Saturday, December 28, 2013

Reflections


With 14 days to go until the wedding day, I thought it would be an appropriate time to post about some of the lessons I learned throughout my single years. I spent a long time trying to figure out the path God had placed me on, and here are some of the key points I’ve been able to take away from it…

1) Don’t Wish Away Your Single Years

I spent many years wishing I wasn’t single. First it was in high school when not many of my peers were dating, but I was concerned with the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend and worried that something might be wrong with me. You can take a moment and laugh – I do. I’ll chalk those years up to teen paranoia.

But more seriously, I found myself wishing away my single years during my late teens and early twenties, when friends around me began to get engaged and married. I thought I was ready – and because there wasn’t a man in my life I began to worry again about whether there ever would be.

Are you beginning to see a trend?

I spent so much time worrying that I almost missed a lot of what God was trying to show me during those years.

First and most importantly I learned patience and to grow in my personal relationship with the Lord. While my faith had always been strong, I learned what it meant to lean on God – to trust in him to direct my future. That might sound like a simple thing, but for me, when to be a wife and mother was something that I wanted so badly, it was a journey to learn!

I learned to be joyful for others. There were many moments when I struggled with some intense jealousy as I watched friends become engaged, married, and start families of their own. It was a truly humbling experience to learn to be joyful for those friends (and not just slap on a happy face). Some friends were more understanding than others while I was on this journey, and to be fair, I pushed away some friends because at the time it hurt to much to try and be happy for them.

I was also able to use my single years to engage in some wonderful opportunities. I had the chance to travel – both with my family and friends, and later school trips to the east coast and Kenya. I was able to volunteer at church with music, women’s ministries, and with high schoolers. I went to law school, which was rigorous journey of immense academic and spiritual growth, and had the chance to work for local and state government offices. Most importantly, I’ve had the chance to spend some extra time with my family, including brushing up on some important skills – cooking, sewing, budgeting, etc.

Don’t make the mistake I did and spend time wishing away your single years. Realize that they are a precious time that can be vitally important to preparing you for what God has planned for your future. And also remember that it’s not the most attractive thing for a guy to come across an overly clingy girl whose been sitting around just waiting for any old man to come make her a wife! The skills and experiences I’ve had make up many of the things Brandon loves about me J

2) God’s Timing is the Best Timing

I’ve always felt like I was at the end of the list.

Youngest person in my family.

One of the youngest people in my high school/college class. (making me one of the last ones to get my license and turn 21).

Last of my friends to get engaged.

Last of my friends to get married.

Likely last of my friends to have kids.

For a long time this really bugged me! Couldn’t I ever be FIRST at something? Or even hit the middle of the curve?

During the craze of wedding seasons (i.e. 3 summers ago I was a part of 4 weddings and invited to 11) I was mostly okay with being behind the curve. I was dating someone at the time and figured my day would come (which it has!). The benefit of getting married this January is that a lot of my friends haven’t had a wedding in awhile (since they are all old married folks now) and there is a renewed excitement about the event!

Recently the craze has been babies! When Brandon and I wrote out our guest list we could immediately count 26 people off the list because they couldn’t travel due to pregnancy/new baby! In the last few weeks I have watched friends and family welcome Sophia, Ellis, Everett, William, Jackson, Brandon, Elliott, Henry, Caroline, Landon, and Mary Evelyn into their families. And that is not counting the numerous babies on their way, including a new niece/nephew! :) I might have been struggling with a little bit of baby fever….

But the truth is that I have learned over and over again that while God’s timing is often different than mine, and it is always better.

Don’t listen to pressure from family or friends who tell you that you’re destined for failure if you don’t have a career chosen by the time you’re 17, or that you’re an old maid if you don’t have a mate in sight by 21, or that you’re behind schedule if you haven’t had a child by 25. On the same hand, don’t listen to family or friends who tell you you’re crazy for getting married at 20, or having a child by 21, etc.

