Dating on a Budget: Part 2!

dsc_0718_blogMore cheap date ideas? YES PLEASE!

I mean, sure, fancy restaurants and trips around the world can be nice, but those are once-in-a-while treats (for most of us, at least). Wouldn’t it be nice to have more frequent date nights? Wouldn’t it be sweet to spend more quality time together and NOT break the bank?
Well, you’re in luck. Because I have a few more tried-and-true CHEAP date night ideas for YOU and your boo! (Some of these ideas are geared towards married couples, but I’m sure my not-married-yet friends will find a gem or two in here also!)

(This is a follow-up ‘part 2‘ to my original post, “Dating on a Budget”. If you haven’t seen that post yet, you can check it out here:
https://alovelysomethingblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/dating-on-a-budget/ )

I hope you love these ideas, and maybe even try a few! ūüôā

Ok here we go:

  • Re-Live Your Childhood

Dash over to your nearest Toy Store, and pick out one toy each- something you would have loved to receive when you were a kid. Use the opportunity to tell each other fun stories and share memories from your childhood. If you choose to, you could purchase the toys to donate to a charity like Toys for Tots or Operation Christmas Child.

  • D.I.Y. Restaurant

There are a couple ways to try this idea- either you can both cook together and set up a candle-lit table for two, OR you could let your spouse/significant other know that you’ll be taking care of dinner, and ask them to show up after you’ve already prepared a delicious meal and decorated a table for you both. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion- catch him/her off guard! One of the sweetest memories I have is of a 3-course meal Kevin surprised me with while we were dating. He invited me over to his house for dinner, and when I arrived I found candles, flowers, and an amazing meal waiting for us on a table he decorated. Priceless!

  • Wedding Video Movie Night¬†

Whether you’re a newlywed, or you’ve been married for years, it’s time to dust off your wedding day video and reminisce! Kevin and I did this on our first anniversary, and it was the most wonderful date night. Build a fort out of bed sheets, or spread a picnic blanket on the living room floor, and laugh about the amazing memories you’ve already made together. (You don’t have to wait until your anniversary to enjoy your wedding day all over again! Bust out the video or the photo album and thank God for blessing you with each other!)

  • Keep Calm and Groupon

Make it a challenge! Groupon has more online coupons than you can imagine- so incorporate frugality into your date night! From winery tours, to exotic new restaurants, to mini-golf… it’s always fun to score discounts to local restaurants and enjoy nearby activities at a fraction of the price. First, set a budget limit (i.e. $10 each, $15 each, etc.), and then divide the fun between you (i.e. You pick dinner, and then your boo finds a fun local activity under the ‘Something to Do’ category). ¬†Make sure to read the fine print first so that you know you’ll be able to use the Groupon right away! Then surprise each other with your frugal selections. Keep an open mind, and most importantly, have FUN!

  • Play ‘The Newlywed Game’

It’s not just for TV, and it’s not just for newlyweds! Any married couple could enjoy this “game show” themed evening together. ¬†Rock out to your favorite music while you search online for ‘Newlywed Game Questions’ lists which include categories (i.e. ‘Dating’, ‘The Wedding’, ‘Life’, etc.), print out the list of questions, and then use the list to take turns asking questions from each category. ¬†When one of you asks a question, both of you secretly write down your answer to the question AND what you think your spouse’s answer might be. You can write these two answers on separate dry-erase boards or papers, then on the count of three reveal your answers. Hilarity is certain to ensue! (BONUS: If you’re a competitive couple, tally up your points from questions you answer correctly (which match your spouse’s answer), and get creative with a special prize!)

  • Blast from the Past

If possible, take an afternoon tour of the significant places in your relationship. Pack a picnic to bring along if there’s a mini road-trip involved! A few ideas:

-Visit the place where you first met.
-Where you had your first date.
-Where you got engaged (if you’re already engaged or married)
-Where you got married.
-Etc.

It’s amazing how many fun recollections will spring to life when you literally walk down memory lane!

  • Celebrate New Years EARLY!

