Thinking Generously: How One Mental Tweak Made Me Richer

One thing my husband Alex and I decided to do at the beginning of our marriage was to commit to being generous. As two newlywed college students, of course, this was a lofty goal. But we made the commitment to, at the very least, be a couple who tithed.

If you’ve never heard of tithing, it’s a practice in Christianity in which you set aside ten percent of your income to give away. Typically, this means giving to the church, although it can also mean just giving to someone in need. It’s a practice commanded by God to reinforce perspective about money: that it’s not the most important thing in life, that we are always fortunate enough to be generous to others, and that all our blessings—not just the financial ones—come from God and are important. Setting aside our money is a physical representation and reminder of these things.

Alex was especially excited for us to do this together, because he’s an incredibly generous person, and the chance to get in the habit of giving to others was a big life goal for him. While I wanted to be generous too, I wasn’t as enthused. I’m a worrier, a very practical person. I need to know how we’re going to accomplish what, and I have a hard time trusting that everything will turn out okay.

Our mission to give generously, even when it was hard for us, was a bumpy road at times, but thankfully we’ve been able to give the ten percent (and at times, even above) that was our goal. Even better, this mindset of being generous has bled into a few other areas of life, and I’ve learned several lessons from it:

Our culture operates on a scarcity mindset. This is the opposite of a generosity mindset. Scarcity says, “There’s not enough,” “We won’t be okay,” and “We have to gather and hoard so we have enough resources to spare.” This mindset operates well in the American Dream, which is all about upward mobility and increasing wealth. While those values aren’t necessarily bad goals, it’s interesting how our quest for abundance leads us to be obsessed with having enough, and how some of the most fortunate people in the world (us), end up so unsatisfied.

When you put on a mindset of generosity, you feel richer. Like I said, I’m a worrier. I tend to have that scarcity mindset, and I justify it by telling myself that I’m thinking wisely. But a generosity mindset offers true wisdom by putting things in perspective. Generosity says, “I don’t need to scrounge and hoard; we’re gonna be okay.” Generosity says, “I am truly blessed, and I have abundance—however small—to give to others.”

Scarcity and generosity aren’t just about money. This is truly important. When I started challenging myself to think generously, it bled into so many other things. I learned to think generously about my time: when someone asked me to take time to help them out with something, a generous mindset helped me feel more rich in time instead of fretting that I’d not have enough time to get other things done. A generosity mindset also helped me with forgiveness: it reminded me that there is so much grace and love to give, and I don’t have to be stingy with it. In my relationships, I don’t have to worry about keeping score, thinking, “well you did this, so I do that, and because I did that, you do this.” No, with a generosity mindset, I can be lavish in my relationships, and leave the emotional math at the door.

Thinking generously actually helped me be more disciplined. You’d think that being really generous would make for a less than happy bank account. But miraculously, that’s not the case. Thinking generously takes the desperation out of managing my resources; it shifts everything into perspective. I am free to make decisions based on the needs I have and the needs I want to help others with, instead of trying to scramble to prepare for a theoretical famine down the road.

It may sound like a lot of mind games, but getting in the mindset of abundance, rather than scarcity, truly makes me feel like I have more at my disposal. Because I feel richer (and not just in money), I feel satisfied, more taken care of, and more peaceful. When we realize that every blessing we have, whether it’s time, money, relationships, skills, etc., is a resource and a form of power, we can feel better equipped to use that power for good. We don’t have to feel like we’re at the mercy of these things; we can think generously, and give willingly and freely.

Soon we find that generosity never reduces what we have; it only multiplies it.

Weekend Pith: Life Rules

One of the newer features of my repainted blog is the little page at the top of the screen, which I call “My Life Rules.” It has pithy little one-liners that describe or sum up life, or at least the kind of person I want to be.

This idea was inspired by a book my best friend gifted to me, The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. The book is full of practical ways to simply be happier, but it goes deeper than that. Happiness occurs when we have meaningful relationships, discipline, and joy in day to day life, and there are simple, down-to-earth steps to make that happen. It was the practicality of it that really spoke to me; we often talk about being happier or having more joy, but these are usually abstract concepts we don’t back up with a plan. You can’t arrive at a goal without a plan.

