About Love

JeremiahALEXNov2015-95

Ladies, wait for the man who speaks truth over you. Wait for the man who echoes what your good Father God says to you. Wait for the man who selflessly gives of himself to you (and to others) without being asked. Wait for the man who loves people, whether in an introverted or an extroverted way. Wait for the man who is passionate about his love, care, and concern for you. Wait for the man who loves you.

There was a point in my life when I felt that I was not worthy enough to be loved. I thought I would never be acknowledged, understood, or accepted. But God (those are my two favorite words) started chipping away at my defenses and showed me that he is holding me and caring for me and pushing me to be my very best. He became an anchor for my soul – a good Father and a safe friend.

When I finally listened to what God was saying about me, and I embraced my innate worth as His child, I was then ready to date. When I learned who I am in Christ and a person, I was able to consider moving from “me” to “we.” It took falling more in love with my Savior first to be able to love another human being.

See, my fiance is an imperfect man, but he is an imperfect man who seriously loves me. I know his love is true because he tells me the same things that God does. He speaks truth over me in the same way: reminding me for the millionth time that I am beautiful, worthy, innately valuable, acknowledged, understood, accepted, cared for, and held.

Ladies, a man who does not speak God’s truth over you is not a man you should marry. A man who belittles you, hurts you without apology, ignores you, and does not consider you is not a man you should marry. At the same time, a man who has no life outside of you is also not a man you should marry. A man who spends all his time catering to your needs is also not marriage material.

What I love most about my fiance is that he loves other people and he loves God. He pours into our students at our school and the children at our church. He pours into his siblings. He is an extremely hard worker.

God has placed a man who loves well in my life, and I am forever grateful to spend the rest of my life with him.

www.alexjeremiah.minted.us

Hello 2016

It’s been a crazy year… But haven’t they all been crazy recently?

When 2015 dawned, I was bowling with my mom, brother, stepdad, and stepfamily. It’s a long-standing family tradition. I celebrated six months with that handsome guy in January, turned in my first real resignation letter in March, and began the process of moving to a new state. During a Sunday morning sermon, our pastor explained that sometimes we don’t see the next step. We don’t see point C when we’re standing at point A. We have to step out in faith to point B and follow God’s leading. He said: “Jesus is standing on the waves, calling you to step out of the boat in faith,” referencing Peter’s walk on water. At that moment, I realized God was asking me to follow Him to my next place, which involved moving closer to the guy who would soon become my fiance. So, I took a new job, moved to a new city with new roommates in a new apartment, and fell deeper in love with the handsome guy I’m marrying in less than six months. He proposed in October, and it was perfect.

In 2015, my OneWord was love. One single word to focus on for the entire year. That’s three hundred and sixty five days of one word. One. Word.

But y’all… It works. I learned so much about love. When 2015 began, I was celebrating six months with my first and only boyfriend. When 2016 begins, I will celebrating less than six months until we say “I do.”

When 2015 began, I was learning how to continue to love a Buddhist co-teacher. When 2016 begins, I will be learning how to continue to show love to 60 sweet and crazy teenagers.

When 2015 began, I was praying for the future service opportunities I would have to show love to others. When 2016 begins, I will move from assistant to teacher roles in the toddler class at church.

Above my desk in my bedroom hangs a quote from Ann Voskamp:

You love as well as you are willing to be inconvenienced.

So much truth. Love is not easy or convenient or simple. Love cannot be an afterthought. The beautiful thing is we get another shot each day. I’m not the best at showing my fiance that I love him, and sometimes I find it difficult to accept his love, but I know that he’s not going anywhere. He loves me, and we are willing to try again if we didn’t do such a great job of showing that love this time around.


 

As we move into 2016 in the next few hours, I wanted to take a moment to announce my OneWord for this year. In a world of smartphones and commercials and social media and pushy waitresses, I want to focus. I want to be in the moment. Like the quote: “Wherever you go, be all there.” I want to be mentally aware where I am physically existing. I want to be connected to my body, my soul, my emotions, and my Savior. I want to be real with people who are actually in the same room with me. I want to pray with passion because God and I are actually having a real and meaningful conversation. I want to give and serve and love it. I want to invest into people and I want to be invested in. I want to go and meet and dream and love. I want to be present.

