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I apologize if it seems all I write about any more is my wedding. It’s consumed my thoughts and thus my writing. That said, I’m going to talk about it some more.

A week from today, I’ll be getting married. A year ago at this time, I was dealing with the emotions of realizing that it was going to be at least a year before I got married. At first, it made me upset. I was finally engaged, and now I had to wait some more?!

It made me angry, and a little bit sorry for myself. I’d long ago learned that complete honesty in prayer with the Lord was better than half-hearted but religious platitudes. At the time, I couldn’t pray that He would make me happy to wait. I just couldn’t.

So instead, I prayed that the longing I felt to be married to Clay would teach my heart what it really means to long for Jesus’ return.

If that seems like a non-sequitar, let me explain;

Throughout the Bible, God’s relationship with his people is depicted as being like that of a husband and a wife.

In the very beginning, in Genesis, it is said that God created humans, both men and women, “in the image of God,” meaning that they, at their very essence, reflect key things about who God is and what He is like. Man is made first, and then women is created for man, to be his mate.
“The man said ‘This [woman] is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:32,24:

Later, God continually refers to himself as a “husband” to his chosen people, Israel.

“In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.'” (Hosea 2:16)
“For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name” -(Isaiah 54:5)
“”Return, faithless people,” declares  the LORD, “for I am your husband.” (Jer 3:14 )

In the New Testament, the references continue, now with Jesus being referred to as the “bridegroom” to his faithful people. Paul even goes so far as to say that the major reason that God created marriage like He did was to provide us with a living picture of himself;
” ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am saying it refers to Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:31,32

Finally, the references conclude in the final book of the Bible, Revelations. In this book, the future return of Jesus is described as  “wedding” – where the Groom, Jesus, will finally, once and for all, be fully united to the people who have chosen to love Him – His Bride, the Church.  (Revelation 19, 21)

This picture has long been one of my favorites. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine the day when Jesus returns;
A triumphant Groom, the long, weary battle won, comes to claim His radiant bride and take her away to live with Him forever.

But for now, we live in the waiting period. As His church, we are engaged to Him – but the final marriage hasn’t come yet. And it is oh-so-hard.

I know that feeling.

I’ve been engaged for over 14 months now. I understand what it means to wait. Fortunately, God has been kind to me, and I actually really enjoyed the majority of my engagement.  In fact, I often wished it would slow down – I was comfortable being engaged. Liked it, actually. I didn’t see the need to hurry my wedding! Sometimes, in the middle of all the “engagement” and wedding planning activities, I would forget I was even getting married! But still, I often prayed that it would teach me what it meant to really long for Jesus’ return. And for most of my engagement, I felt like that prayer went unanswered. In the past two weeks, though, something changed.

Two weeks ago, I moved home to begin working on support and finish up wedding details, while Clay stayed behind in Athens to work. Of course, I miss him terribly. And somewhere, in the middle of that, my heart started to shift.

This past week, I’ve acutely felt the longing just to be with Clay. I want my wedding to hurry up and get here – not because I want to wear a pretty dress, or put my hair up, or even to celebrate with loved ones – but because my wedding will mean he’ll be here, with me. I’ll be able to not just hear him – but see him. Touch him. Be with him. And I won’t have to say goodbye.

That’s what it means to long for Jesus’ return.

So often, we get trapped up in the insignificant and the momentary, we lose sight of the eternal. We get comfortable on this earth – enjoy it even.  We occupy ourselves with things, good things even – family, church, ministry, jobs – and forget what we’re really waiting for.

How often have you heard someone say, (or perhaps even said it yourself) “I’m not ready for Jesus to come back, I haven’t (insert unfulfilled desire here) yet,” ?

What silliness! What bride should say, “I’m not ready for my wedding, I haven’t cleaned the grout in my bathroom yet,”?!?

None of the things we think we’re waiting for could be better than spending eternity in Heaven with the God who loves us more than any groom has ever loved any bride. 

I don’t long for Jesus’ return the way I should. I don’t ache for Heaven with the intensity and the fervor that I should. And this side of Heaven, I probably never will.

But in this gift of my year-long engagement, I have learned a little bit how I ought to. A little more of my heart everyday is learning to cry, “Maranatha! – Come, Lord Jesus, Come!”

Yes – Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

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I’m getting married in 2 months. Actually, 69 days to be exact. On May 24, 2014, I will make the most solemn vows of my entire life, and officially become Mrs. Clay Selway. I will commit to not only share, but entirely give my money, my possessions, my future, my body, my soul to one man. Forever. No way out.

And he’s not “The One.”

