Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Marriage Really Is. And What it Isn't.

Derrick and I are reading through Ephesians and we came across the marriage section last night. I thought I'd share the main things that came up as we talked about it.
 To start with, here's the passage:

[Wives and Husbands]
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

(Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV)

Good stuff. I love how marriage is a picture of Christ's love for us. I think this gets so easily lost and forgotten among the daily routines and to-do lists of life. Somewhere along the way, this beautiful picture of God's love starts to boil down to little irritations and annoyances like dirty socks left on the floor or the toilet seat left up. Why is that? How do we forget so easily what God's plan is for marriage? I think this passage gives the answer to that question and the solution to the problem.
 Now, I know Paul addresses wives first, but in his last little summary sentence, he shows that there is a natural progression. First, husbands should love their wives as they love themselves. In other words, anything they would be willing to do to make themselves comfortable, they would be willing to do for their wives. I think it's important to remember that men are the leader of the home, and with that role comes the responsibility of being the initiator. Whether they feel like it or not, (and we know that no one feels like it 24/7!) they should put their wives' needs first. And whether she is respectful and loving in return. I would think a lot of guys would see this as unfair. And I guess I kind of do, too, because both sides should love unselfishly. But, it's pretty clear here that the husband is supposed to be the one to do it first. Derrick does this all the time. He is always serving me and doing things for me, whether I'm in a good mood or not, and whether I appreciate it or not. This has struck me about him since the beginning of our relationship, and it still amazes me. How does he love me like that every DAY without getting sick of it? I believe it's because he determined in his heart to take care of me, and now that he has done it so much, it's become natural for him, like a habit. He doesn't need to make a conscious effort to be selfless now, it just flows out of him because he's practiced it so many times! And let me just say, when he does things for me, even something simple like straightening up the living room or throwing a few dishes in the dishwasher, I feel so thankful and any little things I wanted to be annoyed about or dwell on just sort of melt away.
 And then, there should be a response from us. We, as the wives, should be loving, respectful, and submissive in return. The thing about submission is that people have this bad connotation associated with that word and think it means we have to walk around with our head down in humility and say, "Yes, husband." "Right away husband." "Anything you say, husband." This SO isn't true! Submission is about respecting the husband's role as leader, and trusting his judgment. We are still actively involved in decisions, and that's how it should be! But when Derrick says, "I really want you to stop cleaning the house now and rest, because you're tired." Well, should I refuse and just keep going on a cleaning rampage? No, of course not. I should just gladly oblige, sit down, and take a breather. This is submission. It's a GOOD thing. I believe that most of the time, our husbands know us way better than we know ourselves, and can see our needs much more clearly. So when they tell us to do something (or NOT to do something), it's usually a good idea to listen. If they are obeying this passage, and loving us as they love themselves, then they are automatically going to be looking out for our best interests. And listening should be easy, because we will know it's out of love and concern, not out of a desire for power or control.
 Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "Yeah, well my husband doesn't do that for me." I'm sure there are lots of people who feel they aren't getting the love or respect that they should be getting from their spouse, so they say, "Why should I have to be the one to do it, with nothing in return?" I'm not saying it's easy to deal with that, and I'm not going to pretend that I can relate, because I don't have that problem with my husband. But what I will say is, going back to this passage, marriage is about the picture of Christ and our relationship with Him. When we turn away, rebel, and refuse to submit, what does He do? Say, "Well, I'm not going to love them until they start earning it." Of course not! This is not the kind of God we worship! He loves us sacrificially. Jesus gave up His LIFE for us. Then He says marriage is a picture of that. And let's remember that when Jesus sacrificed Himself, He did it for people who did not love Him or desire to do anything to please Him whatsoever! But He gave up everything anyway. I think both husbands and wives can look at this as an example. Since marriage is supposed to be a picture of that, does that mean we can allow ourselves to wait until we get our needs met first? I think you already know the answer to that.
 This is not easy to live out, and not just in marriage, either. This is hard to do in all types of relationships. Sometimes there are situations where we really try to show love to someone and they respond with something incredibly hurtful. It's easy to want to give up and write them off when that happens. This is when Jesus' sacrifice for us should be our example. We just need to pick up that cross, follow Him, and keep loving. Oh man, do I ever need to be reminded of this daily!! I am so weak when it comes to that. When someone wrongs me, I want to be done with them! I hate being hurt, just like anyone else does, and my response is just to put up a wall and say, "There. Now you can't hurt me anymore." But this is not what God wants us to do. We need to keep our hearts open and show His love. And I'm not necessarily talking about people who are only out to hurt you over and over and never build any type of quality relationship whatsoever. Or people who take and take constantly but never put anything in. I do think there's a point where you just have to put distance between yourself and that person, while still being kind (if you can). I've had to do that before, and it's not fun. But for the most part, we need to teach people about God's love by loving. No matter how much it hurts.
 This takes me back to marriage. I'm thankful for it, and having a husband is a huge blessing. But at the end of the day, it's not about us. It's about God. It all points to Him, and that's how He intended it to be. I'm thankful to be married to someone who does remind me of that almost on a daily basis! I hope you have someone like that, too. If you don't, it's not impossible for that person to change! Don't give up hope...just keep showing them the love of Jesus. You never know what incredible things may happen!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Well, if that's what you want to call me....

