love

Dear Hubby,

Sorry this is a few days late. This has been a janky week. Now that we got the house in order and tackled that linen closet we have been talking about for two years, I can write you a little anniversary letter:

Every year of life, and of marriage, seems jam packed. But it also seems completely mundane and the same in a way. Not in a bad way, but the busyness of life can make it feel like a blur.

And if we aren’t careful to take note of what we have been through together, we might not realize how really strong we are. Not just because we work really hard at our marriage, but because we vowed to let God be the center of it. A cord of three strands cannot be broken.

So I figured I’d take a moment to reflect on the last year and what we have conquered together.

  1. Business-In it’s very own category for its obvious stress involved, we have closed a business, opened a business and grew a home-based business, while pretty gracefully handling people in and out of our home several times a day. Phew. That is no easy way to live! But we did it.
  2. We traveled quite a bit-In the middle of being slammed with our work, we took time to travel. We went on a romantic getaway to Cancun, took the boys to DC for a real educational experience, went an a cruise through the Caribbean with friends, went on a family trip with the Knudsons to Atlanta (where Kaden drank a silo of Coke products), and took the entire family (including Ricky Bobby) across country, climbing Pikes Peak (in a car, lol), visiting the Smokies, and going to our first White Sox game. And it was all because of how hard we (especially YOU) work and how we have been blessed.
  3. We worked out-We might not be on the cover of fitness mags, but we have carved out time to be healthy, even food prepping when we were really on top of things. Working out with you is fun, but it also gets me excited about growing old with you. The more years I have with you, the better.
  4. We briefly considered adoption-Infertility really stinks. And anniversaries are a chafing reminder of many, many losses. But briefly this year, we considered adoption, as we were approached to consider it for a mom with a last minute need. We talked with her, prayed about it, tried to imagine how to make space for a child in one short week, and then the mom decided to keep the baby. While this was a brief interlude of adoption struggles, we handled it, and allowed it to help us focus on what we really want in terms of growing our family.
  5. We parented-Every year, we hustlin’. Jackson got his license and we now spend 13% of our day tracking him on multiple phone apps. Kaden outgrew Jackson and entered the 5th dimension of puberty. We taught them new things, buckled down in new ways, and let go when it was right. We have prayed, argued and wrestled with many a decision, but we did our best to do it as a team.
  6. We prayed-We did like 21 days of a 30 day marriage prayer devotional. Well, like I said, we ain’t perfect. But we haven’t thrown the books away, and regardless of the devotional, we still turn to God for answers and nothing makes me feel more cherished than when you pray for me, for our marriage, for my work, for our children, and even for all of our friends. I love you so much for that, and I always will.
  7. We got help-We went to counseling, a lot, shopping around to find the right fit for us, never using time or money as excuses to skip when both of us would really prefer to sweep stuff under the rug and just grab a bourbon. When people say “marriage is hard” this is what is should mean: putting in the dang work to truly try to understand our spouse’s feelings and needs and tend to them, NOT just saying, “Well this is hard….next.” And thanks for letting me share a little of our struggles with the world so we can help make getting help normal and not a sign of weakness. Your commitment to God and our marriage is the strongest thing about you. Thank you!

You already know I love you but it takes more than love to last. It takes commitment, work and one hell of a sense of humor. Thanks for laughing at the crappy stuff with me, however inappropriately, and thanks for occasionally throwing chocolate and Mexican food at the problems. It’s actually a solid practice endorsed by world renowned therapists (it’s not). But seriously you’re the best.

And in the deep and sentimental words of Tim McGraw (kind of), I like you, I love you, I wants some more of you.

See you at the hizzy later,

I’ll be the one with the goofy grin 🙂

 

 

I hate labeling my kid. I go out of my way NOT to do it. I want to just know KG, to be his mom, and help guide him through his childhood. And I go out of my way not use diagnosis as a crutch (for him or for me). I also try not to be defensive of him.

But for the sake of understanding, I will tell you that he has a different mindset, different behavior at times, and definitely different social norms.