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love Clay with everything I have. He makes me laugh. He makes the bad days good and the good days better. He challenges me to be a better person, and comforts me when I’ve failed that challenge. He’s the kindest, gentlest, sweetest person I know. He’s my best friend, my hero, and the only man I’d ever want to be my husband.

But he’s still not my soul mate, and definitely not “The One.”

Not that I didn’t spend the first 18 years of my life longing to meet my “One.” Growing up, like any good midwestern girl, I was fed a steady diet of the idealized American romance. One boy, one girl – two star-crossed lovers who fight across space and time to fulfill their destiny of being together. From Disney movies to romance novels, I ate it all up. I had my own copy of “Romeo and Juliet,” that I read until the pages started to fall out. I literally watched “The Princess Bride” so many times I could have recited it in my sleep. I loved it. And I wanted it.

But no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t seem to find it. Even the best boyfriend I had failed my weighty list of expectations. No man in the world seemed like they would ever fulfill the ideal I’d built up. I sat around and lamented to my girlfriends ruefully, “I think God made me a man, but somewhere along the way he got hit by bus.” The humor was a thin veneer for some very thick disappointment.

After wading through the smoking rubble from a broken relationship with someone I thought was “The One”,  I met my now fiance, Clay, through some mutual friends. After a year of friendship, we began a careful dating relationship. 2 years after that, he asked me to be his wife. And in just 2 months, we will become one. But he isn’t “The One.”

You see, Clay will never be “The One.” In fact, I don’t even think there is a “One,” not on this earth at least. The very concept of a “One” implies that there is one, singular person out there that will fulfill every single desire of my heart, meet every single need, and heal every single hurt.

What an incredible burden! Actually, what a crushing burden. No man, not even Clay (and I admit I think he’s the best man out there) could do that. Think of who many needs, wants, desires, and hurts you have – could just one person ever take care of all that?

As a Christian, I believe that human beings have eternal souls. Souls that are filled with an immense, infinite amount of desires and wants. We need to be loved perfectly, to be known perfectly, to be cherished perfectly. But, as the they say “no one’s perfect.” And thus, no one, not even your spouse, no matter how well matched, will ever be able to fulfill you fully.

But our culture has told us this lie, and we’ve ate it up. And so we date, and break up, marry and divorce, all the while searching, searching, searching for someone, anyone to fill this aching hole inside of us. But they can’t. And they don’t. And they never will.

I think C.S. Lewis got it right when he famously said, ““If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

You see, I think we were made for another world. A world with no longing, no sighing, no searching, no pain. No disappointment, no unmet expectations, no broken relationships, no emptiness. A world with a perfect relationship with a perfect God; an Infinite being to fill an infinite need. And though we haven’t lived in that perfect world since Genesis 2, I believe that through Jesus, we can still have that relationship with God. And through Him, even while I struggle through this broken world, I have an infinite source to fill my never-ending need.

This is something Clay and I came to realize before we dated each other, and something we realize a little more every day. Because we both have a relationship with Jesus, we have all of our infinite needs, wants, and desires fulfilled. We don’t have to turn to each other for them.

This means that while I still receive things like love, affection, friendship, and affirmation from Clay, I don’t have to. I don’t demand them, but rather can receive them as a gift. On the bad days (or weeks, or months, or years), I don’t have to receive anything from Clay. Fulfilled in my relationship with God, I can choose to serve Clay when he’s not serving me, give when he’s only taking, and love when he’s nothing but unloveable. And on the good days (which, by God’s grace, will outnumber the bad) I will receive his gentle service, gifts, and love with a sense of undeserving joy and gratitude.

He’s not “The One.” The unchangable, unshakeable, never-failing God is “The One.” And Clay is a wonderful, beautiful, completely undeserved gift given to me by The One.

On May 24, 2014, I will become one with someone I love more than my own body. I will happily join with the one God has given me, and together, as one, we will serve The One.

I’m getting married, and he’s not “The One.” And I’m grateful for that.

“What I need to survive is not fire…I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again.”

I need someone to show me how selfish and horrible I really am, but love me and tell me they think I’m wonderful anyway. Not because I am. But because they love me. And that’s what love does.

It loves, sometimes just to spite the bad.

I hope for heaven. All my longings and desires are pointing there, pulling there, drawing me ever forward.

Because of heaven, I can live with the fact that my earthly body is permanently broken and often in pain. I have a sure hope that one day, I’ll be in a body that is perfect and whole.

Because of heaven, I can live free from the fear of losing the ones I love. I don’t fear for my fiance’s safety, my friend’s cancer. My fiance and my friend will live eternally in heaven with me. Even if I have to live the next 60+ years without them, those years of missing them will pale in comparison to an eternity with them.

