Friday, October 31, 2014

Love: Choosing Well

If you have read my blog for several months or follow me on facebook, you've probably seen me post articles about soul mates and you have realized by now that I don't buy into the whole "Soul mate" theory on love. I don't think we have a soul mate that meets all our needs and I don't believe we find that person and live a life of rainbows, unicorns and flowers. I believe that love is a mixture of feelings and choice.

The idea of having one soul mate that you must find to be happy and in love is quite fear provoking-- what if you don't find him? What if he is already married? What if you make a mistake and marry the wrong guy and your soul mate is still out there? At that point, are you justified in leaving your marriage to find him? What if you quit loving him?

But, the flip side is also a little daunting. If you can marry many different types of men, do you have to settle for someone? Does that mean romance is gone? Is it more like a contract than a marriage? How do you pick? Do you find someone practical with whom you have no romantic feelings for and settle down? I have jokingly said that I could have married many different men and probably made it work (not so romantic right?) -- but God is sovereign and allowed me to marry one special guy. There may not be soul mates or star crossed lovers, but there is a God who often time directs our paths and opens doors - which is why out of all the guys I could have ended up with, I ended up with D.  (FYI, I don'st say ALL the GUYS to mean LOTS of guys were asking for my hand in marriage, I mean ALL the GUYS in the sense that there are many godly great men out there who could have and would have made a good husband. I am particularly grateful though that the person I married is D!!)

So here is a recent article from the Huntington Post entitled, "Real Love is a Choice" Check it out because the author is far more eloquent than I am. And I love that it is a secular article.  Christians and non-Christians alike are noticing the need for more commitment in our relationships.




Many times, we choose to love our spouses...and I suppose the longer you are married, the more love becomes a dance between feelings and choice-- alternating between periods of time where you wake up completely enamored with this other person and you can't imagine walking through life without him and days, weeks, even months where love feels more like a choice, a commitment, based on vows not feelings. And, even on a daily basis, we alternate between desiring to please and love our spouse and moments where we want our way and must choose to lovingly place him or her first.

Sometimes love is a choice made separately from your spouse -- where you chose to put them first, to honor and cherish them despite a lack of emotions encouraging you to do so.  But, sometimes love is a choice together -- realizing that marriage isn't living in a viral engagement video, honeymoon facebook album or a blockbuster romantic comedy. Most days, it's paying the bills, cooking dinner, sharing the same viruses back and forth, watching tv, cleaning toilets.  In these days, marriage may be a happy commitment, with accompanying feelings, but it is still a commitment, still a choice, definitely not always a fairy tale.


I consider myself a realist -- realistic enough to know that love is often times a choice, but also hopeful enough to believe that you can choose a spouse that makes the choice a little easier most days.  Just because I believe love will involve a lot of commitment doesn't mean I don't still want the feelings as well.  I think picking wisely can help make the daily choice to love a bit easier at times.


My thoughts on choosing a spouse that makes "choosing love" a bit easier:

1. Choose to marry someone with whom you are "in love" and feel attraction. I feel like this is obvious. This is not an arranged marriage or two people deciding they are suitably matched to be business partners for life. Fall in love, enjoy loving and being loved in return. Pick someone who you find attractive -- physically, emotionally, intellectually.  This won't guarantee that you always feel love, but it's a good place to start. On days that you want to choose not to love your spouse, on days you want to quit, hopefully you can remember your original feelings and why you loved them.

2. Choose someone whom you respect and admire.  Attraction and love are great, but make sure you are marrying someone who you admire and respect.  Marry someone whom you would think was a great person even if he or she wasn't your spouse...someone who portrays character traits and discipline and has goals that you respect. It will still be hard sometimes to love this person, but it is easier to love someone whom you generally think pretty highly of.

3. Choose to marry a Christian. He or she does not have to be a preacher, elder, biblical scholar, but someone who loves the Lord, loves His church and who seeks to serve Him and grow.  Being unequally yoked makes for a hard marriage.

4. Choose to marry someone who has dealt with hard times.  Someone once asked me what had prepared me most for marriage and my response was having roommates (see #5) and enduring hard times.  I think it's one of the things I find so attractive about my husband. He has had disappointments and hardships and pushed through.  I feel strongly that he can handle any challenges life and marriage throw our way. I trust that he will strive to choose love even when its hard.

5. Choose someone who has chosen to love others well.  Marriage is not the only relationship where we have to sometimes choose love over ourselves.  Find someone who treats others lovingly, who chooses to act kindly to family, friends, neighbors, roommates, cashiers at Walmart.

6. Choose to marry someone who repents and forgives easily.  Whether you feel head over heals in love or are choosing to love when it's hard, you will screw up and fail to love well at times.   It's best for both partners to repent and forgive well.

