Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why I'm Getting DRESSED

As I'm sure some of you know, for many years, fall and winter have been "hoodie season" for me. I love me a good hoodie...the bigger, the better.

At the first hint of crispness in the air, I grin and dance and think of all things pumpkin spice...and don a hoodie and a pair of jeans.

It's what I do...it's what I did.

A month ago today, as I was getting ready to go to a meeting with Josiah, I had a conversation with God. I was not a happy camper.

I felt, deeply, that he was asking me to get rid of the hoodie and jeans. And so...right there in the shower, I got teary-eyed and angry because, God, you don't seem to understand. It's hoodie SEASON!

I got teary-eyed over a hoodie, y'all.

It had been a long time coming, actually. I felt the Lord leading me to Scriptures that highlighted femininity and the differentiation of the sexes. I felt Him pressing upon my heart.

Finally, that day in the shower I said, Fine. FINE! I'll try it...and I'll talk to Josiah about it, but God, if he thinks this is stupid, then I'm throwing this out the window and putting on a hoodie and jeans.

He did not think it was stupid...at all.

God has been showing us BOTH lately how backwards our culture is: men becoming increasingly less masculine and women becoming increasingly more masculine. So, apparently, He's asking me go against the grain and be more feminine in my dress.

For me, that means dresses and skirts...pretty much all the time outside of the house. That's what it comes down to.

Ladies, we HAVE to reclaim femininity. Go on, women's libbers...ROAR. But it's true. The farther we, as women, get from being feminine, the more we deem it necessary to take control, to rule, to dominate. Likewise, because we're willing to take that control, men take a backseat.

Then, we complain there are no more gentlemen in the world and chivalry is dead. I don't think that's true at all, but if it is WE killed it.

God called men and women to be different, not better or worse, but different. We're just not embracing that anymore.

For a long time, though, I didn't look as my dress as being unfeminine. I just thought it was...humble. I obviously wasn't looking to get any attention like that, right? I looked at verses like the one below, and thought they meant "hoodie season is good":

Your beauty should not consist of outward things
like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes.
Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart
with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is very valuable in God’s eyes.
1 Peter 3:3-4

What's less elaborate than a messy ponytail?! What's less fine than a hoodie and jeans?! It's what's in the heart that matters!!

And actually, those statements are absolutely true. God DOES want our beauty to come from the inside. We shouldn't seek to be considered beautiful because of the superficial. And yet...

I have found the second part, the gentle and quiet spirit, much more attainable in feminine attire.

Think about it like this, many businesses have certain dress codes for their employees because they want them to behave in a certain manner, right?

Many corporations want very business-like attire because, generally, people have a tendency to behave in a more business-like manner when they are dressed accordingly.

Conversely, some of the younger "dot com" companies have much less rigid dress codes and encourage creativity in dress and culture because they WANT their staffs to be creative.

Likewise, when I'm dressed like a lady, I have a tendency to behave more like one. Even more shocking, I've also discovered that when I'm dressed like a lady, I'm treated more like one.

It's a cycle, folks. 

The few people I've told about this, thus far, have reacted in a variety of ways. A few women from my homeschool group (NONE of whom wear dresses frequently) were very supportive. Others, questioned whether I thought this was for everyone, and others wondered if a lot of ugly denim skirts were coming.

So let me answer a few of your inevitable questions:

Are you saying all women should be wearing dresses and skirts?! 
No. I don't believe that. We've been set free from the law. Yes, it says in Deuteronomy that women shouldn't wear men's clothing. However, it also says Hebrew people shouldn't eat pork...and MMMM, bacon. This is a very personal conviction, and I don't expect anyone else to hop on my bandwagon (so, yes, we can still be friends).
Are you wearing dresses ALL the time? 
Um, no. I'm sure a few of you have seen me at the gym or at Zumba lately, and I have not worn a skirt over my workout clothes. I'm also wearing jeans and sneakers if a particular situation calls for it, like weeding flower beds or any other yard work. I'm not being "religious" about this, ya'll (haha). Right now, I'm wearing a hoodie and sweat pants because I'm in my house and it's 6 a.m. and it's chilly; the situation calls for it.
So, when ARE you wearing dresses then?
Pretty much anytime I leave the house. Even if I'm just running to Wal-mart, I'm actually taking the time to get dressed. It just doesn't take all that long to throw on a skirt and a sweater and make sure my hair actually looks decent.
Are you going to start wearing denim all the time?
No, but I do have a couple denim skirts I really like. I completely understand why certain denominations feel somewhat homely dress is the way to go, and I respect that...but I'm just not there. Quite the opposite, actually. I feel more like God wants me to show that I can dress with femininity and modesty and still have fun with my clothes and feel good in them!
 Do you think ONLY dresses and skirts are feminine?
I KNOW someone is going to call me on this, so I might as well get it out there: you can look gorgeous and feminine in pants. I know people who do it all the time. They wear jeans and slacks and look AWESOME. They look very pretty. So, no. I don't think that's the case. I do, however, think God is calling ME to do it a little differently. That may be because it's a slippery slope for me. Only God knows.