Because of heaven, I can put aside lesser things that I love in favor of greater things that God loves. I can forgo a large salary to take a job that serves God’s kingdom. I can give up stability and safety to do what God asks me to do, when He asks me to do it. I can forgo living near my family, seeing my dear friends, living in the places that I love, in order that I might share the Gospel with those who most need it. I can even give up my own life, because I know that nothing I say “No” to now will compare to the infinite “Yes’s” that I will have in eternity.

Because of heaven, I walk in peace, sleep in comfort, and live in joy. Nothing – from a bad day to incurable cancer – can touch me. A present comfort with a promised future. I am, of all people, the most truly free.

So thankful for the sweet things in life.

baseballgameFor this godly man, and his sweet, gentle, persistent kindness and faithful love.

friendsFor these friends, and the way they love me enough not only to cheer me on, but to show me my sin and tell me when I’m wrong. Also, they’re hysterical and not a day goes by where one of them doesn’t make me laugh.

familyFor this family. Words cannot describe. I credit them with my faith, my passions, my humor, and of course (as you can see), my really awesome hair.

2013-06-30 10.17.47For these two fluffy idiots, who never fail to entertain and exasperate with their antics. Also, I’ve never had a better kiss (sorry, Clay.)

2013-06-08 20.30.46Thankful.

Wrestling with the sovereignty of God is never an easy task, even in the abstract. Doing it in the real, everyday, muddy details of life is like trying to thread a needle while riding a bull. Recently, I've been wrestling with this idea, once again. It seems to be a theme of my life this year.

For those who might not know, next year I've taken a position as an intern with Cru at OU, a Christian organization with a focus on sharing the Gospel, disciple-making, and world missions. It's literally a dream job, and I'm so excited to get to go back to the campus I love and share the love of Jesus, full-time.

But, before I go, I face a pretty big challenge. Cru staff, like a lot of other missionary organizations, raise their own financial support, by partnering with individuals and churches. I have to raise my own between now and August 1st. If I don't raise it, I don't go.

This is what's been really tough for me. I can put up post-it's with verses of God's promises of provision. I can memorize passages of Scripture that tell me of how He will not forsake those who seek Him. I can fall on my knees everyday, acknowledging my very real dependance on Him to provide the means for me to fill my mouth with food. All of those things, I am doing. But what's been hard, is acknowledging that He may choose not to.

I haven't even let myself think along these lines. But He could. He could choose not to bring the support in. He could choose, come August 1st, to keep me off staff. (Just writing those words was so hard, I started to cry.)

This is where faith gets real. Yes, it requires real faith to believe that God will provide me the financial support for an entire year. But I think it requires even more to believe that He is good, kind, and loving, even if He chooses to not allow the support to come in.

What will I do, if that happens? Will I hate him, and curse him, like Jonah? Or will I stand with Job, and say, "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."?

As of now, I'm fairly certain I would curse Him, just to be honest. It would be so excruciating to see yet another dream die, another hope deferred.

But I must, I must, believe that He is in control of ALL things, good and bad. I must believe that He works all things for my ultimate good. I must believe that if He did not spare His own son for me, then neither will He withhold any other sort of good from me, (no matter what I think good looks like.)

Oh, God, change my heart that I might be able to say, no matter what happens this summer, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

 

So my friend Hanna wrote this really awesome blog post about married/single labels and feeling alone. (You should probably go read it here.)

The post got me thinking a lot about something I’ve been feeling, but haven’t been able/haven’t wanted to articulate. I haven’t been able to articulate it until now because it’s been so painful, and haven’t wanted to because I’m afraid people will think I’m immature/bratty/dramatic/etc. But here it goes. //Start soapbox.

Feeling alone is a peculiar feeling. Elisabeth Elliot describes it as a fundamental distortion of who man was supposed to be: A creature in full, perfect harmony with others and its Creator. But, because of sin, we feel disconnected. Unattached. Adrift. Alone.

My friend says she feels alone sometimes because she is married. I feel alone because I am not. We’re both in different places, yet feeling the same way for me. To be honest, it really is hard for me, (and probably for the well-intentioned woman who wrote this article,) to look at my married friends, and fathom how they could be lonely.

(Side note: This might look different for people whose friends have been married for quite some time, or especially for those whose friends are not yet married. But this is coming from my perspective, in which a great chunk of my friends have gotten married in the past year, or are getting married in the next year.)

