Love Your Neighbor

So I feel like God is trying to teach me something. These last few months have been very stressful and very difficult at our house. Our neighbors have been causing lots of problems, to the extreme extent of suing us and physically removing parts of our fence. Now for the most part, Ross and I have handled ourselves in what we consider to be a very good, adult manner. We haven’t engaged the neighbor, we haven’t been trying to ‘get her back’ or cause other problems for her, we have tried to keep our dogs off her side of the property line, we’ve been model neighbors. But we haven’t been as good of neighbors as we should have been. We talk about her behind her back (because we won’t talk to her face at all) and call her crazy bitch and other nasty names, we talk about how we think she’s being a horrible example for her daughter, we have been obsessing over what she’s doing and how it’s going to affect us. None of those things is particularly Christian behavior, even if it is behind closed doors where the only people who know about it are family and close friends.

So this week, I feel like God has pulled out the big guns to hammer His point home to me. (I bet He was trying to get me to see it since all of this started months ago but I was too distracted and overwhelmed by all my emotions that I didn’t get it at ALL) Last week, our pastor started a sermon series all about letting go and his sermon was focusing on letting go of old hurts and of things that other people have done to you. Danielle Butler posted on her blog about letting go of anger because it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. She also pointed out that the Greek word for forgiveness means letting go. (That is now on my list of future tattoos) This Sunday, the pastor is going to preach on letting go of anger, which I have a lot of over this situation with the neighbor. And then to top it all off, I open an email to work on the bulletin for our satellite church and what is their service going to be about? Loving your neighbor, with Matthew 5:44 as the theme verse. (Matthew 5:44 – Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.) When I opened that email and saw a huge picture with that verse on it, I just started laughing.

Alright God, I get it. This is what I am supposed to be working on right now. I need to be loving this woman and praying for her, no matter how I feel about her and how she’s acting. While I am praying for peace in my own home and for a way out of this situation, I need to be praying that she has peace in her house as well. While I am praying for my husband’s health and well being, I need to be praying for the health and well being of her and her daughter. while I am praying that my dogs will soon be able to enjoy being outside again and that their health and happiness will not be negatively affected by this situation, I need to be praying that her little dog stays happy and healthy as well.

Now, no. This is not something that I particularly want to do. It’s human nature to want someone who has harmed or upset you to have to suffer too. But that is not what we as Christians are supposed to look for. We are supposed to love everyone the way that Jesus does, we are supposed to pray for them, and live at peace with them to the best of our abilities. (Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.) god knows that this is not easy for us, but He expects us to try and to trust in Him to help us to achieve it through Him. (Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.) It is our job as Christians to follow Christ’s example to the best of our ability and to trust that God will do the rest through us if we put our faith and trust in Him.

So Lord, this is me putting my trust in You that You will help me remember to pray for my neighbor and to love her with a pure Christian love. I got Your message loud and clear (finally) and I am working toward a more Christ-like attitude in this situation. I know that You never leave us, so I will never have to deal with a situation without Your help, so Lord please help me to do this. Help me to let go of my anger and my hurt. Help me to pray for my neighbors, not in a ‘Lord release your vengeance on them’ kind of way but for them to have peace and health and happiness. Help me to show Your love to everyone I come in contact with, no matter the situation or the behavior of the people around me. Help me as I strive to be more like You.

3 Long Short Years

Today is my 3 year anniversary! I’m pretty excited. We aren’t going to do much today because Ross works 9am-8pm today, but he’s off tomorrow and apparently has secret anniversary plans for tomorrow night that he won’t tell me what we’re doing! I can’t wait to find out what we’re doing! I’m hoping there’s going to be a good dinner in there somewhere, and knowing Ross there will be. 🙂 He likes to eat even more than I do.

So in honor of my anniversary, I have decided to do a post about the things that I’ve learned in my first 3 years of marriage. Most of these things will apply to more than just married people (I’m sure) but it’s just what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown through my relationship with Ross.

