3/31/14 Morning Musing – Good mirror

My pastor preached an amazing sermon yesterday on forgiveness…something that all of us struggle with at some point. One of his points was that “When we forgive, we bring glory to our Heavenly Father because that is what he does. Our king feels disrespected by his unmerciful servants when we fail to reflect the mercy of our king. It shows that we are children of the father when we forgive.” I’d like to camp out here a little bit.

What makes a good reflector or mirror? Does it shine it’s own light? Does it say “Look at me and how awesome I am?” Or does it convey the glory of something greater than itself? The best way that we can glorify our Lord is to reflect his character to the world around us…that is our mission. We don’t have to be great apologists or theologians to simply reflect the truth that we know about our God. That requires that we think outside of ourselves for a little bit though…we are not reflecting our own skills and talents…we are reflecting the One who imparted gifts and talents in us…we are reflecting the One who walked with us through our experiences, joys, and pains…we are reflecting the One who has blessed us with the experiences and gifts of those we love.

I think we all have a different perspective of God because we have different experiences with him. If we would all be faithful to reflect the truth that we know of him, the people around us could have a more full and true understanding of him. For example, I have personally experienced aspects of his character that are forgiving, loving, healing, and personal. God has come to me and been a very real presence that is invested in my life. When I felt abandoned by people, I felt known deeply by God. I knew that he saw me…really really SAW me. I felt his tenderness during chaos, pain, and turmoil. I have felt his arms around me when my life was falling apart. I have also felt his presence when I have experienced joy, love, and forgiveness as well. (And believe me…I have a LOT to be forgiven of.) THIS is what I am called to reflect to people around me. It is my testimony. It is the undeniable truth that I have experienced of God.

A good mirror reflects what is in front of it. But here is the thing. I don’t want to just know my experiences…I want to know about your experiences as well. Please consider sharing them. I want to know your truth about God…how he has worked in your lives…because that makes my truth about him bigger. Also, if I want to consider your truth of him, that means that I have to be willing to go outside of my knowledge and comfort and hear you…really hear you…and the same goes for you if you want to learn from me.

I am pretty good at sharing but I am sometimes overly-skeptical of what others share with me. I am not saying that I should believe everything that every crazy crackpot shares with me but, when I respect people, I should hear out their thoughts before I jump to conclusions…I should make a judgement based on what I already know to be true about my Jesus. So how are you doing with this? How well do you share what God is doing in your life? How well do you listen to others who share with you what God is doing in their lives? How can you improve on this?

Picture taken from: http://www.fengshuiweb.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Feng-Shui-mirror.jpg

3/27/14 Morning Musing: “Shhhh…wait for me.”

There is nothing freakier than waking up at 2:09 am to the sound of a creepy toy talking and giggling and moving around the house. Talk about an adrenaline rush. Turns out, it was our puppies playing with Michaela’s furby boom and carrying it throughout the house. Once, we discovered what it was and dealt with it, going back to sleep for Stan and I was not really an option…we were already in stealthy ninja mode…you know…where you hear every single sound, you’re fight or flight meter is set directly at fight, and you believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that you could kill any intruder (or toy) with just what is sitting on top of your night stand (in my case: a cell phone, a charger, bobby pin, and hand cream.)

For those of you who know us, you know I think that Stan is damn-near perfect. But he does have a flaw: he gets grumpy if he is tired or hungry. If either, or God-forbid, both of these conditions are present…well, everything sucks and is dumb and it is likely that he will break something. This morning…conditions were perfect for grumpy Stan since he was unable to get back to sleep for over 2 hours after our Chucky-like experience. While trying to get the kids ready for school and get ourselves ready for the day, I noticed grumpy Stan emerging: lots of sighing, a little snippy when I asked him to repeat something, and I’m pretty sure he cussed out a bagel under his breath.

The thing is…I knew that this would carry with him to work and make him (and everyone around him) miserable…it’s rare that Stan isn’t in a good mood…but when he isn’t…it’s obvious. I was debating trying to talk to him and considering what I might be able to gently say to him…but for some odd reason, it made me feel anxious. So, instead, I quickly asked God to soothe him and bring him around without me exacerbating it and making him feel guilty. So, that meant waiting on God.