It’s so hard for me to look at married life from my angle, and not simply see all of the positives: A real home, furnished with things not found in the basement of a rental house (not at all an example of my life…) A constant partner, a friend who is always there (literally and figuratively.) A warm bed shared with a best friend. 

That’s where my (and I think most single people’s) imagination ends. And then we wallow and feel sorry for ourselves and cry on the pink and teal giraffe bedsheets we bought when we were 18 and can’t get rid of because we can’t afford it. (Totally a made up situation right there…)

And I’d imagine that it runs somewhat in the other direction as well. Married people see all of the hard things about marriage, and long for the parts of singleness that were actually pretty awesome.  So there we both are, feeling hurt, misunderstood, and very, very alone.

But maybe the real point is that we feel often alone because we let ourselves feel that way. 

I’m totally preaching to the choir here, but we feel alone because we let ourselves imagine that no one can possibly understand how we feel. And that’s just dumb.

Single people: I echo Hanna – stop feeling so misunderstood. Remember your married friends were single once. Remember they still like pretty much all the same things they liked when they were single. Remember that they’re a human being, and if they’ve hurt your feelings or made you feel isolated, you should probably just tell them. In short: Be a loving friend.

Married people: This goes for you too! Stop feeling so misunderstood. If you’ve forgotten, then try to remember that you were once single. Remember that your single friends probably are hurting in one way or another, but it may not be how you think. Remember that your single friends definitely want to share in your life, but probably feel really awkward in conversations about things in which they have no experience to share (sex, husbands, wedding planning, etc.) Remember that they’re also human beings. Like I said, in short: Be a loving friend.

I don’t think I’m anywhere near done feeling alone. I don’t think I’ve got this all right and figured out. I’m sure I’ve hurt my married friend’s feelings with insensitivity to their feelings of aloneness as often as I’ve had mine hurt. The point is, feeling alone, at least in many cases, is a solvable problem.

“Turn your loneliness into solitude and your solitude into prayer.”

Ok, end soapbox.//

I’m going to go back to my pink and teal giraffe sheeted bed and drink some tea out of a crappy mug I found in the basement of the house I’m renting….

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed something about myself: I like what I like, and I hate what I don’t. Even if something’s the most popular thing in the world, if I don’t like it, no one will ever convince me. I’ve never been able to hop on a bandwagon, even if it meant being on the outside of things.

That said, I am attempting avoid studying for my finals and thus have compiled this (incomplete) list of things that I hate, that other (normal) people love.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas Story
I know, I know. I’m not a real American. Actually, I’m probably not even human. Whatever. I can’t stand movie. It’s boring, has no real plot, and the music is literally some of the most obnoxious I’ve ever heard. Plus, Linus’ lisp. *shudder*

2. Hillsong United
Again, I know. I’m not a real Christian. I just can’t take it. There are a few song I enjoy, but I’ve never like live albums, and I prefer hymns over any other kind of worship music. Srsly.

3. Puppy ChowTwo words: Powdered sugar. Bleeech. The thought it makes me a little sick. Just, no.

4. Chik-Fil-ARemember when everyone was boycotting Chik-Fil-A this summer? Well, I had a leg-up on them because I haven’t had a bite of Chik-Fil-A since 8th grade. You see, when I was in grade school, we had terrible food. But, once a week, the cafeteria ladies would order Chik-Fil-A, and man, that was the stuff. But my mom always packed my lunch. One day, I think I begged enough, because she gave me money to buy Chik-Fil-A. I was so excited. I swear I could feel triumph rising from the foil wrapper (that, or steam.) My hand shook as I peeled back the wrapper to take a bite. One bite and…I gagged. Seriously, so gross. I don’t know what people see in them. Gushy, weird spices, all on bad chicken. Ew. I’ll pass.

5. Movies, in general
This is where the crazy comes in. I’m totally serious, I don’t really like movies. In general, I find them too long and they don’t typically capture my attention enough to make it worth it. Past about 30 minutes and I need to do something new. 90 minutes??? I can’t sit for that long! There are a few notable exceptions, including almost any documentary, and Baby Mama, but that’s about it.

I could go on, there’s lots more (Roller Coasters, ranch dressing, Chips Ahoy cookies…) but that might take all day.

Cue outrage.

 

 

“Your romantic relationship, is meant to make Jesus look big more than it is meant to provide you personal fulfillment.”

That quote from an article  I read on The Gospel Coalition the other day really stuck out to me. The idea that my relationship with my boyfriend is meant to make Jesus look good more than it is meant to make me feel good is nothing new. In fact, that idea was something that we outline as one of our primary goals in dating each other before we even began dating. On our list of boundaries, we even listed 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 (“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body,”) as one of the definitions of the way in which we would relate to each other.