Who says you have to wait til December 31st? Pop open a bottle of your favorite champagne, and get ready to ring in 2017 with a fresh new set of GOALS! Goals are SO important. Everyone sets New Years resolutions at some point in their lives, but the follow-through is difficult when there aren’t measurable goals set in place. Write them down together, make it REAL.
Here are a few goal categories Kevin and I have found to be a helpful way to organize and process through our plans and dreams:

1.) Spiritual Goals (How can we grow closer to God, and put our faith into action?)
2.) Relational Goals (How can we strengthen our marriage and other important relationships in our lives?)
3.) Financial Goals (How can we steward our resources wisely, budget carefully, give generously, and enjoy experiences that mean the most to us?)
4.) Career Goals (How can we make the most of the jobs that God has provided us with? How can we glorify God where we are, seek the right opportunities, and wisely determine what our next career steps will be?)
5.) Personal Development Goals (How can we be physically healthier? How can we cultivate our hobbies and make time for the things we’re excited about? What new challenges will we tackle in the next year? How do we develop our character?)

So, grab a pen and paper, throw a hand-full of celebratory confetti, and then spend some time dreaming together as a couple about both long-term and short term goals for the coming year(s). ¬†Kevin and I have grown so much closer as a couple and experienced much more success as¬†we pursue our goals as a couple. The first step is talking about those dreams and plans together, so why not make a date night out of it? ūüėČ

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read this! If you try any of these ideas, please let me know! Feel free to comment below, or send me a message- I’d love to hear from you (and maybe steal one or two of YOUR cheap date night ideas if you’re willing to share!).

God bless, and happy dating! ūüôā

 

 

Why I am “Wasting” My Vote.

waste

Can we all just agree on one thing?
This election season has been pretty brutal. On everyone.

I want to preface this by saying that I respect anyone who supports a candidate that they truly believe in. It’s not easy to be an informed voter (a.k.a. researching sources other than Twitter and Facebook)- it takes effort! So, if you’ve done your homework and your conscience allows you to cast your ballot with confidence, that’s an admirable thing!

But today, I’m specifically talking to the ‘undecided’ voters. To anyone who is considering a third party candidate or a write-in candidate, but has been feeling the pressure from the two-party system. ¬†I’m not here to tell you who to¬†vote for, I just want to encourage you to keep asking the tough questions. Think critically.

Remember that the freedom to vote in the United States didn’t just spring out of nowhere.
It was earned by generations before us.
People fought for the ability to participate in the political process.
Brave souls in generations past were literally beaten and imprisoned for insisting upon the right to participate in government.

Those people did not suffer only for you to be bullied or guilt-tripped into voting for someone you do not truly believe in.

Those people did not stand up against injustice so that you would someday be forced against your conscience to “choose between two evils”.

I’ve been told, over and over again throughout the last few months, that voting third party is a “waste“. ¬†Do you know what the true waste is?
Not giving voice to your principles is a true waste.
Standing on the shoulders of the brave men and women who fought for our freedom to choose who we support, only to compromise our convictions- that’s a true waste.

With all the intense political dialogue, even within the church, one might think that God said that “if my people, who are [insert political party affiliation], will show the ‘other side’ how much better and smarter they are, vote strategically, and place their hope in the government to legislate morality, then I will hear from heaven and heal their land.”

But God never said that.

He did say this: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

God seems to care a whole lot more about the posture of our hearts than he does about making the loudest political statement.

Here are 3 practical steps to take as we approach November 8th:

1.) Please pray for wisdom, vote from your principles, and don’t ever assume that the kingdom of God can be shaken by a temporary human government system.

2.) Please be kind to people, and show respect even when you strongly disagree.

3.) Don’t feel shame whenever someone rebukes you for not sacrificing your convictions on the altar of ‘The Political Process’, ‘Strategic Voting’, ‘The Supreme Court’, or ‘The Future of America’. ¬†

When someone ridicules your hesitation to jump on the 2-party bandwagon, they are acting out of fear. It’s a conversation-killer; there’s little room for healthy dialogue about the issues when fear takes the wheel.
Yes, in this day and age, there are many reasons to be fearful.
But there are many more reasons to be hopeful.
And the biggest reason is that God’s sovereignty, his love, and his grace will remain unchanged throughout this election, and throughout all of eternity.

