Why #LoveYourSpouse Challenge is Good

I understand why people are rolling their eyes at the #LoveYourSpouse trend…  Because the reality is, life is NOT A FAIRY TALE.

And for most people who are against the trend rightly feel that it is a little too polished and perfect to be true. However, this challenge is a reminder of something all couples need a little more of.

Positivity. Bonding. Forgiveness. Solidarity. Encouragement.

#loveyourspouse

Here are three short reasons why the #LoveYourSpouse Challenge is a good thing.

-Keeping a Positive Outlook on Your Marriage is Healthy-

I’ve shared before that Tap and I have made a commitment to not bash each other in public. When we do this we feel safe in our relationship, we don’t fear embarrassment in-front of or away from our spouse. Our spouse knows our deepest and most hidden flaws, and with this rule I feel safe with him knowing all of me.

So no, facebook doesn’t show the reality of our roller coaster relationship, but it shouldn’t have to. Fights are for us in our own space and time, until they’re too big- Then they’re for us and a mutually trusted counselor or wiser couple.

-Telling and Sharing Your Story is Bonding-

In all of my communication & relationship courses in college the theme of “story” was studied. The premise was that “memory sharing” creates and reinforces a bond between two people. Just watch a couple recite their story, over time they can finish each other’s sentences and they can repeat this story with bravado! You also begin to see them lean into each other, and show outward signs of affection.

Why? Because, once you walk down memory lane it tends to resurface some of those initial butterfly feelings.

Furthermore! Every positive memory is like an investment in your relationship. So when those imperfect hard times hit, you have an investment that softens the blow! We need to keep remembering the reasons we love our spouse, as well as create more reasons and memories for future hardships.

-We all Desperately Need Encouragement-

We should never stop encouraging our spouse… or our friends, family, or other marriages and love stories.

Just after 4.5 years of my marriage, I may feel like I’m not the woman my husband married. Fear that I have disappointed him with the pounds I’ve gained, the patience I’ve lost, and the slow change of personality that happens with experience and time. We all doubt ourselves, and need the reminder and reaffirmation that our marriage is still strong in the midst of challenge or change.

Even in a healthy, loving, committed relationship, I’m glad to still hear I love you.. still.

It is important to remind each other that we did, do, and will always love one another, despite the surfacing flaws, bumps in the road, and challenges we face.

And in a world that pushes divorce, selfishness, and the pursuit of happiness over holiness, it’s good to see love conquer.

How about you? Will you be joining the challenge? Why or why not?

 

What If I Fall?

What if I fall_

 

I’ve fallen before… many times, I have scars to prove it. And as a child I don’t think I ever feared the falling. Falling from my first steps, falling from the pine tree at my sister’s as I learned to climb it, falling from my bike, my Rollerblade races, from sitting on my self-made tower of waffle blocks….

I’m sure that my parents didn’t even try to keep count of my scraped knees, the band-aids, or tears.

To this day I can still ride a bike, Rollerblade… and I’ve added long boarding, skiing, and so much more to my list.  And with time the falling grew less.

However, what I never meant to add to my list was the actual fear of falling.

Last ski trip, I was scared for the first time of riding the ski lift. I pulled the safety bar down as we climbed up into the mountain.  A thing I never did in the past, no matter how high we would climb.

When did that fear slip in?

And not only has it found me, but it’s taken over corners of my life.

Now I’m scared of what people think, fear of failing, fear of embarrassment, fear of disappointment… To the point that sometimes fear paralyzes me. It feeds me the lie- better not to try then to try and fail (in front of everyone).

Oh, but darling… What if you fly?

You could not only obtain your dream, but God could take you further than you allowed yourself to first dream.  Maybe this dream will whisk you away into a life you truly love- wrapped up in excitement, purpose, meaning. Maybe this dream is a step into a further calling.

Perhaps you’ll be as loved as those you love and admire- Beth Moore and Jen Hatmaker… Maybe you will do what you’ve always wanted to do- Write a book, or have a beloved tribe of friends.

Be surrounded by those you need, be where you need to be, doing what you were made to do.

And the only one holding you back is you.

Please don’t let fear hold you back from the life you’ll love and even more importantly- the life God has asked you to live, that He has equipped you for, the life that will breathe life into others.

