Today feels a little surreal. We are entering a new chapter of our marriage (though it’s NOT parenthood) and it officially started yesterday. It’s crazy how life as we know it can change in just a matter of moments. For us, it was a matter of two days. In two days, a few doors were officially closed. And one opened. All I can say is our God is good. And He truly does direct our steps.
Yesterday, my husband, best friend, provider and protector, hero and leader, became the property of the United States. He is officially in the Navy and I could not be more proud of his decision. But it did not come without cost. As many know, Jordan has dreamed for years of becoming a Navy SEAL. And for the past year, we have felt the Lord leading us in this direction. I can even say he transformed my own heart from being totally against it to completely supportive, even looking forward to the challenges and opportunities it would bring. My husband is incredibly determined, honorable, strong and able-bodied. I have no doubt he would have made an excellent Navy SEAL.
For months we have prayed diligently, encouraged by family and friends who were also taking this to the Lord everyday. Jordan has been training, spending hours in the pool, studying in the evenings, listening to audio books, watching documentaries, talking with current SEALS and past SEALS. He even had lasik eye surgery in the fall and now has PERFECT vision. He was ready and eager. But for one small thing. He is color blind. And there is currently no corrective treatment available for color blindness.
Yesterday, Jordan learned that he is disqualified from the SEALS and a whole list of other available jobs – though he does qualify with his test scores and overall health. At first it felt like a blow. Very few men have a desire to pursue the SEALS, or possess the mental and physical ability necessary to be a SEAL. We believed for the past year that the Lord was preparing the both of us for this career. And yesterday, all our thoughts, plans and preparations came tumbling down.
But despite all of that, an opportunity did present itself and though it was not what we expected, it is clearly what God has planned.
“A man’s heart plans his way BUT THE LORD directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9).”
So yesterday, my husband became government property and is now a Navy man. We now have a set date for bootcamp and some idea of what the next year may look like. But there are still SO many unknowns and to be honest, that’s a little scary.
We asked God for direction and He made it so clear that His plans are different from our own. We can mourn the loss of a dream, or we can praise Him for His answer and provision of a new one. Though my initial reaction was disappointment, I awoke this morning refreshed with a different outlook. Imagine if Jordan had dozens of jobs to choose from. That would have been overwhelming. Instead, there was only one option. A clear path. An obvious choice.
“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot
The Lord has brought so many people into our lives who have been through this very thing. And I’m eager to learn from the wise women I know and will meet who can offer advice for what I’m about to encounter as a Navy wife.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).”
I’m a little hesitant to be one of the hundreds (possibly thousands) of bloggers who have devoted time, anger, frustration, profanity, wisdom and foolishness to a topic that has literally taken over the Internet in the past 25 days: yoga pants.
For those of you who haven’t stumbled upon this virtual controversy, it all started when blogger Veronica Partridge wrote a blog post about how she personally (personally being the key word here) — after talking with her husband — decided not to wear yoga pants in public anymore.
Interestingly, she clarified that this is a personal decision at the very beginning of her post. She was not attempting to sway an entire culture of public yoga pant wearers. Nor did she verbally berate or judge those who continue to do so. She made a very short, public declaration that she personally feels wearing yoga pants could potentially be a stumbling block to the other men around her. She is especially sensitive to this because she is married. Because of her personal conviction, she decided to do something about it. Since her blog is public and society can be very antagonistic, the post immediately garnered reactions from every perspective and opinion imaginable. But maybe that’s to be expected. Maybe she shouldn’t have posted such a private decision so publicly.
But let’s be honest, the Internet is full of crazy, opinionated people who blog about much more offensive, crass, irrelevant, simply stupid and off-the-cuff topics than yoga pants.
Veronica’s blog post was neither offensive, unethical, immoral or even theologically inaccurate. Her post went viral and was the immediate target of mockery, cruelty, anger and hostility. The feminists came out to clamor that it is men who are responsible for lusting after women wearing tight yoga pants, and yet others pointed out that men are just as sexual but “you don’t hear us complaining about it, we just avert our eyes – why can’t you?” At the same time, many were in favor or her post, rose to her defense, and lamented the rise of an immodest and seductive culture.
Honestly, I can understand the liberal rabble rousers taking cheap shots. That’s what they do. And of course liberals (and especially non-Christians) do no grasp the importance of modesty in a world that’s becoming increasingly comfortable with all levels of immodesty (which goes far beyond wearing mere yoga pants). I’m also not surprised by the vocal feminists who want to assign all blame of lust to the men, and become more adamant than ever to continue wearing yoga pants “because it’s my right, by golly.” But sadly, I am surprised by the vociferous and even obnoxious opinions of Christian and conservative bloggers (mainly women) who have been so quick to discount this woman’s personal convictions because they themselves do not share them.
