marriage

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 🙂

 

 

Stress is inevitable. Throughout the day you will have many opportunities presented to you in which to enjoy stress.

Have you ever noticed that some women seem to handle it more gracefully though? While some of us are losing our cool easily, crying at the drop of a hat, and getting irritated often, some women (and men) seem to be taking it in stride.

I have no doubt that these ladies break down too. I can just picture them in their pantry, Hulk-slamming a carton of Pop-tarts and punching a bag of marshmallows. We all have our days.

As a student of the world, I have been watching these wondrous creatures to see if I could observe a pattern of what makes them different from those of us who spazz out so easily, and here’s what I have observed:

  1. These goddesses of the world eat right-They might not be “skinny” but they are healthy looking. They are taking the time to make good food choices, drink water and even take vitamins. They are not putting their nutrition on the back burner. They do not take kindly to putting junk in their systems, and their lives show the fruits of their efforts: they have the energy and overall health to work out, play with their children and enjoy life. They have invested in themselves, and it is paying off in their quality of living. They don’t eat to simply survive, they are eating to create the life that they desire.
  2. These smart cookies take time for themselves–You can find these ladies taking time to read the Bible, go for a run, take yoga, lift weights, dance, create and even vacation. They are not ashamed of taking time to nurture their mental and physical health. And they don’t feel guilt ridden when they want to take a girls weekend or time away from their children. They seem to understand that even women need time to be fully human, not just a mom or a wife, but a woman with her own spirit to feed.
  3. These wise souls don’t take on the problems of others–While they are the first to listen and even pray with you, and probably among the first to lend a hand in your time of need, they are not absorbing or owning the problems of others. Their faith allows them to pray for you and with you and to be available to you without sacrificing their own health or well-being. They are genuinely empathetic without becoming engaged in the depth of despair around them because they realize their own limits and they are okay with them.
  4. These joyful creatures actively seek contentment–While they are not always dancing with joy, they are willing to accept certain circumstances without feeling hopeless. They are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and they can almost always see it. They realize that there is a time and a season for everything, even sadness, and they accept the lows in life with faith and hope. They are not bottling up their emotions, they just aren’t worshiping them because they are too busy worshiping God.

On a very good day, I am this woman. But most days I am a work in progress. These women aren’t perfect though, they have just learned to love themselves because they know that they can be more to this world and for their family if they will take efforts to reduce their stress, take care of their bodies and take time to pursue their passions.

I can’t be all things to all people. I can’t even be all things to one or two people. But I want to be useful and joyful congruently. I want to serve a purpose and I want to be content in doing it.

Whether I am driving the kids to school, walking the dogs, making lunch for my husband, or propping my feet up, I want to enjoy this moment for what it is, neither taking on stress or creating negativity. I want to be free, truly free to live the life God designed for me.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5.1)

But some days I have to remind myself of my limits, get out of my own way and just lean into Him and enjoy the ride.

Life is short. I want to enjoy it. If not now, when?

So I have thinking a little bit lately about what it means to be a good mom and a wife, and how my views have changed over the years.

 

My oldest is 15 and I was 25 when he was born. I had several notions of what kind of mom I would be, what kind of kid he would be, and what kind of life we would have. It looked a lot like the inside of a snow globe – perfect.

 

It’s New Year’s Eve, and even though this isn’t your typical New Year post, I am in a spirit of reflection and gratitude. This happens this time of year, especially because my birthday is 11 days away. These 11 days become introspective, and the older I get, the sweeter they are.

 

See, when I was younger, I wasn’t very kind to myself. I guess I had something to prove. I wanted to prove I was good: a good mom, a good wife, a good cook, a good housekeeper, a good decorator, and good everything. Being imperfect at anything wasn’t even an option. And sometimes what it took to be good cost me so much.

 

I went through a Martha Stewart phase. I tried to make gifts and my own wrapping paper, make baby food, breastfeed, send Christmas cards, turn the house into the mall scene from Elf, and attempt to have friends, a job, and be a good lover to my then husband.