So, my dear “undecided” friends, as this election approaches,
please consider prayerfully voting from a place of hope, and not from a place of fear.

Thanks for reading! God bless!

Relationships: Fairy Tale vs. Fact

ft-vs-fact
Old-school Disney movies make me smile.
I occasionally ‘wish upon a star’, and I think the world could use a little more sparkle.
It’s true… I love a good fairy tale!

Fairy tales can be fun in the right context, but I believe our culture has played a huge role in confusing fantasy with fact; especially when it comes to relationships and marriage. An enchanting idea can turn into the biggest disenchantment of a lifetime when unrealistic expectations creep onto the scene of your current or future relationship.

But… all is not lost…. *cue dramatic medieval music*

Come one and all, royals and peasants, for it is time for an epic showdown between
Fairy Tale and Fact!

Shall Truth prevail?!
Shall we slay the mythological dragon of faulty expectations?!

….Ok I’m done. We’ll get serious now. Maybe. Here we go!


Fairy Tale vs. FACT


Fairy Tale: ¬†Blissfully daydream¬†over the list of characteristics you’re looking for in a future partner.

Fact: Your ‘dream guy/girl’ also has a list.

It’s good to have standards- go ahead and make your list! But it’s just as important to¬†realize that your ‘dream guy/girl’ also has a list of things they are looking for in a relationship. So, instead of ONLY focusing on looking for the person worth finding, ask yourself- what are you doing to become the kind of person worth being found?

Fairy Tale: My significant other ‘completes’ me.

Fact: A healthy relationship isn’t about ‘completing’ one another.

I wasn’t only ‘half a person’ before I started dating, or before I got married. ¬†Being single doesn’t make you ‘incomplete’, and neither does being in a relationship make you ‘whole’. ¬† I was single for 23 years, and I wasn’t less of a person because of it. Can I get an ‘AMEN!‘ from my single friends!? ¬†My husband doesn’t “complete” me, and I don’t expect him to meet my every desire, secure my identity, and fulfill my every need.
After all, that’s WAY too much pressure to put on another imperfect human being!
A healthy relationship should consist of two complete people, coming together to inspire and challenge one another in love and respect.

Fairy Tale: ¬†Follow your heart. When you find the right one, you ‘just know’.

Fact: ¬†The heart can be deceitful. ¬†You need more than just a ‘feeling’.

“The heart is deceitful above all things”(Jer.17:9). What a buzzkill for the ‘follow your heart’ crowd! ¬†Having a “feeling” about someone isn’t enough to make a wise decision about whether or not it is wise to commit to them. ¬†Emotions can be a huge blessing, and it’s GOOD to feel love and affection for the person you’re with. However, infatuation comes and goes, so how will you make a commitment based on wisdom?
A decision that will last, regardless of how you ‘feel’ in the moment?
Culture says “follow your heart, but the Lord says ‘follow me’.
How do you know you’re with the right person? ¬†Put Christ first in your relationship, share similar values, pursue a deeper emotional maturity, and receive¬†wise advice from those who have your best interests at heart. That’s a great place to start. Unless, of course, you’d prefer to consult with the butterflies in your tummy.

Fairy Tale:  Spare no expense; you deserve the wedding of your dreams!

Fact:  Being happy on your wedding day has nothing to do with how much money is spent.

Come on, who doesn’t want to make their wedding day $uper $pecial? The average American wedding costs $30,000. Do some research, and you’ll find the average costs of weddings have been increasing. What! Go ahead and call me a penny-pincher, but that is just CRAZY to me! Of course, every couple has a different budget and different goals, but going into debt doesn’t have to be part of the picture.

I’ve seen a miserable bride at her $20,000 wedding, and I’ve seen a bride glowing with happiness at a wedding that cost less than $1,000. Could it be that the biggest diamond doesn’t guarantee¬†the greatest joy? Is it possible that the purpose of a wedding is to celebrate your covenant commitment, not just to impress people for an evening?

I’m not saying it’s wrong to splurge on your wedding day, but I encourage you to make sure your priorities are in check. While planning my own wedding, I received the wise advice to ask myself the following question: “Am I spending more time/money/effort on this wedding than I am on building a solid foundation to this marriage?” ¬†A wonderful wedding day doesn’t happen by accident, and neither does a wonderful marriage. As you plan ahead for ‘the day’, make sure you don’t neglect to plan ahead for ‘the lifetime’.

