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Tears that don’t flow

Crying and no tears fall.

Weeping and no puddle to show.

Merciful or merciless?

I can’t tell.

I want to know.

Where does this emotion come from?

No, that’s not the question. Where? That I know.

Where is the evidence of such emotion?

Numbness, leave.  You are not welcomed here.

Christ, I know You are near.

Spirit speak, I’m eager to hear.

Abba, Your embrace is my comfort.

Like Nehemiah, Lord, I too long to overcome.

“Overcoming opposition takes an overwhelming confidence in God’s word.”

A burial from responsibilities, I am unprepared for!

Why have I allowed the task to become my authority?

If I drown, might it be that I drown overwhelmed by Your goodness, Your kindness towards me in Christ today.

I know, I’m learning Your Word.

I’m applying, I’m praying Your Word.

May Yours be spoken from my lips,

even more than my own.

Your words have power;

mine are…expression.

Still, you listen.

In Your sanctuary, You are.

My cries reach Your ears;

Songs, too.

Hallelujah, for You are praiseworthy.

Your promises assure:

I am made in Your image.

You affectionately, delight in me.

You rejoice over me, singing joyful songs.

Again, I remind myself:

I am made in Your likeness

Molded by Your marvelous hands each day

In my waking, I work to glorify You

In my resting, I am renewed by You

My thoughts I hold captive,

I focus my thoughts, my actions on You and You alone.

You are in my social, my emotional, my mental, my physical, and my spiritual  expressions of life.

Each breath, and in every heartbeat,

I have purpose in You.

Fully to enjoy You, O God, is to glorify You.

If what I say reflects Your promises,

then what is said is true.

So, again, I ask:

Merciful or merciless?

You are merciful, O Lord,

and I reflect You.

Therefore, there is no possibility that this dry spell I feel is absent of You.

You care.

You show compassion.

You allow Your people to speak of our perceived needs.

You meet us right. where. we. are.

I am crying.

Jesus, You wept.

We express heart cries for salvation:

for the new birth of salvation;

for the renewal of salvation;

for all people, of all nations.

You long for salvation.

Man made intimate with You.

I am renewed.

Never abandoned, never alone.

Commune.

I shall commune with You,

with Your community.

A fountain of mourning.

A fountain of pleading.

A fountain of hoping.

A fountain of healing.

You are cleansing us with Your pure waters.

O LORD, still, I cry dry tears.

I am only human,

but You, You are blameless, flawless in every way.

Your fountain, O Lord, will never dry out.

We come, we come to drink of You.

We come, we come to feast of You.

You, O Lord, Jesus the Christ,

You are all we need.

Brethren, in these next moments, be still. Let God hear your praises.  Whether your expression is spontaneous or led, you are gathering with sisters and brothers in Christ around the globe who know intimacy with God produces joyous hearts that cannot contain the gratitude we have for Christ. Praise God, glory glory glory, hallelujah.

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This post will continue to adapt as life progresses.  I believe this may be a very long post but will remain a clear, crisp catalog of necessary focal points for the engagement and early married stage.  If you have something to add, please write a comment or message.

Conflict happens; it’s actually quite a good thing.  The key is how you fight.  Make sure to ground and calm down so that the argument does not speak out of heightened emotions.  The idea is not to “win” but to end fairly, drawing closer together rather than claiming individual victory.

Conflict causes intimacy.

Avoid using “Why?” questions.  “Why?” sounds condemning and interrogating.

Reflect and discuss with your partner on how you witnessed your parents and other married adults process through and resolve conflict.  How do you work through and resolve conflict–fight, flight, or freeze?  Speak through models and concepts for future conflict with each other.  What will you say when you need a break or when the day has been too heavy and you can’t give your partner your all in a tough conversation? What does “do not go to bed angry” mean to you both?

Take time outs.  Know how one another naturally responds and find a compromise that allows for grace and mercy to speak louder than the emotional reactivity.  Take a breather, pray, write down what needs to be said, and ease your way back into the conversation.  Lean into each other and trust your foundation in Christ.

Love is an action.  It is something we do.  You may not always like each other, and it is okay to admit, but ALWAYS affirm you love one another, especially in the midst of conflict and in the resolution/conclusion of an intense moment.

Fixers out there, do not rush to the resolution.  Allow for conflict to be a time of processing and growing together.  Find a pace that benefits the marriage rather than hiding issues in the closet or under a rug.  Don’t just put a band-aid on the wound, help to clean it out and patiently seek the healing with your spouse.

Trust. Gottman’s facebook page is a quick resource and encouragement for me: “Sorry does not equal trust.  Sorry equals forgiveness.  Changed behavior equals trust.”