 

But I wasn’t centered on God. I thought I was at times because I talked to him, especially when my marriage was an absolute wreck or when I wanted him to fix my life. But everything I did was centered on receiving approval from my kids, my husband, and from the world. I was window dressing, but I was failing.

 

I am not saying that if you put a lot of effort into any of these things, that you are insecure and desperate for approval. Many guys and women truly enjoy the things they do, but if you don’t, may I suggest you simply STOP?

 

For example, instead of making a fancy appetizer platter for you friend’s party you are attending tonight, run to Publix and get a pre-made party tray. You will be surprised at how no one cares. Cheese blocks cut into cubes or into roses still taste like cheese.

 

Here are a few more ways to be kind to yourself:

 

  • Teach your kids how to make their own breakfast or do their own laundry.
  • Eat out on holidays when you just want to skip the shopping, cooking and two hour clean up process, sore feet, and exhaustion.
  • Skip holiday cards. Well you are probably thinking, now you tell me? If you forgot to do them, who cares? I love getting them, but I get about three a year now because I don’t reciprocate, but weirdly I still have friends.
  • Let your house be a little messy. Ask the kids or hubby for help. Hire someone to help out once or twice a month. Stop looking at the pictures from Southern Living Magazine and trying to live up to that. They have a whole staff. You don’t.
  • Go easy on Pinterest y’all. It’s fun, but it’s like being in a library for me: it’s overwhelming because I know I can never read all those books, and I am probably never going to even complete one Pinterest project. It’s just not that important.
  • Stop comparing yourself to your friends. We are all struggling and comparison makes the crazy go ‘round. So your friend had the best maternity pics that made her look like the Virgin Mary glowing in the blue lagoon and you just keep taking pics in those same ratty sweatpants. Big deal. Rock those sweatpants.
  • Set realistic standards with your relationships. You can’t be everything to everyone so use your time in the car to check on the friends who really matter to you. Don’t over promise your time. Don’t be afraid to say NO THANK YOU to an invitation when you just aren’t up to it.
  • Stop setting so many goals. Pray about what you really need to work on for your health and spiritual wellness. Goals can seem very appealing on the front end, but you might be focusing on the wrong things with all these goals. One or two goals in a year are usually more than enough.
  • Ask yourself why? Why are you doing it? If it is out of guilt, obligation, fear of upsetting someone, desire for approval or advancement, just don’t even bother. You are wasting your precious energy. If you truly want to do it, GO FOR IT! Do it with reckless abandon, thanking God for the opportunity, but you still don’t have to be perfect. No one expects that of you, except maybe you.

 

Most importantly, take care of yourself. Nap if you need to, work out if you want to, eat chips in your closet if you feel like it. Protect your sanity and your health. It’s a must.

 

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:29)

 

This verse relates to marriage, but let’s think about it. Can you be good in any relationship if you are not good to yourself?

 

I pray for you to be kind to yourself today, and everyday in the upcoming year. Be gentle and loving. Be patient and forgiving. Offer grace and unconditional love.

 

This is how to be a good mom and wife. Be a good to you.

Most resolutions are very well intended, lose weight, stop smoking, and maybe even fall in love. But no one actually keeps their resolutions, do they?

 

According to Time.com, these are the most commonly broken resolutions:

 

  • Lose Weight and Get Fit
  • Quit Smoking
  • Learn Something New
  • Eat Healthier and Diet
  • Get Out of Debt and Save Money
  • Spend More Time with Family
  • Travel to New Places
  • Be Less Stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink Less

 

Coincidentally, they are among the resolutions most often made.

 

There are a few reasons why resolutions fail:

 

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of commitment
  • Lack of resources/knowledge

 

What is it about January 1 of each year that makes us think that more hours will be born into our days, more will-power will sink into our bones, and suddenly we will know how to do what we haven’t been able to do in decades?

 

But there are some resolutions you can actually make that you can actually keep, because I am not going to tell you what to do, but one REAL step you can take to get there.