Luckily, this time, I didn’t have to wait long…God brought inspiration to me in the form of another science geek-out moment: Years ago, we read an article about how females need a 20-second embrace every single day. When we get a 20-second embrace, our blood pressure lowers, our anxiety reduces, and we begin to release certain euphoric hormones. So, Stan started hugging the whole family in this manner. His first mistake? Counting out loud while hugging me…but that is a whole other morning musing for another day. Anyway, what I noticed was that in his effort to provide those good effects for me, Stan was providing those good effects for himself too. So, this morning, instead of asking him to be less prickly, I simply told him that I needed a 20-second hug. It was great. I know that I certainly felt better, felt my breathing pattern change, felt my muscles relax, and I became calmer. When I let go, Stan looked at me and said “Thank you.” Nothing else had to be said…we were both different.

In my own sleep-deprived, diet dr. pepper-craving, aching, and grumpy state…I could have easily made this situation worse for everyone. But, by quickly (we’re talking 2 seconds here) asking God to take over, things turned out so much better. It meant having to give up my illusion of control and being ok with waiting on God. So, what are you needing to give to God today? Is there something or someone that you are trying to control? In what areas of your life are you hearing God say “Shhhhh…wait for me.”?

3/26/14 Morning Musing: Releasing the Crutch

Unedited version:

As many of you know, I am in the process of giving up Diet Dr. Pepper…well, specifically aspartame…but what that means is that I am giving up my beloved Diet Dr. Pepper. Also, as many of you know, I was poisoned a few years ago. How are these two things related? Well, I’m glad you asked!

When we were poisoned 6 years ago,one of the major side-effects was that I became allergic to 90% of my diet. Eating became an ordeal. I couldn’t eat out anywhere, it isolated me socially, and I was bitter. REALLY bitter. As in Naomi in the book of Ruth…you may call me “Mara” bitter…I was so very bitter…with a side of anger…and a good dose of righteous indignation also. It was a dark place. I felt at the time like I was losing everything: my health, my relationships, food, social interactions to any degree, my family, my mind…it was all-consuming. So, being the control-freak that I was, I determined that there was going to be something that was off-limits…something that nobody would take from me…and, it couldn’t be made of real food because I was allergic to real food: broccoli, cherries, nuts, green beans, pears, cranberries, oranges, spinach, wheat, oats, soy, yeast, sugar…yeah…everything that is real food that people eat…I was allergic to it…for years…and had to take 9 shots in my stomach every 4 days for over 2 years to get those foods back…did I mention that I was bitter? So, I decided that Diet Dr. Pepper, which has no real ingredients in it, was going to be my thing…my thing that nobody could take from me. It was a crutch for me…it gave me a sense of power…much like an eating disorder…it wasn’t about what I was consuming…it was about how I had something that only I could control. Nobody else was allowed an opinion about it. It was MINE!

Slowly though, I was healing and getting back different foods. Even after I quit praying about it, God continued to heal me. Even where my faith in him stopped, he continued to work in me. Today, I have back every single food item except for cherries…not so coincidently, it was the only food item that I didn’t take antigen injections for. But I have remained emotionally and physically addicted to Diet Dr. Pepper. I have certainly had a physical dependency where aspartame is concerned but…more than that…it was my crutch…my control…it was MINE! I felt comfort through having it because I controlled my world through this. The man who poisoned me didn’t get to dictate everything about my existence. However, I am ashamed to say that I was not letting Jesus have this part of me. Through gentle proddings from the Holy Spirit as well as some extremely gentle prodding from wonderful friends (Stephanie, Lisa, Stan, Nic, Carrie, Susan, and several others) I gave up all aspartame 4 days ago. Not on my own power, but because God has brought me to a point where I don’t still need the crutch. I am stronger now physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I have support from people around me who, for some reason, are invested in me even though I don’t see some of them face-to-face EVER!

So, I’m wondering…do you have a crutch? Is there something that you have made off-limits to God? Is there an area where you need encouragement and prayer? I’m here and understand the value of encouragement if you need it.

3/25/14 – Morning Musing – Good Father

This morning, I watched my wonderful husband and sweet children interacting in the kitchen. It was so beautiful. First, he picked up Michaela. He was whispering in her ear as she wrapped her whole body around him. As he held her, he rocked side to side. My little daredevil didn’t think that he was rocking fast enough and eventually tried to swing her body around to make the rocking faster…but his speed remained the same…gentle, slow rocking while he held her. While this was going on, Caleb was watching the two of them from the kitchen table with a smile on his face…he knew his turn was coming. When Stan put down Michaela, Caleb rushed over and jumped up. He liked the pace…slow and gentle and sweet. Stan whispered in Caleb’s ear too and then tried to put him down…but Caleb didn’t want to let go. He kept hanging on until Stan had to use his mildly stern voice with him. As I was watching my family interact, I couldn’t help but think “So it is with God.” There were a lot of things that Stan did that a good father does…that a good Heavenly Father does as well. There were a lot of things that the kids did that children of God do also.

