There are eighteen attributes of God posted on the walls of the Kids Village rooms at The Village Church. Learning those attributes, committing them to memory, and pulling them out whenever I have doubted the character of God throughout the past six years has been one of the most life-changing disciplines of my life.

After I posted this photo, several people asked for the full list or a link to the posters. A few of the guys in the Comm department told me they’ll think about getting something up in the next year, but until then, I asked for permission to reprint the complete list. It was written by Anne Lincoln Holibaugh, the director of Kids Village for years and one who worked hard to create a well-oiled machine in that area. She’s brilliant. If you know her, tell her (and all the Kids Village/Little Village people) thank you today.

Here are the attributes in list form. Below, if you click on the image, there’s a high resolution image I put together that you can print out and put on your fridge or frame or wherever it would be helpful for you to visualize the bigness of God on a regular basis. I really mean it when I say committing these characteristics of God to memory has been one of the most life-changing disciplines for me. They’re easy to remember, they remind me I am not God, and they speak to nearly every lie I am tempted to believe about Him.

God is:

Wise: He knows what is best
Generous: He gives what is best
Loving: He does what is best
Good: He is what is best
Unchanging: He never changes
Creator: He made everything
Provider: He meets the needs of His children
Holy: He is completely perfect
Just: He is right to punish sin
Glorious: He shows his glory and greatness
Sovereign: He has the right, will, and power to do as He pleases
Compassionate: He sees, cares, and acts when His children are in need
Merciful: He does not give what His children deserve
Attentive: He hears and responds to His children
Worthy: He deserves all glory
Deliverer: He saves His children from wrath
Refuge: He provides places of safety for His children
Almighty: Nothing is too hard for God

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On Thursday we signed the contract for the sale of our house in Denver and on Monday, God willing, the buyers will sign it. For many of you who had your houses on the market for years+, the relief we’re feeling can sound hyperbolic, but I’m going to be uncomfortably honest about why we are relieved. (Uncomfortable for you, maybe, I have nothing left to protect here.)

The Denver housing market (particularly where we bought) was more than double the market in Texas where we’d come from. We knew that being near to the local church where I’d be working was a non-negotiable for us. We wanted to practice hospitality, to have a home that was convenient for others to stop by, and where we could be invested in the life of the city community.

From the day we moved in, our house was just that. Not a day went by that there weren’t people at our house—sometimes three different people would stay in our guest room within a week. We welcomed a brand new baby and her parents home from the hospital for a week when their renovation project wasn’t done yet. We had people spend every holiday with us. We had many late nights with people around our kitchen table and on our back porch. From the moment the house was ours until the moment we locked the doors behind us (accompanied by a few friends who came to say one last goodbye) we tried to be faithful with the gift of the home.

It was an expensive home (for us), and a quirky one. It was a farmhouse from the 1800s that had been added on to multiple times. When we bought it, our realtor said, “This house doesn’t even have a place to put a TV, it’s going to be hard to resell.” We didn’t care for two reasons: we didn’t own a TV and didn’t plan on selling. And then suddenly Nate’s contract wasn’t renewed, the Denver job market for his skill set wasn’t as big as we thought it would be, and my paycheck (which we had planned on just squirreling away since his was enough for all our bills) wasn’t enough to sustain us in that house. We had to sell.

Everyone who ever came through our doors loved our house and we loved our home so we didn’t think selling would be hard. Our realtor set an amount that basically would have us walking away without losing money, but not making any. We were fine with that. We got a contract on it, but then they backed out. Then we got another one, and they backed out. One more, and they backed out. And then again, but they backed out. We were so confused—we weren’t being given reasons for the repeated back outs, and we were more than willing to fix things or adjust our price, but weren’t really being given a chance to talk it through with the buyers. Each time it just felt like a punch in the gut.

We were hemorrhaging money at this point: Nate had taken a major pay cut in this new job, we had moving costs for moving across the country again, to the fifth most expensive city in the U.S., even with a house as far out of the city as we could get commute-wise, our rent was the same as our mortgage in Denver. Plus we were fixing things along the way in the house in Denver, draining our bank account even more. There comes a point where you know the options in front of you are not only limited, they’re humbling—even humiliating. We were talking about foreclosure.

We had put down more than 20% on the house and we kept asking the question: “How much can we walk away with?” We wanted to buy a house in DC at some point, even if it was half the house we had in Denver. To even think about things like foreclosure felt so defeating for both of us. Nate has always has not only stable jobs, but extremely well-paying jobs, and I have tried my best to stay out of any kind of debt. We were not the sort of people who foreclosed. Or were we?

God began painfully, painfully, painfully pruning any assumptions we had about provision. He started that process when Nate lost his job, dug the scalpel in deeper when months went by without a job offer, even deeper when we began to put groceries and home repairs on the credit card, and it seemed he was gouging out all our pride by the time we had to ask the question: is foreclosure our only option?

In the midst of that process, we began to ask a different question: “How little can we walk away with?” At first the answer was, “Enough to pay off our credit card debt and the taxes we owed on Nate’s 2015 1099 salary.” But slowly the answer became, “We can walk away with nothing. We can lose it all.”

I’ve been in the church all my life and I’ve never heard anyone talk about this. I’ve heard people talk about it in a nuanced other people sort of way, or a testimony of how God restored all the locusts had eaten and all that, but I’ve never heard anyone process this in the midst of it. How painful it was. How humiliating and humbling. How there is absolutely nothing I could do to ease my husband’s anxiety about it. How there was nothing he could do to ease my fear about it. There comes a point when you just stand there desperate and empty before God and you can’t do anything and you feel utterly alone in the process. This whole year led us to that moment on the couch, with tears in our eyes, and the reality before us. We could do nothing on our own.

