Finishing Well

olympics

I have been watching the Olympics.  Obsessively.  I can’t remember a prior year that I have been so swept up in Olympics fever.  Maybe that’s because most years I haven’t had as much time as I have had lately to just sit and watch.  But now I am binge-watching these athletes whom I had never heard of before and will likely not hear about again until it’s time for the next summer Olympics.

The fascination is more than just wanting to cheer on my country.  It is watching these young men and women (and I do mean young!  Never have I felt so much that life has passed me by than to see these Olympic contestants who are barely out of high school!) who have prepared for four years to be here for a race that may last only minutes.

We do not see their months of hard practice, their strict diet, the muscle pains, or the sweat.  We do not see the sacrifices that they have made to be there.  Very few Olympic athletes get there by accident; rather, the competition is the culmination of a carefully planned regimen.

As Paul says,

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Cor 9:25 (NIV).

As I am approaching my wedding celebration, I feel that I am nearing the end of my “race” as a single person.  Make no mistake – I am ending a sprint to now begin the marathon of marriage.  But here too, people will see just the culmination of the past year and a half of dating, and 33 years of singleness.

The closer that one gets to the finish, the easier it is to give in to temptation, to relax, to not be so strict.  Aren’t we close enough to the end?  Haven’t the years of sacrifice been enough?

And yet Olympic athletes do not throw in the towel on their training right before the competition.  They do not decide that all of their training has been enough and they can sit on the couch and eat chips for the final month.  No, they continue right to the end for a strong and well-deserved finish.

Are you finishing your race well or have you grown tired?

Seasons

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It’s summer and I’m wearing a hoodie indoors.

My office air conditioning battles the fiery heat of a July sun by blowing Antarctica level winds throughout the building.

But this arrangement will change in a few months. Summer stickiness will be replaced by cool autumn breezes and my hoodie can then be worn in its proper climate when  the season changes.

Like the Earth, we too can can experience different seasons. Whether it’s a job, a family issue, a relationship, or our health, the climate of our circumstances is ever changing. There are times where life is good and peaceful and praising God is simple. And there are moments where it is rocky, lonely, and hard to trust Him.

But although life’s temperature always fluctuates, God does not.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James1:17(NIV)

God’s constancy reassures that His love, His kindness, and His care for us will remain, no matter what.

What type of season are you in? What part of God’s unchanging character is being revealed to you in the midst of it?

Photo credit to Death to the Stock Photo.

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Jennifer Jennifer Richardson

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 31 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-). In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin. I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well. I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

Choosing Wrong in Marriage

Death_to_stock_kinckerbocker_photography_6In online dating, finding the perfect mate is like picking the right color above – do I want yellow or do I want tan?  Maybe the more orange-y yellow?  If I pick tan, will I always want tan or will I be bored?  Maybe I actually want blue!  But we assume by trying out the whole rainbow, we will figure out which color we actually want and make the right decision.  But what if there were no such thing as a right decision? What if you’re destined to make the wrong one?

Today I listened to an episode of This American Life that addressed the problem of picking wrong in marriage.  I’ll post the first part of it below:

Ira Glass

Well, it’s June. Weddings everywhere, brides in white, little three-year-old nieces sent waddling down aisles throwing rose petals, vows that go on, perhaps a bit too long.

Ira Glass

And how many of these happy couples are actually, underneath all of it, mismatched?

Alain De Botton

A huge number. It’s frightening going to weddings.

Ira Glass

Meet Alain de Botton, author of articles with titles like “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person”, and “How We End Up Marrying the Wrong Person”, and two books about love. I was interested in talking to him because our radio show today is about making wrong choices. And he believes that when it comes to making the single most important decision many of us ever make in our lives, it is incredibly easy to screw it up– much easier than we generally acknowledge.

Alain De Botton

You know, some of the reason why we marry the wrong people is that we don’t really understand ourselves. I mean, sometimes I say to people, do you think you’re easy to live with? People who are single. And the ones who say, yeah, yeah, I’m pretty easy to live with, it’s just a question of finding the right person, massive alarm bell rings in my mind.

Ira Glass

He says the problem is that it is not until we are actually married that we’re in a situation where all the ways that we are hard to live with are truly revealed. All of our neuroses and flaws, all the tiny little things that vaguely remind us of our childhoods, and thus trigger peculiar and inappropriate behavior towards those we live with, that’s what gets revealed by the marriage itself. Even if you lived together before marriage, he says, it’s not the same. It doesn’t give you that self-knowledge.

Alain De Botton

And so we go into marriage unable to convey that knowledge to a partner. We don’t understand them. They don’t understand us. We don’t understand what marriage is. Let’s stress that.

Ira Glass

So what would you say to all the people getting married this month? What would you tell them?

Alain De Botton

Be incredibly forgiving for the weird behavior that’s going to start coming out. You will be very unhappy in lots of ways. Your partner will fail to understand you.

If you’re understood in maybe, I don’t know, 60% of your soul by your partner, that’s fantastic. Don’t expect that it’s going to be 100%. Of course you will be lonely.

You will often be in despair. You will sometimes think it’s the worst decision in your life. That’s fine. That’s not a sign your marriage has gone wrong.

It’s a sign that it’s normal, it’s on track. And many of the hopes that took you into the marriage will have to die in order for the marriage to continue. That some of the headiness and expectations will have to die.

Does this sound dark to you?  I discussed it with Pat and he just shrugged and said that all it meant was that no one was perfect.  It scares me, though.  I’m on this side of marriage.  I can’t even imagine being unhappy with Pat, or being in despair, or thinking it’s the worst decision of my life.  If I honestly thought that I would come to that place, then why get married in the first place?

