That Question; Desired or Dreaded?

          A few weeks ago, I received a marriage proposal.

          From the first time I began to consider the prospect of marriage as a seven year old, I decided I didn't want a crowd of admirers, I just wanted one man to like me in that way, followed by one proposal, from that one Mr. Right. However, there was always another side of me, some little impish part of me, that was just simmering  for the opportunity to turn down an offer of marriage. Call me callous if you will but I can remember several occasions on which, with much glee, I rehearsed all the crushing words I would say to a suitor whom I found in no way suitable.

        Well, my good readers, a few weeks ago I got the chance, and though I feel slightly guilty for it, I will tell you I thoroughly enjoyed spilling out all those crushing sentences I had saved for that moment. After stomping on every ray of hope in the area that the poor man possessed, I left him with a hypothetically sympathetic smile telling him I hoped he had a good life and that he would forget about me. I say hypothetically because it all happened online. When I say 'it all' I mean just that.

        It started when I got a request from a mysterious fellow to chat on google hangouts. Being extremely curious, and suspecting an advertising stunt, I started talking with him wanting to find out what this person wanted. Well, I was in for a rather humorous surprise. It turned out he had seen my profile picture on google somehow and literally, he had gotten infatuated with me. He said he'd fallen in love with me, that he fantasized over that picture. That his heart was telling him I was the one for him and that he would follow it because it had never misguided him before, according to him.

    At first, as you may expect I was suspicious that he was pulling a gigantic hoax on me. I imagined he'd drunk one too many beers with his friends the night before and made a bet that he could lasso any random girl online. However, as the conversation progressed, I became more and more convinced that the poor fellow was serious, which made the situation humorous on a whole other level. Finally, without even having seen me, he tells me he loves me and wants to marry me. You can only imagine what happened next, my friends. All I can say is, his hopes, if indeed he had any, were sufficiently dashed and I was rolling on the floor with laughter and complete satisfaction.

        This comical event is something I'll retain as funny story for future laughs, perhaps I'll title it:
"The man who fell in love with my picture."

        However, afterwards, the whole affair got me thinking. Coupled with attending a friend's wedding down in Texas, I began wondering what would make me certain when the right man popped the question. How would I know for certain to say yes.

     You see, from an early age I had also made the decision that I would rather not marry at all than marry someone who was not right for me. I've made multiple lists over the course of my teenage years detailing the qualifications for a future husband. This is all good. However, my friends, I realized recently that at the core of all these decisions, lists and commitments is a deep rooted fear of marriage. A huge fear of marrying the wrong man. It started when I was about nine and one of my Aunts broke the knot between herself and her husband. Over the years since then, my other Aunt and one of my Uncles also rescinded their vows of marriage made to their spouses years ago. I have only two Aunts and two Uncles. This meant that the divorce percentage among my immediate family is 75%. These events shook me to the core of my being with regards to my dreams of getting married.

       However, a month ago, this incident returned to haunt me in an even more frightening form when I learned that a Christian couple whom I had known for many years, after ten years of marriage had gotten divorced because it turned out that the husband had been committing adultery the whole time, even, get this, even before their marriage. The incident frightened me even further away from marriage.

There are a lot of things about marriage that scare me, but first and foremost is the fear that:

I would give my whole heart to someone who would give me only a part of his back. 

    "What if that happens to me?"

 I asked God, the night I learned about this. 

     "What if a man completely deceives me and my family? I believe marriage is for a lifetime but what if I commit to someone who doesn't commit back? What if I saved myself completely for one man who didn't save himself completely for me?"

      I don't mean in the case of someone sinning and repenting in his past and being fully committed in the present, I mean someone who wasn't ever fully committed. 

      It frightens me, friends, it truly does.  

      However, this fear could lead to another problem. 

          What if the right man asks and I turn him down because of my fear? 

       Because I realize this has made me want to be absolutely convinced before I tell a man I'll marry him. In the case of my suitor of a few weeks ago. There was no doubt about it, as with anyone else who has been interested in the past. However, I realize that my fear has grown to such a proportion that I might turn a really great man away because of my fearful doubts. 

        But God is good. He has a way of putting our fears to rest when we ask Him. When I related these fears to one friend she pointed out that every relationship is a risk, that yes, we can't know for certain, but, more importantly, the key is that we find our satisfaction in God not in our husbands.

      Because if God is really my hope, then if a man, even my own husband, betrays me, then I can still know that God is there for me. And that, somehow, that horrid husband was for the best. 

   To know that God always does what is best for us even when we don't see it that way, is a comforting thought indeed. 

