Sunday, June 26, 2011
This note is to inform you that I will now be blogging at http://dannyboyandjgirl.blogspot.com/ and no longer posting on this site. In fact, posts have already been made at the above site. If you've been wondering what we've been up to lately, go check it out!
If you follow this page, please start following the other! It will be updated more often...especially since I don't have a job right now! :)
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The truth is, I've been having wedding dreams since college. It just so happens that in those dreams I wasn't actually marrying someone in real life. There was always a theme in those dreams: marry the right guy. I all of my pre-wedding dreams (pre-dating, pre-engagement) I am in the process of marrying someone who either really doesn't love me or whom I really don't love. However, this realization always seems to come on the day of the wedding...and then I am forced to choose myself or my "obligation" to the wedding and the fact that my parents have shelled out a boat-load of money. Trust me, I always did the right thing, even though I wrestled with it in my dream.
When Dan and I were first dating, I had a dream that we'd broken up. I moved on rather quickly and ended up getting engaged. As it turned out, Dan and I then got an internship at the same company (for a major fashion designer). In our hiatus, he realized that he loved me. Then, he discovered I was engaged and left a wedding dress for me with this note: "You will look beautiful in this. I love you." I knew I had to marry him and not the other guy.
Two months ago I had my first wedding dream as an engaged person. I had a dream that I was getting married - but not to Dan, which was funny because he was the one that I wanted to marry. He was my best friend, and we did everything together and spent all our time together - and I was getting married. But, then I realized that I wasn't marrying Dan; I was marrying Kevin James. And he (KJ) would talk to me about how excited he was to get married to me, but all I could think about was how I really wanted to be with Dan. When I thought about kissing my husband - it was Dan; when I thought about being with my husband - it was Dan...not that other guy. So, I was a little panicky when I realized that I wasn't marrying Dan but this other guy. I didn't know how I was going to get out of it or why I would even agree to marry someone who wasn't Dan.
Then, I woke up and remembered that I AM marrying Dan and I do get to marry my best friend. :)
Last night, I had my second wedding dream. This one is a little strange to me, but I will recount it the best that I can. My friend Andrea is very instrumental in this dream; I believe that she arrange the entire wedding and set me up with the man I was supposed to marry. The man I was marrying was Thai and really needed to get married. Apparently, I was the best 'outlet' for this to happen.
He was a very nice and understanding man; not unattractive, but I was not really attracted to him. He was also in love with another woman, but for whatever reason could not marry her. She was at 'our' wedding. Apparently, Dan was still in the picture because I knew that I loved someone else and wanted to marry him. Now, Mystery Husband-to-be and Andrea were both aware that I was marrying Dan (and Dan and I were still getting married) - but also kept impressing upon me the fact that I need to marry MH2b.
I don't know that MH2b and I interacted a lot, but right before the wedding I was very sad when I realized that I would have to divide my affection between these two men. He kept asking me what was wrong and obviously cared for my feelings (I said he was a nice man), but I didn't feel like I could say, "I can't marry you," because every one was telling me that I must.
The ceremony began. It began with basically a synopsis of what a great guy he is; he was at the front of the room - and I was in the back on some couches with Andrea and her friends. The entire time, I just kept picturing Dan and realizing how much I wanted to be with him only. I was not interested in being a shared wife, no matter how understanding MH2b was...and when I realized that there was a woman who actually loved him and whom he loved, well, my decision was easy.
His friends now tried to convince me that I couldn't cause a scene and embarass him so publicly. But, folks, a girl's gotta do, what a girl's gotta do. So, I stopped the wedding to MH2b explaining that I can only love one man - and he deserves all of my love and affection; it cannot be split no matter how kind another may be. And, MH2b deserves to be fully loved - and I cannot do it. In the end, I only want to be married to Dan because I love him with all of my heart, soul and strength. I cannot share that love with another.
So, in synopsis, my pre-wedding dreams have the same theme: will I choose Dan? Yes, I will.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
How many of us grew up fighting with our siblings? When push finally came to shove and one of us started crying, we immediately had to say, "I'm sorry." Most of the time, we said it reluctantly and without any feeling of sorrow. At certain times, our mothers would make us accept the apology. Sometimes, she even made us say, "I forgive you." Our heart wasn't there, usually. It's like we learned to begrudgingly offer forgiveness.
Here's the reason why I say the words "You are forgiven" are more powerful than, "I forgive you." "I forgive you" positions us in the seat of power. We may offer these words as the injured party to the party that did the injuring...but we don't let go very easily. Stating, "You are forgiven," actually reminds us that this person has been extended the same divine mercy and grace from Jesus Christ that we have. It places me on the same level of this person, which is proper. It reinstates both of us to where we both belong. It's said that at the foot of the cross, there is level ground. The act of reconcialiation voiced in the words, "You are forgiven," places the giver and receiver there.
