Sunday, July 29, 2012

10 months already!

As of August 1, I will have been married for 10 months! We just booked our first anniversary cruise today - woot! It's still weird for me that I'm Derrick's wife. But I can hardly remember what it was like before we were married...and every day has been a blessing, a learning experience, an adventure, a memory...

What advice would I give you about marriage after 10 months (and, yes, I know it isn't that long...but I still have advice)...

1. Choose to love. Yep, love's most important function is an action, not a feeling - especially when you don't feel it.

2. Compliment and appreciate. Build each other up and take time to notice.

3. Hang out. Be best friends. Watch your favorite show together, laugh together, tickle each other, do every day life together. For better or worse.

4. Worship together. Go to church together, serve together, pray together.

5. Sing and dance and laugh. Singing's our favorite.

6. Be okay not always being together. And be okay always being together.

7. Know when it's not worth fighting over. When it's not worth hurting over. Most things that annoy you in that moment aren't worth hurting your marriage or your person over. One thing I am not okay with in marriage is bashing or putting down the other person - whether or not they're around.

8. Make time for family and friends together. Derrick and I love our time with our family and gives us opportunities to grow in friendship with others, to make new memories, to inspire and be inspired, and to grow as a couple and individuals.

9. Hug each other. Probably my most consistently favorite part of the day is the after-work hug. I rest in it. I feel safe in it. I feel loved. The world, the day, the dinner...all disappears for just a moment. 

10. Look at the big picture. Dream together. See every blessing. Celebrate every small victory. Enjoy every memory. Treasure every small romance. Pause the chaos and look at every dream come true. Don't be so caught up in being busy that you ignore being blessed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pray big.

I realize I write about my relationship with God a lot. And I have to take a moment to say that yes, I write about it a lot. It's important to me. And it's important to me that I do my best to let Him speak through me to others. It's my voice of ministry.

But I want you to know that I'm not a great Christian. Sometimes I question Him. I debate with Him. I am confused by Him. I don't know Him like I should. I don't feel Him like I should. I don't read His Word like I should.

And I don't talk to Him like I should. 

I don't pray like I need to. And when I do I get distracted. Or feel like I'm not going deep enough. Praying specifically enough. Praying hard enough. Not putting enough heart into it. Not believing enough, trusting enough, caring enough.

At church this month we're reading The Circle Maker, and our sermon series is on the power of prayer. Encouraging us to pray bigger. Pray longer. Pray harder.

Knowing that I fall short in this area and feeling the need for Derrick and I to both focus, pray big, and connect spiritually, I came up with a weekly prayer calendar for the next 28 days. Just a few days in, and it has already been such a blessing. Just hanging out with God together, talking to Him together, verbalizing our thanks, our praises, our fears, and dreams together...

I encourage all of you to set aside a time to pray specifically - alone, with a friend, with your spouse, with a family member. Pray big. He's bigger.


I've included our weekly prayer calendar for inspiration. Feel free to steal the idea! 

 Pray for work, our jobs, our careers, and the week ahead

 Pray for our marriage, our home, our family

Pray for the Jones'/Greens' Family
Pray for unsaved family and friends, for spiritual growth
Pray for the Johnson Family

 Pray for our friends

 Pray for Relationship Church, for church growth, for our church family, for the sermon the next day

Monday, July 16, 2012

The same Father...

I am blessed. I never doubt that. But this weekend I was reminded of a blessing that I hope to never forget. A blessing I would wish upon everyone.

The blessing of Christian friends. 

There's an awesome connection with Christians. When those who truly love the Lord come together. When you meet someone who gets it.  Who has been redeemed. Who has a relationship with the Author of life. Who understands that our purpose is bigger than just us. Who love and is in love with their Savior.

I think it's because we have the same Father. We're brothers and sisters in Him. We understand a different purpose. We're redeemed and called by Him. And - another really awesome thing - we'll get to be friends forever (and not in the 5th grade bff kinda way). No matter where this life takes us, we will meet again.

I feel this connection with my group of high school friends. Life has taken us down many different paths, but we are always joined by prayer. Purpose. Memories. A deep love for each other. We see God's hand in our love stories. We pray for patience through Him as we struggle to find jobs. We cry together but know that this isn't the end when we suffer loss. And we rejoice when miracles happen.

I felt this a few years ago when I was meeting a whole new group of people to celebrate a friends wedding....and, despite not knowing them, I felt at home when we joined together to pray blessings on her upcoming marriage.

I feel this every time I get together with my church family...To pray. To hang out. To worship. To laugh and share. No matter what we're talking about - God and His purpose and His provision naturally fits into the conversation. We know there will be struggle. There will be tears. There will be pain. We we know He works all things together for good for those who love Him.

I feel this when Derrick and I have dinner or go boating or meet up after months with our best friends. There's an understanding of church family, an understanding of ministering to others, an understanding of the frustrations and freedom and blessings and God-things that come from being a child of His. We have fun together and make memories together and have crazy conversations together - but never feel pressure to conform to the world. Just freedom to live our lives. It's more than friendship. It's family.

All of this leaves me in awe. I didn't have a steady church family growing up. And my extended family wasn't the "let's get together to pray about this" kinda family (not like Karen Kingsbury's Baxter family).... I pray for them constantly, because I want them to know this joy. I want them to be a part of my bigger family. My forever family.

I'd dare say this is one of the reasons God ordained the church. Yes, it's a place of worship. Of dedication. Of growth. Of service. But it's also a place of family. Of comfort. Of support. He wanted His children to lean on each other, love each other, pray for each together and play together. 

