Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Little Consideration

When I return to the Word it is easy to see why a Christian is called to be humble and selfless. We have done nothing right and yet have everything good.  I have done nothing right and have everything good, so I have nothing to boast in and everything to give.  I have been able to tell, most of the time, when Laura or I have been out of the Word for a time because we begin to veer from these traits.  We both become selfishly focsed and desire that the other would meet our needs and be attentive to us.  We both begin to draw attention to ourselves to build ourselves up.  In this moment we begin to crawl back onto the throne of our hearts and deny the Lord glory so that we might receive it for ourselves.
This realization has fleshed out a truth that I knew, but did not fully understand. I agreed with, but could not give a satisfactory answer as to why.  This truth was presented to Laura and I during our premarital counselin- The most important thing that we can bring to our relationship is our personal relationships with the Lord.  By falling more and more in love with the Lord and understanding more and more of who he is and what he has done I lose sight of myself.  Once I lose sight of myself, the Lord can do anything He wants through me. The moment I resist sanctification and the Spirit’s prompting to act is the same moment I become aware of and consider my own desires again.
I always seem to maintain a level of skepticism toward an idea as long as it remains theoretical. Once it is tested and proven on some level, an idea begins to gain my allegiance.  This is the same way I felt at first with the book Love and Respect. This was not because of the content, but just because I am empirically minded and skeptical.  My skepticism has almost subsided since I realized something and that something is that the one thing that melts my heart more than anything else is Laura's consideration for me.  She maintains an awareness of the things that she says and the attitude that she maintains towards me and she does not wait for me to address something for us to talk about it.  Her consideration of me shows me respect and it comes through selflessness that can only be maintained by a proper mindset fixed on Truth. Her respect for me transposes to respect for our relationship.  When we both place value on our relationship we both take ownership and we become teammates.  Laura does not wait for me to address an issue hoping that it will pass by. She takes ownership as well and we talk about it.  One reason that this means so much to me is because there is a lot of truth in the fact that a man can be crushed and nobody ever know.  Even the most masculine and solid men have a hard time talking about the things that, in some way or another, hurt their feelings because we are not taught to be, much less how to become, vulnerable.  In my mind that is to victimize myself, but when Laura wants to know how I responded to something she said it gives me freedom to explain without being a victim.  When Laura considers and respects me there is a level of love that wells up inside me that I cannot anticipate.  It is a self-feeding cycle, either for intimacy or for distance.
When I show Laura that I love her and she shows that she respects me, I long to be with her. I thoroughly enjoy being with her because it becomes a safe place for me.  I have also noticed the opposite to be true.  The only times that I have been resistant to Laura (spending time with her or meeting her needs) are when she becomes selfishly focused because of time spent away from Scripture.  I become the same way.  When I am apart from Scripture I become selfish and demand respect and recognition for what I am doing at the present time.  Left to ourselves we resist each other. This is because whatever gets our attention is the only thing that will keep our attention. 

Ephesians 5:33

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2 Years

So today two years ago I nervously asked Laura if she would date me.  At that time I had the highest view of Laura and the lowest view of myself.  I honestly thought that she was selling herself short but she was insistent in her view of me and I thought I would be a fool to let this opportunity pass by.

Now, two years later I have an even higher view of Laura but I also have a better view of myself.  Laura has stood beside me, supported me, spoken powerful truth into my life, provided me with a place to be completely vulnerable and she has offered her loving arms when I have not known what to do with myself. 

She has shown me respect and empowered me to lead us against culture with a vengeance.  My respect for Laura grows each day because of who she is in light of the Lord.  He has used Laura to redeem so many things in my life up to this point.  Things that she has said or the way she has responded to me telling her something have broken me because of the way that they reflect the way the Lord has responded to me and shown me love continually.  The Lord has used her to be a major agent of change in my life and I trust her completely in that.  I know that she will be the one that can hurt me the most because she will be closest to me but I trust her completely.  I can hardly wait to spend the rest of my life with such an incredible woman.

We will continue to move forward relying on the grace of God to get through each day and through each circumstance that comes our way.  We will fight the pulls and strains of culture on our life together and separate and we will pull closer together as times try to pull us apart. 

I can't wait for her to be Mrs Eley :)

Happy two years my love...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cultural Attack

This past weekend Laura and I went back to Georgia for engagement pictures and for her to be able to look at dresses with her mom and friends.  Definitely a whirlwind of a weekend but it was a lot of fun.