So I’m going to add my two cents (though Lord knows the universe doesn’t need yet another opinion about this).
The issue of modesty is a widely debated topic. I have my own personal opinions for sure. But I am not going to argue in favor for or against this particular form of athletic wear or any other piece of apparel for that matter. I think that would be an absurd waste of time and I don’t think that was ever the intention of Veronica when she broached the subject a few weeks ago.
As Christians, we are free from legalistic bondage in Christ. But despite that freedom, we are exhorted to be cautious as we are like sheep, easily swayed by popular opinion to the point of becoming hostile ourselves to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
If Veronica is convicted, and her husband affirms, that her yoga pants are in fact a stumbling block then it would be a sin for her not to follow through on that conviction. We might not all share her conviction, but let us not become so caught up in our “rights as women,” our “rights to comfortable garb” and even “anger at lustful men” that we cannot appreciate, respect and support our sister in Christ for a conviction that is Biblically founded (a key point here).
Romans 14 says we ought to “be fully convinced in our own minds.”
And later in verse 10:
“ You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”
Matthew Henry so wisely expounded on this verse and said, “The business of our lives is not to please ourselves, but to please God. That is true Christianity, which makes Christ all in all. Though Christians are of different strength, capacities, and practices in lesser things, yet they are all the Lord’s; all are looking and serving, and approving themselves to Christ. He is Lord of those that are living, to rule them; of those that are dead, to revive them, and raise them up. Christians should not judge or despise one another, because both the one and the other must shortly give an account.”
Why are Christians jumping on the bandwagon of ridicule and casting judgment towards a woman who has been convinced in her mind, according to scripture and with the support of her husband, that she ought to stop wearing yoga pants? It bears the question, are Christians mocking, ridiculing and reacting angrily to a woman who has given up yoga pants because they think her conviction is unfounded? Is she a heretic? Are her views dangerous and blasphemous? OR are they reacting antagonistically because they too are convicted about their own attire, habits and personal choices and are personally uncomfortable by Veronica’s unpopular stance?
If our Lord views sexual sin as drastically as He does (Matthew 5:28) and exhorts purity with such esteem (1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Colossians 3:5, Psalm 119: 1-10), should we not also be at least willing to examine our own selves and determine if we are walking, dressing, speaking and living in purity? Isn’t that our calling as women?
Elisabeth Elliot said, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.”
Oh that we would look different.
Our culture is increasingly, with each passing day, becoming more publicly lascivious. In fact it’s so common that often we don’t recognize how bad it is. We know we live in a world dominated by sin and as a result, we’ll never be rid of it. But we can still make an impact in a sex-crazed culture. It’s not something that will change overnight. It’s quite possibly something we’ll never see diminish in our lifetime. But how can we expect the culture to take a dramatic shift towards the moral high ground if we as Christians are not willing to do that ourselves? Yes, it’s just yoga pants. But for some Christians it’s also skimpy bathing suits, poor language, drunkenness, sex outside of marriage, divorce, rebellion, unloving and judgmental hearts, the list goes on. If we look no different to a world teeming with lust and depravity, how can we ever hope to combat it?
As Christian women, our measurement is holiness, something we can never perfectly achieve but must continue to strive for.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
It’s sad that so many Christians do not see the depth of this woman’s conviction. Only God knows the heart, but judging by her words she appears to genuinely desire to live above reproach. It’s a little thing, but it’s an area of her life she is willing to surrender, and even feels obligated to give it up. Mock and scoff all you want, but we are solely responsible for our own hearts. God cares not for the clothes we’re desperately convinced we ought to wear but rather the motives behind our convictions. Do we desire purity above all else? Or do we just want to fit in?
This indeed is something we should all ponder…
“If your goal is purity of heart, be prepared to be thought very odd (Elisabeth Elliot).”
Nearly a month ago, after barely surviving a sugar-filled, and casserole-laden Christmas season, I realized some practical moderation in the area of food consumption would most likely be in my best interest.
The funny thing with food is that you don’t realize it’s become a problem until it’s already a problem. I thought I was doing well. I work at a food co-op for goodness sakes! I ran a half marathon one time…months ago. I never go to McDonald’s and I can’t remember the last time I drank a soda. Plus, I work out A LOT!
