Married Life (from a single’s perspective)

If I could give married people advice it would be this…. (You’ll find out if you keep reading!)

I’m 27, a few months shy of 28. A teacher. A coach. Living in Small Town USA. By myself. No family within a 7 hour radius. I wake up, get ready for work, teach all day. Coach after that. Church activities throughout the week. Come home.  Eat. Get ready for bed. And repeat. 

It might sound like I’m complaining, but if you read it again with a more positive tone and mindset, I’m actually bragging!  I’m living the dream!  (God’s will for me right now in my life. #NoDoubt!)

Where I’m at right now in my life, is such a growing and learning experience.  The majority of my friends I spend time with are married. (And when I say majority, I mean majority!  I maybe have one or two friends that I hang out with that are single.)

And I’m completely okay with that!  One thing I’m very aware of is the position of power and influence that I have being a teacher and a coach. If you’ve read any of my previous posts you know that I always talk about people watching us. As a teacher and coach my students and players are watching me. They’re watching how I live. They’re paying attention to how I talk. Things I say. My tone of voice. How I react in certain situations; the good and the bad. What I’m like outside of the classroom.  How I interact with others. They’re definitely watching. And listening. And I’ve grown to be uber aware of that. I don’t want teenagers to have a reason to not find me as a credible person when it comes to my faith and the way I live. Do I mess up at times?  Yup. Sure do. 

But it got me thinking lately about being single and being around all my friends who are married. 

I’m a very observant person. I’m just like my students. I watch. I listen. I pay attention. I’m taking mental notes. On what?  you might ask. 

Married life.

Thankfully God has blessed me with many friendships in which case my married friends are setting an example. They’re modeling marriage for me, a Christian single.  I notice things:  like how a husband and wife talk to each other, in the good times and bad. Or how they treat their kids. The tone behind their words. Their actions. How they behave at churh. How they behave outside of church. Not just individually but as families, too. 

I understand every marriage is different.  And just like my students can tell which teachers are credible and which aren’t, Christian singles can tell when a marriage has a foundation of Christ. 

So if I could give married people advice it would be this:  Be aware that people are watching and listening, especially singles. I want a good example set for me!  I want something to look forward to!  Just like being a teacher and coach is a position of power and influence on young minds, being married is also a position of power and influence. 

Thankfully the Lord has blessed me with many many great examples of not just being married, but of marriage.

It really does help. 

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It’s Time We Start Rising

Let me just preface this by saying I’m not a saint.  I probably have a log in my eye that needs to be pulled out before I start pulling out sticks in others’ eyes.  But I feel very passionate about what I’m going to talk about.

First of all I come from a family where I’m the only one who is saved.  Which today actually marks seven years of accepting the Lord as my Savior.  So thankful for my salvation.  And when I got saved I didn’t change immediately.  Actually I would say the most change I’ve undergone has been in the past few years since I started attending FBC.  I’m not who I want to be, but I’m definitely thankful I’m not who I was.

I’ve heard this said before, and I completely agree with it:  Salvation is free of charge but it’s not free of change.

If you’re truly saved, there should be a change that has taken place whether it’s in the way you live, the way you speak, the things you watch, what you listen to; pretty much every area of your life!

Again, let me just say, I am NOT a saint.

One thing I’ve learned, especially in the past year or so, is that I cannot compare myself to my friends, even my fellow Christian friends.  That’s one of the worst things I could do.  Because I know me.  And I know if I compare myself to my friends, I’ll start to make small compromises in my life. As a Christian I’ve had some of these thoughts below (not all of them!  PTL).  But I’m definitely guilty of thinking some of these things below:

“Well, so-and-so listens to this kind of music and they go to my church… so it’s okay that I do too.”

“Well, so-and-so cusses and they go to my church… so it’s okay that I do too.”

“Well, so-and-so watches inappropriate movies and they go to my church… so it’s okay that I do too.”

“Well, so-and-so smokes cigarettes and they go to my church… so it’s okay that I do too.”

God calls us to be DIFFERENT.  He doesn’t want us to be like the world, He wants us to be like His SON!  Jesus is the one we should be comparing our lives to.  We become so complacent and so “okay’ with living how others live, and accepting that as the norm.  When in reality, Jesus has set the standard, in which we all fall short, but by God’s grace we can get back up and try AGAIN!

If you know the music you listen to isn’t pleasing to God, then stop it.  So you’ve fallen short?  Well get up and try again.  Quit making it okay by comparing yourself to others.  If you know the words you say or how you say them isn’t pleasing to God, then stop it.  Get up and try again. So your friends are the ones cussing and you can’t help but be like them when you’re around them?  Then they’re just going to continue to think it’s okay because you haven’t set a standard either!  It’s probably some never ending cycle.  If you want to change, someone is going to have to break that cycle!

Again, let me just reiterate that I am just as big of a sinner as anyone else.

It scares me as a teacher and as a coach, goodness, even as a friend, I see some of the things teenagers do and some of the things they say and in my mind I’m just like:  “Man, I know they have a younger sibling, if they’re not careful their little sibling has a high chance of doing and saying the same things.”  I imagine the same to be true with adults and parents.  I don’t have kids, but I know one thing is for sure, I’m just their TEACHER and they’re watching me and I know they’re listening to me, and they’re paying attention to how I react.  So if they do those things I honestly shouldn’t be surprised!  I can only imagine how much more a child is watching and listening to their parent.