My husband and I have been married for six years. We are a blended family, and that brings on challenges, especially in regards to discipline. But disciplining some kids can be a little more complex, so we need help, therefore we found a counselor who specializes in more complex situations.

Our counselor asked us how other people’s views of my kids impact us. I paused. In general, I don’t care too awfully much what people think. And I work really hard not to let what people think of my kids or my parenting to (negatively) impact how I parent. Sometimes I have to pretend like I am in a bubble and tune out the world, but I pride myself on parenting the same way whether I have witnesses or if I am at home (it’s not exactly the same but I try.)

But do I care what people think of my kid in general? Well short answer: kind of. At least enough write this overdo post.

KG did everything a little late, talked differently, bit other kids, got kicked out off daycare, and found trouble around many corners. I have spent a lot of time in meetings. I have cried and snotted in front of many a teacher. I have even made teachers cry because I was frustrated and angry and feeling awfully alone. And I regret that. I now go out of my way to stand beside each teacher and support them the very way I pray they will support me. And I have realized that it helps if people actually like me (my intentions more so than anything), and care about my son (especially since he needs their guidance too.)

My son is a unique person, and I wouldn’t change him. He is creative and non-linear. Ask him to describe something to you, and his response might dazzle you. He has an earnest interest in science and memorizes science facts and quizzes me (I almost never know the answers). Last week he broke up a girl fight at school. This week he asked me if angels poop. He was completely serious. (That was stumper. Message me if you know the answer. Or if you want to hear mine.)

The journey of my son’s life has been affected by his trials and his differences, but I really do love who he is, how he loves, and I can’t wait to see his life continue to unfold.

I don’t want to change him.

But not everyone gets him. He is easily frustrated and easily angered. He says odd stuff, curses at times, and makes jokes at the wrong times. He is way too open about private stuff. He is bad at eye contact and handshakes and sometimes, he looks upset with others when really he is disappointed in himself. He is socially awkward at times too.[ I think he gets it ALL from me, but that’s another post ;-)]

I have to really, really, really work at not running around going off on people sometimes. I want to tell them what a good kid he really is, that he is generous, not stingy with gifts, tender-hearted, interesting, good with little kids, sweet with dogs, a great dancer and better at sports than he seems (he gets nervous.)

I want to tell the world that that he will be something; that he already is something.

He is harder on himself than anyone on this planet can ever be on him. And I suspect that’s why he is the way he is sometimes. Because he just wants to be better, to act better, to achieve more. And he doesn’t always know how. And it frustrates him.

And I don’t have all the answers. And I never will.

And not everyone is going to “get” him, or like him, or understand him.

But that’s life.

And that’s why I don’t run around making excuses for him (at least I try not to), or pulling the special needs card every time he doesn’t make the team or earn a spot somewhere. I have NEVER gone ahead of him and said, “Please choose him because he needs this” even though it might have helped, or might have kept him from some rejection. I never want to send him where he is not wanted. That is not successful living to me.

But damn does my heart break sometimes.

If people knew what I knew, would they treat him better or worse? Would he be more accepted or more often rejected? Because at this point, he might just come across as a tall, pretty cute kid with kick ass hair who is a little shy or a little funny. Or he might seem like a kid full of rage, with low self-esteem and a bad attitude. Or he might seem smart, quirky, extroverted and surprisingly thoughtful. And all of those could be true depending on the day.

My son, is incredibly, beautifully, wonderfully human.

And then there are the people who see him…really see him. And they go out of their way to connect with him, to lend him a helping hand or offer him a word of encouragement. Why do they get it when so many people don’t? I am guessing something or someone in their life has given them the gift of well-developed empathy. We don’t all have that gift, but I am thankful for those in my son’s life that do.

As a mom, there is nothing more rewarding than when others see the good in your kid, and can see when he is trying, can see past a lot of the junk, and offer some good old fashioned kindness.

I could offer you up some “awareness” day info to help you understand my kid better, but here’s the reality:

He’s not going to run through life wearing a shirt that tells everyone why he is mad at himself, or cussing for no apparent reason. He is not going to take me to work with him so I can put everyone in their place when they think the worst of him. He has to LIVE in this world, truly do life in it. And he will have to make some adjustments at times, and at other times, he will have to learn to embrace what makes him different and spectacular.

