I am Gomer. I am Israel. I am a SINNER.

SheReadsTruth.com has been going through one of my favorite books of the bible: Hosea. You can read the full study on their website. This post is part of their link-up series #SheSharesTruth. Read more from others who have gone through the study at #SheSharesTruth or read the 17-day devotional for yourself online.

#SheSharesTruth

There is something so visceral about the book of Hosea. The story (if you’re not familiar with it) draws a stark parallel between Israel’s relationship with God and Gomer’s unfaithfulness to her husband, Hosea. She (meaning both Israel and Gomer) runs away from the person who can love her like no one else into the arms of idols, gods, and danger.

The poetry in Hosea is difficult to read. It tells the story of Israel’s unfaithfulness to its creator, her blatant disregard for everything God has done for her, and how she runs away laughing into the arms of that which (and whom) cannot satisfy, cannot love, and poses a dangerous threat to her beyond her imagination.

At one point (chapter 3), Hosea has to buy Gomer out of slavery in order to bring her home. I imagine she was so lost in where she had run to that she didn’t know how to get to safety. And what does her husband do? He seeks her out, finds her in immense trouble, and pulls her back into his embrace – at a literal and palpable cost to himself, not to mention the overwhelming love and dedication he would have needed.

Sound familiar?

If not, read the gospels.

Summary aside, we rarely see the prophets in marriage or discussing their spouses. (Deborah is the exception that comes to mind.) But this is exact what Hosea is called to do: “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2 ESV)

I’m imagining this scene in my head – Hosea hears this from God, and he knows he’s been called to do an uncomfortable thing. It’s not as simple as preaching to his enemies, or transcribing a dream, or going out to battle. God is calling him to go find a wife among the prostitutes and love her, care for her, and do the same for her children – which may or may not be his children.

But it really comes down to this: God was in his marriage. Even when it felt like there was no hope, that his wife had abandoned him to care for the children, when it felt like God was asking too much – Hosea knew that God was there.

I feel for Hosea. I want to say in my heart, yes God, I’d be ready for even that mission.

Then I read more about Gomer and Israel and I see myself reflected back.

I’m not the prophet in this story.

Gomer runs away three times. Israel has run away thousands. And we – yes, us good Christians – have run away billions of times.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequence to our running, or that God will provide complete shelter from all that is tainted in the world, but he will never leave us to face it by ourselves. He will always accept us back in the name of his son’s sacrifice.

So this is what I learned in Hosea:

I am Gomer.

I am Israel.

I am a sinner.

But as I was looking for ways to close this post, I found this image and it felt right. Hosea bought his wife back, and God purchased us with the blood of his son while I was still a sinner. The Bible is a continuous narrative, because as much as we want to say Hosea and Gomer’s story ended at chapter 14, it really ends in Revelation after Christ comes back for his Bride, the sinners he died for before we were even born.

And that’s worthy of an AMEN.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.

#1000Joys // orangelikejazz.wordpress.com

Back on the Grateful Train

It’s amazing what you can believe so deeply in when it’s fresh and new…but when you feel you’ve learned your lesson, it takes a back seat.

I’m talking about #1000joys here. It’s been a whirlwind of a year since I started this in February, but that doesn’t mean I get to stop.

And somewhere along the way, I decided I didn’t have the time anymore to tweet the joy in my life.

I was wrong.

#1000Joys // orangelikejazz.wordpress.com

So this is me, getting back on the grateful train after a month wandering the wrong direction.

(Exactly a month since I last tweeted about #1000joys. Yikes.)

Not because I feel guilty or weak or sad. But because I’m not better than I was when I’m started – in many ways, I’m worse off now than when I stopped.

Want to follow along? Follow @orangelikejazz on Twitter.

I’m A Second-Shift Widow [UPDATED AUGUST 27]

If you’ve ever heard of a Football Widow, you know what the title means. (If not, an example is below)

Football Widow Humor Tshirt from UBUdesigns // etsy

I’m not a real widow – I have a husband, but only on weekends. My husband works a second-shift job and I work a typical 8-5 job which means we see each other unconscious more than awake.

So what does this look like?

  • A second-shift widow (like myself) doesn’t serve dinner every night – or cook.
  • She can leave the dishes for the morning if she wants to.
  • She doesn’t go to bed with a kiss goodnight.
  • She has the bathroom to herself in the morning.
  • She doesn’t fall asleep to someone breathing.
  • She’s always up for girl nights.