    It was then that I realized my fear was rooted in the idea that my husband would somehow become my rock of refuge. The idea that I couldn't bear it if he turned out to be a nasty turncoat, meant that my satisfaction in life wasn't coming from God, and that misplaced love had caused me to dread a beautiful thing. It had caused me to look with trepidation on the day when "he" would ask the question. 

          I guess it comes down to where our priorities are, doesn't it? I read one quote recently from a woman who had gotten her priorities straight regarding marriage. When talking about singleness, she said,

                 "I want to be married. I pray to that end every day. I may meet someone and walk down the aisle in the next couple of years because God is so good to me. I may never have another date.....because God is so good to me." 
                                                                          ~ Paige Brown

          What Miss Brown is saying is that no matter what, she knows that God is good so that whether or not she gets married, she knows everything is going to turn out all right. Her trust is in the right place.

         Knowing this hasn't completely curbed my qualms. I can't say that all my fear has fled and I still dream of that day with a good mixture of both desire and dread, just knowing something doesn't make all the feelings go away. However, I do know, that if God is in control of my life and because of that, it will all work out for the best. When the time comes, if it comes, I'll say yes to the right man, not because I trust him completely, but because I trust God completely.
           
      Alright, that's all I have to say, my friends. I thought for this one it would be appropriate to share with you a song reminding us that God gives us peace in every situation. Like He did for me on this issue. He assured me that everything would work out okay in the end. Let me know what you think of my friend's rendition of this particular song, no credit goes to myself who just sang the melody. These friends of mine improvised their own harmonies for the song and, one of them played the piano while she sang. They're simply amazing! 
    
     
    So, do you ever struggle with fear regarding this issue? 
    What do you think about marriage?
    Do you agree that my friends are brilliant?


     Alright, coming soon, I intend to blast some modern systems regarding some things near and dear to my heart which I feel they have abominably twisted.


          Trust God, my friends, Always.

             ~ Christianna   

Labor OR Love?

          Recently I picked up a magazine and, scanning through the news section, one quote really got my attention.


           "If you love it, it's not work."

The quote read. 

I've heard this before. Confucius (a man who I think should have been named 'Confusing'), an Eastern thinker to have one of the greatest impacts on Western culture is oft quoted to have said, "choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life." 

       It seems that in today's culture, most people have accepted the idea that work and pleasure are two opposing forces in life; that if something is work, one will by default not enjoy it. 

       Therefore, it seems to follow that if you love something, it's not work. Though I know what many of these people are intending to say with statements such as these, I don't like the trajectory that such a definition of work can cause. It's important, I think, to be careful how we use the word. Somehow, work is seen as a bad thing, a thing to be gotten over with each day so that one can "enjoy life." Work is a burden to be cast off if possible, a humble circumstance to rise above at all costs. 

        Thousands of pounds of ink have been expended on reams beyond number of paper, filled with strategies, some blatantly wacky, some naively honest, some ominously clever, and some foolishly stupid regarding how to make a living with very little to no work.

        Thousands of complaints are made by hard working capitalists regarding the welfare system. I've even grumbled several of them myself. "It's not fair that we should slave so hard every day over our work to pay for people who get to just sit back and do nothing." We grumble.

       A few months however, a question was posed to me which I would in turn like to ask all of you.

      If you were offered the chance to not have to work, would you take it? 

       Would we choose not to work if we didn't have to? Many people would jump at the chance, but after considering the question for some time, I decided I probably would keep working. More than that, I realized I didn't want to ever be in the position where I didn't have to work. Otherwise, the temptation not to work might be too strong. 

      Why do I want to keep working?

       The answer has been pounded into me all my life but I never really understood it until about a year ago. I heard a lecture by a man whose name I can't even remember. He stated the answer I had heard all my life again, but made it abundantly clear to me  in a way I hadn't considered. 

      The answer I've been told all my life is: "We were created to work." 

It made sense, Adam and Eve were put in the garden as caretakers of it, not to be cared for in it.  

However, last year's lecture really hit it home. 

     You see, if we don't work, not only have we lost our sense of purpose since, we were indeed created to work, but we have become useless rather like an egg-beater which is no longer required to beat eggs and so sits idle in the cabinet gathering inches of dust, it's parts rusting from the inside out.

     But think about all the things I could do if I didn't have to work....if I had no responsibilities, one might respond. I've thought about this too.

    The unnamed lecturer told us a story of an older woman whom he had befriended who told him of the hard life she had growing up. Everybody working to support the family, everybody contributing, somehow to make ends meet. They got up early, went to bed late, worked hard jobs, one member of the family was an invalid. 
      The speaker asked this friend of his once if she ever missed those days.

      Her answer was not as surprising to me as the reason she gave for it. "Yes," she said, "sometimes I miss those days. In the end, we were all happy, because...." this was what really got me, "because," she said, "we all knew that we were needed."