The world’s timing is not God’s timing.

I waited longer than I thought I would to meet the man God had in store for me, and let me tell you – it was WORTH THE WAIT! In the same sense, Brandon and I would welcome any blessing God sends our way after marriage. We know when we think would be our ideal time to start our family, but let’s face it. I think I’ve finally learned to let go of the planning and let God lead. It’s better that way!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Minnesotan Thanksgiving

I figured since we are only 11 days from Christmas and 4 weeks from the wedding, now was a good time to post about our Thanksgiving in Minnesota before the pictures got lost in the dust. Given that we will most likely always be living away from one set of family (or maybe both) Brandon and I decided earlier this year that we'd like to get on a schedule that allows us to spend Thanksgiving with one side of the family and Christmas with the other. While we know this might become more difficult as our family grows, or depending on where we live, we thought it would be a good place to start!

So the day before Thanksgiving we both worked a 1/2 day and set off for the 11-ish hour drive to Minnesota. The drive ended up being more like 13 hours thanks to 3 pretty nasty accidents, but we pulled into Brandon's parents driveway right around midnight.

Thanksgiving day was so relaxing. Unfortunately Brandon's sister and her family weren't able to join us, but his Grandma and aunt did. Being my first Thanksgiving ever away from my immediate family, I was a little nervous about how I would feel....thankfully I have been blessed with a wonderful man and in-laws and I quickly realized how Minnesota and my Minnesotan family have become my second home.

Neither Brandon or I have ever participated in black Friday shopping. Neither of us are big shoppers, but I do love a good deal. About 7:30 p.m. I was online and noticed that Target had a great deal on a camera. We've talked recently about wanting to have something other than our phones to take pictures on as we start our married life, but hadn't made any movement to purchase one yet. After some quick research we realized it was a great deal and thought we could order the camera online (and thus avoid actually participate in any Christmas-day shopping)....but after a few minutes of trying, we realized if we wanted to actually get the deal, we needed to go to the store - which at that point opened in 15 minutes. Since there is literally a Target in my in-laws neighborhood we relented and jumped in the car to head over. It was craziness! A line literally wrapped around the store and when the doors opened it was maddness! We got the camera, but decided shopping on Thanksgiving wasn't something we'd probably participate in in the future. To calm his guilt, Brandon made sure to check with several employees and make sure they'd had Thanksgiving dinner and were getting overtime :)

Friday was a day full of visiting friends. Our first stop was to see Brooke, Josiah, and Jonah. Josiah is a friend of ours who has been fighting an incredible battle with cancer for the last 10 years. Most recently graft vs. host disease has been raging his body. Thankfully he was doing a little better when we saw them and only a week later we heard that he got the report that his cancer had shrunk 40%! Praise God! While we were there Jonah, our ring bearer, modeled his wedding clothes for us (minus the Christmas plaid bow tie!).


After a quick stop at the new Chic-fil-et (which we might have visited multiple times during our 3-day stay...) we headed over to our friends Jess and Rob to meet their new blessing Henry! Henry is an absolute doll, and at 9 lb. 11 oz. doesn't exactly feel like a newborn! It was great to spend some time catching up with some of our closest friends.


On Saturday we spent time with Brandon's parents, went to church, and had a little family Christmas celebration. Sunday morning we were up bright and early and headed back to Michigan with a car stuffed with presents, wedding supplies, and Brandon's collection of childhood baseball cards that he found in his parent's attic...



Every year at some holiday my sister-in-law Allison tells me the spray whipped cream smells funny and asks me what I think. Every year I fall for it and end up with a face full of whipped cream. NOT THIS YEAR! She was back in MI so I carried on the tradition with Brandon!


My in-laws blessed me with this manger scene as a late birthday present. I was ecstatic! Then Brandon accidentally broke the shepherd's hand....and I started laughing. While he stared at me looking horrified I explained that my grandparents have given my mom a nativity scene when she got married - and the poor wisemen seemed to loose hands every year. I told him that it wouldn't really feel like Christmas if someone in the manger didn't have a hand superglued on!


