Lessons in Loving Well

Love is a fun, and love takes effort. There’s so much to navigate and so many lessons to learn. But when I think about my relationship with Jonathan, I think learning has been my favorite part. In honor of our upcoming wedding (14 days!!!), I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned while trying to love him well.

Show interest.
Jonathan LOVES his car. For a while, it drove me crazy. I could not understand what the big deal was. Why is he so into this car? Why are we going to a car show before 10 a.m. on a Saturday? WHO WAKES UP EARLY ON SATURDAYS?!? Then it hit me. His car is his hobby. And the minute I started showing interest and asking questions, we were able to connect in a new way. I’m not saying cars are my new favorite thing, but it’s kind of adorable to listen to him geek out over his car, and I’ve learned some cool stuff about cars along the way, too.

Go on adventures together.
Before moving to Nashville, I had never been hiking. After the first hike Jonathan took me on, I was hooked. Now it’s one of our favorite things to do together. I love hiking new trails with him and revisiting the ones we really enjoy. It’s the most fun, and I so look forward to exploring all the far away places we’ve dreamed of hiking when we’re married.

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Listen to understand, not to respond.
This is something I’ve heard before, but not really put into practice until recently. When Jonathan and I are upset with each other, my first instinct is to think about how I’m going to respond to him. This is a problem because I’m not actually trying to understand what he’s saying or why he’s upset – I’m only trying to think of a good comeback to win the argument. Resolving conflict is not always easy, but it’s so much easier to do when you’re listening to understand the other person’s concerns instead of listening to debate them. Truly take time to listen so you can understand the problem. Validate the other person’s feelings. Find a solution in which both of you win and both feel heard. And move on.

Be honest.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in our relationship is the importance of being honest with one another. We made a promise early on to never keep secrets from each other. And y’all. Sometimes that is so hard, but all the time it is so worth it. I’ve found that the more honest we are, with the good stuff and the bad stuff, we become more understanding of the other person and their needs.

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Love is fun, and love takes effort. Always be willing to learn, and do your best to love well.

 

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Band Aid Statements

Band aid statements are the worst. They’re the kind of thing you say when you aren’t sure what to say to someone who’s sick or hurting in efforts to comfort them or to make conversation. The kicker, though – they aren’t actually comforting and they aren’t received as welcomed conversation. Take a look at this list of band aid statements and suggestions of what to say instead!

“You don’t look sick!” (Also see, “Well, you look great!”)

“Um ok – tell me what [sick] looks like and maybe I’ll get it right next time.” – Mom

This might just be my favorite *insert sarcasm and violent eye roll here*. This is not a compliment and can be frustrating  when said to someone whose illness is relatively invisible to the outside world. This makes the person feel as if they need to justify themselves or remind you of their illness.

“How are you?”

“If you ask chronically sick person that question you better want to know and care – otherwise just say hello.” – Mom

This one is tricky because it’s commonplace to use this as a greeting. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use this as a greeting with someone who is ill unless you genuinely mean it. Sometimes this question should just be left out of your conversation completely. People don’t actually enjoy discussing their illness all the time (gasp!). Use your discernment with this one.

“Have you tried . . . ?” (fill in the blank)
Y’all. This is not the time to try and pawn off whatever product you’re peddling even if your motive is completely pure. This is also not the time to suggest that he or she try to lose weight. This is the time to be a friend, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on. If they want your advice, they’ll ask. Until then, it’s probably best to keep it to yourself.

“He/She/You will be okay.”
This statement is only appropriate when the man in your life has a cold and tells you he’s dying (ladies, am I right?).

Several months ago, I actually had someone say this to me in reference to my mom, who has Pulmonary Fibrosis. This statement was frustrating primarily because it may not be true. It’s also frustrating because the statement was made in reference to the fact that my mom is young. Being young does not equate with being okay or the potential to be okay.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“People mean well when they say this, but they don’t understand how much it can affect a recently diagnosed person. Depression is very common when you first receive a diagnosis (or even get chronically sick without a diagnosis) and that just makes you feel worse.” – Hollie S.

While I firmly believe God has a purpose and plan, when having a conversation with someone who is ill you need to check this kind of church lingo at the door. It can actually do more harm than good.

Please hear me out – I am not saying that spiritual encouragement has no place. It has every place and is so important. But let’s be careful to make sure that we’re using our words to speak light into the darkness instead of using them to haphazardly fill a void.

What to Say Instead
“I honestly don’t know what to say. That really sucks, and I’m sorry.” These are actually my favorite – no sarcasm or eye rolls here.

Be a friend. Share your life with them. Mom says, “We want regular conversations that keep us in the loop. Tell us what’s going on, tell us your troubles just as you had before – and visit them often. Shut-ins are lonely.”