I hope than answered a lot of the more immediate questions. If you have more, PLEASE message me or leave a comment.

I'm really starting to embrace the change, now. I'm having fun actually putting decent outfits together, and I'm really looking forward to expanding my wardrobe here and there, as the budget allows.

There's also a certain level of self care that comes with actually getting dressed decently every day. As a homeschool mom, if I'm not careful, I can spend just about every day looking pretty haggard. I really don't want this to be the way my husband and kids see me and remember me. If I'm running out to Wal-mart, but I'm actually putting on decent clothes, I'm much more likely to spend another 5 seconds making sure my hair looks halfway decent, my mascara isn't 2" under my eyeballs from the day before, and I've actually brushed my teeth already. (Just keeping it real.)

So, there you have it. I do feel like a bit of a freak. Even in my Christian conservative circle of friends, this is not a common conviction.

Nevertheless, God has asked people to do "stranger" things, so for right now, I'll just be happy His call for me is to look decent.

It is my hope, that this outward change in me is more reflective of an inner change. I pray God is not just helping me put on dresses and skirts, but that He's aiding me in clothing myself with strength, dignity, and faith, along with a gentle and quiet spirit because that's what is truly valuable.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

An Apology and an Entreaty

There are times, in life, when you just don't know, when someone tells you something, but you're just not quite able to grasp the reality.

This weekend was one of those time...or the realization, at least. And man, do I owe you ALL an apology. 

Mea Culpa. Mea Maxima Culpa.

Earlier this year, when Josiah and I met with Keith Tully of FamilyLife about the church's marriage ministry, he was insistent that we should bring a group to the Weekend to Remember in Williamsburg this year (which just took place). 

We told him we'd love to take a group, but it just wasn't in our budget right now. That's why we do The Art of Marriage! It's way cheaper to put on at our local church. And The Art of Marriage is JUST like Weekend to Remember anyway, right? That's what I thought, anyway.

Keith persisted in his wish that we experience the event, and even offered to sponsor us. HUGE gift. Of course! we said. Why wouldn't we go if it was sponsored?

We started a group (CompassMarriage) and started advertising for the event. We posted on facebook about it many times and talked to some people in church. We invited...enough to say we invited.

Even when Keith sent us a message and challenged us to share just as dynamically about the Weekend to Remember as we do about our Thrive business.

And I tried...I really did.

Here's the deal though: I can REALLY only share passionately about something like that if it's had a serious impact on me. There's a REASON I didn't really sell anything before Thrive...no product had ever changed my life like it has

Well, that's no longer the case. I can now share PASSIONATELY about the Weekend to Remember because Josiah and I walked out of there transformed.

Generally, Josiah and I attend these events knowing we'll get tidbits and knowing we'll come out a little closer, but generally, our marriage is pretty good, so we don't expect anything mind-blowing.

Oh, how we belittle the power of our MIGHTY GOD.

Maybe it was the powerful anointing given to the speakers. Maybe it was the prayer that came from scores of people before and during the event. Maybe it was the relevance of the material. Maybe it was all those things.

All I know, is we are changed. Our marriage was already great...and now it's better.

But more than that, I can feel a peace deep within both of us and in our home. 

I think the largest change is in Josiah. I hope he doesn't mind me saying that.

He came out standing taller, ready to lead our family and our ministry. He came out equipped. And I am grateful.

He's already typed out pages upon pages of notes, revelations from the Holy Spirit throughout the weekend. Look for blogs from him coming soon.

So, my dear friends, I owe you an apology. I am so grieved that I didn't share MORE with you; that, like I have with my Le-Vel business, I didn't message so many of you to invite you personally. I'm so sorry I didn't put exponentially more time and effort into sharing this experience with you so you could walk out changed with us.