Fairy Tale: We’ll live happily ever after.

Fact: Happiness is a decision. Love is spelled W-O-R-K.

Story time: I remember the first time I went to IKEA.¬†It was a magical place- the only place in the world where you can buy an uncomfortable futon AND eat Swedish meatballs all under one roof. Welcome to the 21st century. ūüėČ My parents were buying some new furniture, and I was so excited to have my new loft bed delivered! But when the bed arrived, it didn’t look like a bed at all. It was just a long, skinny cardboard box with a bunch of boards and screws. Bummer! I was so excited about my new bed, but I never realized that beds don’t just magically appear in your bedroom. You have to actually assemble it. Without putting any work into building it, my bed wouldn’t ever really be a bed at all. ¬†Beginning a relationship or a marriage is kind of like taking that trip to IKEA. You might have the image of an ideal marriage in your mind, but there is ‘some assembly required’ to get there. ¬†(…Actually, there’s a LOT of assembly required!)
When two people join together, with their own unique personalities, goals, dreams, and ideas, it’s not always easy. The building blocks are there- two people who love each other and who are committed to faithfulness. ¬†But the “happily” is a choice, and the “ever after” is a work in progress.¬†Love isn’t a single big decision; it’s also a thousand smaller¬†decisions made every single day; having FUN even in the simple things, keeping no record of wrongs, searching for new ways to put the other person’s needs before your own.

What’s one thing you can do right “now” to impact the outcome of your “ever after”?
It’s pretty empowering to realize that you don’t have to be a victim of your emotions or circumstances; you can choose happiness.


And now this epic battle between fantasy and reality has come to a close! Myths were slayed, Truth prevailed, and fairy tales have been banished from relationships and back on the bookshelves where they belong! ūüėČ ¬†(…If only it was that easy, right?)

Thank you for reading! ūüôā

 

 

 

One Thing You Shouldn’t Tell Your Spouse

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Imagine this scenario…

You just received an incredible gift. Even before opening it, you know that this gift is the most special gift you’ve ever received, and you are so happy to have it!
But then someone says-“That bow is crooked, and I bet that gift is going to be lame.”
You try to brush off their critical words, and begin unwrap the gift.
As you lift the gift from it’s box, the same person scoffs- “Pshh! What a cheap-looking, poorly made gift. There are so many things wrong with it, I don’t even know why you want it. It isn’t that special.”

How RUDE would that be!? You’d probably tell that person to back off! Who do they think they are; pointing out flaws, being critical, and robbing you of your excitement and happiness?

What if I told you that, in my own marriage,¬†I’ve acted like that super-rude person?
And, maybe you have too?

Let me explain…

Marriage is a gift, and a husband and wife are “gifts” to one another.¬†
So, as a wife, I believe that God has given me as a gift to my husband.
Prov 18:22: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”

Why then do I feel that it’s acceptable to talk to Kevin in detail about what I think is ‘wrong’ with myself and my body?¬† He sees me as a beautiful gift from God, so why would I undermine that in any way?
When Kevin tells me I’m beautiful, why is it hard to fully accept his words without pointing out a flaw or two?

This is a difficult lesson I’m learning.
It’s not something I’ve done to Kevin every day, or even something I’ve done very often, but I am still feeling convicted to guard against this unkind behavior.

To any wife reading these words, please don’t ever insult, criticize, or demean your husband’s greatest gift from the Lord; a.k.a. YOU.
What good do you accomplish in pointing out your physical flaws to your husband? (Chances are, he probably doesn’t notice those issues anyways. Why call them to his attention?). How is it kind or beneficial to him when you complain about something he cherishes?
Physical insecurity isn’t a physical issue, it’s a spiritual issue to bring the Lord and to trusted female friends who can walk with you through the nitty-gritty details of your insecurities.
Your husband will not clear the insecurities from your heart, only Jesus can do that.
When insecurity arises, spend your energy confronting your insecurities with TRUTH instead of reinforcing them through complaints.Talk to God, ask Him to teach you what true beauty means, and gracefully accept your husband’s appreciation and compliments. ¬†You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I’m not telling you that you should pretend to be flawless, or to hide behind a mask of fake confidence.
I’m all about honesty and transparency. Truth is essential to a healthy foundation for any relationship, and if there’s one person you should be entirely open and truthful with, it’s your spouse.
It’s okay to let you spouse know that there are times when you struggle with insecurity, so that he can be praying for you.
It’s not okay to respond to his appreciation with self-depreciation.

