Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Fight Continues

Most of you reading this blog are from the Midwest and have been to a Hy-Vee store before. If you’ve been in one during the past month you know we changed up how we do our gas discounts. And let me tell you…people are NOT happy about it. Every time I go in for work I have at least one customer tell me how much they hate the new fuel saver program and that they won’t be buying gas from Hy-Vee anymore. I just smile politely and apologize, because it wasn’t my idea to start this new deal in the first place and I can do absolutely nothing to change it. But it has started wearing on me…day after day of crabby, unsatisfied customers is definitely not fun to deal with.

It dawned on me today though that it is so easy to pick up out negativity in strangers, or even friends and family, for that matter. I can have thirty happy customers come through my line, thirty people who say hello, chatter politely, and then say thank you and leave with a smile. But when one crabby person comes through my line it sticks with me. I remember them. It bothers me that they had nothing good to say the entire time; that nothing I did was good enough for them. When they leave all I can think is My goodness, you don’t have one pleasant thing to say today??  They let one trip to the grocery store ruin their entire day, when really, in the grand scheme of things, a fuel saver program isn’t going to have that much of an impact on them. Sure, it may inconvenience or frustrate them…but really…they probably have much to be thankful for.

That is the sin in me talking. I stand across the check stand thinking this about them, silently criticizing them for not being grateful for what they have.  But I probably could not keep track of how many times a day I do the same thing.  Here are some of my daily thoughts…
            I pay HOW MUCH to go to this school every year, and yet I STILL can’t ever seem to find a place to park. Fantastic…looks like I’ll be walking half a mile to the dorms once again in the twenty degree weather…in the dark…
            Pasta again? REALLY? The cafeteria can’t come up with something new? Looks like pizza once again today…
            This person can’t drive. I doubt they even have a license. Ever heard of a turn signal, person? You are ruining my life…
            Seriously? You’re not going to text me back. This is your fiancée texting you…what if I was dying???

I could go on.  Regardless of how incredibly blessed I am, I still find something to complain about. And at the same time I stand across from people and send judgment on them for doing the same thing! This is also something Ben and I have been discussing as part of our premarital counseling. I am more often at fault of doing this than Ben is—I neglect to combat my own sin while at the same time jumping in and telling Ben everything that is wrong with him. Most of the time I am guilty of the exact thing I am finding offensive in him. In my selfishness I have always looked over the passage of Matthew 7, thinking it didn’t apply to me as a “good Christian girl.” I could not have been more wrong! So, this passage has been on my heart for the past couple of weeks, and to make up for all the lost time skipping it over and refusing to take it to heart, I am taking a hard look at it now and making an effort to put it into action:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you notice the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but you do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

I think many people misread this passage, or rather, don’t read far enough. Many people are quick to point out that the Bibles says not to judge, which it clearly does, as seen in the passage above. But if you keep reading, it says that once we have taken the log out of our own eyes, then we will be able to take the speck out of our brother’s eyes. I take this passage to mean that first I must combat my own sin, and then I can help my fellow brother or sister in Christ combat theirs. It certainly does not mean standing across from them and saying, “I worked on my sin, now you work on yours! I learned to be thankful for my beautiful life, now you be thankful for yours!” Perhaps a better way to do this is to make a conscious effort to praise God for my beautiful life…work on verbalizing my praise and subtracting the complaints. Isn’t it easier to praise alongside of someone? It is certainly easy to complain alongside someone, so it will probably have the same effect. It’s something I’m trying out, anyway. I wish my daily thoughts went more like this…
            God gave you two legs for a reason. Walking from this upper parking lot to your dorm won’t kill you. And it’s giving you a chance to enjoy this beautiful, clear night.
            You have such a wide array of food to choose from. There will soon come a time in your life when you will wish someone put out five different options of food and then cleaned up after you. Enjoy this while you can…
            This person driving in front of me is a child of God. They are loved dearly, who am I to criticize them?
            Whatever you are doing right now, it is for a purpose. I know you will text me back when you get the chance. Clearly I am not dying and I can wait a few hours to talk to you!

That would be great. And I’m trying! I fail daily at it, but I am fighting it. I have a beautiful life—I have been blessed far beyond what I can imagine. I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around how good God has been to me. I see people all around me going through storms and hardships, and I wonder why that is. Why is this life so hard for others, and yet others seem to just walk on through? I have been through my share of storms, and the threat of one is never far off, but still. Compared to some, I have it pretty easy. I want to realize now, while I am in the midst of the calm, that God is good and that no matter what he is there, he is providing. So I will continue to fight so that when the storms do come, I’ll be ready. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Braggin' Up My Man

Tonight Ben and I are “celebrating” one year of engagement. I use the word “celebrate” loosely, however, because we have found our long engagement to be a really good thing, and a really bad thing. I advise all my friends who are in serious relationships to really talk about marriage and to make a plan of when the ideal time to get married is, and then to plan accordingly. Long engagements are tough. From the beginning I wanted to jump right in and begin planning and making decisions, but because I had 18 months to get stuff done it wasn’t realistic. We’ve had to wait until just recently to really nail down some decisions, because we weren’t able to do so with the wedding date so far in the future. But we’re finally getting to the end, people! Only six more months to go J

Aside from not being able to do all the things I wanted to do from the get go and the sheer frustration of having to wait over 500 days to get married, it hasn’t been all bad. We started marriage counseling in October, which we’ve always looked forward to, but I’ve found myself enjoying it more than I thought I would. I’ve been able to take a step back from both the bad and the good and really focus on what this whole thing is about. And it’s deepening my appreciation for the man I love on a daily basis, and I want to share that experience with you all.