But he will have to blaze his own trails.

And in the end, we all could be a little more aware of why people act the way that they do, and ask the right questions if we really care to know. We can stop jumping to conclusions. We can even offer our help and actually come along someone who is struggling, and offer a pat on the back or a word of encouragement. We can make sure that no human being lives life unseen, or completely misunderstood.

We can be kind. We can be brave, untamed and trail-blazingly kind.

Awareness of ourselves, and our capacity to love, is what we need more of. And this is what I want my kids to learn too: LOVE is successful living, to me.

It’s been nearly a month since I have written.

Yes, I have been busy. The boys were finishing the school year, the dog sitting business is busy and my husband’s business is ever demanding. And to top it off, we did a major remodel in our home.

But there’s yet another problem. I have nothing to say. Well, nothing that isn’t already being said over and over again.

Does anyone say anything anymore that is worth hearing? Who is the voice of reason above all the noise? How do we clear out all the clutter and let our minds rest? Where is the reprieve from it all???

And when in the world do we listen?

I reposted this from Jen Hatmaker on my FB page:

jenhatsays

And I love it. And because of it, I have reached out to my gay friends to let them know I love them, that I am thinking about them, and grieving with them.

But there is more we can do. We. Can. Listen.

I want to yell SHUT UP so loud that my own eardrums shake. I want to become hoarse from the anger behind it. I want to show my disgust. And then I want to fast from speaking and opining and sit in monk silence listening to the hearts of men.

And at the very moment that I open my mouth to form the words, tongue on my teeth, I want to shut up again and listen.

I want to listen so hard that the speaker in my presence runs out of grief and feels so understood that they see me as family from this point forward. Instead of connecting through spouting and shouting, I want to connect in silent reverence never before seen in our generation.

And then I want to fast from speaking and opining and sit in monk silence listening to the hearts of men.

I want to disregard everything that labels who we are and learn the story of each person and understand their hearts and pray for their souls, not because I deem them sinners, but because I deem them worthy of my time and affection.

I want to see them with new eyes and hear them with new ears. I want to love them in spite of them. I want to love them in spite of myself.

Before I wrote this, I prayed to God to give me words if He wanted me to use them and to give me silence if He wanted me to be quiet.

Speak up in righteous anger, speak up in love, speak up in hope of a better world. But don’t be afraid to shut up sometimes. We learn not from hearing ourselves speak but from listening.

And when have you felt the most loved? When someone spoke to you, or when someone just listened? And they heard you, and you could feel it in your soul?

I pray that I no longer contribute to a listening-deprived world. I pray to grow in my listening skills, to be slow to anger and slow to speak. I pray to seek to understand above seeking to be heard. I pray to be a flame for peace instead of a spark of rage. I pray to love earnestly and without condition. I pray to speak up for the wounded and grieve with the grieving. I pray to be a physical presence in the lives of those in need and not just a virtual mouthpiece stroking my own ego and feeding an ever-famished pit of anger that would rule me if I allowed it.

I pray to listen. Because in the silence and in the stillness, love grows wild.

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This is a typical evening at our home. Byron is showing our 14-year-old how to do algebra.

This is a typical evening at our home. Byron is showing our 14-year-old how to do algebra.

Bear with me. For a minute you might think I am bragging about my husband, and you might actually try to gag yourself with a spoon, but I have a point worth waiting for. Several people have said to me that they think Byron and I have the perfect relationship. I used to take that as a compliment but not anymore.

I have a great husband and I know it. If I attempt to forget it, there are folks everywhere waiting to remind me. He is just a good man, and no one can deny it.

He gets lots of good guy points. He married a single mom with two young boys. He’s never been married, doesn’t have kids from a previous marriage, he’s self-employed, he’s a cutie, and he takes me on tropical getaways. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that we have problems too. We appreciate each other. We both feel lucky and blessed, but life has a way of being really hard sometimes. We disagree on parenting sometimes. We have “family” issues. We run a business (if you don’t get this, then you don’t own a business). We are infertile and have experienced a lot of loss and are coming to terms that we might not procreate as a couple. Money is a stressor. We have too many dogs, too many house repairs, too much laundry, and not enough time. Sometimes we fight.