     They were needed....that was what made them happy. It all made sense now, why tragedy and loss brings people together. Why people who are hard workers generally have better lives. Why children who have chores growing up usually have happier lives than those who are raised with no responsibilities, and weekly allowances. 

     I'll tell you honestly, friends, I realized at this moment that this was one of my biggest struggles with just keeping on with life. So many times I didn't feel needed. So many times, in this pampered life we live, I felt completely useless, that I could die tomorrow and after the hubbub and tears died down life would go on with no one being the worse for my not being there. 

Do you ever feel that way?  

Well, allow me to say the statement that everybody responds with when someone admits feeling such a thing, "Don't say that honey, everybody has a purpose, and everybody is needed no matter how small the things he does." Right? 

We would all say that, wouldn't we?

But do we really believe it?

This very gifted speaker confirmed this premise in my mind with a story about a bagging man at a grocery store.

 Seriously? A bagging man? How much more ignominious can you get than that in terms of really being needed.

 Well, to the speaker this man was by no means expendable. 

  This particular bagger, consciously or not, was out to prove to the world that no person no matter how small his task was dispensable. He knew how to bag. He would put like items together, set everything in like a well ordered puzzle, he filled the bags so that each one weighed about the same.

"When you're doing grocery shopping for your wife and you have a couple of young children at your heels," the speaker said, "you realize how much of a blessing a good bagger can be. I knew," he said, "That none of the bag handles were going to break on me because the items were improperly balanced. I knew that none of my groceries were going to get damaged." 

We all know what it's like to get home and find that your chips have become crumbs and your spaghetti is half the length it's supposed to be because the bagger just tossed everything in as fast as he could. 

"I even knew," the speaker went on, "how many bags I could carry at a time because of how well weighted they were." He went on to say, "this man, by doing his small job well, was not only a blessing to me but by saving me time and effort was adding value to my life."

      Wow, this was revolutionary to me. To think that the things we do can add value to another person's life. I decided to take that statement as my "mantra" if you will. To say you want to be a blessing to people is not only overused, but cliche. I decided that I wanted to state my life purpose here on earth as being here to add value to people's lives. Think about it, no matter what you do, whether it's babysitting, changing a diaper, washing dishes, waiting on a table, cleaning a bathroom, working at a checkout counter, teaching an instrument, illustrating a novel, whatever it is, you're not just making money so that you can go and have fun. You, in the very act of your work, are helping another person in some way and by doing so you are adding value to that person's life.

     This is why work and pleasure shouldn't be opposing opposites, they should be complimentary words. The fact that you have joy in it should affirm the work and the fact that you're doing good work should lead to great pleasure.

    Alright, I'll stop with the lecture.....this is a blog post not a sermon. Anyhow, I'd like to encourage all of you not to pity the welfare people rather than envy them or get angry at them....they don't have the tremendous privilege of adding value to other people's lives, and in the end adding purpose and value to their own. And not just that, but do your work well, friends, because you have no idea the impact you're making on someone just by cleaning those dishes properly.

   Think about that bagger who I never met. The speaker didn't even mention his name, and yet he was used as an inspiration for a room of one-hundred plus seminary students who are probably going to go out and impact the world with their work ethics. 

     The verse in proverbs speaks truth when it says, "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings." ~ Proverbs 22:29

   Okay, really, no more preaching...I thought in this particular case I'd share with you a classical work...yes it's long....but if you're having trouble studying this might actually help besides being absolutely magnificent....Let me know what you think of this tone poem by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana called the Moldau.



  Doesn't that piece just inspire you to go out and do great things?
  
  ~ Let's not be content with just surviving. Let's not separate pleasure from work. Let's take delight in every stroke of the pen in every wail of the spoiled brat we have to babysit. Let's enjoy hearing the same song played with the same wrong note for the one-hundredth time. Let's thank God that we have the ability to work and add value to people's lives. And when we do get a vacation let's find something else to work on. Something different and fun of course, but that doesn't mean it's not work...embrace the word and make it your motto and resist the reflex of disgust and repugnance which switches on when you hear the word. Let it thrill you to your core! 

       Alright, I consider you my lifelong friends if you actually read through this entire post, but I still hold you in high esteem if you at least listened to the entire song and enjoyed it! Extra points in my favor are earned if you did both. ;)

       Keep up the good work!

   ~ Christianna 

Beloved of The Lord

          What makes a person lovable?

          Most people will tell you it's based on some qualities that person possesses, such as selflessness, kindness, compassion, the ability to listen, a good sense of humor....the list goes on. Psychologists will tell you a person has to be real and genuine to be any of the above, and that thus, confidence in oneself is the true key to becoming a lovable person.