By the grace of God, it isn't too late. 

There are at least two more in Virginia coming up. The first is in Virginia Beach on Valentine's Day weekend. What a great gift?! There's also one in Reston, VA in April.

You definitely want to GET AWAY for the event, so why not take a look at the FamilyLife calendar and see if there are any other locations and dates you'd love? (and be sure to use the group code "CompassMarrage" to get a discount!)

Let me illustrate how intensely powerful this event was for us: Josiah and I are considering forgoing the Le-Vel Lifestyle Getaway to Las Vegas (which we should qualify for), and instead, helping the local volunteer team in Virginia Beach that weekend. 

We haven't completely made up our minds, and a paid vacation together would be awfully nice, but we also feel so incredibly compelled to share the experience we had with others. 

It's a tough one.

I urge you. I am pleading

Do not let this valuable opportunity to enrich your life, your marriage, and your walk with God pass you by.

Could I be any clearer? 

Josiah and I are so grateful: to Keith Tully, the voluneteer/prayer teams, the presenters, FamilyLife, and most of all, God.

If you have any questions about this, please contact me. I don't often say things like that on my blog, but I would love to help you with this.

So now, dear reader, I end with a prayer for YOU:
Heavenly Father, 
There is no way for me to know who You will have read this, but I pray, if they are married (happily or ready to leave), engaged, or even thinking about marriage, that they will pursue this opportunity. I pray they will boldly take this step to fight against the powers that wish desperately to tear their relationships apart. I pray they will RISE UP and become people who FIGHT for their marriages and the marriages in their communities and all over the world. 
I pray these things with confidence, knowing You will answer my plea. 
I praise You God, for all that You have done, all that You will do, and all that You are. 
In Jesus' holy name I pray. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Quick and Dirty: Are you a GOOD Christian?

(For those of you who are unfamiliar, a "Quick and Dirty" blog post here at Life Under Construction, is written on the fly with very little editing. Every now and then, it's just gotta get done.)

Every now and then, circumstances line up that give you an epiphany. 

This week, people everywhere have been talking about the Syrian refugee crisis, and more than once I've seen someone say, "I don't you telling me I'm a BAD Christian because...." A bad Christian.

Let's face it, no one wants to be a "bad Christian." We all want to be "good Christians," right?

I've also been reading Victory over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson lately (which I wrote about here) about really KNOWING what your identity is in Christ.

Now, these two things would have coincided without me noticing, BUT THEN...

Yesterday, I was thinking about a situation. It's one where I was trying to FEEL differently because I was trying to FEEL the way I know a "GOOD" Christian should. But I couldn't...

So...I said, "that must mean I'm a bad Christian."

And that's when it hit me...there's no such thing. There's NO SUCH THING as a "good" or "bad" Christian. That's exactly what Mr. Anderson has been expressing in the chapter I was reading, it just took me a while to figure it out.

Christ died to save EVERYONE. If you've claimed Jesus Christ as your Savior, you're a Christian.

For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten son
that whoever should believe in Him
shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

If you've put your faith in Christ, then you're a Christian.

I know what you might be thinking: Um...Alissa...there are bad Christians and good Christians. I've seen them. The man who's a deacon and studies his Bible all the time, that's a good Christian. The girl who's partying it up on Friday and Saturday and sitting her butt down in the church pew on Sunday, that's a bad Christian.

I know you might think that because that girl, the latter example, that was me for a while.

I've even thought to myself, I'm so different now...what if I was never even saved.

But that doesn't seem to make sense either. I've felt Jesus with me for as long as I can remember. I have him my heart long ago. Why, then, did I behave so foolishly at different points?

Because I didn't understand my IDENTITY in Christ. I didn't know WHO I was. I didn't realize my value.

I still don't...not all the way, anyway. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

There's no middle ground. You're new or you're not.

So what happens?

Think about these 2 scenarios:

  1. You have a benefactor that sends you money each month and takes care of your needs. You may know his name or a little about him, but that's about it. You just know the check comes every month.
  2. You have a Dad. You love Him. He loves you. There's a relationship there. He would die for you; you know it, and you'd do anything for him.
In which scenario are you more secure? The money could always stop coming in the first, right? What if you fall out of grace?

See, Satan wants us to THINK that can happen to us. He wants us to think we're just one mistake away from too many. 

But that doesn't happen. He's our Heavenly Father, full of love and grace for His children.

