Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Learning Love: The Marriage Cycle

Hello Sharecroppers. It's been a while I know.
When you are a bi-vocational momma ( that's redundant isn't it?since the word "mom" denotes multi-vocational, but I digress)....
  As it goes, I was super busy doing multiple jobs and going back to school. Talk about a full plate.
So the blogging took a little break.

In the meant time I have been writing music, juggling a full schedule, and trying to keep my head from exploding.
I have also been doing my best at nurturing my marriage in the middle of it all.

Aww, marriage.

"When two become One" by Mr. Peruca

It would imply an age of merriment - you know, merry age? ( ba-da-chh!)
But on a serious note,  experience proves it's not an "age" at all. It's more like a series of phases. Marriage can not be learned in a class. It's on-the-job learning at its finest. Marriage employs  learning love, and teaching love- and highest of all-  God love.

Amidst the learning and teaching there is a cycle I have observed in 15 years of marriage. Here is my take on what the " marriage cycle" looks like:

Phase one- Happiness, warmth "Oh my gosh I'm so in love",
Phase two- Contentment.  "I wish this moment could last forever", etc.
But Then an action or verbal event triggers
Phase three - discontentment about something, "Wow I never knew he/she/I _____."
Followed by
 Phase four- a period of questioning. "Does this mean___" " Who did I marry?" "Can I accept that?"
Phase five- the period of confrontation and frustration as two try to understand the other, and try to get the other to understand them.
Then that period goes into
Phase six- a period of contemplation. The fight/argument/discussion comes to a head and both parties feel at a loss. They don't want to keep arguing as it is getting nowhere, and just going in circles. During this phase, a mental analysis of self, the other, the situation, the state of the marriage- past present and future- take place.
After this phase it goes back to
Phase seven- confrontation. "OK I had time to think about what you said...."
Phase eight- understanding, then
Phase nine-compromise. I like to call this co-promises. Rather than thinking about what I am losing, think about it like It's promises you make to yourself and each other regarding working toward the a harmonious resolution.
This then cycles back to
Phase ten- contentment and
back to
Phase one- happiness.

The unique thing is this cycle can span a day, a week, a month, or a year, maybe more. But I can guarantee, you ask any couple married for more than a year, they can attest to the cycle.

It would be nice if we could have the " Hallmark " movie moment all the time, but real life and  different people don't make for sappy, predictable TV.

The truth is God is prepared for every phase and season of our daily lives. This is why he has granted and curated new mercies unique to each of our days.

by Mr. Peruca
The joy of marriage is that once you had had enough tense discussions and heated arguments, you can face them with positivity knowing that you'll be back at One.

Now to single out one phase, eight is possibly the most challenging. Phase eight forces you to really empathize with your spouse and go beyond feeling what they are feeling. It puts you into understanding what motivates the feeling they are experiencing.
Yes- you must get to truly know them. This is where the past comes out in the open, and when the present collides with prior selves. This is when you realize your spouse used to be afraid of the dark, so the TV on in the bedroom is soothing even though for you it's unnerving.  Or they experienced a mental trauma at age six with a family pet that they forgot about until you decided you guys needed a cute terrier. This is when you realize they were bullied in elementary school and going a different way home every day is a conditioned protective measure, not, as you presumed, a spontaneous act of adventure. Understanding is easily the phase that requires the most patience, yet it is where the most love learning takes place.

Understanding can not be skipped. If it is, phase one will be superficial, causing a break down in contentment. As the years go by and each phase cycles completely and healthily, phase one and two are experienced for longer and longer periods, until there is nothing left to question except death's parting. And even that, if your life was lived for the master, will pose no questions, but rather a statement at the end of it all
"Well done". 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Why not?