I think that Stan really loves our children well. My heart over-flows with the lessons that he is teaching them. This morning, his interaction with Michaela and Caleb was consistent, gentle, loving, and firm. Stan determined the speed of their rocking regardless of what our little princess tried to do to change it. Do we not do this in life? Many times I have yelled to God to “Hurry up!!!! Please hurry up!!” only to be told “Shhh…be still…be where you are right now.” Stan determined when it was time to let go regardless of what our little prince did to delay it. Don’t we do this with God also: “No! God No! I’m not ready. Please wait a little longer!” only to be told “It’s ok…you are ready…my timing is perfect.”

How often do I try to rush God? “Please make the pain go away quickly, Lord.” “Please take me out of this unbearable situation.” “Please end the suffering of this person that I love.” “Please hurry and heal her.” “Lord, hurry up and meet my needs!” I think during all of this, he can handle our complaints and hurried state…but…I think that he has our future in mind as well. Sometimes, when we hear an answer of “No” or “Wait” from God, we get really frustrated: He is all powerful; He could do this for me if he wanted to; He could heal this person that I love! Instead of the answer that we want right then, he makes us wait and we try to speed things along in our own strength much like Michaela did while Stan was rocking her. But the truth was, he was keeping her safe by working against her efforts. He was holding her gently but firmly when she started flailing about. He had knowledge of her surroundings that she wasn’t even considering (like that microwave she was about to bang her head against.)

How often do I say “No” to God? “No, Lord, I’m not ready for that level of pain. ” “No, Lord, I am not strong enough for this.” “No, Lord, I really don’t want to be inconvenienced in that way.” “No, Lord, isn’t there someone else you can ask to do this?” Again, God can handle anything that we throw at him but…in the end, he is sovereign and decides the timing. And the truth is, he doesn’t need us to be ready for the task that he has for us…because he is ready. Caleb didn’t want to let go of his Daddy, but if Stan had not insisted, Caleb would have been late to school. Caleb wasn’t thinking about anything other than the comfort and joy of his father’s embrace and didn’t see the goodness behind Stan making him let go.

So, how are you doing with this? Are there aspects of life you are trying to rush through? Are there areas of life that are off-limits…where you have said “No” to God? What was the first thing that popped into your mind when you read this

3/24/14 – Morning Musing – Uncle Spook

Why is it that the tasks that God has for me are never the things that I want them to be? I’ve never heard God tell me to be the nap-taking champion of the world. He’s never told me that my mission is to be the most beautiful woman in the room. *puts hands on hips with attitude* He has never even told me that I was destined to be super-intelligent! *sigh* He always seems to tell me things that start with “Love things less and people more.” Or “Put me above that in you heart AND actions.” Or “You need to see outside of your pain right now.” Just once, couldn’t he tell me to be the chocolate-eating professional that I was designed (by him I might add) to be?!

Let me back up a little bit. You are probably thinking “Bekah thinks she hears the voice of God?…where is the straight-jacket?” I didn’t used to do this very well. As a matter of fact, growing up, we talked a LOT about Jesus and a lot about God but we didn’t talk about the Holy Spirit that much. I kind of thought about him as “Uncle Spook.” We all know he is there but he seems a little weird and we don’t talk about him very much because we just don’t quite get him. And while I became a Christian at a very young age, I was in my 30s before my friend, Jackie Roese, really introduced me to the Holy Spirit. My process (and yours will likely be different) was to spend time praying and then (Are you ready for this?) I had to…SHUT UP! It’s amazing how much easier it is to hear God when you aren’t talking over him all the time.

I have found that, for me, it is usually the random thoughts that aren’t from me. What I mean by that is this, I am a natural-born con-artist. My instincts are to figure out how to cheat the system every single time. But my “conscience” won’t allow me to wrong people…that is the Holy Spirit. The more time I spend learning about God, the more I can identify his character in different situations and distinguish between truth and lies. The better I get at hearing him, the more challenging some of these truths become…instead of “don’t do bad stuff”…it is turning into more difficult things like “think outside of yourself for a little bit and help this person.” I’ve even heard “Your purpose isn’t to be well-liked. It is to Love Well.” (That one is especially hard when you have to stop fighting against the lies that people believe about you and just press forward.)