“Forgiveness isn’t about accepting or excusing a behavior…it’s about letting it go and preventing their behavior from destroying my heart” (Anonymous)

We’re getting to know one another each day of our entire lives.  Give one another credit and grace: When something awful is said, reply: “I know this isn’t your heart. I’m choosing to forgive you…”

In communication

If you are a counselor, you know that we have to read between the lines often.  Verbal and non-verbal cues help us to understand what is going on.  In relationships, our developed skill helps us to know people without asking all the intrusive questions.  However, your husband may need you to ask the questions to know that you care to get to know him, even though you are able to gather information about him in a more subtle fashion.

Fight with and for one another, the couple unit, NOT against one another.

Listen to understand rather than to reply.

Empathy. Offer one another warm, accepting arms, listening ears, and an understanding heart.

Communicate how each spouse understands biblical leadership roles and how the roles will be met within the couple unit.  Examine Scripture and other literature, individually and together.  Discuss what you find: what you want to adapt and what you disagree with.  What are you willing to give? Where’s the compromise? What exceptions exist that require flexibility in roles?

Finances.  Communicate where each spouse finds value.  Assess how money has been spent individually, in dating, and how categories of spending will be budgeted for in marriage.  The first month is a trial (so leave extra money for just in case and adjustment spending).  Each week assess how you’ve been doing: Where have you overspent? Where are you both doing very well? What change(s) do you want to make the next week? Then, at the end of the month make the calculations.  Month two is again an experiment.  Same guidelines.  Be open to feedback and tools from people who have been practicing and budgeting longer than you.  The key is value. Arguments over finances often occur when what one person values either causes too much to be spent, when money runs dry without them being able to enjoy their valued aspect, or seeing the opposite in their spouse.  There may be a need for compromise, but first, budget for “fun money” for each spouse and experiment with how much is practical for your relationship.

Oxytocin is key.  Get as much of the hormone as you can.  Safety in a relationship is the ultimate fabric of trust and knowing one another.  For intimacy to grow, we must each feel safe.  Oxytocin helps to feel comforted by one another.  How do you share oxytocin? Skin on skin.  My recommendation? Sleep naked.  There are added benefits.

Taking care of yourself is not selfish.  Rather, it is quite selfless.  Care for your health–physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  Make the effort and allow your spouse to take the journey with you.  If your spouse is challenging themselves in a specific way, keep them accountable and motivated by joining in with them.

Shared experiences.  Anything that works towards “making a home together” try to do together.  The act of creating and molding is an intimate experience in nature (ie. cooking, hanging pictures, setting the table, folding and hanging laundry, choosing where things will go and what will be displayed: formation of the room, location of furniture, etc.).

New experiences.  Share in the first memories of exploring new places, new cultures, new activities, and new cuisines.  Nothing touches memories of the conversations and trust that comes with a mutual experience.

No distractions.  Put the phones in the glove department, lock your car, and head out for a walk, picnic, or for a meal.  When it comes time for sex, have the phones in the other room and on silent (unless used for mood music). Be completely enamored with your significant other, there, before you, and in the moments you share with one another.

Boundaries.

Make a safe place in your home where conflicting conversations, phones, and stress do not touch.  Usually the bed, but can be somewhere else, is for intimacy and intimacy alone–sexual, spiritual, and emotional.  Set a place apart for heavy conversations.  Set a place for prayer and a place for fellowship.  You will need boundaries between what is communal and what is private–information shared and what is seen by visitors in your home.

Friendships.  Everywhere and with everyone you invest in takes time away from the marital unit.  Deuteronomy has a wise suggestion: “A newly married man must not be drafted into the army or be given any other official responsibilities. He must be free to spend one year at home, bringing happiness to the wife he has married” (24:5).  We can instill boundaries to protect the coming together of man and wife.  With this said, be careful and wise about the people you allow to influence your life, your husband’s life, and your marriage.  Be careful and be wise with whom and what you allow to enter your home.

Pursue relationships with couples in your life stage, who are ready to experience life fully seeking after God’s intention for their marriage, who are willing to challenge a perspective change, and who you both can laugh and be free with.

Pursue relationships with couples who are just a stage or two ahead of you, who are willing to open up their life book, inviting you to scan through the pages, learning and growing from their life experiences.

Pursue deeper community in the church.  Allow yourselves to be known and serve with one another.  Do keep in mind the boundaries that protect the foundation of marriage.  Serving may appear different for a season.  Heck, church may even appear different for a season.  The idea is experiencing life lived authentically in community with God’s children while serving God in pursuing holiness.

How will you introduce your loved one to your friends in words and reality?  How will it look differently with single and married friends?  How will you protect your single friends? How will you protect your spouse?  All while remaining transparent and available to the loving-kindness that comes from loving and being loved by God…

Speak with one another about what will be shared with friends–single and married–and what should not be shared outside the marital unit.  What is the difference between complaining and sharing?  Who will you permit to be accountability partners?  Motives.  Are you trying to up yourself or do you present problems to others with a willingness and vulnerability of heart and mind for changed perspective and approach?

Intimacy.  Emotional, Physical, Spiritually, and Sexually.

