I Almost Died

I almost died.I’m going out on a limb here.  I don’t know how to confirm this, but I’m willing to bet that most of us haven’t had a near-death experience.  I’m not talking “that almost-car-wreck could have ended my life,” or “that nearly scared the livin’ daylights out of me” moments. I’m talking about those times when you can legitimately say, “I almost died.” Like, medically speaking, you almost died.

But I have.

For the sake of my own privacy, I’m going to spare you the details of my near-death experience.  I almost died.  But suffice it to say this: 1) I have legitimate, undeniable proof that I do not cuss.  2) It’s good to know that I turn to Jesus when my actual life is in danger. 3) That was the most pain I could ever imagine experiencing in my life.

Sorry if that’s not enough information for ya.  But really, #sorrynotsorry.

But there aren’t words that quite explain how a person’s life changes after this happens.  It’s true.  Sometimes people make immediate drastic changes to their own lives.  I’ve heard of this happening after someone survives a massive heart attack. They change their diet, their jobs, their stress management techniques.

Here’s my thing, though: I want to spend my life instead of letting life spend me.  Spend my life watching my kiddo grow up.  Spend my life getting old with The Hunk.  Spend my time working to be spiritually healthy.  Spend my energy making healthy physical choices.  Spend some time creating pretty things. Spend dinner time eating foods I won’t regret. Spending time making memories and capturing them.

And that means I don’t want to pour my life out wastefully.  I don’t want to waste my energy on things that aren’t building up something: like working with people who are selfish or abusive, or arguing about something with a stranger, or allowing someone to speak into my life if they are toxic.

My mom always said we’re not promised tomorrow.  It’s a scary thought, but it’s a terrifying reality.

So, now I’m on a mission: Honor the Lord, love my little family, practice gratitude, and be kind to myself.

Will you join me? How are you living a life on a mission?

Book Recommendation: Love and Respect

Love and Respect

When I think back to when The Hunk and I were dating, I know that, without a doubt, the best decision we made as a couple was reading Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. Neither of us had previously experienced successful romantic relationships but we hadn’t failed miserably at being decent human beings.  We had friends and served Jesus.  But I’m telling you, for real, this book changed us. It changed how we related to one another, how we treated one another, and how we interpreted the way we were being treated. I highly recommend this book with the following single disclaimer.

 

Skim the first third of the book.

Seriously.  Have you ever read a book about improving your life before? It seems like all of them start out convincing you to buy the book.  The very book you have in your hands. I’m sure they have their reasons for writing it this way, but I was sold before I started reading it.  If you’re not, maybe read a bit and then start skimming as you become convinced.

Otherwise, this book is based on two things: scientific research and the Bible.  In fact, scientific research has been done to support the Bible.  Ephesians 5.33 says, “To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.” To some, this is a polarizing verse.  But the book definitely flushes it out.  Eggerichs explains how his research proves that the majority of men would rather be respected than loved and the majority of women would choose being loved over respected.  What he is clear to say is that this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love our husbands or that we shouldn’t respect our wives.  He also flushes out what “respect” means and how it should be as unconditional as love is.

The second third and the last portion of the book reviews some practical ways to implement love and respect in a relationship.  This is, perhaps, the section of the book that a couple could read together and discuss.  I wish we’d start doing this earlier in the book, but we still benefited greatly from having an unstructured discussion on these two sections of the book.

After you read the book and realize its impact on your view of healthy relationships, go ahead and check out the Love and Respect Ministries.  If you’re single, check out Love and Respect NOW, a sister ministry which, as you might have guessed, is great for people who are not in a romantic relationship but would still like to learn about these principles–I mean, I wish I’d known about Love and Respect much earlier in my life.

Interested in purchasing the book? Consider using this affiliate link to make your purchase: Love and Respect

A Friend Indeed | #tbt

A Friend Indeed | #tbt

Every morning, my Timehop app tells me beautiful, strange, and silly tales of my goings-on from years past. This morning, a text conversation was in my Timehop from a friend.

This friend had previously been my best friend.  I probably would have died for her.  A beauty, I became invisible to the males around but I didn’t mind because I loved her.

