On being young and married in the church.

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A few events have happened over the past week that have had me dwelling on the topic of being a young married person in the evangelical church.

I must admit that my heart dropped just a little bit when my church’s weekly upcoming events e-mail newsletter promoted the latest Young Adults gathering as a place for “young singles”. I started questioning mine and Sean’s involvement in the young adults group. Are we overstaying our welcome in this ministry? 

This past weekend, Sean and I went on a double date with another pair of newlyweds from our young adults group. We had been planning this outing to the Eli Young Band shindig for months, though it just so happened that the young adults fall party was scheduled for the same night. I suddenly feared that our foregoing of the fall party for a double date would be perceived as.. oh hey, we’re married so we’re just going to do our own thing now. 

I hated that thought, even if I was the only one who thought it.

But I grew up in the evangelical church… my season of singleness during my adulthood was short-lived, yes, but I know all too well the thoughts, the expectations, the desires, the real and perceived purposes of these “young adult” groups. I have heard mothers of single twenty-somethings and single thirty-somethings who pity the fact that their daughter has yet to find a husband, then proceed to take it among themselves to promote the notion that their daughter needs a husband. I have been in a college ministry where the pastor had practically turned his ministry into spiritual speed dating. It seemed that getting his students married off by the time they graduated was the end to his means.

This happens. But I don’t want to be a part of this system. I don’t want to just “graduate” from the young adults group because I am now married. I am, after all, a young adult. I’m 23. Sean’s 23.

And most importantly, I don’t want my single friends to perceive that they are somehow “left behind” or that we have moved on without them.

The truth is, it bothers me that pre-constructed ideas exist within the evangelical church that lead us to believe that:

1) A singles group or a young adults group is a means to an end–that end being marriage. Marriage is not the pinnacle of Christianity, of adulthood, or of success. And it’s not guaranteed. Can we (the church) please stop acting like it is?

2) Our community should be with those whom are in similar seasons of life or similar life stages as us. I value diversity, and shoving people into groups that seemingly fit because of a role one plays or a life stage one is in is a dangerous practice in the church. How is one to grow or learn in such a limited community?

This very reason is why we created this blog back in July:

This blog was created with community in mind. Because beyond Team Sean & Mo, we need community. We need people of all ages in our lives. We need the single people. We need both the fellow newlyweds and the marrieds who have celebrated significantly more anniversaries. We need the married-with-kids and the married-without-kids. We need diversity. Each of you are so necessary to our community.

We want to share with you, learn with you, and perhaps teach you a thing or two. We want to hear your stories and we want a place to tell ours. We were designed for community–and sometimes, by the nature of marriage and a full-time job and routines and such, it isn’t always easy to make team building and community a priority, but this is us trying to get started on the right foot.

How can we help our churches broaden the scope of diversity to include various ages and life stages? How can the church better integrate the singles and the marrieds? 

Also Read: Chasing After the Christian Power Couple (Natalie Trust)

Stretched

Quite frankly I am stretched.

We are stretched.

Vulnerable writing and public updates about Team Strehlow have unfortunately fallen low on our priority list due to being stretched thin by the various commitments we have and the various goals we are working toward.

To no one’s surprise, though, we are involved in a lot of things. Say what you want about busyness, but that’s just us. Busy.

And I want to tell you about those things. I want to tell you about our busy lives. Because it’s been awhile.

We are now three months into marriage and it’s wonderful to report that our relationship is probably the easiest and seemingly effortless aspect of our lives right now. While we don’t see each other and sit down and share a meal together as often as we would like, Sean and I very much value the small hours we do get to spend together. We might be busy, but life is relatively simple and worry-free right now. We know that this simplicity doesn’t last forever and we are embracing that.

The work front is going well on both ends. Sean is loving his second year of teaching and coaching. He just finished up his fall tennis season and is making the most of the extra time he has right now before spring tennis picks back up in January. I, on the other hand, am in the thick of the college football season and the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic is a mere 80 days away. As we push through this busy season of late nights at the office and long weekends at the stadium, Sean always reminds me why he is such a wonderful husband. Our conversations go something like this:

Morgan: Sean, do you still love me? Even though you don’t ever see me? And because I don’t cook on a regular basis? And because I took a two-hour lunch break with my co-workers to watch the Rangers play down the street while you were eating cafeteria food with middle school kids?