***And of course, when we seek mates with these qualities then for sure, we should be striving to do the same things...learning to handle hard times, loving others well even when that love is a choice, practicing repentance and forgiveness in our daily lives, etc.

I'm not an expert in love or marriage -- with almost a year and half of marriage under my belt, most would call me a novice. We can't control who we fall in love with, but we can choose who we marry. Love is a choice, and oftentimes it may be a hard choice - but choosing well at the beginning may help make that choice a bit easier.



Also, on one last note: I am a big believer that often times, feelings follow choice.  In marriage, in relationships: choose to love, choose to serve, choose to forgive and the Lord can supplement that choice with feelings.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lots of Changes: Settling In and Recovering

Settling into Work

A fellow blogger recently asked me if I ever found a new job -- and I realized that after sharing some about my job search journey over the past year, I never shared the good news (so sorry!)  This summer, I got a promotion at the Government Affairs/Public Relations firm where I worked last fall and spring...moving from a temporary position to a permanent one! Thanks for all the good concern and prayers as I looked last spring!

This June, I was in the process of interviewing other places when the head of PR approached me about working in his department.  An associate was leaving later in the summer and he wanted me to interview for the position.  I was able to start working in PR at the end of June, but it took a couple months to get all the details worked out and make me official.  (August Recess where most of DC shuts down slowed down the process tremendously!)  I did not share this wonderful news earlier out of superstition and fear that things would not work out. I had many set backs over 9 months of job searching-- government shutdowns, job opportunities falling apart last minute, etc. so as silly as it sounds, I did not want to jinx things by announcing it to the world.

Then, when things became official, I forgot to share with y'all because I had been in the position for a couple months so it wasn't really "NEW" news for me!

I am having to learn a new field and how to use my skill set in the PR world. There was definitely a learning curve at first. I tend to like the policy/government affairs side of things better BUT working at this particular firm was always a goal of mine (since law school) and it's exciting to be here full time, even if it meant switching departments.  It's also nice to have an office with a door I can close again -- and have a little corner of the work world that is completely mine! Once we finish settling into the new apartment, I plan to decorate --- aka, add some pictures and artwork to my office! I have the perfect set of Jackson, MS prints by Thimblepress that I want to hang to remind me of my Mississippi home while here in DC!

**Note: Although my job search was difficult, I was so blessed to have a temporary (although it turned out to be not so temporary) entry level position.  I know so many people are not even that fortunate and I never want to portray that my short bout of semi-employment is nearly as difficult.  I had never spent much time thinking about how unemployment can affect you not only financially, but emotionally and physically as well (Seriously, I had so many headaches and knots in my back -- I think Dave is relieved that I am fully employed because I don't ask for backrubs as much!) We often don't think of others' battles until we have a short glimpse of that trial ourselves, but now, I feel my heart, prayers and hopefully my actions will reflect more concern for those that are out of work.



Settling into our Apartment

I loved our location last year, so it's no secret that I moved to the new more spacious but more suburban apartment kicking and screaming. Honestly, had I been single still, I would have chosen location over space, but I know that what is best for us and our family is having more space and more storage -- so that we can have a guestroom/study, maybe one day a nursery-- plus we can actually have all of our clothes fit in closets AND more comfortably host guests, etc.

My two criteria for moving was (1)the apartment must have a patio or balcony and (2) we must decorate the new place  and make it our own. Our last place was never fully decorated -- partly because of lack of money and partly because of lack of space to do projects (Seriously, where in a 625 square feet and no outdoor space do you paint a piece of furniture??) Now we have more of both money and space and are tackling projects and decorating our space a little each weekend. Dave does not always love this "project mentality" but he mostly humors me since it was our agreement.....and since we will likely live in this apartment until we can afford to buy a place, I think we both really want to feel like this place is our home -- even if we put it together piece by piece!

We already had a couple friends in the neighborhood and have made a few more, so slowly but surely, we are settling into suburban living. I promise to show more pictures when we finish, but until then, here are a few snapshots of the projects we have been busy with around the house!




We've added a little fall decor to the apartment, particularly at the dining table.....




I've painted several pieces of furniture including this bookcase for our bedroom...



We started putting together a gallery wall because I am currently obsessed with gallery walls... BUT the wall already looks different as we have added piece and sadly we had a frame break when it fell!




Our guest room was probably the simplest room to decorate and is therefore, the most complete! I still have a couple small projects for the room, but it's the most presentable room we have -- which is good because we have TONS of fall guests, yay!





A little living room decor with a fall theme.....






