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Year-End Recap

2020. What a year. The amount the Lord has accomplished this year is overwhelming so in this post I just want to pull out some highlights.

In case you don’t know, at the beginning of every year I pray for the Lord to teach me something. It’s usually some area of my spiritual life that I’ve found very lacking. So on New Year’s Day, I spend time in prayer and then focus on that area throughout the year. Every year, God has been faithful to answer that prayer. And I guess I didn’t post it this year (so you’ll have to take my word for it), but this year I prayed for the Lord to teach me gentleness.

I’m not a gentle person by nature. At. All. I know it’s a fruit of the Spirit but I think it gets overlooked some. I’m more of a you’ll-be-fine, get-over-it, brush-it-off, drink-some-water kind of person. [Ouch] The more I realized this and the more I saw gentleness in others, I knew I needed to work on that in my own heart. So that was my prayer on January 1, 2020. I started studying it in Scripture, wrote down definitions, and watched closely people that I knew were gentle.

WHAT A YEAR TO PRAY THAT. There were SO many opportunities where gentleness was required this year! And sometimes I would think, “Lord, that’s it. I’m at the end of my gentleness here. I don’t have any more.” But always he would remind me of how gentle and patient he is towards me and my heart would soften towards those around me.

A pandemic requires gentleness. Dealing with the wildly differing opinions of others, the pain of suffering, the strokes of loneliness- I needed a tender heart. For effective ministry to occur to those around me, I could not have a harsh heart towards their opinions or feelings.

Dating requires a gentleness I did not expect. You actually cannot just plow your way into someone else’s heart, especially not a heart that has been deeply hurt before. I had to come in a gentle and understanding way. (And since Shawn is such a gentle person, it only magnified to me how un-gentle I was!)

Dating someone with children requires an extra dose of gentleness. I knew I needed to be mindful of their emotions and thoughts. I also knew the importance of fully and unconditionally embracing and loving those kids, knowing that I could get hurt in the process.

The more I practiced gentleness towards those closest to me, the more I realized this is how I should have been living all along. How harsh of a person I really am. And that gentleness grew and spread out. I’ve been hurt a lot this year (not by Shawn or the kids, lest you think that) and yet responded in ways I didn’t think possible. Instead of withdrawing (my natural response) from those hurting me, I moved closer. I was constantly reminded of Christ who came to US, to ME, and so I moved towards the offenders, not away. I was reminded that if not for Christ, I would never have come to faith and since he makes the first move in reconciliation, we as his followers do the same. We are called to be peacemakers.

In case you are sitting there thinking I did that every time, let me shatter that belief to the ground. Ohhhhh no. There definitely were times where I responded in anger. Times where my heart raged within me. If I struggled with anything this year, it was anger and selfishness. Or rather, the anger and selfishness I have in my heart were CLEARLY revealed. And it wasn’t pretty.

But I am thankful for the gentleness that God gave me where I certainly didn’t have it before. Like I said, THIS was the year. Little did I know how gentle I would need to be this year but of course God knew.

And so this Christmas I celebrate the One who comes to us to create peace. The Author of reconciliation. Oh come, let us adore Him.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2020 in encouragment

 

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It’s Complicated…But Not Really

The most common question I got while dating and even now while engaged is, “Soooo…is it hard?” Usually this question came after I explained that Shawn is divorced and has two children. Sometimes it was said as a statement instead of a question. I’m never quite sure how to respond to that but today I’m going to answer the question: “Is it hard?”

Yes. And No. Does that help?

About half of my friends are dating or engaged right now. Sometimes I see the inner turmoil and stress in their relationships and I say to Shawn, “I think we must be doing the whole dating thing wrong. It’s too easy.” He would laugh and we would shrug and move on with life. I kept my LIST of questions going and Shawn grew to know that it wasn’t a thing to be scared of. The LIST were simply things that I didn’t want to discuss over the phone but I also didn’t want to forget about, so I put them in my phone to talk about later. He grew so used to the LIST that often we would be on a walk and he would casually say, “So, got anything on your LIST we need to talk about?”