Sean: Of course I still love you. Work as long and as hard as you want, dear. As long as I get to enjoy the perks of your awesome job, you should never feel guilty about being a work-a-holic. However, I don’t mind you feeling guilty about your two-hour lunch breaks. 

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Sean and I have both undertaken new learning endeavors this fall. As mentioned in the previous post, I am in the middle of the first semester of my master’s program. I am very much loving being a student once again, learning new ways of thinking and obtaining new knowledge extremely relevant to my job, my career and my goals. And who knew research could be so fun? It has been fun, though I’ve had a few stressful days here and there. But that is expected upon enrolling in four graduate level classes during football season. (Who does that, anyways?)

Sean, on the other hand, is in the process of becoming USPTA certified as a tennis teaching professional. Though he has taught tennis professionally for years, a USPTA certification is widely recognized as a primary credential for advanced level coaching. Sean is thriving in his current position as a head middle school tennis coach and assistant high school tennis coach, however his ultimate goal in coaching is to eventually transition into coaching college tennis in some capacity.

Despite all of that excitement, Team Strehlow has started volunteering with Northwood Students and are each leading small groups on Wednesday evenings. Additionally, I have been working closely with some of the leaders in the youth to develop curriculum and lead out in a middle school girls class that will take place on Sunday nights in October and November. The goal of the class is to really dig deep to address and transparently discuss hot topics that these girls face that are often times not properly addressed by the conservative church. If you haven’t known me very well or very long, this is an aspect of the local church that I am very passionate about reaching and reaching appropriately. As an intellectual, I have been reading and researching various issues of youth aged girls since I was one of them. And over the past couple of years, I have closely analyzed the areas where the church and church leaders have really dropped the ball on in the way young girls are raised up and discipled. I am very much excited about doing my part to equip and empower these girls, rather than deceive them and shame them.

With everything going on, Sean and I still have time to dream big dreams. We have spent a lot of time setting goals, strategizing, and talking about our future. Being the ambitious, visionary, forward-thinking woman that I am, I am constantly challenging and stretching Sean’s natural tendency to focus on the now and on the present. And Sean being the safe, conservative, present-focused, responsible man that he is, he is daily having to bring me back to real life while I day dream about our next step and our future and all of the what-ifs. Sean keeps me grounded–and most of the time it’s a long stretch for me to come down from the clouds. We challenge each other, we stretch each other, and I like it like that. It makes life fun. We both are inclined to take more risks and we are both faced with compromise.

It has been really awesome doing life together–we work as a team and we each get to bring our own unique qualities to the marriage and make it work our own way, even if it doesn’t look like someone else’s way.

As we embrace the busy seasons of life, we give thanks to our abled-bodies and abled-minds. We give thanks for health, for the constant community we have in each other, in our church and in our family and friends, and we give thanks for employment and having jobs that we absolutely love.

Mo

 

A teacher and a student

Well, summer is nearing its end and it is time for both Morgan and I to go back to school. Yes, next week begins another year at Fossil Hill Middle for me, and Morgan returns to academia, in addition to her full time job, as a graduate student at Texas A&M. Being in school isn’t new; I’ve done the teacher thing and Morgan has done the student thing. But what is new is the dimension it will add to our young marriage. And then there’s the whole being married to a student thing.

One of the reasons I got into teaching was to escape the monotony of corporate America. If there is one thing that the teaching profession is, it is unpredictable. For me, it is the unknown that makes life exciting (Morgan doesn’t feel the same about the unknown, do you babe?) I think marriage is the same way. It makes life unpredictable and therefore more beautiful and more exciting.

Morgan and I have both lived our whole lives with only our own selves to account for. Now that we are married, there is a new dimension thrown into every situation. Needless to say that this next year will be extra unpredictable, but I am excited about what is to come. I am looking forward to starting this school year—not just because it is another opportunity to impact the lives of one hundred some-off middle school children, but also because when I get home the love of my life will be there (probably working on homework of her own) to share the curveball that life will have thrown me that day.