Losing a couple thousand dollars would be hard, but losing nearly 100K felt like a punch in the stomach we would never recover from.

In this process, we confessed all this to our community back home in Texas. We listed out the difficulties, we expressed we had needs only God could meet, and we asked for prayer. It felt humbling and hard. This wasn’t how I envisioned the first year of our marriage to be. None of this was. It felt like God took every imaginably difficult scenario for one of his kids to walk through, and put them all in front of us this year, a row of dominos each one leaning into the other in succession.

At the end of April we got an offer. It was far below what we were asking and had some expensive contingencies included (we’d put a new roof on), but it would leave us with almost exactly the amount needed to pay the taxes and the credit card, not one cent more. We accepted the offer and started holding our breath for the next month and a half waiting for May 23rd to come, and praying we’d make it financially through this month of bills.

A week later one of our best friends came to visit bringing with her a stack of cards from our church family in Texas. Inside were letters of encouragement and love for us—and as we opened each one, out fell money. It added up to the exact amount we’d need for our mortgage in Denver for one more month.

I cried.

This was not how I envisioned this happening either. Accepting those gifts from people who we love and who love us felt hard, but a good hard. We haven’t felt the enveloping love of our church family in a long time and to feel it in such a gutting way was—I can’t even explain it, it was hard. But good. But hard.

There’s no pretty ending to this story, friends. I can’t wrap this up for you. We wanted to tell you for a few reasons though: God gets the glory and He does it through His Church.

We moved to Denver for His glory and His Church, and we left feeling brokenness in both of those areas, but in the face of the brokenness, He still gets the glory and He still uses His Church.

But He also brings us to the point where we have to stop asking ourselves: “How much of myself can I keep?” and start asking ourselves, “How much can I give up?” Sometimes that’s easy, and we’re on the giving side of the equation, stuffing envelopes full of money to send to friends who need it more than we do. And sometimes it’s unbelievably painful and we look to all the world like we’re losing, losing, lost. But He empties us just the same and it’s hurts so good.

. . .

If I have to boil down this season of my life to one BIG lesson it is this: The Church is called to bear one anothers’ burdens. This means we enter into the mourning and rejoicing, confession and repentance process, discipline and discipleship, sharing all things in common—including but not limited to, finances, fears, joys, food, homes, cares, and prayers. If your politics, pride, personality, and proclivities don’t like the sound of that for some reason, it doesn’t change the precedence set forth in scripture.

If our politics of capitalism, of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, of each man for himself gets in the way of us admitting need, weakness, or inability to do something, this is what the Bible says: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

If our pride in self-sufficiency, independence, and self-righteousness get in the way of admitting we cannot accomplish something, we feel weak, or we physically cannot make something materialize where it is not, this is what the Bible says: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

If our personality limits us from asking for help, for admitting we feel disappointed and disheartened, for confessing we cannot see a way through what life is throwing at us, this is what the Bible says: Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

If our proclivities lead to a stubborn or ungrateful demeanor to anyone who tries to help, this is what the Bible says:  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

It’s been hard to walk through this year in a way that holds both the hope of eternity and the hardness of life in tension with one another, to feel humiliated but also humbled, to recognize sin in my life and others’, and to say at the end of it: it’s beautiful and broken, but God’s way is best.

If you’re a regular reader of Sayable it’s no secret that regular writing has been, well, not so regular for nearly a year. Part of that has been the season of life and work for me—I’ve learned over the past 16 years of blogging that there are ebbs and flows, and no guarantee the words will always be there when I want them to. Part of it has just been how spiritually difficult this year has been for me. Maybe there are some of you out there who could make it through a year like this like a champ, I am not one of you.

A few weeks ago I was confessing to a friend how difficult writing has been and she encouraged me with these words: just write about what you’re learning in scripture. You don’t have to teach, apply, or prove anything, just read scripture and write about it. 

One of the places I have been writing for this year, She Reads Truth, has enabled me to do just that: write about scripture. In the lack of wisdom I have about any of the other things I’m walking through, the Bible never leaves me feeling empty. I always feel full when I have eaten at the table of scripture. The feast of the Word always fills its hearers—whether we feel like it or not.

She Reads Truth is about to begin a summer series on the book of Acts and they’ve graciously given my readers a code for a 15% discount on your Acts book orders. To be honest, I never used the books before Lent, they were primarily just scripture and I could just use my own Bible. But during the Lent study I used the She Reads Truth book and found it actually to be very helpful in that I could scribble in the margins in ways I don’t do in my own Bible. It was a refreshing way to look at scripture (how many of us just glaze over the words in our well-worn, well-read Bibles?). Plus, they’re gorgeous and I love celebrating the gifts of art and beauty within the Church.

If you’d like to order a She Reads Truth or a He Reads Truth book or bundle, use this code at the store and get 15% off your order: LORE15. The code is good until Monday, the 23rd of May.

I’m looking forward to reading along with you!

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She drew small circles on his back with her manicured nails. He sat up straighter and leaned forward. I averted my eyes and kept on singing about a God who satisfies all my deepest longings while feeling like a fraud of a worshipper: the single girl who longed for the kind of touch she saw in front of her.

What do we do about public displays of affection in the church? I faced this dilemma every week as a single woman, when it felt like the last time I’d been hugged, kissed, or back-scratched was when I visited Grandma. In church, I saw that affectionate touch knew no generational bounds, popping up among new couples, old couples, and middle-aged couples alike.