Somewhere (and I don't have time to look it up at the moment) it says that the blood of Jesus has washed us clean. If you're a Christian, you now stand in front of God spotless and pure, no matter what you've done (Romans 3 maybe?).

I didn't get that. Every time I made a bad choice (and it was frequently because I wasn't looking to God for guidance). I hid my face in shame. I wasn't worthy.

The tricky part is, the more I hid my face in shame, the dirtier I felt, the worse my decisions got. 

I've said before that meeting Josiah and his family changed this for me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on HOW. Now, I know...they started to show me that my identity was in WHO I am, not what I had done.

When I understood that, I was able to look God full in the face, to begin to feel His grace. To understand that, no matter what, He wanted me to open myself up to Him...and He wanted me to get to know Him.

Anderson says it's being able to differentiate relationship from fellowship. You will always be your father's child. You can go to Timbuktu or Kalamazoo, and that won't change. Ever.

However, there can be a break of fellowship between you and your father. If you defy him, resist him, or run away from him, the relationship doesn't change (he's still your father), but things aren't right between you.

God is the perfect father. He's ALWAYS waiting for the prodigal to return, ALWAYS waiting for the stray sheep, ALWAYS seeking a return to fellowship with you.

You just have to be soft-hearted enough to receive Him.

So, if you're ever wondering if you're a good Christian or a bad Christian, wonder no more: there's no such thing.

You're just the same as the deacon with the Bible AND the girl doing the walk of shame on Sunday. 

Positionally, we're all the same.

But I URGE you to seek true fellowship with our Father. Walk with Him. Spend time with Him. Learn from Him. 

There's nothing like it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Faithfulness and Failure

Let me ask you a question. In which of the following two scenarios am I more successful?

  1. I'm faithful to my husband and try to be the best wife I can be, but I don't get the attention I want from him; OR
  2. I'm unfaithful to my husband, but I find the attention I seek in others?
I think most people will SCREAM at this point, FAITHFUL TO YOUR HUSBAND! ARE YOU INSANE?!

Never fear. I have not lost my mind; I am not unfaithful; he gives me plenty of attention.

Nevertheless, I've been having a REALLY hard time lately emotionally, and the above question is a mediocre metaphor for what God has been showing me. (I'll explain, I promise.)

When I say I've had a hard time, I mean to say engaged in full-on spiritual warfare. 

I had been praying and sobbing my way through it for days, when finally, I hid at church Sunday, crumpled on the floor of the dark, abandoned sanctuary. 

The church pianist found me there, bawling and praying. She prayed over me. Then, once she left,  I quite literally prayed through Romans 8 and Ephesians 6 (particularly the part about putting on the armor of God).

Why, you may ask, was I struggling so horribly? Was someone dying? Had my husband been unfaithful? Had my kids been hurt.

Nope...I felt like a failure.

It sounds so silly, right? Nevertheless, it was what I felt, and it was crushing me.

The enemy whispered in my ear over and over, that I wasn't successful in ANY area of my life: wife, homemaker, leader, businesswoman, writer...FAILURE.

The name followed me around like a cloud; it pressed down on me. It was suffocating.


The prayer session on the sanctuary floor FINALLY lifted the dark veil, and I felt happier than I have in quite some time during the worship service.

Let's face it...this hasn't been the only time I've been reduced to blubbering lately. God has been working in my life in big ways, and sometimes, that can be painful...but MAN, it's worth it.

That night, during some much-needed time away from everyone, I started a book called Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ by Neil T. Anderson. This morning, I read Chapter 2, and shed tears of joy as I read aloud who GOD says I am...

and let me give you a hint, it's NOT a failure.

Yesterday, I went to a Zumba class at the Y. During one of the last songs, I stopped early on the squats. I hate when I do that, I thought. I feel like such a failure.

I chased the thought away, immediately. I've had enough of the failure nonsense over the last week.

I said to myself, Alissa Shea, you have just completed a class you walked out of 6 months ago. You are walking out happy, with your head held high because you were faithful and came to work out.

Did you catch that? I was faithful because I showed up and did my best.

It was in that moment that it hit me: 

I have been looking at whether I'm a success or failure based upon my perceived outcome, instead of my obedient action. I was tied up in whether people were responding to what I was doing, instead of focusing on the fact that I'm just doing what I've been called to do, despite the outcome.

