(Not) Exceeding Expectations

“It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities.” – Professor Dumbledore

The Harry Potter novels are full of wisdom and life lessons, usually found in the words of Albus Dumbledore. There is meaning in most everything in the novels, and many people, myself included, have examined these meanings and written about the themes present throughout the series. All my best learning seems to come from Harry Potter.

Perhaps that is why my favorite podcast has become Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Although this podcast has been around for over a year, I have just started listening, and I started from the bottom (Book 1, Chapter 1). But one session in particular made an impact on me: “Expectations: The Journey from Platform 9 3/4.”

The quote the session began with is what hit me hard and got me thinking (and crying) in my car: “Expectations are resentments under construction” – Anne Lamott

And it really got me thinking about the expectations I have had in my (short) life.

I was told that I sometimes make people feel like they’re just part of some plan I have in life. That hurt to hear, but then I realized that maybe there is truth in that.

I romanticize just about everything. (Not necessarily intentionally, and not necessarily consciously either.) In my Creative Writing course in college, my instructor told me he loved my story concept, and that I should keep writing it, but that I may have to end it in a way I hadn’t anticipated: with an unhappy ending. I gave up the story immediately because I love happy endings. I couldn’t put my character through the struggle I knew I would have to write because I wouldn’t want to go through it. I had an expectation going into writing that could not be met as I developed the character and the story. So I got upset and never wrote another word on it. Because I knew there was no way the ending could turn out any other way.

Choices show what we are, so what does this choice say about me? That I wasn’t ready to face the expectations I knew couldn’t be met.

I create these expectations of situations and people around me that no one can ever live up to. When those expectations aren’t met, I can become frustrated and angry, which only hurts the other person, me, and whatever relationship was there. It creates resentment because I just think “how could this expectation not have been met? was it that difficult?” And, of course, all that does is grow into a tumor of resentment in the back of my head.

I always thought growing up meant making all these plans and packing up ideas in a box with a neat little bow on top and presenting it, saying, “here’s the solution!” That’s what I expected from everything in life: school, marriage, a career. And that tumor would just continue to grow. But I’ve recently realized that isn’t the case.

If I learned just one thing in the seven years I was participating in higher education (and the one year I’ve been out), it is this: college is not reality. Do not base your expectations for life on what you experienced in college. Because in school, everything is packaged neatly: you have specific classes you need to take (with a few of your own choices scattered here and there), you have deadlines for assignments and exams, there are office hours with professors, you have a plan to lead you to graduation… That is all well and good, but life does not mirror that one bit.

I thought having these types of expectations for a person showed I cared, but, in reality, they breed resentment (remember the aforementioned tumor?).

Why?

Because no one can live up to romanticized expectations that sound like they’re out of a storybook, and life isn’t “once upon a time…”

When someone doesn’t meet those expectations and I become upset, it makes it seem as if I am trying to change that person or fixing something to be the way I want it to be, even if that was not my intention. It makes them feel as if they are just a cog in my machine of a plan of life and not the player or partner in it they should be.

My mom has often give me this little nugget of advice: don’t expect someone to do something (or act in the same way) you would because they are not you. Even if they began as good-natured expectations, those types of expectations will always breed resentment. Because you are expecting someone to act in a way that may not be in their nature. It leads to implications that their nature, who they are, is an inconvenience to you.

I have heard that a few times: that because I had the expectation of a plan, I was making the other person feel like an inconvenience. So these expectations can not only make us resent others, but they can also make others resent us.

Since hearing this perspective-altering quote, I have decided to adjust my perspective, to change my expectations. Sometimes, it’s best not to have any.

If choices show what we truly are, what does this choice say about me? I hope it says I am willing to recognize my faults and weaknesses and make things right when needed.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll go back to writing that story…

Finding Fulfillment

Finding fulfillment. It’s something we all struggle with at one point or another, some earlier than others. It’s something I have struggled a lot with in the past few months and something I have come to realize can mean many different things to many different people.