 

Here are 10 worthwhile resolutions that you may have been avoiding for a very long time, but shouldn’t because they can change your life. And I am going to give you one actual how-to for each of them that you can sink your teeth into:

 

  1. Get healthy–Ok, this one is intentionally vague for a reason: we are all different, so we all need healthy advice that is tailored to our body and lifestyle.

Pro tip–Schedule a physical ASAP. Your doctor may run blood-work and a series of tests to see how you are doing, why you are tired and tell you what you can do about it. See? This is useful.

  1. Help your community­–Most lists include an altruistic component that helps others, but not everyone knows what to do to help.

Pro tip–Tithe. Yep, give up some of your dough to your church. Your church is already helping the community (or should be) and now your money can help an already existing well-oiled machine.

Note: You can also volunteer. But don’t get confused: they are two different things. You may choose to only do one or the other, but one does not substitute the other.
  1. Improve your marriage–January is a busy month for filing for divorce. But even if you aren’t throwing the D word around, you might be longing for something deeper and more intimate. I could write a series on this, and I might but let’s start with one tip, because honestly, marriage is hard, but it doesn’t have to be miserable.

Pro tip–Get marriage counseling. Check with your local directory, your church or your health insurance. There are sliding fees and evening hours for working people. But trust me on this one, it is worth your time and money to get counseling and improve your marriage. Divorce is way more costly.

  1. Achieve weight and health goals–Some of you want to lose weight, others might want to gain it. A lot of us just want to squish it into another area of our body. Changing our bodies is a lengthy process that requires commitment to our health.

Pro tip–See a nutritionist (or health adviser). In other words, put down Cosmo and close your Pinterest app and schedule an appointment to talk to a pro who will help you assess your patterns and advise you on ways you can improve your health over the long run and see real results.

  1. Enjoy life more–Oh boy. We are all looking for the key to happiness, and every year, we are hoping and praying for more happiness in our lives. So why do we keep setting this goal, yet not achieving it?

Pro tip–Let go of what could have been. Living in the past or living with regret will zap happiness in a jiffy. More than likely, you cannot undo what is done (or what has been done to you). So take a look at where you are NOW and come to grips with, and make a plan for your future that makes no considerations for what could have been.

  1. Plan for your financial future–I don’t care where you are in your financial planning, there is always more to learn. Your next step will look very different for the guy next door.

Pro tip–Read Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace or attend a respected financial seminar from a respected leader (not someone interested in you investing your money in their next scheme).

  1. Plan for your long-term health–As we age, we have to take our health very seriously and take extra precautions to be healthy. We often avoid the reality of our age, but avoiding it will not shelter us from reality.

Pro tip–Schedule your prostate exam, mammogram, skin cancer screening, OBGYN appointment, or any recommended exam for your age, sex and family history. Yes, it will probably be uncomfortable, but it’s part of being a grown up.

  1. Drop emotional baggage–Been lugging around some drama, heartache, and bitterness for a hot minute? If so, I bet you are exhausted from it. I have been there and it is draining and can even make you physically ill.

Pro tip–Forgive someone. Forgiveness is a process that allows you to be free from the pain that comes with the wounds someone else inflicted upon you. They may not seem worth the effort, but you are. So start praying for the ability to forgive now. It will take time, but it will change your life for the better.

  1. Be someone you like–Feeling emotional, crabby and moody more than you care to admit? Tired of feeling like a walking butt hole and for having to constantly apologize for your attitude? I hear this a lot from my friends, so I know this is common, but should it be?

Pro tip–Choose one attitude to change. Angry, guilt-ridden, or too judgmental? Choose one attitude to adjust and attack it with this handy acronym: P.R.A.Y.

  • Pray about it,
  • Read about it
  • Ask for accountability
  • Yield to help.

Life is too short to keep feeling this way. It’s time to take charge friend.

  1. Do you–Ok, I am not trying to sound 20 years younger than I am, but people of all ages want to have fun, have an interesting life and find out who they are in the process. And if you are around my age, then you might also want to think of “doing you” a little more, because once your kids are out of the house in 5-10 years (or less!), are you going to have a life? Are you going to even know what you enjoy?