Recently we hit a low in our marriage. We have been constantly upset with each other. He has been waking up sad, and I have been waking up mad. We went about our days, took care of our responsibilities, ate together, prayed together, parented together, but we have been resenting each other.

I have been in school for 3 years. My combined three-year income would make an awesome down payment on an overpriced handbag. I help him with the business. He helps the boys with homework. We both aim to please each other, but sometimes we each feel like a big fat steaming pile of not enough.

After a really hurtful fight (a loud argument with even louder feelings) we got even colder with each other. I was filled with darkness and rage. He was going through the motions looking like he had a virus. I kept praying each night to wake up feeling happy yet I woke up angrier each day, waiting on him to appreciate me a certain way, and to love me in my language.

Then I hit the lowest of the lows, still I kept praying for a morning that felt like joy. I laid in bed and read a book for school. The book wasn’t special in any way, but suddenly without premeditation or thought, I turned to Byron and said something to the effect of, “I am sorry for any words I have said to you over the last 8 years that may have been rude, critical or discouraging.” He looked astonished and asked, “Where did that come from?” The answer was, I didn’t know.

The next morning, I woke up…joyful…and grateful, and at peace again.

I was excited about taking the boys to school at the crack of dawn and facing my day. I took about fifteen minutes and read a few verses in the Bible and then let my head tilt back and began conversing with God. He said a couple of things:

“I didn’t put you through three years of school for nothing.”

(He knew I was wondering about that).

And then he said,

“You need to know the difference between letting your husband lead and looking to him for approval and affirmation; that’s what I am for.”

Ah. I had it all wrong. I had made my husband my “god” and when he couldn’t meet all my needs I punished him for it. And maybe he has done the same to me. My husband is the very best man I know, but he is a man, not a god and I cannot expect more than what God designed him for.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. (Eph. 5:25-28)

I like these verses. They allow me to be lovely, cared for and “blameless.” Here is the next verse:

He who loves his wife loves himself.

I think we were putting so much pressure on each other to perform a certain way but we were really doubting ourselves. We weren’t loving ourselves; so loving each other became harder each day.

Here’s the missing piece:

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 5:18-20)

Instead of living with a heart of true gratitude, I was saying the right things (please, thank you, good job, and you are awesome) but my heart was puny and dark, wishing for more and criticizing him for what I longed for that he was never intended to give me in the first place…godly affirmation and joy. Instead of genuinely thanking God for everything, I was secretly blaming and resenting my husband for everything.

Since I told him that I was sorry, we have laughed again and enjoyed each others’ company. We have shown mutual respect and genuine love. I have expected less, breathed more, and stopped trying to control him with my secret thoughts.

We still aren’t perfect and we never ever will be. We were never intended to be and that’s the problem. We were designed to serve each other, love each other, comfort each other, support each other and so much more, but we were not intended to lord over the other to meet our needs that can only be met by God.

Yes, my husband is human. And I am more than okay with that. I am grateful.

Byron did push ups because Jackson got all the steps of his algebra work completed correctly. Yeah, I love him :-)

Byron did push ups because Jackson got all the steps of his algebra work completed correctly. Yeah, I love him 🙂

Sometimes I’m on top of my game, full of wisdom and good advice.

Other times, like recently, I have nothing of merit to say. I see a lot of blah blah blah floating around. I attempt to not be a blah blah blaher for blah blah blah sake. It makes me feel…blah.

I’ve been reflecting on my mutishness lately and  I think it comes down to a few things:

I’m healing from this infertility junk. Technically I am still infertile (although we have made some “progress” in the arena), but I am healing my heart, which I have decided that now is as good a time as any.

I have felt a little alienesque lately. I have been a bundle of magnets, dropped in a 1984 filing cabinet with a key broken off in it. In other words, I have been a contradiction to myself at every turn, and feeling very heavy and trapped because of it.