I got called "granola" this afternoon. Yep, apparently our decision to use cloth diapers has some people talking about us, and having a few laughs at our expense (not to mention the fact that these folks are family members). My first reaction was to just shrug it off with a candid, "Yep, earthy crunchy, that's me!" But then I got to thinking about it. Now I don't necessarily think "granola" is always an insult, but I can guarantee you in this case it came with a hint of, "You're one of THOSE people." So, if that is true, who are "those" people, and what are their reasons? Here's what I've come up with so far.
 First of all, what do people think diapers were made out of for literally thousands of years? For the majority of time since man has existed, people used cloth. And did laundry. By hand. They didn't even have the modern conveniences that we have of laundry detergent, washing machines, and dryers. It was a lot of work, and people did it. Because there was no other option. Disposable diapers have only been used within the last few decades. And, cloth diapering is a LOT easier now than it used to be. They are made differently, and there are all kinds of tools and supplies that help make it as simple as possible. I've been told by many people that once you get into the routine, it's no big deal. Just like anything else.
 But what are my personal reasons? To be honest? The biggest one is money. I can't even begin to describe the amount of money it will save. I've already received some as a gift and I know some people plan to give more. But even the up front cost of buying diapers ourselves will more than pay for itself in a very short time, because lots of cloth diapers are made to fit a wide range of sizes. Even if you take into account the additional use of household electricity and water (and detergent), it STILL works out to be thousands of dollars cheaper over the course of 3 years (about the length of time diapers are needed). I don't know about you, but in these times, with the amount of money we make, I'm all FOR saving us a few thousand dollars! Yes it's more work, but it's well worth it in my opinion.
 The secondary reason is to do our part to take even just a little bit better care of the earth God has given us. Yes He gave us freedom to do a lot of things as we choose, but we are also held responsible for the choices we make. I saw a picture on Facebook today, actually I'll just post it on here so you can see it. It's going to pop into my mind every time I feel a little overwhelmed and don't feel like doing the extra work of cloth diapering. Here it is:

Yep, you read that right. 400 to 450 years for one disposable diaper to biodegrade. Ew! Talk about gross! And the irony of it all is that's what people tell me about cloth diapering...that's it's gross. I will let you be the judge for yourself, but in my mind, I'd rather get my hands dirty than leave something behind that's going to rot for centuries after I'm dead and gone!
 I was just telling Derrick the other day that I don't care about what other people do, and I don't. I know lots of people who use disposable diapers, I even use them myself while babysitting every day. I don't turn my nose up about it, because it's a personal decision, and to each their own. Disposable diapers are easier and more convenient, and sometimes you just gotta take it easy on yourself, especially if you have a lot to already juggle in your life. So I really, really, honestly don't judge anyone else about this issue, because I'm not even that strongly opinionated about it. Like I said, it's mainly about $$ for us. But, in return, all I could possibly think to ask is for others to respect our decision, and not look down their noses at us. I know that anything "different" causes people to judge. That's ok. We all struggle with that. I'm not going to ask you to stop judging me, because I know it's probably not a realistic request. It's going to happen. You don't even have to give your support! Just please, do your research, and formulate an educated decision before you laugh at me behind my back. Thanks. If you study up on it and still think it's dumb, then by all means, go ahead and laugh. You can even do it in front of my face! :)
 See, I've been doing research on this for months now. Lots. I read tons of blogs and posts by moms who are experienced in cloth diapering. I talk to friends who do it and ask tons of questions. I learn the ins and outs and try to study up on all the problem solving that people do, so hopefully I will remember some of it when I'm in the "trial and error" phase of figuring out what works and what doesn't. And the more I research, the more I think it's a good idea. So I guess all I can say about that is, don't knock it 'til you try it!
 I guess the thing that cracks me up about being called "granola" is that the word is a stereotype given to people who are into all natural, save the environment, organic, kind of things. And just because a person chooses to cloth diaper doesn't necessarily mean that they fit into a particular classification. I don't think it's right to stereotype people anyway, but if you're going to do that, at least get the facts straight. Lots of people choose to do it for different reasons, and I can guarantee you that it's all different types of people. And besides, granola is yummy. I like it.
 So if this is what it means to be granola, then I'm guilty as charged. Just make sure it's made with gluten free oats. Oh, and lots of chocolate chips and dried cranberries. 'Cause those are my favorite. :o)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Well, here I am again, back to blogging. I started out with all this drive to write my thoughts, then realized that I should never, never write journal entries late at night, because I am very bad at getting the words out in the right way, and people misinterpret my intentions. So, it's morning, I'm wide awake, and I have lots on my mind to share, with whoever feels like reading. And, please, if I ever say something and you're like, "What the heck, Melyssa?!?!" Just ask me in person about it, and if you don't live close enough to do that, send me a message! Thanks. :)

