Did you know that I wanted to be a nun when I was in high school? True story.
See, I was raised Catholic and felt so close to God that I thought the only way to have that for the rest of my life was to pursue a life of chastity and prayer as a nun.
It was that chastity part that got to me, though. If I was a nun, I couldn’t get married. I couldn’t have babies. And I really wanted to have two boys and two girls by the time I was 26. (Also a true story. And it really happened.)
So I didn’t become a nun (you’re surprised, aren’t you?). Instead, I graduated high school, engaged to my husband. Yes, I got married at 18, a few short months after graduation.
People told me I was insane, that it would never last, that I was throwing away my life. And it’s been a long, hard, oh-so-fulfilling road and somehow, it’s almost 12 years later.
It’s a good time for reflection, no? Plus, I’m turning 30 next Tuesday.
Ok, this wasn’t all my idea. Last week, my pastor shared an excellent sermon on the 10 things he’s learned about ministry in the last 10 years. You know the term, “preaching to the choir”?
Well lately, our pastor has been doing just that with messages that evoke a hearty amen from my soul. (Which I never say out loud, of course. Mine is a quiet soul).
At the end of this particular sermon, he asked if five people would volunteer to share a few things they’ve learned this Sunday. I felt prompted to volunteer, so I shot up my hand.
And then I had to back out. Because I kind of forgot that we’d be out of town for my sister-in-law’s vow renewal shindig. (Sorry, Bre. I knew it was happening, really, I just didn’t connect the dots when I raised my hand.)
So, I decided that even though I can’t share this at church, I can share it with you here. Because maybe you’ve learned the same things. Or you need to. Or you’ve learned different things (would you please share them in the comments?).
Whatever the case may be, I had to share them, because God has been so great, so loving to me that I can’t not say anything. Here goes.
1. He always provides
I’ve always been really good about stressing out about money. For whatever reason, I was fearful that we wouldn’t have enough. But, time and time and time again, we had enough. Usually more than enough.
And if we didn’t get money, our needs were met in some other way. A random credit applied to our account. A perfectly timed gift from a friend. So much free food.
2. He gives the best gifts
I have a secret … we qualified for and received food stamps for several years. It started out as a temporary thing and we just kept qualifying. Well, when it came time to renew at the beginning of the year, my husband and I felt strongly that we shouldn’t.
We felt like we needed to step out on faith and see what God would do. So I tossed the application.
And the free food started coming from everywhere. Yes, my business was doing well and we could afford to buy it, but that didn’t stop God from showering us with gifts. And it wasn’t just any food – it was local, organic and fresh. We got boxes of veggies, excellent yogurt, handmade jam.
God doesn’t just provide the bare necessities. He goes above and beyond, showering us with gifts because giving is in his nature.
3. My best qualities are his qualities
As I was thinking about how giving God is, I thought about how much I love giving gifts to people I love. It’s kind of my love language.
I watch with delight as they receive their gifts and try hard to suppress the excited giggles until I’m out of earshot (I don’t want anyone thinking I’m crazy or anything).
And I realized that I get that from Him. He delights in giving to us, probably giggling excitedly as he watches us receive his gifts. We are made in the image of a giving God. A loving God. A creative God. And he’s passed those qualities on to us.
4. Our relationship isn’t one-sided
I’ve always loved prayer. In school, I’d sit in class, totally ignoring the boring videos and praying instead (See? Nun material. Sort of …). We had an ongoing conversation that brought me closer to him.
As I got away from that in my early twenties and have come back to it, I realize that much of our relationship depends on me engaging in it. He will always be there for me, but I need to participate for it to grow. I can’t just say, “Yes, I believe in you, God” and be done with it. It’s a relationship.
Just like a marriage only thrives when both parties are actively engaged, committed to growing and doing life together.
5. He is the master repairman
Speaking of marriage … my husband and I have had some seriously rough years. How we stayed together, I don’t know. Ok, I do know. God made each of us so stubborn, we refused to give in.
And because we hung in there and decided to press into God together, he’s redeemed it. Somehow, he took the hopelessly shattered pieces of our marriage and put it back together, making it work even better than before.
6. He makes all things work out for his good
God repaired our marriage and has turned it into something so lovely. Something that has helped other couples as they struggle with love and forgiveness.
It was such a mess, so hopeless, and yet, God is using it to reveal himself to others. How amazing is that? And it’s not the first situation I’ve seen this happen in. In fact, it’s unfolding yet again here.
7. When I ask, he answers
I’m getting better at listening and noticing the answer. Often it’s yes, and even better than what I asked for. And sometimes, it’s no. Just like when my kids are whining and begging for something that’s just not in their best interest and I have to tell them no.
I’m hoping that in my thirties I get better about accepting the no and knowing he probably has something better in mind, instead of whining and begging.
8. The Holy Spirit is a great guide
Pretty much any time my husband and I argue and I apologize first, the Holy Spirit has prompted it. Because I don’t want to, but I know I need to.
And the nudge is both gentle and powerful and definitely not coming from my desires at the moment, but it’s ultimately for my greatest good.
9. He has a great sense of humor
“What do you think, two kids is plenty? Or maybe wait a few years and try again? Yeah, that sounds good.” So went our conversation as we drove the windy road through the redwoods, on our way home from a camping trip with our 2 1/2 year-old son and 2-month-old daughter.
And then, suddenly, I had a very distinct feeling. God was laughing at us.
When I discovered I was pregnant six weeks later, I knew why.
10. God loves simple
I had no intention of living a simple natural life. I liked stuff and thought I needed more stuff, more activities, more everything for a good life. But God had other plans for me and I’m delighted that he loved me enough to steer me onto this path.
Jesus said that the most important commandments are to love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and to love others as you love yourself.
What has God taught you in the last 10 years?