But something wasn’t right. And I don’t just mean I had a few pounds to lose. I was tired all the time. Waking up was challenging, falling asleep was challenging, staying awake throughout the day was challenging!
Enter Paleo (recently popularized), and known as the ancient diet of our “caveman ancestors.” Which literally means we can eat whatever the cavemen could successfully forage in the wilderness. Apparently cavemen didn’t have access to cows, or wheat or beans…who knew?
Some people call this the bacon diet, because bacon is allowed. But I would gladly offer up all the bacon in the universe if I could just have my delicious bread and pasta back.
Let me tell you, it’s been rough.
I had a breakdown Friday when, hungry and bored with salad, I nearly burst into tears. I went home and ate a sweet potato. And that has basically been my life for the past 26 days.
“Hello, my name is Sarah and I haven’t had bread in 26 days…”
But I digress… this post is not just one of thousands of blog posts out there talking about the pros and cons of Paleo.
Whether or not I continue with Paleo isn’t really the issue. It’s not really that important. I’m not writing this to reveal before and after pictures or to gain sympathy from my readers who are currently sinking their teeth in a giant cinnamon roll (my food of choice).
Rather, I’m realizing that though this bread-free diet is a small thing, it’s still a hard thing.
A couple of years ago, several teens and young adults in our church started going through the book “Do Hard Things” by Brett and Alex Harris. The book is a charge to youth (especially) to oppose a culture of laziness by purposefully seeking out the more difficult and challenging things in life. This could be as simple as putting down a video game to help your mom with the dishes. Or taking the time to say “hello” to a stranger. Or looking for ways to serve your church. Or leaving the comfort of home to go on short-term missions trips. Or giving your Christmas money to a person in need. The possibilities are endless. The charge is serious. Do hard things. Start small. Make it a lifelong goal.
So I spent a day complaining inwardly about something that is actually good for me spiritually (funny how that works). How can I be faithful to fast (for instance), if I can’t even give up bread? How can I be faithful to pray for others, if I don’t even make personal time with the Lord? How can I faithfully serve the church if I’m barely even in the church?
There’s a lot to ponder here.
My mom always said (especially on days when I didn’t do my chores), that “he who is faithful in the small things will be faithful in the big things.”
How will we learn to eat if we are NEVER hungry?
I have wasted time thinking about my physical hunger, and failed to realize my spiritual hunger. I am hungry! But I’m hungry for so much more than bread, and cheese and cinnamon rolls. I’m hungry for truth and I’m desperate to be used for His glory, to do hard things, to look for opportunities, to be a blessing.
SO completely by accident, my 26 days of going without has brought me back to the theme that has encompassed my life for the past few years, inspired by Elisabeth Elliot, and reinforced by the things the Lord has brought me through and the lessons He has taught me:
“We need to learn to live by the supernatural. Ordinary fare will not fill the emptiness in our hearts…How else will we learn to eat it, if we are never hungry? How educate our tastes for heavenly things if we are surfeited with earthly?”
So rather than dwell on whatever hard things I may be enduring and treating them as obstacles, I want to view every single hard thing (minor and big) as opportunities to be “discontent with ordinary fare.” I want to truly learn how to hunger for the Supernatural, so much more than how I hunger for earthly bread and cheese.
I want to be spiritually hungry so that I can learn to spiritually eat.
For the past few years, my family has made an effort to gather together around the new year and go over past goals and make new ones. There’s something about a new year. Like Anne Shirley said in Anne of Green Gables, each new day is a fresh start with no mistakes in it (yet). That’s how I feel about new years. They provide opportunities to dream big, hopefully develop new habits and achieve reasonable, healthy goals.
I have to admit, however, most years I don’t get very far. In January, I’m amongst the crowd at 6 a.m. clamoring to jump on the treadmills and kick start my new running plan. But by February, my gym attendance is drastically down and my calorie intake is up!
Last year was different though. In 2014 I decided to stop making empty promises of running half marathons and just go ahead and sign up. If I spent $100, there was no way I wouldn’t go through with it. In January 2014, I’d never run more than six miles at one time. But running is more mental than physical, so they say. I was certain if I could run six, I could run 13.1. In April, I ran my first 10-mile race – the Tar Heel Ten Miler in Chapel Hill. It was a gorgeous day and I felt amazing. Until mile eight. The dreaded quarter of a mile straight up what appeared to be a towering mountain nearly killed me. But by golly, I finished. My legs were like jello, but I finished! One month later, on a dreary and chilly Sunday in May, I completed my half marathon goal – a full seven months ahead of schedule! I didn’t realize until that day just how many hills there are in Greensboro. And by the end of it I was like a ravenous wolf, just dying for waffles and a very long nap. Goal complete. It felt so good!
