Tuesday, August 28, 2012

finding love in a hopeless place.

I'm big into anniversaries.  I amuse Cori by keeping him updated on a million little anniversaries: our first kiss (the night the Saints won the NFC championship game in 2010), the night he first asked me out (December 16, 2009, after a sushi dinner celebrating Laura's birthday), the day we moved away from New Orleans (Saturday, July 30, 2011), and on and on.  I'm not exactly sure why I care about these things; I think I just like to give weight to the events of life by remembering them.  And especially with the more profound anniversaries, like that of the Virginia Tech shootings, I want to talk about them so that others will remember and honor the sacredness of these days, too.  So, just as Cori remembers with me the anniversary of our first time going to church in Tampa, will you join with me in remembering one of the most profound anniversaries?

Tomorrow marks the 7 year anniversary of an event that forever changed my life.  On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf and changed everything.  Over 1,800 lives were lost.  The devastation was so impossibly far-reaching.

I've been sitting here for 10 minutes, typing and re-typing, unable to communicate what it was like after the storm.  I was in Pass Christian, Mississippi for a week 4 months after the storm, and then moved to New Orleans 7 months later.  Houses were on train tracks.  Cars were in houses. The dreary X with numbers that signified that houses had been searched for survivors (or bodies) marked houses everywhere.  Neighborhoods that you knew had once bustled with life were like ghost-towns.

It was devastating.  And while I do want to remember that, what I want to focus on is this: I saw Jesus there.  Forgive the irony of quoting Rihanna in such a serious post, but it's true- I found love in a hopeless place.  And while it's true that I did meet Cori in New Orleans, what I mean in this moment is that I found Jesus.  I saw Him everywhere.  I saw Him in the quiet servitude of the people we worked with in Pass Christian.  I saw Him in the strength of New Orleanians, determined to rebuild.  I saw Him in the laughter of my teammates.  I saw Him in the story of Aldo, one of the first homeowners we helped, who rescued people on his boat when the levees broke.  I saw Him in Augustine, our friend who spoke confidently of the Lord's love, despite the fact that she'd lost her mother and her husband to Katrina.  I saw Him in the ways my heart, beat down after a rough senior year of college, started to come alive again.  I saw Him in the homes we gutted, the churches I attended, the volunteers who selflessly came to help, and the children I taught.

You only have to go as far as the weather forecast that predicts that Hurricane Isaac will make landfall in New Orleans at 1am on the 7th anniversary of Katrina to remember that we live in a broken world.  But what I know to be true is that God's goodness is over it all.  My life verse, my Katrina verse, is Jeremiah 31:3-4.  

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I will build you up again,
    and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. 
Again you will take up your timbrels 
    and go out to dance with the joyful. 

Tonight, as I pray for my friends and the city that will always hold a piece of my heart, I am choosing to believe in God's everlasting love.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

thoughts on marriage.

I met Cori in August 2009.  At the time, I had no idea how important that cute boy at the Bulldog would become.

In August 2010, Cori had just gotten back from spending two months in Ecuador, and our conversations turned from if we would get married, to when we would get married.

In August 2011, Cori and I were newly married and embarking on a brand new season of life.  We had left behind our schools (Cori, as a master's student, me as a teacher), our homes, our friends, our favorite restaurants- pretty much everything familiar- to move to Tampa for Cori's fellowship job with the CDC.

And it was hard.  Really, really hard.  The conglomeration of that many changes at once was stressful and infused a huge dose of reality into our newlywed bliss.  I remember one of our first few days in Tampa.  At that point, we were spending our days driving around Tampa, trying to find a home to rent.  In an effort to save money, we had recently downgraded from a Holiday Inn to a Super 8.  Cori and I had gotten into a fight about something- what, I have no clue now, except that I'm sure it was something completely inconsequential- and I was sitting outside our little room, staring across the parking lot of the Super 8.  I was hot, homesick, and irritated.  I thought something along the lines of, "Is this marriage?"

Fast forward a year to now, August 2012.  I've journeyed far as a wife in the past year, gaining perspective and wisdom.  And what I've learned is this- yes, that lonely night at the Super 8 is marriage.  It's not what marriage is intended to be of course, but as Cori and I live life on this fallen earth, those moments of despair are just as much a reality of marriage as the giggly, can't-stop-grinning-because-I-love-Cori-so-much moments.  

Marriage is beautiful and wonderful, but it is also a tool that Jesus uses to sanctify us.  When Cori and I were engaged, we heard the phrase (I believe from The Sacred Marriage) that 'marriage is about your holiness, not your happiness.'  That truth pretty much rocked me.  For example, I've seen my selfishness in a whole new light this past year.  I mean, I always knew I was selfish, but sharing my life so intimately with someone else has made that so much more clear... but it's also forced me to deal with it, to examine myself, to repent before Cori and the Lord, and to make some real changes.  And that, my friends, is beautiful.  

I've also learned that my marriage isn't going to work when I depend on Cori to meet my needs.  The reality is, despite the fact that I married a wonderful, kind, servant-hearted man, he can never be the one to fulfill me.  That's Jesus' place, and His alone.  Bit by bit, I'm learning to seek satisfaction from the Lord, so that I can love my husband selflessly and without expectations of what I can get out of the deal.

I've loved so much of the last 3 years with Cori.  The excitement of the pursual, the joy of falling in love, the giddiness of engagement.  And now?  I love him more deeply than ever.  I love him with the depth that comes from commitment, from fighting through those nights at the Super 8, from spending the day doing chores around the house, from dancing around the kitchen, and from falling asleep with him beside me every night.  Marriage isn't always easy- but it is always, always worth fighting for.