Advent Blog Day 21 – my beloved Christmas grinch exposed…

my grinchy and I!
my grinchy and I!

I just worked out that this will be Adam and my 10th Christmas together, and if you haven’t picked up on this fact from previous posts, my beloved husband is a Christmas grinch. Over the years we have chatted often about why he struggles with the ‘season of joy’. Now, finally, he shares his thoughts with our good friend Kaley, in this article over at Eternity News, complete with tips on how to cope with people of his ‘type’.

And it’s true, the bells on my homemade wreath jangle every time we open the door. It makes me happy to open it, and I also like to think I’m spreading a little Christmas cheer among our generally wreath-less neighbours.

So Adam, thank you for letting this Christmas junkie have her happy, noisy wreath, for playing at Christmas carols services every year for the last decade and a half, and for your constant commitment to truth and purpose.

Advent Blog Day 18 – Negotiating our differences

Why no Advent Blog yesterday? 

After an office clean-up had me away from my desk with my head in dusty boxes during the day, and a family Christmas BBQ in the suburbs, the husband and I thought we’d have a nice, long, intense discussion which started in the car and lasted until 12.30am this morning. Do other married couples have their most serious, difficult (and most growth-producing) discussions into the early hours of the morning? Or is that just us?

Last night we started talking about how we would spend our precious week off over Christmas and New Year.

The Planner vs The Spontaneous One

Spending time with people vs Space for being creative with music

His ideal week would be essentially blank. Mine would be mostly filled with seeing people and tasks I’ve been meaning to do for awhile. At times navigating these differences can be difficult. But I firmly believe that through them, our characters are being refined and our marriage is being strengthened. I’m more spontaneous than when we started dating and he is probably more planned.

Two helpful conclusions from last night…

  1. I want to refocus my passion for spending time with people on how I can intentionally bless them, not just fill up my schedule for my enjoyment. And as a bonus the purposefulness will help Adam to be willing to sacrifice some creative time in order to spend time with others sometimes.
  2. Remembering that people with creative minds can’t be creative on cue. It’s not helpful for me to plan spontaneous time. I started reading Living with a Creative Mind not long ago and it was truly gold for helping me understand Adam better. Creative people need lots of expectation-free space and time in order for their mind to wander and imagine and source new ideas.
us in Spain
us in Spain

I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on resolving similar tensions and differences.

Our story

Today is five years to the day since Adam proposed. This is our story. 

At the time I was in my final year of my law degree, working as a Law Clerk for a generous, vivacious,  spontaneous, slightly scatter-brained and at times, demanding female partner of a law firm. She was an Environment & Planning Lawyer and worked closely with a bunch of councils around Sydney. Part of my job was being sent off all over the city and beyond in taxis on all sorts of escapades, to collect dry-cleaning, retrieve misplaced phones, bags, suitcases, and occasionally to deliver/file/serve documents to other law firms, local councils and courts. 

On the afternoon of Thursday 19th April 2007, my boss sent me in a taxi to deliver a parcel, supposedly a ‘tender’ to Warringah Council. Adam had taken the day off to attend his little sister’s uni graduation. My colleagues had encouraged me to take my bag and just get a taxi home. I called Adam on my way to the  council to tell him of my movements. He insisted on coming to the council to pick me up. Just thought he was being kind, until he just walked casually into the council chambers where I was waiting to deliver my parcel to the right person. I later learned that it was just some old irrelevant folder. 

We walked out to the car and I suggested we go get a milkshake or something by the beach…he then proceeded to drive us away from the direction of home and informed me that he had good and bad news and which would I like first? Bad, I said, which was ‘you’re not having dinner with Claire and Matt tonight.’ Claire was about to get married and move to the other side of the world. Sad Nai. Good? You’re having dinner with me! I think I reacted with a <mildly disappointed> ‘oh.’

As we kept driving north on Pittwater Road, I twigged to where we were probably headed and to what was about to unfold. I think I pinched myself. We had been talking about and praying about the right time to get married, having been together for four years. And yet that day I was so perfectly surprised.

Adam had sweetly bought me something else to wear so I didn’t have to stay in my work clothes…which (in the least glamorous part of the evening), I changed into in some service station toilet.

We arrived at an almost deserted Palm Beach, (where he had taken me on our very first date: genius!) and Adam, shooing me away from the car boot then laid out a picnic dinner as the sun was beginning to set over the water. Hard to remember all the details but I do recall wine, chicken and salad with fruit salad after. After a little walk on the beach he went back to the boot and my keyboard playing man reappeared with guitar.

After playing the intro through about five times, my love sang me a song – not the first music he’d given me, but the very first with words and the first time he’d ever sung in front of me or anyone. He was so nervous. 

Then he took my hand, pulled me off the blanket and we ran ever so fast down to the shoreline. He got down on knee and asked ‘will you be my wife?’ producing the gorgeous ring he had designed all on his own. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Mini chocolate cake, more wine, photos and text messages and phone calls. And then for my new fiancee, a long drive home to Stanmore via dropping in on our family in Castle Hill. 

My man still writes songs that make me cry, but is much less nervous about singing in front of people (bit hard to avoid when you release an EP). He still takes risks, buys great presents, knows what I love. Marriage is way harder than I expected, and also way better! There’s no-one else I’d rather face the joys and challenges of life with.

I’m so glad he asked. And I’m so glad I said yes. Love you husband.

Photo of us just after Adam asked me to be his wife.
Just engaged!

 

the joy of helping

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that, despite not really wanting to, I chose to help my husband make his music video. Here’s the finished product…

No regrets. I am so glad I chose to help. Aside from being the right decision to support my husband, it was fun pulling a tiny wooden car all over Petersham. If for nothing else than the variety of responses from passers-by (cats included!) from people volunteering to model, to people who pretended we weren’t there and forced us to do re-takes!

