what marriage is all about

You might have looked at my title, knowing that I’m not even married yet, and written me off as a person with a (very small) platform who’s presuming to lecture on things she knows nothing about. Before you tense up, let me put you at ease. All I’m offering today is a quote. I think it’s about all I have the creativity for today, after grocery shopping, emailing distraught students, and calling hotels to hold blocks of rooms for our wedding, a task that had me disproportionately stressed out for some reason. (And I didn’t even teach today, at least not in the formal classroom sense.) Plus, coming up with a blog topic every week is hard work, you guys. Normally, around this time of year, I have something to say about the Oscar nominations, but I haven’t even looked at those closely enough to say anything intelligent about them. Maybe next week.

So, for today, a quote. This is actually a secondary citation, which I typically discourage my college students from using. You’re supposed to go to the original source; it’s a (relatively minor) infraction of academic etiquette to cite the book where you found the quote instead of the book where it originally appears. But this isn’t a dissertation; it’s a blog, so there. Anyway, in my premarital counseling homework reading, I came across this lovely and fairly lengthy quote. I found it in Greg and Erin Smalley’s introductory chapter of Ready to Wed, but they’re quoting Tim and Kathy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. (Note to put that one on our to-be-read list.)

When looking for a marriage partner, each much be able to look inside the other and see what God is doing, and be excited about being part of the process of liberating the emerging “new you.” … This is by no means a naive, romanticized approach–rather it is brutally realistic. In this view of marriage, each person says to the other, “I see all your flaws, imperfections, weaknesses, dependencies. But underneath them all I see growing the person God wants you to be.” … The goal is to see something absolutely ravishing that God is making of the beloved. You see even now flashes of glory. You want to help your spouse become the person God wants him or her to be. … What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness.

This is true. I don’t know much about marriage yet. (I wish I could trade my nearly-useless knowledge of citation etiquette for something useful like marriage wisdom.) But I already know the Kellers’ description to be true. This is why, already, Jordan can point out (he always does it gently and rarely does it at all) an area for improvement in my life without me getting angry or hurt like I would if a stranger, or even perhaps a friend, said the same thing. And why I can do the same for him. This is why we can feel, and act, confident in one another’s presence–because we know that we have already accepted one another.

It is a faint glimpse of the acceptance we find in Christ. Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of the woman at the well in John 4. When she went back to her town to tell people she had met Jesus, she said, “Come, see a man who told me everything I had ever done.” She said this excitedly, like it was a selling point. Because for her, that may have been the best part of her conversation with Jesus: the fact that he knew everything about her–her sin, her social isolation, her confusion about spiritual matters–and still accepted her. He sat and talked with her, took her questions seriously, and after the initial mention, never brought up her sin again. Full knowledge, full acceptance.

Well, that is not the direction I thought this post might take when I started it. I’m actually sitting here crying right now. I hope this will encourage someone else, but if not, it did me. Thank you for reading this quote and my thoughts on it today.

stuff in my life right now

I looked back through my blog archives and realized that it’s been a while since I did one of those themeless list posts. Since people tend to enjoy those, and since I’m not sure if I can generate a coherent argument today, here is a list, in no particular order, of things I have going on right now.

  1. I just put my electric blanket on my bed and tucked it in at the end so that it has officially become part of my bedding for the duration of the winter. This will no doubt enhance my quality of life.
  2. I’m in a Peter Pan season. I went to see the strange and delightful play Peter and the Starcatcher Friday night at the South Bend Civic Theater. (By the way, did you know that the novel on which the play is loosely based is called Peter and the Starcatchers? Play–singular; novel–plural.) This week in my children’s lit class, we are reading Peter Pan, and as part of our discussion of Peter Pan as culture-text (a fancy term for the whole conversation surrounding the text–sources, adaptations, connotations, etc.), I plan to show the student clips from the 1953 Disney Peter Pan and Finding Neverland, read them part of Piers Dudgeon’s The Real Peter Pan, and show-and-tell them my Peter Pan Funko Pop. Maybe I’ll even wear my new  Neverland jacket. In summary, I’m way too engrossed this week in a flying, narcissistic, magical boy.
  3. Jordan and I are doing the Whole30.* I am putting an asterisk next to this statement because we are aware that we cannot truly say we have done the Whole30 if we take a break in the middle, which we did last weekend for a very good reason: our wedding reception tasting, which we weren’t about to delegate to anyone else. Also, you’re not supposed to eat sugar-cured bacon or sausage on the Whole30, but it’s dang hard to find non-sugar-cured versions, and I’m not stressing out about it. So we’re doing the Whole30.* Maybe we’ll do it for real later this year. In the meantime, I’ve learned that you can make a really good barbecue sauce using dates as the sweetener. Who knew?
  4. I am doing Yoga With Adriene’s 30-day yoga “journey” entitled Home. (Look her up on YouTube; she’s a phenomenon.) Instead of doing my daily practice in the morning as I typically have in the past, I am waiting until 4:00 or 4:30 pm. This not only frees up my early mornings for other types of exercise but also gives me a delicious (yummy, as Adriene would say) break after the workday. It’s been fun trying to wrap everything up in order to make sure I can get started at the time I’ve written in my planner. (See last week’s post on why I’m giving non-meeting, non-appointment activities like yoga a specific time in my planner.)
  5. I received six goodly-sized jar candles for Christmas. That sounds like a lot, but I love having a bit of fire in my home, and since I don’t have a fireplace, this works almost as well (and smells better). I did have all six out in various places, but today, in an effort to be seasonally appropriate (something I typically don’t care about), I put away Peach Flambe and Ocean Currant for later. I’m amazed by my restraint.