Lately, I have found that my weakest areas are where he chooses to show up. For example, I don’t know how many of you know this…but I am practically illiterate. I don’t read to learn and when I do read, it’s soooo slowly. If you ever start a questions with “Have you ever read…?” My answer will be “Nope.” I’m a kinesthetic and interpersonal learner. I have to interact and form a relationship with people or I have to put my hands on something. But yet, God has chosen for me to start writing. WHAT?! Seriously, what?! First I asked him if he was crazy and then, when the blasphemy subsided, I asked him to please change his mind because I’m not good at this. Funny thing though…he doesn’t seem at all interested in my “skills.” It seems that he is really good at showing himself through my weaknesses because then, I can’t take credit for it. Tricky Tricky! That’s how you keep a selfish sinner humble I suppose.

Anyway, the more I get to hear from “Uncle Spook,” the more I love him and learn to lean into him. The more I trust him, the more he shows up. The more I obey him (despite not wanting to do so) the more fulfilling my life becomes. What about you

3/21/14 Morning Musing: Spewing Hate

If you have been injured by Christians or the Church in the name of God, I would like to apologize to you. I know that I have been guilty of this in the past and can only credit my own immaturity fueled by zeal and lack of compassion. Before you write off God or church or Christianity, please consider this: you aren’t signing up to be like other Christians when you decide to follow Jesus…you are signing up to be slowly transformed to be more like Jesus. Jesus is loving, gracious, compassionate, self-sacrificing, gentle, strong, wise, patient, understanding, tender, and merciful. He spoke against the religious elite who sat in smug judgement of “sinners” and then he died among sinners.

Jesus didn’t come to judge people, he came here in a breakable form to love well…not spew hate. He never ostracized…he brought in the marginalized people from society and gave them a sense of belonging and healing. The people that were most damaged by the “In-crowd” were the people that he gravitated toward and to which he opened his arms. Although Christians most definitely get it wrong much of the time, we represent (however poorly sometimes) a Jesus who never got it wrong. We are just in the process of refinement. We will screw up. You will too. Because every single one of us needs that grace that Jesus shows. And honestly, how are we to become more like Jesus if everyone around us is to act perfectly? I’m stealing and paraphrasing this question from a video that I listened to with Paul Washer, John Piper, and Voddie Baucham: “When are you more like Jesus? When your loved ones are perfect or when you are forced to forgive just like the God you serve?” (paraphrase…take a listen…it’s really good! http://youtu.be/ZACkRe_W4Gg) Of course, every time I act like a beast now, I tell Stan that I am just helping him to be more Christ-like. 😉

I think we need to be discerning of what we do in the name of God but we also need to be discerning of the actions of others. I have seen Christians use scripture to brutalize others, to bully others, to elevate themselves, and to exclude others. None of that is the work of God. Any words can be taken out of context and turned into something that it was never meant to be. So before writing off God or Christianity, please ask yourself if the offense that you have encountered truly represents Jesus. If it doesn’t, then my guess is that work is being done in that individual too. Refinement is a painful process and sometimes we don’t handle that pain properly. Instead of bearing under it gracefully, we want to focus on someone else’s “shortcomings” so that we are distracted from our own. Please forgive us.

Image taken from: http://toryshulman.com/4-steps-to-surviving-the-sucky-feeling-of-being-left-out

2/20/14 – Quick Evening Musing

Quick Evening Musing: I think that these people have caused immense pain and damage and I think doing the same to them won’t make people feel better…it will only leave them feeling bitter and hollow afterward. Continuing hate is no way to bring about love. I find it ironic that they are asking for the very respect that they refused to afford to others…the respect that all humanity deserves. Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if the people that they said were hated by God showed them the love of God in a selfless and dignified way?! That is what I will be praying for. Let’s rise up people and require that they rise up too instead of letting them sink and requiring that we sink with them.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

http://www.power1057.com/common/page.php?pt=Westboro+Baptist+Leader+Dying%2C+Relatives+Ask+for+People+to+Not+Protest+his+Funeral&id=18773&is_corp=0

Picture taken from:
http://www.gossiprocks.com/forum/faith-religion/187224-josef-miles-9-year-old-boy-protests-westboro-baptist-church.html

3/20/14 – Morning Musings – The Lure of the Forbidden

Lately, I have noticed that my kids are obsessed with all things butt-related. Any kind of potty-talk or bottom-talk is somehow hysterical. I know I am not the first mom to complain about this and I know that mine are not the first kids to giggle incessantly about being a butt-face or whatever. But…as usual…it got me thinking again. Why? Why aren’t they obsessed with hands or elbows or hair? The answer is easy: those aren’t forbidden topics. (I’m using the word forbidden here even though it isn’t actually forbidden…we don’t have any topics that are off the table in the Massey house…I just ask them not to talk about this stuff all the time…especially at dinner.)