Let the words you speak to your spouse bring life, encouragement, and truth. Tell him you love him. Tell him you appreciate his hard work. Tell him what your dreams and goals are.
Tell him anything that needs to be told!

Please just remember this…

The one thing you shouldn’t ever tell your spouse is that his gift from God
“isn’t that special”.

Because nothing could be farther from the truth.

When Change is Strange: 3 Verses for Survival!

babykristin

(4-year-old Kristin. So much has changed…except my sense of fashion.)

The day I was born wasn’t just a day. It was multiple days.
My poor sweet mother endured over 36 hours of labor, because I was so darn comfortable where I was, and I stubbornly refused to budge. The doctors ended up using these huge salad tongs to grab my chubby cheeks and “convince” me to venture out into the world. (I’m sure there’s a more medically-correct term I could be using other than ‘salad tong’… forceps maybe? Clearly my medical vocabulary has room for improvement.)
Why the gruesome story, you might ask?
Well, because I think it illustrates the fact that from a very early age,
I’ve never been a huge fan of change.
I get comfortable where I’m at. Even if there’s a 99% chance that there is positive change on the horizon, I get all wistful as I look backwards on what I’m leaving behind.
Although I’ve grown in this area, I have a whole lot more room for growth in embracing change.

Change is so very complicated and takes so many forms.  Change is jumping into the unknown. Change is improvement. Change is opportunity. Change is loss. Change is adventure. Change is tragic. Change is hopeful.  Change is strange.
How can one word mean so many different things in so many different circumstances?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve experienced a wide spectrum of ‘changes’.
A few examples…
I graduated college. Change. I began my first post-college/big-girl job. Big change. ¬†I made new friends. Happy change. I lost touch with other friends. Not-so-happy change. I got married. Incredible change. I moved away from my family. Bittersweet change.I can easily list out all kinds of changes I’ve experienced, all across the spectrum, and I’m sure you can too. Maybe you’re even going through a crazy season of change as you read this!

To live is to experience change. We can’t choose whether or not change will happen, but we can choose how we respond to it. ¬†I wanted to share some scripture I’ve found to be an encouragement and a challenge to my heart as I face a season of change.

Hebrews 13:8-¬†“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Why do I so easily skim over this statement without letting that sink in? This is HUGE. In this life- nothing is certain except for uncertainty. My parents used to say that “The only things that are guaranteed in life are death and taxes.” It’s a funny clich√©, and they would say it with a chuckle, but there’s still some sobering truth there. I’d also add ‘change’ to that list. ¬†After all, change is also guaranteed. ¬†Meanwhile, even in a whirlwind of changes, Jesus never changes. How encouraging is THAT!? Change brings the unknown. The unknown brings out our fears, but Jesus’ perfect love casts out our fears. ¬†His grace doesn’t quit. He will love you forever, and he won’t ever change his mind.

2 Cor. 12:9- “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Wait, weakness? Isn’t that a bad thing? Our culture glorifies strength and perfection. I mean come on- we just watched the top athletes in the world compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics, and not a single one of them won a medal for being wimpy! ¬†This verse turns our cultural understanding of weakness upside-down. When he wrote this verse, Paul was walking a difficult road. He experienced a painful change in his life, and was begging God to take away his struggle. God said ‘no’. Yet, Paul didn’t curse God when the answer to his prayer was ‘no’. ¬† It’s amazing to me that we are still reading his words a couple thousand years later, and praising God for demonstrating His grace and power through Paul’s life. In this world we will have trouble, but our God has overcome this world. ¬†As Paul also said- “…this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). ¬†Change can be an affliction, but that affliction isn’t meaningless. There is so much more beyond the pain. Brace yourself- we’re going back to the gruesome analogy from earlier: My mom experienced great pain when she gave birth to me. Why didn’t she just give up? After all, 36 hours of labor is right up there near the top of the list of ‘most physically painful human experiences’. ¬†She endured, because she knew that her suffering wasn’t meaningless. ¬†There was a little bundle of joy (a.k.a. ME) on the other side of that pain. (Today, she assures me that the struggle was “worth it” even though I’m “a total punk”. Love you too, Mom.) ¬†Similarly, we are challenged by this verse to endure affliction and difficulty because God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Pain isn’t the end. He promised to work ALL things for good for those who love him, and he promised that His grace is sufficient.