This last month and a half has been wonderful and the wedding and each day following, has been the best of my life (summer break may or may not have contributed to that greatness). So it is with a new sense of love and support that we both charge into a new school year.

Sean

Displays of Affection: Part 2

Jesus washed each disciples feet, every one of them, even with all their faults.

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I remember the moment in mine and Sean’s relationship when I truly realized and accepted that we are both individually and uniquely flawed and broken people. I remember it well–it was a humbling and healing realization that ended a season of fear and uncertainty. That was the moment that I not only felt love for Sean, but I chose to love Sean–him and his brokenness.

Sean and I wanted to begin our marriage with this imitation of Christ when he washed his disciples’ feet in John 13. Sean washed my feet; I washed his. This demonstration of mutual service, mutual submission and mutual love was a very intimate time for us. The ethic of mutual submission is best understood as freely taking up of the role of a servant in love to one another and it displays the underlying character of the disciple, which itself is modeled on Christ. We seek to model Jesus Christ in our love to each other and to other people. This is at the heart of Team Strehlow.

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While most of my wedding day was a whirlwind, this moment was not.

Sean and I scripted our ceremony run of show, thus there were many words spoken and many words exchanged. But I believe that it was the action we displayed in our washing of feet that communicated the heart of our marital union.
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Mo

Displays of Affection: Part 1

I can’t stop flipping through our wedding photographs.

I am so happy with them and so in love with the people in them. I love the memory of our wedding and looking back, I wouldn’t change a single thing. And for a perfectionist, that’s saying a lot.

This is the first post in a series of posts where I will be highlighting some of my favorite memories from our best day ever.

Strehlow Wedding Grandparents

I love that our precious grandparents shared this day with us. All but one of our grandparents are living–my Papaw passed away when I was younger and my Mamaw has since remarried to the special man who’s hand she is grasping so tightly (see above). Despite having dreamed of a beach wedding for as long as I can remember, Sean and I knew we needed to choose a wedding location that would be convenient for our grandest loved ones. And we are so glad that we did.

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This is Louis, Sean’s paternal grandfather and the preacher man of the Strehlow family. It was wonderful having Louis be a part of the marriage ceremony, as he also married Sean’s parents. My Uncle Joel, who read scripture during the foot washing part of our ceremony, married my parents. It was neat to be able to weave these special and sentimental elements into our ceremony.

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This is Lorraine, or “Mawmaw” as Sean would call her, making me promise on my life to bring Sean to South Louisiana to visit at least once every year. I’m not sure how easy that promise will be to keep, but I will do my best to come visit one of these days!

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This is Pop, my maternal grandfather. He had not been feeling well in the days leading up to the wedding, and it was truly an answered prayer to have him at my wedding full of life and full of laughter.

I am so so thankful for these perfect little moments.

Mo

[Photography courtesy of Spindle Life Photography]

Post-Seven Confessions: More on Excess

Books. I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession. Reading is a great love of mine–but I think my love for books far exceeds my love for reading.

In fact, after finishing up one of my recent reads by Jen Hatmaker, Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I made a few quick decisions about how I would be changing our lifestyles to be more healthy, less materialistic, more eco-friendly, and less wasteful.

One of those decisions was to go through all of my stuff and give away everything I don’t really need – this includes books on my bookshelf that, if I am being honest, I have no intention of ever reading again. I love my collection of books, though. I have spent an unspoken amount of time organizing my bookshelves. I will then go on to stand in front of the shelves admiring the books on it. It all sounds silly but it is truly therapeutic for me. But – I live in a small apartment. I have limited bookshelf space in which I have sadly outgrown. I want to buy more books but can’t justify having more books when I’m busting the out the walls of my bookshelves with the books I already have.