Ask how you can be praying for them. Better yet, pray with them. Y’all, prayer is so powerful and so encouraging. Mom says, “praying is NOT the least thing someone can do – it’s the most important.”

Bunco Ladies

Mom has played bunco with the same group of women for years now.These sweet, Southern Baptist ladies meet once a month for dinner, fellowship, and an extremely competitive game of rolling dice. They celebrate holidays together, dressing up in costumes for Halloween and exchange ornaments for Christmas. (Their ornament exchange is almost as intense as their bunco playing.) These ladies may get crazy, but they love each other fiercely.

They live life together – the good, the bad, and the ugly. They laugh so hard they cry (or pee their pants), and they mourn together over loss and hardship. They rally around one another in times of need, and they cover their sisters in prayer. It’s such a sweet thing to witness, and I’m thankful for these bunco ladies now more than ever.

Currently, they’re rallying around my mom. They meet her for lunch and occasionally take her out to dinner. Some are holding fundraisers to help offset medical costs. Others come over to the house to do crafts with mom. And the very brave accompany her to Target where she terrorizes unsuspecting shoppers by zipping around corners on a motorized scooter (I’m looking at you Annette Andrews).

Bunco ladies, I am so thankful for you. You are a beautiful example of both Galatians 6:2 and 1 Peter 4:10. You have all  used your gifts to encourage and support my mom throughout her journey with Pulmonary Fibrosis. Your love, helpfulness, and prayers mean more to our family than you will ever know.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace
1 Peter 4:10

 

 

 

Beauty Redefined

“Something that everyone seems to find true – lasting beauty is in the heart of another. In the qualities that seem to bring out the best in others…Wrinkles conquer everyone. But a heart? That just gets more and more beautiful with Jesus and time.”

This was the response I received after asking a good friend how she would define beauty. And I found such truth in her words. You see, beauty is something so many women strive for, and these same women time and time again feel like they will never measure up.

The problem, however, is not that we don’t measure up. The problem is that we have allowed our definition of beauty to become so outwardly focused when that was never the way beauty was meant to be defined.

Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
1 Peter 3:3-4

Scripture speaks so clearly about this. Beauty is not defined by the clothes we wear or the makeup we use to paint our faces. Beauty is not defined by the pictures we compare ourselves to in the magazines we skim through at the grocery store. This outward, physical beauty that we so desperately continue to chase after – it fades.

Not only does our physical beauty fade, but it’s not what God desires for us to seek. God’s desire is that we would seek this “imperishable beauty”, this beauty that is inwardly focused and defined by your character. Instead of fixating on our appearance, God calls us to shift our attention to something deeper -the beauty of our soul.

This is why I found such truth in the words of my friend, Maegen. The qualities that deem us truly beautiful are found within and not without. The qualities that deem us truly beautiful are the ones created and stirred up inside our souls as we spend time both reading and obeying the Word of God – qualities like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control, truth, loyalty, humility, and so on.”

Charm is deceptive and beauty if fleeting,but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Proverbs 31:30

 

 

 

Waiting on the Lord

I have found this season of life to be marked by waiting-specifically, waiting on answered prayer. For over ten years, my family and I have voiced prayers for my mother’s health and waited for the Lord to answer,so this concept is not foreign to me. But when waiting on God to answer prayer suddenly means waiting for my mom to receive a double lung transplant, it can become all-consuming.

With this waiting has come a flood of questions, fear, anger, and doubt. Does God hear me? Does he care? Does he know how long I’ve been waiting on him to fix this? Where do I find the goodness of God in this?

In the midst of my questioning, I can tell you that God is doing work deep within my soul. And he’s accomplishing this work through a small community of a few young adult women who meet weekly in a coffee shop to read Scripture and speak truth into each other’s lives.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.
Psalm 133:1

Something beautiful happens when you experience this kind of community with other believers. There’s this element of vulnerability and transparent honesty that takes place. While this occasionally  comes in the form of an embarrassing ugly cry, I describe it as beautiful because it has been so life giving for me. In this season of waiting, God is using these precious women to speak to me.

God is using these women to remind me that yes, he hears my prayer, he truly cares for me, and yes, he knows how long I’ve been waiting.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7

He is using these women to remind me that through the waiting and the struggle, God is shaping my character. And it is because of his goodness that he desires to draw me near and speak to me. God is teaching me to lean into him and to seek the joy and the assurance that only he can provide.

In a devotion by Wendy Pope, she writes, “Sometimes the wait is more about experiencing God than enduring the delay.” I love the truth behind this – the truth that God desires to meet with us in what can sometimes be our darkest moments, and that he brings light into these moments by drawing us nearer to each other and nearer to him.