Psalm 1:3- “He is like a tree¬†planted by streams of water,¬†that yields its fruit in its season,¬†and its leaf does not wither.¬†In all that he does, he prospers.”

As someone who moved over 8 times growing up, I didn’t feel very much like a tree planted by streams of water. After all, I didn’t stay anywhere long enough to plant deep roots! I wonder what King David was thinking about when he wrote this verse. After all, he had already experienced so many travels, so much change, many adventures and even much heartbreak. I don’t think that ‘planting yourself by streams of water’ means that we all should buy lake-houses tomorrow and live there permanently. (Although…actually that sounds pretty legit. Anyone want to fund a lake-house for me? ūüėČ hehe) ¬†However, I do think that this verse suggests that trees are meant to produce fruit, and trees need to have access to water in order to product fruit. So lets say that the “tree” is you. And your “fruit” is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. And that “fruit” comes from intentionally placing yourself near the “water” of scripture, prayer, and community with other believers. ¬†Changes in ‘seasons’ will make this a challenge, but change will not stop you from choosing to face that challenge with boldness. Because even if you move across the globe, there is no place you can go where God isn’t already there. Even if a relationship fails and you feel abandoned, there is nothing that can change God’s mind about loving you. ¬†Healthy trees sure can take a beating; we had a hail-storm here not long ago that knocked entire branches off the trees by our home! But those trees soaked up the water and survived. They’re even taller now than they were months ago.
I want to challenge myself, and whoever reads this, to take notes from the tree. If we plant ourselves near the “water” of truth, prayer, and community, we will not wither away.
Change is real, and change is happening. I can try to resist it as much as I want, but sooner or later, the “salad tongs” of change will pull me into a new phase whether I choose it willingly or not!

So, when you face a season of change, how do you respond? Are there certain scriptures or bible verses that encourage you when change is difficult?
Send me a message, leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for reading! ūüôā

 

5 Lessons From My First Year of Marriage

I can’t believe it- I’ve been married for a year already!?IMG_7981

This has seriously been the fastest year of my whole life.
Older married couples have told me that time doesn’t slow down from here- it actually speeds up! ¬†What!? That’s so crazy to think about!
Time together is such a precious gift, and I don’t want to take a single day for granted.

For the past 365 days, God has used this amazing thing called marriage to shape my heart and smooth the rougher edges of my character. One year down, one lifetime of learning to go! I’m so thankful for God’s grace and my husband’s patience as I continue to grow into the person God desires for me to be.¬†If I wrote out every lesson I’ve learned from this first year of marriage, it would probably turn into a whole book! So, upon further reflection, I’ve condensed my list down to the top 5 lessons that marriage has taught me in this first year.

If you’re single, I hope that this post is an encouragement to continue seeking God first, and to find the joy amidst the ‘growing pains’ of life! If you’re currently dating, I hope you will consider this to be a helpful glance into what being a newlywed is like. And if you’re married, I hope this encourages you as you find similarities in the lessons you’re learning as well! I believe we can all learn so much from one another; regardless which phase of life we are in. We’re always learning, so there’s always something valuable to share!