There were two conversations that really marked me over the course of the weekend.  The first one was when Laura, her parents and I went to lunch after church on Sunday.  We were talking all things wedding; venues, catering options, time, colors, guests lists and the like.  As the conversation progressed we finally put words to the way that Laura and I feel about the wedding and are trying to approach it.

Laura was the one that put the words to the thoughts but there are two sides to a wedding the symbolic and the materialistic.  There are those parts of the wedding that are but a symbol of something so much greater and other things that are nothing beyond their face value; a flower is a flower, food is food and a venue is a venue.  To both of us the symbolic side of the wedding is the most important.  We want the Lord to be glorified not only through our wedding but even more so through our marriage because without Him "we" would not have happened.  Marriage is a picture of our relationship as the church to Christ.  This is a powerful picture of our relationship with Christ that is beautifully fleshed out in Ephesians 5:22-33 (check out our earlier post about that).  There will be many married couples at our wedding and that will be a chance for them to reaffirm and remember their vows to one another and hopefully a time for the emotion of love to rekindle or for restoration to take place.  We know that we obviously cannot make this happen but we are praying for the Lord to work in the hearts of everybody present that day.
Through this symbol of our relationship with the Lord we can learn more about the love of God that we are to show one another.  We are to love others unconditionally and aside from any possible merit, just as we have been loved by Jesus.

All that is not to say that we will show up in burlap, break out the 1611 King James and take a vow of poverty at the ceremony. Some of the materialistic things are important to us.  We definitely want the wedding to be beautiful and to represent each of us and both of us as a couple but we have to fight to maintain the perspective that these things are temporal at best and should not be the source of any notable stress.  Therefore please do not be shocked if somewhere along the line you hear us say "it doesn't matter." Hopefully this post will give a little insight into what we mean if we say that.

The second conversation came out of this idea on the way back to Lynchburg later that day.

Laura has mentioned before how it bothers her when people say that a wedding is all about the bride and essentially that the groom is just along for the ride to get to the honeymoon.  Laura's heart is very much so opposed to that idea, and rightfully so I believe.  She believes that a wedding is about the couple and what the Lord has done and will continue to do between them.  This is completely counter-cultural in America.  When Laura found her dress she said she felt like she was supposed to be breaking down crying because "This is THE ONE!". Instead when she found THE dress she said that it just matched who she was and it made her... in a really simple and yet overwhelming way....filled with joy. She has gotten funny and somewhat shocked responses from people when she has answered one of their questions about the wedding with some sort of "I don't know, we will figure it out when the times comes." The expectation placed on her by culture is that she should already know exactly what she wants and that she should have it at all cost, almost as though this is her last "whoo-rah" because it all goes downhill from here.  That will not be the case as long as I have something to do about it :)

Needless to say, we are both experiencing pressures that cultural standards places on engaged couple. If you have been there or currently are there, I'm sure you know what we are talking about.  Laura has to deal with culture head on because, in the eyes of culture, the bride is the central focus of the wedding.  I, on the other hand, am disregarded as the groom anyway so when I say that something is not that important that is what people expect to hear anyway.  As we continued to talk Laura said that how I support her the best in all of this is to help her maintain this perspective and affirm the decisions in this whole process. She said that by doing this I am protecting her heart and mind by helping her stay focused.

This was a very eye-opening conversation for me and I pray that someone could glean something from it as well.

We continue to pray that the Lord be lifted high through our relationship.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Ephesians 5:22-33-> thoughts on love and submission

A good friend of mine that I highly respect once told me over lunch that if he ever writes a book pertaining to Christianity he would open by saying "there is nothing new in the book that you are about to read."  In the spirit of being creatively (or not so creatively) repetitive I want to start by saying that there is nothing new in this or any post that you will read here.  Laura pointed out again tonight that there are some people that learn by reading or being taught and others learn by processing, writing things out or teaching and I am the latter.  With that being said most of what I say will probably just be repeating Scripture and trying to wrap my mind around it.  I am sure it will be painfully nonlinear at times but just hang in there with me, I will try to bring it full circle.  So here we go :)

I learned a while ago that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Bible teaching.  We do not need to look in the most obscure of places to try and pull out some creative presentation of the Gospel.  There is nothing wrong with the thorough simplicity of John 3:16 and further more I have grown to love the simple, straight forward texts.  In my reading on marriage I started with the classic marriage text of Ephesians 5:22-33.  When I have read this part of Ephesians I have always been left thinking in a cycle; husbands love your wives, wives submit to your husbands, and then husbands will be better able to love their wives and wives will be better able to submit to their husbands.  As I have continued to think about this text I have found two main flaws in my thinking: first, there is not an initiation within the cycle, second, one of these actions does not lead to the other.  Let me try and explain.

