My husband and I are just a couple months away from celebrating our eleventh anniversary. Eleven has always been one of our favourite numbers so we are partial to this milestone coming up. In fact - true story - we got some groceries today and our total came to $111.11. My husband actually told the checker how cool that was, because we love the number eleven. (I know, we're dorks.)
This list could just as easily (and more honestly) be called: The things I am really bad at and struggle with and continually want to grow in. But that didn't sound as good for a title. So here it is - the most important things being married has been teaching me - and I have to add, even learning is a grace. A grace for which I am incredible thankful.
1. Expect Change
'This is what I've come to believe about change: it's good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it's incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God's hand, which is where you wanted to be all long, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be.
I've learned the hard way that change is one of God's greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we've become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I've learned that it's not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God's graciousness, not life's cruelty.' ~ Shauna Niequist
"All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful." ~ O'Connor
2. Expect Loss
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
"To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss." ~ Elisabeth Elliot
"If we hold tightly to anything given to us unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used we stunt the growth of the soul. What God gives us is not necessarily "ours" but only ours to offer back to him, ours to relinguish, ours to lose, ours to let go of, if we want to be our true selves. Many deaths must go into reaching our maturity in Christ, many letting goes." ~ Elisabeth Elliot
"We are perplexed to see misfortune falling upon decent, inoffensive, worthy people—–on capable, hard-working mothers of families or diligent, thrifty, little trades people, on those who have worked so hard, and so honestly, for their modest stock of happiness and now seem to be entering on the enjoyment of it with the fullest right. How can I say with sufficient tenderness what here needs to be said? It does not matter that I know I must become, in the eyes of every hostile reader, as if I were personally responsible for all the sufferings I try to explain……But it matters enormously if I alienate anyone from the truth.
Let me implore the reader to try to believe, if only for a moment, that God, who made these deserving people, may really be right when He thinks that their modest prosperity and the happiness of their children are not enough to make them blessed: that all this must fall from them in the end, and that if they have not learned to know Him they will be wretched. And therefore He troubles them, warning them in advance of an insufficiency that one day they will have to discover. The life to themselves and their families stands between them and the recognition of their need; He makes that life less sweet to them.
I call this a Divine Humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up “our own” when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is “nothing better” now to be had." ~ from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
3. Expect to Make Hard Choices - Joy is a Choice
"We die daily. Happy those who daily come to life as well. " ~ George MacDonald
"I do not want to be indifferent to the joys or beauties of this life. For through these, as through pain, we are enabled to see purpose in randomness, pattern in chaos." ~ Madeleine L'Engle
"Choices will continually be necessary and -- let us not forget -- possible. Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them." ~ Elisabeth Elliot
"The world looks for happiness through self-assertion. The Christian knows that joy is found in self-abandonment. 'If a man will let himself be lost for My sake,' Jesus said, 'he will find his true self.' A Christian woman's true freedom lies on the other side of a very small gate---humble obedience---but that gate leads out into a largeness of life undreamed of by the liberators of the world..." ~ Elisabeth Elliot
4. Expect the Power of Your Words
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Those who love that will eat of its fruit." ~ Solomon
"Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. ... Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. ... Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you." ~ Paul (In Colossians and Ephesians)
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." ~ Solomon
5. Expect Gratitude to Conquer Fear
"It is impossible to give thanks, and simultaneously feel fear." ~ Ann Voskamp
"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." ~ Agatha Christie
" I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." ~ G.K. Chesteron
6. Expect Love to Win
"I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. ... Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.... Do you know what makes the prison disappear? Every deep, genuine affection. Being friends, being brothers, loving, that is what opens the prison, with supreme power, by some magic force. Without these one stays dead. But whenever affection is revived, there life revives. ... Love always brings difficulties, that is true, but the good side of it is that it gives energy." ~ van Gogh
"I don't think there is anything more artistic than the ability to love and be loved." ~ Tiffany Bozic
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." ~ Paul
"And what I must learn is to love with all of me, giving all of me, and yet remaining whole in myself. Any other kind of love is too demanding of the other; it takes, rather than gives. ... To love wholly, generously, and yet retain the core that makes you you. " ~ L'Engle
"Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair." ~ G.K. Chesterson
"Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God's story doesn't end with ashes." ~ Elisabeth Elliot