I’m so proud of my husband. And pretty honoured that the song he picked for his first music video is the one that’s about us.

Hooray for helping!

made to be friends

Created for relationships

Relationships are a really important part of my life. Chapter 4 of The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller is titled “The Mission of Marriage” and Keller starts by looking back to the first marriage in Genesis. Being created in God’s image means that we were designed for two relationships – vertical with God and horizontal, with one another. And so, God created Eve to be Adam’s ‘ezer, his ‘helper-companion,’ his friend.

I think it’s so good that our triune God wanted us to be in relationship too. Keller says “there are two features of real friendship – constancy and transparency.” (p.112), both of which are key to marriage also. Friendship is…

the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. (Craik, A Life for a Life, p.169 in Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, p.112)

This is such a beautiful picture. I thank my Heavenly Father for the blessing of a husband who has shown me grace like this time and time again, and for friends about whom I can confidently say – this describes you too.

Something more

Adam and Nai old school. I think there's always been that something more...

Keller looks to the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and C S Lewis – who both said that even with constancy and transparency, a true friendship can’t just be about the two people involved.  It has to be about something. A common purpose, vision, passion. Perhaps like a mother’s group where the babies were all born within weeks of each other – brought together by the “me too” moments as they experience motherhood week to week month to month.

For any two Christians, faith unites us. A few nights ago we met a couple who are old friends of our housemates for the first time. As soon as we learned of our common faith, the small talk wasn’t so small – and it was a privilege to hear how God has been at work in their lives and humbling to be warmly embraced and encouraged ourselves.  Faith can make new friends like old ones. We’re all journeying forward to the ‘high and far’ horizon of the day when Jesus returns.

Friendship is a deep oneness that develops as two people, speaking the truth in love to each other, journey together to the same horizon. (p.116)

Not speaking nice appeasing words to avoid a fight, but the truth in love. Another blogger recently suggested “Five ways to fight your way through to a loving marriage.”  Intriguing idea, but the old adage ‘the truth hurts,’ is… true. In the short term words of truth spoken in love can sting the ears and heart. Conflict can be necessary. But as we travel the journey of marriage in joyful servanthood not self-centredness, the sure hope of Christ appearing again must keep us focused on helping our spouse to be growing into the man/woman God wants them to be in the long term.

The bigger picture

My anxieties and concerns with the smaller things have often caused major blind spots to seeing the bigger picture of what God has planned for my husband and the man God is shaping. Self-centredness can be destructive to the true friendship God desires for marriage.

Adam and I talk about the bigger picture more and more these days. We wonder what God’s plans are for him this year and for the years to come and we yearn to understand what God is teaching us through this time of uncertainty.

Keller says,

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. (p.123)

Yes! That is what we journey towards. An ultimate cause which unites.  From the menial to the magnificent, each day together as man and wife, we get to play a part in helping our best friend to be more like our creator God as we look forward to the day of Christ Jesus. God is at work in our spouse and sometimes he may use us, his humble vessels, to do this work.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So what about me? (Part 1)

Which ones today? Thanks husb. Fun, beautiful gift!

What should I wear out tonight? I need more sleep. I really feel like a smoothie. I hope Adam comes home soon. I wonder if anyone has liked my Facebook status?

me. me. me.

I don’t know about you, but I think a lot about myself and all the things that (have the potential to) affect me. I worry, wonder, ponder, think, ruminate. And I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. Sure, self-preservation is probably just part of being human, but I know deep down that me, me, me, is not the way I was intended to spend my days.

For the last few weeks I’ve been reflecting on my self-centredness as I’ve been reading The Meaning of Marriage, by Tim Keller and I’m only a few chapters in. So far it’s authentic and a very interesting examination of marriage – firstly from society’s point of view and then digging into the meaning of marriage according to the Bible.

There can be no doubt that marriage exposes our sinfulness, our selfishness, who we really are. Married friends counselled us with this advice before we got married and we nodded and smiled. How right they were. The ups and downs on the marriage journey have brought to light ugly parts of my character that I barely knew existed.

The book has put words on a page for my own struggles with self-centredness (guess that’s almost ironic) and the ways that this has brought difficulty to us.

Self-centredness by its very character makes you blind to your own while being hypersensitive, offended and angered by that of others. (p.57)

Yes. Blind. How many times have I thought “He’s being selfish…Why doesn’t he think of me?” It’s almost ironic.

Every day offers opportunities to pursue our own gain or that of others. One Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I had my usual to-do list – baking washing and grocery shopping, and probably other wishful ideas in my head. But Adam needed me to help him make his music video.

I’m not going to lie, I said yes to helping because on some level I knew it was right but for the first half an hour or so I wrestled with anxiety about not doing my things. By the end of the session, I knew I had made the right call. We struggled to understand each other at times, but it was lots of fun and we had this rare opportunity to get outside and wander around our area and create a story together. The fruit of that afternoon (and a few others) will be public in the not too distant future, we hope! Keller writes (p 60),

Fulfilment is on the far side of sustained unselfish service, not the near side.

I’m pretty sure that joyful unselfish service is the key to authentic love. In the famous Bible passage about love, Paul explains to the Corinthians…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

After four and a half years of marriage God continues to reveal my selfishness on at least a daily basis. Apparently, it goes to a whole new level when you have kids, so I’m glad to trust in God’s perfect timing for this and look forward to the ways it may refine and grow me anew!

This is how we are to love – by being others focused and it is Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the ultimate picture of what this truly means.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

So what about me? It’s not about me, it’s about God. Stay tuned for Part 2…