A few things happened.  We came to different places in our lives.  She began dating a guy, giving him all of her attention and time.  I felt totally neglected and addressed the issue to no avail.

With great pain, I tried to hold myself together and continued living life.  I prayed about the pain, the friend, the situation.  I watched as her life got crazier, then less crazy.  We both settled down with our husbands in different states and drifted farther apart.  Nothing seemed to be resolved.

I think that, as females, we may, at times, wonder why we pour ourselves out for others when so few people return the favor.  At least it can feel that way.  Deep pain can come from feeling this neglect and disappointment.

And then great pain can come from not knowing how to mend the pain we cause. Because none of us are innocent.  Not one.

And a year ago, this dear friend texted me.  After about 4 years of silence between the two of us, we caught up a bit.  Our words were superficial at first; I was happy to learn her husband and my husband share a deep affinity for coffee and that everyone was healthy.  It was simple and sweet, but I was hesitant.  Then she sent words that brought healing tears to my eyes.

She sent words with a clear heart of regret, sorrow–and a desire to mend bridges, heal hearts, and put our friendship back together.  Whether she knew it or not, this part of my heart had not healed all those years.  The beauty of texting is that I could play it cool while sobbing and celebrating and thanking Jesus and experiencing great amazement.  And relief.

I often feel blessed that I have never experienced a heart-wrenching break up like so many girls experience.  The Hunk and I have very little romantic relationship baggage compared to so many of the hurting couples who marry.  But, in my experience, relationship pain had come from friends, not boys.

This friend’s words began in me a possibility to move forward, even if just cautiously.

So, this morning, I celebrate.  I celebrate friendship as I try to be a better friend.  I celebrate repentance as Jesus forgives all my failure.  I celebrate healing–often the result of friendship and repentance.

And, this morning, I search inside my heart for the courage to be the friend I want to be, the strength to scoot outside this painful comfort zone, and the wisdom to be a good friend to others.

Psalm 31.24: Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!

Sometimes we let ourselves feel

Sometimes we let ourselves feel

Sometimes, we let ourselves feel more than other times.

Sometimes, we let that vulnerability blast out of our hearts and eyeballs so fiercely that a thousand swallows can’t keep it down.

Other times, we spend a lot of energy trying to control our very own emotions and resisting sensitivity and selflessness.

But when we finally break.   And when we admit that it’s okay not to think everything is peachy.  And we let it happen.

A rush.

Not a rush like a roller coaster.  Not a rush like falling in love.  A rush like loving the falling.

Loving the allowing.

Like. Finally.

Lord, I ache for my friends who are in pain right now.  People who have crossed my path by Your great and wonderful will.  I am honored to have known them and loved them.

Be with them.  Hold them.  Be You to them.

Speak to my heart, that I might serve them and love them by Your grace.

Thank you for perspective.  For healing.  For tenderness.  Thank for hearing and answering my prayers.

Thank you for being real in my heart and for never leaving me.

###

An Open Letter to a Newlywed

An Open Letter to a Newlywed

Hey, Newlywed!  Oh. My. Goodness. You’re married!  If you are like me, you felt like this would never happen.  But it did!

First things first: I’m writing to you from the perspective of a woman–but feel free to read this if you’re a man.

newlyweds

photo by Bethany Moore, Breakthrough Images

I’m writing with the idea that you just married the man of your prayers with whom you did not cohabitate before you tied that special knot.  I have no other experience but this, so I don’t have expertise in newlywededness that doesn’t fit this category.

I’m writing from the perspective of being married for just over four years.  Our wedding day was am amazing day and I treasure the memories from the day.

I guess this post sort of means that maybe, just maybe, I’m not a newlywed anymore.  When did this happen?  When did I become not newlywed anymore?  That’s kind of like asking when your puppy grew up.  It just happened.  Every day.  And then it just was.  Non-newlywedness sneaked in and became a thing without your permission.

For the record, I don’t think I am an oldlywed.  I just have a little under my belt, now.  I’ll claim newlywededness with or without your permission. Thankyouverymuch.

So, let’s talk a bit about being a newlywed, shall we?

Alright?

Good.

Let’s go.