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Rubin starts the book by listing what she calls her “rules of adulthood.” They are little principles she’s found to be true in her life, and so they help her remain true to herself while becoming better. And in the end, that’s what the point of her book is: we must always be working towards better versions of ourselves, and that in turn will give us greater satisfaction in life.
This inspired me to look for my own “rules of adulthood,” the little principles I live by even when I don’t realize it. Every so often they cross my mind, and now I catch them and tag them before letting them fly away again. In this way I become a lot more mindful and aware of the unwritten rules we all govern ourselves by, and as a bonus they sound pretty cool in a blog post.

Here’s a little look at some of my life rules. The list is ongoing, and I’m adding to it daily. 

 

It’s not a contest.

We get pretty competitive with the other people in our lives. Someone else’s successes, joys, and blessings become like vinegar in our mouths. I’ve noticed myself often envying friends my age as their lives start to become more settled, more sure, with stable careers and permanent homes and (even more permanent) children. It’s often hard to be okay with the fact that my life is rather tumultuous right now, and that’s okay. It’s not a contest.

Choose to be friends.

I’ve always had this fatalistic view of friendship, where I just hope someone likes me enough to stick around. I’ve had some friendships, ones I really liked, dissolve, leaving me to want to dissolve along with them. Then I had a realization: I can be friends with anyone I damn well please. Sometimes relationships do run their natural course, but sometimes you get to just decide: you’re one of my peeps now. Let’s be friends. Always. M’kay?

Always be more loving than you feel.

This one is so hard. I once had a boss tell me that one of my strengths was my ability to leave my life at home and focus on the task at hand, to keep my emotions under wraps and set aside a bad day without letting my frustrations shine forth.

To which I looked at her and said “Really?”

I don’t know what she saw in me, but I’m terrible at concealing my emotions. If I’m upset, I will cry. If I’m angry, I won’t look you in the eye (this could also happen if I’m especially shy, so don’t panic). If I’m happy, I can’t wipe the silly grin off my face.

So this is why, when I’m not feeling very loving, I… won’t be very loving. 

This quality is especially unfortunate in married life, when acting exactly how you feel all the time doesn’t help anybody. Especially if you’re an emotional person who could feel ten different things in the space of an hour. It’s confusing for a spouse to keep up with. 

(Not that I’m speaking from first-hand experience, or anything…)

I’ve often found a tense situation to be greatly improved by just acting even a little more loving than I feel. Because it makes him feel better, and soon I feel better too. Love is like gravy on a Thanksgiving plate. It gets in and around everything and makes it taste better. Just as we can never have too much gravy, we should never be sparing with love. Even if we’re not always feeling it. Because the monumentous effort it may take to be loving returns even more monumentous results. You literally cannot lose by showing love, just as you cannot lose by passing the gravy. 

(You’re welcome for the gravy analogy.)

Beware of fads.

This is one you see a lot on the internet. Everyone look over here! This person did that! Everyone talk about this! It’s trending now! Everyone buy this! It’s in style!

This might be my hipster streak showing, and as I type this I realize being hipster is somewhat of a fad as well. Dammit. At any rate, I try to be aware of what new thing I genuinely love or appreciate and what is just a fad. Sometimes our brains ping pong from one thing to another, and we lose our mental autonomy. We lose the energy to recognize what to purge from our lives and what we’d really like to keep. We become dependent on fads for mental stimulation. And it leaves us even more exhausted, more cluttered. It’s a terrible cycle, and not worth it.

Sometimes, however, the fad of the day is fun, and sometimes you like it. And that’s when you should ask your doctor if this fad is right for you.

 

So there’s a little look at my life rules. Hopefully they inspire you to recognize your own unwritten life principles. I’ve found writing a few down where I’ll see them daily, or making a note on my phone, helps me revisit and recommit whenever I forget. It’s way to be more mindful and evermore myself.

What unwritten rules will you write down?

 

Our Coming Adventures

Over a month ago I shared that we were making tentative plans for some big adventures. Well, we’ve decided to take the leap and spend most of the summer in a new place:

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(photos all by me :) )

We’ll be visiting the great state of Arizona for 2-3 months! We plan to stay with Alex’s grandparents near Phoenix, helping them out and getting to know them better. Alex and I have been to Arizona several times together and separately, and it’s one of our favorite states. Alex wants to move there. I’m a little more skeptical.

