Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Happy by my side ♥

I was just looking through my old blogs from years past - and I realize I wrote about marriage a lot. Reading my words, my thoughts, my moments brought back such precious memories! And I figured a post with unsolicited advice and thoughts about marriage is long overdue.

After two and a half years of marriage, Derrick and I are in a really good place. Like with any relationships, there are days that you exist together, go through your routine and love each other. And then there are days that you laugh and talk and dance and touch and connect and LOVE each other. Derrick and I have been having a lot of talking and giggling and dancing days lately but, like everyone else, we have our normal days. And there's a beauty in those too.

Here's the advice you've all been waiting for (*sarcasm*) in regards to making your marriage an abundant one.  

Marry your best friends or be best friends with the one you marry
It makes life so much easier when you marry your best friend. The person you naturally have fun with and can have fun with doing anything or nothing. If you are married and aren't best friends, make an effort to get to know and enjoy each other that way. 

Find joy in the little things
Most of life is the little, every day things. Most of life is TV and grilled cheese. Most of life is laundry and dishes, double dates and family night. Make sure you can find the joy in doing a snow dance, watching your new netflix show, waking up next to each other, fast food after church, notes packed in his lunch...

Honestly there are a lot of days where Derrick and I just talk on the surface - about work or plans for the week or what's for dinner. But there are some things we consistently talk to each other about; we always talk about additions to the calendar before we confirm, big purchases before we buy, big decisions before we make them... And sometimes, when I'm not expecting it, we find ourselves in deep conversations about God or marriage or friendships or kids or careers or church.

Yes, sex is super important in a marriage - but just touching is important. Hugs after work. Kisses before bed. Cuddling while you watch TV. High fives when you're excited. A good massage after a hard day. Holding hands while you're shopping...

Have hobbies 
Together and separately. I read and watch The Bachelor - those are my things. Derrick plays video games and does video. But we have shows we watch together and games we play together. Board games are our new hobby - and something we can do together and with other friends and family. It's good to have your own personal hobbies. And it's good to have a hobby or two that you share with your spouse. 

Surround yourself with Christian couples 
We are blessed in this area, and I never take that for granted. Other happily-married Christian couples inspire us, support us, make us laugh, encourage us in Christ, understand us, speak truth to us, set an example for us and would be there for us if we ever had a struggle...plus, they're fun! If you don't have good Christian couples - both as friends and mentors - I'd love to help you out! 

Build each other up and appreciate each other 
Compliment each other - privately and publicly. Appreciate each other - using all of the love languages. When your spouse does something kind and loving, take time to notice it. Tell them when they look good. When they have a good idea. When they blow your mind with their insight or creativity or talent or kisses.
Maybe you feel stuck, you feel like your spouse isn't loving you well - take time to notice the small ways that they are loving you and appreciate that. Eventually, they'll probably notice and grow in how they show you love. 

Be silly together
Sing together. Dance together. Make up words together. Speak in British accents. Tickle each other. Play MarioKart. Skip. Be silly and young and crazy together. 

Don't expect too much
Whaaaaat? Yeah. I said it. Don't expect rose petals on the bed. Don't expect handwritten sonnets. Don't expect a dozen roses on every holiday. Don't expect to be whisked
 away on a weekend trip to Paris.
Sometimes we have these fantasies in our minds - thanks to TV and romance novels and years of daydreaming - of grandeur. When we allow ourselves to expect something, without ever verbalizing it, then we set up our partner for failure and ourselves up for disappointment.
Yes, expect to be treated well. Expect sweet nothings. Expect respect and friendship and passion. But be realistic. And appreciate what's right in front of you.

"And above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins." 
1 Peter 4:8

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Boast about my weaknesses.

I am going to be completely vulnerable and honest with you tonight. And I debated whether or not to share this post. But it was on my heart and maybe it will resonate with someone. 

 Tonight, in the middle of worship, I had a moment. A moment when I thought about all the heaviness and burden and sin and Satan that God helps me overcome. Not once but daily. Not as a memory but as a reality

I guess we each have stuff. We have obvious stuff. We have hidden stuff. We have human stuff. We have spiritual stuff. We have physical stuff. Stuff everyone knows about. Stuff no one knows about. Even as you read this, you probably can think of your own stuff.

Paul had stuff. He called it his "thorn in the flesh". And it was real to him. It reminded him of why He needed a Savior for today and for eternity. It made life in Christ a refreshing blessing. And it made the promise of heaven even more beautiful. 

Well, I have stuff too.

I have a physical and mental thorn.

Over a year ago, on October 2, 2012, I woke up in the middle of the night unable to get a full breath. I was terrified; my sweet mom got a 2 a.m. call and quickly came over to calm me down. My amazing husband stayed up all night with me - watching Matilda and The Walking Dead. I felt like I would never feel okay again. 