Brandon held Henry for about 30 seconds, and then graciously gave him back to me for the next 4 hours! This man knows I love my baby time!



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Whose to Blame?


Recently I saw a news show broadcasting a panel discussion. The panel featured a variety of ages, but seemed to heavily feature twenty-somethings. What really caught my attention was when a young man mentioned that he was upset with the government for allowing universities to encourage and permit students to graduate with useless degrees that left them with a whole lot of debt and without a job. The other panelists quickly affirmed the young man’s statement.

I don’t really know what to think. My first thought was to be automatically frustrated with the young man. Hadn’t he ever heard of a thing called personal responsibility? No one forced him to choose his major - he made the decision and he should have to accept the consequences that often accompany a more liberal arts degree.

On the other hand, I can see where he is coming from. I attended a wonderful liberal arts college and studied psychology. One of the benefits of a liberal arts college is that you have an opportunity to study a variety of subjects at a more in-dept level, regardless of what your degree might be. Consequently, I had the chance to take some interesting Religion classes, study French, and hone my writing skills with some higher level English classes. The downside to a liberal arts education is that you arguably "waste" a lot of time studying things that will have no relevance to your future career...and you might even end up majoring in one of them.

For example, take my psych degree. Had I not pursued law school, I’m not really sure what I would have done with a psychology degree. Almost all of my fellow psych majors have gone onto get their masters degree or phd. Of those that didn’t, I know one friend who managed to find a psychology related job - all of the others are unemployed or working in a non-related field. The same is true for many others I know who received liberal arts degrees in English, History, Spanish, Art History, etc. Brandon once said that when he decided he didn’t want to be a History professor (during his senior year of college), he did the only other thing a History major could logically do - go to law school.

But isn’t it still a question of personal responsibility? We chose our majors and the paths they took us on.

Maybe.

I’m going to put it out there....I think career services can be deceiving and purely unhelpful. I have ultimately been fortunate to find work through extensive networking and internships, but I have many college friends and acquaintances who spent years seemingly wandering. I’ve often caught myself thinking....what did they expect? A job to just land in their lap after graduation?

Sadly, I think the answer is frequently "yes." Today’s society and the modern education system seems to operate on a reward system and a sense of entitlement. They preach the message that if you work hard, make it through high school/college/graduate school, things will fall together for you. You’ll make good money, buy your dream home, start a family, etc. That is not reality. Sadly, working hard and getting an education isn’t always enough.
Instead, I would argue that you have to be smart - smart in your choices, smart in your timeline, and smart in your networking and relationships. The stressed economy of the last several years and the increase in graduate degrees has made pursing a career a different ballgame. Maybe in the past you used to be able to graduate with a college degree in English and fairly easily find a job simply because you held a college degree, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

So what’s the answer?

Option 1

Play the game. Career services, professors, mentors, and other career counselors told me (a college student during some of our roughest economic years) that I should just wait it out....go to law school because for sure the economy would be better by the time I got out and jobs would be flowing like milk and honey - hah! But seriously, graduate degrees are becoming more the norm, even in professions like education and nursing. If you are pursuing a college degree, plan for this additional time and perhaps think of alternatives for your undergraduate years to save time and money (i.e. choose a major early on, save money by going to a community college for a few years, earn college credits early through AP classes or other alternatives, shadow someone in a career you think you might be interested in pursuing before you waste time and money on a degree you won’t use).

Option 2:

Take an alternative route. You don’t have to go to college to be successful. While I loved my college years and learned a ton from them, I also realize that pursuing a traditional undergraduate degree is not always possible, or the best idea, for everyone. Consider trade school or apprenticeships. Don’t necessarily listen to what modern society is telling you you have to do!

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
Thomas A. Edison