It was a little scary to decide to run off West when we still have a house and jobs here in PA. I like structure and I was rather set on our plan to stay near school over the summer. But this was an opportunity that shot up suddenly, and we’ve noticed that when this happens it’s usually something we need to take advantage of. We won’t have very many years of utter flexibility, so we decided to enjoy where the wind takes us while we’re still light enough to be swept along.

It will be a busy summer. We have three weddings to attend in three different states, none of which are Arizona. We’ll get to see a lot of new airports. But we’re looking forward to going on those adventures together, to discovering new people and places and learning more about ourselves in the process. We are fully confident that God is leading us in a new and exciting direction, and that we can trust in His provision as we do something slightly crazy.

And anyway, it’s the closest Alex will let me get to being a gypsy.

 

The Highway

This is a short story I’ve been working on for one of my classes. I’ve been wanting to share it here – enjoy!

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They were building a highway. It would stretch from the northernmost tip of the state through the mountains and all the way to the ocean, five states away. It was progress. It was speed. It would bring produce and packages and soldiers. It was the mark of every modern society.

Unfortunately for Norris, they were building the highway right through his farm, right in between his house and barn, where the old dirt road ran through to connect one town with another. Some engineer in Washington had decided that Township Road #132 was the ideal place to link the new Interstate. Anywhere else would run into a lake or mountain range, wasting money and time.

The highway wouldn’t interfere with his farm at all, they had told Norris. It wouldn’t ruin his land or crops. They were essentially just widening the road that was already there, which did belong to the government, after all. It was part of the President’s new initiative. It was progress.

Construction began at the beginning of summer. Crews came and plotted out the new boundaries of the road. It would be a four-lane highway with low railings on either side. You’ll still have your privacy, they told Norris. One edge of the highway was to come twenty feet from his house, the other twenty feet from his barn. We’ll build a bridge so you can get across, they said. It won’t interfere with your farm at all.

So every morning Norris got into his rusty Ford pickup, clattered down the makeshift service road, across the skeletal wooden bridge stretched over the fledgling highway, and down another makeshift service road to the barn, where he fed the animals and started his work in the fields. Around midday he’d return to the other side of the highway for lunch and then work in the other fields. “It’s a damn nuisance,” he told his wife.

When the highway finally opened, it droned with business. Huge trucks carried cargo to faraway cities and little cars, like brightly colored insects, carried people. The house, barn, and garden were soon coated with a perpetual layer of dust, and there was an incessant hum that echoed off the old farmhouse no matter what the hour. Norris and his wife began not to notice it until they went out for errands or church or visited other people’s houses and felt an emptiness in their ears.

Norris remembered when a single car on the old dirt road was an occasion. He’d been young then, a short skinny boy with a blond mop head, freckles and snaggleteeth, spending his summers running wild through the woods and cornfields. Dad came in from the fields every night at six, covered in dust, with rings around his eyes like a raccoon. Norris was expected to be home by then too, if he planned on getting a dinner and avoiding a spanking. Mum had dinner on the table by six fifteen, usually meat and some kind of vegetable, with her famous bread. They’d sit in the golden light of the summer sunset, eating and drinking the light and balmy air as they ate and drank their dinner.

One evening as they were sitting down to eat, Norris looked through the open kitchen window and saw one of the cows staring back at him, right on the other side. All of the cows had gotten out of the pasture by a break in the fence, and had ambled over to the scent of dinner.

“Dammit!” Dad said, jumping up from the table. The dust shook from his overalls.

“Bill,” Mum noted before jumping up as well.

The three of them struggled into rubber boots and ran out into the yard, where the three dozen brown and white cows strolled lazily in the evening light. It took hours to corral them all into the barn. Norris whooped and jumped to get their attention while Mum and Dad chased the herd into a little knot, then drove them into the barn while Norris held the door open and welcomed the bovines in like a circus master. When he shut the door behind the last straggler, he slipped in the thick mud, and when his parents tried to help him, they slipped too. Then, weak from exhaustion and hilarity the three of them pulled together and slid their way to the house, laughing in spite of themselves. By then, dinner was cold, but they were too hungry to care.

One day at the end of a summer, when Dad was in the fields and Norris had been drafted into the service of window washing, a blue Ford Model 18 drove up the dirt road in a cloud of shining dust and parked in the yard. The car stood out crisply against the faded green cornstalks and the yellowed white house. The man it carried stood out too, in a navy pinstriped suit and matching hat. He marched up to the porch, his patent leather shoes clicking like snap peas.