Okay, here we go- 5 lessons I’ve learned during my first year of marriage:

1.) Perspective > Circumstances

In marriage, just like in singleness,¬†every day is what you make it. Circumstances only play as big of a role in your attitude as you allow them to. Even on a tough day, you can decide to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and choose a healthy perspective. Circumstances are temporary, but God’s grace is forever! A healthy perspective takes work and maintenance. It doesn’t just ‘happen’. Think about it; we work hard to take care of our physical bodies- practicing good hygiene, getting exercise, eating good food- but how much time do we really spend taking care of our minds? A healthy perspective is a whole lot more difficult to maintain when I’m not taking the necessary steps to keep my mind and spirit in a healthy place. ¬†Circumstances matter, but perspective matters so much more.

2.) Nothing will bring out your inner selfishness like marriage does.

I thought I was a pretty decent person… until I got married.

*cue dramatic music*dun dun DUUUUN!*

On a serious note, it really is true that marriage brings out your rough edges- even ones that you didn’t even know were there!
As a single person, I genuinely worked hard to put God first in my life, but my own desires and priorities were a close ‘second’. Now that I’m married, ¬†I have someone else‘s perspective to consider before making a decision. I have someone else’s goals to merge with mine. I have someone else‘s love language to learn. I have someone else‘s dreams to cherish as they become my dreams too.

It’s not always been a simple process, but it’s been a beautiful one.

3.) Don’t sweat the small stuff.¬†

(The truth is…99% of what I worry about is “small stuff”.) ¬†It’s okay if you plan something and it doesn’t happen the way you wanted it to. It’s okay if you accidentally burn dinner while learning to make new foods; that doesn’t mean you failed as a spouse. (Yes, that sounds dramatic, but you’d be surprised by the amount of pressure I put on myself to be a 5 star chef from my first time cooking in our new home. It’s almost comical in hindsight, but at the moment I felt like I was ‘failing’ just because I made a few common mistakes.)
It’s important to train yourself NOT to sweat the small stuff, so that when the ‘big stuff’ comes along you will have the confidence and trust to know that God uses ALL things for His glory and your good.

Once of the BEST pieces of marriage advice I received from a former mentor of mine was “Girl-sometimes you just gotta roll with it. Stay lighthearted!”
In other words: don’t sweat the small stuff.

4.) Keep a ‘Record of Rights’.

1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love ‘does not keep a record of wrongs’. So, do the opposite! ¬†When your spouse does something right, take a mental note, write it down, do whatever you need to do to store those moments up in your heart. Instead of digging up dirt from previous ‘wrongs‘, you’ll be frequently adding to your list of ‘rights‘! ¬†Then, in the heat of an intense moment, your heart won’t be blinded to the big picture. A grudge will turn into gratitude. It’s amazing how much easier it is to “overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11) when you’ve got a direct memory of so many GOOD and loving things your spouse has done.

Take a step back and remember the whole picture.
You’ll be delighted to have a constant reminder that the positive far outweighs the negative!

5.) The best gift you can give your spouse is a heart fully dedicated to the Lord.

Who doesn’t love a nice gift?
Gifts are fun! It’s exciting to plan something special for someone you love.

Ultimately, however, the greatest gift you can give your spouse doesn’t have a price tag. You can’t find it in a store, gift wrap it, or stick it under a Christmas tree.
It’s a gift that comes as a direct result of pursuing Jesus as your first love- learning more about his character and dedicating yourself to follow in his footsteps. ¬†The most steadfast foundation of marriage happens in an environment where two people are committed to love one another selflessly as Christ loved the church. Putting the Lord first allows us to cultivate a healthy perspective of God, and our spouse is a direct recipient of that overflow of grace. ¬†In this way, we can encourage and challenge one another in our personal growth.

Here’s an example of what this concept might look like:¬†Kevin made the decision to wake up before dawn every day so that he can spent time in God’s word and in prayer before anything else. He’s not naturally a ‘morning person’- it isn’t always easy for him, but he is still consistent. He doesn’t ever complain. ¬†This was a spiritual discipline that Kevin observed in his Dad’s life as he grew up, and now he is following that example as the head of our household. By the time I wake up in the morning, ¬†I know that my husband has already invested the first hour of his day pursuing God’s truth.¬†¬†He is storing up wisdom, and equipping himself as a man after God’s own heart. ¬†There are hundreds of reasons why I’m proud of my husband, but this one is pretty high up on that list.¬†It is such a treasure to me as his wife to know that Kevin is growing closer to the Lord, while providing me with a constant example of spiritual leadership.
You can’t put a price tag on that.