Living an opposite schedule from your spouse has its ups and its downs. You’re so close and yet so apart. You don’t have to do all the chores, but you’re still cleaning up after two. Being married to a ghost 5/7th of the week is a strange feeling and an even stranger marriage.

Today I read this great blog post by a good friend, Maggie Johnson, about marriage in the moments between the life-defining highs and the dreaded lows. If you haven’t read it, go read it now (no, really, go!) because what she said is absolutely true. What she says is what I’ve been trying to cultivate in our marriage since it started – intentional time and unintended time are equally needed in marriage. Spouses that work different shifts, however, have an added challenge in cramming everything it needs to be into a finite amount of time.

My temporary solution to working different shifts has been for me to cut short sleep in exchange for 15 or 20 minutes after he gets home (like right now). That doesn’t happen every night, and cutting out sleep certainly influences other parts of life. It’s stressful and hard and I hate it.

I would not wish this marriage on anyone else.

Our time together is limited by jobs and when it does happen, it’s filled with necessities: setting the budget, family events, laundry. These things are good and build us up in other ways, but rarely is it intimate or completely fulfilling. Most of the time, alone or together, I have this yearning to just sit next to each other and be.

Imagine telling your husband this: “Stop whatever you’re doing or planning to do and just be with me.”

(Hint: It doesn’t go over well.)

So we find other ways of fulfilling that intimacy without feeling suffocated. We play board games while discussing books. We bounce new ideas off each other while surfing the internet. We talk about the trips we’ll take while we sip cocktails and beer. We fold laundry and dream of the future. We disagree about who will load the dishwasher while we eat ice cream. We text cool things we’ve found to each other while we’re on our lunch breaks or at home. We Facebook message important things for the other to read when they wake up. We argue about which show to watch or who gets to play the video game first…okay, so it’s not all roses and lilacs – there are thorns and weeds too.

We put a lot of time and energy and love and sacrifice in our Marriage Box to make this thing work. I came across the idea of the Marriage Box earlier this year and it’s been percolating in my head ever since. (If you know the source, please tell me – I searched and searched to no avail.)

The Marriage Box

It’s just so true, and not just for marriage. This is how friendships and family and church and work and marriage all work – you put in more than you take out…or else you’re with an empty box.

UPDATE

UPDATE 8/27: I just got a voicemail from my husband. Less than 24 hours after I posted this blog, he was notified that his shift will be reverting to a first-shift. It’s effective tomorrow.

Words fail me right now. The only thing I can do is sing in my heart and praise with my tongue.

I don’t want to forget the nights like tonight – coming home to a dark house, eating alone, pining, making busy work – but I’m ready to move past them and into that restored relationship, that community that I crave. It’s been a tough three months (June-August) back as a second-shift widow, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter as we continue to build this thing called marriage.

One thing I know for certain: I never take these moments, this mountaintop or the valley we’ve just been through for granted. Every day is a chance to put a little more into the Marriage Box and grow closer to God and each other as we do so.

1000Joys of 60 Days [167-289]

Life has gone on, and so has the list of my #1000joys.

A good chunk of these have not appeared on Twitter since they happened during my Social Media Fast in June, and some are brand-new from our recent vacation.

Not sure what this is about? Read more about #1000joys, my journey to tweet my way to a life of thankfulness.

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167: Clearance party items

168: A cold Whiskey Pepsi

169: A husband with a fashion sense

170: The rain held off until I got home

171: A great discussion on the fruits of the Spirit versus the desires of the flesh and what it means for us today

172: Plans that fall through that lead to much-needed alone time

173: The laundry-toting husband

174: Crockpot dinners on crazy days

175: The blessing of marriage

176: Seeing the joy on the bride and groom’s face as they see each other

177: Being a helping hand

178: Praise music that fills the house as my husband practices for worship team

179: Sleeping in after a long day of travel and joy

180: Good weather for a wedding on a cold day in May

181: Hugs from surrogate parents

182: Tears of happiness at a mother-son dance

183: Arriving safely home on flooded streets

184: Last-minute potlucks at work to celebrate a birthday

185: Hand-me-down bookcases

186: Four-day weekends

187: Sharing secrets and squeals with tom-boy friends after a long day at work

188: The flicker of a candle

189: Reading books in bed

190: Family jokes and bad puns

191: The white noise of a fan to beckon sleep

193: Best friend phone calls

194: Long talks with my dad

195: Business lead waiting in my email

196: Quick and yummy dinners with just enough leftovers

197: Neighbor reconciliation

198: Call backs from new clients

199: Resonating with a stranger about shared life experiences.