Another decision I made was the decision to recycle. Little did we know that daily recycling while living in an apartment with no recycling initiatives in a town with minimal recycling programs and zero public recycling bins, that it would be near impossible to actually follow through with the great intention to reduce the waste that leaves the Strehlow home. We had collected a pile of flattened cardboard as tall as Sean after opening all of our wedding gifts and unpacking my moving boxes, so one of the very first honey to-do’s of our marriage was for him to find a place to recycle our giant stash of cardboard. After countless phone calls and Google searches, our cardboard recycling initiative became an epic fail. We found places to recycle plastic bottles and other places that would take paper ["NO CARDBOARD"]  and even many places to recycle old electronics. But bless his soul, after an enormous effort to recycle our cardboard collection, Sean was unsuccessful.

It’s been fun, though. We have been settling into this new lifestyle we are creating for ourselves and learning and growing and challenging each other together.  In fact, today was probably the first day in a long time that neither of us spent any money. Today started our first month operating on a strict budget–and I’m thrilled to report that we haven’t blown it yet!

Mo

New Reality

We are back in Texas after a wonderful week on the Turks and Caicos islands where we couldn’t quite get enough turquoise blue water, where we got more than enough sun (ouch). Sean and I barely made it home without  a +1 — a “potcake” dog, the island breed. The voice of reason trumped the voice of infatuation and impulse and we did not bring little “Turk” home with us. A few tears were shed as we came to the conclusion. In fact, I’m afraid that me not agreeing to adopt Turk will come up in counseling years down the road at the root of all future marital issues. Yes friends, Sean was that upset.

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Sean, who has never had a pet dog, bonded with this cute little guy and is now certain he wants a “man’s dog” as soon as it is the right time to add to Team Strehlow.

It’s time we settle into post-honeymoon married life and create our new reality. We’re not quite sure yet what that will look like but we have had some great conversations about how we will do life together and live under the same roof and make joint decisions.

While I came into marriage already having ideals and ambitions about our married-life lifestyles, those ideals were leveled as I read through Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

Talk about conviction–reading a book about simplifying and excess while vacationing at a luxury resort on a trendy island in the Caribbean is not a recipe for comfort and complacency. I’m not sure what this is going to look like–navigating through this big life transition of marriage while wading the waters of a conviction to reduce and simplify. In fact, in an initial effort to reduce waste, today I had Sean break down cardboard boxes and start a “recycling pile” as I unpacked boxes of wedding gifts and took them out of their packaging. It is a small act, but it is the beginning of what I anticipate to be a great effort to recycle and make the Strehlow’s a more earth-friendly team.

Stay tuned…

Mo

We’re All In This Together

We assume that if you are checking out this post, you joined us on our wedding day to celebrate our love and commitment in marriage. It was a thrill to be surrounded by each of our families and many of our friends. THANK YOU FOR BEING A PART OF OUR BEST DAY EVER. We embrace the community you have shared with us and are grateful for your friendship and support.

Both of us having been competitive tennis players in our youth and throughout college, the concept of team and teamwork has always been present. Together, we met on the tennis court, grew in relationship on the tennis court, had our biggest fights on the tennis court, and our deepest and hardest conversations on the tennis court. Apart, we won matches, we lost matches, we led and inspired our teammates, we let our teammates down, and we learned how to handle and recover from adversity. And though our coaches always reminded us of the importance of teamwork, by the nature of our sport, it wasn’t always easy to stay in a “team” state of mind.

Over the years, though, we have learned that teamwork is enhanced by being challenged, inspired and uplifted by community, as well as listening to and sharing each other’s stories. And throughout the past five years as we have grown and nurtured Team Sean & Mo, we have learned vulnerability is hard but necessary. For it creates a sense of community that we are in this together, and together with the grace and love of Jesus Christ we can overcome even the greatest challenges.

This blog was created with community in mind. Because beyond Team Sean & Mo, we need community. We need people of all ages in our lives. We need the single people. We need both the fellow newlyweds and the marrieds who have celebrated significantly more anniversaries. We need the married-with-kids and the married-without-kids. We need diversity. Each of you are so necessary to our community.

We want to share with you, learn with you, and perhaps teach you a thing or two. We want to hear your stories and we want a place to tell ours. We were designed for community–and sometimes, by the nature of marriage and a full-time job and routines and such, it isn’t always easy to make team building and community a priority, but this is us trying to get started on the right foot.

We invite you to share in our lives and to join this community.

Sean & Mo

Sean Morgan Strehlow