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    Thirty by 30: Installment Three

    April 29, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    A few of you have concurred that these are good lessons {so far}. They are probably good because they are, for the most part, the lessons every woman learns along the road. I do not claim to be original. That is why the blog is call Afterthoughts and not Forethoughts, or even just Thoughts.

    The majority of this blog is a composite of what I have read and, therefore, thought about. And if I read it, that means someone else thought about it long before I did.

    And so, as I’ve been lying on my couch trying to rid myself of a three-day headache, I’ve had more time to think about what I learned before thirty. {I promise that was the last woe-is-me health complaint of the series.} Here are a few more:

    1. The grass really is always greener on the other side. In other words, there is always someone out there that you can envy, and also there is probably someone envying you. In fact, I look at womanhood sometimes as this circle-shaped cycle. There is the single lady looking at the married woman who she thinks has it all. But that married woman has no children, so she is looking at the woman with not just a husband, but also children, and thinking that that woman has it all. I am the woman with children. In fact, come August, I will have three children aged three-and-a-half and under, plus a six-year-old.

      I am tired, and possibly insane.

      And I guarantee you that that lady with all the children, on her very worst days, looks at both the single lady and the married lady without children and thinks they just might have something there.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love my children. And they are mine, and so I am determined to pour myself out for them, even on bad days.

      But other people’s lives hold a certain charm. We don’t often see the pain. We see the perfect picture. We see the beautiful children and all their perfect toys, not the marital stress from all the debt. Or, we see the loving marriage, but not the struggle with the difficult child.

      We are, after all, outsiders looking in. So we see whatever is put in the windows and nothing more.

      And so I have learned the best way to enjoy some truly green grass is to grab some fertilizer and tend your own lawn.

    2. Forbearance is perhaps the greatest gift you can give your marriage. Actually, it is probably the greatest gift you can give any relationship you have, but since marriage is the most basic human-to-human relationship, it is where I tend to apply the concept first when I think of it.

      I think that God gave Si and me a great blessing when he gave us two wise counselors, Steve and Roxanne, who met with us weekly before we were married. We were being married in a church in my hometown. That church required premarital counseling. However, we lived too far away to participate in the counseling offered by the church. So we were granted permission to obtain counseling from our local senior pastor and his wife, who happened to also be a co-worker of mine.

      We went through a wonderful workbook called Preparing for Marriage God’s Way. We also went through some other material that our pastor had created himself. But the best lesson we learned was the concept of forbearance.

      What I took away from that session was basically this: This man that I love is not perfect. He will sin at some point in our marriage. I will see him at his worst. And I can make the choice, right now, to forgive him in advance. {Because Christ has forgiven me, it is actually my Christian duty to be prepared to forgive many people in my path throughout my life.}

      My heart was softened by this lesson. In that moment, when we were not at odds, I was able to see him clearly, to see that he did, in fact, have faults that would one day hurt me. {I most certainly had faults that would hurt him!} And I could also know his heart, that he really, truly loved me. And so I could forgive him now, and be prepared to offer him grace when the time came.

      Forbearance. Forgiving in advance. It is foundational for a life of grace and mercy.

    3. You can have integrity without being perfect. Integrity implies wholeness. Think about another word that shares the same root: integrated. This world is a very fractured place. Post-Industrialism’s focus on having specialties has created a people that are very limited in their scope. We lack a certain singleness of heart, so to speak.

      Integrity in the Christian sense implies a certain level of moral uprightness. We can’t limit integrity to being only wholeness or consistency, for a person could be wholly corrupt or consistently evil, and this would be far from what we call integrous. So integrity is wholeness, steadfastness, consistency, but in a sense that is good rather than bad.

      Perfection is a little bit different. For instance, I fully believe that a Christian can love God, try their best to follow Him, and still make mistakes. This is because, though they are being made perfect, they are not yet actually perfect. Perfection requires a level of existence that transcends godliness and becomes godlikeness.

      We are limited by our own imperfect humanity. We are limited by our inability to know the future and all the possible repercussions of our actions. We are limited by our own knowledge {think of things you would never do now, but did in the past, not because you were deliberately sinning, but simply because you were ignorant in some way}.

      The lack of perfection, however, doesn’t make integrity impossible. Integrity is seen in a consistency of {good} character over time. People of integrity will still make mistakes, and perhaps another hallmark of integrity is its willingness to own up to those mistakes and resolve to make other such mistakes in the future.

      Perfection, on the other hand, seems to be limited to God and perhaps His sinless angels.

      I think that learning to make this distinction has kept me from putting wonderful people on pedestals they do not deserve {or even wish to be put upon}, which also keeps me from condemning them when they, inevitably, reveal themselves to be less than perfect.

    Installment One
    Installment Two

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  • Reply Brandy April 30, 2008 at 12:02 am


    Neglecting your computer, hm? Sounds like someone has a real life. 🙂

    By the way, I was hoping we would get to that park sometime in the next couple weeks. I really do want to take the kids before it heats up too much. Our life seems to be an endless series of disasters these past few weeks. (Today, the sink plugged up again and this time the snake didn’t work, so we are waiting for a plumber…) Anyhow, maybe in the next two weeks, though? It’d be fun…I’ll let you know when and see if you and the boys can join us.

  • Reply Kimbrah April 29, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    These have all been really great Brandy! I have been neglecting my computer for a while, so I am just now getting to my extremely piled up Reader. I saved the best for last! 🙂

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