200: The buoy of a sad heart when God doesn’t give up on your dreams when you were about to.

201: A delicious dinner with visiting grandparents

202: Dog-kisses from my best childhood friend

203: Talking life, love, and money

204: Hazelnut coffee in the morning

205: Writing up a contract for my dream job

206: Sleeping in on Saturday morning

207: The exciting feeling of a brand new day arriving

208: Hot showers on a warm morning

209: Saturdays at home with my darling love

210: Unexpected sibling nights

211: Watching brother-in-laws playing video games together

212: Realizing that life can be interesting

213: Checking items off the to-do list

214: eBooks to that save time, money, & sanity

215: Used bookstores and the smell of old books

216: Celebration of singleness & marriage

217: Doting on a wonderful friend with all the pomp she deserves

218: Cocktails

219: Hot wings & high heels

220: Word games

221: Telling love stories & heartbreak tales

222: Baby James giggling, smiling, & snoring

223: a cool breeze on a hot walk

224: lunch-ready leftovers

225: God’s tugging on my heart for more time with him and less about me

226: Orange lilies blooming

227: A racing heartbeat after a mile walk

228: Owls dancing on the moon

229: Color-coded water bottles

230: Grass clippings and rain puddles

231: Evergreen trees with budding pinecones

232: Women telling stories of body image growing up

233: Being an hour early then ten minutes late

234: Netflix binge-watching sessions

235: Fixed water pipes & resumed water pressure

235: Gin and tonics

236: YouTube shows

237: Custom lockscreens with Bible verses

238: The calmness of starting a new adventure

239: Free long-distance calls

240: The blessing of being so close to family

241: Relaxing weekends

242: Productive wedding meetings

243: Breakfast burritos and morning musings

244: Psuedo-bachelorette parties and real life talks

245: Spiritual mothers and mentors throughout my life

246: Fiber therapy in mustard yellow

247: Binge-watching TV shows

248: Beautiful rugs with exotic patterns

249: 15-minute cleanups to spruce up the house

250: Blueberry bagels and cream cheese

251: Sharing of burdens – past and present

252: Adoption approval for Kayte and Ryan

253: Being real about life, love, and loss

254: A caring hug

255: Fresh fruit on a summer day

256: Hot summer rains

257: Texts of encouragement

258: Sudden showers

259: The smooth glide of yarn over needles

260: Elena’s safe arrival into this world

261: Ever-changing melodies of an electric guitar

262: Sleeping in on days off

263: Walking the same paths from a decade ago

264: Lively spiritual discussions over donuts and coffee

265: Sharing knowledge at a scenic overlook

266: Gender-bending menu choices

267: Puppy kisses

268: Hot tub talks under the stars

269: Wind-swept hair during speed boat rides

270: Experiencing the sublime

271: Playing in the sand and silt

272: A good grip on a great camera

273: Reliving the joys of a fun morning through photos

274: Free pedicures in red clay and sand

275: Rain that held off just long enough

276: The sound of rushing waterfalls

277: Quick read books

278: $3 shoes

279: Community of prayer and petition

280: Frothing coffee

281: Howl of the hunt for chipmunks

282: Sweet cantaloupe

283: The comfort of my own bed

284: Gentle wakeup calls

285: Playing video games late into the night

286: Sunday truth from SheReadsTruth

287: Wild and crazy dance moves

288: Building relationships over southern cooking

289: Homemade spaghetti sauce

What I didn’t learn in June

So I’m here. I’m back from my 2-week social media fast. (Read more about the lead-up at June Media Blackout)

What strikes me the most looking back is what didn’t happen during my self-imposed blackout.

I didn’t log back on and become disgusted at the always-logged-on world. In fact, I found I could live without it easily but I realized how much I had missed out on while I was gone. Photos, events, conversations, and important updates that I was oblivious to – not to fault anyone but myself for not checking those media, albeit intentionally so.