Recovering

Now that life has some normalcy (but is it ever really normal?), I have felt an extreme need to just recover. Recover from job searching and rejections and leads that did not follow through. Recover from a first year in DC that did not exactly go as hoped or planned. Recovering from things that can't be helped like shutdowns and bad economies and hiring freezes.  Recovering from hurt feelings and disappointments. In the process of job searching, you receive help from many people (including some that you don't even know well) but you also have some people who you thought would be more willing to help but don't volunteer to help you out. You have a lot of dashed hopes when jobs seem that they will work out but then fall apart! Also, when moving to a new city, you have some groups of people that include you immediately and some that don't. My only tip to these situations is to focus on the many many kind people, show a little grace to others and to remember how this stage felt so that you will be a good friend to others facing similar circumstances!! (Seriously, I want to be that annoying person who sends out other people's resumes to everyone in my email list, ha!)

For me, recovering has also meant working to let go of frustration that DC did not immediately turn out how I thought it would  -- or how it had been in the past. Remember, I spent 3 summers living and working here and had previous experiences in this city in which to compare our life.  Where we live, where we go to church, friendships, neighborhoods may look different than I originally wanted or imagined it would, but different does not mean bad. Ups and Downs, we are making our own little life here.

When things finally worked out with my job, I took a sigh of relief and realized just how stressed and worried I had been for several months. It has almost been a comfort that we have lots of little projects around the house right now. It has been nice to throw myself into something and spend more time around the apartment and spend a lot of time with Dave, rather than busying myself away from home.  Also, it was also very fitting that as the job situation worked itself out and we moved to the new apartment, we were able to go on vacation to Toronto and enjoy time together, celebrating this happy (yet challenging) first year of marriage and DC!


I love living in DC and am glad to fill a bit more settled here... until the next challenge right? I feel God doesn't ever let us get too settled, because change, frustration and waiting must grow and improve us in ways that can't be achieved without their presence in our lives. But, for now, I take a deep breath and thank God for the breathing period - to settle, recover and enjoy my many blessings....and to pray for those that still feel unsettled in areas of life - career, relationships, family, location.  Hopefully, as this time of moving, settling in and recovering comes to an end, I will be a bit more frequent poster on this blog!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October!

I think I blogged a grand total of two times last month. I have to do better, but I promise that you didn’t miss much --- most of what I was doing was unpacking, moving furniture, painting furniture, watching football, adjusting to my new commute, cooking dinner, grabbing the occasional happy hour with friends. Nothing worth writing home about, just living life, all the good, bad and ordinary moments! I am hoping to get back on the blogging bandwagon after a few months of writing inactivity!




October is here -- and goodness, it sure is glorious. Where last month, we had doubts whether the new season had officially arrived, October make's Fall official. Leaves are starting to change and temperatures are dropping. Mild afternoons are followed by chilly evenings. I truly hope to soak up all the glorious early Fall days where both a breeze and sunshine kisses your cheeks, where the leaves make their fantastic colorful farewell for the year, where simple hay seems charming, when you consider Pumpkin as an essential food group and you want to borrow someone's kid so you can take him to a pumpkin patch! Fall gives you the best of both worlds - indoor fun and outdoor fun! You can enjoy a warm-ish afternoon outdoors, followed by a hot bowl of chili, fuzzy socks and throw blanket inside on the couch. I will admit that I have already cooked Chili and worn tights exactly once  - and I have worn boots twice, but now I feel free to unashamedly wear, eat and enjoy all the wonderful treats that make fall fun.  I understand that there are memes and buzzfeed articles all over facebook and pinterest making fun of how white girls, middle class girls, sorority girls, etc obnoxiously LOVE fall -- and that's fine, I am 100 percent okay with being this stereotype or generalization.

(for the record, I don't think I even own a pair of yoga pants, although I do own leggings)


Ok October obsessive talk over -- Moving on the monthly goals.  I accomplished most (but not all) of my September goals, but I am choosing to see the glass half full (of Chardonnay of course!). The good news is that I did get a lot accomplished. And I can move whatever I didn’t accomplish to October!



