22 October 2010

Taking a break during the first year of being married

One of the things that I'm really looking forward to about being married is having time with Matthijs: time that is not taken over by planning a wedding or by organizing the next time we'll see each other. And there will no longer be 1.5 hours travel time before (and after) seeing each other! That means there'll be time to have lots of conversations and think together and laugh together and do nothing together. Yay!
A number of people have told me to take the time to enjoy that first year of being married and not to do too much other stuff. I know that's wise advise, but I still chafe a bit when I hear it. Perhaps it's simply because I don't like being told what to do or feeling like people assume that because I've never being married, I have absolutely no idea what it might be like (or what would be good for me). I don't know for sure what it'll be like, but I do have some ideas of what might be good. I am purposely trying not to plan too much for after the wedding, as I want to give us space to make plans together; after we get married, it's even more obvious that it's not just about "my" plans anymore but it's now "our" plans. So I am already kind of following the advice to take it easy - but the advice itself still makes me a bit uncomfortable. It's not like I'm not looking forward to spending lots of time with Matthijs (see first paragraph of this for a reminder); it's just that I'm uncomfortable with the idea of my whole life revolving around Matthijs and my marriage. I (we) do certainly want to invest lots of time in building solid habits and good communication for married life - that's why we're taking a marriage course now - and why we've spent lots of time and energy already on the difficult questions of expectations and desires and communicating well. And it will be nice to slow down and settle somewhat, so that the chaos in my life (brought about, I expect, by many of the recent changes) can decrease somewhat. And I do want to laugh lots and enjoy being married!

But we also want our marriage to be fruitful; in the beginning, some of the fruit we bear will be a solid foundation for our marriage - but even in building that solid foundation, we don't want to lose sight of the vision that our marriage is to be honouring to God, a means for each of us to be more the people God wants us to be, and a blessing to others. And I can see now already a bit of how that might be manifested: Matthijs and I both want the excitement and joy of being married, coupled with our now having a constant theological sparring partner, to bear fruit in my dissertation and academic endeavours (and maybe also some academic endeavours for Matthijs, too :)). And we want our joy of being married to spread to those around us - and who better to share that joy with than those we love: the community and other friends and family?
The Old Testament talks about a newlywed not being allowed to go to war or be obligated in any way (Deut 24:5): "he must be free to stay at home for a full year and bring joy to the woman he has married." If I do some practical exegesis, I assume that the intention was not that the man should do nothing for a year - I can't imagine too many women who'd find joy in their husband hanging around the house doing nothing! There is thus a bit of interpreting here, and my interpreting is that, especially in the first year, the couple chooses first and always for what's best for their marriage and can push other important obligations of serving God and society aside (this building a foundation for a healthy marriage is, after all, the best way to serve God and society). But that doesn't imply doing nothing - in fact, the need to do nothing can then also become an obligation that hinders our marriage. And it does not imply that we'll have to turn away from other joys (and challenges) in our life, like the community, singing, visiting, and playing soccer. Perhaps we need to make limits, but the hope and expectation is that those other things that bring joy and challenges would in turn be a blessing to our marriage.

20 October 2010

So how does one prepare for a wedding?

Well, there's the usual ways of making lists and talking to people and buying stuff and making plans. And I've been doing that - sometimes too much, actually. But I've also discovered another way to prepare for a wedding: go to different weddings. And it just so happens that Matthijs and I have 3 weddings in October to go to. In my first four years of being in the Netherlands, I'd only managed to go to 3 weddings, and now, all of a sudden, 3 in one month! It makes it a busier month, but it also is fun to get ideas and perspective and have lots of fun, especially as I get to play honorary sister of the bride for the last one in October!

And if you ask, I'd tell you that I'm not stressed about the wedding. But last night I dreamt that I'd been brought to the wrong church, which started half an hour earlier, and I didn't even have the right shoes on (just my regular sandles) - and I blamed Matthijs for it all, even yelling at him. But I think after yelling at him, I felt better and I was still happy to have married him (even if it wasn't perfect). Eventually, probably when I kept being puzzled by how I could have had the wrong shoes on, I realized it was a dream and this couldn't be all happening - and I woke up. The only good thing about the dream was the realization that it's obvious that I'm looking forward to being married, even if it's not perfect :)

18 October 2010

Productivitiy and Prayer

What with the wedding, there are a lot of things that need doing (and then there are other normal life things that ought to be done). And that puts pressure on me to be superproductive. It's not a bad pressure, except for one thing: prayer and coffee/tea drinking and mealtimes (normal parts of community life) are not exactly productive.

So in the midst of the strong sense that I need to be productive, my normal desire to attend prayer and other activities in the community is quelched. This sometimes means that I don't attend prayer - I allow other things to come first. But it also means that sometimes I choose to go to prayer, choosing to do something unproductive as a way of trusting that things will get done and be good without my doing something all the time. And this choice forces me to remember that even if being productive is a way of being faithful to God, productivity isn't the same as being faithful. And I don't want my life to focus on how I can do more but instead on how I can do things delighting in God and participate in what God is already doing.

13 October 2010

Silence is golden

There's a saying in english about "silence being golden." It suggests that there is beauty in silence.

There's another saying with regards to silence that my mother taught me: "if you don't have anything good to say, then say nothing at all."

And I have been silent here on this blog. Not because I have nothing good to say, but because I haven't always known how to say it. Or haven't always had the energy to say it.

It's not that planning a wedding is so overwhelming - it's basically an incredibly long to-do list all focused on one major event. To do-lists are manageable. And thankfully I've had experience planning other things (one of the advantages of being a bit older when I get married), so planning this isn't so bad.

The challenge is that my life doesn't stop to plan a wedding - so there's other stuff that needs doing, too (and which takes time and energy).

And it's surprising what unknown things you bump into when planning, especially about expectations, communication, and relationships. Finding a healthy way to work through the stuff that comes up also takes up quite a bit of time and energy. But even if that part hasn't been always so pleasant, I am deeply thankful for the sense that I have grown in my relationships and my ability to relate to others well.

But I think I'm still very much looking forward to a break from it all after the wedding.