The doctors found nothing wrong. For the few months, it was like I was constantly wearing a corset. I felt stuck. Suffocating. You know that scene in Titanic where Rose is about to jump? That's how it felt. Derrick and I actually slept on the couch with the TV on for weeks - because I couldn't sleep in the darkness of our bedroom.It was hard for me to ride in a car for a long period of time or be out of my comfort zone. Being in crowds or being obligated to be at a function was suffocating. I wanted Derrick near me constantly. It was a crippling, veiled form of anxiety - and it was very real to me.

Now, I thank God for every full breath I can take. Every good nights sleep in our cozy bed. I am thankful that I can travel without feeling like I need to be home. That I can take road trips without feeling imprisoned. That I can be surrounded by wonderful people, having fun. And that Derrick is my best friend but not my crutch. Sometimes I can feel myself getting panicky again - but, by God's grace, I overcome.

I have other stuff. I have a spiritual thorn. 

Since I was fourteen, I've gone through seasons of doubt. I doubt God. I question God. But not on your typical stuff. I don't wonder why so and so is sick or why this person was in an accident...

I question big God stuff. Stuff far beyond the realm of human understanding. Like, why did OT believers have to go through so many sacrifices and follow so many rules? Why did God have to send His Son to save us if He knew we were going to sin from the beginning? And we all have a sin nature by birth so is it really our fault we sin? Why did God create people any way? He knew some people would go to hell. What if I don't really believe enough? What if I'm not doing enough?

I go through times where these questions weigh me down. Burden me. Cause me to feel depressed. I struggle with the feeling that I have to make sense of God. That I have to understand Him, and that if I don't, I must not really know Him. These seasons, these moments, are my darkest days. And it's not something I can make sense of or logically wrap my mind around. 

I have to trust. I have to understand that if I understood God, He wouldn't be God and I wouldn't need Him. I love the moments when God overcomes me. When He removes me from myself and overwhelms me with His graciousness. And I have to submit my thorns to Him daily. In each moment.

Those are just two examples of my stuff. Other stuff - the sin stuff, my flesh vs. my spirit - is a daily struggle for me just like it is for you. 

See, I can say that God's grace is sufficient for me. But it doesn't become real until I am weak. 

"...Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Out past my bedtime...

Sometimes I love to just marvel in how full my life is and praise God for all the positive He’s chosen to bless me with. Derrick and I have some really wonderful people in our lives – and I am ever thankful that God has surrounded us with folks who build us up in Him. 
This week was a great example of how crazy-good our life can get.
We didn’t make it home before 9 p.m. any night this week –
 which definitely makes me appreciate the weekend even more.

Monday night…
We went over to Derrick’s Mom’s house – our normal Monday night tradition. She had made a special effort to fix us a healthy meal – of grilled chicken, grilled fish and sautéed veggies. The meat was delicious; I just can’t get on board with squash, onions, peppers… Monday night is always game night, and Jessie and I dominated in four rounds of Uno.

Tuesday night…
On Tuesday night, we headed to Raleigh for our monthly date night with the Bauers. I always enjoy how easily our conversations bounce from middle school memories to work stressers, from Disney World to our favorite brands of pen,
 from Graeme’s arrival to girl’s night. 
This time we tried out The Pit in Downtown. It was Derrick and my first time there, and it was delicious. The chopped turkey with the vinegar bbq sauce
and hushpuppies was definitely my favorite.  

Wednesday night…
I rushed home after work and made some sugar-free, flour-free oatmeal cookies that had been on my mind all week, taking time finally prepare a healthy lunch for the next day. I mention this because, as much as I aspire to, I rarely have time to bake anything and be overly homey.
Our small group meets on Wednesdays – but we missed the one group that met since Christmas, on account of my 3-week sickness. So this week it was great to head to Garner to fellowship, worship and study James 1 with our church family.

Thursday night…
Johnson family night! We had one of my favorite meals – hamburgers and hotdogs. We decided to watch an action movie, and 45-minutes into it – in normal Renee-action-movie fashion – I was sound asleep. It was nice to see the family though and nice to have a little power nap.

Friday night…
Our pastor invited Derrick, some of his coworkers and the wifeys out dinner – and Derrick and I looked forward to it all week. It was great to dress up a little and go to a nice restaurant with new friends and church family. I had fun getting to know everyone
 and hearing the laughter fill the room.

Today has been a quietly busy one. Cleaning the house, doing all the laundry, making sure things are in order. Blogging :)
Our friends Jordan and Ashley are coming over tonight for Japanese take-out and board games. At the Bauer’s Christmas party, the four us discovered that we all have the same geeky love of intense board games, so Derrick and I knew we’d have to have them over for game night. I'm pretty excited!


