In A World of Pure Imagination

Faith, hope, & love.  These three easily recognizable Christian virtues from 1 Corinthians 13:13 are also widely valued as human characteristics that benefit ourselves and our society.   All 3 require an element of imaginative thinking.  To have faith, we must believe in a God bigger than ourselves and our own limited conceptions.  We hope in a future and eternity that we do not physically see, but must imagine.  We love others best when we imagine them as God sees them–immeasurably valued and worthy of glorification through Christ.

Imagination enriches our lives in many other ways too.  Getting lost in a book, dreaming up new businesses, playing make believe with a child.  But when imagination gets misplaced into the hands of an idealist, things get messy.

Idealism sounds nice but has some fairly nasty side effects.  At it’s essence, idealism is the practice of forming expectations about the way the world should operate, especially unrealistically (the dictionary’s words, not mine).  When we start projecting our idealism on a very real world, we set ourselves up for disappointment at best and destruction at worst.

My imaginative ideas about what makes the world better might not actually be good or wise.  Or even if I do happen to strike on a good vision of what the world ought to look like, the way I go about forcing my will on reality will probably hurt others in the process.

But what happened to our hope, our faith, and our love?  Don’t those require some idealism?

Not necessarily.  We need our imaginations to develop our virtues and we need optimism to live out those virtues in this often confusing and hard life.  But idealism and optimism are not the same thing.

The optimist is full of hope for the future whereas the idealist insists that the future fit their vision.  The optimist seeks ways to make the world a kinder place while the idealist works to make the world their kind of place.

Well-intentioned optimists can easily become dangerous idealists when imagination is misplaced.  Living in a country where I don’t speak the language has taught me that the hard way.  Things never go as planned and insisting on forcing my vision inevitably leads to frustration.  I’m slowly learning to redirect my imagination and view this world with optimism instead of idealism.  It’s a process for us perfectionists but I believe it’s worth it.

The last installment of my Misplaced series will hit the blog next week!  It’s about one of my favorite topics–budgeting and personal finance.  Thanks for following along so far!

2 for 2

We’re officially clocking in on our second year of marriage today, and I’d give this whole married thing a solid two thumbs up.  So far, we’re 2 for 2 as far as amazing years of marriage go.

After birthdays and Christmas and Valentine’s Day, we both felt like our gift-giving abilities were limited so we’ve made it a tradition (2 years in a row counts as a tradition, right?) to go in on a gift together for our anniversary and pick out something that is edifying to our marriage or brings us closer.

This year’s gift.  Can you guess what it is? 🙂

I’ll be sharing about the gift we chose this year next week on the blog (some related exciting news coming soon–stay tuned!) but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned from last year’s anniversary gift.

His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage

We thought we had read all the marriage books before we got married, but we were wrong.  This one is my favorite because the author isn’t afraid to deal with the reality of a married relationship.

Central to the book is the concept of a “Love Account” that we each have with everyone else in our lives. When we feel loved, a deposit is made in the account. When we feel hurt, a withdrawal is taken out.  For two budget nerds, this double-entry accounting method of describing a relationship had a great appeal but I understand that it sounds a little too mathematical to some.

These Love Accounts explain why you can be in love with our spouse/significant other but still have an affair with someone else.  You can have two love accounts with lots of deposits each with two different people.  As you can tell by the title, the book then describes how to keep withdrawals to a minimum with your spouse and how to avoid making the wrong kind of deposits in someone’s love account who isn’t.  What I really appreciated about this perspective is that it explains why

(A) trust and love can be eroded but recovered

(B) it’s easy to get stuck in a non-stellar relationship (romantic or otherwise) but not be able to let go if the love deposits are just marginally greater than the love withdrawals.

One of the ways we can make deposits in the right love accounts is by enjoying recreational time together. During the chapter on this need for joint leisure, the author frankly states that if you don’t share any favorite activities, you’ll need to do some brainstorming to find mutually enjoyable hobbies and then ditch your favorites to make time.

We hear about sacrifices in marriages in vague terms, but I loved the bluntness of this author’s approach.  Being married might mean giving up your favorite activities.  And that’s okay.

All this to say, read the book.  Whether you’re married, engaged, dating, or not interested, it’s an insightful look at how we love.  It’s encouraged me to not always insist on my way. It’s also inspired me to be more intentional about finding ways to make those deposits into Luke’s love account.

For a $12 book, I’d say that’s a pretty good ROI.

Onward and Upward

I can’t be my true self around my husband.  I can’t say whatever I want, do whatever I want, or act however I want.

And that’s a really good thing.

Because my true self is selfish and way too worried about schedules and spreadsheets (I would have made an excellent railroad operator).  My true self doesn’t think about the fact that she’s living with another human being who may not want to get dumped on about the day’s littlest details the moment she walks in the door.  My true self has sky-high expectations for her husband’s every word, thought, and action without holding herself to that same standard.  My true self is careless about feelings, quick to offend, and slow to forgive.

So thank goodness that my husband draws out the best in me and challenges me to be my better self instead of my true self.