Pro tip–Make a list of things you want to learn, hobbies you used to enjoy, or my favorite: things that scare you. Now post this list on your mirror or in your phone and start doing them. This is your life. Enjoy the heck out of it.

 

There are many worthwhile goals, and I have only mentioned a few, but I encourage you to take charge of what is holding you back, release what is weighing you down and look forward to each hour of each day of this beautiful and messy life.

 

It’s your life, and no one is going to make it lovely for you.

 

So do you.

I could list a thousand things I am thankful for. I can also recall several times even recently, that I haven’t felt very thankful. It’s not that I lack a spirit of gratitude. There are just times when I crave something more, something deeper, something more connected.

The times when I feel a longing for what I desire, also allow me to reflect on the goodness of what I have. Desiring more does not mean we lack gratitude. Desiring more is part of our make up. It propels us towards goals, into prayer, and hopefully into personal and spiritual growth.

In my reflection of what I lack and still desire, I have also become aware of a few things that do not, on the surface, seem like things that I should be thankful for because they have brought me grief, heartache and even anguish.  But that does not subtract from a simple truth: I have been blessed through pain and even deep loss.

Here are 5 things that I should not be thankful for, but truly am:

  1. My youngest son’s diagnosis of autism – KG has long been diagnosed with ADHD, depression and anxiety. It seems odd that I would be thankful for him to have yet another diagnosis. However, this diagnosis has allowed him to receive more help at school, especially in the social and behavioral areas where he has struggled so much.
  2. My oldest son’s trouble adjusting to high school – JC struggled when he started middle school too. In fact, it took him 2 years to adjust to just 3 years of middle school, but he did it. And by the end of middle school, we began to truly enjoy our son again (shout AMEN if you’ve been there!) But here we are again, low grades, poor decisions and low motivation. But I have faith in him and this process. And I have no doubt that he will find his way, in his own time.
  3. Struggles in my marriage – I do not enjoy any marital stress or discontentment, but our struggles have pushed us into talking, listening and compromising in unprecedented ways. It has also led us to serve other couples in blended families by hosting a small group (church) experience just for them. Through leading this group, we have learned something so refreshing: We are normal. And we will get through this.
  4. Problems in our business – Owning a business is really really hard. And after 7 years, sometimes we feel stuck and drained. This year was especially difficult for us. We got some bad press and it hurt us financially and emotionally. However, we have learned a lot from this process (and our mistakes) and in some ways it is getting us unstuck. We are making changes and plans that we had gotten too comfortable to make long ago.
  5. Good old infertility – The gift that keeps on giving. Two months ago, we experienced our seventh miscarriage. I never thought I was strong enough to endure this much loss, but it turns out that I can (with God’s help) get through unimaginable pain.  My husband has loved me relentlessly through this, and I never doubt his commitment to me. Also, I can’t imagine how in the world I could manage a baby right now with all of the time and attention my teenage sons need. Not to mention, God has opened up a steady stream of writing opportunities that I am blessed to have the time to pursue.

Sometimes, looking at the bright side just doesn’t work. Just like you, I cry, yell, curse and hide. Sometimes life is just too hard.

But then I crawl out of bed, throw away the Kit Kat wrappers and literally say aloud to myself, “Get it together. You – are – a – woman – of – God!” I put on a Christian podcast or crank up “Oceans” by Hillsong and sing my ass off. I put one foot in front of the other, remind myself of my blessings, go to the gym and cry three times during one workout (letting strangers hug me and pray for me), then do my job of being a wife/mom/writer/business owner, then pray to God that I can do it again tomorrow.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and you won’t start now
[“Oceans” – Hillsong]

Why bother being thankful? Because if we don’t we will drown in an ocean of self-pity, pain, what if’s, and longing. I can’t do this life alone. I must have my community of believers, prayer ninjas, and encouragers. But ultimately, I absolutely must have my God. For He carries me through the darkest times and so often saves me from myself.

I hope you aren’t drowning, trying to do this life alone. If you are, please stop. Reach out to someone – maybe a lot of someones, and ask for help, prayer and encouragement.