As Christians, we need to stop comparing our selves to our friends, even our Christian friends and start comparing ourselves to Jesus.   We are going to fall short, but we don’t have to stop there.  Jesus has set the standard.  So the questions we need to ask ourselves are:

  1. Where in my life do I need to make a change?
  2. If I know I need to make a change, why HAVEN’T I made that change yet?
  3. Are there any people or things in the way of me successfully making this change?
  4. What steps can I take to see this change through?

Remember, we can’t sit back and wait for our friends to change so that we can change.  Someone has to step up.  Jesus has set the bar.  It’s time we start rising.

14-in-1s: Second Chances (Part 1)

When I played basketball in high school my coach would make us do what’s called “14-in-1s”.  It’s a form of conditioning.  You line up on the sideline of the court with a partner behind you to count.  One minute is put up on the clock.  When the whistle blows, you have one minute to sprint to the other side and back… 14 times.  Hence why they’re called “14-in-1s”.

Well, I couldn’t break tradition.  I make my 8th grade basketball girls do this every day.  The first group goes.  Then when the buzzer goes off, the second group goes.

There is an incentive though.  If you make it… you don’t have to do it again.  Unfortunately, if you don’t make it then you have to do it one more time.

The girls are given a second chance.

As the girls run their hearts out in the 14-in-1s, it hurts me to watch when the whole team doesn’t make it.  There’s a few stragglers.

This season, God has really opened my eyes when they’re running their 14-in-1s.  It makes me think of all the chances God gives me to get things right.  I’m so glad He doesn’t just give me two chances!  I’ve failed, failed… and failed some more.  As a teacher, as a coach, as a friend, as a daughter, as a Christian.  I’ve missed the mark.  I’m not afraid to admit it.

The thing about the 14-in-1s is if you don’t make it the first time, you won’t make it the second time.  Your body is so tired from working so hard for that first minute, and one minute’s rest in between while the other group goes, is not enough.

I’m thankful the Lord gives us so many chances!  However, we can’t lean on that; we have to learn to give our best the first time.  Be obedient the first time.  Do it right the first time.  Try our hardest the first time.  Yes God gives us chances.  But if we stay stuck where we’re at, eventually we won’t even recognize the opportunities as chances anymore.  We’ll continue to miss the mark and overlook those opportunities, and that could even affect the lives of others!

It hurts me to watch the girls who don’t make their 14-in-1s the first time, to have to do it again.

I can only imagine how much it hurts God to continually see us miss the mark when we know exactly what to do and how to do it. Whether it’s with disobedience, sin, temptation, lack of Bible reading, or time in prayer, etc.  He’s given us the tools:  The Bible, the Holy Spirit, a great Pastor, and even encouraging friends who are in the race with us (which I’ll talk about in part 2 of this the next time)…

I’m thankful for God’s mercy, forgiveness, love, and grace…  But my advice to you tonight is don’t rely on getting a second or third or fourth chances. We never know when our chances will run out.

Comfort Zones and Double Knots!

chucksSo there I was… sitting in church the other night and one of my friends bent down and noticed my shoelaces.  They were doubled knotted.  I went on to exclaim that double knotting my shoes as an adult isn’t that uncommon, that a lot of people do it.  (I did however have a moment of doubt and thought, What if everyone else stopped double knotting their shoes a long time ago and somehow I just missed the memo?!)  But that wasn’t the case.

It’s really been stirring in my head the past couple of days, and the fact that I’m currently teaching different types of figurative language to my sevies has made it all the more madness in my mind.  That’s when I began to ask myself, “Dolen, why do you still double knot your shoes?”  And I’ve tried just tying them normally.  Just one little bow-tie.  But I can’t seem to do it!  It drives me nuts knowing that at any moment my shoelace can come undone.  I don’t feel as safe…

Which brings me to the topic of comfort zones.  Everyone has them.  At church, we tend to sit in the same spots.  At school the students congregate to the same group of friends.  As adults we develop habitual routines (or maybe that’s just me?)  But we all have comfort zones for a reason… because it’s where we’re most comfortable! 

Comfort zones can be good and bad.  For example, the fact that I double knot my shoes is a good thing.  Because I know I won’t trip and fall (if I do it’s not because of my laces).  I know my shoe won’t come off.  I know goofy little people won’t be able to bend down and untie my shoe just so I have to tie it again.  Double knotting my shoes is part of my comfort zone.  Comfort zones can keep bad things from happening to us!

However… living in our comfort zones can also prevent good things from happening to others.  If we get too comfortable as Christians, we might forget to see the bigger picture: 

  • What if we miss an opportunity to witness to someone because we were too nervous? 
  • What if we didn’t pray for our meal in front of our peers because of looks we might get? 
  • What if we didn’t invite someone to church because we were afraid of getting rejected?

A lot of these instances could have to do with the fact that they’re juuust outside of our comfort zone. 

As Christians, we have to break out of our comfort zones sometimes.  Matthew was a tax collector; he left his booth (his comfort zone) and followed Jesus.  Paul left his comfort zone of persecuting Christians, and became one himself!  I’m so so thankful my soccer teammate in college didn’t stay inside of her comfort zone; she shared the Gospel with me. And it was the best thing to ever happen to me.

Like I said before, comfort zones can keep bad things from happening to us, but also prevent good things from happening to others.  Hmmm…

Until next time!