Monday, November 23

When You Feel Like a Weirdo, But Hope It's Not True

Some days it feels like I was gifted with the jackpot at the end of the rainbow of quirky traits. I can recall a phone number I've seen written out, even if I've never dialed it. I have the ability to care deeply and quickly about someone I don't know all that well. I cry when moments hold the slightest meaning even when I've promised myself I wouldn't. I'm genuinely enthusiastic about other peoples' lives and interests. And then there's this little gem: Even years later, I'll remember more than is socially normal about a person I've only met once.

It's taken some time, but I can appreciate these qualities now. Though sometimes I get fearful that potential friends or new connections won't be so comfortable with the real me and it will be awkward, so I try to tone it down. I wouldn't want to scare anyone away by my enthusiasm. I wouldn't want to turn anyone off by being the truest version of me. Wait... what? 

I think I can safely say I'm not alone in this. Some of us change the way we speak, act, react, hold ourselves, dress, and even the way we think about things, all for the sake of appearing normal. A little more like the rest. Blending with the look and feel of the masses.

There've been countless times I've allowed myself to believe I was made with faulty parts. Tears were not supposed to flow unless I told them to. Therefore I must be too emotional. And I certainly wasn't supposed to embarrass myself by remembering every single detail about a person I've talked to for thirty seconds once in my life. Obviously I must be a weirdo. These people have no recollection of me. While, I naturally remember the four freckles under their right eye, where they grew up, along with their first and last name. Embarrassing. Though helpful at times too. But still, embarrassing and unintentionally stalker-ish.

In Psalm 139:14, the Psalmist spoke words of praise to God about the way he was made: "Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." Do our souls know and believe the truth about ourselves? Do we believe God's work in making us is wonderful? It's difficult to praise God for something we think is weird.

So when we believe the way Jesus created us is strange, cringe-worthy, or accidental, there's something wrong with our way of thinking. We must remember how intentional God is and set our minds there instead. We must remember we're set apart. Our quirks are no accident.

All this talk of weirdos and interesting traits makes me think of John the Baptist. I'm sorry, but it does. We generally think of John as this bold, insect munching, scratchy camel fur-wearing guy. He was these things, but more importantly, this cousin of Jesus was entrusted with preparing Israel to meet the Messiah in the flesh. John was to serve as the emcee for the main event -- to introduce the main person: Jesus.

To us John might have seemed a bit strange. To them he was considered a fanatic. But to Jesus he was considered the "greatest of all men" (Matthew 11:11) because of his obedience and all out commitment to carry out the task he was given.

I just love that he didn't seem at all concerned about fitting in, but he did make it a point to concern himself with making sure his life fit inside God's story. He wasn't out to be the most unique or most outlandish person. His goal was obedience. He accomplished this by walking forward in the middle of God's will for him, fully himself no matter how crazy it looked.

Nothing is wasted with God. The traits he gave you, the traits he gave me, the traits he gave John the Baptist were on purpose. Hold your head high, walk in His ways for you, and make obedience your target. Your quirky traits will serve to make the journey more interesting, and they certainly won't be holding you back.
Thursday, November 19

5 Things I'd Tell You About Marriage

This month, Jeremy and I celebrate the 20th anniversary of our very first date.

Back in 1995, he had hair, I had braces. He looked ready for his debut in a toothpaste commercial, I looked ready for the first day of seventh grade.  

We met at the weekly meeting of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on campus at the University of Alaska Anchorage, a few weeks into my freshman year. A new friend of mine brought his oldest friend along to InterVarsity to meet me. He was convinced we'd hit it off. I was clueless about their plan, but was quite happy to see Jeremy, whom I'd recognized from my years living in the same area of the state as his family growing up. 

A couple weeks after meeting, Jeremy invited me to the movies to see the original Toy Story. We were adults, but just barely. We had the nervous tingles throughout night, the kind where your palms sweat and your heart pounds in your chest. When the date was over, he walked me up the steps to my apartment and presented me with my very own VHS copy of Little Women (the Winona Ryder version, of course.) He knew what I liked. Swoon. 

We were married three and a half years later in July 1999, after we grew up a bit (a lot.) Our marriage is a joy, but we're human, so not every moment is fun. But you know that already because you're human too. When you've got two people committed to the Lord and each other who are also on the strong-willed side? You've got us. But the good thing is that being strong-willed helps us fight fiercely for our marriage. Being strong-willed makes us stronger in our convictions about the covenant relationship we're in. Plus, we're in love. We appreciate each other. We complement each other. Jeremy is so good to me.

Last summer, as we celebrated our 16th anniversary, I wrote down what made our relationship thrive, even with a houseful of kids. Because let's face it, having children does not make this any easier. After thinking back over our life together thus far, I came up with this list.

If you were to ask me what has helped us arrive at place where we're stronger than ever, through trials and fire, I'd tell you these 5 things:

1.  Ask Jesus who He wants you to be as a spouse, listen well, and then be that person.

2.  Be willing to forgive, then gracefully give it with no bitter strings attached.

3.  Have a team mentality. You're in this together helping and serving each other and your family toward a common goal. Decide together what that goal is.

4.  Decide selfishness has no place. It will only divide, no matter how justified it feels and no matter how badly you want what you want.

5.  Love unconditionally in a way that mirrors Christ's love for us. Hard. Good. Worth it.

Being married has molded and grown us in some really uncomfortable ways. But we're better for it, and thank God for the gift of each other.

What have you learned from marriage that you'd like to share?