That got me thinking about the lure of the forbidden…you know what I’m talking about…the stuff that we have some sort of line drawn about…that is always the line we are wanting to trample over: No soft drinks, no caffeine, no sweets, no carbs, no sugar, no cussing, no nail-biting, no unnecessary purchases, no staying up late, no tv, no whatever. Sometimes, I think that the reason we want to cross the line is simply because we have drawn it. Don’t think about polka-dotted elephants!!!!! Now, what did you just think about? Probably what you were told not to think about if you are anything like me.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever draw boundaries…boundaries can be very healthy (http://www.examiner.com/article/why-children-need-boundaries) and necessary…but…maybe we shouldn’t draw them EVERYWHERE. There are several studies on will-power and what seems to be universally accepted is that there simply are limitations. Think about diets: You can be good all day long and then when you hit evening, the munchies are out of control. Am I right? You have spent energy all day fighting against temptations and now that you are tired, stressed, or just plain done, you start wanting to cheat. That is because your will-power has given out. (a term called ego-depletion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_depletion) This is where I think having things that are forbidden are a hindrance to you. I think it is much better to approach things in moderation. For example, if I give up chocolate, I’m not only destined to fail, I am going to take everyone around me into a deep dark abyss of depression while doing it. Instead, I like to have a little taste of chocolate first thing in the morning. Then, I’ve had it. It isn’t forbidden. And the world didn’t end when I ate it. So, now I can go about my day without the obsession or bingeing.

I have a theory that we sometimes obsess on the non-essentials and then end up losing control in more essential areas. If you are like me, you need to prioritize. I would rather use my self-control in areas of avoiding sin (like an affaire, being unethical financially, lying to my friends and family, gossiping about some gal that I’m jealous of, etc.) instead of in some pointless quest for perfection that will never come to fruition (like having the perfect body, being super-mom, developing some ideal network, or being perfect at some job.) We simply have limited will-power because we are humans…we just need to decide not to major on the minors.

I’ve decided that for me, having it all is simply not possible. I am not perfect. Hell, sometimes I’m not even mediocre. But, I can set myself up for success or failure by having appropriate expectations and by setting those expectations. So with that being said, I’m going to go have lunch with my girlfriend and I’m going to feel good about it. I hope you have a lot you can feel good about today also.

3/19/14 – Morning Musing: Owning My Own Faith

I grew up in a home with a father who was a pastor and seminary professor so, as you can imagine, there was a lot of talk about Jesus in our house. This was good because at a very young age, I became rather knowledgable about the Bible. I remember in elementary school, looking over one of my dad’s tests for his class and being able to answer every single question correctly and I vividly remember the look of pride on his face. Being a people-pleaser, that made me listen even more carefully to him and adopt even more of his thoughts.

There were also some drawbacks to growing up in this environment. While I received an excellent knowledge base, I depended on my father to do my thinking for me. When I moved away from my parents, like most college kids, I found that I strayed from Jesus. I was on my own and didn’t really know how to truly think so I filled my time with fun instead. Now don’t get me wrong, that was a very enjoyable time of my life and I look back on it fondly, but I also thank God that permanent damage wasn’t done to me during that time of wreckless abandon (because there could easily have been some very serious repercussions to the decisions that I made.)

When hard times came, I discovered my need to really lean into Jesus and found that while I had a good amount of head-knowledge, I didn’t have the heart-knowledge that was required. This sent me into a bit of a tail-spin. See, life had been pretty easy for me up to that point…I kept my nose clean and stayed out of trouble and so, for the most part, my problems were relatively small. The problem with that…well, I had not really needed Jesus because I was the one that I truly had counted on. I mentally understood facts about Jesus but I was controlling my own world and determining, in a formulaic way, how things would turn out. When something terrible eventually happened that was out of my control, it shattered my views of Jesus. No longer could I just be good and expect things to turn out well…my life turned to hell in a moment and there was no way for me to fix it. This was when my faith was put to the test of fire.

It’s easy to have that golden and sparkly view of Christianity when you are sheltered from all things bad: Good things happen to good people who follow Jesus, being a Christian makes your life easier, blah…blah…blah…you know the drill. But what about when you wake up and find that despite making good decisions, shitty stuff still happens? What do you do then? For me? I began to question everything that I “knew” about Jesus, Christianity, and faith.