Image result for grace is the face love wears when it meets imperfection

Why Not
So even if you have nothing much to say
why not
And when you have no kindness left to give why not
give your last?
When you're all touched out, and worn out
why not
Why don't you go ahead and sing even if you can't hold a note?
 if singing is too hard then maybe
 just hum-
and if suffering is long
why not have a good cry ,then
look to the heavens and ask the Lord "why?"- "when?"
Yes life's unpredictable-
why not
laugh in the Devil's face?
Look straight in the mirror and,
Stand out in that crowded place.
Why not be intentional-
living for God-
then use your last hour of  the day
in His word.
Or when you're too tired
why not whisper His name?
 and just let the grace of
His love fan the flame?

And when sleep is distant
why not think of smiles,
and things that bring warmth to your heart,
 whispering praises for a while.
When success's inconsistent
why not voice the sadness,
yet still tell God Thank you
because what you don't have
gives meaning to what you do?

Then he'll say that perfection is being curated;
that even your weakness is strength underrated.
When God is involved , the limit's celestial
He sends forth his Spirit and you are created.

-Created to be his original vision.
This world is the sharpening tool of precision
exposing and molding and trimming, refining.
His Grace is enough. Live freely.
Why not?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Breathing Room

Image result for hope
*Image from Web*

Psalm 18:18-20King James Version (KJV)
18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

For the past month I have been bubbling over with pure excitement! Every time I have a quiet moment joy rises in me from my center and I have to let it out in an exclamation of praise and laughter.
I have caught myself randomly laughing, unable to hold in the physical stirring of anticipation and elation in my belly. 
Why?, you may ask. I am excited about the very near-future.
For a number of years my family ( like many others) has endured trial and hardship. It felt we could not get out of a cycle of financial oppression.  And while some things were effects of not-so-great choices, there seemed to be one wave of challenge after the other preventing us from coming up for air. In the last year however it felt the heaviest for all of us. Yet it was in the heaviness that our faith became the strongest. There were only two options- throw in the towel and give up, or "batten down the hatches" put our heads down and plow through.
I wish we could take the credit for the perseverance and faith, but God gets that. His own Spirit of strength was made perfect in our weakness.
Sometimes the only faith we had was mere faithfulness- commitment and determination to remain and do what we said we would do.
Yet, hope in the future and in a God who is infinite in wisdom gave us the push I needed, to walk on.
Suddenly, as year 2016 ended, and 2017 began, a renewed sense of hope was ushered in with it. Yes, this is the case with any New Year, but this was different. It felt more tangible and more than wishful thinking. It was more than simply a drive to succeed or fortified will-power. Something was planted in my heart, that let me know- know- we were about to walk out of oppression into a large place.
In the meantime, gratefulness flows from my heart, but it is a thankfulness that is fueled by the Holy Ghost. It is a joy that wells up in my soul, sparked by the Spirit of God himself. I can not help but let out a "whoop!" and say an emphatic " Thank you!"
I am myself blown away by it, wondering in my mind where it is all coming from. I lay down to rest and  take notice of the joy that bubbles up. It's remarkable.
And the enemy of my soul takes notice too. 
And he has attempted to put doubt in my mind about the genuineness of my praise. He has whispered that my thankfulness is shallow and superficial- that I am only praising God because the heaviness is lifted. 
The Devil is a liar! If he says it, then the opposite must be true.
So I know my worship is real and deep- and I will not stop. 
In the prison he is worthy and will receive my praise. 
In the large place he remains worthy and my praise too will remain.
Psalm 118:4-6King James Version (KJV)Let them now that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth for ever.I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Is God waiting on you?

Image result for crossroads
image credit: the odyssey online
Isaiah 30:18  Therefore Yahweh will wait, that he may be gracious to you; and therefore he will be exalted, that he may have mercy on you, for Yahweh is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for him. (WEB)

In the context of the scripture there is this theme that Israel feels they are able to rely on themselves. 