Today, I witnessed an event where reconciliation was needed. A misplaced scooter fell over and broke a garage door. A blame-game ensued. The boy did what he was supposed to; he put the scooter away - just not where it was supposed to go. It happened to fall over. However, the brunt of the blame was placed on him. He bore the burden of knowing he'd upset his dad and wanted to place the blame anywhere else but on him - but he couldn't.
Last week, I over-reacted in various "discussions" with my parents. It was definitely the weekend of "doing what I don't want to do and not doing that which I want to do" OR more aptly put, "behaving the way I don't want to, and not behaving the way I want to." I apologized - multiple times - and just wanted to know that the love had been restored, even though I acted ridiculously. My little friend in the above story is the same way. He just wants to know that the love is still there even though his mistake may cost his family hundreds of dollars.
Isn't this a position that we all find ourself in, at some point in life? Haven't we all screwed up, behaved in a way that we know is immature and not at all how we know we should act? Everyday we trespass against another - knowingly or unknowingly. AND everyday, somebody else trespasses against us. We want to hold it against those who wrong us because we desparately want to be right. We even try to convince God that it wasn't our fault so that we are in the right. We come by it naturally enough. In the creation story, we learn all about how to play the blame game. When God questions Adam, he's not just blaming Eve. He's really blaming God: "the woman that You put me here with gave me something to eat." He's really saying, "You know, if You hadn't created her, I wouldn't have disobeyed. This really has nothing to do with me. It's really your fault."
Playing the blame game is something we can do all too well. Just because we're good at it does not mean that it's good for us to engage in it. Do we really feel better when we place our hurts and frustrations on another person? How do we feel when it becomes us; when we bear the brunt of the another's trespasses? It doesn't solve anything. It just begins a cycle of blame & guilt & desparately trying to be in the right, while wronging another.
That's what is so remarkable the Cross. It's the great cycle-stopper. On the cross, we're told that Jesus absorbed all of that wrongdoing. All of the ways that we have hurt another, He took that - and nailed it to the cross - where it died. All of the ways that others have hurt us, He took that, too - and they were nailed to the cross - and they died. Additionally, all of the ways that we wronged God by blaming Him for our lot in life, for what we, ourselves, did - He took that, too - and they died. That death erased the scoreboard against us - and 'for' us (the one that makes us more right than another). It made us equal. REALLY - all equally forgiven. All given the equal chance to have new life - by receiving mercy instead of punishment - and grace instead of banishment.
How often do you remind another that they are forgiven? Let's try it. When someone apologizes to us, instead of just saying, "I forgive you," let's also add, "You are forgiven." Let's restore them to their position of love and trust in our lives. Mistakes happen; wronging another happens - let's let people know that we give grace - unmerited favor - because we've been given it, too.
(I'm not advocating being a doormat or allowing behavior that harms you - just petitioning for us to be more quick to remember we are forgiven.)
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
At times in my life when I have been hard-pressed, downcast in spirit, crushed, I have looked to God for some sign of encouragement: to know (and be reassured) that this is truly just a moment in time; that "this, too, shall pass." That this season I am walking through is really just a season, not what will be until the end of time. Many times, He has answered me with light - brilliant displays of the sun breaking through and illuminating creation.
How like Him! What an allegory of Himself! Jesus is the Light of the World. The Son who broke into our world, broke the chains and burdens of sin and darkness that have enslaved us, and by living in us, illuminates our lives! This is the transfiguration that James, John and Peter witnessed.
[I have just taken a divine tangent. Now, I'd like to get back to what I originally intended to write.]
When I was young, my mom told me that when the sun would break through the clouds, she thought of it as God smiling down upon us.
That has stuck with me. Whenever I am feeling low, I look to the sky; to the heavens from where my Help comes.
About two and half years ago, after a relationship had ended (or so I thought), I spent an afternoon driving through the rain dropping students off at their schools. On my return trip, I just spent time crying (literally) out to God - wondering when things would finally work out - and asking specifically for some encouragement. As I drove into Ames, the sky immediately turned from gray and rainy to brightly illuminated by the sun. It was early October, and the trees glistened. The world was shining and golden. I knew in my heart that God was faithful; that He had this; that the time would come - sooner that I thought and in such a way that I would surprise me with its goodness.
