Unsure of Ourselves

I was feeling the pull last week to write about marriage, being our one year anniversary and all. But what on earth do we have to say, 12 teeny, tiny months into an institution that has been around for thousands of years? What do we even know about marriage?

Well, not much!

Okay, that’s not entirely true. We had an excellent six months or so of marriage counseling and a lifetime of societal examples to prepare us. However, like most anything in life, you have no idea what you’re getting into until you’re actually in it.

And boy did we have a lot of adjusting to do when we came home from our honeymoon.

What were we going to cook for the week? And who was going to cook?
Where were we going to tithe?
What time did we need to get up in the morning so that we could both get to work on time?
When would we see our friends?
Would we go to the same small group or separate ones?
Who was going to clean the bathroom?
What was our budget going to look like?

In fact, we’re still figuring out almost all of these things. There was no manual waiting in our mailbox telling us what would work and what would make us crazy.

As we settled into our new life, we had to adjust to each other, unrealistic expectations and all. It’s not that we thought the other person was going to be perfect all the time but are you ever really prepared for the first time your spouse fails you in some way? Or how about when you fail your spouse? Or when you don’t agree on a big decision? What about when you are so fed up with having to share your space or your time or your money?

We get upset. We resent. We collect hurts and then we fire them off like ammo the next time we are provoked.

And if we’re not careful, we find ourselves digging our heels into that place of hurt and disappointment; leaping back to it at the slightest offense. We allow the enemy to infiltrate our hearts and attempt to weaken the union God has created in our marriage.

I didn’t know what Tyler and I had to say about marriage until this statement from a book I’m reading (The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness) jumped off the page at me:

“So when it comes to identity, modern people have things completely back to front: Professing to be unsure of God, they pretend to be sure of themselves. Followers of Christ put things the other way around: Unsure of ourselves, we are sure of God.

Let’s be honest here. Tyler and I are unsure of who we are as individuals and also who we are as a married couple. We can’t promise that we will always be patient or kind to each other. We can’t promise that we will always love Indian food or watching football on Sunday. And we can’t promise that we will always agree on the big decisions in life. Tyler and I know that we are going to fail each other. We are human. We sin.

We don’t know what God has planned for us or what He might be pruning within us. But we are sure of Him and His promise for our lives. He already proved to us how His love doesn’t fail.

In those moments where I want to scream at Tyler (or in the moments after I do), I have the ultimate marriage counselor to go to… prayer is our 24/7 marriage hotline. But I have to humble myself to make that call. I’m not going to pretend that every time Tyler and I have a fight, we stop in the middle of it and fall on our knees in prayer. It’s not easy to let go of the anger, disappointment or resentment that we feel. Or to admit that one of us was wrong. Or that we don’t know how to fix the problem ourselves.

But we know that God gives us an abundant grace that covers our sins again and again.

We both believe that Jesus died for our sins and that we have a new life in Him. In accepting His grace, we are made new. Every single time. I can’t think of a more effective form of couple’s therapy. Can you?

So one year into marriage, this is what we have to share: God is the only thing we can be sure of in this very uncertain world.

And honestly, what a relief.  We don’t have to have this whole marriage thing figured out on our own.

Phew!

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Sunday Thoughts

1. Spoiler Alert: Do you watch Parenthood? It is one of the few shows Tyler and I make sure to record every week. This past week, one of the characters found out she had breast cancer. It was a very dramatic scene at the end of the episode with no dialogue, just music; the character is alone with the doctor finding out her diagnosis and then in the next scene, telling her husband. The shock, the fear… it was all too familiar, I knew exactly what those characters would have felt if they were in real life.

I was so overcome with emotion, I almost couldn’t breathe.  I am wondering if we have not fully dealt with what we went through this past spring/early summer. Tyler said to me that it all feels like a bad dream. We have marched on to the next chapter in our life with no fear or timidity. But sometimes, a news headline, an anecdote or a scene in a TV show reminds us of the nightmare we walked through.

There’s no question God carried us through with a supernatural grace. Now we have to figure out what it means to continue walking in faith and not in denial.