OW2016

To My Dissatisfied Friend

Dear Friend,

I’ve heard recently about how dissatisfied you are feeling. You’ve got me thinking. I’m wondering if I can share a little bit from my perspective.

I know where you’re coming from. I know that feeling of dissatisfaction and stagnation. I know how it feels to be stuck, and I can tell you: it’s not going to last forever.

My first argument is that, as an adult, you can choose whether to go or stay. Sometimes we have to pull up our bootstraps and do something to change where we are. Adults have the freedom and responsibility to make these kinds of decisions. One of my friends with a bachelor’s degree recently applied for CNA school because she saw the importance of moving in a different, more specialized direction.

Other times, we have to dig deep where we are and make the most of what we have. I have friends who have stayed with one seemingly meaningless job, trying their best and working hard, only to get a promotion or to meet someone along the way who offered them a better job.

Sometimes we must make changes and other times we must stay put. Often, we should do one in one situation and the other in another situation. It is prayer and Christian community that helps us determine which is which.

Secondly, remember that social media lies. All of your Facebook friends have their own problems. It may look like I have my life together, but I don’t. I work 50-70 hours a week and get paid less than a garbage truck guy. I’m building an entire high school English curriculum from a few textbooks. I’m planning a wedding, yes, but I’ve got some less than enthusiastic family members to plan it with. My fiance and I are working through previous struggles and how they relate to our current situation. Everyone has their own crap.

Being dissatisfied is very normal in one’s twenty-somethings. After the adventure and excitement (and lack of quite so many obligations) in high school and college, it is easy to hit the “real world” like a brick wall. It is also rare to get your desired job right out of college. On top of this, twenty-somethings are making big decisions in their relational lives. Making and keeping friends; when, who, and how to date; engagement, marriage, kids… That’s a lot, and it’s okay to feel dissatisfied. But you cannot let it define you.

Here’s what I want to say: You are not stuck here. You have great potential and a great future. God is not finished with you yet. I have been where you are, and it is hard, but it is not forever. Lean into Him, change what you need to, stay put with what you can’t change. Make building a solid, God-honoring community your highest goal, right after becoming more like Christ. Allow your disappointments to sanctify you.

Ironically, this is the same advice I would give myself at my current stage: Allow work, wedding, and relational struggles to sanctify you. Isn’t that every Christian’s goal?

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

1 Peter 1:7

Lessons from Two Months in the Peach/Peanut State

Sometimes I still can’t believe I live in the peach state (which should, technically, be called the peanut state, but that’s another whole post).

Anyway, I have lived here for almost two and a half months now, and I am settling into my new normal: Work, church, small group, sleep, eat, work… Serving in kids’ Sunday school every other week… Leftovers, date night, laundry… It’s a little repetitive and a whole lot of busyness, but I learning how to settle in well.

I dreamed about being here for several months. However, now that I’m here, I feel a bit disappointed that, somehow,  it isn’t exactly like I dreamed. I’m adjusting to a new living arrangement (with sweet but new roommates), a new work environment (enjoyable but challenging), and a fairly long commute in metro traffic. At the same time, I’m adjusting to a new extended “family,” new friends, a shifting relationship with members of my family, a longer distance to my family, and a much shorter distance to my boyfriend.

We went from living three and half hours from each other to working literally around the corner from the each other. As in, down the hall and around the corner. Imagine that. We see each other single day, at least three times a day, but usually around 87, since he pops in my classroom around five times each planning period, much to my combined delight and annoyance. 🙂

Here’s the kicker: I moved expecting everything to just work out. I moved expecting a seamless, simple transition where life would be ten thousand times better. I moved expecting, in a sense, all my problems to go away.

Here, I still have problems. Different problems for the most part, although I’m sure a few of the same problems crossed over the state line with me. The problems are a little more grown-up, but nonetheless real and emotional and concerning. I may even have fewer “problems,” per say, but there are still things I’m working through and dealing with and adapting to.