“Good afternoon, Ma’am,” he said when Mum answered the door. He swept off his hat and held it to his chest like a martyr. “My name is Ellis Chaney and I work for the township. I’d like to talk to you about improvements to this road here.”

Mum brought him in and offered him a seat at the table. Norris watched through the windows, wiping away the grime with his sponge so he could see better.

“Ma’am, it has come to our attention that the roads in our fine county leave much to be desired. They are beset with dust in the summer and potholes in the winter. Ma’am, we in the township value our citizens, folks like yourself who are the lifeblood of this county and state. We are considering paving this road here. It’s high time we had some progress in this area, and it’ll certainly make travel and trade faster, a boon for everyone involved. We’d like to hear everyone’s input on the matter.”

“Well, that’s certainly an idea,” said Mum. “But I’m afraid my husband isn’t home. I’m sure he’d like to give his two cents.”

The man cocked one shiny, groomed eyebrow. “Of course ma’am. I can come back another day if that’d be better.” He rose to leave. “But if I may ask, what, Ma’am, would you say about paving the road? I’d like to have your two cents.”

Mum blushed a little. “Well, I think it’s a very nice idea. It’d be… nice to go into town and back without getting so dusty.”

The man smiled. “Of course, Ma’am. If I may say, however, you look quite fresh and lovely. Not dusty at all.”

Mum blushed more. “Oh. Thank you.”

Only after the man had gotten back into his car and sped away toward another white farmhouse did Mum notice Norris at the window. Her face grew scarlet.

“What have I told you about sneaking around?” she said. “I don’t have all day for you to wash one window! Get on to the next one!”

Dad came in from the fields at six. Mum didn’t mention the Man in the suit.

As the weeks passed the cornstalks grew brown and dry and Norris was drafted into the service of school. Every afternoon he hurried home down the dirt road, his books and lunch pail holding on for dear life, hoping to get a few rambles in before Mum called him to chores and dinner. The sun was setting sooner now, which meant Dad came in from the fields earlier, which meant Norris only had a short time to avoid any work.

One afternoon he got home to find the blue Ford Model 18 in the yard. He remembered the Man in the suit, but since the dirt road was still dirt, he had filed him away as not useful. He wondered, as he panted sweaty and dusty in the afternoon warmth, if the Man was finally bringing some good news.

Norris burst into the house, forgetting to wipe his feet on the rug. A bump and clatter was heard upstairs, and then a wild parade of footsteps brought Mum and the Man in the suit (a brown one this time) down the stairs. Norris blinked. Mum’s face turned scarlet.

“What have I told you about wiping your feet?” she scolded. “Look at this floor!”

“I’m sorry Mum,” said Norris, feeling more guilty than usual for the mess.

“Go get the mop and clean it up. I will not have you tracking mud into this house.”

With a glance at the Man, who smiled with all his perfectly white teeth, Norris went to the broom closet for the mop. When he returned, the Man and the blue car were gone. Mum was putting bread in the oven for dinner. Norris worked silently, erasing every speck of dirt in the hallway. Suddenly Mum was behind him, her hand on his shoulder.

“Dear, I’d like to talk to you.”

Norris blinked. “I’m sorry about the mud.”

“Don’t worry about that,” she smiled. “I’d like to talk to you about Ellis.”

“The Man in the suit?”

“Yes… Mr. Chaney – the Man in the suit.”

“What about him?”

“He was here to talk about the road, you understand?” She began to blush.

“Yes ma’am.”

“And your father and I have talked about the road, and we don’t agree on it. I agree with El-Mr. Chaney. We’re trying to figure out what to do with the road, and until we do, it’d be best not to mention anything to Dad. He’s tired from working so hard and shouldn’t have to worry about another little thing. You understand, don’t you?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Good boy. Go on, then. And remember: we don’t need to talk about Mr. Chaney or the road. Not until we think up a solution.”

Norris went on until the whole house was mopped. Of course Dad wouldn’t want the road to be paved; he hated progress of any kind. It made sense not to worry him with it. At least, it sounded right.

That night dinner was quiet. Dad ate hungrily, Mum bustled around making sure everyone had what they needed, and Norris could neither talk nor eat. He still felt guilty, and he couldn’t remember why.