Recently, I have reunited with old friends. One for coffee, another for yoga and even one for a long chatty Cathy session on Facebook.  It was good for me. I remembered who I am a little more clearly.

Why am I confused? I’ll explain the best I can. I was not a church girl. I was not a “good” girl and I discovered my faith very late in my life. Because of that, I am still very fond of the kind of girl I was (and still am deep down): the kind of girl who makes questionable decisions, falling for the wrong guy, struggling a little more than the other girls around me. And because I know what it is like to be that girl, I am always here to help bring girls like me into a little bit more light day by day.

But I get tired sometimes. And all of the leading by example I try to do, day by day, takes its toll on the little girl inside who use to think it was terribly cool to chew on candy cigarettes in the projects.

So last week was good for me. I had coffee with my high school BFF. The one I moved in with the day after graduation because we were both so ready to be on our own. Our friendship blew up that summer and not in the good way. She tried to apologize but I didn’t accept it. She knew me when my pride was more important than a good friendship.

Also last week, I did a bunch of awkward yoga stretches with the beautiful girl from my pledge class that looked so much like Uma Thurman when I met her in 1994 that I wasn’t sure we could be friends. She knew me when I tended bar, went to fraternity parties, and later, when my marriage fell apart.

I know I am a “better” person now. I am more forgiving, more generous, and sometimes, even more patient. But it was nice, and even grounding, like putting my feet in the sand after a long sentence away from the shore, to spend time with those who knew me before I had the right words. But even better than knowing me, they loved me. Like really loved me, and not because I was good or because I deserved it, but because there was something about me that mattered to the little girl inside of each of them.

I don’t think I will ever be as polished as I once thought I should be. I think it’s because there is a piece of me that is still in Cleveland, Ohio in the 70’s watching my teenage aunt move the needle on the record 46 times in a row so she could write down song lyrics to Comfortably Numb, and a bit of me who was left in each state that we moved to because of my mom’s Air Force career. There is a shadow of me that remembers what it is like to lose a marriage, and there is residue remaining from looking for love again, and too often playing the fool.

But I don’t want to be that polished. And I don’t want to forget where I came from or what I walked through. I’m still a smart ass. I am still a little rude, although now I actually try to think before I speak (in case I might hurt someone). God had softened me, but I am remembering to love the grit and grime from my life; I like remembering where I have been.

I don’t have to get all dolled up to walk with God. He’s always loved me too.

Women are crazy. At least that’s what I hear men say all the time.

 

Instead of getting offended, and acting “crazy” (aka, show some emotion…which would only prove their supposed point) I say, “All women are crazy, and all men are jerks, you just have to be okay with their brand of crazy (or jerkiness).”

 

Let me clarify. Not all women have a hard time controlling their emotions and not all men are jerks. And both men and women have the capacity to be loving and logical, as well as rude or irrational.

 

What I think men are really saying is (feel free to comment if you disagree),

“I don’t understand her emotional side, why she cries sometimes, or even what she is saying to me at times (or why she talks so much); and often, I don’t know what I am supposed to say or do in response to it.”

 

In fact, when I cry, my husband looks like he is ready to charter a flight to the moon because he has no idea what to do. At least once, I think he faked narcolepsy.

 

And what I hear women saying is,

“He isn’t in tune with my feelings, doesn’t say things as nicely to me as I would like sometimes, or can be difficult to talk to especially about the big stuff. Even though we are sitting right next to each other, he feels very far away from me.”

 

What I always tell these baffled men is this: Women feel deeply and communicate more by nature and they were created to be this way by God himself, in God’s image. Women cannot just be bottom line oriented all of the time. We like to take you on an emotional journey!

 

Conversely, it has taken me years to realize that talking is practically a sport for me, and I am an Olympian! My poor husband doesn’t stand a chance! Sometimes ladies, we just have to tell a man when to listen with purpose. Let him know when you need his full attention. I have learned to choose the proper time to talk about things that are important to me. I have also learned that for my marriage, the best conversations happen when we are out of town, even if it is just 30 minutes away for a nice meal. A break from reality allows for an attentive husband.

