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.

sharing our home

A year ago we moved to a two bedroom apartment with our friends Joel and Rachel. We didn’t make the decision lightly. We prayed about the opportunity and sensed God’s leading, so we took a step of faith and moved out of the only place we’d called home together.

I’d never lived with anyone other than my family and Adam.  So, like most married couples do, we learned many times over that ‘normal’ isn’t quite so normal after all.

Going into sharing with friends, I prepared to learn this all over again. We felt taking this risk was right and we trusted God would sustain us, but in truth I had many expectations and concerns. I like things to be done a certain way. I agonised over questions like:

  • How would I deal with other people’s mess?
  • Would we fight in front of our friends?
  • Would I be a ‘bad’ housemate? (I was really anxious that I would spend too long in the bathroom!)
  • How would we share the kitchen space, the cooking, the couch?
  • How would our relationship change?

Sunset view from our living room.

change

We found out a week ago that our friends are moving to Melbourne for work, so our time of sharing is fast coming to an end. God has blessed us with the provision of a new place in a short space of time, but that’s another story.

As the sun sets on this chapter of our lives, I’ve been reflecting on the year that has been.

adaptation

Sharing has been a year-long lesson in adaptation. For someone who doesn’t like sudden changes of plans and really likes things to be ‘just so,’ this has been beneficial. For example, while I was overseas, Adam and Joel had placed our microwave in the cupboard to save bench space. I thought it bizarre at first, but it’s still there, and who knows, maybe the microwave will find a similar home in our new apartment too.

simple living

Joel and Rachel lost almost everything they owned in the Haiti earthquake except their lives. They have lived in countless cities since they got married and most of their current personal possessions represent the bounty of keen op-shoppers and council clean-up opportunists. In many great ways we have been challenged to be more thrifty and to live more simply.

family

Joel and Rachel feel like family in lots of ways – we haven’t just shared rooms. From a great café or small bar find, to lengthy discussions about pacifism, theology, politics or injustice over long dinners and glasses of wine; from brunches with friends to endless cups of Rachel’s mum’s Anzac Tea Parlour tea, we have shared our day-to-day lives with these guys for the last year. We even created a mythical character together…a monacle & top hat wearing gentleman called ‘Audley Chester.’

Rachel & Joel at an Audley Chester Brunchorama!

Of course it hasn’t always been easy. There have been times when I have craved my own space, or my own way and times when indeed we have disagreed in front of our friends.

But in these moments I have received little lessons in patience and perspective, as I have been reminded to be thankful for our home and that living here for this season was part of God’s plan for our lives, so all I have to do is trust him.

As I look back I’m thankful for the adventures, laughter, and stories we have shared, for a friendship that has survived and evolved along the way, and for the many lessons God has taught me over the last year, both through our friends and the experience. Sharing our home was a risk worth taking.

With Rachel on a day trip to the south coast

Joel and Adam

the daily wrestle

I have a daily wrestle. Perhaps I’m not alone? I see things – clothes, shoes, furniture, photos of other people’s holidays on Facebook, pretty rooms and crafts and teapots on Pinterest…and I want. And yet at the same time don’t want to want.

I realised how strongly I felt about this tension when I read a column in Sydney MX (commuter newspaper of moderate quality) on Monday about the writer’s sadness at somehow resisting buying a pair of shoes. She felt so sad to have resisted that she planned to buy them the next day and looked forward to the ‘joy’ and ‘satisfaction’ in buying another pair of shoes which she admitted didn’t need. Then she predicted the satisfaction would last only until the moment she saw some other pair of shoes in the shop window while leaving the store.

She said ‘don’t judge me’ (really!) which on one level is fair – I’m rich by world standards and have more than I need. I too have felt happy about certain purchases and yet, still wanted more. But I’m pretty tempted to – as I read it I felt a growing wretchedness in my stomach. Has humanity sunk so low as to place hope in shoes to make them truly (temporarily) happy? This ‘unstash’ concept I stumbled upon via Facebook seems to give voice to the ache I feel for stuff to be put in its place.

At the start of year I resolved to remember something to be thankful for every day. I don’t always remember, but from time to time, when I do stop and be thankful, it makes such a difference to the sense of contentment I have with life. It makes me remember what matters. Friends, healing, answered prayer, the things I’m learning from living in community with friends, for Jesus, for life, for family.

We were chatting about these money issues in our small group last night too as we wrestled with Paul’s words to Timothy in chapter 6 of his first letter. He counsels Timothy in verse 6 that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain.’ His charge to the rich (definitely me and most Aussies) in verses 17 to 19, is to be ready to do good works, generous and ready to share. We talked about how to apply this to our lives, especially in the context of being members of our church in Redfern with many people with high needs in our community and congregation. How do we help the homeless man who sleeps on our church porch when he doesn’t seem to want anything we offer? We don’t have the answers. We observed that the ‘rich’ in this world are often lacking in time, while one of the needs of the poor is help, obviously in tangible sometimes financial ways but perhaps even more so in the form of time – of people willing to invest in them.

It’s almost a month since I completed my two month challenge of only purchasing essential things. I was really inspired by seeing Margaret’s story at Colour Conference and so I have chosen to support the Compassion Leadership Program with some of the money I saved. It’s a small response but I pray it helps one of the bright, promising future leaders in one of their programs. I always need to pray I remember Paul’s words about being generous – especially with time, energy and money.

As our friend Carolyn pointed out, the only thing that gets into heaven is people. We take nothing into the world and we can’t take anything out. Even if we don’t have all the answers, are we fighting the good fight, pursuing godliness and taking hold of eternal life.

Worship worthy

Yesterday I went along to the City Bible Forum in Sydney for the first time – a weekly lunchtime meeting investigating what the Bible says about different issues.

Working with missionaries all over the world as part of my job exposes me to some of the realities of life for people serving and living in countries where security risks for Christians are high. It reminds me to be thankful for the freedom we enjoy in Australia to gather around the Word.

The talk was on the theme, “Must love always end in tears?”  Now, tonight I’m sitting here with dry tears on my face after watching the start of a romantic comedy where a man loses his wife in a car accident.

The end of love whether through death or otherwise, is excruciatingly painful.

Worship of something is inevitable for humans. Bertrand Russell said “love ceases to be a demon when it ceases to be a god.” I don’t think we can love someone too much, but we can put the wrong thing in first place – and that will certainly end in tears.

God has always commanded that we make him our first love. We were challenged yesterday to consider that if the object of our worship is anyone/thing other than God, it will almost certainly, destroy us. The object of our worship must be worthy of it.

Love is painful. Jesus has been there – confronted by his friends mourning for the loss of their brother Lazarus, he wept (John 11). He had compassion for the woman at the well whose own love life had likely been deeply painful and unsatisfying. He pointed her to himself, the Christ, the one who could offer living water, eternal life – through the only truly satisfying love relationship possible.

How good it is that there is a bigger picture, one who is truly worthy of our love, a God who from the beginning has called us to worship Him alone and who came to earth to show us how.

I long to love God with all my heart, soul and mind. It’s a regular prayer of mine. And as I love him more, though there will certainly be pain, I will love others more like Jesus did. I will love my husband well.

Though inevitable, death is not the end. Our hope is in an eternity with our supreme love, the all-powerful, gracious God who romances us like no human being ever could or will.