There is not an initiation within the cycle.  The more accurate way to put those two actions is "Husbands, love as Christ loved" and" Wives, submit as unto the Lord."  A man cannot love his wife until he has learned how he is loved by Jesus and in the same way a woman cannot submit to her husband until she has learned to trust the Lord and fully submit to him. These things are personal to the husband's life and personal to the wife's and then they bring it to their marriage.  I feel as though we, as Christians, try to impose the outward signs of Christianity on ourselves when we have no source for those signs to come from.  For a long time I would read  texts that say " do this and don't do that" and I felt like I had to make myself conform to those things.  This never works.  I have come to understand that these actions will only come from a heart that is in love with Jesus and humbled by what He has done for us.  That love and humility then naturally brings about the actions that resemble Christ and his ministry only causing to love him more, the beginning of a beautiful cycle.

Actions lead to another.  This may not seem incorrect at a quick read through but I believe it is.  If the husband is to love ad Christ loved then he is to love unconditionally.  There should be nothing that can cause him to love his wife more but rather only cause him to fall in love with her more/again.  CS Lewis makes the distinction in Mere Christianity in his chapter on "Christian Marriage" that being in love is an emotion that we do not have control over but loving someone is a decision that is made every day to love them and to put their well-being first in all of your decisions.  In light of that concept there is nothing that a woman can do to make her husband choose to love her more but rather only have him be deeper in love with her. Wives are instructed to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord and to that I would ask is there any situation or point in time that we, as Christians, are not to submit to the Lord?  I don't ask this in an overbearing, authoritative tone but if we love the Lord as we should there should be nothing but a desire to do what he asks because we have perfect trust in the person of God.  This same concept applies to the marriage relationship, the only thing that is different is that God is perfect and therefore will never let you down while a husband is a fallen man so somebody is going to be hurt somewhere along the way.

Marriage seems as though it is a pretty simple equation but this basic arithmetic has turned into a sort of differential equations due to the fall and the effects of sin.  I trust Laura with everything that I have and I know that somewhere along the way she will hurt me, possibly deeper than anybody else because she will be closest to me and because of the fall.  I know that she is not perfect but I am in love with her and if for some reason that stops I have made the choice to love her until my final breath.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Why are we doing this?

One of the reasons that we started this blog is because we want to do some research to find out the origins of wedding traditions to see what lies beneath traditionally, culturally and Biblically.  Of course we want to tell our story and have that documented but we also want to know the meaning of the things that we are about to do.  Laura and I believe that this will bring a healthy weight of reality to things that can become simply expected, meaningless, “because that is what you are supposed to do” traditions.  I hope that the information to come does the same to single and married people alike.  Enjoy :) 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

our engagement story

(From Laura) October 14th, 2010... Taylor proposed and I said, "YES!" Now I know that I've started with what may seem to be the climax of the story, but I assure you that you'll see where I'm going. To be honest, I really have no idea of where to start to tell you our engagement story because although it happened in a few short moments and we celebrated over the course of the weekend, the details that brought us to that moment are hard to separate from the story itself. But those details will come in posts in the near future.

So I'll take us to the day of the engagement and begin there...

Thursday morning was the first day of our Fall Break at school. Taylor and I left Lynchburg at 5:00am with a few our good friends to drive the 9 hours down to St. Simons Island, Georgia.
(Taylor talking) My friend Ben came in town Wednesday night and stayed at my house to prepare for the early departure.  Needless to say with knowing that I was going to propose within 24 hours at that point I was wandering around my room at a slow pace while I packed while my brain was going a thousand thoughts a minute. I got no sleep Wednesday night because I was so excited to think that soon Laura and I would be one step closer to being Mr and Mrs Eley  :)!  On the drive down it was downpouring through North Carolina and I was thinking to myself "I don't care if it is raining when we get down there. I am still going to do it tonight."