-Always Talk
Communication is key! I know, I know, that’s a very overused cliche. But it’s true. Sometimes you might not be able to talk right away, but make sure you always talk. Ross isn’t a big sharer, so it has taken a lot of pushing and prodding and poking from me to get him to open up sometimes. But we’ve found a system that works and we’re (I’m) getting better at saying how we really feel and what our real opinions are. For us, it’s hanging out while we shower. (And no, that does not mean doing it in the shower! That doesn’t count as communication!) We both like to unwind by sitting in a nice hot shower after a long day, so while one of us takes a shower the other person just sits in the bathroom too and we talk about all kinds of things. We have talked about more serious things and shared more hard things sitting in the bathroom together than anywhere else. The key is just to learn what works for you, as well as how the other person communicates. When we first got married, I used to have to follow Ross around the house because he kept trying to leave the room and stop talking to me when we were arguing but I wouldn’t let him. And I had to learn to watch certain things that I said too, I am in no way a perfect communicator either. It’s really hard at first, I won’t sugar coat it, it’s really really hard. But it gets easier the more you work at it. Just continually express how much you want to know what the other person is thinking and feeling and what their opinions are. And try to not freak out if what they say doesn’t match what you think because if they feel like you’re going to attack them for having a different opinion, they won’t speak up anymore.

-Never Be Afraid Of A Fight
Yes, fighting sucks. But it isn’t always a bad thing. (Unless you guys get physical and hurt each other, that’s always bad) sometimes fighting can be a catalyst for conversation, and people will often say things in the midst of a fight that they wouldn’t normally say but they think. Always make sure that when you fight, you don’t do things to manipulate or purposefully hurt the other person though. Those things will cause so much more damage and pain than you need to and than can be repaired. Especially if you’re saying these things on purpose, the other person will remember that and it will make them reluctant to tell you things in the future. I’m guilty of that in the past, and of comparing Ross to my last ex (who was a horrible horrible person) and it took me a long time to break those habits but our relationship is so much better off now that I have! I have said things that I know would set Ross off just to keep him talking, I have said thing scampering him to my ex and comparing me to his mom (who went through a similar situation to what I did), I have thrown things at him, I have screamed, I have cried, but we have both learned how to fight better now. Once you get to a point where you can fight and stay on topic and actually get things accomplished, then you’ll be golden.

-Life Comes In Seasons
It’s like a giant pendulum, up to down to back up again. Just make sure that you continue to love each other no matter what season of life you’re in. Sometimes it’s hard because some seasons make you an angry horrible person, but there will be an end eventually, just keep on loving.

-Hold On To Your Cute Little Habits
Every night (well, most nights) Ross kisses me before we go to sleep. First he gives me a kiss, then he kisses my nose, then he kisses me again. We’ve been doing that since before we were married even, and it’s just a cute little thing that we do. I love it when he does that and he loves how much I love it. Keep those little things that make you smile alive and you will always be in love.

-Pay Attention
Pay attention to the little things. Ross mentioned, before we were even engaged, how he thinks it’s weird when girls put their wedding band on first and then their engagement ring. “The engagement ring came first, then the wedding band. Why would you wear it backwards?” So I make sure that I always wear mine in that order. I don’t think it’s anything that he’s ever noticed and I’ve never said anything, but it makes me feel good to know that I’m wearing my rings the way he likes. Now it’s not always little things, sometimes it’s really big things, like whether to work after kids or be a stay at home mom. This is something that Ross and I are at opposite ends about, but I have listened to his opinion and I am doing my best to be agreeable to it. But it’s the little things that make the difference, like keeping his favorite kind of cinnamon cake mix in the cabinet so I can randomly make it for him (which I might do tonight as a surprise!), or wearing my rings the way he likes, or making sure I don’t accidentally kick his shoes under the bed when I’m putting laundry away. When you pay attention to things like that, you stay in tune to the person you married.

-You WILL Change
People are constantly changing, and they will continue to change as long as they’re alive. (Well, hopefully. Otherwise you turn into the crotchety stick in the mud old person that nobody wants to be around!) The key to staying happy in your relationship is to know that you’ll change and to be aware of changes in your partner. Ross isn’t the same person that I married 3 years ago (I think he’s changed for the better in a lot of ways!) but I still know him. It bothers me when people say that they “just grew apart” because to me, that’s just a cop out. They didn’t put the effort into staying attached to the other person, they didn’t try to know that person as they changed. A marriage takes constant upkeep. You need to constantly be working towards knowing your partner to make it work.