Know each other’s love languages.  Everyone receives “I love you” differently.  Some are rather good at serving, others may be brilliant poets, while others offer up intentional quality time.  Yet others know just the right gift to give someone.  And still, there are those who are most affectionate with their touch.  However, our spouse may not receive “I love you” best from the way we are naturally best at offering love.  So we MUST put their receiving love language into practice.

Honeymoon/ First time Tool Kit:

  • Coconut Oil or alternative lubricant
  • Vitamin E Oil (Trader Joes)
  • Mood music
  • Red sheet
  • Snacks & drinks (preferably ones that don’t cause lethargy or bloating)
  • A scent (cologne, essential oils, lotion) to help the memories be tied to an aroma
  • Birth control
  • Probiotics (to prevent vaginal infection and sickness for both wife and husband)
  • A sex book for communication, positions, and further exploration (Sheet Music, Celebration of Sex)

To improve sexual intimacy and health…Sexercises to be done by the bride-to-be/wife and the groom-to-be/husband and the foods that heighten sex drive and health for the bride-to-be/wife and the groom-to-be/husband.

The vagina is a very detailed part of our bodies.  We can strengthen the vaginal walls with kegel exercises (which when done during sexual intimacy adds stimulation and closeness for both partners) by flexing the muscles inside our vagina as if to hold and let go of a pencil. Daily care of the vagina consists of using a gentle soap, such as Dove’s Unscented Bar Soap, to wash around the vulva and in the folds of the labia, while not getting any in the actual vaginal canal which cleanses itself through discharge.  In case you do experience an irritating, dryness or infection–Bacterial Vaginosis, Urinary Tract Infection, or Yeast Infection–there are preventatives as well as home-care health solutions to practice.  The biggest things I learned: ALWAYS pee after sex and NEVER put a douche up your vagina–it cleans itself.  Remember bad bacteria thrives in warm, moist environments, and in cleaning your privates, be sure to keep from cross-contaminating from your anal and vaginal regions.

Speaking of lingerie…Be confident in what you choose to wear.  If you like structure, wear it confidently.  If you like freedom, be free.  If you like the unstructured feel with support, find it, wear it, and let those fawns (as Solomon says) or head lights (named by Dr. Kevin Lehman, author of Sheet Music) show.  He’ll enjoy the appearance, and you’ll enjoy the comfort.

Period sex.  To us, it may be gross and slimy in thought and feel,  but in actuality, it makes for a great lube. The key is red sheets.  After the fact, you’re reminded of its’ presence, but perspective change: you just painted your spouse naturally with your own body.  That’s intimacy.

Sickness. Understanding each other’s needs and wants is vital, especially when one spouse is sick.  “In sickness and in health” we choose to love one another.  So when expressing our needs and wants is difficult, we’d benefit from such rhythms already being known.

Clearly identify for one another what comforts–medications, environments, practices, and limitations–are expected or most beneficial when sickness occurs.

Although generally, we speak of sickness as a physical ailment of some sort, for the purpose of building the foundation of marriage we’ll include physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual exhaustion.

Limitations.  I find speaking in “engine” or “temperature” terms helps best.  When I have only 30% to give in an entire day if an intense emotional conversation happens, I’m only able to offer everything else 10%, or I’m completely absent and shut down. When my engine is low, my temperature rises quickly.  Meaning, my reactivity is up.  I’m more likely to say something that may hurt my spouse’s feelings or stop responding altogether.  That’s me, but what does it look like for you?  Discuss what is fair and loving for your relationship when one spouse is sick: What does physical affection look like–kissing, intercourse, sensual touch, manual stimulation, or any other used practice? Are all heavy conversations put on hold or is there a gauge you can use to justify if the time is now or later to address the topic?  How much grace and freedom is acceptable–do you put off homework and work projects or turn in less than average work?  What is the most loving way to greet one another when one is sick?  What does quality time look like?

Be brave enough to call a HALT (time-out for when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and/or Tired) and take 20 minutes (minimum) to cool down, climb into the upstairs brain, label what you felt/feel, explain your need, and communicate in a way that honors both yourself and your spouse.

Do not bring mom into the debate.  Moms typically care for their children when sickness strikes; however, in marriage, suggesting to your spouse, “well Mom did this…Mom did that…” has no place unless there is a time of teaching your loved one how to make soup, how to tuck in the blankets, or do any other preferred comforting practice.  Even then, take out the “Mom” language and appreciate the caregiver that is currently with you–your spouse.

Family worship.  Each morning praying each other up, recognizing and asking God’s intent for each breath to be known and experienced throughout the day.  Each night spending the last hour in God’s Scripture, praising, and praying beside one another and together.  Ending the night with a final word of affirmation of how your spouse best exemplified God’s love to you. Allowing neural pathways to form around Truth and love, shaping the night’s rest and dream content in preparation for the next day.