SEPTEMBER GOALS

·                     Finish unpacking and organizing after our move! Well, we are almost there – but in the midst of projects, decorating, company and you know, life and work, we still have a few boxes of winter clothes to sort through. Hoping to finish that this weekend.  Then we will be done. Luckily for me, the boxes are tucked into the hallway closet so they aren’t annoying me daily with their presence!
·                     Give away/throw away some clothing as we unpack.   We have a few boxes of clothes and books packed up for the Jr League “Tossed and Found” sale this spring.  I am hoping that as I finish sorting through the last couple boxes, I can find a few more things to get rid of!
·                     Complete 3-5 apartment projects on my own. I hung pictures, polished a few wooden pieces of furniture and finished up psome pieces my mom helped me paint by applying a final coat of wax. But, alas, I did not hit my goal of 3-5 projects!
·                     Complete 3-5 apartment projects with my mom.  1.We set up kitchen shelving units (ok my dear hubby set them up) and organized them. 2-4. we painted (and I later waxed) 3 night stands. 5. We set up the guest bed and my mom started a bed skirt which she plans to finish and bring me next weekend.
·                     Pray for others! I hate to even cross this off my “to do” list as an accomplishment  because yes, I did pray for others, but I still don’t pray for them enough – and probably never will pray enough, in general. It’s something I always want to work on!
·                     Read 1-2 books off my list.  Kindof. I read Divergent this summer (it was on my reading list) and on my list, I mentioned that I wanted to read the 2 other books in the series as well--- so I did!
·                     Cook 2 "Bread and Wine" recipes.   I did try a few new SIMPLE dinner recipes, but none were “Bread and Wine” recipes.  Sadly, trying any recipe that was more than 5 ingredients did not mesh well with the whole unpacking, decorating, organizing framework of my life this month. Hopefully, I can try a couple recipes this month!
·                     Start buying our Christmas gifts for others and Dave's birthday gifts.  I made a small start to this goal, buying Dave his birthday gifts and one Christmas gift. Time to start tackling that list a bit more aggressively this month!
·                     Work out 3 times a week. Boom. Really proud of myself for being able to cross this one off the list!
·                     Eat in most nights.  We got out of moving/vacation mode by cooking meals this month. I have a longer commute and Dave gets home a lot earlier, so we have come up with a great system. Basically I put together the casserole or marinade for the meat in the morning and Dave cooks it when he gets home.
·                     Buy a mum! My mom bought me a mixed plant with mums and other flowers to sit on my balcony. But, I would like to buy one for our front door as well. Maybe this weekend…
·                     Decorate our guest room.  The guest room is basically done – just need to hang a couple more pictures which is on the agenda for tonight – and put the bed skirt on.  Of course, there are things I would love to do to the room – like replace the walmart bookcase with a nicer one or replace the desk legs with hairpin legs, but its presentable for now! And ready for guests! However, while I have been cleaning out our clothes, the guest bed has served as a catch all, so while it may be decorated, it is also quite messy at the moment!
·                     Save a little each week for an IKEA/Home Goods/Target shopping trip with mom when she comes.  Saved and Spent. It was a long day at Ikea, topped off with one of their delicious cinnamon rolls!
·                     Put a little money into our "One Day Europe" jar each week. Sadly, nope, no money went into our Europe jar. It all went to Ikea.
·                     Enjoy our balcony as much as possible! We have enjoyed our balcony and we have spent a lot of time outside on the balcony painting furniture, ha! Probably one of our favorite things to do is open the sliding balcony doors and let a little cool air in while we eat dinner or watch tv. I am ready to get a grill and enjoy the balcony a little more!



OCTOBER GOALS
  • Hang up a Gallery Wall in our living room. I have a pile of art, prints and other decorations to put on the gallery wall. Just waiting until we have everything framed and ready to hang.
  • Purchase dining room chairs. That is being done this weekend! We had some old cheap ones that still serve as desk chairs/extra seating BUT we need some new chairs for the dining room table.
  •  Cook 1-2 recipes from “Bread and Wine” Let’s try this goal again….
  • Hang Pictures in my office. It's a little bare...
  •    Paint our bedroom bookcase and my dresser gray.
  •  Paint our kitchen stools.
  •   Finish unpacking and organizing the closet. (moved to this month from last month, almost done!)
  • Order a wedding Picture for the dining room. Yep, we never ordered a print, but I am going to order one on canvas to hang in our dining room.
  •    Read a book (preferably one from my book list, but I’ll just be proud if I read a book during this busy month!)
  • Celebrate D’s 30th birthday!!
  •  Add a few fall touches to our apartment. A pumpkin, another mum, a burlap wreath – heck, even just a bowl of candy corn. We need a little fall d├ęcor to liven the place up!
  •    Make an effort to do 2 fun fall activitiesfarmer’s market, pumpkin patch, winery visit. And, no, doing 2 winery visits will not count as 2 fun fall activities.
  •  Enjoy our two sets of visitors this month!
  •  Halloween Costumes! Eek, it’s so close and I have yet to search!
  •   Buy several Christmas gifts! (ongoing goal so that it does not hit me all at the last moment!)
  •  Put a little in our Europe Jar.
  •  Go to the gym before work 1-2 mornings a week. Dave and I have recently committed to this goal, but we have done it twice in 2 weeks, so obviously we need some pre dawn motivation – and quite possibly, an earlier bedtime.
  • Blog More.  I almost forgot that one!



So…what about you? Have any goals for the month? Projects, financial goals, fitness goals? New recipes or books or crafts? Habits to break? The beginning of the month is a clean slate – a whole new 31 days to get things done!