What a blessing it is to know Him! And share Him!

But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” 
Matthew 12:48-50

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, 
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:25

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, 
God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
 1 John 4:12

So we, though many, are one body in Christ, 
and individually members one of another.
Romans 12: 5

If you don't know Him as your Savior and Father, I invite you to talk to Him today. Tell Him that you realize you're a sinner, but you also realize that He sent His Son to save and redeem You. Feel His freedom and start living for Him today!

Maybe you are a child of God's, but you don't know the blessings of being an active member of a church family. I would encourage you to visit some churches and find the one that is right for you. I would love for you to visit my church - Relationship Church!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

They Ruined Romance

I watch the Bachelor/Bachelorette. It's the highlight of my Monday. I love the human dynamics of it. 

But I am still cynical about it. It's obvious to me why the majority of the couples don't last. 

Climbing up a building to discover a candle lit feast. Flying to Las Vegas to go shopping and have a private concert. Dancing on a stage while your favorite artist sings just for you. Flying to four countries in two weeks. Playing hide and seek in a 14th century castle. These things are romantic. But they aren't real. 

It's not the out-of-this-world moments that build a relationship. It's the day-to-day moments that lay a foundation. And it's the day-to-day moments that you have to live with.

I wish they'd have a Bachelor/Bachelorette of completely real things. Grocery shopping. Fast food. Going to the movies. Watching a marathon on the couch. Real life. Would that be boring?

I think that hollywood has done its best to ruin romance. They make it about big romantic gestures. Or about sex. But I hope that we can break down those messages and find the romance all around us.

The most romantic moments are those that sneak up on you. Whisper to you. Erupt in laughter. The moments unplanned. Not hoped for. 

Last night, after the Bachelorette was over, I had a few whispers of romance to surprise me. And if I only appreciated big romantic gestures, I would have missed them. 

The laughter of joking around with my husband.

Being tickled until I couldn't breath. 

Sneaking into his office and stealing kisses.

Doing a happy dance full of laughter after I beasted the racing video game and got 2nd place. (This is a big deal. I am notorious for hitting the wall again...and again...and again). Derrick always wins. He's very smooth. 

Watching How I Met Your Mother - and relating to Lily and Marshall.

Being thankful for my protector husband in bed next to me during the night thunderstorm.

Opening my eyes as lightning lit up the room - only to see my husband leaning over me with his best scary face. "I'm doing lightning faces." He smiled and proceeded to do a new face with each one of God''s fireworks. (Any doubts of whether or not he'll be a good father were demolished as he let me know that he patented "lightning faces").

So my (marriage, relationship, life) advice to all you out there today...look for the romance and beauty in the simplicity. Enjoy the whispers of moments. Don't overlook the small things while waiting for the big ones. Take time to appreciate where you are today. Who you're with today. Every moment today.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pray big.

Smooth jazz is playing in the background. To my left is my Bible and The Circle Maker - a book about prayer that we're starting to read in church. To my right is my notepad, with over a dozen handwritten promises of God showing. I am ready to read about His plan, His love, and cry out to Him in prayer.

But the truth is... I pray too small. Too generic. Too shy for a bold God.

And I don't think it's because of a lack of faith.

I think it's because of fear.

If I pray fluffy prayers, then I can just pray and be. Not pray and do. And it's the doing that scares me.

If I pray boldly. Pray specifically. Pray big. Then that might actually mean that God may answer boldly. Specifically. Big. And that's scary.

It may mean that my comfortable world may become uncomfortable. That I may have to stand up for Him and be put down because of it. That things may radically change.

So I pray easy. I pray small. I pray general, happy blessings.

So my prayer right now is that I would break down those walls and dare to pray big. Dare to believe big. Dare to live big. Dare to dream big.

Because I serve a big God. And He wants to do big things.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pillow talk

As a teenager, there was one part of marriage that I was looking forward to the most.

I would lay in bed, stare at the empty pillow beside me, and wonder who it would one day belong to. Imagine him being there. Long for him. Pray for him. 

I couldn't wait for pillow talk. Whispers in the darkness. Someone on the other side of the bed. 


Last night, despite my normal tendency  to head to bed with a book in my hand earlier than most, I wasn't tired when we got in bed at 10:45. It was probably due to the fact that we had a wonderful weekend - full of friends and family, house cleaning, grass mowing, video game playing, work accomplishments,  etc. 

Sitting up on my elbows, I asked Derrick what his week looked like at work...I figured he would be tired, uninterested, and give me a short answer. 

...Two hours later we were finally attempting to go to sleep.

It was a sleepover kind of night. Young ladies out there know what I mean. When girls have sleepovers, they don't spend hours into the night playing video games, instead they get in their sleeping bag, turn out the lights, and spend hours whispering "what ifs" and "i wish" into the darkness. They say what's on their mind and in their hearts until finally the last one speaks to a quiet, sleeping audience. Then they too will roll over and drift off.

Derrick and I did that. We talked about work. About life. About church. A little bit about everything. We shot whispers into the darkness. Shared our heart. Shared our frustrations. Shared our blessings.

It was one of my absolute favorite nights since we've been married. A night full of pillow talk. Laughter with my best friend. Life-talk with my partner. Seeing the heart of my husband. Teenage Renee's dream come true. A reminder of my blessings.

After knowing each other six years, dating over three, and being married nine months, most of our conversations our pretty simple. Every day. But sometimes a moment will catch you off guard and pour out blessings...