I realized today that I moved without giving grace to myself. Or, for that matter, the people who were with me during the process. In those few moments surrounding the move, I packed up a lot of emotions and concerns that I have harbored against others. I withheld grace from myself and from those closest to me because my heart was (and is still) processing those emotions. Instead of trusting God with my loneliness and brokenness and doubt, I wrestled in my heart, and I had nothing left to give myself or those around me.

At my core, I am fragile. And though I like to proclaim my stoic strength as a woman of stability, I am one of those crispy little leaves, withering in the autumn wind, letting go of the tree I called home.

The first chapter of the Gospel of John says that Jesus took on flesh and blood and “made his home among us” (Jn. 1:14, NLT). He came here to the filthy, messed-up earth and pitched his tent and lived with humans. Why? Because we need him.

We are fragile, broken, dirty, messed-up. Yet he comes into our lives. He intersects our paths where we are mostly desperately in need. He comes alongside us and ministers to us in our places of darkness and loneliness.

Picking up and moving for the seventh or eighth time in six years is challenging. No wonder the little girl inside me is lonely. But Jesus came. He came to the Jewish people, in need of a Messiah. And he comes to me, in need of a Messiah, a Savior, a King, a Father.

I realized my fragility because I saw my need. Yesterday, my boyfriend of one year and three months wrapped his arms around me and told me he had me. He told me he would hold me. He told me he was there. That’s the same thing that God does. And you know what? It makes me angry. Forgiveness makes me angry. My boyfriend is rarely mad at me because he has a heart of forgiveness, and it makes me so confused that I end up getting angry. I am used to anger. I am used to frustration. I understand it because I have received it and dished it out. But God doesn’t harbor anger against me. He doesn’t withhold grace because he is frustrated. 

His mercies are new every morning.

When I think I’m solid and stable, like I thought I was during the moving process and as I settled in, I expect everything to be peachy. I expect to do all the things I had planned and be prepared for all the things I had expected to be prepared for. I thought that by now, I would have homemade-from-scratch baked goods for every social event and birthday cards two days early for every birthday and a perfectly organized social calendar and good relationships with everyone possible.

But I’m not solid and stable. My God is, and I rest on his unchanging grace, but I’m not. By two months in, I’m supposed to have a place to live, a job, and a couple ways to get to work. I’m supposed to have met a couple people at church and had dinner with a couple friends. I’m supposed to have a shelf in the fridge and a section in the cabinet and a favorite grocery store. But I’m not supposed to have everything figured out.

I must give myself the grace to still be learning.

I think I approached this stage of my life adventure the same way I approached my summer as a camp counselor or my semester student teaching in Thailand. Both of those were high-energy, short-lived experiences. They required investing a lot upfront for a fast payoff. I also got by with learning less and speeding more.

However, this part of life is going to be one of slower growth and deeper progress. I am not going to survive this entire school year, or the next one, or the next five without pacing myself. Will Reagan sings about climbing the mountain in front of him with his hands wide open, leaning not on his own understanding. This is that kind of mountain. I am investing here. I am investing into relationships. I am investing into this school. I am investing into this curriculum.

I am preparing for a future with not one, but two. And later on down the road, three and four and more. I have to pace myself so that I have more to give then.

One of the best ways to pace yourself is to take Kaley Thompson‘s advice and “fill it to the brim.” Sleep well, eat well, pray well, and study the Word well. Get counseling, take a day of R&R, invest into relationships that pour into you, and depend on God. Running through life without so much as a coffee break will not fill your bucket to the brim.

So, what I have I learned from two months in the peach state? What have I learned from one year and three months of dating?

  • Give grace to yourself and others.
  • Be open to receiving grace. It is God’s love that gives this grace.
  • Pace yourself to avoid spiritual and emotional burnout.
  • And finally, I have so much more to learn.

Isn’t that always true, though? I have been learning grace since 2013, and I still have no idea what it actually means. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe in my weakness and fragility, I can be used by the God of the universe. Maybe God’s light can shine through my brokenness into the lives of others. What a humbling thought.