Fly and Live.  Fly and Love.  Fly and Inspire.

When did fear join your journey? Why do you think you’ve given fear so much power in your life? What do you want to fly into?

Learning to Stop, and Love

The other morning as I was driving to work, I was talking to my sweet husband. He had decided to give his day off-after a long hard week- to paint furniture for our new apartment.

I’m so incredibly blessed by him, it was supposed to hit the 90’s, and furniture painting isn’t the most fun of activities… I had helped him back on Memorial Day and 6 chairs and 3 coats later I was more than done with it!

So all of this to say, my husband is awesome, and yet I am so so far from it.

On the phone he asked me a question and I thought it was a silly one- I pointed it out and got on the weirdest little soapbox, as if I was performing for the debate team.

My case was solid from every direction, backed up with facts and snarky comments… until Tap broke in and tore my case apart with one line.

“Honey.. it was just a question, you don’t have to treat me like a moron.”

And Smack.

For a moment I was rolling around in my own glory and the feeling of being right, to find I was just rolling in the mud of pride and self-righteousness.

For a moment I was rolling around in my own glory and the feeling of being right, to find I was just rolling in the mud of pride and self-righteousness.

Such an ugly pride.

It hurt, because I had hurt him and he was right.

I need to learn how to stop.

People rarely need a reminder of their faults and shortcomings. We are all so aware already- burying ourselves in grief. We do not need to add a single thing to this pile of self-loathing in ANY way.

But rather we should lift this burden off others, especially our men. And begin to build them up.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:11-15

Stop rolling around in the feeling of “being right” to only come up filthy. Let us stop our silly debate teams, soap boxes, and self-righteous monologues, and start being cheerleaders, builders, teammates, and dreamers.

 

Thank you honey, for painting the rest of the furniture. For being my team mate in making a house a home. You are strong, talented, and becoming quite the handy man!

Love,

Emilie

Memories of the Table

“They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God.”

Acts 2:46, The Message

After living with my parents for 6 months, my husband and I finally found a place to rent and call home! We don’t get to move in until July, but we are so excited that we keep dreaming of ways to make it ours.

Now that our space will allow it, we wanted to get a bigger kitchen table- Bigger to have more loved ones around, to throw more dinner parties at, to fill with boisterous laughter, tears of sincerity, and meaningful conversation.

A table to nourish the bellies and hearts of others.

Memories

We found a table in the liquidation section of a local furniture store, bargained down to a whopping’ $50 bucks! Once Tap had sanded it down we were ready to paint!

We spent our Memorial Day painting together. Beginning the table with memories and love… We listened to a sermon on Spiritual Gifts, and discussed new ways we could use ours. We painted as visitors came and watched in the shade. Neighbors visited and complimented our handiwork. Then we celebrated our team work with some hard-earned ice-cream.

I can already think back at other special memories that took place at a table…

We would stay up late in college studying and writing term papers there.

The Waffle Club would sit around that table laughing over telephone pictionary games gone awry.

At a table, we ate breakfast and shared our engagement story with our family.

We’ve had friends, families, pastors, bikers, musicians, teenagers, students, workers… all at our table.

I can’t wait to see what other memories will pop up at this table! …Especially as we begin to eat and break bread there.

What project could you and your husband do together to create teamwork and memories? What sweet moments have you shared at a table?

My Favorite Christmas Story

One of my favorite Christmas stories comes from John 1.  I know it’s not the usual baby in a manger scene you might expect, but it helps me soak in the Christmas miracle a little better than that well-known picture of Mary and Joseph bent over a cradle.

In John 1, a picture is painted of Jesus Christ being God. The same God who was there when the world was formed, the same God who created that world and each and every one of us.

Be still, and know.

Be still and soak in the power of God, the Creator.

God, the Creator, became a man, the creation.

Photo Courtesy of Giu Vicente at Unsplash

The first thought that comes to mind is 26-year-old-me being stuck in a baby’s body. How limiting that can be… little control over my limbs, complete dependence on mom and dad to feed, change, and clothe me.

I am only 26-years-old and not nearly as wise, righteous, and amazing as God… and I don’t think I’d like going back to being a baby.

Yet God… who IS all knowing, all powerful, all present, humbles Himself to human limitations.