“Dear, eat your vegetables,” Mum said. He jumped.

“I’m not very hungry, ma’am.”

Dad put his fork down. “Eat your food, son. Times are thin and we need to show thanks for our blessings.”

“Yessir.” Norris tried very hard but the food in his mouth was tasteless and sticky. It was like swallowing dust.

“What is the matter with that boy?” Dad shook his head.

“He’s just tired, is all.” Mum moved her food around, then passed the butter to no one in particular, then got up to refill everyone’s water glasses. She spilled the pitcher a little and went back to the sink.

“I’m fine, sir,” Norris said, forcing down a bite of bread. “Just tired.”

“You weren’t like this yesterday,” Dad finished off his meat with a final bite. “I hope he isn’t coming down with something,” he said to Mum. “I’ve heard reports of the flu in town. Any kids at school come down with the flu?” he said to Norris.

“No sir,” Norris gulped down his newly-filled glass of water.

“He’s fine,” said Mum, “and even if he is coming down with something, I’ll just run him up to the new doctor Ellis was telling me ab – ”

She stood still for a moment, then sat down slowly and set the pitcher in between her and Dad. Norris stared at her in horror.

“Who’s Ellis?” Dad looked up, sensing the change in the air.

“That man.”

“What man?”

“That man from the township. I mentioned him to you. He came over again today asking about the road.”

“I thought we already told him what we thought about it. His name’s Ellis?”

“Yes. Ellis Chaney. He’s from the township.”

“Well why did he come around again? I hope you told him we don’t need a paved road here.”

“Well, I didn’t want to be rude. He wanted to double check with everyone. He had some very good things to say – ”

“He must be pretty friendly if you’re on a first name basis already.”

Mum began to blush. She smiled and looked at Norris. “Dear, please go up to your room and do your homework.”

Norris sprung from the table like a squirrel from a cage. He had barely shut his door before their voices started talking faster and louder. By the time he fell asleep an hour later they were shouting.

He woke the next morning, and the house was silent and gray, like the fields after a rainstorm. His parents’ door was closed and Dad’s work boots were gone. Norris dressed and packed, then left for school, running away down the dirt road as if sunshine would be found at the end of it. All day he dreaded going back home. He didn’t feel guilty anymore, just sick.

He trudged back home down the dirt road, fearing everything that might meet him when he got there. He didn’t want to hear another shout, see another stiff smile, hear Mum say “dear” one more time.

He was still a ways off when he saw the blue Ford Model 18 parked in the yard. The engine was running and all the doors were open. Mum and the Man in the suit (a black one today) were loading it with suitcases. Norris broke into a run. Mum and the Man got into the car and shut the doors, and sped away in the opposite direction to a town Norris didn’t know. They were almost out of site by the time he got to the house.

“MUM!” he screamed. “Come back!” And he knew she must have looked back, at least for a second, and seen him crying in the road, but the car didn’t stop.

It never came back again.

In the years that followed, the house was always gray, and dinners were always quiet, and there was no more bread. Norris and Dad washed the dishes and mopped the floors and went to sleep for work and school in the morning.

And every so often Norris would dream of the blue Ford Model 18. Mum was driving it, and she would, unlike most people, be able to find the dirt road and the yellowed white farmhouse on it, and she would drive herself up to the house and let herself in. Norris would smell her perfume and fresh-baked bread and come bolting down the stairs, and she’d wrap him up in the kind of hug she used to give him when he was little. Dad would come in from the fields, covered in dust with rings around his eyes like a raccoon, and she’d kiss him, and the three of them would sit at the table to a dinner of meat and vegetables and bread in the golden light of the sunset.

But now none of that would ever happen, because now there was a highway.

6 Things I’ve Learned from Being Married in College

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As you know if you’ve read this blog in the past few months, I got married last June. My husband and I, however, are both still in college. I have less than a year to go for my Bachelor’s degree while he has over two.

Married college students are a rare sight. I know a few classmates who are in the same boat, but it’s unusual in our culture. Unfortunately, young marrieds are largely ignored or even chided as culture embraces young  unhindered singleness. While I agree that the single college years can be incredibly fulfilling, today I want to share six things that can be learned from being a young married student.

