Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Little Perspective

Perspective. The dictionary defines it as "a mental image". It's the way you see things - your reality - your view on life. While truth is absolute, and reality isn't relative, perspective definitely changes. Mine has changed a lot in the last week. Whenever I start to see my situation a certain way and develop thoughts and feelings about my state of being, God has a way of opening my mind and showing me a slideshow of life outside my little world. He changes my perspective for me. It's His way of saying, "You may see it this way, but I see it that way." And when God gives me a new perspective, it's usually because He wants me to stop seeing things the way I see them and start seeing things the way He sees them.

For the past two months, my husband and I have been dealing with a season of unemployment. It's the second time in the last year that the economy has taken its toll on my family's livelihood and caused my husband to be laid off. Both times he was out of work for several months while he scrambled to find any and every job he could apply for and watched our bank account dwindle down to nothing. We barely had time to get back on our feet financially when it struck us again - like lightening out of the blue. While we have confidence in a God whose hand has always provided for us and who promises to meet our every need, I can't help but wonder... worry... fear. I'm bothered my the uncertainty. How much longer can we go without income? I'm shaken by the possibilities. Will we lose our home? I'm painfully aware that my life as I know it is changing by the day, and I don't know when or if it will ever return to "normal". Most of the time I am able to remain cheerful and hopeful, but there are times when the fear hits me and I cry. There are times when the sorrow hits me and I sulk. Sometimes I just wonder how much longer I'm going to have to endure all of this.

Then about a week ago, God got tired of the condition of my heart and my skewed view of reality, and He began to open my eyes. In similar fashion to Scrooge's encounters with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, He began to show me all the things I was neglecting to see. It started at the mall. After letting my kids play at the indoor playland and satisfying my latte craving, I strolled out to my car, put my beautiful healthy toddler in his carseat, and secured my stroller in the trunk of my SUV. As I got into the front seat, I saw another mother in front of me. My heart immdeiately sank. She had to park her large handicapped-accessable van in the far corners of the parking lot where there were no other cars so she could have plenty of room to extend her metal ramp and unload her son's wheelchair. She slowly lowered the chair out of the van, which held her son who looked to be about the age of my 8 year-old. Mine was happily strapped in my backseat playing his handheld video game. Hers was strapped into a chair, unable to move or speak. By the time she unloaded her son's chair, replaced the heavy ramp back in the van, and got her extensive bag of equipment secured on her shoulder, it took her at least 15 minutes just to start heading towards the mall. I sat there and watched the entire process. "Wow," I thought. She has to go through all that just to go the mall. She has to go through that any time she goes anywhere. I looked back at my two boys - perfect and vibrantly smiling - and I silently thanked God in that parking lot for the incredible blessing of healthy children.

Today I sat with a friend who has cancer - again. She was diagnosed and treated for cervical cancer two years ago and thought she was in the clear. Then she got the dreaded news - the cancer was back and it had spread to her femer bone. As she faces the reality of surgery, more radiation, more chemo, more hair loss, and more sickness, I listened to her tell me how thankful she was for her redeemed life in Jesus Christ. She talked about her troubled past and where she had come from. She talked about how Christ rescued her from danger and dispair. She told me she wanted to shout from the rooftops that Jesus has saved and changed her life. She was so optimistic about her treatment plan and so thankful that the new tumor was only in her leg and not spread throughout her body. She was thankful about the stage of her cancerous tumor. "Wow," I thought. That's impressive. As I prayed for her in her living room, my heart began to overflow with emotion. I am healthy. I don't have cancer. My children are healthy. They can walk and run and play and shout with joy. My life is pretty easy. I come and go as I please with no trouble and virtually nothing to worry about. Suddenly my problems seemed very small. So I don't know where my next paycheck will come from. So what.
Thank you God for putting things into perspective for me. Forgive me for being so wrapped up in myself that I couldn't look away from my self-centered tunnel vision long enough to realize how incredibly blessed I am and how wonderful my life really is. Teach me like Paul to be "content in all things," never giving thought to what I don't have. Help me to "give thanks in all circumstances" like Your word tells me, realizing how much I have to be thankful for. Thank you for perspective.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

10 Things I've Learned in 10 Years of Marriage

Every Sunday night, Luke and I have what we call a “Spiritual date night.” We set aside about an hour to get together for a time of Spiritual intimacy. We do different things like do a devotion together, talk about what we’ve studied in God’s word all week, listen to one of our favorite pastors, partake in communion, etc. Tonight we went down a slightly different path and did a fun little exercise that we could share with others. We got inspired by Seattle pastor, Mark Driscoll, who in celebration of his 18 year wedding anniversary posted on his facebook page “18 Things We’ve Learned in 18 Years of Marriage”. He and his wife each came up with 18 things they’ve learned about marriage in their 18 years together. So Luke and I thought it would be fun to come up with our own list. We just celebrated 10 years of marriage this summer, so we each came up with 10 things we’ve learned in 10 years of marriage.

Mandi's List:

1. Don’t let more than a day or two go by without coming together for physical intimacy. Satan loves to turn physical separation into emotional and spiritual separation… and besides, sex cures a multitude of problems!
2. Male brains are very different than female brains. Don’t expect him to see the things you see, think the way you think, or even fully understand your feelings after you’ve explained them to him.
3. When you say “I do” at the alter, you don’t just sign up to be a wife – you are also signing up to be mental health counselor. Embrace that role, don’t resent it.
4. Men thrive on admiration. Be his biggest cheerleader, not his biggest critic.
5. He loves it when you watch football with him, but not when you talk football with him. He appreciates that you can enjoy the game, but he still wants you to be a girl.
6. Being the “woman behind the man” is not demeaning, demoralizing, or suppressing. It’s an honor to be the steward of his vision, so help him to shine and let him get the glory. It will make you feel more valuable than any of your own accomplishments.
7. Make your home a sanctuary – a tidy, organized, comfortable place filled with love - to come home to after the world beats him up. He will always love to come home.
8. Forgive, forgive, and forgive some more, And when you think you can’t possibly forgive another thing – forgive again.
9. Let him know you meant it when you said “until death do us part”. Don’t threaten to walk out at any sign of trouble. Forever means forever, so be loyal and faithful, enduring the tough times together. Don’t let them tear you apart, let them bond you together and make you stronger. If you don’t have struggles, you aren’t close enough.
10. Keep your love life adventurous. Don’t let it get mundane or routine. Try new things, surprise him, and don’t be afraid to add a little element of “risk”. Remember that men are visual creatures, and they thrive on adventure, so appeal to his senses – smell, taste, touch, sight. You are God’s provision for him in this area, and you and God both expect complete fidelity. So make it worth it.

Luke's List:

1. You are the Spiritual head of your home - Your wife is the "artistic director". Learn what a duvet cover, a valence, and a throw pillow are, and be prepared to buy them.
2. Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, and IKEA are your friends.
3. Strong decision-making skills are a turn on to her.
4. Your wife is a better cook than your mother.
5. "Guys night out" will never beat "couple's night in"!
6. Satan is your enemy - your wife is not. She is there to sanctify you, protect you, and help you - let her.
7. Be the man God called you to be. She deserves better than mediocrity, complacency, and half-hearted efforts.
8. Pray early - pray often.
9. The Bible is an aphrodesiac to her. Learn it, live it, love it.
10. The husband wears the pants in the family, but the wife tells him which pants to wear.