Not just human limitations, but baby limitations. So that He could connect with us in a tangible way, and provide us the best Christmas gift.

Philippians 2:6-8 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

Jesus Christ was fully God and fully Man. The only one completely pure, good, and just, the only one who was deserving of eternal life, left His throne for us.

Have you let the Christmas miracle soak in? Have you let the audacious love of God soak in? It’s tremendous.

What parts of the Christmas story excite you? What inspires you?

What does Jesus want for Christmas?

Every year I have the best of intentions to spend my Christmas wisely…. I tell myself to savor every moment, focus on what’s important, and remember the “reason for the season.”  Then before I know it, all good intentions aside, Christmas has come and gone in the blink of an eye.

With moving, adjusting, and getting new jobs… Christmas is approaching even more quickly this year- So I lay with my husband in bed last night and asked him, “What do you think Jesus would want from us during Christmas?”

After a few moments, we thought Jesus would want from us at Christmas-time, what He wants of us all the time.

What does Jesus Want for Christmas_

Service, Joyful Giving, Worship, Evangelism, and taking care of the widows and orphans are just a few things that came to mind. Surprisingly the “Commercial” Christmas can help us accomplish some of these goals.

Service & Joyful Giving

During the Christmas season there are a lot of extra ways to serve! Ringing the Christmas bell for Salvation Army, buying for Angel Tree, packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Find a way to serve that meets your passion, talents, and abilities!

Give! Give as big as you can! A lot of non-profits encourage end-of-the-year giving with matching opportunities.  Even if you can only give a little, what you can give can be doubled! ‘Tis the season after all!

Worship

Christmas is the only season where Christian music is accepted and played everywhere! Have you ever thought of that? Christmas carols are often represented among the “Holiday Playlists” at stores like Target, Walmart, and the mall.

Then churches everywhere work hard to make worship services extra special, to bring God our best in worship.

We can also take worship out on the streets with us by carrying the tradition of Caroling door to door!

Evangelism & Discipleship

Sharing the gospel just gets easier with Christmas around! Why are you so joyful when everyone else is a scrooge? Why do you love Christmas so much? How are you celebrating this year? What is your favorite Christmas tradition? All of these questions can give you an opportunity to share!

Share that God, creator of the universe, humbled himself to become a baby… to live as His creation, live as a human, to die for our sins and give us eternal life.

Remember that huge humbug over the red Starbucks cups? A friend of mine made it an opportunity to share the gospel! She shared how the Red cup was like the blood of Jesus and the white represented the purity of His cleansing power. She has a great blog that you can check out here.

Widows & Orphans

Jesus mentions the orphans and the widows all of the time in the gospels, asking us to take care of them. We may not have the ability to adopt, but there are plenty of ways to help. You can make donations towards adoption agencies and programs; cook, babysit, or give to families full of adopted children; give towards personal funds for families planning to adopt.

 

What do you think Jesus wants from you during the Christmas season? How do you give a gift back to Him?

For more ways to keep God in the center check out : One Gift You Should Not Forget To Give and Sparkle Box Progress Report

Best and Most Challenging Parts of Marriage

A couple-friend of ours is engaged and currently doing pre-marital counseling. They were told to interview three couples (in different stages of marriage) with three questions.

And guess who was a lucky winner?! Tap and I!

We had a lot of fun mulling over these questions, and discussing them with our friends so I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. What is the BEST thing about marriage?
  2. What is the most CHALLENGING part of marriage?
  3. What is your #1 best piece of ADVICE?

Photo Courtesy – Kevin Curtis at Unsplash

Tap and I have been married for 4 years on the 10th of December, and we are still learning just as much as the next couple…. But here are the few insights we were able to give.

What is the BEST thing about marriage : Friendship

Tappy and I probably could have said this in unison… we BOTH feel that this is just truly great.

We love that our team-mate, friend, and lover is always there. We don’t ever have to be alone, we have each other for all the hurdles and celebrations of life.

From this day forward, for better or worse, you always have someone there to go through it with you.

What is the most CHALLENGING part of marriage : Fighting Fair, Balance, & More

To be honest this question came with more than one answer… In the four short years we’ve had together we’ve seen different challenges… and I am positive it’s only a glimpse of the challenges yet to come.  But for each year of our life, I thought there was a challenge worth mentioning.