“But shouldn’t we be able to be vulnerable and open with our spouses?  Shouldn’t our homes be safe places to share our feelings?”

Well, yes.  Of course.  But whether if you’re bound to someone in a marriage covenant or just split a rent check each month; you are no longer an autonomous being.  Our moods and words effect our housemates and spouses.  We should strive to build relationships that encourage truth.  But those beautiful relationships aren’t just the result of throwing all filters out the front door and saying whatever comes to mind.  Sometimes loving your spouse means shutting your mouth.

For me, it means checking my mood when I get home from work. Right before I turn the corner leading towards our studio apartment and right after making a few quick glances into the dark corners of the gardens to make sure our not-so-neighborly skunk isn’t waiting to sabotage me, I think “would I want to greet myself in this mood after a long day’s work?” If the answer is no (and it usually is, because even the best days at work end with a commute in Southern California traffic), then I pause and take a moment to reset my perspective on the day and stop dwelling over the little angsts from the past 8 hours.

My true self still shows up a lot.  I say things that are unkind and worse yet, I really mean them.  I am grateful that my husband and friends continue to shower me with love that appreciates me for where I am but also can see the better me and continually encourages me to become that person.

Game Point

Confessions of a Newlywed: I kept score.2541312.jpg

You’re not supposed to. According to the marriage books and the Bible, love keeps no accounts of who did the dishes last and who most ordinarily plans the meals and who has the longer commute. Yet I continually struggled through the first few months of marriage to not mentally keeping track of these things and feel personally offended when chores weren’t done EVEN THOUGH I WAS CLEARLY AHEAD IN THE IMAGINARY GAME AND HAD MORE POINTS.

And then I got sick. Evidently, camping in 20 degree weather after you’ve been nursing an ear ache and low fever for a month is not a recipe for health. I lay helpless on the couch, coughing, hot and cold, feverish and peevish. And Luke, being more wise and better at listening to marriage books, the Bible, and marriage vows, took care of me and the house, made the food and deep cleaned the kitchen.

All of a sudden, I didn’t want to keep score anymore. I realized I not only wasn’t in the lead but I was losing points rapidly. Keeping score is only fun when you think you’re ahead.

As merciful and kind as Luke was in my hour of need, God is immeasurably more so in our lifetime of inadequacy. Yet I ask Him why He hasn’t delivered on certain things I believe I deserve. I am confused when I don’t see things in my life unfolding the way I imagined, the way I planned for, the way I worked to achieve. Why do I feel this way? I’m keeping score because I think I’m ahead and God owes me something.

The only thing I’ve earned from God is a cup of wrath and suffering. Yet He dumped out that cup on my behalf to save me from myself and my sin. That would be enough. But God continues to amaze me as He takes that cup, now empty of wrath, and fills it with blessings beyond belief. A husband who doesn’t keep score, an apartment, family, good food, friends, a fairy garden, Costco ice cream, warm bread, sunny walks.

So I’ve put away my scorecard for good. In that game, winning is losing.

Loving Better

Since May 15th at 7:00 pm, when I triumphantly handed in my last final of my Junior year, I’ve slept in 8 different beds with 2 more to go before I return to my bright raspberry creamsicle room.

I never expected to stay in (multiple) strangers homes, co-author and self-publish a childrens’ book, go to Boston, or take up kickboxing during this past 3 months span.

Through a series of  conversations, packing up and moving out, getting caught in the rain (always), making friends at the Y, learning how to write (again), learning about what makes a family, Skyping Siberia, and waiting tables at barn weddings, I finally picked up on God’s creative ways of teaching me to love better by:

Loving Myself Less
I’ve always had a surplus of confidence, allowing me to walk into almost any situation with the assumption that I will not only learn quickly the necessary skills to thrive, but that I would come up with a better way of doing things.  Being an intern for HOPE International, an excellently run organization with competent leadership and a vision way beyond my overly confident self, was incredibly humbling and refreshing.  I was valued for my skills but expected to stretch myself and learn from those around me.  Not hard to do, when surrounded by some of the most intelligent and faithful servants of God I have ever had the pleasure of working alongside.
Loving Change More
Even though I’m leaving the summer with more to-do lists than I came in with, I’ve learned that plans not only can change on a dime–they will.  It’s part of life and being able to embrace the unpredictability of not having the world under my control (who knew?) has released me from the impossible burden of always arranging everything just so.
[This book helped immensely.]
Loving Others Better
It’s only because I am a mere 4 days from seeing my fiance again that I can say that this summer has been a wonderfully growing experience in learning how to one day (soon!) be a godly wife and in the meantime, love and serve to the best of my ability.  Of course, a month ago, I would have just whined about time zones and distance.  Thank you to all who have showed me examples of Christ-centered marriages and shared their candid advice.   More on this to come.
Loving Life Fully
Its a crazy adventure, but it’s worth living.

How’s your heart?

Evidently there is only one way to learn the alphabet as a small child in your stereotypical American home.  You take the letters, set them to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and then impress your other four year old friends by rattling them off as fast as possible as many times as possible in one playdate.  This speed memorization by rote process of learning the English language had two side-effects.

