Follow your own dreams… whatever that means.

There has been a blog post floating around Facebook in the past couple months about when you should or should not get married and what you should be doing instead. Most of the responses to this particular blog have been quite direct and just about as argumentative, aggressive, and demanding as the first which I think is not quite the way to go about things. That’s not at all to say that I (Alaina) have the answers… I most certainly do not.

[Plus, I do not in any way feel the need to justify myself to anyone in regards to a list of things I was supposed to do before getting married.]

I just feel as though this kind of discussion needs to be handled with love, care and understanding to the opposite side as opposed to sassy or sarcastic.

This is not a blog post to say why getting married at 21-years-old was the best thing ever and why everyone should be doing it. Because, while I truly do believe that there is nothing else that means more to me than our past two years of marriage, it’s NOT for everyone.
Marriage in general is not for everyone and marriage before 23 (that is the age that was in the original blog post) is certainly not for everyone. I went to a women’s college and loved EVERY bit of it. However, I am well aware that a women’s college is not for everyone. I was unaware of how somewhat closed my mind was until I went there and I was among those who allowed my mind to broaden. The smallness of the school as well as the challenge of traditional views (about anything, actually) really are what make the college not for everyone. So when my seniors-in-high-school sisters began looking at colleges, I did not push Wesleyan on them. Likewise, I would not push getting married early on anyone.

I believe it all comes down to what the true desires and passions and goals in your life are.
To be completely honest, since middle school I have known that after I finished school I would be a stay-at-home mom. My mom stayed at home with the four of us kids, even though she had her teaching degree. It was fantastic and it really had a huge impact on me. She set aside any future or personal desires for herself and focused on us. When my sisters go off to college in August, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mom went back to school to get her Masters in Counseling and becoming a licensed marriage and family counselor. She’d be incredible at that.
Anyways, that’s always been my biggest desire: to be a wife and a mom. Anything else I get to do with my life is icing on a sweet, sweet cake. This desire seems to be not so well looked upon in society, but it is what it is unfortunately. SO many times I am asked why on earth I completed my bachelor’s and am pursuing a masters if “all I want to do” is stay at home. People insinuate that I went to college to get my M.R.S. degree, which clearly isn’t true considering I can’t find a husband at a women’s college. My desires are simply misunderstood I think, “outdated.”

I think one of the major arguments I get in response to marrying early and wanting to be a stay-at-home mom is that women have fought for so long (and are still fighting) for us to be able to do something other than stay-at-home. But I don’t think that’s true, not exactly.

I think we’ve been fighting for the ability to make a choice.

The beauty of Wesleyan is the diverse population. I loved it tremendously because I got to hear so many different experiences and desires that I would never have imagined myself. I have plenty of friends from college who had different ideas of what they wanted life post-graduation than I did. One friend in particular really stands out in my mind, Devyn. Devyn and I had lots of classes together because we shared a major and we had lots of discussions with one another about marriage and children and our futures. She heard me out when I talked about wanting to get married and stay at home and I listened to her when she expressed a desire to travel and go into fashion and all these fantastic plans. She said that, sure, she wanted to get married eventually and maybe have kids (or maybe just be the awesome aunt).

And you know what was so incredible about this conversation and friendship?

We listened to one another and respected one another despite our different future plans.

I personally have never had the “travel bug” to go around and visit places. I mean, yeah, I’d LOVE to go to Europe and Australia. But they weren’t things I cared about doing before settling down. I tend to be more of a homebody, honestly. But that’s something Devyn LOVES! So of course that’s something she would want to do before getting settled in! It just makes sense. Even beyond the travel bug, there are SO many women who have fantastic gifts in the work force and sometimes those jobs don’t really let you settle down for a while. And that’s fine too! We are all made with different skills and abilities and passions. Lord knows the world would be insane if there were a bunch of Alainas running around. There need to be all of these different needs and wants!