Do you see the similarity in the introductory example now? It's obvious to just about everyone that being faithful to my husband makes me more successful than getting attention, but that's not how we think most of the time is it?

When the blog doesn't get enough hits...
When my husband doesn't tell me I'm beautiful...
When no one notices what I've done...
When people don't respond to my Thrive messages...
When me team doesn't perform well...
When no one shows up to the study...

At various times, and definitely recently, I've looked at each of those outcomes and taken them personally. It sounds so shallow doesn't it? Well...it is, but it's the truth.

However, if I've been faithful, if I've done what I truly believe God wants me to do, then I haven't failed.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31

Here's the bottom line: I know Whose I am. Each and every day, I'm praying that He will guide my paths and make them straight.

For you are all children of God
through faith in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:26

In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:6

And no matter what, even when I misstep, even when I feel like I've failed, He can use it for my good.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

Even when I let the deceiver fool me into feeling like a failure, God can take it and use it for good in my life. And I'm hoping, through my sharing, He can use it in yours, as well.

I foresee a lot of blog posts about this in the coming weeks as I work my way through the book. I would challenge you to come along with me. 

Do you fully understand your identity in Christ? Do you fully appreciate the miracle of what's been done for you, and the position it's put you in? Do you fully understand what it means to be adopted as a child of God?

I don't think I do yet. But I'm on my way.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Marriage Renovations: Series Wrap-Up

Photo credit: mikeg1968 Etsy Shop
In this series, Josiah and I have spoken about the "renovations" God has recently made in our marriage, and how to negotiate your own marital renovation project.

When you're building from scratch, you start with the foundation and build up. In a Christian marriage, the foundation is Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone. He is the rock you build on.

Josiah and I had this part already, praise God. (If you don't, but you'd like to know how, get with us!)

Nevertheless, even when you've built on a strong foundation, and you sincerely love your home, there are times when you need to do renovations.

Today, we're wrapping up the series. You can catch up on what's already been written here:

Marriage Renovations: Intro
Marriage Renovations: Demo Day HER Way
Marriage Renovations: Demo Day HIS Way
Marriage Renovations: Blueprints HER Way
Marriage Renovations: Blueprints HIS Way
Marriage Renovations: Rebuilding HER Way
Marriage Renovations: Rebuilding HIS Way

This is a hardhat area, folks. Strongholds are falling.

Renovation Wrap-Up

Our most recent marriage renovation project is over. It was relatively quick, but not remarkably easy. Nevertheless, I don't think either one of us would trade lessons we've learned for less pain.

We can both FEEL the difference in our home now. It was already pretty peaceful, but it's even MORE peaceful now. 

Generally, Josiah gives me very few reasons to be irritated; he's a fantastic husband. However, when I do find myself getting irritated with him and responding in a way that's not very respectful, I've been able to renew, recover, and respond pretty quickly.

And sometimes NOT.

Here's a practical example of what a relatively quick turnaround looks like:

A week ago, we were getting ready for church. We had to leave early to pick Ryan up from a sleepover, and I felt like Josiah was taking a really long time to get out of bed. I was stressed out trying to get the babies ready. The house was in utter chaos. Baby stuff was everywhere. Emily had misplaced my phone...and I was UPSET.

I was irritable.

Previously, I would have let all those thoughts roll over in my head. I would have stewed over all the reasons I had to be irritated. Immediately, my brain would try to draw in other reasons to support the argument. And I would seethe.

This time, though, I turned directly to God. I didn't know how to stop it, but I knew someone who could.

So, in the car, on the way to church, I busted out my prayer journal. My pen had just barely touched the paper when a Francesca Battistelli song we love came on the radio, and Josiah turned it up...

"Holy Spirit you are welcome here;
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for,
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord."

God sent me a song, and it touched my heart. Immediately, I thought of Philippians 4:6-8, and how I was supposed to pray with gratitude and concentrate on what was praiseworthy.

In my prayer, I turned every complaint I had just made into a praise:

Thank you, God, for giving me a husband who will take us to church.
Thank you, God, for giving me a husband who enjoys playing with our babies on a Sunday morning.
Thank you, God, for giving me a husband who thinks of me enough to turn up songs he knows I love.
Thank you, God, for a home to get messy.
Thank you, God, for my beautiful children.
Thank you, God, that I even have a cell phone to get misplaced.
Thank you, God, for the chaos that is my home because you've allowed me to stay home and homeschool my children, to teach them and be with them every day, and that makes our house look exceedingly lived in.

