie Shirley is a twenty-three-year-old, Jesus-loving entrepreneur, chasing after the dream Jesus has now brought to a reality. Marque Modest Apparel is a company set out to proclaim the name of Jesus, to rebrand modesty, and to inspire others to dream again. Aside from being a business owner, Allie is a mom to a Miniature Schnauzer named Emmie, has a passion for adoption, and is obsessed with sweet tea. To check out more from Allie, visit Marque Modest Blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram for updates on her latest posts.

A note from Allie: I pray that something shared in this blog post will encourage you, inspire you, and bring you a little freedom as you continue to walk with our precious Savior.

SPRING

Take the Pressure Off

As women we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to have things all together all the time when in reality those are unrealistic expectations for anyone. Yet we put those standards on ourselves daily and it leaves us feeling like we aren’t good enough or even depressed.

I know these feelings all too well because as much as I don’t like to admit it, I’m a perfectionist and an over-thinker. I get upset if my hair and makeup don’t look flawless, I obsess over my company being perfect, and I even try to put on a really good front before God that I have everything all together. Instead of coming before Him with my brokenness, I try to stand before Him like some supernatural human that can handle herself.

I don’t know what battle you are facing, whether it be comparison, materialism, perfectionism, or a slew of other things, but I do know we can take the pressure off. Jesus never meant for it to be there in the first place. He wants us to come as we are, to give ourselves grace for today and to live our lives in a way that is honoring to Him.

The day He went to the Cross He bought us our freedom from any insecurity, any shame, and any self-doubt. We can be confident in knowing that even when things are messy and even when our lives are broken that He is holding it all together. He is making our crooked path straight.

I could go on for days about what we deal with on a daily basis as women, but instead I would rather encourage you with truth. His Word is the only thing that can set you free from whatever is entangling you; I can only encourage you to seek that freedom.

Here are some of my favorite Scriptures that I pray encourage you to take a step toward finding freedom in him.

Come As You Are:

Matthew 11:28

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Anxiety Be Gone:

Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Freedom in Jesus:

Galatians 5:1

“It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free. STAND FIRM, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Psalm 119:45

“I will walk about in FREEDOM, for I have sought out your precepts.”

Peace that Passes Understanding:

Isaiah 26:3

“You will keep in PERFECT PEACE those whose minds are steadfast, because they TRUST in You.”

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If you truly want to take the pressure off and be set free from whatever you are bound by, the Word of God is where you will find that freedom.

Praying that each of you will find your identity, security, self-worth, value, and ultimately your freedom in Jesus alone. The world can’t give you what Jesus can. Run to Him; His arms are wide open.

. . . . .

A note from Jessie: this week, I am part of a guest blog loop with the Bloggish community. Allie is a part of the Bloggish community with her blog at Marque Modest Apparel, where you can read more of her posts and check out her clothing line. To read a guest post written by me, check out To Raise an Ebenezer. Continue to follow the links to read more posts and find bloggers you love! Happy reading!

When All of My Flaws Are Laid Out One by One

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Photo by Liliya via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/d9Wb99)

When all of your flaws and all of my flaws

are laid out one by one

The wonderful part of the mess that we made

We pick ourselves undone

“Flaws” — Bastille

There’s something about vulnerability (okay, A LOT of things) that I still don’t understand. Like why it’s so dang hard.

Today I was asked why I want to get married, and instead of giving the shorthand answer, “we feel like it’s the next step” or the hyper-spiritual answer, “because God says it’s not good for man to be alone, etc,” I gave the real one.

I want to get married because I know I can’t do as much on my own as I can with Grant. He brings the best out of me (and sometimes the worst) and I bring the best out of him (and sometimes his worst). We are compatible — not because we are the same and we perfectly relate, but because he and I are amazed at how many ways we are able to complement each other.

But for some reason, despite the truth of this statement, there’s still so much holding me back in my relationship. I can see the fruit that comes from being vulnerable. I have experienced the warmth of his support and encouragement in times of honest communication. Yet there are some topics I deem “off-limits,” some things I veer away from.

I was discussing how difficult it can be for me to be vulnerable with Grant with my counselor today, and she pointed out that I don’t usually feel this way with my girlfriends. I love sharing all things with my friends; I can be messy and explicit and wear my heart on my sleeve with those people.

With Grant it’s a different story. And it’s a different story because romantic relationships and marriages seem so much more risky to me. They’re risky and frightening because they’re supposed to be permanent, but sometimes they aren’t. Like the time I was dumped by my ex-boyfriend when I thought we would soon be getting engaged. They’re scary because you want them to last, but there are some things out of your control. Like the times I thought Grant and I could instantly resolve arguments and we could both wake up as new people who would stop hurting each other.

I’ve always had the philosophy, “friends come and go, but relationships are forever.” And I know that that’s counterintuitive to those who preach “bros before hoes” and “chicks before… well you know.” But that’s just the way this hopeless romantic has always felt. I’ve always put romantic relationships above friendships. I somehow understood the sacred nature of marriage long before I really knew God’s intent for it.

And here I am — about to get married, about to really put those philosophies into action, about to commit myself to what I deem permanent.

And I’m kinda, sorta terrified.

Because yes… this is for forever.

And what if that thing Grant says he loves about me he no longer loves tomorrow?

What if the stuff I tell him today he uses against me next week?

What if the issues I have now that he says he will support me through will one day end up destroying what we have?

What if the things I ask him to fix for us he never ends up fixing?

But here’s what I’m needing to be reminded of: I will never be able to see my vision for marriage — that beautiful union where each partner learns to bring the best out of the other — if I do not let Grant see ALL OF ME.

How can we grow together in our walk with Christ if I remove him from all things pertaining to my walk with Christ?

How can he encourage me to become my best self when I’m only showing him the parts I think he’ll like or the parts that mistakenly slip out?

If I’m really going to benefit from this union, if I’m really going to have the best marriage I could possibly imagine, I’m going to have to make a choice day after day.

I’m going to have to choose to be seen.

My friends, I know that there are so many secrets we are still holding onto, so many fears we’re still afraid of sharing. We’re embarrassed to admit our weaknesses and we cling tightly to our flaws instead of bare them in front of the ones we say we love.

But how can people love us if they don’t know who we are?

How can people support us if they don’t know where we are weak?

How can people lift us up when they don’t know that we have fallen?

Vulnerability does not come easy for most of us, but it IS possible.

I have to believe that it’s possible; otherwise, why am I getting married? It would all be for nothing. Because no glory can come to God through two people promising partnership when there is no actual partnership. No Christ-like love can be shown through a marriage that is still comprised of two people hiding behind defense mechanisms.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22).

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:25).

I am making the commitment to submit myself to Grant. This does not mean I am a servant to be stepped on. This does not mean I will no longer be seen. It’s the exact opposite, actually. I submit myself to Grant by allowing myself to be seen, by making myself vulnerable and trusting that he will not harm me.

And if Grant will hold up his end of the bargain (which I believe he will), he will love me with the same unconditional, all-knowing, grace-saturated love that Christ loves me with.

This is what I want our marriage to be founded on — this idea that we can love and serve each other boldly and with vulnerability.

But I have to start making the choice to do so now.

Will you please pray with me as I venture into the unknown, as I lay down my pride and fears and allow my partner to see me as I am?

And today, will you please allow yourself to be seen? Will you let yourself believe that you have things to offer this world, and the world has things to offer to you?

Because life without love, or rather life without vulnerability, is no life at all.

And I want you to live. I want you to live with all you have, with all the gusto you can muster. Love boldly. Love unashamedly. Love wisely. And let yourself be loved in return.