Tancy's House

Christ Church

(Back to Laura)In St. Simons is a little house that my family inherited from my great aunt, Tancy. A little history about the island and its significance to me... St. Simons is a beach town, but don't think beach. Think island with live oaks with Spanish moss hanging from them everywhere you look. Running/biking paths are along every road. Small town feel, clean, and very laid back. 

John Wesley's church (Christ Church) is there as well, which adds a lot of neat history. Throughout high school, I would take trips down to St. Simons with my family and it became a place where I could find some restoration and quiet.

The first friend I invited to come down to St. Simon's with us was my close friend, Abigail. She and I have explored every inch of that island both on foot and on bikes. 

  My most cherished memories from the many times Abigail and I went to St. Simons are the evenings we would run to the pier, watch the sunset, and then spend time praying for eachother, for our future goals, husbands, and families. These times of actually crying out to God taught me more about His heart and how to pray then any book I've ever read on prayer. Taylor came down to St. Simons with me for Christmas soon after we started dating and I was able to share some of these memories with him.

So back to the engagement day...

 Once we settled in at the house, we all went down to the beach. Earlier in the day Taylor had asked me if I would want to go take some pictures in a little park that we like and then head out to the pier to watch the sunset. Needless to say, in my head I kept thinking, "This would be pretty awesome if he proposed tonight!!"  (Taylor) Little did she know! (Laura) With a building anticipation of the possible coming events of the evening buzzing around my head, Taylor and I came back to the house, got cleaned up, and headed to the park. While we were at the park and in his efforts to get some good pictures Taylor manged to sit in a mud puddle. (Taylor) I WOULD manage to sit in a mud puddle with less than an hour left before I proposed.  haha! 

(Laura) We headed out to catch the sunset over the water. Taylor asked me if I wanted to go out to the pier or the beach and I just thought... "now if he is proposing, would he ask me that?" We made our way to the pier and watched the sun as it was quickly going down. At this point, whether he proposed or not that night, the sunset was spectacular.
Just before he proposed

Taylor turned me towards him and told me about some of the things he loved doing with me and the things he anticipated us sharing in the future. I kept thinking, "When is he going to get on his knee!" And then he did!! Followed by the question, "Laura, will you marry me?" I think I must of looked at him with a funny expression on my face for a minute before realizing that this was actually happening. I said "YES!" and wrapped my arms around him forgetting that he had a ring in his hand that he was trying not to drop.

(Taylor) It is hard to hold on to a little ring with big fingers, AND there were cracks in the pier big enough to ensure that we would never see the ring again. (Laura) He said, "Let me put the ring on your hand before I drop it." It is so beautiful! The center diamond is one of his mom's stones and Taylor picked out the setting on his own. After a few more moments, Taylor then looked at me again and asked me if he could kiss me. We had our first kiss!

He then pointed out that our friend Ben was further down on the pier taking photos of us and that our other friends were all gathered around to share the moment with us.

Whew! I just didn't know what it would be like to have the man I respect and love the most ask me to marry him, but my mind went back to prayers I had prayed for my future husband. Taylor and I ended up sitting with our legs hung over the side of the peir and prayed for eachother and our marriage together. To be honest, this is when it really started sinking in that I am going to marry Taylor Eley.

(Interjection by Taylor)  This was really the sweetest part to me.  I specifically chose to propose on the pier because I know that Laura is a centimental person and I knew that she would understand and appreciate the significance of the location.  I was severly humbled and honored when Laura asked if we could pray together right where she had prayed for me so many times before.  I am humbled to know that Laura has been commited to me even before she knew I would be the man that she would marry. 

(Laura)After enjoying letting it all sink in, we called some family members and headed back to the house for dinner with our friends. Over the next two days we were able to enjoy eachother's company and long conversations about our life together as we walked all over St. Simons Island. Taylor is my partner, my best friend, and the one who I long to learn to love better! The day could not come sooner for me to be married to the man who has taught me so much more about life and my sweet Savior.   

(Taylor again)  I can only echo some of the things that Laura just said.  She is my best friend, my teammate, my dancing partner, someone who will speak uncompromising truth into my life, my sous chef, my travel buddy and most importantly, now, my fiance'!