During this time, I found myself in a hopeless and painful place…I was so very physically ill that I was contemplating suicide…this sent me into an even stronger tail-spin: Christians have hope and I was hopeless about getting well. I was extremely ill and was draining my family financially. I didn’t see an end in sight and I wanted to stop the on-slaught of trouble that I was bringing to my little family. But if Christians have hope and I didn’t really have hope on this side of heaven, was I even a Christian? This is what was going through my mind and it was a dangerous path. Thankfully, I fessed up to Stan about what was going on in my head and we talked about it. Talking about it made it much less of a threat because now I was held accountable to someone who was checking in with me to make sure that I didn’t do anything stupid and that began my journey of owning my own faith.

By questioning my relationship with God, I had to examine it…really look hard at it and ask difficult questions and see what held up in the test of fire. Honestly, a lot of my head-knowledge held up…but a lot of it didn’t. I discovered that a lot of what I “knew” was really the culture that I was brought up in and not necessarily Scriptural truth. In order to have a true relationship with Jesus, I had to re-evaluate everything that I had previously had a knee-jerk reaction about…that turned into eating a lot of crow over the next few years. (It’s amazing how “smart” we can think we are when we have no experiences to draw from!)

Anyway, to make a long story even longer, I wrestled with God over my beliefs. A lot of them changed, a lot of them remained, and a lot are still in the process of changing. Accepting the process of change (which I have always vehemently hated) is allowing me to know Jesus more intimately, learn more about him daily, learn more about who I am and the strength that is in me, and appreciate more deeply those who I am blessed to have around me. I am finally coming into owning my own faith and it is beautiful…painful but extremely beautiful

3-18-14 Morning Musings – My Deliciously Satisfying Marriage (Warning: lots of sappiness and run-on sentences ahead…I may need an editor.)

Since, I am frequently asked about my marriage, I thought I would just throw some of my observations out there. This is strictly observation about my own marriage…not a comparison to anyone else’s.

1. Kindness: Stan and I are sincerely kind to each other. We can’t help it. We love each other so deeply that we want what is good for the other above what is good for ourselves. We have a deep respect for each other and that shines through in how we treat each other.

2. Investment: I don’t know anyone who has invested more into me than my husband. He is so encouraging of my dreams and helps create time and finances for me to pursue them. When I am heading in an unhealthy direction, he is invested enough to gently tell me what he is seeing…he isn’t afraid to have the hard conversations with me but we have them in a way that does not make either one of us defensive.

3. Trust: We trust each other to no end. Does that mean we have never violated that trust? Of course not. But we talk about things, remember each other’s character, keep steering the other toward God, and move forward after we fail.

4. Decision: We have both decided that we are in this permanently. We do not entertain the idea of divorce and we don’t ever use that word when we argue. It simply is not an option so that gives us the freedom to disagree. We don’t have to pretend and be false with our opinions due to fear of the repercussions because we know that the answer is simply that we will have to work it out somehow. Taking the option of divorce off the table simply makes things less volatile for us and creates a safe and stable environment to be real.

5. Attraction: Quite honestly, I don’t think there is a sexier man on the planet than my Stanton Billy. And while I certainly appreciate his body, it’s not all about that…it’s the other things: how he simply can not stop himself from helping me if I am doing laundry when he is home, how he fathers our children with tenderness and patience, how he engages me in conversation about my thoughts on different matters, how he pursues me and makes me feel attractive, how he wants so badly to rescue me when I am hurting but holds himself back just enough so that I am empowered through my struggles and get to become the best version of myself, how he flirts with me, how he makes me laugh…you know…those deep belly laughs that fade off and then suddenly start back up again because it tickles you so much, and how he never tries to change me even though our personalities are remarkably different. I could go on and on here because I don’t think attraction is just about the physical aspects…I think it’s about a thousand little things that we choose to appreciate about each other.

6. Sex: All I’m going to say is YES! Thank you God for sex!

7. Faith: Stan and I encourage and challenge each other’s faith all the time. We talk about what we believe and probe each other to dig deeper. We spur each other on and learn more about Jesus through our relationship.

8. Study: We have observed what gets each other riled up as well as what results in excitement. We know each other’s histories and damage and we never exploit that. We take time to be students of each other and make it our business to become experts on encouraging each other. We are best friends.

Again, please do not take any of this as a comment on your relationship experiences. If you are in an unsafe relationship, please make the changes necessary to be healthy.