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What I'm Reading...

Hopefully you read yesterday's post - What I've Read  -
 and you were inspired to go pick up a book. 

So, what's on my list for this year so far?

This one has been nestled on my book shelf, waiting to be read since last Christmas! It has been patiently collecting dust as I make my way through the OT - excited to have a short stay in Daniel.

Priscille Shirer is quickly becoming one of my favorites, so I'm looking forward to taking a journey through Jonah with her. 

 Like Nehemiah, Malachi is a book that I've never studied and don't really know much about...that's why I was excited to get this adorably covered book this Christmas! 
(Thanks to my mother-in-law for making sure I always have a well stocked shelf!)

Another Christmas present...from 2012! I've done the David, Jesus and Paul studies like this one, and I'll be happy to get to know John a little better.

 JD Greear is one of my favorite pastors.
Good job, husband, on getting me this read for Christmas!

Time for fiction...

Amazon listed Rachel Hauck as one of the top Christian fiction authors of 2013 - 
so why not give her a try.

And, while researching Rachel Hauck, I came across a book series that she had written with Sara Evans! That shocked me enough that I added it to the list. 

Whenever I mention loving the Lineage of Grace and Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, friends tell me that I must read the Mark of the Lion series. While it seems a little more intense than my normal fiction choices, I'm excited to take their advice. 

Last, for now, is a new Amish author. 
No one has lived up to Beverly Lewis so far - but I'm willing to continue the search. 

What's your favorite book series? Favorite Jesus-book? 
Let me know below or as a facebook comment, so I can add it to my list!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What I've Read...

As the new year approached, I began to think about what I read in 2013 and what I anticipate reading in 2014. Then, a few days later, my dear friend at Christian Wife Life asked for suggestions on what to add to her reading list in 2014. As a nerd who loves curling up with a good book, I was excited to reflect on what I've read and share what I want to read.

Today I'll suggest some books I've read and loved. 

I read mostly non-fiction...

 I read this one a long time ago, but if you're looking for a simple 5-10 minute daily devotion that still finds a way to dig deep - this would be it! I have a heart for the women of the bible, and this book covers them all.

This is an amazing book and great challenge for wives and future wives (yep, that's you)!

I got this for Christmas and read it in two days.
 I loved the way Priscilla broke down Ephesians 3:20-21 to inspire us to believe bigger.  

The title says it all.

I'm currently reading this one, and it's a challenge to believe God is who He says He is, He can do what He says He can do, you are who He says you are, you can do all things through Him, and God's word is alive and active in you. Believe it. Believe God. 

My first ever Kelly Minter study was this one -
taking a deeper looks at this beloved book of the Bible. 

I first studied Esther with Beth Moore in 2010, but this year - as I read through the Old Testament (which I encourage you to do, if you have known Jesus for a while but haven't read through the bible) - I was able to spend a few weeks reviewing this wonderful study. 

 Who knew Nehemiah was such a good book? Definitely not me!

Looking for fiction?
I'm a huge fan of Amish fiction. Weird? Maybe. Beverly Lewis is the best - and all of her books are a good read! 

And, of course, last but not least, there's the queen of Christian fiction - Karen Kingsbury. Sure, the Baxter family gets a little old after five series(es?) and apx. 25 books...but if you haven't read the original - the Redemption Series - it's definitely worth it. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's...Words and Numbers?

Happy New Year!
 (and new blog design - did you notice?)
Whoa. I can't believe that it's 2014 already!

Now, I'm not one for traditional resolutions. 
Lofty expectations like working out every day, losing 10 pounds, giving up sweet tea...

I like inspirations. Fun goals. Encouragement to live life to the full. 
But not promises to change. I don't like the pressure - and the reality that I'll likely fail. 

Many people are encouraging everyone to come up with a word to live by in 2014. 
A word that you'd like to define your year. 
For me, that word was easy. 


I want to live abundantly (John 10:10). 
Love abundantly. Laugh abundantly. Give abundantly. You get the point.

So, I made a few - realistic and attainable - goals to make 2014 abundant
and make the most of each moment.

write 25 blog posts
read remaining 20 Books of the OT
make 17 fun family memories
go on 14 double dates with friends
read 12 other new books
mail 11 snail mail letters or cards
enjoy 9 fun and unique dates with Derrick
have 8 girls nights/time with girl friends
do 7 random, unexpected blessings on others
host 6 parties, game nights, etc. at our home
make 5 surprise phone calls
go on 3 vacations—1 family, 1 Derrick, 1 friends
visit 1 new state  

What's your New Year's resolution, goal or word? Let me know below!