          How many of you have heard something along the lines of "you need to embrace yourself" cited as the straight and narrow way to lovableness?

          How many movies, articles and stories in modern society have you watched or read in which the main premise is that to be loved by others one must first love oneself? I know I get pelted with it everyday.

         Many of you probably saw the 2017 Disney live-action movie "Beauty and The Beast." If not, I think most of you know the story. We all know how Belle comes to love the beast by seeing what a kind, thoughtful individual he was in spite of his sinister appearance and surly manners.

       I always wondered, though, what would have happened to him if the beast was as nasty on the inside as he was on the outside. If he had been so, even sweet, kind Belle would have been all for killing him, I believe. Because when it comes down to it, nobody cares for a truly unlovable person....right?

        Pop culture today says that for a person to become lovable he must first love himself. All I can say is, everybody's tried it and it doesn't work.

        When a baby is born into the world, it has nothing to recommend itself. It brings nothing but the most narcissistic attitude on the planet. It cries whenever it's uncomfortable, never says thank you for anything, but takes everything given as though it is owed it because of who it is.

       Babies are, in every sense of the word, the epitome of unloveliness.

           Yet....

       We all know there is nothing stronger than a mother's love for her child. When a young mother holds her newborn child in her arms for the very first time, I'm told, she experiences a bond, a love for that baby like nothing she has or will ever experience. She will give up her life for that tiny, self-centered brat. For years, a mother, labors over, and loves that child. For years, there's nothing about the child that really makes her want to spend time with that child for any other reason than the fact that he's her child. Until one day, the mother wakes up and realizes that her child has become a really nice person. Someone whom people like, respect, and whose company other individuals enjoy to be around.

        What made that child lovable?

       The mother's love.

        To become lovable, that child had to be loved first. It happens for every individual. Science has already confirmed that you can't raise a baby without love. It will die if you try it. The fundamental reason for suicide is that the perpetrator believes somewhere deep down inside that he is unloved.

        My friends, I'd like to submit to you that this all points to a fundamental truth that to become lovable, a person must first be loved. The more deeply and certainly an individual knows he is loved, the more that individual will love, and thus become lovable in himself.

        Don't just believe this because I'm saying it. What does the Scripture say in that passage in Romans that all of us memorized as children.

       "For One Will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for a good man one would dare even to die. But God demonstrated his own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." 
            ~ Romans 5:7-8

     Last season when I was part of the seminary choir we sang a song in which the original words began, "You didn't want heaven without us, so Jesus you brought heaven down." Well, all the seminarians were up in arms at that statement. With absolutely no opposition from the rest of us, a couple of the men speedily changed the words to "you could have had heaven without us, but Jesus you brought heaven down." This made me incredibly happy not just because that's what I believe as well, but because I was singing with a whole bunch of people who understood that Jesus didn't save us because we were in any way deserving of it. No, we were wretched, worms. Miserable, members in no way meritorious of the meanest ministration. Yet, God loved us, and that, good readers, made all the difference.

      What difference does this make? Well, for starters...

      When I know that God's love for me isn't dependent on what I do. I am free to do good because I want to, not to save myself somehow, or appease God. Because He loves me unconditionally, I have hope that He can redeem my life in spite of all my miserable failings. Because His love for me transcends my actions, I can give that same love to others, because I know that whatever the result, there will always be someone who loves me. 

        Thinking about this sends goosebumps up my spine. To think He loves us that much. I'm never happier then when I really believe that. And I think that when one knows surely and fully that God loves him beyond his ugliness of body and soul; no one is more lovable.


        And now as I close, as you all know, it's song time.... ;)

  I thought for this post it would be fitting to share with you an adaption of Titanic's theme song "My Heart Will Go On," by a couple of my dear college friends.

   If there are any of you hard-core menfolk reading this post, please don't close the page in absolute disgust just yet. When I say adaption, I really mean adaption. My talented colleagues turned this from an "ooey-gooey" love song into a sweet reassurance of God's love and the love we can share with each other.
 
   Trust me and watch it(all the way through) before you make any sweeping assertions....you might even like it!


      Wasn't it beautiful? Isn't it wonderful to know you are loved no matter what?

             I'll say one last thing before I close.

                     When mommy used to tuck us each into bed, she would say every night:


  "Mommy loves you, and Daddy loves you, and all your brothers and sisters love you, but Jesus loves you most of all, and he is your good Shepherd and you are his little lamb."

  Even today, I strive to carry those words in my heart and I'd encourage you to do the same. Nothing in this world can really bother you when you know that Jesus loves you most of all.


       ~ Christianna