-Embrace The Stress
This may sound really counter-intuitive, but stress is a good way to tell what kind of person you’re with. Ross and I have had a lot of stress in our 4 year relationship, from lots of different places. As we’ve gotten older and been together longer, the way we respond to these stresses has changed (I think we’ve gotten better at responding to stressful situations) and we’re able to weather them better in our relationship. Stress puts a lot of strain on your relationship! But after our last round with our crazy neighbor, Ross and I were talking and I expressed how frustrated I was that he had wanted me to stay inside so I was having to find out what had happened second hand because he wouldn’t let me be involved. So Ross told me that he had asked me to stay inside because he knew that if they said something that sounded like an attack against me, or if I got upset (which would have happened, 100% positive), or if he felt they were threatening me in any way, he would have completely flipped out because he loves me so much and he wants to protect me. He didn’t want me anywhere near what could turn into danger and he wanted to try and keep me as far removed from the stressful situation as possible. (That’s just a little snippet of what he said, it was really sweet and totally melted my heart. I love my husband!) But the point is that a stressful situation helped to strengthen our relationship because we were able to talk through it and lean on each other when we were stressed out and it helped Ross express to me how he feels. Embrace the stress.

-Have Fun
Yes, I know, another cliche. But seriously, do it. Ross and I joke so much, we play around and poke fun and just enjoy ourselves. Ross grabs my butt, I poke him, he grabs my boob, I make funny faces at the dogs, we try to figure out what other shows actors have played in, he laughs at me when I snap chat my friends, I show him funny things from Pinterest, he fights with the dogs, he tackles me on the couch, we just have fun and enjoy being around each other. When you like being around each other, it makes everything else a million times easier.

-Have Other Friends
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people call their significant other their best friend. Ross is not my best friend. (Shocker, I know!) I have other friends that I talk to about everything. Ross is my friend, but he is my husband too. He is the love of my life, he is going to be the father of my children, he is the man I am going to grow old with, but he isn’t my best friend. I think it is very important to have friendships and other relationships outside of your marriage. Sometimes you just need a break or somebody different to bounce things off of. If you only have your spouse in your life then things are going to get boring. You need to have a few things of your own too.

-Don’t Let Other People Tell You How To Do You
Feminists tell woman that they need to have careers. Your in-laws are already asking when you’re going to have kids. Your parents are telling you that they are more than happy to wait for grandkids. His grandma is telling him that he never comes around anymore. Your cousin is telling you not to buy a house until you’ve been married for 5 years. His aunt is telling you not to have any pets. Everyone has an opinion on your relationship but the key is to not let them influence or control it. It’s YOUR relationship after all. You can take advice from people but you don’t have to do what they say. Find what’s best for you and your relationship. I put a lot of pressure on myself the first couple years we were together because I felt like I was being judged very harshly by Ross’ family and I was trying to be a ‘perfect’ wife but once I finally got it through my head that I can be perfect to Ross without being what his family thinks is perfect I was able to loosen up a lot and actually become a better wife. Your relationship is just between the two of you, so make sure you keep it that way. Things get muddled if you have too many people in a relationship.

-Don’t Give Up The Things You Love
Ross doesn’t like to read. I don’t let that stop me from reading. Ross doesn’t sing (at all!) but I don’t let that stop me from singing in the praise team at church. I don’t play basketball but Ross still plays at least once a week. You can have a happy relationship and still do the things you love, even if the other person doesn’t like them. It just gives you more things to talk about when you see him afterwards.

-Always Forgive
This is one that I’ve struggled with but it is soooo worth it to learn the lesson. Don’t keep track of the things that he’s done that made you mad or the things that he didn’t do the way you do it. It is not worth the damage that will do to your relationship. If it’s over, then it’s over. Don’t hang onto it, don’t rehash it. It’s over, it’s done, let it go. (cue Frozen music) But seriously. Let it go. It’s not worth it.

It’s been a roller coaster life so far and I can’t wait to see what I’m going learn over the next 100 years with my amazing husband! I thank God every day for putting this amazing man in my path and making sure that I couldn’t ignore him. (He’s really not what my type was at all, it’s truly a God thing that we’re together.) Ross is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I am so blessed to have him as my husband and to get to spend every day talking to him and every night sleeping next to him. I know our future together is going to be amazing!