Year 1: Comparison

In year one, we compared our reality of marriage to our imagination of marriage. We had to learn what the difference was between our ideals and what was. But comparison went further for me… it was comparing myself to other women and specifically Tap’s ex’s. I had to learn confidence and grace for myself, and trust in how God made me, and trust what Tap said when he complimented me.

Year 2: Learning to Fight Fair

This is really more of an every-year thing… We still pull the gloves off every now and then and fight dirty, but the earlier you can drop the bad habits the better!

Tap and I have learned that we cannot go to bed angry, otherwise we can’t sleep.  However, this doesn’t work for everyone. It’s usually best to give yourself a “time-out” to clear your head, minimize the emotion, and get back down to business.

Another great thing for us is to remind ourselves we are a team… whatever we are fighting about, it should be us fighting together to tackle the issue. Try not to forget you are a team.

Year 3: Balancing Life

We don’t have kids yet, but we still had to learn to balance our lives: house chores, work, church, friends, alone time, and date time. It only gets harder when more things add to this list!

Because Tap works in ministry, there was an added dynamic to this.  It is wise to prioritize your life in this way: God, Wife, Kids, Work. But if Tap works for God (in ministry) then this list gets a little blurry. We had to define what items on his Job Description were “God things” and which were “Work things.” It was hard to define this line…. God’s work is important, but it is also important not to become a workaholic and to give your family the proper time they need.

What is your #1 Best Piece of Advice : Dating & Communication

It surprises me how many couples are scared to be vulnerable and honest in a culture that seems to be so “out-there.” Conversations can be tough, but if you can be courageous to discuss things and humble enough to listen it will save your marriage a lot of heart-ache.

Tap said Dating is his best advice… “Happy wife, happy life!” But really, dating allows you to stay connected, keep in touch, and grow together. It’s important to always invest in your relationship.

Tap didn’t realize this until he was married, but he opens up best when we go on walks.

In my studies I learned that men connect “Side by Side” while women tend to connect “Face to Face.”  While I can sit over coffee and talk for hours, a man typically prefers to bond through doing something… fixing a car, playing basketball, etc. So try to connect through doing… go on a walk, kayak, work on a project he’s passionate about, etc.  Don’t always expect him to open up by facing him directly (and possibly intimidatingly). haha.

See some great date ideas at TheDatingDivas.com or the book 10GreatDates, got a budget try $10GreatDates!

What questions would you ask? How would you answer these questions? Engage in the discussion!

Things I learned in Ohio

America is often called the “melting pot,” because a large variety of cultures melt together to make it. It’s exciting that one country can hold so many distinct differences, yet be one.

Born and raised in Illinois, I didn’t think Ohio would be much different…. I suppose our country isn’t quite as “melted” as you may expect.  Sprinkles are called Jimmies in the east. You all becomes Ya’ll in the south… and on it goes.

Here are a few things I learned about Ohio.

  • People eat things called “Hummingbird Cake” and “Shoefly Pie
  • A “Carry-in” is the preferred term for a “Pot-luck”
  • The DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), is actually a BMV (Bureau)
  • If you want to meet a group of people out at Buffalo Wild Wings, it’s nickname is no longer Bdubs, but B.W.3s.  (this one makes no sense to me)
  • “Sweepers”… This was a whole new term for me, I assumed it was the item used to sweep which would only include brooms and swiffers in my book.  In Ohio it can mean a lot of things, even a vacuum or duster.
  • Ohioans seem to always vacation in Michigan, yet they dislike MI when it comes to sports.
  • They claim to have a lot of corn, but I think Illinois still wins.
  • Gas Stations, without gas, that you can drive through… they’re everywhere.
  • They do not have Mel-O-Cream donuts, and this is very sad.
  • If someone yells “O-H” you’re supposed to yell back “I-O”
  • Buckeyes are peanutbutter balls with chocolate, and everyone sells them and eats them and brings them to parties.
  • Highlander Grogg is a coffee flavor found in every local coffee shop.
  • UDF has amazing milkshakes, it doesn’t matter how jank it may look.