Now, I’ve always been a proponent of good hugs, muscle rubs, and kisses on the top of my head. Within dating relationships I was mostly a good Christian prude, but among all the other relationships I was the first to give out hugs. “A good hugger” will probably be my epitaph; among my circle of friends it’s been called the “Lore Hug.” (I could be known for worse and so I’ll take it.)

For all my love of hugging, though, there was something about public affection between couples, particularly in church, that always rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not alone. A few weeks ago, I saw a friend posted her pithy observations on church PDA, and people flooded to the comments to declare “pet peeve,” “creepy,” and “get a room.” I knew where they were coming from—I’d felt that ick factor too—but I waited to respond, and another thought came to me: Shouldn’t the church be the one to reclaim healthy physical touch, even public expressions of it?

Continue Reading at Christianity Today.

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I’ve been lost for almost a year.

It has its perks, of course. I never would have known, for instance, the left turn I thought would take me in the general direction of home, would actually take me past a local gardening center I hadn’t found yet. Or the right turn I thought would head me toward the Super Target would actually end me up on a dead-end street. You win some, you lose some. Or get lost some.

They say moving is one of the most stressful things your body can do and they probably say moving cross-country twice in one year is like throwing yourself into a spin cycle and then tumble dry on high. “How do people do this well?” I ask myself almost daily. I have to look on the bright side, otherwise every wrong turn ends me up in tears.

Isaiah 30:19
For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.

I wander the aisles of the Super Target for an hour this morning. I have no agenda, no list, and no aim. “This is what lonely people do,” I think. “Crazy people.” “But I am not one of those people,” I say to myself, pay for my purchase, and leave. Then I get lost on 242 or 262 or 252 or one of those numbered roads around here.

Manassas is shaped like an oblong diamond tilted to the left, which is beautiful I suppose in its own right, but sure makes a fool out of anyone who has a good sense of direction, like me. Denver was sensible: numbered streets running east west, alphabetical streets running north south. Early settlers must have started life on the east coast and decided that kind of chaos wasn’t their style. A hundred years later and I was more than grateful for their future thinking.

Early settlers of Manassas had no such intention.

I’ve been lost for a year and I’ve also felt lost for a year. I wake every morning wondering if this will be the one, the one I finally feel like myself, feel awake, energized, purposeful, and curious. I did not waste my life before this year and now I wander the aisle of Super Target unseeing and bland.

There are details underneath this surface page we haven’t told you and won’t, and I’m sure some of you wonder what in the world my problem is and I honestly wonder too. It’s been a painful year, or in the vernacular, as one of our friends in Denver told us this week: “This year sucked.” It did, we laughed and then sobered: it did.

I could cry for all the sucking this year has been. Sucking us of life and joy and hope and roots. It wasn’t just us, it was all of the things put together, stirred, beaten, and battered, baked on high until the smoke alarm went off.

Isaiah 30:20
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.

A friend told me today it’s okay to wear t-shirts and yoga pants all day these days. I feel guilty sometimes, like life isn’t worth showing up for. But she reminds me comfort isn’t always a sin.

Nate tells me maybe this is just a stopping point for us, we will plant ourselves here for four or five years, help this church plant in the area, see what God does. He is as full of faith and faithfulness as I am full of doubt and doubtfulness. I wonder if it’s okay to not be okay while still knowing someday things will be okay.

Isaiah 30:21
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

I pass a mom in Super Target today trying to calm her newborn who screams. She’s fretting and embarrassed, and I put a hand on her shoulder and say, “You’re doing a good job and it’s going to be okay.” Her eyes fill with tears and mine do too. We both know it’s true and it’s still the hardest thing in the world to believe.

All of us feel lost sometimes.

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Being a covenant member at The Village Church for five years was a means of grace in my life for that season, a true gift. But even more, learning from the pastors, teachers, elders, and ministers there has been transformative forevermore. The men and women there invested deeply in the empty well of my heart, mind, emotions, and spirit—and continue to do so from afar.

I sometimes fear being the girl who always longs for what she had and can never invest in what she now has, and that fear has kept me from talking much about how grateful I am for my years there. But it is with full faith I can say I am who I am today because of every season of my life—and that particular season was rich and overflowing. I long for my friends and family there daily, but I know God has called us to this day, in this place for His purposes, even if they’re difficult to see today.

All this to preface this:

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One of the most transformative lessons of my time at The Village was sitting under the teaching of Matt regarding equality and complementarity, diversity and distinction. We humans worked it out on the ground at a flawed way for sure, but from the pulpit there was a high regard for the diversity of all people and the equality of every image bearer of God. It was better than any understanding of complementarian, egalitarian, patriarchal, or feminist theology I’d come to understand. It was not a “This way or the highway” view, but a “Come up higher, see how beautiful God is that He would create so intricately and that we would still only understand so partially.” I loved this view of equality and distinction, particularly between genders, because it was never about saying one was better than another or more capable, but about celebrating the differences and the similarities.

A Beautiful Design was the series Matt spent a significant amount of time teasing out these ideas within the framework of the Bible and I’m so grateful Lifeway has put together a study packet on the series. Regardless of your position on gender roles, I think this series presents a level-headed, compelling, rich with the Bible, and beautiful presentation of what it means to be made in the image of God. Matt is imperfect and no Bible study series can communicate all the richness of God’s design perfectly. And I can tell you for sure we stumbled over this all the time on the ground at The Village, but I’m forever grateful it was communicated with beauty and an attempt to come up from the muck of the world’s culture and evangelicalism’s culture and see what the Bible actually said about men, women, their hurdles, their design, and how we need both in full measure within the local church.