 

I make no apologies for being a woman, or for acting like one. Although the following behaviors may be confusing, frustrating or even annoying to men at times, it is perfectly normal behavior. Women I think it is high time you stop apologizing or feeling guilty for being a woman!

  • For crying–At a commercial, after a bad week, for not fitting in my jeans, or for world hunger. If I want to cry, I will do just that, and I’m not apologizing. (See Ecclesiastes 3:4)
  • For feeling–Women are wired to care deeply, especially when it comes to their loved ones. Expecting anything less of us could be selling yourself short of some really great love. (See Romans 12:15)

Like Dolly Parton said, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

  • For desiring–Every woman has a dream, a dream of a career, a dream of to find a great husband, a dream to become a mother, a dream to make a godly difference in the world; whatever the dream, the desire to have it can be deeply moving for us. Please pray for our desires to be godly, and for our hearts to be filled with the spirit, but please don’t pray for our desire to dream to leave us. Apathy is a desolate replacement. (See Proverbs 13:12)
  • For communicating–It’s no secret that some women have the gift of gab. Sometimes I truly do like to talk, just to talk, with no purpose except to just find (or create) intimacy with my husband. Words are very affirming for women, and make us feel important to you. Quality conversations, or just talking about our favorite movie or dream vacation can help us to feel more in touch with a friend or spouse. (See Proverbs 25:11)

 

Sometimes men and women seem like different species, but that doesn’t make women “crazy”, and it doesn’t make men “jerks.” In fact, we usually use these words when we feel frustrated or powerless to control their behavior that we don’t like or understand.

 

Our inability to attempt to understand their heart or their real intentions, or to appreciate how God designed them as individuals is not their problem; it is our problem. And it hurts our ability to have meaningful and lasting relationships.

 

This means that we have to make a real and genuine effort to try to understand where the other person is coming from and accept them for who they are, gender differences and all. Ultimately, it means that when we use the easy label of jerk, crazy, or whatever our go-to, get-out-of-jail line is, we may be the emotionally inept person that needs a little enlightening.

byronandpuppyNot bragging, but I happen to think my husband is sexy. It’s not because he has amazing hair (and he does, just ask him), nor is it his 5 o’clock shadow (that he gets at noon) or his tattoos that make his seem just a little bit dangerous. There are some things that make him truly desirable to me.

 

1. He holds puppies. I mean seriously, does this need an explanation? But he doesn’t just hold them, he cradles them and baby-talks them. It shows his sensitive side and I love it.

2. He fixes stuff. He’s a pretty busy man since he owns and operates a business, but if something needs to get done, he grabs the tools and gets to work.

3. He invites people to church. He cares about the spirituality of other people. That is super attractive!

4. He donates money. He gives weekly to church and has other causes that he is passionate about. In case you were wondering guys, tithing is sexy. Repeat this to yourself, TITHING IS SEXY.

5. He makes decisions. As a woman, I make a million life decisions a week. I appreciate that he can pick a restaurant without consulting a magic 8 ball or having a seance. It’s dinner, not the Geneva Convention. Pick something guys.

6. He dotes a little. He’s not a smother and cover kind of guy, but he’s not afraid to serve me. He opens doors, fills my water glass, makes me coffee and even turns on my heated blanket (even in the summer.) This is biblical men (and women). See Ephesians 5:21-33 if you think I am kidding.

7. He’s a great dad. Technically, he’s a step-dad but it doesn’t keep him from praying with the boys, getting up early to drive them to school or wearing bunny ears while he helps them with difficult homework to lighten the mood.

8. He does girl stuff. Once he planned a date for us to a pottery store hours away, he has painted with me at Swirlz, and he will browse antique malls on a good day. Sure he prefers a long motorcycle ride over any of this stuff, but he’s willing to do my stuff and will even see to it that both of our interests are met without prompting.

9. He asks me questions. Every once in while, he asks me insightful questions. Honestly, it usually catches me off-guard, but I like it. I like a chance to talk about intimate stuff and dream about our future.