2. Risk has come up several times during Threshold. Specifically, the best stories involve risk. Tyler and I are both fairly risk-averse. We love to plan, we are OCD about our budget and we are generally just rule-following kind of people. What about you? What might be holding you back from telling a really good story with your life? Finances, fear of failure, lack of confidence, fear of the unknown… there are lots of different ways we might be “getting in our own way.” I’m pretty sure Threshold will be leading us to take some risks in the next few months. Eek!!

3. The sermon this morning touched a little on what I blogged about last week though not in regards to the election, more just general response to government/secular culture by Christians. I want to share the following verse from the book of Romans as a reminder of what’s important as things start to heat up in the coming weeks:

Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:8

Isn’t that kind of a relief? With all the issues, candidates, and controversy, the only thing we really need to make sure we do is love our neighbor.

Why do we make that so difficult?

4. And on that note… this song. (“By Our Love”, Christy Nockels)

“The time is now
Come Church arise…
Love with His hands
See with His eyes…
Bind it around you,
Let it never leave you,
And they will know us by our love…”

The time is now. Praying you all receive that love from someone this week <3

The Gift of Community

Community is a remarkable thing. It’s defined as a group of people who live in the same area or with a common background or shared interests. But there’s a type of community that goes deeper than shared interests or location. It’s the collective action that emerges in difficult situations: large scale catastrophes like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina or local tragedies like a young woman fighting to stay alive

We were designed with the purpose to love our neighbors as ourselves and there’s something in our hearts that compels us to act on the behalf of others. I see it every day on my Facebook and Twitter feeds – people speaking out for the vulnerable, praising others for their good deeds and encouraging both friends and strangers to keep reaching for their dreams. Some people devote their life’s work to these great acts of community. Others come forward in the most critical hour of need. And still others contribute life-giving service in small trickles throughout their lives. 

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:9-10

We have been blessed with a very special community through this season. The oncology team at Newton Wellesley Hospital provided a level of care that greatly exceeded our expectations. Our employers generously supported us and the many hours and days we had to take off from our jobs. A church in Maine prayed over a prayer cloth for Tyler and mailed it to us in Boston so that Tyler could receive anointing from a distance.

Many of you reading this post have also played a vital part in our story. You prayed with us, cooked for us, sent us care packages, visited us, made us laugh, washed our dishes and even installed an air conditioner (thanks Matt!). You, as our community, walked each step of this journey with us. For this, and for all the ways you continue to participate in our story, we are eternally grateful.

We want to pay this gift of community forward. As I mentioned in my last post, we are running the Maine Half Marathon on September 30th. Back in April, just before Tyler started chemotherapy, we had the privilege of watching our friend Mike run the Boston Marathon to raise support for a great organization called Cradles to Crayons. While we were watching the race, we saw a man run by with a shirt that read:

“Stage Three Brain Cancer. And Never Giving Up.”

My eyes well with tears every time I think back to this moment. I’ll never forget the look on Tyler’s face. I could just see the encouragement rising within him. Seeing that, in the midst of a huge crowd of people all cheering in support for others, many whom were running for incredible non-profits… it changed us.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always been a little hesitant about races and “a-thon’s” being an effective way to raise money and make a difference. And while I do still wish that people would put their hands to work in addition to their feet and wallets, I now understand the power of these events.

For us, a half-marathon is a BIG stretch. Logic and research point to the likelihood that we will not be able to run even half the race. (Okay, maybe we should have picked a 10K first…) Much like marriage, race training is hard work! I’ve already had an injury and we’ve had a few “fight runs” as I like to call them. But we will finish the race on September 30th, even if we are the last ones limping across that finish line, because we believe in the power of working together for good, no matter how many obstacles come before us.

To honor the community who has coached us along the way of our own cancer journey, we will be fundraising for the Cancer Community Center in Maine for the duration of our training for the half-marathon. The Cancer Community Center is a non-profit organization located in South Portland, Maine. The CCC offers a wide array of resources and services to cancer patients and their families, free of charge. Tyler and I understand that cancer is a complex condition that presents a unique set of challenges for each patient. No one’s experience is the same and we are impressed with the comprehensive and diverse support that CCC provides to the community. Whether a patient is looking for a support group, an exercise class tailored to a cancer patient’s needs or more information on a specific condition, CCC has it all. For free!