15 For thus said the Lord Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, “You will be saved in returning and rest. Your strength will be in quietness and in confidence.” You refused, 16 but you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”; therefore you will flee; and, “We will ride on the swift”; therefore those who pursue you will be swift. 17 One thousand will flee at the threat of one. At the threat of five, you will flee until you are left like a beacon on the top of a mountain, and like a banner on a hill. 
Many times when we say Lord I am waiting on you to move on my behalf, our "waiting" on God is really an undercover demand in disguise. We say we are waiting on the Lord, but really we are bargaining with the Lord. "Lord I will not move until you do this and this."
We stand still, not truly out of  "wanting to please the Lord" but rather out of fear.
In other words, we do not trust God enough to walk on.
Maybe God seems silent, because he is waiting on us to fully trust him.

I know this may seem so opposite to what is traditionally taught.
None of us want to make a move until we know it's the Lord's will. Acts 5:39

Yet consider this-

Have you obeyed the gospel? Yes.
Are you filled with his Spirit? Yes.
Do you acknowledge the Lord daily? Yes.

Then you are in his will, and in his will you are safe.
Walk on and walk in the Spirit, responding to what comes your way, in the Spirit.

But now you reached a crossroad and need to know which way to go.

Is option A transgressing the law of God? Is option B?
Easy. Choose the path of righteousness. James 2:10-12.
Then evaluate-

 Will option A  hinder my growth in Christ? Will B? Hebrews 5:12
    Yes?  Choose the one that won't.
    Neither?  Move on to next question.

 Will option A compromise my ministry or calling? Will B 2 Thess 1:11
    Yes.  Choose the one that won't.
    Neither.  Move on to next question.

 Will option A negatively affect the ministry or calling of another? Will option B? Acts 15:32-41, Philippians 2:3, Romans 12:4-5
     * Now this does not ask will another be in agreement by the decision. We can not control the emotional response of others, but we should be able to determine how much impact our involvement/presence/ministry affects/influences/supports another's.
    Yes.  Choose the one that won't.
    Neither.  Move on to next question.

Do I prefer one of the options A or B?
    Yes. Choose your preference.
Now, Walk on and walk by Faith, responding to what comes your way in the Spirit.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Is it the will of God?- Part 2

OK, let's be honest.
There are happenings in our life story when a finer, more precise decision is needed.  There are moments, if you may, when a deliberate movement of the hand will produce a purposeful, detailed line on the painted canvas. (continuing with our painting analogy from part one)
Image result for painting
thinner brush for details and precise lines*

When a painter reaches for a specific fine-tipped angled brush, preparing to manipulate the paint atop the background, he has a purpose in mind. In this same vein, God is precise about certain aspects of our lives. There are areas that are intended to bring distinctions to, and/or be distinctive from, other areas. There are, for example, dark contrasting shadows that make the colors around them vibrant. When dark moments seem to enter our life canvas, remember that it's purpose is to embolden the bright times.
 Those less clearer points are the moments when we must follow the examples set forth in the word:
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.- Acts 13:2-4

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying the Lord should only be sought in times of great indecision. Daily the face of the Lord should be sought and the requests for God to order your steps should be made. Once you have placed the day and it's events in the Father's hands, trust that your actions from that point, in that day, are in the will of God.
When situations arise, however, that are out of the normal routine and/or cause you to hesitate and think twice, seek the Lord. Life-altering decisions? They should be taken to the Lord in prayer and even fasting.
In the example above God's servants  did not need to know if they were to preach the gospel. They were given that command in Matt 28 and in Acts 1. They did not need to ask God if they were to evangelize.  In the same manner there are somethings we should just know to do as children of God. We do not need to "seek the Lord" on these matters.  And just like the disciples and the apostles in many instances, their path was guided by mere turn of events. There were places they ended up being, simply out of sheer cause and effect. One particular moment met them at a place calling for intentional action and decision. Now, what they needed was clarity on where next to go and in what manner they were to minister. They moved only at the direction of the Holy Spirit. They were able to hear the Spirit's instruction because they prayed and cleared away the distraction of the world and humbled their flesh through fasting. Then they heard clear direction from the Lord.