 

1. Life is Not the Same for Everyone.

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Our society has road-mapped life to a T. Go to college, get a job, get married to your soulmate. But this is neither fair nor realistic. For as vocal as we are about individuality, why do we allow such a cookie-cutter life schedule to be imposed upon us?

I’ve learned that there’s not one life plan or lifestyle that’s inherently perfect. What’s a good choice for me isn’t a good choice for the next person. It’s okay to come to a point in your life where you decide that it’s the right time for something, not popular opinion. For us, it was getting married. We didn’t have everything planned, but we knew we loved each other and wanted to marry each other. It was the next logical step for us, and we took it.

 

2. Love is Not the Same for Everyone.

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Our generation has this grandiose view of love in which you meet someone who gives you perpetual butterflies and after much angst you finally decide to marry them and live happily ever after. Cue harps and singing birds.

For us – and for a lot of people – love is simpler and stronger, bolstered by a deep friendship, commitment to shared convictions, and a healthy dose of Mike and Ike’s and Netflix.

Marriage, although it does radically change your life, does not signal the heavenly end of your life. You are still you, with your same faults and hopes and dreams, and so is your spouse. Life goes on.

Just because our life might not look like everyone says it should doesn’t mean something’s wrong with us, nor does it mean our life is less valuable. It simply means we have to figure out what marriage looks like for us in our unique situation.

 

3. I Need People So I Can Be Myself.

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In our hyper-individualized society, admitting you need people is considered overly dependent, especially if you are a woman saying it of a man. We say things like “I just need to find myself” or “I need to love myself before I can love others”. While these attitudes may have a place, I think when taken too far they create isolation and selfishness.

The truth is that I cannot be a whole, well-rounded person without other people. Other people shape me, sharpen me, and soften me into an ever-better version of myself. This is especially helpful if, like me, you have trouble being yourself.

In marriage, having another person to show you a different perspective in life is rejuvenating. Now I have a built-in best friend who loves me unconditionally and encourages me to be myself. He shows me how to push myself and embrace life, and now I get out and try new things more as a married person than I ever did while single. I have the courage to explore the world because I know at the end of the day I will come home to my favorite person and we will talk about our discoveries together.

 

4. College is not designed for married couples.

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This is a fact of life, one I’ve noted with resigned disappointment. The undergraduate system as it is now takes for granted that its students are unattached to anything but itself. It takes for granted that I live on campus and don’t need to clean up a house at the end of the day or that I will eat my meals in the dining hall instead of running home to cook. It demands that you be there for events, practices, and trips at the drop of a hat when you are trying to build a separate, independent life as a married adult.

That’s just the way it is, and acknowledging that puts us in a better place to work out how we juggle our various responsibilities as a couple. It gives us the chance to learn how to draw boundaries, manage our time, and to consciously make our relationship a top priority.

 

5. Money Will be Tight, and That’s Okay.

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This is not a fun lesson, but in a way it’s kind of liberating. When you’re newlyweds in college, you just don’t have a lot of money. That’s what deters a lot of people because again, as a society we expect to have the lifestyle of forty-year-olds – complete with a house, car, and picket fence – as soon as we receive our college degrees. People don’t want to get married until they have a decent job and have paid off a decent amount of college loan.

For us though, getting married streamlined everything. His money and my money became our money, his savings and my savings our savings, his debt and my debt our debt. Instead of striving as individuals to make it financially, we can come alongside each other and work together toward a common goal. That helps us to stay responsible and accountable to each other and to learn together that life’s meaning is derived from relationships, not possessions.

We live simply, but comfortably, and we are sustained in ways we don’t fully understand. People have told us we’re lucky to be able to live so independently, and they ask how we do it. Honestly, we can’t answer. Each week, each month we find ourselves provided for by God in ways we never expected. We could try to be more logical and worry about it, or we could just live in peace in His provision. So we do the latter.

 

6. It’s totally worth it.

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I’ll be honest; I was a little terrified when we got married. Vowing to commit the rest of your life to someone else is huge. But each day I grow in certainty that this was absolutely the best decision to make at this time in my life. I feel like I was born to be married. I love putting together a cozy home and cooking yummy food (apparently I’m pretty good) and sharing my life with the kindest, goofiest guy I know.

When people ask what it’s like being married in college, I most often say “it’s really fun!”, which is an odd way to put it. But it honestly is. You can’t live a life of fake martial arts face-offs, stuffed animal obsessions, and Disney movie character impressions and not have fun.