Growing Apart

So I had a time in my childhood when several of my friends parents were getting divorced. I was old enough to know what was going on, but not quite old enough to understand it. My parents have always had an extremely unconventional marriage, they haven’t shared a bed since we moved into our house in Lexington,which was almost 15 years ago (unless they had to like in hotels or things like that)! I used to think that my mom was the one in charge of everything, just because she has a much stronger personality and is much more vocal and opinionated than my dad. (I voiced that opinion once and was told, by my mom, how very very wrong I was so I never brought it up again) But my parents still love each other very much (even though sometimes I;m not sure why/how) and I never doubted that once growing up. So I asked my mom, as I was surrounded by kids who’s families were splitting up, how come she and dad didn’t get a divorce? How come they swill love each other even though they’ve been together for so long? You see, to the child me, parents were getting divorced because they had been together for too long, and I had heard the phrase ‘We just grew apart’ so I associated that phrase with getting divorced as well. My mom answered my question with something that I will never forget. She told me that people end up getting divorced because they quit trying, and that’s how they grew apart. “Your dad is not the same man that I married 15 years ago,” she told me, “And I still love him. The key is to always talk to each other and include each other in your lives. You grow apart when you stop talking to each other and telling each other things like how your day was and new things you’ve learned and interesting thing you saw.” I doubt I remember it exactly how she said it, but that’s my take away from it.

And that answer has stuck with me all these years and it’s a principle that I apply to my marriage on a daily basis. People are constantly changing and evolving. When I married my husband, I was a quiet girl with very little self confidence. Now, 3 years later, I am a woman who is pushing herself to be more outgoing and who is working every day to improve her self confidence. 3 years ago I didn’t want to work, now I love working. 3 years ago I couldn’t imagine a life without the shadows of the awful relationship and abuse lurking in my mind, and now I can go days without even the slightest hint of a shadow! 3 years ago I was mildly concerned about health and how my choices now affect my future, but now I am working very hard to make sure that I make the best choices for the health of present and future Cindy.

The point is that your spouse will be a different person on your 25th anniversary, and so will you. The key is to make sure that you stay connected to them through all the changes and make sure that they know who you are too, whatever changes you’re going through. You don’t get married so you can stay exactly the same with someone, you get married so you can grow old together! To do that you have to GROW!

You will never grow apart if you grow and change together, that is what true love is all about. True love isn’t found, it’s made through love and hard work.

Peace and Trials

So. we have had more problems with our neighbors. We are now going to be moving by the end of the month. But as I was telling my mom about everything else that has gone on in the last couple days, she asked if we had been praying about all of this. I told her that I have been, mostly because I was too embarrassed to tell her no. I am working on making that the first place I turn to, but it’s still a work in progress. Then she started talking about having peace, in spite of your trials. Peace is something that I know about, but I don’t know a whole LOT about. So I have decided that I am going to start doing some research on peace, how to get peace, and how to maintain peace. Whether I have peace or not isn’t going to affect if we move or not, we are going to move purely for our physical health, mostly my husband’s health, because this is such a stressful situation and has fast become a situation that we cannot live in. But that will not affect my ability to find peace.

I know that God has promised us His peace every day and that’s what I want. So I am going to find out how to get it and keep it. And I am going to make a more concentrated effort to make prayer my first resource to talk things out, rather than my last.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never let the righteous fall. Psalm 55:22

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
John 16:33

The mind of a sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were clued to peace and thankfulness. Colossians 3:15

God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6

The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord bless His people with peace.
Psalm 29:11

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the pear of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7

You’re on your own now!

Ross and I are coming up on our THIRD YEAR of home ownership! (And our fourth year of living together and our 3rd year of marriage!) But home ownership is definitely not a cake walk. when you rent, you can at least call somebody else when something breaks. When you own your own home, you’re the someone who is responsible. When we first moved into our house, we had to constantly keep running to the store for things that we needed and didn’t have. It’s amazing how many things you find out that you need when you’re trying to fix things and can’t figure out how! Here’s my list of things that we needed and didn’t have when we moved into our first home. This is by no means an exhaustive list, these are just the things I came up with after the last outbreak of broken appliances and pipes we had a few weeks ago. A lot of these things are ones that I was used to just snagging from my parents, not realizing how much thought and attention to detail goes into keeping the house stocked with the things you need!

-Plumbers Putty
This is some surprisingly useful stuff! You can use it to seal pipes when you lost the cap for them, you can use it to seal a shower head that doesn’t quite fit right, it’s some awesome stuff.

-A Plunger
It’s not something you want to think about, especially if you’re still in that honeymoon phase, but it is necessary. You won’t think about it until you need it, but then you’re screwed.

-A Toilet Brush
Again, something you don’t want to think about, but it’s necessary. Eventually you’re going to get tired of seeing those gross stains on the toilet bowl and you’re just going to have to get over it. Part of being a grownup is doing the gross stuff.