The conclusion of the matter is this- be anxious for nothing.
Seek the Lord's guidance and trust your life to flow in his Will for the everyday.
And for those moments where the chain of events have seemingly ceased to flow- seek the Lord with intent, with prayer, and fasting. The spirit will instruct you.
Walk on child of God- and marvel at the masterpiece the master painter is creating with your life story.
Walk on and rest in the safety of his infinite wisdom, and his masterful plan.

*Image from web

Friday, January 27, 2017

Is it the Will of God?- Part 1

Image result for bob ross winter scenesOK so have you heard of Bob Ross?
If you haven't, look him up.
He's a gifted painter.

And while watching Bob Ross paint recently, (because hubby has been binge watching every season) I was mesmerized at the brilliant use of color and brush stroke that made every painting breathtakingly, reflectively, and simply beautiful. ( How's that for a long sentence?) 

 I was in prayer Wednesday morning,  focusing on seeking the Lord for direction for my family. The verse in proverbs was my motivation. I wanted to make sure we "acknowledged Him in all our ways, [that] He may direct our paths."
As I knelt at my chair, talking with my Father, a painting from Bob Ross begin to take shape in my mind's eye.
First there was the various shades and gradients of blues and whites, birthed from a whirlwind of broad brush strokes to form the backdrop.

Then Father spoke to me-
See how the magnificence of this background color formed? It was a masterful mixing of hues on the palette, a skillful retrieval of paint onto the brush- just so- , and a confident generous application of the paint onto the canvas. Though,it was not done with a fine brush but a broad one, though the strokes were not singular, but wide-spread, it produces a backdrop from which the rest of the story will emerge. 
Related image
broader brush for background*

These are the"normal"  happenings in our lives that create the backdrop for our unveiling stories. It's  our daily getting up and ready for work-whether inside or outside the home.It's the every day chores, general tasks, and the seemingly mundane responsibilities. God is not at this point worried about the type of toothpaste we choose, the grocery market we prefer, whether you wanted wintergreen or peppermint Altoids, or if the color of your car should be champagne or pearl. As long as it does not cause you to transgress, God can use you at that in-door office job or that  manual labor,construction job. Go ahead and make the choice that suits you best. You will not abandon his grace, and mess up his plans for your life because you chose one over the other. Like the broad brush strokes the painter uses for the background, there are parts of our lives that flow one into the other. God trusts us to choose what to do, without suffering anxiety about whether this be the Lord's will for our lives.

But what of the not-so-normal?

Continued in part 2:

*Image from www.ateliermagique.com

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Holy and Happy Part 2

Related image
image from wanelo.com
Happiness, it seems, can only be defined on an individual basis.
What makes me happy may not do the same for you.
But in exploring happiness in holy matrimony, is it wrong to expect it?

And is it naive to expect your spouse to be a source of happiness for you?

I say no, and no.

 Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.- Prov. 5:18

Why else do we marry, if not in it's simplest form, for the belief that we have found "the one who our soul loves"?
When we are convinced in our mind, and soul we have found the one who evokes that "peaceful satisfaction" in our spirits, we agree to the deepest commitment there ever can be outside of Christ.

And I believe it is God-initiated.
This desire to marry, and our desire toward the one he leads us to marry, are a part of a God-instituted drive, to unify two hearts into one.

Will spouses fail at making the other happy?
because we are frail and dust.
But it is not impossible, to walk in the Spirit, and subdue the carnal nature and oblige ourselves to serve the other in a way that brings them a peaceful satisfaction (my definition of happiness)- and actually find joy in doing so.
Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.- Ecclesiastes 9:9

Yes there is a way to find joy in service. Think about the delight you will inspire in your spouse's heart to have prepared their favorite meal. Think about the smile on her face when you thoughtfully clear the clothes and books from the foot of the bed. Imagine the pure joy in his eyes when he comes home to inviting arms and a kiss.
Shouldn't knowing you had a hand in your spouse's peaceful satisfaction, compel you to put in the effort to do the little things they request of us?