I suppose this is more of a plea than anything. I’m just tired of reading these blogs that tell a certain group of people how they should or should not live (often with a condescending or aggressive tone) and with the beauty of blogging, there are a thousand equally condescending and aggressive responses. All we’re doing is tearing each other down and trying to “one-up” each other.

My plea is that we listen to one another.
That we respect one another and not belittle each other because of their choices (whatever those may be).
That we LOVE one another. Truly love. Not just “tolerate.”
That each of us would do whatever we were created and purposed to do and that we encourage one another in whatever that may be.

[That's all for now. I just really needed to get all that off my chest, I suppose.]

Breaking the Alabaster Jar

3 While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Mark 14:3-9

Sometimes I like to think about what it would be like to be one of the disciples who followed Jesus around during His ministry. As we read Scripture, it seems as though their lives were never dull. I mean, one day you’re in this crowded house when all of a sudden pieces of the ceiling start falling in and lo and behold, a man is lowered on a mat to be healed by Jesus. The next day, you’re out at sea when you see what appears to be a ghost walking toward you – on water – and it turns out to be Jesus. It just seems like a giant reality show with crazy events that are actually not staged.

I wonder if the disciples were hoping, in this story, for a calm and non-threatening dinner for a change, where Jesus doesn’t get fussy and rebuke someone or that someone doesn’t rebuke them. I mean, sure, they were eating with someone who had been a leper so there was possible judgment by others there, but Pharisees weren’t present so they should be in the clear, right? Wrong. And the DISCIPLES end up being the ones rebuked instead of this intruder!

But I love how Jesus is always sticking up for the “little guy” so to speak. The disciples begin their grumbling, probably thinking they would get affirmed by Jesus, but instead are shut down.

Jesus says, “she did what she could” and that what she has done was “beautiful.” You see, according to scholars, it was customary to pour a few drops of perfume on someone’s head when they enter your house. The best perfumes were contained in alabaster jars and nard was among the most costly of ointments. This woman did not pour a few drops. She BROKE the jar, meaning she had every intentions of using all of the perfume in anointing Jesus. Because we do not know hardly anything about this woman, for all we know, this jar of nard could have been all she had. Yet she spared none of it.

Two chapters previously, in Mark chapter 12, we see a similar circumstance. Jesus and his disciples are hanging out near the place where offerings are collected. As Jesus is watching, he sees the rich people throwing in large amounts, but in the midst of the crowd, Jesus notices a poor widow who tosses in two small copper coins, worth a fraction of a penny. At this sight, he tells his disciples: “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on” (vv. 43-44).

Jesus places less value on the quantity and more so on the quality or significance of the gift. He says or quotes things such as:
“did what she could,” or
“all she had,” or
“first fruits of our labor,” or
“the fattened calf.”

I don’t know about you, but for me, this concept is nothing but encouraging. I am the definition of perfectionist. If I do not excel at a task or activity, it is likely that I will not participate. I do not do things halfway and if I fail, I have trouble letting it go. For example, I played volleyball in college and I can still remember making an error in the fifth and final set in a match against Atlanta Christian, costing us the game. I can see it happen and I still feel the adrenaline from it. This game was three years ago. These things stay with me. I’m sure many of of you can relate to this feeling.

But here’s the beauty in who Jesus is and what He is asking of us. He isn’t asking us to be the best in our field. He’s not giving us a quota on the number of disciples we are to make for Him. Going into full-time ministry, we all know that we will not exactly have the same bank account as our doctor or lawyer friends. But that’s not the point.

The point is: God is asking for US. He’s asking for our ALL. That’s it. As long as I am giving him all of me and all that I have and all that I can, He will say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I don’t want to simply pour a few drops on Jesus’ head. I want to have the strength and the courage to break open the bottle without caution and let the perfume flow.

And I challenge you to join me in this.
To abandon worries of not being good enough.
To abandon feelings of self-consciousness.

And instead, to break open the alabaster jar and to throw in your two copper coins.

Amen.

We Fill Gaps.

The Harrisons have had quite the past few weeks.