I grew up in an environment that told me to always pursue my dreams and to never allow being female to get in the way. I watched my mom progress through her career in a male-dominated industry and thought “That’s what a career is. That’s fulfillment.” While I admired her, and I still do, I’ve learned that as much as her and I are alike, we are also vastly different.

I’ve been in school (basically) my entire life. As a fresh M.A. graduate, a foray into the “real world” seemed like a breath of fresh air—much needed, scary, yet necessary. It took months to even get interviews, and more months to get any offers. I knew I wouldn’t find “the dream job” immediately after graduation, but I thought that finding “the perfect job” would give me the fulfillment I had been missing as I stayed home without a single paper to write—and the money to do my part for my household. I had felt useless and hopeless for months, and I was looking for a way out of that feeling. I thought a job would provide me that.

I was wrong.

As it turns out, and as I’ve found as I’ve been reflecting the past few days, a career does not fulfillment make. (I don’t even know if that makes sense, but you get the gist.) So what creates fulfillment? That’s harder to answer than it seems. Why? Because it’s entirely up to you.

I’ve realized that what fulfills me is my faith and my marriage. This does not mean I do not desire to work, because I do. It also does not mean I rely on my husband as the source of my happiness, as my “end-all-be-all.” What it means, for me, is that is where I find my happiest moments and memories, my joy, and my comfort.

I am all too familiar with the feelings of guilt or being less than because of this mentality. I am also familiar with the feeling of the need to fit in with those around you. But fitting in in this world should not be my concern. Instead, I should be concerned with my heart, if I am doing what I am called to do.

I’ve realized lately that perhaps I am not.

I think I felt I needed to be my mom to make my family happy. Maybe that’s the mentality of an only child—needing to please. Whatever the psychology behind it, I’ve learned that’s not the case. I need to be me. And that means finding fulfillment however I find it, not my mom.

I’ve made mistakes to get to this realization. I’ve made decisions that were not right, that were made out of fear, before coming to this realization. But the important part is that I got there.

My goal is to go back to what truly fulfills me and stop trying to fill a hole with something that won’t fill it.

I guess my message through all of this is: find your fulfillment. Whatever it is, whatever it means to you. Do not be afraid to find that your fulfillment does not match how others’ may define it. Do not be afraid to find yourself. Do not be afraid to admit when you have done wrong, but also do not be afraid to make amends. Find what makes your heart happy, because your life will be all the less cheerful if you don’t.

In the Eye of the Storm

Right now, my life is chaos. I definitely feel I am in the eye of the storm I would inevitably go through.

That being said, I need to take a hiatus from writing in my blog for a while. I think it will be healthier for me. I’ll also be taking a break from social media.

I am praying God leads us through and that He shows me how to survive this battle. I rely on His strength, because right now I have none. As always, I will rely on Him, because He is the only one who can provide unfathomable peace during stormy weather.

Thank you to all of you who have read this blog. Writing is so therapeutic for me, and I never thought anyone would read what I have to say. But I have been pleasantly surprised. Thank you for interacting. I hope you have found a friend here.

So this is goodbye for right now. Because this storm is taking all my energy.

The Greatest Commandment is Love

Yesterday was…chaotic, in a word. Our family is having some struggles with this move, and it has led to many tense conversations and emotional breakdowns. My soul feels tired. But yesterday’s and today’s Scriptures have helped replenish me a little, and I am leaning on my Scripture writing for guidance and comfort.

So here is another entry that will talk about two Scriptures. Bear with me.

 

1 Peter 1:3-9

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

This Scripture tells that that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to give us hope. Through Christ’s resurrection, we are offered “a living hope,” one that is pure and cannot be contaminated or corrupted by this world because it is in Heaven. In other words, our hope is Christ in Heaven. It also tells us that our faith is a precious thing and, though it may be tested, we should still glorify, honor, and praise God because He sent Jesus for us. Lastly, it says that we love Him even though we do not see Him.

This, perhaps, is the strongest verse.

We believe in our souls in our God and in Christ, so we love Him. And that is faith—believing in something even if you cannot see it.

 

Mark 12:28-33

“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.””