1)  It took me about 10 years to figure out that the tune of the “Alphabet Song” was the same as our favorite celestrial nusrey rhyme.
2)  For the longest time, I thought “LMNOP” was a letter all in itself.

Obviously, once I started reading I figured out that there were in fact 5 distinct letters.  Yet I think we still have a tendency to sing-song our way through conversations.  When I see someone I know, we always sing this little diddy.

“Hellohowareyou? Imgoodhaveaniceday.”

Maybe its not to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but it may as well be.  To give myself some credit (since I’m writing this and I can)  I genuinely do care about how someone is doing and if I ever got an answer that wasn’t “Greathowareyou?”  I would be more than willing to continue the conversation in that direction.  Yet I can count maybe three times that I have given a non-positive answer to that question myself and feel like that is the case for most people.

My friend and I were talking about a different question you could ask.  Her thought was to instead ask “How’s your heart?”

At first, I thought this was a neat, if not mildly intrusive, idea.  Yet I kept thinking about it and tried to play out a scenario where I would ask someone that and it terrified me.  Am I really ready to know what’s on someone’s heart?  Do I secretly take comfort or at least rely on the fact that no one will really share their heart so that I don’t drown in the depth of others?

I hope that isn’t the case.  More likely,  I’m too afraid to inquire after the condition of someone’s heart because I don’t want to have the questioned turned on me.

The Drawer

It’s full of odds and ends.  The junk drawer.  Where obscure items get shoved when your mom tells you to clean off the table.  In my house, there is this weird thing where we refuse to acknowledge that we have such a drawer.  But we do.  Just no one wants to admit it.

Good job, you made it through the intro.  This post is an odds and ends drawer.  A few random thoughts that are not quite meaty enough to have their very own post.  So they end up here.

#11.  Random Acts of Kindness
Guess what?!?  It is Random Acts of Kindness week next week!!  This is extremely exciting for me.  While it makes a nice theme for a week, it really is something that should be done year-round.  Give a friendly smile to a stranger, pay for the person behind you, clear off the windshield of the person next to you.  Come up with your own ideas!  There are some on the RAK website but they are pretty lame, more like things you should be doing everyday.

#86.  Valentine’s Day

If you are expecting some angry, bitter post on how Valentine’s Day is just a day to make everyone who doesn’t have a “special someone” feel horrible about themselves and that it is just Hallmark’s sneaky way of making everyone buy their overpriced pieces of card stock…..look elsewhere.  This is a positive outlook on the very controversial idea of love.  Everyone has had those impossible crushes.  Where you like someone one that has no clue or will never like you in return.  My friend describes it in a good way….you spend all the time when you are with them wanting them to notice you.  And then they leave.  And part of you slinks behind them.  It is at these times when love seems hopeless.  As Charlie Brown put it, “Nothing takes the taste out of a peanut better sandwich like unrequited love.” So, when you think about it….two people being in love is pretty much a miracle.  The fact that two people could both like each other and gather up the courage to admit it and take that first step… is powerful, wonderful, and dangerous.  But I’m just talking about two people. Zoom out.  There is a God who loves you like crazy.  He created this incredible universe for us, and as a thank you we screw up.  All the time.  He is under no obligation to continue loving us or saving us.  But He does.  And His love isn’t just that highschooly crush-type stuff.  It’s the real thing.  He loves me even though I could never reciprocate fully while I consistently prove myself unworthy. Mind. Blown.

#24. Polychromatic Emotions.
“And how does that make you feel?”  That infamous psychologist line is very difficult for me to answer.  I don’t just have one emotion about ANYTHING.  It’s a mixture, a blend of colors and tones and hues and saturations.  I feel pretty purply with a splash of lime green and periwinkle.  How do you like me now Dr. Phil?  I’m pretty sure others feel the way I do.  Not only do emotions come in vivid bright colors (forget the boring black and white stuff) there is a full range of colors.  They mix and mingle with each other, the pigments smudging over the futile boundaries that we set up.  If I am happy, I am not simply happy.  I’m most likely joyful and ecstatic but maybe a little apprehensive since happiness rarely feels sincere for me.  Every decision comes with an entire palette of emotions, one for each pro and con on my flip chart.

#49.  An Uncharacteristically Stereotypical Blog Post
Usually, my blogs are about my thoughts and philosophies.  This little scrap is just about me.
I’m getting really excited for college.  There are so many possibilities that I am simultaneously delirious with happiness and paralyzed with fear.  Kind of a fuchsia feeling with some neon yellow mixed in.
I love Narnia.  I’ve loved the idea of another world ever since I started creating one when I was five (I’ll save that for another post someday).  I am a huge C.S. Lewis fan.  I have not read all of his books but am working through his essays currently.  I very much enjoy his logical way of presenting confusing ideas.
I have amazing friends.  I don’t have a group since I haven’t really stuck with one “extracurricular activity” long enough.  It’s more an eclectic cluster of people that inspire me, love me, and make me wish I could be a better friend to all of them.
Okay, my incredibly egotistical writing is done now.  Tell me something about you.