Regular check-insJeremy and Audrey Roloff call their time “Navigator’s Council,” Gottman calls it “The State of the Union Meeting,” and Stephen and I call ours “Lion’s Den,” so feel free to be creative with how you label these disciplined hours for your marriage.  During these times ask: What are your needs and wants for this week? Have I been meeting your needs and wants this past week?  What do you think of our communication, of our conflict this past week? Have we been assertive? Have we been fair?  Have we given each other grace and encouraged one another’s growth? How can we best pray for and affirm one another in their call this week?  How can we best pray for our spouse this week? What are our goals for this next week?  What are the priorities–necessary accomplishments and needs over wants?  How can we best affirm, motivate, and keep our spouse accountable to meet their responsibilities?  How will we each individually and together seek rest during the week?  What was said or unsaid, done or undone that needs forgiveness?  Have I held to my vows in action this week? Add any other questions and feel free to modify the list as you present yourself to God in confession and surrender, and in the emotional vulnerability you have with your spouse in deep conversation.  End the hour or so each week at the altar with your spouse, then coming together to respond with the marital gift of sexual intimacy.

Review your vows regularly.  These promises to one another are meant as an address of love, but are also a measurement, a challenge to be kept.  Bring them into your check-ins, onto dates for the romance component, or into sex, for just some ideas.  If you did not write personal vows, feel free to look over ours, Song of Solomon, other vows, or take the opportunity to write them this week and for the first time reveal them to each other on your date this week.

Date days/nights.  No electronics.  The world is the present.  Have fun, laugh, and dream together.  Check-ins are separate from dates. Family worship is separate from dates, separate from check-ins.  Each have their separate need for attention, but combined have power to build up the togetherness in understanding one another, the couple unit, and the direction two are heading together.

Set a bare minimum. In acknowledging your–yours and your spouses’– love languages, set “I need at least ___ every day to fill my love tank and serve God in what He asks of me this day.”  For example, our bare minimum includes a component from each part of our whole selves: spiritual (sharing a prayer–one opens and the other closes the prayer–in bed at the start and end of our day, we read a short devotional after prayer in bed), we read the Gottman Minute and respond to one another with the emotional challenge each day, we greet each other physically with a 6-second kiss, socially we interact with one another and our intentional friends, and mentally we remain students to Christ, school, and our marriage daily.  What are your bare minimums that honor you, your spouse, your marriage, and above all, the Lord?

I mentioned at the top that this will continue to be updated, because, in all honesty, these are practices my husband and I are learning, adapting, and applying into our own marriage.  In many of them, I have my own faults that are being worked on now or will be in the future to come.  What I ask of myself and of each of you is effort.  Reality is we are not in our heavenly bodies, so we are incapable of being perfect in any and all of these practices.  So, we remain moldable: honest, willing, and teachable.

Recommended Resources: Gary L. Thomas’ Sacred Marriage, Timothy Keller’s Meaning of Marriage, Kevin Leman’s Sheet Music (Christian author on sexuality), Dr. John Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Matt Chandler’s Mingling of Souls, Christopher & Rachel McCluskey’s When Two Become One (Christian take on intimacy), Dr. Gary Smalley’s For Better or for Best and If Only He Knew (each is a book for the spouse to familiarize themselves with the gender differences. I recommend reading them beside each other and spurring up conversation when you get to an “Aha” or “Do you really think this way?” moment),  Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages (simply take the inventory and read about the different love languages online.  Their online resources suffice without needing to read the book),  Dr. Eliana Gil’s Outgrowing the Pain Together (for couples where one or both spouses experienced abuse as a child)

Books on my reading list (if you have read any of the following, please let me know if you would or would not recommend these books): Les & Leslie Parrott’s Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, Morris May’s How to Argue so Your Spouse Will Listen, Gary J. & Carrie Oliver’s Mad About Us, Michael & Amy Smalley’s More Than a Match, Ted Cunningham’s Fun Loving You and The Power of Home (for couples later in life and with children)

This past weekend, my husband and I got out of the city we live in for a few days of reflection, prayer, and rest. We’re just over five months of marriage at this point.

On our way home, we stopped for coffee at a quaint house turned coffee shop overlooking the beach.  The morning had been incredibly wearing on the both of us as we laid our selfish selves before the Lord and both chose to selflessly care for the marriage–and the ministry marriage is itself–above other demands in our current life stage.

Outside the coffee house, dozens of butterflies fluttered around one flowery bush.  One captured my attention.

We’re all a little bit broken….just some show it a little bit more than others.

“When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat.  They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus” (Mark 2:1-4).

My husband broke it down and reflects…

that dude who got let down through the ceiling by his three friends definitely didn’t have his crap together. broken in paralysis but in humility, he stayed on the mat and allowed his friends to lower him down and bring him to Jesus. this is me. man, i don’t need to come to Jesus with my performance but rather trust the process. transformation is from the inside out. only by Jesus my sins are forgiven. only by Jesus i can rise up and walk.

