Lessons on Receiving

Every Christmas growing up, my parents gave the best gifts. They were thoughtful, fun, and just what my sister and I asked for. Giving gifts was one of their top love languages and still is today. So naturally, giving gifts became one of my love languages.

But considering our present circumstances mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve had no choice but to pause and step back when it comes to gift giving. It’s been difficult, humbling, and stretching especially since I find so much joy from it in this season.

the tree

This time last year, I would have had most of my gifts purchased and my Christmas cards sent out. But this Christmas, my cards will probably make in just in time for the 25th and the majority of our gifts will probably be purchased last minute. In the meantime, I’m making/creating more of our gifts this year so we don’t have to go into any debt.

God has also provided for me and my family in unexpected ways this week:

A couple in our church who knew about Jeremiah’s job slipped us a check because they felt God leading them to do so.

  • Another man in our church gave us cash to use for groceries.

My friend Katie helped design our Christmas card and the print-outs will be very inexpensive and still adorable!

  • Between my sister and my parents’ constant generosity to us, Christmas is pretty much already taken care of.
  • Many of my friends here in seminary have randomly asked if I needed the exact thing I was already thinking of. And they gave what they had.
  • We got a beautiful 7-ft. pre-lit Christmas tree for free because the man selling it wanted to help us in our situation.

Coming up on six years of marriage, I don’t think we have ever experienced God’s provision in such a tangible way. We’ve always heard stories of people receiving checks out of the blue. But I thought you had to be super spiritual for that and I honestly didn’t think that would ever happen to us because well, we’d rather give anyway!

But surely there is a time to receive too. I’m learning valuable lessons when it comes to stewardship, budgeting, and putting my security in Christ instead of finances or wealth. I want to give more than I ever have before and be sensitive to those in need. I believe these lessons will be stamped on my life forever.

I definitely have my days of doubting God because I just want to know now what He is doing. I’ve struggled with anger and impatience and wondering if God hears us.

But when I’m able to articulate what’s going on and write it down, I can better see that God really is doing something and sometimes it is His perfect will for us to be on the receiving end and to learn humility.

Yesterday Jeremiah told me, “I think this is going to be a really special Christmas that we’ll always remember.”

I pondered his words for a while and came to the conclusion that I think he is right because somehow, God just has a way of redeeming really tough situations. He always comes through for us, even if it’s right down to the wire.

So the challenge still stands: Will I trust him to provide for us, even when I can’t see what’s ahead? Will I be faithful to God because He is good? 

Cleaving: What Does It Mean in Marriage Anyway?

On my way home from the store, in a shopping center just a block from our apartment building, I saw a man and a woman lying down on the ground in a corner holding one another tightly, trying to keep warm.

Their bags were beside them and I couldn’t believe what I was watching as I had never seen both a man and a woman together who were homeless.

I had no idea if they were married or boyfriend and girlfriend but that beautiful, heart-breaking image of that man and woman holding on to each other triggered something in my heart reminding me of my relationship to my husband Jeremiah.

Throughout our almost six years of marriage now, the wind and the rain and the hurricanes have swept through our marriage at times, testing our faith in God and our trust in each other, and we have learned to cleave.

But the truth is that I didn’t know how to cleave before I said “I do.” I mean I got the point of it all and I understood God’s word on leaving and cleaving, but I had to experience it first to really get it. And I’m still trying to get it.

But cleaving to Jeremiah has meant that I’m submissive to his leadership. That I honor, respect, and serve him with a willing heart. That I’m patient in his mistakes as he is with me and that I lift him up, not tear him down. That I praise him and build his self-esteem. That I continue to show him that I’m his #1 fan.

Cleaving to Jeremiah has meant that I put up boundaries in our relationship and keep it protected from harm and future trouble. And when there is conflict, that I’m quick to admit my faults and work through our differences in a godly way.

Cleaving has meant that our children come second, even as they demand most of our time right now. Our unity and oneness cannot be forfeited and our relationship is #1.

To cleave has meant that we are now one. We’re no longer two individuals with our separate agendas and plans. Everything we do affects one another, somehow and some way. We’re now our own family, distinct from the families we grew up in.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

God is using all of our experiences, joyful and difficult, to teach me to hold fast to Jeremiah. To work hard and be disciplined in the areas I struggle in so that when the winds and the rain and the storms of life come again, as they will, I’ll continue to cleave.

And to do nothing more because Jeremiah is God’s provision for me.

My first white hair: thoughts on being 27

This past weekend, while Jeremiah and I were talking in bed, I thought my life was just about over. As we were engaging in meaningful conversation, he blurts out and says, “Honey, you have a white hair!”

I look at him like he’s crazy. Why did he have to tell me that? My husband loves to play and joke and sometimes it’s just not funny.

“Oh, let me get it!” he says.

He pulls the white hair out and I look at it: “It’s blonde! Not white!”

“Look at it again. It’s not blonde,” he says.

I moved it around for the light to catch it at different angles. I studied it for a bit. “Okay… it is white. Ughh. I can’t believe how old I’m getting! That makes me so sad.”

“Oh everyone gets a white hair once in while no matter how old you are. It’s okay babe, you’re beautiful,” he says.
Well I’m not sure it’s been “okay” with me lately. A lot of my friends and myself included are in the stage of growing our families. I think just about every facebook profile pic I see has a sonogram on it (and it’s awesome). I’ve been told by acquaintances that I look like I “have it all together” now that I have a child (really? Hmm). Jeremiah and I looked at some pictures when we were first dating and we look like babies (that was 6 years ago). Now, he’s 30 and I’m 27. And to top it off, my 10 year high school reunion is this year.

Everything is just happening so fast.Where does time go? And will it really be okay as I age?

I’ve had these thoughts way before the white hair episode and I’m still trying to figure out how I can best give God my worry about growing older. But I’ve been encouraged by these verses:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matt. 6:25-26

There’s so much wisdom here because God knows the natural tendency for us is to worry… what’s for lunch, what to wear, where the money will come from, who we’ll marry, who our kids will marry… Things that are not even here yet.

Life itself, however, is more valuable than anything else. God sustains us and gives us the ability to experience life to its absolute fullest: to feel the sunshine, laugh over meals, write out words, engage in meaningful relationships, drink a warm cup coffee, share his truth with others, know him through his Word, and feel our very own breath. As his children, he cares deeply for us and for our concerns. And he wants us to depend on his daily provision, not what we plan for ourselves.

I think he understands my struggles in facing the fact that life just happens and we grow older. But I think he might also wants me to realize that the best is yet to come because he’s on my side and no matter if I grow weaker or my looks change a little, what ultimately matters is the life change that happens in my heart as the days get faster.

If I do end up finding a white hair again and I (or Jeremiah) probably will, I told God that I’m going to thank him that I even have a head of hair.

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