The Gift of the Present

If any of you are engaged, I feel your pain. If any of your are dating and waiting to be engaged, I, again, feel your pain.

© Gregory Bodwell

© Gregory Bodwell

Before Jordan proposed to me (the most elaborate proposal on earth!) I was what some might call "impatient". It's like the quotation marks make it seem less dramatic than it was. See, we had already discussed getting married and knew we'd be having the big day in June of that year. It was January at the time of this meltdown conversation.

Jordan assured me that the proposal was coming soon, promising it would be worth the wait. For one reason or another, that didn't put an anxious girl's heart at rest. (I've since had friends in similiar situations who make me feel like I wasn't absolutely crazy, at least.)

One night in particular, after our weekly gathering for Cru at Ohio University, we got in the car and I burst into tears. There were a few other onsets of this breakdown, but I just couldn't wait to be engaged. (As I write this, I want to yack at myself.)

My husband now likes to joke that we almost got engaged in a parking lot. Thanks for not letting that happen, babe.

© Gregory Bodwell (not the real proposal)

© Gregory Bodwell (not the real proposal)

Then, as any currently engaged or now married person knows, being engaged wasn't enough. It didn't satisfy me. And let's be honest, engagement is no easy walk in the park, either. There was still more I was wanting, the grand finale of us becoming man and wife. "Then I'll be content," I lied to myself.

We had a short engagement (4 and a half months) and, at the time, it couldn't go fast enough. All the planning took up a good chunk of time, as did the fact that we were finishing college those same months. Getting married six days after graduation made for an incredible amount of chaos in life.

June 17, 2011 finally arrived, despite all feelings that it would never come. It was a beautiful day and I was so excited to become Mrs. Shirkman. Marrying Jordan is truly the best wordly decision I've made and I praise God for the blessing of him in my life every single day.

A few months after being married, I felt a little sadness about how fast the "single" part of my life wrapped up. I'm not talking about partying or living it up. I mean the fact that "the little girl" I'd been to my family was now really growing up.

I didn't take the time to savor those moments with family and friends. To just be a college student and spend lots of time with my best friends and sorority sisters. To embrace every moment at home, not simply wishing to have my own place.

I was so anxiously anticipating the next phase of my life, that I was missing out on some precious times in the season I was in. Now, I have no regrets about getting married when we did–I just wish I had been better at being present.

I don't like to dwell on the past, nor do I think it's typically helpful, but the other day I had an epiphany.

This June, Jordan and I will have been married for three years. Crazy how fast it's gone. We often get asked the question most people in this phase of life get, "When are you having children?" I'm not offended by this question and don't mind answering it at all.

Lord-willing, we plan to have kids in the near future. A few months ago, while my precious niece from Australia was in town (have I mentioned my sis and bro-in-law live there?), I had baby fever like whoa. I just wanted to know what it felt like to call this little human your own and all the joy it would bring.

And then it hit me. "Niki! You're doing exactly what you did when you were dating, then engaged. Always looking ahead to the next thing and not gleaning all God has for you in this moment. At this place."

Ugh why do we have to be so good at forgetting lessons we learn?

While I couldn't go back and change how I handled life pre-marriage, I realized I could now choose to be content with exactly where I was at in life. To soak up the moments of spontanaeity Jordan and I can have–take a trip here, go out to dinner on a whim, stay up late to watch a movie, sleep in and have a slow, quiet morning. Be fully involved in the ministry God has called us to. So many little things that I take for-granted.

I don't say these reasons to sound selfish or that they're why we're not having kids yet. Far from it. We are excited to start a family one day.

But I'm not going to wish away another season of life because I think what's ahead will make me happier or more content. The truth is many of us live our lives this way–always thinking a different job, a relationship, those must-have shoes, or the latest iPhone will bring us satisfaction.

And they will. Temporarily. Starting a family is an exciting adventure and gift! One that is worth looking forward to and being joyful about.

These aren't bad things, necessarily. But they aren't ultimate things.

Jesus is the only lasting source of ultimate joy, satisfaction and fulfillment. He blesses us with gifts on this earth, but this is not our final stop. We're simply on the journey.

Paul's words in Philippians are my battle cry when I need to remember this:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I pray this would be true for you today, friend. Wherever you're at right now, whatever your circumstances, I pray your trust and hope would be in Christ alone and your heart would be filled with contentment in Jesus.