Those of you who know Ben well will not be surprised to hear that he is a very romantic person. He has a very caring, compassionate heart that he shares with everyone on a daily basis, so it makes sense that in our relationship he’d take that to the next level. It’s like he’s really taken to heart what the Lord said in Genesis 2: 18. God has just created the entire world—all the animals and of course, Adam. After he creates each creature, he declares it to be good. Except in Adam’s case. The Lord says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”  So God brings all the creatures he has made and brings them to Adam, but he still feels that none of these are suitable helpers. Finally, the Lord made a woman from Adam’s rib, and he brought her to him. Adam’s reaction always makes me chuckle: “At last! This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh. She will be called Woman, because she was taken from man.”

Let me clarify when I say that Ben has taken this passage to heart. I don’t mean that he walks around all the time telling everyone that without me he isn’t good. But I think he has realized just how important it is to share life with another. He’s realized, just like I have, that it isn’t good to be alone! It is a blessing to share a life of love, and he treats it like a blessing. Recently I read the Nicholas Sparks book “The Wedding,” which is about a man looking back on all the ways he failed his wife. Upon realizing this, he sets out to win back his wife. It’s a touching story, and it makes me thankful for the man I do have…a man who makes romance a priority, who doesn’t want to look back on his life and regret not saying how he felt or taking the time to be spontaneously romantic. I know that many wives, fiancées, and girlfriends do not experience this in their relationships, and that makes me sad. Being romanced is one of the best feelings in the world—it communicates to me that Ben is willing to do a little extra work, put a little extra thought, into showing me that he loves me. So…I am going to take this opportunity to brag up my man a little bit. This isn’t to cause jealousy in any one else’s relationship, but if you know that romance is missing in your life, I hope you do something to change that. Don’t just sit back and wait for your guy to have some life-changing epiphany about his failure to romance you. It is unrealistic to expect that from anyone. If it bothers you, bring it up gently. Pray about it. Romance is important…so fight for it.

Ben tells me every single day that he loves me. I am so used to this that most of the time I don’t even think about what a big deal this is. It’s a huge deal. I know that too many people question whether or not their spouse loves them because they never hear it. To hear it every single day is a blessing. He also compliments me on a daily basis, which again, I too often take for granted. But as a woman what other people think of me very much influences how I think about myself, and fortunately, I have a pretty positive self-view. I have Ben to thank for much of that, as rarely does a week pass that Ben doesn’t tell me that I’m pretty or that I make him laugh. I’m not trying to puff myself up here; I just want you all to know how important this is to me. To have someone stop everything they’re doing, look you straight in the eyes and say, “I think you’re beautiful,” causes those little flutters to fly every time. I can’t even imagine being in a relationship with someone who didn’t compliment. I’m not saying that we should constantly be looking and fishing for compliments…but to hear someone say something like that is a reassurance. We always want to feel like we’re enough, we want to feel desirable. What better way to feel desirable than to be complimented?

Ben lets people know he loves me. This is a side of romance I don’t really get to see or hear from him; I hear it from other people. When he introduces me to someone for the first time I usually hear some form of “Oh, I’ve just heard so many good things about you. Ben talks about you all the time.” I love that other people know he loves me. I love that he tells his co-workers all the silly things I do. I love that he posts sappy things on my Facebook wall (I know some people hate this but get over it! We like each other, and we’re getting married. J). If he never talked about me, it would worry me. But the fact that he can’t shut up about me makes me happy.

My family always makes fun of me around Christmas time because of my extreme hatred for the “un-thoughtful” gift aisle in Walmart. You know, that aisle with all the pre-wrapped, “I-didn’t-have-to-do-one-shred-of-thinking- about” gifts? I advised Ben very early on to never get me one of those gifts, as I would be very disappointed! I want gifts to be personal; I want them to mean something. Picking out a perfume and lotion set doesn’t take much thought! I am pleased to inform you all that Ben has generally done an excellent job with gift giving. (Aside from one tragic birthday…I will not go into details because all has been forgiven. J) Most of the time I go “Awww” when I open up a gift from him. When I turned 17 Ben gave me a pink fishing pole and a personalized tackle box—very thoughtful. Last year, when I was in the beginning stages of pursuing publishing my book, Ben had my manuscript printed and bound for me, encouraging me to go for it. Those are just a few of the good gifts he’s given me, and he surprises me with little gifts throughout the years, too. Be it flowers of my favorite cookies, it always means so much more than he knows.

I want to always appreciate this about my husband-to-be. It is so easy to look at all the flaws people possess; it is far more difficult to appreciate the good. Even the small things—like the fact that he holds my hand every time we walk somewhere together, or that he opens doors for me—they are often the most important, because when he does them, he is communicating that he loves me. In order to love him back I hold on to his hand tightly and thank him for his thoughtfulness. I let him know that his efforts to romance do not go unnoticed. I thank him often. And I thank God for blessing me with a man whom I know I do not deserve.