My first piece of advice is to get rid of a word.  The d-word.  Divorce should NOT be an option.  You promised to be committed to this guy and this relationship whether things are going splendidly or terribly.  Leaving is not an option.  A break from this commitment cannot–CANNOT–be an option for either of you.

If you didn’t decide, going into this adventure, that divorce shouldn’t be an option, decide now.  It’s not too late.  If divorce is an option, one or both of you will jump ship and you both will fail at being married.

newlyweds

Honeymoon pic on a beach in Greece

So, if you just got home from your honeymoon, you should expect to get to work.  Maybe you’ve heard people say that marriage takes “work.”  You’re probably thinking about all of the work you did as an engaged couple–planning a wedding–or when you were dating–as you got to know each other or went through all that junk.

That previous work definitely counts.  Prepare for things to change, though.

I remember–just a month or so after I moved and The Hunk and I began to live together in marriage–turning to Seth and crying a little bit.  I felt like I was grasping to hold tight to the giddy honeymoon excitement that I’d experienced.  I remember saying to my sparkling new husband, “I feel like our love is already changing!”  He felt it, too.

And it did.  The change wasn’t a bad change, but it was unexpected.  I imagine the change is different for every couple, since people are always different and one couple is never identical to another.  And I imagine you can expect this change to happen–although I can’t promise it will occur as quickly as ours did, as I moved from a long distance and experienced more changes in my life than I could ever have imagined.

This love change was a sign that our love was deepening and strengthening.  Our roots were digging into the soil.  We were just starting to do life together and this was a necessary and natural change.

I hope you’ve also heard that money is usually the cause of the d-word-we’re-no-longer-using.  Well, that’s only half true.  Terrible teamwork during money crisis can be the beginning of the end if a husband and wife do not work together to solve the problem.  Work together to be proactive about your spending.  There will likely be a spending surge after you say “I do,” as you settle into life together.  Set up your budget–and while you’re at it, be sure to follow Dave Ramsey’s model for telling your money where it goes so that your money doesn’t tell you where you can’t go.  As he says, live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later!

If you didn’t get premarital counseling (we did), get newlywed counseling.  Before there’s a problem, be sure you have the tools to fix inevitable pot holes that appear along the way in your marriage.  I help The Hunk when he provides pre-marital counseling; we tend to spend a lot of time helping equip these lovebirds with skills to work through their problems.  I am unbelievably honored to be a part of this process because, as we grow up, we often don’t learn these methods.  I know I didn’t.  But, seriously, it’s not too late to get these tools and you’ll thank yourself later.  Pot holes are inevitable.

Okay.  I know this is hard to believe.  Well, probably hard to believe.  But you’re probably not going to feel like loving this splendid guy sometime.  At least once.  At least a thousand times.  I mean, unless he’s actually Jesus the Christ, he’s imperfect.  I have a few of my own favorite lines that I try to keep at the front of my mind when The Hunk moves my cheese or leaves coffee grinds all over the counter.

  • You’re on the same team.  I hope Seth knows that I’m not out to get him.  So, in return, I have to–just have to–remember that he doesn’t ever mean to come against me or hurt me.  If we disagree about how to go about taking care of the car I totaled on the way to work, we both have to problem-solve with this idea at the center of our process.  My husband has a similar line that he uses: Fight together–not against one another.  He fights with me–not against me.  Because we’re on the same team.
  • Outdo one another in love.  Love isn’t a competition, of course, but I keep this in mind when I realize that I’m keeping track or adding up “points” in my head.  It doesn’t matter if Seth has done less than me when it comes to making dinner or cleaning up afterwards.  Always. Always. Always, I am aiming to love him more than he loves me.  And goshdangit if he isn’t awesome at loving me!?
  • It’s not personal.  When Seth comes home and is super quiet while I go off about an awful day at work or a super important-to-me issue, I can sometimes feel ignored.  And my job is basically to be ignored all day, so I can get pretty peeved if my man isn’t joining me in a pretend tirade against Johnny Cuss-me-out or Sally Alpha-female.  But, if I remember this line, I realize that I need to stop my self-absorbed rant and see what’s going on with him.  Without fail, I realize that I’ve literally just dumped my problems on him; his job is basically to be dumped on all day.  So, it’s not personal.
  • Give the same grace you would like.  This is actually one I stole from Seth.  When I think about the amount of grace Jesus gives me daily and, well, hourly and … second-ly, I realize that I am really no one to stand on a high horse and expect perfection in any area of life since I cannot ever get life perfect.  This is one reason Jesus created marriage–for us to realize the extent to which we are forgiven and to practice that same difficult forgiveness allthegoshdarntime.  Seriously.
  • Love each other, even if you don’t feel like it.  This adage is my mother-in-law’s.  Other than experience, I don’t know where she heard it.  But I didn’t understand it for a while.  And, if you’re fresh off the reception dance floor, you may not get this for a while.  But just get real tired and see how much energy you feel like expending on this worky worky love.  You won’t feel like running that errand he requests or responding to his obvious and suggestive touch.  You just won’t.  And every tired tissue of your body will encourage you to close your eyes and heart off from your man.  When you do this, it’s the same as him plugging in headphones and blasting music in his ears after you ask for help carrying in the groceries or when you need to be heard.

