BLESSONS

For those of you who have followed this blog since it began, I am eternally grateful.  Your encouragement has been phenomenal, and I have cherished every exchange. I am so excited to tell you that I have turned this little blog into a book…and until September 13th @ 11:59p.m., you can get FREE SHIPPING if you preorder it!  Just go to our website (http://www.living-legacy-ministries.com/publishing) to order your copy today!  Books will be shipped after October 5th.

Here’s what some of my favorite people said about the book. (I cry every time I read their words):

“This open file of life experiences will be your go to when you need a fresh perspective during the most demanding of days.  You will laugh.  You will cry. You will not feel alone in your journey.”  
Adair Moorefield, fellow sojourner, mother of 2

In the breathless world of iPhone notifications and extracurricular everything, Blessons offers us a moment to stop, to catch our breath, and to remember that this world’s clock has not bound God’s timeless hands. ChristiAnna Coats invites us into her reflections on an ordinary life that feels close to home but helps us to see the God who often goes unnoticed when life stays ordinary and home stays close. If the Christian life is lived forwards but understood backwards (Kierkegaard), this is a book that demonstrates the possibility of hindsight in a world that puts life on fast-forward. In that way, Coats shows us what it means to think like a Christian and thus how to speak like a Christian–not through the mystical way of escape, not through the political way of protest, not through the pious way of perfection, but through the human way of remembering. The God in these pages is a God who is real enough to remember and true enough to transform our memory. I have no doubt that anyone who encounters these testimonies will remember this God as well, even if for the first time.”

-Jeremy Spainhour, fellow reflector, father of 3

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I’m so emotional about this whole endeavor. I cried when I read my ISBN number. I cried when I saw the cover. I don’t know what I’ll do when the actual hold-me-in-my-hands book arrives at my door….

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SOULMATES

Recently, when I was brushing my teeth, Michael uncharacteristically leaned in very close to me, shattering my tooth brushing bubble of space, stared at my toothbrush and said,

“how long have you been using that toothbrush?”

“since I bought it a few months ago.”

“I thought that was mine.”

“It’s pink!”

‘What color is mine?’

“BLUE!”

I love being married to Michael.  We’ve been best friends for 16 years, married for 9.  We laugh so much.  I think almost everything he says is slap you in the face hilarious.  The other day he told me, ‘I hashtag at the END of my words’. Which I think is the funniest thing I have ever heard and I laughed so hard at that coffee shot out my nose.  I still think he’s the hottest guy in the room.  I still can’t wait until he gets home.  I still melt a little when his name pops up on my phone – ‘It’s him!’ 

But Michael is not my soul mate.

I don’t believe in soul mates.  I think that we met because we lived in the same geographical area, had a similar socioeconomic status, and several mutual friends.  I think we had a mutual attraction, and we made a decision, and so on and so forth, and it’s 16 years later and we’re still choosing each other.

Because all the gush.  But also…all the stuff.  There are days.  And you have them too, so you know what I mean.  Choosing self seems so enticing.  Because there are days, doggonit, when I am right.  And it would feel so good to waller in that.  Ok, and sometimes I do for a bit.  But I usually come around, or he does.  And there is forgiveness, there is seeking to understand rather than to be understood, and there is a continual melding into one flesh.  There is surrender to Christ out of reverence for the covenant we made August 21, 2004.

And it is darn hard honest to goodness bone fide work. 

Michael isn’t my soul mate.

I once had a friend who was in pain because of a broken heart.  She was seeking.  Seeking something.  She was seeking, but never finding, her identity through relationships with men.  She seemed so confused as to why she wasn’t able to find herself in them.   And I mustered up every ounce of my infantile wisdom that I had found in Christ and said to her, “you have a God shaped hole in your heart.  Christ is the only one who can fill that space.”

It was a lesson I had to learn as well.  Because I don’t know how you fared in algebra, but 16 years together – 9 years of marriage = 7 long stinking years of waiting for a ring.

I don’t like to wait for things like the coffee to make, the microwave to beep, or the boyfriend to propose.   Just come on already..everything!  Obviously, I was impatient.  And you need to know that we weren’t one of those couples who talked about marriage all the time before we were engaged.  We literally never talked about it.  The subject was off limits pre-proposal.

So I was in a bit of turmoil, especially that last year of ‘dating’.  Finally, one day amidst the turmoil, I sensed God say in my spirit,

“Who do you desire more?”

Who, indeed.  I had some serious perspective shifting, prioritizing, and soul searching of my own to do.  And I am not going to tell you that God waved a magic wand over Michael to speed things up.  He didn’t.  Michael, my sweet tortoise, did eventually propose, and when he did I was ready.  But only because I had already found my Soulmate.   When I expect ‘man’ to fulfill a role only God can fulfill, man will fail every time.  Because it’s not his job, as popculture would have it, to ‘complete’ me.

My soul has a mate. Your soul has a mate. It’s Jesus. No one else will do.

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CONFESSION

Here are 7 things you should know about me before following my blog.  My goal in life is to point people to Jesus, but I get it wrong a lot.