If your small group is interested in tackling this nine week study, you can purchase the contents here at Lifeway Christian Resources.*

*I’m not getting paid for this review.

I was 20, driving down the roads with the windows open with two of my closest friends. It was summer, maybe fall, maybe mid-afternoon, maybe midnight. We sang along with the Dixie Chicks, lyrics about being taken away, flying as high as the wild blue, “closer to heaven and closer to you.”

We all dreamed in our particular ways of that someday cowboy. He didn’t look like a cowboy for any of us, but the dream of the man was there. Romance, high heights, wide open spaces—we were well versed in dreams. Both of my friends married within five years of then, neither of them to cowboys, but both to good men, faithful men, men who work hard, own their own businesses, men who have fathered their growing broods of children. It was 15 years for me, but the dream was never too far off. I knew he wouldn’t be a cowboy, but I still wanted to be taken away, treasured, and cherished in some alternate view of what was real and tangible and difficult right in front of me.

Around the same time we were listening to Dixie Chicks on the country roads, all three of us were also reading Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be a Woman. I didn’t retain all the content from the book, but there were four chapters I have never forgotten, and I wish every woman—single or married—would read those four chapters.

Elisabeth, the woman who had not one but three husbands, had to have been somewhat of an authority on these things and yet, the very recognition of them shows her understanding of her own humanity. She tells her readers that if they marry, to remember four things about the person they marry:

1. If you marry, you marry a sinner. You cannot escape the sheer fact that your spouse will sin against you and in front of you. He or she will fail you time and time again in certain areas. You will feel acutely the weight of their sin by the fact that covenant have made you one. The comfort in this is that you are also a sinner and you can approach the throne of grace together.

2. If you marry, you marry a man/woman. You marry someone who is perfectly designed to be just that. Ill-equipped, very literally, to be anything but what they are created to be. And that means that he may not understand why you fuss with makeup, but will probably appreciate it. And you may not understand why he keeps ratty t-shirts from high-school, but you’ll appreciate it too. He won’t want to share every detail of his day and you won’t understand his primal urges. That’s okay. You’re not supposed to be the same. You’re intrinsically and uniquely different.

3. If you marry, you’ll be married to a husband/wife. This means, simply, wives, you submit to your husband, not to every man who has leadership gifts. And husbands, you’re called to love and cherish your wife, not every girl who looks at you with need. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t want to join together in helping your single sisters and brothers out, but you weren’t meant to do that with every man or woman. Just one.

4. If you marry, you marry a person. A real, live, living, breathing, thinking human being. With feelings. And needs. Some as simple as eating three times a day, some as complicated as being heard thoroughly and fully. But it’s a person. Just that. A person. Simple.

. . .

It’s fun to dream—even secretly—about the spouse you may someday have or the spouse you wish your spouse would be, but at the end of the day, he or she is just a man or woman, they are just a sinner, they will simply be a husband or a wife, and they will be just human. They’re spectacularly special, but they’re not epitome of your dreams, the likeness of lyrics, or the fairy tale you’ve always dreamed of. They’re yours and they’re God’s—and you will walk through heartbreak, lost dreams, dirty laundry, broken glasses, and burnt dinners.

I thought I wanted a cowboy to take me away, but at the end of it, what I found was a man who works hard, is faithful to God, leads me gently, and always comes home at the end of the day. He is a sinner, a man, a person, and a husband, nothing more, nothing less.

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In the midst of conflict within the local church the first thing we need to understand is that we are never promised a clean, unspotted, unblemished church (Ephesians 5:27). The bible repeatedly makes the case that the local church on earth will be broken and blemished until Christ presents us clean and spotless.

Therefore, when we encounter brokenness in the local church our response is not to run the other direction, complain, or grow angry at the institution. If we are Christians, then we believe the bible, and the bible says we are imperfect. The crux for the Christian is how we respond, then, to the imperfect church family of which we are a part.

As humans we can be tempted to respond in a few different ways to conflict within the local church. Philippians 4:1-9 has a clear pathway for how Christians walk through conflict.

“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

1. We can be tempted to speculate: Philippians 4 begins with Paul naming two individuals in the church at Philippi who were disagreeing in the Lord. We are not told what the nature of their conflict was. We are not told who brought it first to anyone’s attention. We are told very little, in fact, of the details of the situation. Paul thought it important to not name the specifics of the situation. God ordained that godly men would lead the church as elders and that the body would submit to them as under-shepherds knowing they know specifics of things we might never know. This is a good and safe place for the Christian.

In verse 7 Paul says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul is saying there’s a peace that passes all kinds of speculation. It’s a peace the world cannot give. It’s a peace that even knowledge cannot give. No matter how hard we grasp for the details of a situation, they cannot give the peace that only God can give. When we are tempted to speculate here, let’s entrust our questions to God and ask for a peace that passes the limited answers we’re given.

2. We can be tempted to judge: Paul begins this chapter with the conflict, but he quickly follows it up with the truth that these women have “labored side by side with [him] in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of the fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” What we know is there are some faithful women who have encountered the brokenness of life on earth as humans. But it doesn’t change the fact that these women labored hard alongside the other early Christians.

When the temptation comes to judge, remember the faithfulness that Paul commends. Is there any perfect leader or Christian? No. But commend the faithfulness of all. Flee from the temptation to judge the process, people, or church. Commend faithfulness.

3. We can be tempted to be divisive: Paul says in verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Paul is saying in the midst of this time be reasonable, don’t be anxious, make your requests known to God. Do it with thanksgiving. Exercise gratefulness for what the Lord has done and is doing. Fight anxiety with the truth of the word. Be so full of the Holy Spirit in this time that it is “known to everyone.”