Giving back is important to us and we feel that by supporting the Cancer Community Center, not only will we be contributing financially to an important organization, we will be paying it forward to the many patients and families who will walk their own cancer journey. A strong, supportive community is just as important in fighting cancer as doctors, nutrition, and treatment therapies. We invite you to join us in bringing awareness and support to this organization that serves a critical need for cancer patients in Maine.

If you would like to participate in our fundraising efforts, please visit our page at the CCC’s StayClassy fundraising site: http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=207888

Tyler and I would like to find other ways of serving the cancer community and will post our findings on this blog. If you have experience with this, we would love to share your story of service.

Thank you for participating in our story. Your comments encourage us and your prayers lift us up. We thank God for our wonderful community and pray for a ripple effect in each of your unique networks.

God bless!

For the Father Who So Loved the World

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
John 3:16-17

I am not a parent so I don’t yet understand what it’s like to raise and love my own child. But I have observed the pain of my own parents dealing with tragedy for their children and seen how deep it hurts Tyler’s parents to watch him suffer through his cancer diagnosis.

The Lord our God knows the sacrifice and deep emotions of parenting from the inside out: He sacrificed His Son so that we could have eternal life.

(Or in the words of my 5 year old nephew: The Christ Jesus died on the cross so the people could live longer :))

It brings me to tears every time I think of Jesus on the cross. I can’t begin to imagine the anguish God must have felt watching His son get beaten, mocked and brutalized before being ultimately crucified.

God loves us so much that He was willing to go into the deepest depths of pain for our salvation.

Just like a dad whose heart breaks when his little boy loses his best friend because he knows the pain of loss himself, God gets our suffering. We are His children and He knows everything we feel. He has felt every emotion, every tear.

He understands your desperation.

He has felt your pain.

He knows exactly what it feels like when you experience tragedy.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that is the ultimate comfort. He walks beside me through every single day, understanding my struggle. I just have to grab His already outstretched hand. A little girl, reaching for her Father. The comforting embrace that says, “I know how you feel and I’m here for you.”

On this Father’s Day, we praise and worship our Heavenly Father and invite you to join us:

“Shout for joy to the Lord , all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100

Mighty to Save
You’re Beautiful
How He Loves Us
Healer
How Great Thou Art

Happy Father’s Day!

Unfailing Love

We live in a broken world where poverty, sickness and suffering infect every neighborhood, every street, every home. I can’t think of anyone in my life who has escaped some version of brokenness. It is just the reality we live in.

When Tyler was diagnosed with cancer six months into our marriage, many people lamented the tragedy of it occurring during what should be our happiest, most carefree time. We, too, were devastated. I’ll never forget the shaking fear between the two of us, sitting in the exam room as the doctor read the results. It was absolutely surreal. Cancer was never part of our vocabulary. How could my young, vibrant husband be so sick?

Fortunately, we know that hope and restoration do exist in the brokenness. Through the mourning of our “honeymoon phase”, we have drawn nearer to the God we have both come to know since we were children. In our anxious trembling, we find comfort and peace. When fear overcomes us, we hold onto each other and declare that God is with us.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10

The Bible mentions God’s unfailing love at least 40 times in the Old Testament. It never fails.  Never. Isn’t that amazing? God has never left us through this time. God has revealed so much to us in this trial that while I never wish our experience on anyone, I pray that when you do experience brokenness, that you come to know the Creator who has never failed those who live by His Word. That unfailing love is available to anyone.

I named this blog “Heights of Love”, borrowed from the Stuart Townsend song “In Christ Alone”:

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

Tyler and I both feel called to share experiences from our marriage that reveal more of God’s character. We hope that our marriage, and this blog, will be a reflection of the heights God carries us to with His unfailing love, in spite of the brokenness that will always be with us on this earth.

Those who know and follow Christ are not exempt from suffering. Rather, in the deep valleys of life, we know that His heights are endless and He will always carry us through.

Thanks for reading :)