Here, Jesus is telling us that what God views most important are two things: love Him with your whole being and to love others. The scribe responds that this is true, of course, but what is important is the last line: that those are “more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” In other words, it does not matter what offerings or sacrifices you give if you do not do it in love for God or love for others.

 

The take away is…

I am going to make a leap here to connect these two Scriptures, and I ask that you take the leap with me. 1 Peter 1:3-9 is telling us that Jesus Christ is our living hope and we should glorify God above all else, even in times when our faith is tested. Like it may be when we try to abide by the second most important commandment in Mark: love others. In Mark 12:28-33, Jesus tells the scribe that the first greatest commandment is to love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and the second is to love others. It can be hard to glorify God when we are having difficulty loving others. (Let’s face it—we’ve all been there.) But we must.

We should love and glorify and honor God with our entire being, as Jesus commands, no matter what we are going through. Our faith may be tested with fire, but still we should love God as He commands.

I won’t lie to you: that can be hard. Heavens, that can be hard.

What about that time my grandfather became suddenly ill and passed away before I truly had a chance to say goodbye? I can tell you, I did not glorify God then. I was angry. How could He take this person from me, from my family?

What about that time my husband made a commitment that I didn’t fully understand and needed to know more about but he made it anyway? Did I glorify God? No. I cried, I yelled, I asked “why my marriage, God?” Did I “love others” in this instance? Probably not. I was mean spirited and I pushed my husband away.

And what about when my parents divorced? I didn’t glorify Him then.

But now I see the beauty in some things.

Does it still hurt that my grandfather is no longer here? Yes. But my faith tells me he is with his Heavenly Father, and what more glorious place to be than there.

I was angry for a while with my husband. Unrightly so. But God has blessed us through that decision. My husband has found his passion, his calling. He may not have otherwise. And I thank God for that. And, if it’s possible, I love him even more.

10 years later, does it still hurt that my parents divorced? Eh, yes and no. I’m over it at any rate. Old enough to know it isn’t my concern. But I am still blessed through that. How? My parents both still support me. They both still love me and care about me. My mom has gotten to do things in her career that she has always wanted to do. I get to visit more places. The dad-daughter time I have with my dad when I see him is that much more special.

My point is, we can be tested, but there is a blessing in everything, even if we don’t see it yet. That is faith—believing in something even if you cannot see it.

What do you need to have faith for? Maybe it’s a change of scenery or of a situation. Maybe it’s just that “things,” whatever they may be, work out. Maybe it’s that everything stays the same. Or maybe you need a push to love others because you have been hurt by something in the past. Whatever it may be, allow me to encourage you to never stop believing. The most important commandment is to love God and His people (“love your neighbor as yourself”) above all else.

So, today, practice love.

Be Equipped to be a New Creation

Today’s Word at church was the first part in a series, Equipped, about how God equips us for the plans He has for us. One of the things that stuck out to me the most was our pastor’s line: “Get intentional about being alone with God before you find yourself unintentionally alone without God.” It doesn’t matter what this looks like for you, but it is important that you do it. It’s the only way you will hear God clearly speak to your life. (I highly recommend the full sermon once it’s posted. Visit Covenant Church’s website: covenantchurch.org.)

It sounds strange, but in that moment, I realized that this Scripture Writing Plan I’ve embarked on, and the blogging about it, is my intentional time with God. I also realized that if I can hear Him during this small, 10 minute intentional time, then I am better equipped to hear Him when I speak those short prayers in a moment of fear, anxiety, or worry.

So let me share with you how today’s Scripture has equipped me.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17-21

 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputting their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Wow. There’s a lot there. Let’s break it down a bit.

First: if you believe in God, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are new. Your past is forgiven. In fact, it is gone. Your slate is wiped clean. You get to start over. How cool is that!?

Second: Everything comes from God. He has fixed the broken relationship between Himself and His people through His Son, Jesus Christ. He has assigned us, as Christians, to be His people, His “ambassadors” and spread the Word.

Third: God fixed that relationship by sending His Son, who “knew no sin,” to take the place of all of our sins in this world. Jesus died so that we may be free.