Immediately, all the stressful thoughts drained away, and I had peace. That's what God promises, and He always delivers. It's not always immediate, but He is always faithful.

But then...then sometimes it's not that easy. The day after "Blueprints HER Way" posted, I was struggling. Josiah had said a couple things that REALLY hurt my feelings...but I'd written this blog, and I was desperately trying to "pray it off."

At the same time, I was contacted by a friend, who basically said, "I'm trying to follow your blog series, but I'm struggling because I'm not sure advocating NOT communicating with your husband is healthy." That's not exact, but it was the basis. 

She's right.

I had gone to God in prayer and read His Word, but the issue still sat heavily on me. I think I hesitated to share my feelings with Him because the incidences were so minute. Why did they matter? As it turns out, they mattered because what I was feeling needed to be discussed because his actions stemmed from a hurt HE felt earlier in the week, that I knew nothing about.

The Holy Spirit was prompting me to speak to Josiah about this issue, and as soon as I did, we were able to come to a peaceful resolution...but I prayed a lot first, and I asked him to pray with me before we discussed it.

I am not advocating you not share genuine concerns with your husband...things that really bother you or really hurt you. If you've taken the issue to God, and prayerfully and carefully sought Him, which also includes reading His Word to see what He has to say, and you still feel a weight, THEN by all means, please talk to your husband.

After she sent me the message yesterday, I was talking to Josiah, and he absolutely agreed. If something is really bothering me, he wants me to talk to him about it. However, if I've gone to God in prayer, and sought Him in His Word, and asked Him to speak through me and to prepare Josiah's heart, then you're looking at an entirely different conversation than the one I would have had otherwise.

It's like Josiah said: "It feels entirely different when conviction comes from God than when it comes from you." Ouch. 

God has, indeed, been working in Josiah's heart, though.

He has been a diligent study on becoming a better leader, as well. I can feel him becoming stronger. He's trying to be more assertive with the kids and trying to communicate his wants, needs, and feelings to me more clearly.

I am just so grateful.

Are you a wife struggling to let your husband lead? Are you a husband struggling to figure out what Christian leadership looks like? You're not alone! 

If you've seen Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines, then you know the more "far gone" a house is, the more amazing the transformation. Watching a $300,000 house turn into a $450,000 house is cool...but watching a $75,000 turn into a $200,000 house is miraculous.

Marriage renovations work the same way. Your marriage is not too far gone for God to do something miraculous and beautiful! It may not be easy, and it may not be quick, but it will always be worth it!

Happy renovating!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Marriage Renovations: Rebuilding HIS Way

Photo credit: mikeg1968 Etsy Shop
In this series, Josiah and I are talking about the "renovations" God has recently made in our marriage, and how to negotiate your own marital renovation project.

When you're building from scratch, you start with the foundation and build up. In a Christian marriage, the foundation is Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone. He is the rock you build on.

Josiah and I had this part already, praise God. (If you don't, but you'd like to know how, get with us!)

Nevertheless, even when you've built on a strong foundation, and you sincerely love your home, there are times when you need to do renovations.

Today, Josiah discusses how the Rebuilding phase of the remodel went down for HIM. You can catch up on what's already been written here:

Marriage Renovations: Intro
Marriage Renovations: Demo Day HER Way
Marriage Renovations: Demo Day HIS Way
Marriage Renovations: Blueprints HER Way
Marriage Renovations: Blueprints HIS Way
Marriage Renovations: Rebuilding HER Way

This is a hardhat area, folks. Strongholds are falling.

PHASE 3: Rebuilding - Josiah Style

Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors, there is safety.”
Proverbs 11:14

Unfortunately, I've come to a point of realization when I look at the churches across America, and men in general, and I see few mentors.

I feel like we are watching the decline of Christian leaders and Christianity because of a lack of guidance.

Like with our dance lessons, the only way to be an effective leader is to have followed close enough to someone who is an effective leader and who takes time to invest in you.

Our men's ministry is not non-existent, but as far as I'm aware, there aren't really men reaching out to other men and training them for anything in any capacity. Our church does a fantastic job at children's ministry, but I feel that's where a lot of masculine input and time ceases.

In speaking to one man, I asked him why the men's ministry at our church was stagnant, and would he be involved in it if it existed.

The answer? “It would have to be worth my time. I don't get very much of it, and I don't want it to be wasted.” Not word for word, but that was certainly the message.

