This journey is our own

Comparison is a lot like the game Spoons. You can never keep your eyes fixed only on what’s in your hand, and someone always ends up getting hurt (at least when you play Spoons with my family).

Valentine’s Day woes

A few days after Valentine’s Day I posted a blog at She Is Set Apart about the way the lover’s holiday used to cause problems for me as a single person and still does even though I’m now married.

When I was single, using Facebook on Valentine’s Day was difficult because everyone was either posting pictures of their amazing gifts – making me feel bad because I didn’t have any, getting engaged – reminding me that I didn’t have someone to propose to me, or sending me “cheer up, you don’t suck that bad… at least Jesus loves you” posts – which I guess were meant to encourage me as a single woman.

Now that I’m married all I see is competition, oneupmanship. Hundreds of women claiming their husband is the best and sharing all the ways he spoiled her, making hundreds of other women instantaneously lift their expectations of their husband so that when he comes home with a single rose and box of chocolates, she’s looking at him like “That’s it? You hate me, don’t you?”

Long story short, the conclusion I came to on the blog post and in life is that my jealousy is an indicator that my Christian love tank is probably running on low. If I had the love of Christ living inside of me like it should, I should be rejoicing with my sisters and brothers because of the gifts they received. There is no room for jealousy and comparison in love.

Same story, different season

You may be wondering what my point is considering Valentine’s Day was over a month ago. Well, I bringt it up because the comparison struggle has started again but for a totally different reason: babies.

Since we had our miscarriage, just about every single friend that I have back home has announced that they’re pregnant or they’re already pregnant or they recently had a baby. I kid you not, this is true of at least 80% of my close friends.

It can be really hard to think that I was supposed to be on that ship, fell overboard, and now am treading water as the ship sails on. Without me.

As I scroll through my news feed, here we go again with a million baby pictures and birth announcements. It would be so easy for Ray and I to become upset because we had gotten so close to becoming parents, and sometimes I think we both do feel a twinge of envy, but aside from learning how to love others and truly rejoice with them in these wonderful gifts that God is giving them, God has really been giving us a new perspective to tread these murky waters.

Breathing under water

See, at this point in our lives we may not be on our way to parenthood and we don’t know when God will give us the go ahead with that, but with what felt like a tidal wave crashing over us, we’ve discovered that the undercurrent is actually pulling us deeper into our dreams. At this point in our lives we are able to pursue all that God puts on our hearts with total abandonment. The Joshua Blueprint has become our baby.

We’re in a similar position to where I was as a single person. Because I wasn’t in a relationship I was able to get involved in numerous ministries, go on lots of mission trips, and mentor a lot of kids. Now that I’m married I’ve lost some of that freedom, but I’ve discovered new potential in the partnership I have with my husband. Now, as one unit, we can dive into all that God has set before us and accomplish more together than I ever could on my own. The beauty of it all is that we can maintain this perspective through every phase that we’ll go through in life. As we begin to build our family we’ll gain revelation on how we can continue to pursue what God puts on our hearts but in a different way. My friend Kimberly Huffman has a great post about what that looks like as a mother of seven on the mission field. You can check it out here.

That being said, every phase of life looks different. We’re only in the second phase right now and we don’t necessarily plan to be in this phase as long as I stayed in the single phase, but who knows? Maybe God will keep us here for a while so we can spend more time branching out and experiencing new foundational aspects of His vision for us.

Whatever His plan is, our hearts say yes.

Not what I expected: benchwarming at its finest

Back in 2006 when I went to South Africa with high hopes of becoming a missionary.

Back in 2006 when I went to South Africa with high hopes of becoming a missionary.

Last week I totally geeked out searching for missionary blogs of other Americans here in Kenya or Eastern Africa. I found a ton and subscribed to them all. On one hand, a wave of giddiness swept over me every time I found someone I could possibly connect with (I’m just a tad starved for companionship at this time… I only have two friends that I actually hang out with here and intermittently at that), but on the other hand, reading some of these people’s stories of life on the mission field incited some jealousy.

Grandiose dreams of missionary life have filled my head from the time I was knee high to a grasshopper through the time I flew 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean to get here. With a passionate heart for the orphaned and oppressed and an imagination large enough to solve every need they had, I was anxious to get my hands dirty and change the world.

Let the lofty dreams hit the floor

Aside from a few weeks of volunteering at an orphanage near a place where we temporarily lived, my hands have stayed relatively clean (my hair is a different story) and the world is changing, but I’m just watching from the sidelines… keeping the bench warm.  This was to be expected since Ray and I made a commitment to stay out of ministry for this first year.

There were two big reasons we decided to do this:

1. Ministry can be very taxing on a marriage, especially when you’re only in your first year, so we figured we’d keep ourselves from adding unnecessary stress as much as possible.

2. Because I came over knowing little to nothing about my husband’s culture, and it’s really important that I take the time to acclimate to it before I dig into ministry and start structuring our organization. I need to see how the locals do things, how they tick, what they like, and what they don’t instead of imposing my American ideals on them. Sometimes American systems just don’t work in other cultural systems, or sometimes they do but because I’m a woman I have to be strategic about the way I present them.

Though I know I can’t learn everything about his culture in a year, it has been good for me to just observe. I’m learning a lot, and I know I’ll continue learning well after we have the ‘go ahead’ to hit the ground running. Like any other career bench warmer, I may not be in game, but I’ve got a better advantage of seeing the strategy and skill behind each player’s move and getting a better perspective of the game as a whole. When the coach finally lets me in, I’ll have some insight that those playing the field may have missed.

Changing the direction of my inspiration

Regardless of what I know to be a good plan for us and our marriage, it’s hard to feel like I’m serving a legitimate purpose here. In fact, the other day I was in the midst of having a pity party for myself when it occurred to me that my marriage is my ministry. I may not be able to care for orphans or feed the hungry or preach the Gospel in the streets, but I am called to love my husband. I am able to care for his physical and emotional needs, I am able to feed him, and I am able to encourage and challenge him in our devotional time. Just as my service to the least of these translates as service to God, my service to my husband is just as much a service to God. The more wholeheartedly I pour myself into the act of serving my husband, the more fulfilled and prepared I will be when we come to the end of this year.

It’s about time I stop looking so much to the future and just be who God called me to be today.

“Everything I am to say and do in my life is to be supportive of [the] gospel ministry of reconciliation, and that commitment begins by displaying reconciliation in my personal relationships, especially in my marriage. If my marriage contradicts my message, I have sabotaged the goal of my life: to be pleasing to Christ and to faithfully fulfill the ministry of reconciliation, proclaiming to the world the good news that we can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.” ~ Gary Thomas (Sacred Marriage)