 

The take away here is…

Yesterday’s Scripture was about counting the things we have given up to follow Christ “as loss” because our God is so much better. It’s interesting that today’s Scripture is about becoming a new creation if you are “in Christ.” Why? Because if you believe, if you are a new creation, if you have pronounced Jesus as your Savior, you have given up something: the old you. So the old you can be “counted loss for Christ.”

Because how much better is it to be a new creation, to be seen as completely clean, in the eyes of the Lord than to hang on to whatever chains you had?

And this resonates a lot with me. As I’ve said before, I will not pretend to be “the perfect Christian” (and I don’t think there is such a thing, really), nor will I pretend to know everything there is to know about the Bible and the intentions therein. All I know is what I feel in my heart and what I feel God speaks to me through His Word.

I have spent a countless amount of mental energy thinking “looking back, I wish I hadn’t done that,” “what if this or that had happened?,” and, most dangerously, “how could God possibly love me?” Have you struggled with those kinds of questions? I can’t see a show of hands, but I’m guessing the answer is yes.

But you know what? When we accept God into our lives, and we declare Jesus as our Savior, our past no longer matters. Because we are new in His eyes. And of course He loves us. We are His children! He created us! We are the creation He desires most of all. And how absolutely astounding is that? That our great God would desire us above all else.

So if there is anything you are struggling with right now, just call to Him. Just cry out, “Lord, I need you.” He will show up. And He will make you new. I know because I’ve felt that newness wash over me before. Actually, a few times. It is an incredible feeling.

I encourage you: do not be haunted by your past. Let God re-create you so He can show you the great plans He has for you.

I count it all as loss…

As Christians, we hear a lot about counting things as loss for Christ. I never really understood what that meant until I read today’s Scripture.

 

Philippians 3:7-14

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Phew! That was a lot, huh? I know that seeing a lot can make it really daunting to uncover what God is trying to tell us. I am by no means perfect, and I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about Scripture. What I can tell you, though, is what I learned through today’s reading.

 

The take away is…

Pay special attention to the first three verses: “7But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in Him…”

I felt the message here was fairly simple. What things I thought were important to me, I have to let go of, or “count as loss,” for Christ. But those things I have “lost” are nothing in comparison to what I receive by giving it to Him. We must lose things to find Christ.

We must lose our expectations for our lives, our plans, our desires. Because it is all for Him and His glory, not ours.

In the last few months, I have experienced a lot of frustration. I was so frustrated that the goals I had for myself were not happening, that the jobs I really wanted I wasn’t getting an opportunity for. But when I let go of what I thought “the plan” was for me, when I calmed down and came to peace with our life as it is, when I became content, when I began to truly listen to God, amazing things happened. But I had to give up me.

So here’s my question for you: what do you need to “count as loss”?

Remember: His mercies are new every day

Today is Day 2 of the Scripture Writing Plan, and I am already sensing a bit of a theme in what God is speaking to me.

Today’s verse is Lamentations 3:22-26: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

I felt yesterday’s verse, Isaiah 43:16-19, was about letting go of the past to allow God to do more in our lives. Today, I sense a bit of the same. If His mercies are what keep us from being consumed, if His compassions are new every day, then surely He forgave us for whatever happened yesterday (both immediately yesterday and the more distant past). So surely we can, and should, forgive ourselves and not dwell on it. God has promised us a fresh start every. single. day.

I have heard that forgiving yourself is often the hardest thing to do, and I think that’s because we truly know what was in our heart and our mind, and we must live with that person for the rest of our lives. We must live with the knowledge that we have the power to be that person again, good or bad. But I have also been told that if we cannot forgive ourselves, then we are saying Jesus was not enough. Because if God can forgive us, if He sent His Son to die for us, then what more could we possibly want?

So, yes, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed.”

The other thing I hear from this is that God is faithful, and He will “show up” (as our pastor says) when you seek Him. But what gets me is verse 26: “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” I do not take this as God telling us to hide our faith (“Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket” – Matthew 5:15). Instead, I take this to mean that we should seek Him in our hearts and wait and listen for His answer to our seeking.