I haven’t run many long distances since then. But January is officially here and I have once again set a few self goals. I learned I’m capable of far more than I think I am. I also learned races are fun and the t-shirts are a nice perk! I also have a very athletic husband who drags me with him to the YMCA, the Tobacco Trail in Durham, the Glencoe Trail along the Haw River and just about anywhere he can find to get a run in.
I write all this to say, goal setting can be a great idea. And by goal setting, I also mean planning. Having a goal and developing a plan to follow through is imperative. Want to run a half marathon? There are so many available weekly running plans on Pinterest and the Internet for whatever level you may be at. Want to lose weight (in a healthy and natural way)? Make a meal plan, create a grocery list and hit the gym (if you’re able)! Maybe you want to memorize more scripture or read through the whole Bible in the coming year. In this day and age, there are hundreds of helpful guides and even apps! So set a goal, make a plan and follow through!
Of course I am preaching to the choir, as I’m not the most organized person in the world and I really dislike planning. But I have seen how the lack of planning in my own life has attributed to many past failed goals! So this year, Lord willing, one of my many goals is to be more organized. And I’m going to start by purchasing a really pretty planner 🙂
I want my goals to be healthy and to provide some much needed discipline in my life. I don’t want to make a long list of unrealistic and petty goals. But I do want to set the bar high (in some regards) because I need to be pushed. I need to do hard things, whether that’s waking up early, eliminating sugar, spending more time in prayer, running further distances, or being more willing and available to serve the needs of others.
I have so much growth ahead of me and I hope this will be a great year for it. I want to stop wasting time, and instead concentrate on the things in life that truly matter:
- Read through the Bible
- Read more books
- Pray faithfully for my husband
- Journal intentionally
- Write more letters to people
- Wake up earlier
- Eat more vegetables
- Run more races
- Build my Etsy business
- Draw something everyday
- Make art
- Be creative
- Be all there
I can’t believe that we have arrived at New Year’s Eve. Is 2014 truly almost over? It’s true…life passes quickly the older we get. I feel like I’ll blink and discover Jordan and I have been married for a decade!
As crazy as it is that we’re on the cusp of a new year, I’m also incredibly thankful. 2015 is a blank canvas, with a vast array of possibilities and new opportunities. We spent our first year together dreaming and praying about a future we only could only partially anticipate. And now, with January looming just hours away, those dreams and visions may indeed become reality very soon.
God’s timing is always, always, always best.
One year ago, I could not have anticipated the way our life would pan out. We’d been married for nearly two months. I was working in Greensboro and Jordan was working in Burlington. We were busy with my long commute and his heavy workload. I was weary of the corporate, cubicle environment, tired of the drive and longing for more time with my new husband and more opportunities for creativity. I felt so stifled!
(I’m thankful for the few snow storms we did have because they provided some much needed extra time together we otherwise would not have had).
Somehow, we made it six months of barely seeing each other (at least that’s how it felt). And finally a new job opened up for me, 10 minutes from home and just down the street from Jordan’s workplace. My new job has been infinitely better on our marriage. I’m off by four with time to hit the gym and make dinner almost every night. I spend every day in historic downtown Burlington. I absolutely adore downtowns and I’m thrilled to be working here, surrounded by some of the original architecture from decades past. Our house, though often untidy, is in much better shape than before. Our puppy Lucy basks in the additional attention she now receives. And I finally have time to spend on crafty projects, and dream about future endeavors. We now have lunch together every week, and he often stops by at random just to say hello. Sometimes I bring him coffee and leave notes on his car window. I’ve realized what an incredible privilege it is to finally work close to my husband. I feel safer, secure and content.
2014 was busy, but not terribly so. We traveled a little, completed some home projects, painted to add color to what was once a very brown bachelor pad, watched a lot of The Office, attempted a garden, adopted our sweet puppy, spent a lot of time with our wonderful families, went hiking, ran a few races, did a lot of laundry, experimented with homemade pizza and cinnamon rolls, discovered some new places, studied The Word together, and fell even more deeply in love.
At any rate, we’re entering 2015 like everyone else. Ushering the new year with friendship, laughter and probably a lot of yawning because we’re older now and staying up until midnight isn’t so easy anymore.
So, here’s my tribute to 2015! A year full of more accomplished goals (I hope), spiritual growth, more Bible reading, many, many more memories, lots of good coffee, tons of hugs and more laughter than tears.