So for all of us who might be showing our brokenness a little bit more than what seems to be the societal norm, let us pray together with Christ who has and continues to be constant despite changing circumstances.

My heart is confident in You, O God; my heart is confident.  No wonder I can sing Your praises! Be exalted, O God above the highest heavens, for You, O God, are constant, and no circumstance wavers Your foundation. There is no quake You feel, nothing is ever new or unexpected to You.  Be exalted, O Lord.  Lord over our circumstances.  We follow You, and You alone–be the voice we hear, the path we see.  When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.  Now I walk in Your presence, O God, in your life-giving light. You listened when I was overwhelmed by my troubles.  You have restored in me the joy of Your salvation.  Continue to make me willing to obey.  Continue to defend me with Your might.  Please, also continue to lead me through Your Word, that I would reflect back to You the power and Truth of Your Word as prayers–that my will would become Your will, O Lord, and that Your will would also be my will.  I am awake, O God, my loyal spirit seeks after You through Your means of being near to us, Yahweh, praise be to thee, the ever near God.  Your life, Christ Jesus, is transforming.  By Your example, I shall walk.  With Your watch, I shall rest.  And by the power of Your name, I shall rise and see Your purposes administered here on earth as they are in heaven.  

Jesus, in Your precious and powerful name we pray.  Amen.

Wedding Vows

From Stephen:

melanie, my beloved, as i stand opposite of you, i know very well that you are my woman, my bride, my wife. love is a loyalty sworn not burning for a moment, come what may i will be standing right here by your side. early in this relationship you received my rib, within six days (let’s be real, day one) you stole my heart and today, i give you my life. you are worth more than this pen can write. just like Jesus love for his bride, you’re that way to me.

melanie, as a man after God’s own heart, full of courage and the truest affirmation i have these vows for you:

i remember telling you EARLY in this relationship that i wanted to marry you, before i said i love you. well here we are, we’re getting married today and i love you. melanie, i am so ready to love you like Jesus does.

that is sacrificial,
i vow to die to myself daily, to love you as Christ loves the church.
that is service,
i vow to join my dream with yours, to be a foster parent, to some day see the willow tree and to be a part the retreat center and to build his kingdom here for the furtherance of the gospel.
that is leading,
i vow to love Jesus always and to never walk away from Him. to be submit, live in humility, and to lead you wherever the Lord decides to take us on this adventure of life.
that is shepherding,
i vow to shepherd our home, whether that is with the youth, our children, our families.
that is being THE MAN.
today, i am giving you who i am. my weaknesses, my strengths, my family,
i have the greatest affection for you my beloved and i intend on loving you well every single day of my life. i am so proud to carry the title of being your husband.

miracle

it’s when i pull you close
i feel you the most
and it’s not just because
articles of clothing have
met there stitches
and dyes have proven their colors
but it’s transcending beyond the skin
it’s the little words
that have bigger connotations
and if you believe Jesus
still does miracles
i’m looking at one of them
every time i see
that light hit your eye
it’s that shooting star
september 6th
that broke in half
a piece of me
in the parts of you
one adam
one eve
one atom
one evening
that was just the beginning
and this is just me
telling you
three words
that will never separate even if
you tried
because i love you
is heavens language
given to speak on earth
man to woman
woman to man
bind us together
like ropes for a sturdy hand
all hands on deck
anchor in the chaos
constant in shalom
best friend and lover
they say smooth waters never made
skilled sailors
but we aren’t slaves to the sea
we like dust
have found our purpose to
grow
a piece of you
in the parts of me
this is why i draw you close
and i want to feel you the most
because we were never meant to be alone

so thankful 1 peter three four reminds me of what a godly wife should looks like and when i read this it says everything that you are melanie: her adorning is hidden in her heart with an imperishable beauty and she has gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

melanie: you’re my best friend.

you are my cursive, my shoes, my rhythm, my song.
brand new and flying every day with you.
i love you.



From Melanie:

When I write prayers on your heart I do not include my name.  You said it speaks to my selflessness and intentionality to pray for you, as well as to the fact that I’m a writer too.  Today, is an open letter.  From the first thoughts and words to these following words, these I know to represent my coming to the altar with you, beside you, willing and eager to serve and dance the dance of life with you.

With marriage comes so much more than the physical.  I know it is your love language and do intend to continue loving you well through it, but let’s face it, physical touch and me is a very new concept. I’m only 9 months in.
I never want to get bored of you. So my promise to you, Stephen Goetz is a promise to seek to know Him more personally, to seek Christ in you, and to grow in a way that is always open to you for exploration.  May we step into togetherness in this new way, fully together with Him, trusting in each other as we adventure into what has been shown and into the unknowns of this life.  I am with you, my leader, my friend, my beloved man.

Days before we met you wrote:
“I only know one thing
To protect what’s behind me
One man’s trash is another’s treasure
So this heart
Has already been broken
Do you still want it if it’s busted?”