What are some Ohio-specific things you have learned about? Have you ever visited another state and were surprised by how different yet similar it could be? Share your fun stories, words, etc. in the comments below!

Comfort or Impact?

Since Tap and I made the decision to move from Ohio back to Illinois, I would be lying if I didn’t say I’ve gotten cold feet a few times.

In many ways it feels like we are moving backwards instead of forwards- Moving back into my parent’s home, making less money in a less passionate field of work (for the time-being), and Tap is still seeking employment.

But my friends reminded us that we aren’t “moving backwards,” we are simply re-adjusting our path.  Making a few turns forward, rather than turning around and retreating all-together.

Courtesy of Jean-Frederic Fortier at StockSnap.io

They encouraged me, and reminded me that all of this was to straighten our path back out so that we could seek the true goal- to be in alignment with God’s will and make an impact for His Kingdom.

 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

Over the last couple of years, our goal had changed. Our goal was to obtain comfort.

We had plans to pay off our school debt- a worthy goal -but that goal was driven by a motivation to travel more, upgrade our possessions, and buy more stuff…

I wanted to see Italy, Greece, and Ireland. We talked about our priorities being a new car, then a new computer, then a new whatever. Once debt was out of the way, we would have a new flow of income that would sustain our hobbies and desires.

Again, these are ok things and things we still want, but our focus had gotten off-track.  Our goal was comfort instead of impact.

We have chosen to go back to school so that we can have a bigger impact.

In times of cold-feet, I hear whispers that say: “You can’t teach.” “You’ll get another degree that you’ll never use.” “You are being foolish, wasting so much money and time… again.”

I believe this is the fear talking…  It would be a lot more comfortable to NOT go back to school, to NOT have to pay for an education, to NOT work or study or try.  But staying comfortable usually results in less impact.

As uncomfortable as it is, I want to live a life of impact.

And for me, I think that means moving to Illinois, studying hard, and getting another degree. A degree that will help me pour into the college students (the age many lose faith), to equip them with God’s word and wisdom, and to send them forth into the world- multiplying impact through a classroom.

This has been stirring in our hearts and minds…. a seed of an idea planted in us. That we’ve decided to water with a lot of prayer and a little action. Please pray with us as we weigh our options and make these big decisions.

How do you influence the world around you? What impact are you making on the people in your life? How can you multiply and deepen that impact?

I should have __________.

How many “I should have”s do you have on your plate?

This weekend I went to visit my great friends in St. Louis, and as I was waiting for them to arrive for lunch at the Boathouse I met a woman named Culeta.

She was sitting on a bench with three adorable dogs- 2 pomapoos and 1 toy poodle by the name of Kennedy.  As we sat and chatted I learned about her, her passions, and I was inspired by a few of her smart and witty comments.

Cue, that’s what her friends call her, said that God planted an idea in her head that just never seemed to go away. She said it started in her mind, went to her heart, and then started to burn in her belly.  Although it took years, she finally gave into God’s calling and she opened a non-profit called Reprieve.

She said something to the likeness of… “I’m getting too old to carry the burden of ‘I should have’s, so I just did.”

God was ready to use her, and as soon as she agreed, he readied her path.

photo courtesy of AJ Montpetit at stocksnap.io

I carry a few “I want to”s in my pack.

I want to make an impact for God’s Kingdom. I want to inspire others with my blog. I want to find a career that’s perfectly suited for my talents, passions, and purpose. I want to travel….

My hope and prayer is that these turn into statements of “I did” rather than a long list of “I should have done.”

I don’t want to drive past the homeless, and later add “I should have fed him” to my burden of should haves.

I don’t want to brush off a question in fear, instead of embracing a vigorous discussion of theology. To sacrifice a soul for comfort, than to embrace a conversation of life, hope, and saving grace.

I don’t want the burden of… “I should have gone back to school,” “I should have fought harder to save our marriage,” “I should have visited him in the hospital,” “I should have….”

I don’t want to retire and see that I lived a life of comfort instead of impact.

I don’t want my list of “Should have”s to be long, but to be as short as possible.

I want to jump in, dive deep, get uncomfortable for the sake of keeping that list short.

 

What moments have you passed up, adding a “I should have” to your list? What wants and needs are you wrestling with that you need to take action on?

 

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10