10. He worships with me. Whether it’s church, small group or singing worship songs loud and off-key (the only way we know how), it shows his humility and his pursuit of a relationship with Christ. It doesn’t get any more attractive than that for this girl.

 

Guys, I know Men’s Health focuses on supplements, fitness and bedroom skills, and all of that is fine if that’s your speed, but women are more interested in how you treat them and how you treat the world, than how your reflection smiles back at you.

 

If you really want to be sexy to women (if you’re not married) or to your wife (if you are married) than get in the Word. God knew what He was doing when He designed marriage and when He gave us the words to live by. Now go be sexy!

Life is HardWhen I say life is hard sometimes it’s so you will know that nobody’s life is perfect and so that you will pray for me as (perhaps) I have prayed for you (maybe without even mentioning it to you). But I don’t deny that I am blessed. Here are a few things I am thankful for right now: My 13yo for taking up for his brother this week, my 10yo for being intentional about reading the Bible (he decided to study Mark this week), the time and money to workout (my reprieve!), and my husband who loves me when I am mean, critical and (feeling) unlovable.

I have read and reread Ephesians 5:21-33  several times (I suggest reading all of the chapter if you have a chance). I understand now what it means when God commanded us to respect our husbands and for our husbands to love us regardless of our merit. It (the love my husband gives me) offers me peace, joy, and security beyond measure or words to describe it.

If you are waiting on your spouse to be perfect (or to even be “better”) before you love them or before you respect them with everything that you have, I can assure you that you are robbing your marriage of something utterly beautiful.

My husband doesn’t love me because I cooked dinner, or because I vacuumed. He doesn’t love me because I ran errands for him. He doesn’t love me because I curled my hair or went to the gym. He doesn’t love me because I am always kind, always patient or always lovely. He doesn’t love me for what I can give him, and he doesn’t stop loving me when I fail or when I am determined to fight. He loves me because he chose me.photo-10

For the first time in my life, I understand what it is like to not have to earn something or not even be able to. I used to try to get him to love me more by being great at everything. When all of my efforts didn’t produce the “fruits” I was expecting, I became tired and I began to not try as hard. Then I realized something amazing: he loved me just the same. What? This was new to me! I thought all relationships were performance based.

This is what freaks people out about Jesus. It’s hard to comprehend a “man” and Savior who loves us no matter what and doesn’t make us earn grace.  And even after we know Him, we can still get stuck thinking we have to earn His love and approval. Our way of thinking is busted, and it tethers us to pain and constant feelings of not measuring up when we try to earn something that is truly a gift.

Here’s the real deal though: When someone loves you day after day, even when you are screwing up, being a jerk, feeling low and even hurting them, it is nearly impossible not to want to chase after them, to love them, and to prove it to them over and over again. This is what a godly marriage is really like. This is what the love of Christ means to anyone who accepts it.

I say these things without a grain of pride and through brokenness and tears. I say this with humility having failed at this concept (and its application) time and time again yet somehow being offered unconditional love anyway. I don’t deserve it. I haven’t earned it. Yet I can’t wait to return it to my husband day after day; because even when I fail he loves me.

Doesn’t your spouse deserve that too? If you are waiting on him or her to make the first move, don’t. There’s so much comfort and happiness to be had by offering love and respect without a single string attached. And when your mate disappoints you, and he or she will, keep loving and respecting them anyway. What happens next will blow your mind.

One last word: If this kind of love sounds utterly crazy to you, it’s not because you haven’t met the woman or man of your dreams yet; it’s because you haven’t fallen for Christ yet. Falling in love with Christ and letting myself feel His love was the best thing I have done for my marriage and for my life.

For more on respect in a godly marriage, check out Do You Respect Your Hubby?

Trust: it’s the cornerstone of a good marriage. Trust broken is not easily repaired. But sometimes, even with no real reason to be distrustful, we are suspicious and insecure. Distrust in a relationship breeds frustration, anger, sorrow, and sometimes it even contributes to the justification of the behaviors you are trying to avoid. Trust is vital.