My “I do” is my forever answer to you.  I vow to love you as you are, as I continue to pray for the growth of your tomorrows.  Each day, I vow to see you, Stephen Joseph Goetz, as the man whom God continues to mold as His own. I love you and will always surrender to Christ, submit with you unto Christ, and work together as we grow in who He has called each of us to be individually and united as man and wife. Beloved, today marks our togetherness.  A subject we talk about often. Hand in hand, each giving 100%, but today more than ever before their is a war and we are winning because with His force as we join together hard times will come but the strength we have as we lean into each other, longing to honor and point to Christ with our words– those said and left unsaid–and our deeds–those done and left undone–directly implode upon the enemy’s plan to wreck each of His heirs.

Just as you thought of, prayed for, wrote to, and pictured the possibility of me before my meeting you, I too have considered what this, that is marked by today.

May we affirm one another each day in considering the worth we are as His son and daughter.  A worth far beyond rubies.

Words of affirmation.  Your second preferred love language.  In this too, I commit to love you well.

As you feel safe in my arms and I in yours, might you and I always know our hearts are to be trusted with one another.

I commit to be mindful of doing good and not evil towards you.

I love that we work side by side to create a welcoming and comforting home.

Alright, I know my eating limits your daily options. BUT, I commit to cooking you your favorite foods on occasion.

I commit to continue planning in advance how to meet your needs.

I commit to watch my own health in honoring you with my body.

I commit to be mindful with purchases.

I commit to grow and learn new skills to keep our home, our ministries, our relationships in good health.

I commit, WITH GLADNESS (trace his tattoos), to extend a helping hand to the poor and open my arms to the needy, alongside of you.

I commit to walking into any storm in life, prepared and faithful, as your partner, your wife.

I commit to build up your confidence and speak kindly of you, as you hold honor and respect in your roles as husband, youth pastor, leader, friend, brother, shepherd, teacher, student, and coach.

I commit to hear and to also see you as “clothed with strength and dignity, and to laugh without fear of the future.”

When I give instruction, I commit to being increasingly mindful of doing so with kindness and wisdom.

I commit to watching over our household with you, and not growing lazy.

Your youth already stand to praise you, they look upon us and see Christ.  Our children too, will stand to honor both you and I.  By God’s lead in our lives.

Thank you for loving me and for coming under this arbor with me. Today, I read Proverbs 31 and know today you make the decision to pursue only me for all of our days: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”

Praise be to God.

Stephen. Crown.  Heir.  Months ago you asked for your name in hieroglyphics.  Today I’d like to pray with you over the meaning of each character in our shared name.

There are two final gifts, physical gifts, I have to offer you before we join together in every which way.  These are my final gifts of “my money” rather than “our money” and I must say I’m pretty proud of them.  So the first. Your brother and father have partnered together to frame a piece my parents and brothers helped me purchase in Cairo. Already, our families have ties represented in our home. And I’ve delighted in this since January and will continue to as time grows the bonds between our Goetz and Demlinger clans.  Not separate, but together. United by the bonds of our marriage.

G- symbol of happiness
O- symbol of charity
E- symbol of justice
T- symbol of beauty
Z- symbol of unification

With a commitment to:
Surrender. Submit. Together.

A model to lean into one another as we are founded in Christ and glorify God together

And a home we seek to stand for:
Harmony | Holiness
Openness | Otherness
Ministry | Missions
Enriching | Empowering

I am ready to affirm my new name in unity with you by signing these vows before God, our families, and close friends here on your heart for the very first time.

Where do we go from here?

This song came from first listening to Jeremiah Daly’s “At Last” and incorporates one of his stanzas as well as the general theme and flow of an outcry.  His stanza is demonstrated by its being in italics.  Also, a capital “We” includes God and I; whereas a lowercase “we” is my submission before Lord seeking where, in my relationship with Stephen, we are heading.  Because of this distinction, you will find more lowercase letters than are grammatically correct.  Please look past the grammar to the heart.  This is a song developed over the course of a brutal day requiring intensity in prayer before recognizing the replenishing of spirit as I sit before the Lord and in our togetherness.

it’s as if I lost my way;

I was surefooted, but now I question

nearly everything.

it all seems so uncertain;

and yet I believe.

so Lord,

where do I go from here?

where do I go from here?

where do I go from here?

where do I go from here?

 

my hope is that

I can learn to be content right where I’m at

time will tell

and I’ll keep searching for answers inside myself

where do I go from here?

where do I go from here?

where do I go from here?

where do I go from here?

 

lead and I shall follow

please pave the way, I know

You to be with me always

trusting You stand with me now

trusting You stand with me now

so I ask once more:

where shall We go from here?

where shall We go from here?

where shall We go from here?

O Lord, where shall We go?

 

be still, I shall.

but I don’t want to sit;

when you are clearly walking with me now.

Lord, where are We going now?

O Lord, where are We going?

 

where do we go from here?

where do we go from here?

Lord, guide us,

help us,

show us, You are here.

where will we go with You?