Sunday afternoon (an unseasonably warm afternoon compared to last year’s very, very cold one), my husband and I celebrated our one year anniversary with buttery, cranberry pancakes, tree shopping, decorating and Home Alone II.
How is it possible that our four-month long engagement felt like an eternity, but one year of wedded bliss flew by? I still feel like a newly wed, still struggling (even a year later) to figure out this whole married thing. There are days when I find this struggle discouraging. Why is it so hard to serve my husband, put him first, die to myself and listen to him (rather than run him over with my opinions)?
And then I remember that I am human and for 25 years I lived husband-free.
For 25 years, I had no earthly idea what marriage would feel like. I only knew what I observed from my parents and others around me. As I grew older, I witnessed couple after couple, leave their eras of singleness and enter new eras of matrimony. Most of these couples didn’t “practice” marriage beforehand.
Jordan and I didn’t “practice” being married either. Even now, as a less naïve adult, I’m still astounded by the increasing number of people who opt for shacking up over marriage. Just this week, I overheard a group of older gentlemen talking amongst themselves over breakfast about how essential it is to “test the waters” before committing to someone. One even quipped, “after all, you need to know how she’s going to roll the toilet paper.”
I so badly wanted to turn around and interject.
Those petty annoyances, quirks and bad habits that come hand in hand with being human, are not enough reason to disregard the beauty of marriage for a fake imitation of the real thing.
By choosing not to practice marriage, Jordan and I knew we were taking a risk. He had no idea, for instance, that I have a bad habit of leaving gobs of toothpaste in the sink and that I always forget to clean the lint out of the dryer. He didn’t know that I’m most comfortable when the temperature is set to 80 degrees in the winter, or that I hog the covers at night. He didn’t know that I hit the snooze button 12 times before waking up, or that I drool in my sleep, or that I would take over his entire closet because I own far too many shoes. And there are so, so many things I didn’t know about him (like how he listens to the same songs over, and over, and over again and washes my clothes – almost every time – in hot water, and keeps empty drinking glasses in the refrigerator and chews with his mouth open, etc.).
We were in for so many surprises when we said I do. It could have been bad, I mean, what if he couldn’t handle being married to a woman who forgets to empty the dryer lint?
In one of our pre-martial counseling videos, the pastor made a very interesting statement that has stuck with me since. He said no one is compatible.
I hadn’t really considered that before. I assumed since Jordan and I loved each other and wanted to honor the Lord in our marriage that inherently made us compatible. But truly, we are two incredibly flawed human beings capable of great selfishness, disrespect and unloving tendencies.
We fail more than we get it right.
We struggle daily with incompatibility. The world would say maybe we should have “practiced” first.
Honestly, this past year has been one of the hardest of my entire life. I’ve never hurt so deeply or been so disappointed. But it’s not my husband who has caused the hurt (not that he hasn’t ever hurt my feelings), but nine times out of 10, I’ve been broken hearted by the sin that has been exposed in my own life. Now my husband knows the truth: I am not easy to live with, I fail daily and I’m not compatible. It goes beyond forgetting to clean the lint from the dryer. Marriage has made me completely vulnerable. And under any other conditions, with any less commitment and without a covenant of marriage, one or both of us, in an imitation “practice” marriage would not have lasted this past year.
Because love, true love, Christ-like love requires death. And death hurts.
That’s why imitation marriage isn’t marriage at all. Living with someone doesn’t make you committed. There’s no charge to die, no expectation to sacrifice.
Elisabeth Elliot wrote, so wisely that “it is impossible to love deeply without sacrifice.”
If I have learned anything this year, it is that.
I’m thankful for the heartbreak of sin, without it I wouldn’t understand the significance of Jordan’s love for me. He doesn’t love me because I deserve it, or because I do things right, or because I make him dinner, or because he’s attracted to me, or because we’re compatible. He loves me for my imperfections, regardless of our incompatibility, and in spite of my deepest sins. He married me without knowing what he would find.
He took a leap.
He led me to the minefields.
Loving another human being sacrificially is not a natural act. The beauty of marriage is that it provides grounds for continued patience, the opportunity to try and fail time and time again. It’s a farce to think anyone can ever achieve compatibility and it’s a travesty that so many choose imitation marriage instead of the real thing. Marriage isn’t easy. With marriage comes the opportunity to die many “little deaths” (as Elisabeth Elliot said) every day.
But this death is not to be mourned. It’s a glorious death. It’s a sacrificial death. And that death is holy.
“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” ~ C.S. Lewis