Instead of being divisive, trying to cause division, discord, creating “teams,” or pitting people against one another, rejoice in the Lord always. And again, because it’s so important, rejoice. Fight the temptation to cause division in God’s church.

4. We can be tempted to gossip or listen to gossip: Paul says in verses 8, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Paul is saying in response to this situation where there are unknowns, conflict, and a lack of understanding, do this instead. Think about the things that are true, just, pure, lovely, commendable, etc..

Paul isn’t saying to trick ourselves into being and feeling great. He is saying, though, to lift our eyes up to what is eternally and foundationally true, God Himself, the most true, most commendable, most lovely of everything. Do not be tempted to sit in a pit of gossip with other speculators, panning for the nuggets of curiosity. Climb out of that pit, trust those he’s put in place to lead your local church, and flee from gossip.

Maybe you’re in the middle of conflict right now. Or maybe you’re not in the middle of it, but your ears are juicy for the details of it. I hope and pray this passage encourages and challenges you as it has for me. Let’s all aspire to live quieter lives, trusting God to build His church wholly.

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The train depot is two blocks from our house and I am learning to tell time by the sound of the train whistle.

When I was single every few months I’d ask the Lord, “How long? How long do I have to wait for marriage? Will it ever happen?” Then in the space of three weeks from conversing to knowing, there he was: the guy I’d marry. When Nate and I were dating and engaged, saying goodnight every night felt like agony, “How long do we have to be apart?” Hyperbolic maybe, especially since from first date to wedding date it was three months. Now, a full year into life together, he spends more than eleven hours a day apart from me. The best part of my day is when he gets home, but the second best part is the text message he sends me before he gets on the train for the trek back to me.

The wait is always worth it.

A friend of mine is married to a man from Belize and for various reasons, they’ve been apart for ten months. Another friend says goodbye to her husband every week while he flies jets around the world and back. Another friend is married to a captain in the army—he’s deployed more than he’s home. And many more friends are married to men who are married to their jobs; men whose faces light up when they sit across from new friends, co-workers, or parishioners, and darken when they get home to dishes in the sink, toddlers, and tired wives.

But I have one friend who has been married to her man for 47 years and she told me once that the longing only grows and it only grows if you encourage it.

Harry Burns was right when he said to Sally, “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

For many years I believed the lie that I needed to squelch the desire for marriage. That the longing for it only contributed to the sadness I felt at missing out on it. Then I believed the lie that the first stirrings of love and sadness at being apart from Nate would soon wear off in marriage. Sometimes now I am caught up in the belief that this still present longing to be with him will soon die off.

All of us are waiting for something and the closer we get to the getting of it, the more the longing grows. Christ knew this and this is why He likened us to the Bride and Himself as the Bridegroom. Weddings are so brimming with expectancy, longing, and celebration—the culmination of so much waiting. At last!

But we let dashed hopes and hardened hearts get in the way soon enough. Disappointments, fears, unmet expectations—they grow resentments instead of longings if we’re not careful. Last week Nate was late coming home two days in a row and I wanted to blame traffic, trains, work, and even him for my disappointment, but this is no way to grow longing, I reminded myself.

It is like this with God too. This year has been a year full of dreams let go, mounting frustrations, disappointed hopes, and severe misjudgment. I have sinfully directed my resentment toward God more these days than I have since He saved me. My longing for Him lands silent and limp, like forgotten toys or too small jeans.

Today I pay attention to the train whistle all day. Only one of the trains will bring my love home to me, but all of the whistles incrementally remind me to fan the flame of longing for my King. He too is coming home for me and I want to stand ready, waiting, my longing found completely in Him.

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For the last five springtimes I have lived in a place where it actually did spring into spring. One day it was cold and brown and the next there was green everywhere, leaves growing full-size seemingly overnight. It went from a chilly 45 to a blistering 85 within days and spring had sprung. Texas has her charms, four full seasons are not one. Colorado is her bipolar cousin—albeit less blistering and rarely actually cold, her season changes are like light mirages from the hand of God: now you see it, now you don’t.

It wasn’t the plan to be living back on the east coast so soon. We still feel so whiplashed and exhausted we lose track of things, times, and memories. I lost a whole day two weeks ago. I saw some charges in our bank account and could not remember ever being at either of those two places. Nate coached me into remembrance, but the memories are still slight, barely there. We are at this point of mental exhaustion. I want this season to be over. I want it to be like a Texas winter: frigid and short. Or a Colorado snowstorm: six inches in the morning and gone by mid afternoon.

I have been keeping an eye on all the bushes, shrubs, and trees around our home here. We moved in less than two weeks ago and they are all coming to life these days. I don’t recognize a lot of them so it’s a grand mystery for some of them. What color? What shape? When? It’s as spring should be I think. Brown and stark for so long you’ve forgotten how beautiful it can all be—and how slowly it all comes back to life.

Last night we talked on the phone to a spiritual father of ours. He married us, counsels us, and loves us so deep and well I can’t imagine ever losing him (or her). Thousands of miles between us makes conversation less often, but more sweet in some ways. It seems every time we’ve talked in the past six or seven months he spends most of the time reminding us of what we know theologically and have forgotten spiritually.

He tells us sometimes hard things happen because the world is broken and full of sin—and not because we’re being punished for what we did or didn’t do. He reminds us this is a season—and we are not promised a better one on earth, but we can be assured God is on His throne and knows intimately the length of all seasons. He reminds us to be grateful—for all the swirling difficultly around us, our marriage is solid rock and easy, and that is rare. He papas us. That’s the only way I know to describe it. He reminds me of who God is by reminding me what God looks and acts like. It’s felt brown and stark for so long, I’ve forgotten how good God is.