  1. I eat brownie mix almost every single day.
  2. When things break, I throw a tantrum that puts my kids’ tantrums to shame.
  3. I worry unnecessarily.
  4. I watch The Bachelor.  (while doing #1)
  5. I don’t enjoy pretend play with my kids, but I do it anyway.
  6. The 3 mornings I had to fast from coffee for my pregnancy glucose tests were the 3 worst mornings of my husband’s life.
  7. If I hear someone pulling in my lane, I shove clean unfolded laundry mixed with dirty laundry in the dryer to make it look like I keep a clean house.

There are many, many more things that I am not proud of, but they are between me and Jesus.  And we’re working on them.  I finished watching the Bachelor last night with a good friend of mine.  I’m not sure why that show has sucked me in.  In theory I hate everything about it.  Its lack of reality, its disregard for the feelings of those poor souls who give everything to a person who is giving something to everyone, its presumptuous attitude that ‘real love’ can be achieved in front of an audience and without real life thrown in the mix.  I was with the friend whose house I sneak over to after all of our kids are in bed and have coffee and good talks.   Her husband usually walks through the room and rolls his eyes at our girly banter, and he was especially annoyed last night as we giggled like school girls over Sean Lowe’s proposal to his new fiancé Catherine.  (It WAS NOT better than my husband’s proposal to me, for the record.  Love you, Babe.)

But it was precious.  He promised her the world, and she believed every word.  I hope their marriage works, and they can now begin to build a love that lasts.  It won’t be easy.  All the statistics are against them.  I hope they can overcome them.  I don’t know why I hope that, but it probably has something to do with my hope for marriage overall.  I hope marriages will last, but not just for longevity’s sake.  I hope marriage lasts for the fullness it can offer when it is done right.  There are low, low times in marriage.  But there are exhilarating moments that are really really wonderful.  Like last night, when I came home (way too late for a school night) to a clean kitchen (not how I left it), the smell of coffee still faintly in the air from where he had preset the machine to make a fresh pot at 4:30 this morning.  The children were sound asleep.  It was a sweet moment when I slipped into a prewarmed bed and, in his sleep, my husband whispered, ‘love you, babe.’

Sean and Catherine, you are about to embark on a great adventure.  You will discover the reality of ‘love’ now that the reality show is over.  You will discover the humanness of each other as you experience life together.  Sean, her body will droop after kids; Catherine, he may grunt and go bald (but hopefully never burp, a true gentleman would never burp in front of a lady).  You chose her at the finale of the show, but you will have to wake up every day and choose her again, and again, and again, and again.  She will have to decide to choose you too.  For it to work you have to choose each other, every single day, forever.

You better grow some rose bushes Sean, you’ll need to offer her one every day for the rest of your life.

(I’m probably never watching that show again.)

SUBMISSION

The “S” word for Christian women…

Michael and I dated 7 years before getting married.  Statistics say that is waaaay too long.  For the most part, I agree.  There are 3 reasons we waited:

  1. We started dating when we were babies.
  2. He wasn’t ready to commit.
  3. I wasn’t ready to submit.

He was ready to commit before I was ready to submit.  He proposed.  We planned the wedding.  I started freaking out.

I was independent!  I had a college degree!  I bought a house on my own!  Submit???  SUBMIT????

I was really struggling.  I would get all the way through Ephesians chapter 5, and every time I got to verse 22, I would stop.  I knew I needed to understand what it meant to submit before I walked down that aisle.  I did a lot of soul searching in those months before our wedding.  And I sought wise counsel.

“I’m just caught up on that one word, Mom.  I just don’t think I can submit to anyone but God.”

And then she responded, ever so gently, “Honey, it’s easy to submit to someone who would lay down his life for you.”  (pause) “Would Michael lay down his life for you?”

Crap.

I knew the answer.  It was clear, crystal clear.  Of course he would; of course he had!  If ever I have had an epiphany, that was it.

  • He had sold his truck to buy me an engagement ring.
  • He planned to rent his house to come live in mine.
  • He drove to his dad’s house, hopped on his dad’s lawnmower, then drove to my house every other week to mow my lawn so I didn’t have to. (I may have exaggerated the whole “I’m independent” thing.)
  • He literally lowered himself, by getting down on one knee, and pledged his faithful love to me forever.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. The best way to sweep her off her feet is by offering to wash them first.

He was already doing his part.

I had to do mine.  Once my attitude and understanding were shifted, I saw the word submit in a whole new light.  It’s easy to submit to someone who sacrifices so freely for you.  As Christ did the church.

Now, let me be clear.  It’s easy to submit to my husband because he lives out the Biblical model of a husband so well. He has never, never abused this concept in any way, shape, or form.  He does not lourde over me.  He does not coerce me.  He does not think himself more highly than he ought.  Christ’s ultimate sacrifice wasn’t contingent upon our response, our submission to Him.  He showed His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, he died for us.

Ladies, if you are in a relationship and considering (a Biblical) marriage, ask yourself this:

“Would _______________ lay down his life for me?”