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And I know, as I’ve always known, that married life isn’t always fun. There are hurt feelings and misunderstandings and pet peeves and tears. Ironically, we seem to most hurt the people we most love. But it’s that amazing ongoing lesson of Christ’s love, that picture of God and His people that marriage is meant to sketch, that keeps our perspective steady. We respect and love each other as people, which allows us to love each other as a couple much more fully.

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Obviously I wouldn’t encourage someone to go out and get married for the heck of it. But if you are at a point where you feel ready and yet society is squeezing you with its worries and expectations, know that you aren’t alone.

Getting married young isn’t for everyone. Staying single isn’t for everyone either. And that’s the point. There should never be pressure one way or the other, whether marriage is better or singleness is better. There should never be rolled eyes and raised brows. There should only be encouragement and respect in the myriad ways God chooses to plot out our lives.

Which, I suppose, is the seventh thing I’ve learned.

Wonderfully Stupid

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Something about us just can’t stand when another person is wrong.

Have you ever been there? Has your blood ever boiled over until you explode in a steamy rage? Has it ever simmered quietly, slowly fermenting your bitterness?

Sometimes the reactions are justified. My blood boils when I’m at the supermarket and I see a parent being cruel to their child. It boils when I think of tyrannical world leaders who live in luxury while their citizens are kept in a brutal grip. It boils when I hear of families torn apart because of utter and senseless selfishness.

Usually, though, my anger is not so noble.

My bitterness simmers when I see the person at church who is vocal about their religious convictions – convictions I do not share. It simmers when a friend is so busy I feel that they don’t have time for me. It simmers when loud and obnoxious people on Facebook shout their loud and obnoxious political opinions that I disagree with.

Before I know it, I become overwhelmed with the need to correct this wrong behavior I see in other people. If only everyone knew what I knew, and lived the way I live, and see what I see.

But the Lord reminds me of something that turns the heat down on my blood. The simmering and boiling stop.

He reminds me that people are stupid.

That might not sound like a very nice thing for God to say. But the catch is that I am also a person. Therefore, I am also stupid.

I’m stupid, you’re stupid, we’re all stupid.

Sometimes I wonder if God watches us run around getting mad at each other for trivial reasons and just shakes His head in amused befuddlement, like when your beloved dog barks hysterically because someone made a noise and apparently that means the apocalypse is nigh. You love that creature but gosh, it’s so stupid.

I think God understands that our brains can’t see or comprehend all that goes on around us. He understands that we can’t read each other’s minds and know each other’s hearts. He knows that we are wonderfully, beautifully stupid.

The other day I was praying and I realized that I can’t even fully wrap my mind around the idea of God. I’m so used to sending my thoughts and prayers skyward that God starts to feel like an imaginary friend who lives in the ceiling. It hit me that day that no, God is quite real, and someday I will meet Him face to face, and my brain will finally work fully. All that I don’t know or understand will hit me with a duh!, and I think we will both laugh because I was so stupid.

The knowledge of my stupidity doesn’t depress me as it could. Rather, it gives me hope as I lean on the One with infinite wisdom, patience, and understanding. The knowledge also helps me to be more understanding of those around me. We are in the same boat. We are all human. We are all idiots.

For my brothers and sisters in Christ, I have greater peace, because I know that they, like me, know the One who loves them and guides their lives. I may heartily disagree with where they are and what they do, but I have to trust that God directs them. I have to answer the question: do I trust God, who loves this person more than I ever could and by His Holy Spirit is guiding them better than I ever will, to lead this person where they should go?

How can that answer be anything but yes?

This is something I’ve struggled with. With God’s help I’ve come from being a very judgemental person into being a more open minded person. I am not talking about real, active sin in someone’s life. That’s a different thing entirely. I am talking about individual convictions, the gray areas where interpretation of Scripture can be unclear or entirely personal. It’s often these little differences that cause our blood to boil more than the monumental ones. They’ve torn churches apart and brought violence between the very people who should be known by their love.

So I challenge us to be okay with being imperfect, shortsighted, and all around stupid. When you see your own stupidity, you shrink in your own eyes, and then you are in a better place to love and relate to the people around you. The extra laughter you get at your own expense is an added bonus.

So go ahead, admit you’re stupid. Honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.