Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Newly-Married Girl’s Thoughts on Singleness & Contentment

I know.

If you’re single and reading this you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking “what does she know, she’s married now!”

I know, because I’ve totally thought that! I really do totally understand and in no way wish to minimize how you feel because I remember feeling a very similar way. And I hope this is encouraging!

I got married about 2 weeks ago at the age of 32. It was a pretty long wait. I say “long” because it was, (although I know other people who have gotten married a lot younger and say it was a long wait… seriously? I really don’t think you’re allowed to say it was long until you’re at least late 20’s, but I digress….) I also say “pretty long” because I have friends who are the same age as me or are older and are still hoping to be married. I greatly admire and respect them for how they’ve sought to wait on the Lord even in the most difficult moments.And I know many people who suffer in other ways that I haven't... how I admire they're faith and trust in God in the midst of so much difficulty!

Being married now and looking back, it’s true, singleness is really hard (and if you’ve read my blog you know just how hard it’s been for me personally). But, it also had a whole LOT of sweetness.

I love being married. I love being with my wonderful husband who’s my best friend. But in all honesty I do remember thinking at one point before we were married “do I really want to do this?” ‘cause when you get married, you’re not your own anymore. All my money, all my free time (all my time pretty much), things like how much I slept in, how clean I kept my room, what I wanted to eat for dinner or buy at the grocery store – all these decisions would no longer me mine to make as I pleased. There was someone else to consider, a living breathing person with feelings (and good sense) living with me to make decisions with and to submit my desires to.

Hello marriage. Goodbye independence.

Is it worth it? YES, absolutely. But I’m just saying that it IS a sacrifice. And I’m saying, if you’re single, don’t take it for granted. Elisabeth Elliot wrote a lot about how singleness is a gift… and she experienced the hardship and the joys of it. I struggled to believe this as a single person, but I re-read 1 Corinthians 7 (where Paul talks about how single people are free to serve the Lord) recently as a married woman and it struck me in a new way. Truly I was much more distracted now; I had a husband to focus on and please. Before I could devote myself to God and to His people and I realized in a deeper way what a great gift that is! To be free and unhindered to serve, give, love… as a single person, I was a great gift to the Church! There are so many ways that I was able to serve that at the time didn’t seem important, certainly not exciting. But looking back and seeing all that God’s done in and through me it’s pretty neat! In my 12+years being a single adult I got to do a lot of amazing things! I went to college, got training in Biblical counseling, traveled various places, I lived for 2 short periods in Germany, went to Bible School for a year, interned for an amazing ministry in Colorado, took seminary classes and then went to seminary. And that’s not to mention all the great family trips, road trips with friends, summers at a Christian camp (I couldn’t go this summer and it was sad!), and many opportunities to serve in my church in ways that other people couldn’t! There were so many things that I didn’t realize till later the great gift each experience was to me and to others involved. They have made me into the person that I am today. And they have helped to shape and bless others in more ways that I even know.

I’ve learned over the years that discontentment can come at you no matter where you are in life. Just watch “Mom’s Night Out” to see that (I could seriously identify with Allyson’s feelings even though I was single and didn’t have any kids). I certainly struggled with discontentment while I was single, and at times I gave in to it. As a result there were opportunities for me that I didn’t take advantage of. Moments where I could have served, loved, given and been a blessing but I was too distracted by what I didn’t have. In a recent sermon at my church we were reminded that that this sinful world is discouraging, but even in the midst of that we ought to be pursuing joy in God and living the life He’s called us to to the fullest. Singleness is hard at times, but so is marriage. LIFE is hard! But it’s also filled with so many wonderful gifts!

All this to say, don’t begrudge where God has you right now. Don't end up wasting your time focusing on what you don't have and miss opportunities. He has a great purpose for your life. You are a gift to those around you. He’s given you a life to live so go live it! Enjoy every moment you can and remember that lasting joy only comes from the Giver Himself. Put Him first and then enjoy life as much as you can! 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Blog Update (August 2016)

Hello! Yes, it’s been awhile. Sorry, I’ve kind of been distracted!

I got married about 2 weeks ago!