I didn’t have to worry about what Shawn thought of something because if I was unsure, I asked him. (I know that is a novel idea.) Same on his end. If I didn’t like something, he knew it. I know so many girls that toss and turn, worried about what their boyfriend thinks about something, but they haven’t bothered to even ask him. Whyyyyyy? I don’t understand.

Now. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that we are perfect. [ha. HA! ha.] No joke, dating someone with kids is different and it’s a learning process. It’s more like dating three people and learning the emotions of all three. At times, it was/is overwhelming. And at times, I felt like an invader into this family. The amount of communication I’ve had to do has gone way up. I knew that when I felt weird or awkward, the solution wasn’t to pull away from the situation, but to communicate that to Shawn. Not in a way to make him feel responsible or blame him, but to work through a solution together. We both know that small things ignored build up to big things so we tell each other the small and the big things.

The hardest part about dating was and is outside people. People who make assumptions about our situation and jump to judgement. I’m not used to having my character called into question and so this was totally new for me. I’ve had to learn to respond slowly and in a gentle and understanding way towards others. To respect what others believe about divorce, even if it’s not what I believe. Even if they haven’t taken the time to ask about our situation.

And I would say that’s where Christ comes in. I’ve learned much about how Christ works this year! Every time another person has offended me and I’ve been tempted to just give up, I’m reminded that Christ moves TOWARDS US in forgiveness. He makes the first move, not us. Each time I want to make a snarky or angry comeback to someone who is being hasty in judgement, I remember how patient Christ is TOWARDS ME. This has been a year of moving towards other people in gentleness, love, forgiveness, and patience and although sometimes it’s hard, each step has been a reminder of just how much grace I’ve been shown.

So to answer the initial question…it may be hard, but it’s GOOD. It is not a burden or weight, but a joy and delight. It is a joy to build a relationship with someone in order to pursue Christ together. It may be hard, but it’s definitely worth it.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2020 in marriage

 

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The Gentleness of Mercy

Okay, in case you haven’t gotten the idea yet…this book is just amazing!  I just finished chapter six. Chapters five and six both deal with the idea of mercy and forgiveness in a relationship.  Forgiveness I have…I have a pretty easy time forgiving people (unless you were to put a snake in my bed; that would require some SERIOUS forgiveness.)  I’ve always kind of used mercy and forgiveness interchangeably. You know, mercy is bestowing something that is undeserved, forgiveness isn’t deserved, voila!  This book questioned that theory in one sentence.

“Mercy can be extended to those who don’t recognize it, whereas forgiveness is most often a transaction between parties.” (pg 98)

In other words, you can bestow mercy without the other person ever knowing! This really hit home with me as I thought about how many times I can just keep my mouth shut and not say anything. For example, my sister has this horrible habit that really bugs me. (And yes, I have her permission to post this.) She forgets to flush the toilet. Often. It drives me crazy because I have to flush and then when I’m done it won’t flush because the tank is still filling up. So, as I was writing this post, I have to use the restroom and I walk in and the toilet isn’t flushed! AGAIN! My instant thought was, “Man, I’m really going to have to harp on her to get her to fix this. It’s so simple; why can’t she remember?”  Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of the post I had left just a second before. Oh, yeah…mercy. So I’ve decided to show mercy on this point and not mention it. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m just keeping it inside, harboring resentment either. It means that I’m being merciful, patient, and kind toward her.

Does this make sense? In my mind it makes sense but I’m not sure my thoughts are flowing well onto the keys this time. It’s so easy to miss the point of mercy in two different ways:

1. By burying it deep inside and letting bitterness take over and

2. By becoming proud in your heart about how many times you’ve shown mercy to another without them knowing.

I think mercy has a kind of gentle humbleness about it. Realizing how much mercy you’ve been shown by the Father and letting that flow out of you to others. And it doesn’t have to be about the ‘big’ things in life

It can be as simple as someone not flushing the toilet or any other pet peeve you may have.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2014 in books

 

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