I didn’t come back to social media with a holier-than-thou attitude. I came back to vibrant communities still carrying on important conversations and bonding.

I didn’t leave social media and feel free. It was difficult. It was intentional. After awhile, I did cave and check how many notifications I had – but I didn’t click on them. It was isolating knowing that there were things happening and I wasn’t a part of them but it was a reminder to refocus on the reasons I was doing it.

I didn’t come back from an intense spiritual high or mountain-top experience like I’d hoped I would have. There certainly were moments where I keenly felt the pull between breaking the fast and picking up a Bible and it wasn’t a choice, it was obvious. Removing the distractions certainly made those choices easier but they were still choices.

I didn’t meet my own expectations. I didn’t journal every day, spend hours in prayer, work on all my projects, or gain tons more free time.

Source: Project Management Tips // http://pmtips.net/

Was it a success? Yes, I survived. It wasn’t all mediocre and depressing either. I have opted to only download certain social media apps back to my phone to limit the pull of some sites on my constant need to add or check updates.

Will I do it again? If I need to, yes. It’s a repeatable exercise, and one that has various positive outcomes and will differ every time.

Do I recommend a social media fast? It depends. High expectations are likely to go unmet, while low expectations can defeat the purpose, whatever you determine that to be.

I’m still processing much of what did (or didn’t) happen during those weeks and trying to get caught up on what I missed. I do want to engage anyone who has questions or comments, so please reach out here or by email.

June Media Blackout

Social Media Fast icon from http://www.ourfreakingbudget.com/

I’m doing it – I’m jumping on the “social media fast” bandwagon.

That still, small voice tugged at my heart this morning when I browsed three social media sites in order to wake up and that’s before I even got out of bed. That’s not the only thing – I ignore the bible reading in my email (or phone notifications) and I procrastinate on doing homework for bible studies until I need to leave the house.

Something’s got to give in my life until I can get my heart back where it needs to be.

Back to the first love of my life – God my father.

I’m done denying it. I’m a wreck right now. I need to cut out the noise to help me focus on the Nourisher.

I’m going to keep this short and sweet – June 15th through 30th is going to be a media blackout on my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and WordPress and and other social media that I imbibe daily. I’m removing the apps from my phone and tabs from my computer(s).

Instead of posting/updating/tweeting/pinning, I’ll be keeping a written journal of my prayers and #1000gifts, , delving into Scripture, reading read books, and working on some personal projects that have been on the back burner for too long.

I’ll still be available by email and text message, and I would love to hear from you regarding prayer requests, life updates, or check-ins.

This may not mean much to you, but it means getting my life back. And that’s worth all the social-media-free boredom in the world to me.

Marriage as an Idol

Ivy Covered Wall by Nicolas Raymond | freestock.ca

About a year ago, one of my husband’s gal friends bought one of her friends over for dinner and a movie. We chatted like two in-college and one post-college girls are wont to do – life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. (This may be over-simplifying things just a little, but you get the idea.)

The friend-of-a-friend started asking questions about what it was like to be married. It’s pretty good, I said (with only a year-and-a-bit of experience) but has its challenges, like anything in life.

And then she said something I’ll never forget: “I think your house is the first I’ve been to that doesn’t make a shrine out of your wedding.”

I was a little take aback, and proceeded to point out the giant banner, guestbook-poster, and Aragorn’s sword leaning around the living room to prove her wrong – there was evidence of our wedding all around her (and it wasn’t exactly subtle decor). Her point has been dwelling on my heart ever since. Whether you have a wall-sized enlargement of you and your beloved hanging in the living room, or just a 7′ banner of the Tree of Gondor, your home reflects your souls as much as it does your hearts.

Abstract Acrylic Icon - Home is Where the Heart is by Nicolas Raymond | freestock.ca

The home is a very personal space, but what we bring into our homes and living spaces also reflects what is going on inside of our souls. This transcends personality or style, and echoes what we value as people. Our apartment is not a shrine to our enduring love; it is not a sacred, untouchable bubble of love/peace/joy/happiness that is exclusive to us. There are huge tributes to our marriage in our house and also to our ever-growing passions for books and comfy furniture, but there is also space for family and friends to feel that this is their home too, as long as they are here.

But that friend was also wrong. While our house may not be a shrine to our wedding, I often inwardly idealize and idolize marriage.