Mike and I have moved to Philadelphia and are settling into our new apartment. I start a new job right about now too and will be very busy at least through the first 2 months so I don’t know how much I’ll be blogging! I'm working on one though that will be coming soon! Thanks for reading! 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Engagement Day

May 7, 2016

9:30am I was just waking up when he called. I remember thinking “why is he calling me this early?” We had plans that day to go to visit his family and do some shopping on the way. But he told me that I needed to wear something dressy-casual and comfortable shoes for walking. I said “OK,” hung up the phone and proceeded to freak out!

At 11am Mike picked me up and we drove into downtown Philadelphia. I thought to myself, “hmm yeah I don’t think we’re going to New Jersey”. I had a TON of questions of course, but I kept my mouth shut and decided to enjoy the adventure. And what an adventure it was! He had the whole day planned!
This picture was from outside of the Independence Hall visitor’s center… we decided it was a very appropriate sign to take a picture with! Mike then posted it on facebook for everyone to see…. There were several facebook posts throughout the day so to a degree everyone else was in suspense too!

Our first stop was to pick up tickets for Independence Hall (I hadn’t gotten to go there yet and he and I both love history), then after we got some lunch at a cafĂ© nearby we had a nice little tour of Independence Hall and took lots of pictures.

The next surprise was that he took me on a carriage ride around the old part of the city. This was something I’d always wanted to do and it was fun and rather romantic.

Next we spent some time going through the Constitutional museum, followed by a walk through the "Love Park". 

Later we had dinner at a really nice Italian restaurant. After we were done eating he slipped away to the restroom for a bit and was gone for awhile which of course only peaked my curiosity even more! He came back, looked at me and laughed saying something like “you’re so cute, you have no idea what’s going on do you?” And of course I didn’t, but I just laughed. He told me we had to wait a bit because it wasn’t time to go, so we just sat there and talked for awhile longer. Such suspense!!!! 

After a little stop at his car to get something (which was a large-sized bag – more curiosity!) he took me up to the top of the Liberty Place – a skyscraper with an observation area and beautiful views of the city.

Little did I know we had stalkers taking our picture.... a friend of Mike's got there ahead of us and captured the moment!
After a little while he had me sit down and out of the bag brought a scrapbook that he’d put together for me! He’s never done something like this before, but he did an amazing job! It was about our story, how we met and our first few months of dating. He had saved little things from our dates and left places for me to fill in with some of my own pictures and my side of the story. It was SO incredibly special and I loved it!

At the end of the book he had the ring box which he took out, said something like “well Amelia, being boyfriend and girlfriend has been great, but it’s time for a change.” He made me stand up, got down on one knee and asked his sweetheart and best friend to marry him!

Of course I said YES! (duh!)

It was an absolutely amazing day! He completely overwhelmed me by his thoughtfulness and creativity and made it a super special and memorable day! Here's a couple of shots from our engagement photo shoot!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Seminary Update: May 5, 2016

Well this afternoon I had my very last class of my seminary degree and picked up my graduation regalia! This week has been bittersweet... I love learning, I love being a student. I actually enjoy writing papers most of the time. It’s been an amazing year academically, spiritually and personally. I am so thankful for the Lord’s direction in coming to Westminster Theological Seminary; I have so enjoyed the experience, learned a ton, and made some good friends and some great memories!

I am just finishing up ONE more final paper tomorrow (Friday). I have finished my 30 page Independent Study research paper on counseling adopted (and troubled) children - if you're interested in adoption or in working with troubled children and you'd be interested in reading it let me know. I wrote it for my education and also to be able to share with others. I have 3 finals over May 12-14, and then I am completely done!!!! Graduation is on May 26! An update will be coming soon in regards to future plans (although I will let you all know that I have decided not to work with Harvest USA. Long story; I would have loved to, but don’t believe it’s the best fit for me right now).