Alright, you newlywed, you.  I love talking about marriage and could continue for a long freakin’ time.  So, I’ll leave you with a list of awesome resources that I’m pretty sure have saved me a bunch of grey hairs and prevented all possible ulcers.

  1. By far, the most valued resource from which I’ve gleaned so far is Love and Respect.  This book breaks down the foundational relationship issues between men and women and helped me understand what respect REALLY means to me–not the chauvinistic definition I thought was truth before.  Check out their sister ministry Love and Respect NOW.  Joy seriously cracks me up.  I want to be her bff.
  2. Seth and I use the book and accompanying workbooks for Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts.  If you go through the workbooks and read the book, you are forced to talk about the difficult things–before they startle you when they pop up suddenly and without warning.  We went through these on our own before we got married–well, we didn’t quite finish before we got married.

There are tons of resources out there, but none of these resources are any good if you don’t know Jesus as your personal savior.  I can’t help but be frank when I say this.  Without Jesus, marriages fall apart since marriage is supposed to represent Jesus’ love for the Church: unconditional and eternal.

So, please, enjoy marriage.  Always try to get better at being married–loving your husband and working with him to serve Jesus.  It really can be splendid despite the hard times–like when your boss unfairly and unrelentingly reams you out or you have your very first real car wreck or when money just doesn’t seem to be stretching or when your wisdom teeth have to be cut out or when you need someone to help you grade papers or shoot a wedding.  In short, it’s a roller coaster, for sure.

Love,
Christian Wedding Photographer

Who are you? I mean, really?

Who are you? I mean, really?

I absolutely love social media.  While I’m looking forward to going off the grid a bit later this week, I love seeing my friends’ pictures on Instagram and finding information on Twitter and staying caught up in my peeps’ lives on Facebook.  And, oh, do I love reading blogs and learning how to do things by watching videos on YouTube.

As I write this post, in fact, I’m watching an online class about how to use Instagram to market small businesses!

Yes, it’s safe to say that I love social media.

This morning, I found out that my husband’s cousin was crowned Miss USA last night.  (Way to go, Nia!)  And, since I’ve never met her, I wanted to learn more about her.

Where did I go to learn about her?

Of course: Social Media.

This got me thinking: Our social media says a lot about who we are.  If you want to know who I am, check out who I follow on Twitter.  Check out what pages I like on Facebook.  Look at my Instagram images and see who I follow on Instagram.  Read my blog to see what I think about life. Read my posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

What do you hope I’d find if I decided to look at your social media presence to learn about you?  What, in actuality, would be my impression of you?

My big question for me is this: Would God be glorified by my social media presence?

Here’s what I’d hope you’d think of me:

  • She likes people.
  • She’s always learning about photography.
  • She is pure.
  • She has fun in a way that God would not be ashamed.
  • She loves her husband!
  • She’s conservative in dress and behavior.
  • She eats delicious food–but is not a health freak.
  • She’s not complex, but has deep thoughts.

Every once in a while, I go through my social media to cleanse.  I feel a cleanse coming on.

What do you hope others think about you when they look at your social media presence? Why is it important for us to care about this?

Happy Socialing,
Logo 13-b photo no dots glow