Last year, after Dan and I had just visited my grandpa in the nursing home, we were driving back to Ames. It was early on a Sunday morning, just four days before Grandpa passed from this life. My grief was so strong. That morning, I have never witnessed the Iowa landscape lit up the way it was. The sky was this amazing aqua-blue and the fields of northeast Iowa were a magnificent green. There were low clouds in the sky illuminated by the early sun. It was breath-taking. I was in awe. As I drank it all in and thought how my grandpa would LOVE to see a morning like this, knowing that he couldn't in the nursing home, the truth hit me that even a morning as breath-taking as this doesn't even begin to compare to Heaven. The beauty and light that we see here is nothing compared to the glory that awaits.
Today, while I praying and unloading my burdens, which feel particularly heavy this week, God just broke through. The ray of light that came streaming into my window was piercing it was so bright. I just had to stop and praise Him for who He is. I thought that this ray of piercing light was a way to say, "Hey Jessica; it's all right. I'm going to make sure you get that job you just applied for." I was all psyched to write this blog about how that ray of light you might have witnessed was for me because God is good & got me this interview or I made crazy headway on my work or - whatever.
I got the rejection email this morning about the job. It hurt, a lot, actually. I still have a crap-ton of work to do to graduate. It's overwhelming, to be sure. Maybe the Light's message today is, "See? Even when the clouds are thick and pressing in on you, I can pierce it. Keep looking to me. I am the Light. I will guide you. You will not be pressed too the point of crushing; I will keep you. I will provide. Keep the faith, dear one. Keep the faith."
In the words of St. Paul, "We are pressed, but not crushed; persecuted, but not abandoned; perplexed, but not despairing; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:9) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)"
Amen. Let it be so.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
In ninth grade Physical Science, we each had to come up with a science fair project and write an actual research paper about it. We'd competed in science fairs since 6th grade - and I'd done pretty well, but we never had to write an official research paper. We just reported what we thought would happen and what did happen. Now, we had to choose a research topic, develop our science fair research question, test it and then write about it. It was hard!
I could now go into detail about my project and how it was the first year I didn't go onto to regional or state; I won't. That's not what this blog is about.
As part of this research paper, we had to make notecards for all the research articles that we read. Then, we were supposed to arrange said notecards into the sections of our report. Sounds smart & logical, right? Well, as 15-year-old procrastinator who wrote her reports the night before (and still got an A), it sounded like work. A lot of unnecessary work, at that; did Mr. Brown not realize that I had a life? Things to do and people to see - and all that jazz?
Now, fifteen years later as the literary review portion of my thesis-like creative component is staring me in the face, I thought to myself on Saturday, "You know what would make this easy? Note cards!" I have read articles, highlighted them, thought about them - but the information and thoughts kind of evaporated when I didn't think about them for a few days. You know what would "save" that information and keep it in a handy location? Note cards!
So, you know what I'm doing in all of my spare time this week? Writing note cards! (and this blog, apparently) Perhaps the lit review won't seem as daunting now. When it's all said and done, I'll have Mr. Brown to thank.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
While reflecting on my past weekend with Dan, I had a bit of a revelation about love, God and the Church. I love how when we are open the Holy Spirit can teach us so many things about God from our everyday interactions. I especially love when He does that while I spend time with someone that I love being with! J
I know that Dan loves me. I mean, he did ask me to marry him – so, that's gotta mean something right? I should KNOW that fact is true every day (and I do – but there's a difference between knowing something and trusting in it in such a way that you are abiding in that truth). Yet, when living 2000 miles apart and not seeing each other for six weeks, I become susceptible to fears. I wonder what living together will be like after we get married; I mean, will I even like living with someone else or will I be so used to living on my own that I won't even like being in the same room with him for too long? I can get focused on what I am giving up: familiar places and faces, rather than focusing on what I am gaining: a new life with the man that I love, entering into a calling to love him with my whole life and to be loved by all of his.
There I was on Thursday evening, walking down the runway with my heart in my stomach because I *finally* got to be with my love, again. Butterflies of excitement consumed me; I always wonder if he'll be as excited to see me as I am to see him; I always hope that I'll still be pleasing and acceptable him. After a weekend spent with Dan, I am reminded and have an even better understanding of the height, depth, and breadth of his love for me. This weekend, I was sick. (Yes; how awesome, huh?) After six weeks of not seeing him and 364 days of NOT having the 24-hour stomach flu (yes, last Valentine's Day I also came down with the bug), I was sick-sick-sick. I wouldn't have blamed him if he quarantined me to a certain area of the apartment; he can get sick pretty easily. He didn't. He was so good, caring and gentle with me…and I experienced how unconditionally he loves me.
I know all the time that Dan loves me. We talk daily; we tell each other daily…but sometimes, we have to experience – in the flesh – the height, depth, width or breadth of love that someone has for us before it sinks in, just a little deeper, into our souls. (Some of you might be familiar with the phrase "head knowledge versus heart knowledge.") As I thought about this truth, the Holy Spirit called to mind a much greater truth: this is why we need the Church.