I can’t help but feel that God is telling me to let go of things in my past, great and small. He is reminding me that, yes, His mercies are new every day and that He is always faithful. This Scripture Writing Plan is reminding me of all I can learn when I actively seek God and take time to truly listen to what He has to say to me.

My question to you today is this: What new mercy do you need God to show you today? What forgiveness do you need reminding of so you can move forward and seek God?

Happy New Year: Do not remember the former things.

Welcome to the new year! I decided to start this year off on the right foot—I found a 31 day scripture writing plan on Pinterest and decided that is how I’m going to begin my days for the month. Today’s really affected me, which I’ll get into in a second, so I thought it would be fun to share with you what I learn each day as I embark on writing out these scriptures, delving into my Bible, and hearing God speak.

The first verse is Isaiah 43:16-19. This verse reads: “Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea and a path through mighty waters, who brings forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power (they shall lie down together, they shall not rise; they are extinguished, they are quenched like a wick): Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

A lot of things are happening in our life right now, not all of which I can divulge just yet. But I can tell you that they are new things. And I can tell you these things only happened when I promised myself, my husband, and God that I will be content with where we are in life because it is where He means us to be right now. Already, you can maybe see why this verse affected me.

The part that really hit me, that really made me feel like God was speaking to me this morning, was verses 18 and 19: “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” It was as if God was telling me that He will create paths for us when we decide to let go of the past and trust Him with everything in our life.

So here is what I learned: when we let go of the past, past hurt and even past triumph, God can and will give us so much more. He can pave a way where we maybe didn’t see a road. With Him, all things are possible.

I don’t make new years resolutions because I’d rather not tie my goals to a specific year. I usually bit off more than I could chew and ended up disappointing myself. This year, though, my “resolution” is to let go and let God in all areas of my life, from finances to my marriage. I have to realize that I cannot do anything without Him, and if I want to see Him work, I have to silence myself.

So I encourage you. What former things do you need to forget? What new thing would you like to see God do in your life this year?

Letting Go, Letting God, and Feeling Peace

The tighter we hang onto the rope someone is trying to tug from our hands, the worse our wounds are and the longer it will take them to heal. If we are always holding on, our hands will never be empty for God’s next plans for us.

A friend of mine said this at our women’s Bible study last night, and I was surprised at how relevant it is to me right now. While I have let go of most of the offenses I feel I have encountered in the past year or so, I know that there are things I am holding on to.

Like any young woman my age and in my shoes (you know, 25, with a degree, and seeking a career), I have goals. Desires. Dreams. For someone who just received her master’s, I have a pretty solid idea of what I want to do with my life, and I have since I started graduate school. But how do I know it’s a desire from God, and not something I have been hanging on to as a desire I have created? This is a question I have struggled with for some time.

In a meeting my husband and I had with our pastors to discuss this season we are in, I began to cry at the thought of getting, or even not getting, this job I so desperately want. Our pastor told me it is okay that I have this much emotion tied into this goal because it shows that God has placed this calling on my heart. And I have felt this calling for years now. But he also told me to be aware of why I have this excitement, and to really think about what God is saying to me,

I am excited by the possibility of moving again, and I know things will work out if we do. This is not out of pride, or out of a “I know what I’m doing” idea. I know it will work because in the past 6 years my husband and I have been together, we have moved states a total of 3 times. Each time, God has proved his faithfulness—we got jobs, we got places to live, we succeeded. Then, when I graduated and, for once, we stayed in the same city, my husband got a promotion and we got a great apartment all on the same day. A month later, I got an offer to teach 3 courses for my university. Each time we have gone through a season of change, God has showed us He is faithful. I have no reason to doubt Him, to doubt that He will not provide us with what we need.

Our pastor also delivered a message one Sunday on being faithful in your season. Of planting, of sowing, of believing. If we are not content with where we are, God will not advance us. We have to learn to be happy, to be thankful, with what He has provided us before He will allow us more.