Lord, show us

we beg You.

 

thunders rolling, cold war

he is not my enemy nor am I his

weapons down

fighting for each other

white flags waving

unto You we surrender

 

storms raging,

we’re not flailing

no, Lord

You say be still,

be calm,

have courage,

walk with bravity

 

You, Lord, are here

and so we say: thank You

Mighty King,

we bow down

with You, we shall rise

continue

we walk with

walking with one another

so Lord, where shall we go?

where shall we go?

where shall we go?

 

Seeker of lost souls

we are found not lost

with You we shall know

this is a trusted path

with You we shall know

this is a trusted path

 

With dignity, integrity

we have courage,

walking hand in hand.

it’s as if a triangle;

us under You.

so as we look to You, we ask:

where shall we go from here?

where shall we go from here?

where shall we go?

we go with You.

we go with You.

surrendered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life and New Life

Today represents both the birth of one grandma and the death of my other grandma.

My Grandmother Reva actually received the best birthday gift possible 53 years ago, a son.  However, 10 years ago, my father was unable to celebrate, when his birthday bore the responsibility to care for his wife whose mother had passed away the very same day.

So today my mother created a tribute album for her mother, my Grandmother Marjie.  My grandmother continues to be the person I attribute much of my character to.   Before Christ, she was the person I aspired to reflect the image of most.

Legacies are tricky to me.  I know it sounds harsh.  But, to me, legacies most often times are the boasting of a person’s name and achievements.  I have written on legacy before, and know that I desire to leave the legacy of “home matters;” the difference is, that legacy does not need to be attached to my name.  Rather, it is one that parallels the refuge of God’s wingspan as an eagle protecting His children.  It is a legacy that recognizes the purpose and ability God has established in me.

Another reaction to today’s contrast of events also seems to lack compassion, but has been reflected on in prayer and is worthy of sharing in transparency.  The simple task of memorializing a person’s death, considering anniversaries is not something I planned on partaking in, until my mother’s tribute was sent to me.

My grandmother passed when I was 14, a freshman in high school.  The moment I had freedom in driving, I began to spend more time speaking with her at her burial ground than I did speaking with my parents at the house.  It was about a year and a half later that I received the Lord in my life, and that stopped.

Until the moment I walked into the Family at North Coast Church, my grandmother was the guardian angel looking after me.  I had not known the Holy Spirit, and so she was the nudge I followed.  It was her life I emulated.

But that stopped. And I believe, rightfully so.

I respect the Jewish tradition of leaving rocks on the tombs of loved ones deceased.  But with Christ, I see freedom of souls.  The body buried in the ground no longer traps my grandmother, so why visit her there?

Within the last hour I was given a new perspective.  Thank You, Holy Spirit!

As the title suggests, today marks the day of my grandmothers birth.  Today, nearly 80 years ago, breath entered her lungs and she cried for the very first time.  She was embraced by two parents and entered life with a name attributed to her by her parents.  The celebration of birth, of life.

BUT it also is the day of my grandmother’s death.  Different lady, different bloodline.  Today marks the day her spirit entered into eternal life in the presence of Christ and His everlasting people.

I wrestled in the beginning of grief, years ago, whether my grandmother truly lived a selfless life of service for the betterment of people or as an act of serving Christ in them.  I gave up, recognizing that God had not given me the ability to understand.  So I faithfully set it aside and pursued His character, His life, reflected in my own living.

That was until just this hour.  Now, there is a peace in me assuring that she has life, eternal life, in God’s presence.

I am very grateful for the life Paul lived as an example of a man, surrendered before the purposes of God’s placement in His life.  I am very grateful to have read the burnout and struggles Mother Teresa experienced with her own faith as she served the lowest of the low in the Indian caste system.  I am very grateful to have lived over a decade under the leadership of my grandmother and seeing her humbleness in service: both in providing and receiving.

Their legacies point to the glory of God.  In their confessed weaknesses, His strength was made known.

Honestly, this was far from the hardest part of my day today.  Stephen, the man who God has placed as my partner in ministry, led me in worship tonight.  Especially in our wavering, we will continue to lift our voices:

“I love you, Lord:”

I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul rejoice!
Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear

Lord, as we consider the lives of those who continue to breath, and those who have left this earth, may we see their goodness as the blessings of gifts and experiences You poured out onto them, and worked through them.  May everything we see as good lead us to praise Your name.   May our sorrow in grief lead us to lean into Your comfort, into Your counsel.  Thank You for being present and for continuing to teach me, even 10 years later to view this day in a new perspective.  This day is incapable of overcoming me, rather it is a day You continue to reign over.  Thank You Lord, that I cannot fall.  I’ve stumbled, but Your strength has provided rest when I am too tired to consider anything more.  I carry on to lift Your name, sovereign King of all.

This weekend I attended “Equipped to Care,”  the first conference held at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary focused on equipping parents, prospective parents, students, and professionals on how to best care for themselves and the orphans of our country through foster care and adoption.