Answer honestly.  Think of examples.  Don’t enter into marriage with someone who would not sacrifice for you, lay down his life for you, love you the way you were created to be loved.  If you can answer yes, then don’t enter into marriage unless you are ready to submit to him out of reverence for Christ.  It’s easy to submit to someone who loves you, cherishes you, would lay down his life for you.

No greater love has any man than this, that he would lay his life down for his friends.

On January 16, 2004 I said ‘yes’ to a man on one knee because I loved him and couldn’t wait to plan a wedding.  7 months later I walked down that aisle fully prepared to enter into marriage.  Three kids, a career change, a move out of state, deaths, grad school, family changes, health problems, and a seminary degree later – there have been occasions where I have had to submit to my husband (although not many…I’m rarely wrong…stay tuned for a blogpost on pride).  I don’t feel less, inferior, or beneath Michael because of it.  Because I know:  1) Michael first submits to God.  2) Michael continues to sacrifice for me.  The concept that I thought would be so hard to adopt in my marriage has been one of the greatest blessons in my marriage.

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MARRIAGE

I found out how strong my grandparents’ marriage was a few months before my grandmother passed away.  It was my wedding day.  We were all staying together at a church conference center; my entire family had driven from North Carolina to Indiana to help me celebrate.  My 84-year old granddaddy was the pastor conducting the ceremony.

I was in my room getting ready and I heard my grandparents talking in their adjacent room.  My grandmother was going over the ceremony with my granddaddy, who had retired from full-time pastoring a few years prior.  He, unbeknownst to me, had been struggling with early signs of dementia.  Unbeknownst to me, because my grandmother took such care of him.

“No, you have to emphasize this, not for, for this reason shall a man…”

and so on she went through the entire ceremony, again.  She wanted it to be just right (because she really loved me), and she wanted it to be just right for his sake as well.  She really loved him.

Just a few months later, she was ill.  I found out more about their marriage then.  They were so tired.  Grandmother had been struggling with restless legs, and Granddaddy had been up in the night with her, every night walking up and down the hall.  Up and down, up and down, up and down for hours.  Until she could rest.  He really loved her.

When she was very very near her home going we were all there.  Of course we were all there.  We are a pack, a clan, a seriously enmeshed glob of a family who really really adore one another.  We had been keeping vigil all day and all night.  We had left her room so she could rest, and were in the living room talking and feeling sad.  We were using baby monitors to listen when we had to be in another room.  Through the baby monitor we heard him praying over her.  She was unaware of anything around her.  He prayed out loud for her anyway, as I suppose he had probably done the entire 56 years of their marriage.  They really loved each other.

These were precious, precious moments I will always treasure.

But in considering their marriage I think it was probably hard, very hard at times.  I remember that they bickered.  Honestly, they had…spats.  Looking back I can see that my grandmother was probably a little stern and my granddaddy was probably a little needy.  He was in full-time ministry for 65 years.  Being a pastor is hard.  He didn’t miss Sundays.  They always came to the beach on Sunday evening instead of Saturday, so as not to miss church.  She waited for him and they came together.  She could have come with us a day earlier.  She didn’t have to wait, she just did.  He sometimes left for a funeral.  She never complained.  That must have been hard.

He was an early bird.  She was a night owl.  He was punctual, she was not.  He did not come from a Christian home, she did.  He was a talker, she was a writer.  He was in the forefront, she in the background.  When she worked in a doctor’s office, he cooked dinner and ran errands.  When she made a list, he completed it.  When he wrote a sermon, she typed it.  She was a planner, he was a doer.

She raised 2 small children while he traveled as an evangelist in the early years of their parenting.  That had to be hard.  There were no cell phones…my husband has always answered every hysterical phone call I have ever made.

“I don’t know babe, I think it’s probably very unlikely that hiccups can cause brain damage.”

“You’re right, I’ll call mom.”  (If my mom didn’t live right next door to me there is no way I would continue to be a whole entire person.  I would have fallen completely apart when my 3rd boy was born.)

She couldn’t call him on a whim.  She had to be patient.  Granddaddy told me how he came to realize how hard his traveling must have been for her, so he stopped traveling as much and stayed home more.  He also told me how he thought she was an angel.  He said that a lot.

I’ll never forget the look on my grandmother’s face on their 50th wedding anniversary.  The morning of which she came literally strutting down the hall dangling the golden necklace he had given her.  From it hung a modest solitaire diamond.  She was so proud, but not in a prideful way.  I think she just felt treasured.

The greatest gift I received on my wedding day was not wrapped in pretty white paper.  It was a conversation not meant to be heard through a paper thin wall.  It was a conversation that exuded an entire marriage of mutual sacrifice, mutual submission, and mutual love.  The gift was a shining example of what marriage is meant to be.  I am so blessed to have received it.

Marriage is hard.  Stay married anyway.  In the end you will need her to keep your wits about you.  You will need him to walk with you up and down the hall.  And when one of you prays the other into the arms of your Heavenly Father, the difficult road will have been worth it.  And I’m pretty sure the difficulty will fade in comparison to the gift you leave to the generations that come behind you.

Happy Valentine’s Day