My writing desk is beside a window in our new house and every day the outside changes in small, incremental ways. So small you wouldn’t notice unless you were paying attention.

A northeast spring is slow and takes three whole months, the way a season should be. The promise of summer is coming and the reality of autumn is certain to follow, ebbing into winter, and then, again, spring.

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In a world of comparisons, ten months of marriage has nothing on 34 years of singleness, so consider me a toddler in the ways of I Dos. I know very little, but here are four things I do know and I thought I’d share them with you today:

1. Marriage is not more sanctifying than Singleness

Don’t believe it for a second if you’re single, and don’t convince yourself of it for a minute if you’re married. It’s a lie that one is more sanctifying than the other. If you got married in your early twenties, you grew up into an adult with your person. You were most sanctified during marriage—but not necessarily because of it. Correlation is not causation. This little lesson should be preached by more married people because it leaves most single people in the church feeling less than and not enough until they’re married. It’s poison. Stop saying it.

God is sanctifying me in marriage differently than He sanctified me in my singleness, the same as He sanctified me in my thirties differently than He sanctified me in my twenties. It’s the beauty of growth in the gospel and in life. He’s always doing something and always making everything new.

2. Marriage doesn’t make you more financially secure; God is the primary breadwinner

I came into marriage never having had a savings account that topped a few thousand. Nate came into marriage with a fat down-payment for our house in Denver and a hefty savings account. We thought between the two of us (me the penny pincher and him the miser), we’d be set.

Within this year of marriage, we’ve sold a house in Dallas, moved cross-country twice, started two new careers, went through six months of unemployment, and now have a mortgage in Denver and rent in DC—two of the most expensive cities to live in. Any carpet of financial security we had coming into marriage has been ripped out from below our feet. We are less financially secure than either of us have ever been in our lives. We are being whiplashed with bills, costs, and drains from every direction.

I know our story isn’t everyman’s, but it sure does debunk the lie that “Marriage makes you more financially secure.” The reality is having roommates (while that may not be what you desire for the long-term of your life) is a very cost-effective way to live. Those shared bills might feel like a noose around your neck, but they’re half or a quarter of what they’ll be when it’s just one paycheck coming in.

We didn’t plan on one paycheck this year. We planned to live in Nate’s salary and squirrel mine away. Instead we lost Nate’s quickly, and lived on mine and our savings account. It wasn’t sustainable. We can beat ourselves up a thousand different ways on this (We shouldn’t have left Dallas, we shouldn’t have bought a house in Denver, we shouldn’t have banked on him being able to work remotely long-term, we should have researched job options for him in Denver better, etc.), but the reality is, we did what we thought was right and good and honorable and faithful—and all of our plans failed.

I’m learning the only thing I can ever find my security in is God—which is the same lesson I’ve been learning for 35 years. My plans have never worked—never! It was foolish to think that would change just because I got married. God has always required sacrifice of me, always asked for obedience, never given me too much of any good thing. I don’t believe it’s His character to withhold any good thing, but I do believe it’s His character to give us exactly what we need of it and more is never guaranteed. Marriage and money included.

3. This one might be TMI, but here goes: the world tells us to get whatever we can from sex, but the truth is sex is only good if you give what you can—and the more you’re willing to give, the better it is.

That might be confusing, so let me flesh it out (Also, I’m having a very hard time writing this section because suddenly every word is an innuendo of some sorts.):

There was an angst in my singleness that had much to do with wanting a partner, wanting to shoulder the burdens of life with someone, wanting someone to love me, etc. But there was also a very real angst of sexual desire in me. I wanted to be held and loved and pursued. I didn’t need it to end in sex, but it culminated many times in sexual desire being fanned in my life. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. God created sex, sex is good, desiring sex is good, and getting married is good. Burning with passion is actually a good motivation (among other things) for getting married. But sex was what I thought would somehow satisfy some longings of my flesh. I wanted my desires to be met physically.

Sex within marriage is good but its goodness is almost never about my desires being met. My husband is a good and caring man, faithful, kind, gentle. He is tender with me and loves me deeply. But neither of us can satisfy desires that are too deep for words and too complicated for human hands. The best we can do is to come to bed ready to serve one another.

What I have learned about sex is that instead of it being the culmination of all the things of the day, sex is actually a very gritty, raw, messy foundation in our lives.

Instead of being the pinnacle, the point, the top of the triangle (thinking I do all the big, heavy lifting throughout life for the tiny slice of joy at the top), it is actually the base of it. Sex is the biggest part. Not because it happens the most, but because when there are a thousands things throughout the day demanding my attention, and most of them are serving my husband in some way (laundry, dishes, food prep, errands, phone calls, bills, etc.), the foundation we have within sex to serve one another makes the day to day monotony a joy.

The climax of sex is not a romp under the covers, it’s asking him every morning how I can help make his day better. It’s putting a healthy nutritious meal in his lunch bag. It’s running to Home Depot to get a special sauce for the weed-eater. It’s folding the ratty t-shirts from races he ran in high-school.

The foundation of learning to serve within my singleness translated directly to how I learn to serve within marriage. Serving my husband in sex is easy—even if there’s no physical return in it for me, because whether in bed, the kitchen, or Home Depot, serving is the posture of the Christian—married and single.