This is my heart. A healthy burden I intend to act on.

Within a few weeks of Stephen and I sharing life–truly sharing the life the Lord has revealed would come of our commitment to ministry–I opened up about my heart for foster-adoption.

Already, I  knew that my beloved Stephen traveled to Uganda on a short-term missions trip this past summer with a married couple expecting to bring home a Ugandan orphan, a dear sister of Christ who is newly engaged to his best seminary friend, and others from the seminary community.  He brought back the vision for multiple tattoos to commemorate what God ignited in him during his time serving, but also the injury that left him forced to humbly submit to the care of his sisters.

The time he spent with these sisters ignited his commitment to pray for a wife who cares for the orphans and widows of the nations.  In our dating relationship, he even joked that these two sisters would have refused him dating me if it was not my heart.

That’s the backdrop.  Over the past months, I shared about how I committed to adopting a homeless gal’s baby if he were born 4 years ago, and then, my intent to foster while living and studying in Charlotte.  Both huge commitments, lost.  And I had only realized the need to grieve their loss just months before meeting Stephen.  I am burdened for the children of God who are not receiving His love through the compassionate hands and hearts of His people.

As I shared my past experiences and known commitment in the future, I thought he got it.

When he praised God that I was a woman who cared for the orphans and widows I thought he was also making the commitment, saying “I am also burdened for the children of God who are not receiving His love through the compassionate hands and hearts of His people.”

Communication.  I am a visionary by design.  Future minded while enjoying the present adventure.  Stephen is innately present always, and can glance into the future with joy as he faithfully believes in the Lord’s provisions.   A glance.  And for me, a nearly whole picture.  Two different perspectives requiring exchanges of words to make sure the picture described is truly being viewed by the other.

There have been several conversations this week on the topic.  Beautiful times of unveiling one another just a bit more.  He sees who God has made me to be, what life has brought me, and what the future shapes me to aspire towards.

But in these conversations, it has been made known, he had no idea what I was expecting him to understand, to sign up for in those initial conversations.

I asked him this week.  A few conversations with times to rest and reflect in between after he sat in a conference session with me, “When you began praying for a wife who cares for orphans and widows, is this what you meant?”  Really, I was realizing that I had basically just thrown my boyfriend into what seemed a bit like a parenting class and asking “is this too much for you?!?”

For me, it was an invitation to see what I study on a regular basis, what I intend to do professionally and personally.  He was grateful for the invitation and he understood my intent, the material discussed, and the impact of such knowledge in caring for America’s orphans.  But it still led to a hairy discussion.

Conversations can be difficult.  It is vulnerably putting out what my heart weeps for and faithfully believing that this is the man who God so elected to partner with me in this ministry, and He will therefore, grow Stephen’s burden for foster-adoption.  But it cannot turn into something I hold over him either.

Stephen shared with me a little about a friend’s marriage.  How difficult it is on their relationship as the wife dreamed of international missions and is now planted firmly in the states supporting her pastor-husband.  They spoke briefly of passions and desires, but it was never boldly proclaimed, “I want to follow the Lord’s call on my life and live overseas ministering to families of different ethnic origins,” and the response would have been, “I can’t offer you a life abroad.  I’m called to stand firm in a church right here.”  As beautiful as their ministry is together, perhaps this difference would have prevented their nuptials; perhaps then, she would be partnered with a male missionary and her pastor-husband would have the support of a wife called exactly to the role of pastor’s wife in the American south.

These are scary conversations, but they cannot be feared.  It is faithfully believing in the Lord’s sovereignty in growing the partnership, equipping both parties for the mission, and uniting their hearts in their ability to serve Him as He so leads.  This is the purpose, the foundation for speaking boldly of what God has planted and how He reveals your particular ministry call will continue to grow.

I believed before that Stephen is the man I intend to partner with in a lifetime of ministry, but after sharing this call to parent and to counsel foster-adoptive children as a “will you commit to praying this call into your own life as you lean into God to teach you how to father kids from hard places?” his response has affirmed it once more:

i really love you. and i really love that God is moving in our relationship.  to deeper things.  seeing the real and the unknown but yet, hand in hand.  100%. and i definitely started praying. you didn’t bombard me at all. maybe call it a burden.  but it’s a good one.

precious woman, i wouldn’t of asked for your hand that day six days in if i wasn’t taking this partnership seriously.  i love your words. sinking deep in my chest.

Our difficult conversations have very much been in person.  The above two messages were sent via text as an affirmation of where he is at currently, while taking the day to rest on his own.  Stephen uses only lower case letters in text in respect of God’s name, hence how I have written his words above.

Please commit to praying with me for the burden I have shared with my love.  And also, commit to praying for the burden you share and your love or future love shall share with you.  Let us be the Body, moving with God as He paves the way.

And the light of Christ shall be known.  We are an extension of His grace, His love to all the peoples of every nation.