The Church is to represent Christ's Body on earth; we are the manifestation (visible reality) of God's love and presence on earth; we are the kingdom of God. How many people do you know who use the line, "Oh – I don't need to go to church. I believe in God; I read my Bible; I pray; I'm spiritual; it's me and God – and we're good." No, you're not. You are missing out on the beautiful reality of the Body of Christ. We are meant to not just live in relationship with God, but with others – especially those who are His.
I remember a friend of mine telling me about her son who wanted to get married. He said to her, "I know that God loves me, Mom; I know that is enough…but, sometimes, I just want someone with flesh on; I want to love somebody." The Church is our opportunity to love somebodies – and to be loved by somebodies. The key to really experiencing this reciprocating love and care requires vulnerability with each other. We need to be open to giving our time, our hearts, our joys, our hurts, our prayers and receiving the same from others. It is very true that we can grow in many ways through our private times of study, prayer and reflection; often, this time leads me to a greater amazement and awe of God…but, it's when I see Him act through people in my life that I really key into the truth of His deep, faithful, providing love for me. His love for me isn't just something written in a book (or spoken over the phone); it's real and tangible. By loving others, I also am living out the truth that He loves and cares about people. Realizing this, I'm invigorated to become more involved in the Body and to be the Body to those I come I contact with.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
This past week, we have pretty consistently seen this little guy - in front of our temperature. On Wednesday, I was mailing a package to Dan and it was -2 at 8:30 in the morning. For the last four mornings, it's been at least that temperature or lower.
Lord willing, in a year from now, I will not see this little guy - in front of any numbers. HOW AWESOME!!
I know there are those of you out there who will say, "But I love experiencing all four seasons;" or "But I love grass - you won't have that." Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm sure that at some point I'll look at those romantic pictures of freshly fallen snow and miss it; I'll miss the smell of freshly mown grass. Yes, I don't doubt you there.
BUT I WILL NOT MISS DRESSING IN LAYERS AND NEVER HAVING WARM TOES!!!
I just like being warm. So, for a season of my life, it seems like God is going to let me be warm. :)
The end. Don't hate. Just visit. A lot. I'm sure I'll miss you more than the snow OR the grass.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
The New Testament reading today comes from 1 Corinthians 1:1-3: "From Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and from Sosthenes, our brother, to God's Church which is in Corinth; to you whom God has sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy...." As I thought about this, I was reminded of John 1:12-13: "But to those who did accept Him, He gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice, but of God."
Interestingly, this past week was "Vocations Week" in the Catholic Church. A vocation is a calling to a life of service. The Holy Orders - priests, sisters, brothers, deacons (maybe? I'm not quite up on all my Catholic insider knowledge) - and Marriage are considered vocations. A friend posted on her blog about vocations this week that we should develop that mindset of 'who is God calling you to be?', not 'what do you want to do?' when you grow up.
This view of marriage as a calling and not just a choice is a bit radical for our day and time. To be called means that God has initiated this marriage & love and we are simply responding. It has weight. meaning. responsibility. action. But, it also lifts the burden. Let's look at that verse from the 1 Corinthians, Paul describes sanctification (holiness) as a gift; our response (to be holy) is simply to walk in the way (live) of that gift of holiness.
This call to marriage is similar. The love that God has given me for Dan; the love that God has given me in Dan; and the love that God pours out on me through Dan is an incredible gift. It is a blessing. Responding to that gift by establishing a lasting covenant with God and each other is also an incredible gift. Our response to this gift of each other and our bond is simply to walk in the way of covenant love.
I love that our God is a God of covenant love. He is our perfect example and picture of love that sacrifices; love that gives; love that rejoices; love that celebrates; love that prays; love that forgives; love that forebears shortcomings with patience, understanding and grace; love that gives grace upon grace; love that never gives up; love that hopes; love that acts; love that is always faithful; love that is loyal; love that is constant; love that provides; love that lavishes; love that grows deeper, wider and higher; love that overcomes; love that never fails. What a gift to learn how to walk in this love; to bestow this love upon another; to be loved by another in this way.
Marriage is not only a choice; it is a calling. I say this because in today's world we view choices as things that are not binding. We can change our mind; we can take it back; we can return it for a better model. A calling is a way of life; it is who we are - not just something we do. The calling of marriage reminds me that what God wills, God accomplishes. My role in marriage is to seek Him first, to walk in His love, and to view Dan as my gift from Him...and learn how to treat him thusly. It will not be easy, but with God all things are possible.