So, at least on paper, I had an understanding of this idea.  However, in this season of my life, it’s been becoming more and more obvious. Now, before I get started, I want to make it clear. I love my boyfriend. He is wonderful. He is kind, funny, gentle, loyal, patient, thoughtful, humble, loving, and affectionate. He has one of the biggest servant’s hearts I’ve ever seen. He is a man of God I’m blessed to be dating, and yes, he makes me very happy. I have a ton of fun with him. Our relationship does provide me with an immense amount of satisfaction.

BUT (there’s always a but), that’s not the point of our relationship. And I’ve been seeing that play out. Clay is a year older than me, and just graduated. We’ll be spending this next year (at least) in a long distance relationship as he lives Columbus and I live in Athens. We’re stuck being far apart. We don’t get to see each other like we’d like to. Because I’m school and he needs to work, our relationship can’t be at the stage we’d like it to be.  We submit ourselves to boundaries and restrain our affections.

Those things aren’t fun. I’m not going to lie. They just aren’t. I’ve cried about all of them. Sometimes, I really hate them. But we do them because we believe that making Jesus look good is more important than making ourselves feel good.

But there, in obedience born out of our deep love for Jesus, is something very sweet. There is a deep, surpassing, unfailing grace. Grace that makes me able to say “no” to myself, and “yes” to glorifying the Lord. Grace that enables me to get through the days when missing him seems unbearable, and savor the days that we’re together. Grace that allows me to praise and give thanks in ALL circumstances, even this one. Grace that enables me to say, “Not my will, but thine.”

And that is love. Not what our culture says of love, which is made unbridled passion, shirking responsibilities, or breaking rules. But real, true, deep love. Love that is willing to give up what it wants for the good of another.  Love that is willing to wait, for a season, for a sweeter and greater reward. Love that is patient, kind, gentle. Love that bears all things, even when it means separation. Believes all things, even when the belief is that it is best to be apart. Hopes all things, even when that hope seems so far off. Endures all things, even when the thought of a year of this seems unendurable, because there is a far greater Love we submit to. 

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
(1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)

I wish I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I wish I had a “5 Year Plan.”

I wish I had an answer other than “I don’t know, maybe, not really,” when people ask me if I know what I’m going to do after college.

But the truth is, I don’t. I will graduate, but then, who knows? 5 years, that’s almost inconceivable. My whole life – well, I can’t say.

I like photography (my major.) But I like a lot of things. I like coffee. I like knitting. I like trashy reality tv shows and things with birds on them. That doesn’t mean I’ll make a life with any of those things.

I hate being defined like that. As if where I live or how I make money defines who I am or the substance of my life. That’s not who I am.

So the next time that someone asks me, “So, what do you want to do with your life?” this is what I’m going to say.

“I can’t tell you where I’ll live. I can’t tell you who will be my employer, or what my job title will be, or what kind of work I’ll do. But I can tell you this. I’m going to laugh. I’m going cry. I’m going marry a great man, God willing. I’m going to have my own children, or maybe adopt a few, or maybe both. I’m going to make cookies for my neighbors. I’m going to invest in a church that I’ll love like my own body. I’m going to throw birthday parties. I’m going to lay in bed with my husband on a Saturday morning, talking about nothing in particular.

I’m going to sit around tables with my family late into the night, telling stories about the past. I’m going to take walks in the fall and enjoy the weather. I’m going to drink a LOT of coffee. I’m going to burn dinner. I’m going to teach a baby to say “mama.”I’m going to get angry. I’m going to forgive. I’m going to swim on really hot days. I’m going to drink good wine with great friends.

I’m going to look at the stars. I’m going to plant a garden. I’m going to take a lot of pictures. I’m going to sing hymns in my kitchen. I’m going to sit on the beach and listen to the waves. I’m going to marvel at the blue of the midwestern sky in September. I’m going to wear pretty dresses.

I’m going to tell people that Jesus’ loves them. I’m going to serve the God that made me. I’m going love people around me so much it breaks my heart. I’m going live to be 80, or maybe die tomorrow.

I’m going to live. Not just be alive, but really live, I’m going to experience this life for everything that it’s worth.”

I probably won’t say that. I’ll probably just say, “I don’t know.” But that’s what I really mean. Because I might not know what I want to do after I graduate, or even what I want to do tomorrow. But I do know that God made me to live, and live I will.

“Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one, wild and precious life!” – Mary Oliver

This is Just So Beautiful – music video by Jenny & Tyler

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Past Musings