This dedication to your spouse is a holy dedication. It is attentive and exclusive, because no one will know them as well you as the years go by. No one will know that he likes black tea, not green, so much. No one will know her greatest fear and her biggest accomplishment. This is what makes your union holy. And in the pursuit of holiness, there is a peaceful satisfaction that results. Holiness is separation from the "world" and dedicated exclusiveness to your love. This holiness inspires service, and this service inspires happiness.

Maybe marriage was not meant to make you happy, but happy you will be, when holy to one another and to God, you are.

-Blessings, Chantel

P.S. Maybe you would like to Check out the book Sacred Marriage:What if God designed Marriage to make us Holy more than to make us happy by Gary Thomas.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Holy and Happy pt 1

Lately I had been turning over thoughts of marriage and notions of happiness and how to have both simultaneously. I recently read the beginnings of a book that was titled "What if Marriage was meant to make you Holy, not Happy?"
By all means I imagine the author was not trying to say happiness is not to be expected in marriage. Granted, it was making the point that happiness , while not the goal,  is the product of the pursuit of holiness.
Never the less, I believe we can expect happiness- it just looks different from one individual to the next.

So first let me clarify what I mean by happy.
Immediately the word "happy"  evokes, for me, a sense of rest and satisfaction. It's a sense of accomplishment- things are as it should be.

It's watching my children hungrily chomping away at their sandwiches in the middle of the day, knowing they  are one less meal away from hunger. It's hearing the chaos in the hallway from a hide and seek game that has gotten out of hand, and cringing at the noise , yet secretly smiling at the accompanying joy. It's having a cut off notice for the lights but not worrying one bit, because you and your husband are from the "buckle in and knuckle up" club- and we've got each other.

Yes happiness for me does not mean things are "perfect". It simply means things are in place, and are at a level that I can cope.

With that in mind, it's understood that couples may get to a point in marriage where they are merely surviving the day, and they lose sight of happiness. They lose grip with peace and satisfaction as things spiral out of proportion. 

I admit, I may look at my husband at the end of the day, in the middle of a chore, with a put-on smile that only serves to reveal my exhaustion even more. It's on those moments I am silently hoping he can receive the telepathic message: "I see you babe. I just have no energy for us right now." This exhaustion, coupled with dissatisfaction at the result of all the output of my energy, renders me unhappy. 

The problem, they say, is when we look to one another to make us happy.
Or is it? 
 To be continued...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

New year- New priorities

Image result for perspective
image from web
And sometimes its not the priorities that are new. It's the way they fall in your life. 

 Last year, it seems (from general consensus all over the internet), was hard for most folks.
 2016 was a struggle ya'll.
But when the going gets tough, things are revealed.
What's important becomes apparent.
 Things you thought were priorities, reveal themselves to be merely comforts, or preferences, but not quite as important as we made them out to be.

I thought a bigger house was important.
But more than a bigger house, the people in my house needed to work on bigger hearts.
We implemented various ways to cultivate peace and unity in our home over the course of 2016.
Finally in the last month we solidified what we call our Four walls or "laws" of peace

  1. Say Yes and OK
  2. Say  "Sorry"
  3. Honor other's requests
  4. Speak softly
See peace right now is high on the priority list.

And I thought an extra job was important.
But it turned that out more important was the job of keeping my house a home.
The anxiety and stress from trying to clock in and, be prepared, and do well, was not worth the forced neglect of order, overseeing, and management my children needed at pertinent times of the day.  Calm has returned to our mornings, instead of a harried frazzled rush.

Last but not least by any means. I thought reading the bible in one year was important.
I learned that more important than that was reading the bible and hiding it in my heart. What good was getting through all the words, but none of it getting in me? 

How did 2016 reshape your Priority list?
What did you realize you could live without, that you once thought you had to have?

Image result for perspective
Image from web
New year- new perspective- New priorities.
With our relationship with God as number 1.