OK, so where to start? So much has been going on in our lives over the past few months. Of course, expecting our first child is the big news of the year for us! It's pretty crazy, having life growing inside of me. As I type, I feel a little kick here or there, and yet it still doesn't dawn on me that in 5 months, we will be full blown parents, with all the joy, exhaustion, and excitement that comes with it! A year ago I NEVER would have thought we'd be getting ready for a baby! I wasn't even sure if I ever wanted to be pregnant. But now that I am, I honestly wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I know I've had it kind of easy, I wasn't too sick and so far I've barely had any symptoms besides the whole growing belly thing (yay)....but still, overall, it's something that words can't describe. I'm glad God changed my mind about this. :) When we started talking seriously about having children, we had a really meaningful conversation about how we really and truly want to dedicate this child to God. And I don't mean just go through the motions of having a little ceremony at church where the congregation recites a couple sentences and the pastor asks a bunch of questions and we answer "We do." Not that any of that is silly, it's kinda cool. But, I'm talking much deeper, and much more long term than that. This baby, though being supported by my body, is not MINE. Or Derrick's. Or anyone's. This child is God's. God gives and takes away, and we fully rely on that fact every single day. Not that we're always happy about it, because it can be scary sometimes, but on the other hand, I'm so glad a sovereign, perfect, loving, merciful, gracious God is in control of my life, and our child's life. So at this moment, though we are years away from sending a grown child off into the world, she is God's. (Yes, we are pretty sure it's a "she", but that's a long story that you can ask me about some other time!) This affects the way we think about parenting right now, even during the baby stage. First of all, she's not our obsession. Yes, family is important, and yes God expects us to take this responsibility seriously. But there's a fine line between fulfilling my role as a parent, and making my life ALL about my child. I don't want to do that. I want her to grow up knowing that mom and dad love her SO much, but that we could never come anywhere close to loving her as much as God does, and that His love is what she really needs. It's all anyone needs. I love our baby already, but in the long run I know that my heart must stay focused on my Creator, who is the only One truly worthy of my worship. It's so easy to worship a child...I've seen it many times...and it's so sad. It's sad for the parent to be making their entire life revolve around their child, and it's sad for the child who has to live with that kind of pressure. Family is not everything! It's the temporary unit that God set up for us so that we can experience His love and grace through other people. But, it's just that...temporary. If we spend our whole lives and sacrifice our entire selves to be devoted to people, even those we love most, we will end up empty and disappointed. Family is an added bonus, but it is not what life is about.
 OK, I think I've said enough about that. The reason I've been challenged with all of this is because I fall short so many times. I have often made people and other things in life way more important than God. I still do! He keeps reminding me again and again that He is all I need, and that I should be longing for Him, and to know Him better...more than I should desire anything else this world can offer. Even the BEST things life can offer are nothing compared to Him! Ugh, why do I miss this so often? Hasn't He shown me His greatness over and over? Isn't His incredible mercy and grace enough to drown out the noise of any other distraction that could possibly pull me away from Him? The answer is a resounding YES, of course He is enough! Then why, oh why do I keep missing the point of life? Why do I keep falling short over and over again? I just keep coming back to the fact that it's because of my sinfulness. I am totally and completely nothing without Him. And when I let myself forget that, it's easy to fall into those patterns of thinking that so many other things are important. Life is a wonderful gift, but there is an end to it. And it is very short in comparison to eternity. What do I want to be spending my energy on? This life, or the eternity with Jesus that will be here before I know it and will stretch out past the constraints of time, greater and longer and deeper and more wonderful than anything we could ever possibly know here on earth?
 I read the first post I wrote on here, and already my thinking has shifted since then. I typed out these verses about how I am Accepted in Christ, and said I was going to say them to myself every day for 30 days. Now, don't get me wrong, those verses are all true and I am definitely accepted by Him. No doubt about that. But, what is the focus of all that? Me, me, me. I am this, I am that, the truths of God's Word are all about me. Ummm, what? No way! God's amazing Word will always be about One Person...HIM. He is the one who deserves all the glory, and thanks, and praise, and wonder, and amazement! HE is the One who created us, who gave us life, and who can take it away in an instant. HE is the One who wants us to spend eternity with Him. Why in the world would we make it about us? Well, because, we are in fact humans. And we humans tend to have a much higher view of ourselves than we should. When we really focus on humility, and remember who God is, the truth becomes very clear. He is everything, we are nothing.
 This is getting too long, so I'm done....Happy Saturday everyone! :)