4. I am not my own anymore; marriage is shared sanctification

This has probably been the hardest adjustment for me to make within marriage. It’s not just about schedule, finances, decisions, etc. Those things are challenging for sure. I’m used to planning my own day, caring for my own finances, and making whatever decisions seemed best to me. I can’t do that anymore. Every piece of me affects a person I love. It’s a joy, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

What is more difficult, though, is the shared burden of sanctification. This relates to point one because I think often times what married people mean when they say “Marriage is the most sanctifying thing,” is that saying I Do to all your mess means more mess in my life. In singleness whenever I walked through challenging things it was almost always easy to see where God was sanctifying me and to make small adjustments in my life to submit to Him in those areas. In marriage, though, it’s two people walking through the same challenges together. God doesn’t waste anything, but sometimes the bulk of the lesson is meant for me and sometimes it’s meant for Nate. How can you tell?

Therein lies the challenge. As we’ve walked through this past season of financial difficulty it has revealed areas in our lives of idolatry, fear, pride, and more. And it has primarily affected Nate. Most of the idols being toppled are his in that area. On the other hand, we’ve just walked through a season where I’ve encountered some fearful things, the shootings, the miscarriages, failed plans, my car being vandalized, Nate’s job loss. Never in my life have I been a fearful person and at every turn these days, I’m afraid of something. God is teaching me He is the only one who is trustworthy and He is faithful.

God is teaching both of us things in paramount ways, but they are different things, and the struggle in being one flesh is entering into that sanctification process with the other. It feels like our feet are cemented to the floor and we can barely encourage ourselves, how do we begin to encourage one another?

This is what I’ve been learning: I am not my own anymore. In the past, I was the primary preacher to my soul. I was my best encourager. I was the one who pulled myself up by my bootstraps. But I’m not anymore, I feel paralyzed in the encouragement of my own soul. But I am not paralyzed in the encouragement of Nate’s soul. This is the gift of walking through the mud together: I know the words that lift up his eyes to the hills, and he knows the words for me. It’s beautiful and painful, precious and hard. We are not our own anymore.

. . .

This is long, I know, but I’m hoping it helps some other newlyweds along the way and some singles who might be believing lies about themselves or their married friends.

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I can’t get a friend’s words out of my head: “The enemy can’t steal my praise.” She says them to us over Eggs Benedict and my first coffee all week. Tears ebbed over the corners her eyes and she says it three times over: He can’t steal my praise. I knew then when I’ve suspected for a while. The enemy has stolen my praise.

I think I knew it months ago when my arms hung limp at my sides during worship at church. Distracted by the Sunday morning to-do list that hangs over the heads of those employed by local churches or by the myriad of other things nipping at my heart for attention, I knew I was refusing to praise right then. The road in front of me split in obvious ways: choose to worship or choose to despair. And I chose despair.

I told Nate months later that every time I’ve been able to get just my mouth above water this year some other thing dunks me back under. I couldn’t praise if I wanted to. This is what I said to him through angry, hot tears as we drove in a UHaul loaded with all our earthly belongings toward some unknown and frightening new direction of life.

My arms still hang limp by my sides.

Choosing to not praise or forgetting how or simply not having the energy or desire to do so—call it what you will, the words of praise are foreign to my lips these days. I should be embarrassed to write it, to say it, to put it out in public places in public ways, but I think desperation knows no shame. I take comfort in the laments of David these days. His soul felt so taken from him sometimes he had to search to find it and command it to worship.

More bad news comes this afternoon and we begin to despair again. Worried. Angry. Frustrated. (God, we can’t bear much more of this. Relent, please?)

A lyric I heard on Sunday repeats itself to me: “We find rest rejoicing.” I think I’ve had it backwards. I’ve been hoping if we find rest it will be followed by rejoicing, but this says it’s the other way around: the way to rest is to rejoice.

Today I clean the bathroom of our small AirBnB in Maryland. I clean the kitchen. I take our laundry to the laundromat. I fold every t-shirt with care and precision. I make the bed. I put away the laundry. I stare into our small and sparse refrigerator and plan dinner. I stare at slate blue and mint green walls. I wish I had a book that’s been packed away since February 3rd. I talk to our realtor. I cry. I hang up Nate’s shirts. I put away the dishes. With every rote motion I say these words to myself: I find rest rejoicing.

I don’t know how to rest these days and I’ve forgotten how to really rejoice. But I do know how to say words with my mouth that my heart doesn’t fully believe, and this is where I will start: God, you are Creator of the universe and you know my name and you know, too, that I am only made of dust. Relent, please. I worship you.

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Exodus 33:14-17

Marrieds love to tell singles going through transitions and hard times, “At least you’re not tied down! At least you’re free to be flexible! At least you can make your own schedule, etc.” Singles love to tell marrieds going through transitions and hard times, “At least you have each other! At least you’re married! At least you don’t have to do it alone!” The truth is that painful circumstances in our own lives can bring offensive, short-sighted, and dismissive platitudes to real struggles in the lives of other people.

Freedoms that exist within singleness come with a cost and the partnership that comes within marriage can mean a similar cost.

In singleness, the freedom of scheduling means more time spent walking through dark and difficult things with many different people. It can feel incredibly isolating to walk through hard things in other people’s lives and then come home alone to a lonely home and an empty bed. That freedom you envy in your single friend’s life comes with a cost.

In marriage, the partnership of a spouse means you can’t go home at the end of the coffee date, you can’t schedule your life in compartments of ministry time and personal time. It’s all ministry time, making dinner, raising children, making money, even having sex, it’s all ministry—and sometimes it’s incredibly difficult ministry. That partnership you envy in your married friend’s life comes with a cost.