For Greg’s birthday weekend, the two of us – along with Jon Ford and Charlotte – spent a day in Atlanta to see a professional soccer game as their gift to Greg! Let me tell you. You would have thought that Greg was a three-year-old waiting to see Santa or something. When Greg first saw the soccer field through the stands, I wasn’t sure if he was going to cry or pass out or scream out of excitement. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like had the U.S. been playing in that game! First, we watched Panama beat Cuba and then the Georgia Dome transformed into a city in the middle of Mexico as Mexican fans began filling the stadium to see their country play. We decided to leave at halftime and head to the Atlanta Food Truck Park for dinner instead of finish out the game.

On a sad note, last week Greg’s Aunt Gayla passed away after battling cancer and brain tumors. We spent the weekend in Dublin, visiting family and attending the visitation and funeral. While it was unfortunate that those were the circumstances that brought us back to Dublin for the weekend, we were both glad to be able to spend the time with his family, especially because the day of the visitation was also the birthday of Greg’s middle brother.

Yesterday, July 31, marked our four year dating anniversary! To celebrate, we – accompanied by my twin sisters and our friend Jonathan – went to Atlanta to see Pentatonix in concert! Now, if you have never heard of Pentatonix, you MUST stop reading now and go to YouTube and look them up. They are an a cappella group who won NBC’s “The Sing Off.” They are incredible. They consist of Scott, Kirstie, and Mitch who sing, Avi who does bass, and Kevin who beat boxes. Really though. Go look them up. I may or may not have a slight celeb, fangirl crush on Avi. We bought these tickets back in May and have been looking forward to the concert ever since. I think we both agree that it was the best concert we’ve ever attended. They interacted with the crowd perfectly and kept it entertaining. It was wonderful.

To think that Greg and I have spent the last four years together blows my mind. On one hand, it has absolutely flown by and it feels like it hasn’t been that long. But on the other hand, I truly feel like we’ve been together forever and that there was no one before him. Greg and I are not your average couple. Greg and I work together, go to school together (same degree = same classes), and live together. We spend more time together than I would imagine most couples do. So many people ask me how I/we manage doing everything together. Here’s the thing: we’re best friends first. Sure, he is the absolute love of my life and I can’t imagine marrying anyone else or anyone else being the father to my future children. But Greg is also my best friend. He’s the person I vent to, laugh with, cry to. We are completely comfortable sitting in the same room together while he plays FIFA 13 and I watch Bones on Netflix. Most of our nights are spent watching endless shows on Netflix together and then talking about the shows afterwards as if the characters and situations are real. He puts up with me and I’m quite the handful.

It’s like what my trusty hero, Rocky Balboa, says. Paulie, the brother of Rocky’s girlfriend Adrian, questioned Rocky about their relationship once:

Paulie: [talking about Adrian] You like her?
Rocky: Sure, I like her.
Paulie: What’s the attraction?
Rocky: I dunno… she fills gaps.
Paulie: What’s ‘gaps’?
Rocky: I dunno, she’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.

Greg’s got gaps; I got gaps; together we fill gaps.

Hospitality House

Greg and I have been living in our four bedroom, three bath, split-level house for a little over a year and a half now. It’s certainly a house that has much more space than the two of us (and Lucy, of course) really need, but we absolutely adore this house.

What I have realized over the time that we have lived here is that I absolutely love taking care of people. It gives me such joy to have the ability to let any of our friends and family stay the night (or a few nights) at our house and to feed them while they are here. The downstairs basement almost acts as an “apartment” with its own bedroom, bathroom, and living space. That way anyone who stays with us has their privacy.

The house may be a little big for us currently (we would LOVE to stay in this house after graduation when we start having kids… it would be perfect!) but I have come to see it almost as a small ministry for us to be able to love on anyone who comes to our house, even if it’s just for a night’s sleep.