A friend of ours, and I chimed in at almost the same time, “Okay, so what WOULD be worth your time?”

I feel like this is a common thread, but more than likely it is NOT the right question. In order to get the right answer, you have to ask the right question sometimes, right?

Perhaps the right question should lie along the lines of “Why on earth don't we care about teaching men on how to be men, fathers, on things of God, on how to not just follow rules but to develop a true love and passion for our God and for our spouses in such a way our childrens' lives will be changed?”

There is a shorter phrase for this statement...

“Why are we content at failing the call of The Great Commission to make disciples?”

I have had people teach me along the way on how to paint, how to write, how to read, how to drive...

I've had input on how to be a Christian, what a man of God looks like, and on how to parent, but I don't feel like I've had a lot of input on what it is to be a Christian leader.

I need it, though.

Not only that, I know other guys need it. And I know a lot aren't getting it.

I can't help but feel like that is why this generation of young people are leaving the church in alarming numbers.

There is a severe lack of men who are willing to lean on other men when they need it, because they don't feel there are other men they CAN lean on.

I firmly believe that a lot of the men who don't feel they have someone to lean on when they need it is because no one has invested the time or the energy in them in order to guide them BEFORE they needed it.

An ounce of prevention IS better than a pound of cure, right?

Our wives are begging us to lead. They need it whether or not they act like they want it, or would even admit that they want it.

I left the marriage retreat weekend KNOWING that if we truly care about the marriages in our church, and we truly care about marriages period, then the focus can't be to try to save marriages so much as it has to be to train and disciple men.

I don't know exactly what this will look like yet, but I've had some walls that have had to come down in this remodel.

I've had to face walls of pride and of excuses. I expect to face other people's walls of pride and excuses as well.

But I will plan, I will move with purpose, and I will persevere.

It's much like going to the gym.

You can say you don't have the time, but you do. You have to make it.

You don't have the time? Put your cell phone down for a minute. Turn the video games off. Turn the TV off.

Your high scores won't make a difference to anyone, or in anyone. Certainly not in 5 years.

You knowing the results of a game, catching up on the latest TV series isn't going to help much either in the long run.

Sure, it may be a conversation entry point, and I'm not saying there shouldn't be any down time.

But instead of finding ways to wind down, we should be focused on ways to train up.

I liked this quote a lot: “Do something wonderful, people may imitate it.” - Albert Schweitzer

I have to break through.

James 1:5-6 says: 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,
who gives generously to all without reproach,
and it will be given him. 
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting,
for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea
that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

This is my prayer. It may have been James' prayer, and he certainly encouraged others to pray it.

So now it's mine.

I have to be a better leader.

I know no better way to do that than to be a better follower of God.

For my wife. For my kids. For me. For my Church.

For my God.

God isn't done with me, and I'm sure there are more walls to come down.

Alissa's isn't the ONLY life under construction, after all.

I am God's temple for renovation.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Marriage Renovations: Rebuilding HER Way

Photo credit: mikeg1968 Etsy Shop
In this series, Josiah and I are talking about the "renovations" God has recently made in our marriage, and how to negotiate your own marital renovation project.

When you're building from scratch, you start with the foundation and build up. In a Christian marriage, the foundation is Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone. He is the rock you build on.

Josiah and I had this part already, praise God. (If you don't, but you'd like to know how, get with us!)

Nevertheless, even when you've built on a strong foundation, and you sincerely love your home, there are times when you need to do renovations.

Today, I'm talking about how I went through the Rebuilding phase of our marital remodel. You can catch up on what's already been written here:

Marriage Renovations: Intro
Marriage Renovations: Demo Day HER Way
Marriage Renovations: Demo Day HIS Way
Marriage Renovations: Blueprints HER Way
Marriage Renovations: Blueprints HIS Way

This is a hardhat area, folks. Strongholds are falling.

PHASE 3: Rebuilding - Alissa Style

 Okay, we've covered the first two steps in the marriage renovation process – Demo and Blueprints – now let's talk about Rebuilding.

If you're renovating your kitchen, you rip out the old kitchen, clean out the rubble, consult the plan, and then you get to start putting all NEW stuff back in – cabinets, appliances, tile – all the things that will make your new space usable each and every day.

That's what this part of our marriage renovations project looks like, too. It's time to take the lessons learned through the Demolition and Blueprints phases and use them to build thought processes and actions we can use in our everyday lives.