-Flashlight
Who knew that the water shut off was way in the back of that closet? How else are you going to see all the way to the end of your unfloored attic? What’s going to happen when a breaker flips and you have to find the breaker box in the dark? Flashlights are very useful for so many many things, so it’s better to have some around before you need one and can’t find one. (and btw, most main water shut offs are somewhere in the middle of the house, in a hall closet or under the sink of the main floor bathroom. Ours is connected to our hot water heater, which is also in the middle-ish of the house)

-Shelves
Maybe this is just me, but you can never have too much storage! It’s amazing how much crap you accumulate once you have a house. We have a full attic and still have a junk room full of more crap. That’s going to be my project of four next house, don’t accumulate so much crap!

-An Allen Wrench
An allen wrench can be used to reset your garbage disposal, unscrew parts of appliances, and all kinds of other things that you don’t think about until you’re sitting there staring at a funny screw that you have no idea how to unscrew.

-A Complete Tool Set
Even if you’re a girl living alone, you need a tool set. It’s always good to be able to at least attempt to fix things yourself before calling someone else. Even a basic tool set with a couple of screwdrivers and a hammer is good.

-Extra Toothbrushes
Toothbrushes are helpful for lots of reasons, and you never know when you’ll need one. You can use it to clean jewelry, your dogs teeth, your teeth, baseboards, hard to reach places, all kinds of stuff!

-Light Bulbs
Another thing you don’t think about until you need it. It’s nice to be able to just go to the cabinet and have a spare bulb instead of having to go to the store to find the bulb that you need.

-Flyswatter
Bugs get in from all kinds of places, even if you never open the doors or windows. You don’t want to be like me and have to try and throw shoes at bugs as they scurry across your walls because you don’t have a flyswatter.

-Savings Account
This one seems like a ‘duh’ kinda thing but it really isn’t. You don’t truly realize the importance of having money saved until you have to replace a dishwasher when you weren’t planning to, or you have to buy a new gate for your fence because your neighbor goes crazy and takes yours off it’s hinges. You can never have too much saved up in case of emergencies, you don’t want to be like we were at one point and having to just make do because you couldn’t afford to replace the broken appliance.

-Weed Killer
The first couple years that we lived in our house, I wasn’t too concerned with yard work or gardening or anything like that. But eventually I got tired of looking at all the weeds so I started actually taking an interest in the yard and the gardens. It takes a lot of upkeep to make a yard and garden look good, so make sure you have some good weed killer.

-Towels
You can never have too many towels. Whether you only use them for after your shower or if you use them for everything under the sun, you’ll need them. Your dogs track mud into the house, a pipe springs a leak, your chimney leaks when it rains, you forgot to finish washing the rug for the bathroom, anything. Towels are always useful.

-Vinegar
Vinegar is one of the most useful things that I never knew about. Vinegar can kill weeds, remove smells from fabric, white vinegar helps with serious sunburns, you can mix it with soap and use it to clean, it kills mold, it can be used for so many things around the house! Definitely always keep this on hand.

-Shower Cleaner
Whether you use Scrubbing Bubbles or some vinegar and soap in a sponge, you should invest in a shower cleaning system. The same with the toilets, eventually you’re going to get tired of the soap scum on the shower walls and the mold on the shower curtain so it’s best to get some kind of shower cleaning system in place before you get to that point.

-Stockpile Batteries
You can never have too many batteries! When I was a kid, my mom had a huge plastic container under the sink that was always full of every kind of battery you could think of. Any time you needed a battery, you could just go grab one. That makes things so much easier than having to wait until the next time you go to the store to get batteries so you can use whatever it is that needs the batteries. It’s always better to have them on hand.

-A Cook Book
Even if you have a very small budget for food, like a Ramen noodles every night kind of budget, you are still going to want some variety eventually. It’s good to have access to resources that will allow you to spice things up once you can start being more creative with your cooking.

-Access To An SUV/Truck
Whether you own one or have a friend/relative who does, access to an SUV or truck is always helpful. You never know when you’re going to need one.

-Vitamins
Another thing I always snitched from my mom were vitamins. My mom always had a million different types of vitamins and she always knew just what would help me feel better. Now that I’m on my own, I have to remember to get them for myself. You never know when a bug is going to go around so it’s always best to have as many vitamins as you can around for when you need them.

This is my list so far, based on my own experiences. If anybody has any other ones, let me know!