  • I idolize marriage when I see a single friend and pray that they could be happy with a spouse and devalue their singleness to push my own agenda on their lives by thinking that marriage will make them happier.
  • I idealize marriage when I talk to my girlfriends about how life isn’t how I planned it and gripe that we are in a bad place when we are doing just fine.
  • I idolize marriage when I bash or obsess over the newest wedding crazes.
  • I idealize marriage when I get frustrated with my husband for not holding me accountable to the piles of bills and paperwork I’ve let accumulate.

When I let my own thoughts and feelings get in the way of our relationship, I’ve either torn down or elevated marriage to a place where it doesn’t belong.

Love - it's a beautiful thing. This is David and I a year into our engagement.

I fully understand that I am still a newlywed in many ways. Two and a half years seems like yesterday, but I can hardly remember a time when we lived separate lives. My status as a married woman completely changes how people interact with me, and at the same time does not change my status with God. I am the same broken, sinful, redeemed daughter of God as I was when I was 7 years old.

My prayer this week will be for God to show me how to value the life He’s given us without giving our marriage more credence than it’s due. Maybe this will be a focus on contentment – maybe it will be focusing on someone else’s struggle with singleness – maybe it will be planning someone else’s wedding so they are freed up to live their life fully. Marriage is a learning process, not a trophy, and I’m still very much a student as we work out these lessons together.

I hate rollercoasters

Roller coaster // clipartbest.com

The past month or so, I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster with an unexpected 180 turn from contentment to anxiety, cresting to exhilaration and plunging back into despair, and bouncing around the emotional spectrum at breakneck speed.

This rollercoaster ride culminated in a long conversation with my husband last night as I brought up being torn between academia and motherhood. To be fair, neither are in the immediate future, but I know I want them both. I know a great many strong, capable women that have managed both at the same time – my mother, my professors, my friends – but I know my limits. I’m not strong enough to juggle both roles of a teacher/life-time student and mother at the same time without cracking.

I highly value David’s insight into me and what makes me tick or break. (That saying that you know someone better than they know themselves is oh-so-true in our marriage.)

This guy gets me.

I also know what I want, those big dreams I’ve carried for so long. I want to be a book editor. I want to travel the world. I want to own a restaurant. I want to publish a book. I want to be a mother. I want to be out of debt. I want to plan weddings. I want to…do it all.

And this is where my limitations conflict with my dreams. I could try to do all those things (because I know people who have and who tell me I can), and I would fail miserably.

So we talked it out. I expressed what I felt and how I couldn’t reconcile all these dreams together. He helped me realize that an online degree wouldn’t fulfill my need for academic exploration, and that I wasn’t really cut out for a tenure-track professorship career either. Talking about our future helped me to realize which of those dreams others were suggesting to me and which dreams I really wanted for me.

And then, being the planner that I am, we had to address how we were going to get from Point A to those dreams.

Keep calm and change the plan

We didn’t plan down to the last detail. I didn’t write any of it down. It’s not a strict 10-year plan. But we did address some issues including my feelings of being all over the place and I feel more at peace about our lives.

I’ve been able to look back at the path I’ve been on for years and point out all the things that I felt but had not spoken, and once I laid them out, they weren’t so scary any more. In fact, we were able to agree on a few major milestones and laugh at the sillier suggestions.

The future feels less like a rollercoaster and more like an Indiana roadtrip – mostly flat with a few interesting things along the way with really good company and a lot of laughs.

And for today, that’s enough.

There’s a lesson I learned in college and it can be distilled to this: I can make plans, but it is God who decides what happens in my life. I can rest in having a direction and an idea of what I want in life, but I also need to be ready for God to change my plans into his (infinitely better) plans for our lives. And that is where I am once again – heading in a specific, concrete direction while I wait for God to direct our future.

rain and clouds // orangelikejazz.wordpress.com

April Showers bring May Flowers [#1000Joys 110-166]

I have a lot to be thankful for the past few weeks. It’s been a rough rollercoaster but I think it’s about to hit a gentle uphill climb to a fun summer and some really big events (weddings and graduations and vacation, oh my).

Here are a few of things I’ve celebrated in small (or big) ways the past few weeks.

You can view the whole list of my journey to tweet #1000joys or read how it all began.

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