Thanks for sharing in this journey with me, and for many of your prayers and encouragement! I thank God for you!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book Review: DEPRESSION: Looking up in the Stubborn Darkness (by Ed Welch)

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression you need to read this book!!!! Having experienced some depression myself I found the book to be very accurate, filled with great reminders and so much hope! Depression is always “profoundly spiritual”, but that doesn’t mean there’s a spiritual cause.  “Depression is a form of suffering that can’t be reduced to one universal cause. This means that family and friends can’t rush in armed with THE answer. Instead, they must be willing to postpone… and take time to know the depressed person and work together with him or her. What we do know is that depression is painful, and, if you have never experienced it, hard to understand.”1 If you have never really experienced depression, please be very careful how you respond to someone suffering with it; although you may have good intentions and give them truth you are likely to end up hurting them more. Be there for them, listen and love them. Regardless of the cause, depression “is a time to answer the deepest and most important questions: Whom will I trust? Whom will I worship?” God is at work in us to change us, but “deep change is rarely a matter of knowledge. It is a matter of repentance.” Depression doesn’t always mean that we have sinned, but we usually sin in the process by turning away from God. As we become aware of this He will not only change us through the depression, He will change us at the deepest level of our heart.

“God is over all things, and nothing happens apart from his knowledge and will. By the time suffering or depression comes to our doorstep, God did it. To believe anything else is to opt for a universe that is random and out of control, without a guiding hand bringing all things to a purposeful and awe-inspiring conclusion.” This of course may lead one to question God’s goodness, but God’s sovereignty and His goodness are not contradictory. The cross demonstrates this.  “The truth is that you belong to God and you have a God-given purpose. Furthermore, the cross of Christ reveals that God’s purposes for your life are good.” In Christ we are empowered to resist temptation and sin and turn to God, no matter what. So depression is something you must do battle with and fight – for it will seek to turn your heart away from God. Turning inward feels good and feels safe, but the truth is that it is oppressive – we were not meant to function that way and cannot for very long. We must be willing to look outside ourselves and to persevere even though it’s difficult. Paul writes that we can “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

“If you are willing to be trained by in, expect depression to be a good teacher. That doesn’t mean that you should seek it out… But most people who are willing to be taught by suffering look back and are grateful.” I have found this to be true to my own experience. As difficult as suffering is, I am richer for it. “There are ways that you will know Jesus in your suffering that are unique and profound.” Expect to learn, expect God to use you to minister to someone else who is suffering. But always remember that this affliction is “light and momentary” compared to the glories of Heaven that await us. There is hope, but not just for the future, for right now. God gives enough grace to endure what is before you. Your pain may not disappear, but it can be alleviated as you hold on to hope and believe that Jesus is greater than your experience. “On this side of heaven we walk by faith and don’t have all the answers we would like. But there is reason to believe that you will find certain hopes fulfilled even on this side of paradise.” The question is, where is your hope? Often depression is the result of our hopes having been somewhere else and being disappointed. As hard as it is, we must humble ourselves, turn to God and cry out to Him. We must read Scripture (force-feed if necessary) and seek fellowship. God has a story, and our goal should be to accept it. We tend to make our stories about our pain and suffering rather than about Jesus and His mission. The way out of depression is to look up to God, to look forward to eternity, and to trust that God is bigger than your suffering and has a good purpose for it. Talk to God, voice to Him your struggles and confess the sin that is there. Ask Him for help and for comfort. He will give it! He promises to heal the brokenhearted (Ps. 147:3) and to come through for us. I have two quotes on a bulletin board that I made, they are this: “Hope thou in God” (from Ps. 42) and “He is for me” (from Romans 8). Both of these are great reminders that all of us need at various times in our lives.

Depression makes us sad, makes us lose interest in life. But suffering, no matter how great, cannot rob us of joy. We lose joy when we turn our eyes from God to our suffering. What is joy? “Joy takes our attention off ourselves and places it on God.” Learning to choose gratitude and be thankful in times of sadness is challenging, but again, the way out of depression is looking outside yourself to God. “Thanksgiving is gratitude for a benefit we have received. Joy includes gratitude, but its true delight is in the beauty of God and the deep goodness in all the things that come from him.” Remember that “Joy is not the opposite of suffering” – but it can be present in the midst of it. Be willing to choose gratitude and look for joy.

This really was a valuable book – and greatly needed. Many people struggle with depression, and many others do not understand it and therefore cannot be much help. Ed ends the book with some practical things – things that have helped or have not helped those who were depressed and some specific strategies to try. I hope it will be helpful to someone here!

1 All quotations in this post are taken from this book, but from my kindle edition so I don't have page numbers.