I ask this and yet I look at my friends and all of them have had trouble spots in their marriage.  Some troubles have been short term, but some have had longterm issues, including deep concerns about their partner’s character.  I want to protect myself from that – surely even if no one is 100% compatible, there are people you are more compatible with than not, right?  Sure, some people will be terrible matches, but doesn’t that mean that some people will be good matches?

I get that life and especially marriage is not a fairy tale.  We will need to give each other grace, forgiveness, and mercy frequently.  But surely it’s a more positive picture than the above, right??  What do you think?

 

Photo credit to Death to the Stock Photo.

 

Learning to Wait

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When I was single, I hated when people told me to “just be patient, the right one will come.”  Didn’t they understand that I had no interest in patience?  That I had clearly and obviously waited long enough?  Couldn’t they see the time and tears already wasted?

When I started dating my now-fiance, I decided two months in that he was definitely the one.  I was pretty sure after one month and definitely sure after two months.  And from the moment that I made my decision, the clock started ticking again in my head.  Why hasn’t he already asked me to marry him?  What’s the hold-up?  Doesn’t he know my ovaries are like little ticking time bombs?

When my fiance asked me to marry him, I thought at last! Life is moving forward.  No more waiting for happily ever after.

Except from the moment the engagement started, so did the wedding planning. Now my fiance and I are anxiously awaiting our wedding day.  Even as the weeks pass, the day seems never closer.  Every day we talk about how much we wish we were married and I regret not having planned a shorter engagement period. My irrational fears mount – what if the day never comes?  What if one of us dies before then?  When am I finally going to be one with my husband?

I think to myself, I can’t wait to be married and for the next phase of life to start. Then I will be living a full life.

The problem with waiting is that there’s always something to wait for.  Waiting for our life to start at a certain point means that we will always be stuck in slow motion, because the point will just keep moving.  Next I will want a baby (confession: I already want a baby).  After that I will want my second, and so on.

Although patience is clearly not my strong suit, I can see the spiritual lesson in waiting.  As Christians, we are in a time of waiting for the Lord Jesus’ return.  We are to be expectant for that day and looking forward to it, but it does not mean that we forget to live in the present moment.  Jesus reminds us repeatedly to be in the present – we should be thankful for our daily bread, we should not worry about tomorrow, we should celebrate with the bridegroom while he is present, etc.

I confess that I do not do any of this well.  I am always looking ahead, planning, worrying.  But God in His great mercy (cough) has placed me in the immutable structure of time.  None of my planning or worrying changes a second.  There is nothing that I can do.

And so I learn to wait.  Expectantly and hopefully thankful for the beautiful time I have right now, right here with my future-but-not-yet husband.  My daily bread.

How have you learned to wait?

 

 

The Venue

Ivy Hills

Happy Fourth!  This weekend was special for me not because of the Fourth of July, but because I showed Pat and his parents the venue where we’ll be married.

A lot of people speak negatively about the hub-bub of weddings – I, too, have been one of those.

But I stood there with Pat underneath this tree and we kissed, in preparation for our wedding ceremony, and with the rolling hills in the background and the summer breeze in our hair, it just felt right.  The ceremony is still about our commitment before God and our community, but this venue is a beautiful background.

Photo credit to Ivy Hills.

3 Things Men Should Know Before Tying the Knot

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I love this article by fellow Boundless writer, Joshua Rogers.  He sets forth three things that men should know about marriage before tying the knot.  Essentially, these are three expectations that we have of ourselves or of marriage.  They include (1) being a below average husband is easier than you think; (2) sex is awesome, but it takes effort; and (3) friendship is central to a healthy marriage.

All of us bring expectations to our marriages.  Even I, going into marriage at a relatively mature age of 33 and with all of the advice and counsel of my married friends, likely have expectations that I do not even know that I hold, but that will become apparent through future conflicts with my husband.  If we can address some of those expectations PRIOR to marriage, the hope is that we can reduce conflicts DURING marriage.

If I can sum up the key advice from Joshua’s article, I think they come down to be willing to accept constructive criticism and evaluation from friends and family, and to continue to foster communication, intimacy and connection with your spouse.  Sounds so easy, right?

Joshua’s article reminds me of a book that my dear friend Abby gave me when I got engaged, called Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, by Gary Chapman (also author of the love languages books).  It includes such revelations as “the toilets are not self-cleaning” (haha).  The book is very much about all of the assumptions that we bring into marriage – similar to the New York Times article I blogged about previously, we have ideals in our minds of our marriage should be and can end up feeling grievously disappointed and even questioning if we married the right person if we do not accept the reality that we married a real person, with real flaws, not an ideal.

I am not married yet, but even I can see that I have the expectations that Pat will always treat me lovingly and kindly, put my needs above his, and that all disagreements will be resolved through respectful and logical discourse.  I am sure he thinks the same of me!  And yet we all have bad days, bad moods, and self-centered attitudes.

If I can hopefully be preaching to myself a year or two in the future, it sounds like it comes down to not just addressing expectations, but also the very Christian principle of forgiveness.  Pat will fail my expectations and I will fail his.  But if I can remember that he is ultimately a good man who is trying his best and who has the good of our marriage as his goal, and I can forgive him and move on, then my strong hope is that we can have a good, lasting marriage.

For my readers, what expectations did you have of either marriage or dating and how have they changed?

(Photo from Joshua Rogers’ Boundless article).

 

Wedding Sandals

Sandals

This weekend I went shopping with my mom for sandals to wear with my wedding dress.  I found them (see above), but only after trying on pretty much every pair in the store.  It reminded me of dating, actually.  No pair was perfect, not even the one I ended up with.  But at the end of the day, they were exactly what I was looking for 🙂