If you have ever been on the receiving end of distrust, you know there is a unique pain that comes with not being trusted. Even with the best of intentions, you might be perceived as being malicious or disrespectful. Try as you may to be kind, caring and helpful, your partner still insists on seeing the worst in you.

Refusing to trust your spouse can lead to a myriad of problems:

  • Pain–Simply put, by not trusting your spouse, you may cause them unneeded pain and heartache. You chose them to be your spouse, yet you choose to assume the worst about their intentions.
  • Resentment–Over time this hurt could evolve into resentment. People who feel resentment tend to withhold love and affection, or can even become passive aggressive.
  • Anger–Once your partner is done feeling wounded, they might come out of the corner swinging. They may begin to attack you, your habits, or even your character.
  • Justification–Years of unchecked anger could manifest in a nasty little devil on the shoulder in the form of justification. Justification is when a normally passive and caring spouse, says to themselves, “He thinks I’m a nag, I’ll show him.” Or, “She thinks I’m cheating, I guess I will.” Although justification is just an elaborate emotional excuse, it might be the end of your marriage.

So what do you do instead when you suspect ill motives in your partner? You can continue to be suspicious and accusatory, or you can try something new:

  • Evaluation–Start by doing nothing. Watch and listen. Did your wife mess up your laundry twice in one month because she is trying to ruin your life, or is there another reason? Is she tired or overworked? Evaluate the situation before you proceed.
  • Marinate–Start by praying for kindness and understanding, then jot down your feelings on paper or in an email.
  • Proceed with caution–Assuming the worst will bring on a fight. Attacking their character will cause WW3. Choose your words carefully and start by asking some fact-finding questions like:
  1. How are you feeling?
  2. Is everything okay with work?
  3. How are things with the kids?
  4. You seem distracted lately, is something on your mind?
  • Talk–Let them know how you feel, gently. Let him know that when he works late and doesn’t call you feel frustrated. Let her know that when she goes out with her friends and comes home late, you feel disrespected.
  • Assume the best–Even if they are doing something that seems unloving or disrespectful, try to assume the best about their intentions. Are they working late to provide enough money for a vacation? Is she out with a friend who is having a tough time?
  • Commend–Tell them what they are doing right and thank them. Then tell them what you need from them to feel loved and respected. Then ask them how you can be of service to them.
  • Plan–Talk about how you will proceed in the future, what you will do differently, and how you will work as a team.

The best gift you can give your partner is the benefit of the doubt. In the seconds, minutes, or hours when you don’t know what they are doing or what they are thinking, fill in that space with love, faith, and trust. Nothing can be gained from worrying yourself sick or assuming the love of your life is out to harm you.

And remember, you chose each other, and you are always on the same team.

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†oday’s Word

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

†oday’s Morning Glory

We all love to be loved. We thrive on it. We need it to live. From the first time we are held as a baby, until we take our last breath and feel the last squeeze of our hand, we desperately desire love.

I used to sell cosmetics at the mall. We would get huge boxes of samples sent to our counter to give to our customers. But sometimes (usually) we were stingy with them. We would want to hold onto them for our “best” customers or for people we could get sales from down the road. My area manager made a great point once; she said, “They’re not your samples to hoard. Why do you feel so protective of them?”

God loves us. He sent his beloved Son to give His life for things that we refused to give up, things that were more important that receiving His love. We are loved whether we deserve it or not, when we are striving for godliness, and when we covered in sin and shame.

So why are we so stingy with our love to others? Are we trying to assess the value of each person, or what they could do for us? Are we making assumptions of how much God values them and have convinced ourselves that He needs our help in proving to the world who is good enough, who is right enough? I am assured that God values each of us deeply, and when we ignore the needs of others, especially their need for love, we are swiftly breaking both commandments.

†oday’s Prayer

Dear Loving Father, I cannot comprehend the kind of love you are and the magnitude of the love you give me, unconditionally. It is so easy to become irritated or judgmental of others, but because I love you, I am working hard to change my attitude and to love everyone (even if I don’t like them very much). Thank you for loving me and my family; we pray to share that love with others and not to be stingy with it. In His name I pray, Amen!