And now, I must go because it’s almost 4:30 and time to do yoga. Let me know what you’re into right now!

getting my act together

Most people who know me well know that I enjoy routine. I like to wake up, exercise, eat my meals, drink my tea, and go to bed at roughly the same time every day. (I prefer exactly the same time, but I’ve matured at least enough to know that that isn’t always feasible.) Every so often, I have to replace a routine that is no longer serving me. And sometimes, I hang onto routines even though I am fully aware they are no longer serving me. But in general, I think my routines do more good than harm.

I was delighted to receive for Christmas from my future in-laws the 2020 weekly edition of The Simplified Planner by Emily Ley. Aside from the fact that it’s pretty and sturdy, has a large format (which means more room for writing), comes with a list of small suggestions for simplifying one’s life, and is part of a lifestyle and paper products brand with an undeniably supportive and cheery vibe, it’s a fairly standard planner. By this, I mean that there aren’t prescripted categories for what to write each day; most of the pages consist simply of dates and blank lines. I know from watching one of Ley’s supportive and cheery videos that this is intentional: She wanted to create a planner that could become what the user needs it to be. And for me, at this season of my life, I’ve discovered that I need to write down and carry around with me a hyperspecific list of what I must do every day and–this is key–what I want to do every day.

I realized that for a long time now–probably years–I’ve been spending my unstructured time wandering around my house feeling the anxiety of all the things I need to do but unsure of what I should do next. This habit has been exacerbated by my current freeform work schedule (I have to be on campus for classes, office hours, and meetings, and that’s it). So even though I believe that part of being a functioning adult is knowing how to use one’s time without having to be told what to do, I have recently felt that I might actually need someone to tell me what to do, at least for a while. And I decided that that person ought to be me.

So I’m filling out every line of my planner. And as I mentioned, these are big pages. I’m not just writing down classes and appointments; I’m also writing down specific times for things like “prayer while making tea,” “have my first coffee,” “talk to Jordan,” “blog,” and “yoga”–things that I say are important (and that I typically enjoy) but that I apparently have never considered important enough to set a time for on my schedule. (This includes those routine items that I mentioned in the first paragraph–yes, I’m writing “wake up” and “go to bed” in my planner.) The level of specificity might seem ridiculous, but judging by these first few weeks of the year, it seems like it’s helping. The true test, of course, will be once my classes really get going and I have grading to do, but I already have a plan for that: one of my to-do items this week is “Count # of students & divide by # of weekdays to schedule grading.” If it’s important, I’m writing it down.

One good thing about this system is that my to-do list is finite and specific to each day, rather than vague and unending, so I’m getting the added benefit of a major list-crossing-off endorphin rush each day. There were one or two days last week when my to-do list was too ambitious, but I was able to move the items to another day or even the following week after re-assessing their urgency.

I should also mention the weekly routine I’ve added that, so far, is incredibly helpful: taking an hour each Sunday night to plan my week. (I am grateful to life coach Cindy Sielawa for this suggestion.) I create a calm environment by lighting all the candles I got for Christmas (it’s a lot–guys, I like fire) and doing a facemask (the skincare kind, not the football kind), and then I fill out all those blanks in my planner. And my routine-loving heart is happy.

And you can make it even happier by telling me some of your favorite daily routines and planning habits! Please share in the comments!


Ebenezer and the Jordan

I promise I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth; I’ve just taken a break from my blog that lasted a little longer than I had planned. I am still figuring out how writing fits into my priorities during this busy, exciting year, but at present, I have no plans to put the blog on a longer-term hiatus.

Today, I want to share an observation that some of you might, rightly, find a little cheesy. All I can say in my defense is that I value symbolism because it helps me begin to grasp the abstract, something that does not come naturally to me.

Let me back up. A few years ago, I wrote a post about the Old Testament account of Ebenezer, the stone that the prophet Samuel set up to commemorate God’s leading of the Israelites. (I recently wrote a short story about this, which I hope to see in print soon–stay tuned.) The word “Ebenezer” is an important symbol for me; I have it engraved on a necklace, and I love its odd, archaic appearance in verse two of my favorite hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” If one can have a favorite biblical memorial stone, Ebenezer is mine.

But there are other memorial stones in scripture, and the speaker in a webinar I was listening to this past weekend reminded me of the memorial pile of stones (which doesn’t share a name with a Dickens character) that the children of Israel set up in the middle of the Jordan River after God miraculously allowed them to cross it on dry land. And then I thought about how God has led me to a Jordan of my own–my fiance, whose first name is Jordan. (I told you this would be cheesy.) When I moved out here to Michigan in August 2018, I was excited about my new job and ready for a reboot of my life, but the question remained in my mind–why Michigan, in particular? (No offense, by the way. Honestly, you can read here and here about how much I like Michigan.) And now I know why: so that I would be in the same eHarmony orbit as this wonderful man I’m going to marry in May.

Hither by God’s help I am come.