If you’ve read this far, thank you so much for your time! This post was a bit longer than usual, so thanks for sticking around. ūüôā

Whether you’re married, dating, single, or anywhere in between, I would love to hear the relational lessons you’re learning as well: Observations, personal experiences, or anything of value that you are willing to share.
Please send me a message or leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

(Photography by Nicole @ SavedXGrace Photography)
collage***

 

Why I Didn’t Accept the #LoveYourSpouse Challenge

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I’ve been nominated for the #LoveYourSpouse challenge. In case you haven’t seen this already, here’s what it is: for a specific number of days, you are supposed to share and celebrate your photo-ready, picture-perfect moments of marital bliss you’ve shared together. ¬†The intention is a good one: spreading love, and bragging on your spouse. Both are GOOD things to do. ¬†I love seeing those things!
…But I’m not going to take the challenge.

*GASP*

“Why not?!” “Don’t you love your husband?” “Is something wrong in your marriage!?” ¬†

Hang in there and give me a chance to explain myself. Don’t get me wrong- I love the idea of celebrating love, and praising your spouse both privately and publicly. ¬†It’s a GOOD and beautiful thing to spread joy when the majority of our culture has a cynical view of marriage as a whole. Anyone who knows me would be able to tell you that my husband is my favorite person in the world, and being his wife is the greatest blessing of my life. I absolutely LOVE being married to Kevin! ¬†All that said-¬†I won’t personally be doing the “challenge”. ¬† (After all, it isn’t much of a ‘challenge’ to post fun sweet moments/photos on Facebook- we ALL do that ALL the time! That’s not hard to do.)

The REAL challenge would be vulnerability. The real challenge would be to be REAL; stepping out in humility with the acknowledgement that there’s a whole lot more to marriage than picture-perfect highlights.

Social media isn’t ‘real’- it’s a ‘highlight reel’;¬†carefully selected moments on display for the world to see, and carefully crafted captions to project a polished image of our lives to our friends. If all you see of someone’s marriage is the ‘highlight reel’, it’s easy to think that they have a flawless relationship and a perfect shiny life.
Several of my single friends have confided in me that it’s WAY too easy for them to make an idol out of marriage/relationships; after all, they are constantly scrolling through their married friends’ highlight reels of Pinterest-worthy perfection.
That’s understandable- after all, when all we see is “perfection”, we assume (perhaps even subconsciously) that’s all there is.

That’s a problem, because there’s so much more to our marriages than all those Facebook-ready, frame-worthy photographs.

There are days when we misunderstand one another.
Moments when we battle against selfish expectations.
Days when we struggle through our own sin, and the sins of one another.
There are days that are NOT pretty, and definitely NOT Instagram-ready.

There are messy days.
But that’s ok!

Praise God that the purpose of our marriage is NOT to be perfect!
The purpose of our marriage is to glorify God.
When our messiest days are turned into invaluable learning opportunities, God is GLORIFIED and we need to share those stories!
When Jesus redeems our most difficult moments, we need to share those stories, and other people need to hear them!

Maybe those stories can be shared publicly, or maybe just privately to encourage and uplift others who might be struggling through similar things.

Sharing the beautiful moments I’ve had with Kevin is an easy thing to do. It’s not really a ‘challenge’. ¬†I’m a ‘picture-person’, and I love pictures. I love dressing up, capturing joyful moments, and sharing them with the world. ¬†My husband is my hero, and it’s not difficult to brag about my hero. ¬†However, being vulnerable with others- sharing where I struggle and how God is teaching me how to be a better wife and friend to my husband- now THERE is a seriously TOUGH challenge!

I want to take THAT challenge. Even though it doesn’t have a trendy hashtag. Yet. ūüėČ

After all, the deepest beauty of this first year of marriage didn’t just come through those ¬†‘photo-ready’ moments. It came through a mutual understanding that we will NEVER stop trying our hardest to put Christ first in our relationship, and that we have committed to invest in our love for one another no matter how we are ‘feeling’ in the moment.

Loving your spouse.
It’s not always glamorous. But it’s always worth it.