All of these messages seem to tell me the same thing: stop worrying. Do what you are doing, and it will come. Sow, plow, believe, have faith. And over the past few weeks, I have experienced something I have not experienced since this whole season began: peace.

I am still pursing what God has called me to do with my career, but I am at peace knowing that I am also at a great place in my life. I can honestly say I enjoy teaching. I love my students, and I love watching them grow throughout the course of a semester. I have a faithful and amazing husband who has a good job, who does all he can to support and provide for his family, who will always tell me “let’s pray about it” before we jump to conclusions. I have a family who supports my dreams. I have mentors who respect me and guide me and help me to be the best I can be. I have a church I love and pastors who love and support their leaders, believers, and community in a way I have not experienced before. I have friends who know what my goals are, who know my personal struggles, but who support me none-the-less and know how to ground me.

I’ve gripped my rope of worry, of “I want!”, of my own desires and ambitions so tightly, I do have burns. But, you know something? When I stopped fighting and said “alright, you can have it,” when I asked God if this is from Him, He has done wonderful things. I am ready to have my hands empty so I can receive what God has in store for me next.

Are you?

New Year, New Vision

I have just come to the realization that school begins next week. Don’t take this the wrong way—I have known for sometime when the spring semester would start. In fact, I’ve had my textbooks for about 2 weeks now, and I’ve finished updating the course content online for the courses I instruct. So, no, it’s not a surprise. What I mean is it snuck up on me.

You see, this time last year, I had to say goodbye to my husband for 3 months, and school was a distraction from my emotional state. So having N home has impacted (positively) my winter break. But something else comes from this realization.

It is also my last semester of graduate school.

I know—2 years has gone by so fast! I have already begun my review of literature for my capstone project (it’s like a thesis, but it’s not a one hundred something page paper). I have already had my first meeting with my committee to go over my Prospectus. My chair has already given me a defense date (well, area): April.

I mean, how crazy is that!?

And since N will miss my graduation because of his drill, he has promised to come to my defense. But I just found out last night that their “academic” trip would be in April (if they go). My chair has already been kind enough to let me know that, since I want my husband at the defense, he will work out a way that it is not when N will be gone for military duty. This just adds one more piece to the equation. On the plus side, it will give me a solid due date for my project (I think), so I suppose that is good.

Our church does a Vision and a 21 day fast every year for the new year. I say this because part of my personal vision is to not let the things I cannot control control me. What I mean by this is: I have gotten so frustrated with my husband about his military obligations, even though I know there is nothing he can do about it. I cannot control these things, and I refuse to let the military get the better of me or my marriage.(Graduation for my M.A. may seem small to some, but it’s big to me. I do know in the long run it is nothing; I am well aware. But in the moment…)

I also know N is trying to make things better between us; we both are. But there are a lot of stressors, too. We have a lot ahead of us: I will graduate and begin my career with my master’s (!!); N is currently applying to graduate programs; he will graduate OCS and become an officer in the Army National Guard; we will be moving, and whether that is just moving apartments or moving cities all depends on where he gets accepted and where I get a job. I have had anxiety about all of this, especially since I am a big planner.

And the verse that has been put on my heart through all of those stresses is this one: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV).

In other words, I should be thankful that I even made it into a master’s program and will receive the degree I worked so hard for. I should be thankful to even have my husband in my life. I should be thankful that N has supported me this whole time, even if he couldn’t be here in person. I should rejoice for what I do have, not condemn what I don’t. I should praise the Lord in everything. I won’t lie; sometimes that is hard, especially when my emotions get the best of me. But He has never failed to provide for me and He never will.

So as N and I speak life over our vision for the new year and as we pray, I will remember God is forever faithful, and He will provide what we need when we need it. I will remind myself of this verse and know that His peace can overcome whatever I am feeling in the moment. Most importantly, I will remind myself to talk with Him before I open my mouth to my husband.

I encourage you to pray and create a vision. What do you want to work on this year? Not just a new year’s resolution, but a vision. What do you see for yourself, for your partner, for your relationship this year? What do you want to speak life into?