It's time to learn how to walk it out.

In MY marriage renovation project, I had just learned that it's in no way Biblical to vent petty frustrations and complaints to my husband, no matter how “respectfully” I may try to do so.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved,
put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
accepting one another and forgiving one another
if anyone has a complaint against another.
Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.
Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity.
Colossians 3:12-14

I put some emphasis on some of that, but really, the WHOLE THING is golden. Seriously, read it again. Now again.

Nothing. Not one thing about venting complaints and frustration. Just patience, humility, compassion, and forgiveness.

(I want to insert a note in here: communication in marriage is necessary. I am not advocating a lack of communication in your marriage. PLEASE stay tuned for the Series Wrap-Up for more on this subject!) 

I also remembered this verse at the beginning of the rebuilding phase:

Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others.
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3 (NLT)

I don't normally use the NLT, but in this case, it so beautifully simplifies the meaning of this verse, and let's face it: the concept is so difficult to apply that the the more we can simplify, the better.

These verses are set in direct opposition from one another. So, I had to reword it like this: Instead of being selfish and conceited, I'm supposed to be humble and consider Josiah as being better than me, above me.

I used words from a few different translations there, and women's lib folks everywhere are tearing out their hair and gnashing their teeth because I just set Josiah above me, but guess what? We're supposed to set everyone above us, MOST OF ALL our husbands because they are “our heads.”

Only after you've dealt with this truth and accepted it can you really move on.

Once I realized it, I was totally able to apply it and life became really simple freaked out and basically screamed at God, “how the heck am I supposed to live like that?!”

Like my friend, Lindsay, says, “I'm just keepin' it real.”

Once again, though, God is faithful. He gradually helped me accept it, and then showed me how.

First, He had me write a list of all the things I love about Josiah in my prayer journal. He had brought me to a place where I was REALLY seeing all the fantastic things about Josiah, but I knew that wouldn't last.

Wow...I didn't mean that like it sounded.

I knew, in the heat frustration and anger, those amazing things I love about my husband would be hidden by my minuscule complaints. I needed a list to refer to in those moments, to remind me of all the great things, and put the small things back where they belong.

God also placed the PERFECT metaphor in our paths at exactly the right time: we took dance lessons.

Josiah had purchased a Groupon for dance lessons months before, and just before they expired, he made the first appointment...which fell smack dab in the middle of our rebuilding phase.

It was perfect timing.

Dancing is a beautiful example of how marriage works: he leads and she follows.

Can I tell you a secret? Shhhhhh...I may be a more capable dancer than Josiah.

I don't think that's anything he'd argue with. I love to dance, and it comes pretty naturally. Despite this, however, it's still not my job to lead. That's just the way it goes.

I may get the steps before him, but it's my job to patiently wait while he gets more instruction and to give him praise when he does well and encourage him even when he doesn't.

Sometimes, Josiah would move in a way I didn't expect, the “wrong way.” If I followed him, then we continued to dance, and we eventually got where we needed to be. However, if I didn't follow properly and tried to go my own way, the whole thing would derail and we'd have to start all over.

The analogy is staring us right in the face isn't it? The dance only works when we do our respective jobs, and my job isn't to lead Josiah, but to follow HIS lead and give him encouragement.

It is what it is, ladies: learn it, live it, love it...because God's truth is eternal; it's not changing anytime soon.

We also read through the Felhaun books, For Men Only and For Women Only, together...taking notes on each and passing them back and forth, chapter by chapter. You won't believe how much this aided the rebuilding process.

We were able to express our feelings and get to know more about one another in a safe way, during a time of peace, not conflict. I am inexplicably grateful for the knowledge I gained about Josiah: how he feels about certain things, how he thinks, and how God made him. I think he'd say the same thing, too (but read tomorrow's blog post to find out!).

Now, our renovations for this particular project are complete. Things still get messy at times, but with the project done, it's much easier to clean up. I'm sure God has more renovations planned for our marital future. The “house” is never complete until we leave this world and meet the architect himself.
However, knowing how that process works and that it DOES work is half the battle.

How does your marriage look? How does your life look? Are there places God has been trying to renovate? Have you been resisting the upgrade, afraid of the process? Have you gotten stuck at the demolition stage, sure that it can never look beautiful again?

Go all the way through with the process. Trust God to work in your life in amazing ways, and He will...every time.