In singleness, the freedom of flexibility means sometimes there is a very strong lack of stability. There isn’t a family needing to be provided for, so it can feel like your job is expendable to your employers, it can feel like you’re the only one paying all the bills, and it can feel like life is just one lease to another. The situation in your marriage might be the same, but “Until death us do part” gives one form of stability many singles desire and do not have. That flexibility you envy in your single friend’s life can mean an isolating instability for them.

In marriage, the partnership of fidelity also means there is a strong temptation to hope in that stability instead of in God. There’s a constant wrestle within marriage to console yourself with the belief that “at least we have one another,” when in truth that is a ploy from the enemy. We have God. The same as when we were single. The gift of a spouse can become a gift we begin to worship, to find comfort in, and trust in, instead of the Giver. God alone is faithful. That partnership you envy in your married friend’s life can mean a constant and strong temptation toward idolatry.

Marriage and singleness are both sanctifying, neither one is more or less. If you ask me where I was more sanctified, marriage or singleness, I would tell you the sanctification doesn’t even compare because it is precisely and exactly the same.

In singleness I struggled with idolatry, selfishness, fear, pride, self-sufficiency, and so much more. In marriage I struggle with all of them still, not more, not less, the same. God, in His goodness, shows me that He is the same whether I am single or married by showing me that I am the same too. The only difference in these sanctifying agents is that for 34 years singleness was the best way to prove, distill, and refine me, and now marriage is God’s best way to prove, distill, and refine me.

Friends when we are tempted to start a sentence to anyone walking through a different and hard season with the words “At least…” remember the God we serve only and ever gives the best in every season. He is not doing the least of anything in your life.

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“Her attentions are divided (I Cor. 7:34)” was exactly what I didn’t want to happen in marriage. I wanted to stick it to Paul, show him I could be married and undivided in my affections for the Lord, undistracted by cares of the world. I could be married and still be everything I’d been in my singleness. What is marriage if not addition? One + one equals two. Double the ministry. Double the fulfillment. Double the impact. Double everything. Win, win.

The past few months I’ve felt the subtle pressure of a kind of feminism in my heart. As Nate searched faithfully for a job and I brought home the gluten-free, sugar free bacon and the paycheck, the belief that my job itself was reason to stay the course in Denver crept in. It was internal and it was external. I believed it and others enforced the belief. Lots of stories rolled in about long periods of unemployment for husbands and how in that time wives worked 9 to 5 and they made it work and God showed them much and then after a year, two years, three years, five, God finally provided a job. They made it work, see? We could too.

Here’s where the division of my attentions made itself known: My husband deeply desires to provide for our household. He loves to work and works hard. The only time I see him rest is on our self-proclaimed Sabbath, and even then, it is work for him to still and quiet himself as a reminder that God is everything he longs to be. My husband wants to work, can work, and feels called to work—even if the work means we move to a different location.

In every other season of my life, my employment or vocation was my primary calling. I felt called to the work of the local church, in the role of nurturer and minister, and to be faithful with my pen and mind. This was my primary calling and I tried my best to do it faithfully, with joy, contentment, and an undivided heart.

In this season of life, though, my household (Prov. 31:27), my marriage, and my husband is my primary calling. He does not take the place of God in my worship, but he takes the place of all the other things I had the freedom to do in my singleness. His dreams, his goals, his desires do not trump mine. They do not have the final word over mine. But they do set the course for the direction of our family.

Think of it like this: we’re setting out to move to DC in two weeks. We can drive or fly, use a moving service or a UHaul. We can drive on RT 70 the whole way or RT 80. We can get there in any number of fashions, but there is where we’re going. In the same way, Nate has a calling and we get to be creative together in figuring out how to fulfill that calling.

This is what it means that in marriage our attentions are divided. I don’t call the shots alone anymore. Hand in hand, eyes set ahead, we walk forward together into what God has called our family.

The creeping belief that as a new and liberated Christian woman I won’t wrestle through these divided attentions is always lingering around my front door. It’s not just in the world, though, it’s in the church. From every corner women in the church are being proclaimed to, preached at, and pinterested to death that We Can Do It! We Were Made For So Much More! Loosen Those Chains! Run Free!

And again and again women are exhausted, depleted, and tacking index cards above their kitchen sinks to remind them again and again that They Can Do It!

Here’s a truth I’m learning in this time of divided attention: I cannot do it and I was not meant to.

God, in his sovereign goodness, joined me to a man in my 34th year of life. He knew I would spend my life single and undivided up until that time, and immediately after marriage, he began the deep and difficult work of turning my eyes away from the good work of singleness and to the good work of marriage. He made provision for me, the one with divided affections, competing desires, and clashing goals. He promised me in his word that I would be divided. The tearing of my flesh from my spirit—the work I thought he’d almost completed in my singleness—has begun again within marriage.

A friend texted me last night after we made the move public. She said, “‘She looks well to the way of her household’ means you never have to wonder what to do; look well after the man you’ve been called to,” and for the first night in weeks, I slept the whole night through.

I am called to look well to the way of my household. In our home that means to encourage, exhort, push, challenge, and make space for my husband to thrive. He thrives in working hard. This is the way God made him and I love him for it. The desire God has given him is to work in the government, to live nearer to our families, and to plant our lives deeply on the east coast. The rest is just details. We get to figure that out together. And God is in all of it.

. . .

If you’re a wife and you’re expending yourself exhausted trying to figure out how to be undivided, free, and full of all the life and vitality you see out there, try this experiment for a week or two or three: Just look well to the needs of your household.

For some of you that means being the primary financial provider for your home, for some of you it means staying at home, for some it means caring for children and your husband primarily, and I don’t know what it means for others. You seek the Lord, ask Him what the needs of your household are, and how you can look well to them. Then put your hand to the plow and be faithful.

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