Financial Crisis… Partially Averted

Like most young couples, Greg and I have been having some financial issues with coming out even at the end of every month. A few weeks ago, I reworked our monthly budget and figured out that with our bills and the amount of gas we use traveling to school so often, we will end with roughly $8 at the end of the month IF (and only if) we reduced our weekly spending (including anything we buy except bills or gas… so basically food, toiletries, clothes, etc.) to $100 a week. 

Now, this seemed quite daunting to us. And to be honest, it still somewhat is. At first, I thought there was absolutely no way that we could manage to only spend $100 a week. Our system now is that we have gone to a partial cash-only basis. I am working on “tricking” my mind that that $100 per week is the only money we have and it’s working pretty well actually. I withdraw $100 from the account each week and that is the money I use to buy groceries and anything else we need. Basically, our debit card is only used for gas and bills. It feels amazing, actually, to see the account online stay a bit more stable.

It has been a success so far. I am WAY more diligent about what I pick up at the grocery store now. Before we decided to cut our expenses so much, I guess we were picking up anything we wanted and throwing it into the cart. We had gotten to where we were spending $110-$120 per week just on groceries. In my head, we were being careful with our grocery money… groceries just cost a lot! However, once I started this new system, I am taking advantage of my competitive nature and making it a challenge to keep the grocery bill at a maximum of $80 a week, to save the other $20 for anything else we may end up needing throughout the week.

And guess what… we’re three weeks strong on the cash system!

It’s quite a challenge and some months will be tougher than others (this month we had a tux rental, car tag registration, and license renewal to add to the monthly expenses), but it feels good to know that every penny we have spent has been spent intentionally and not haphazardly. 

Remember.

Remember this: behind the skinny actress with the Oscar win; behind the joke you think is stupid; behind the girl with the reputation that is falling apart in public; behind the tears of the girl being bullied and the harsh words of the mean girl who bullies her; behind the woman at the Food Lion who scans the cereal and the man sitting in the Oval Office – behind all of those images that people craft for themselves, there is a person, seen by God, created in his image, and longing to be loved and accepted. Just like you. No matter what their reputation, no matter what image they so desperately want to show you, there is a person. Don’t forget to see them.

Graceful by Emily P. Freeman

Weddings and Friendships

Weddings are magnificent things. Especially when the wedding is between two of your very best friends. Greg and I have been with Jon Ford and Charlotte from the beginning and it has been a blessing to watch them grow and to grow with them, even. 

I mentioned at the rehearsal dinner that I don’t think Greg and I seem to be incapable of making decisions unless Jon Ford and Charlotte are with us. While this was a joke (for the most part), it rings true in how much this special couple means to us. These two were there when we got engaged, got married, took home our sweet (and crazy) puppy, bought a couch for the basement, bought dining room chairs. I so look forward to our friendship growing even more. 

On a similar note, weddings make me fall head over heels for my best friend all over again. I am reminded of our wedding weekend and how he was supposed to keep his shoes untied for the ceremony so I could easily take his shoes off to wash his feet. But he didn’t. Typical Greg.

This weekend in particular made me appreciate Greg even more than I already do. He was Jon Ford’s Best Man and Greg took that job very seriously. His close friendship with Jon Ford amazes me and Greg did an amazing job making sure everything ran smoothly for the groom and that the groomsmen would bond together. Greg has an incredible way of bringing in people to the group who may have stayed on the outside or maybe not initially fit in. I joke constantly that I would never meet new people if it were not for him.

I was constantly reminded this weekend of how blessed I am to be surrounded by such loving people who want to help or take care of us. Although I was not a bridesmaid, Charlotte and the rest of her bridesmaids openly accepted me to spend time with them. My sweet friend Mary opened her house to me so I would not have to spend the extra money for a hotel. I spent some much needed time with a friend from camp, Allie. We were able to stay with my family outside of Savannah on Saturday night so we didn’t have to drive the entire way back home or spend money on a hotel. And this weekend certainly would not have happened so smoothly if Tricia and Cara hadn’t watched Lucy all weekend for us, after having watched her just last weekend as well. 

We are blessed. My heart is full of thanksgiving toward those in our lives.