And if you don’t know God, or if you just haven’t talked to Him in a long while, He is here. He is listening. And even when you are struggling, He is not failing you, and He never will.

Even in my disappointment, loss and longing, He has yet to fail me once.

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A recent sunset from my front yard, a colorful reminder of God’s constant presence.

I was married at the tender age of 21 and by age 25 I had my first son. I went from selfish party girl to Martha’s alter ego in a matter of months. I baked, I breastfed, and I obsessed over my child. He became the center of my universe.

I can still remember our first vacation without him. He was a year old and we went to Chicago for a few days. I felt sick to death when I left him, thought about him throughout the trip, and dared state troopers to pull me over as I urged my ex to –d r i v e  f a s t e r- home. Being away from my child was hell.

I don’t ever remember taking another adult-only vacation after my second son was born. Nor do I remember date nights. If we ordered pizza, relieving me of my cooking duties, I felt like Cinderella at the ball. In fact, I remember winning a radio contest for a New Year’s Eve stay at the Opryland Hotel based purely on an essay I wrote on how pathetically unromantic my life was. Now that’s #winning.

After my divorce, we succumbed to a 50/50 parenting schedule which made a few days in Chicago seem like a walk in the park. I missed my kids so badly, my chest felt like it was being crushed. I cried. A lot.

Eventually I remarried. My new husband doesn’t have children of his own. As we learned to be a blended family, he still desired to date me. And I liked it. We have been together for 9 years, and I still like it.

It took time to release myself from the guilt of having fun without my children. We still took vacations with our children, but we made sure to have at least one trip around our anniversary that was kid-free. We go on dates, and we allow ourselves the right to privacy in our home. And I know many parents who do not have boundaries in their home for where the children can go/sleep and let me tell you moms, your husband might not be as thrilled as he pretends he to be.

My youngest still gets a little feisty about being “left behind.” “You always promise me that you will take us on your honeymoon (that’s what he calls it) but you never do!” “You are so right sweet son, I never will; and I am certain I have never promised you that. We love you, and we take trips as a family, but moms and dads need time to be adults too.” He quickly concedes each time, as I remind him of all the trips we take as a family and how we love him even when we are away from home.

But I see my never-divorced friends, and many of them have NEVER had a kid-free vacation. And I can’t fathom it, until I remember Chicago 2001 and a little mama with big fears that someone might drop or ruin or wound her child while she caught a Cubs game and wandered through Windy City. But he survived and so did I.

My ego survived too. See we would like to think that we are the only ones who can take care of our kiddos. But that’s not true. Grandparents, family friends, and even sitters can love our kids and care for them brilliantly! And what is better for your kids than to know that more people in the world love them besides mommy and daddy?

It’s actually been very eye opening for me, being divorced that is. I realize now how little of a priority I made my first marriage. The kids always came first (probably for both of us). And you can see how that turned out.

Is your marriage the priority it should be? If not, why? If it’s money, then save up for a night at a hotel an hour away. You will be amazed at what the change of scenery will do for your marriage…for your love life! If it’s the special needs of your children, then honey, you need it just as much or more than the next person! Your marriage needs extra TLC. Say YES to the friends and family who offer to help out a night or two, or even just for a few hours so you can grab a meal and talk about something other than the kids.

Don’t wait until your marriage is stressed to the max to take an adult time out. Every relationship is better with a little space from time to time. Even your kids need a little break from you to remember how awesome you are!

If you are one of those moms who never puts herself or her marriage ahead of her children, take it from me: NOW IS THE TIME!  You will wonder what took you so long!

Bon voyage sweet friend! Enjoy being just a woman for a spell!

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I just shared with you how things are going for me 10 years after my divorce. I shared hope with you because hope is something that you never actually lose, but once you abandon it, it haunts you and terrorizes you, reminding you that you never should’ve left it behind.

I don’t want that for anyone.

When I met my husband Byron, I had left hope in the dust. I had just found out that my sexy boyfriend had a sexy girlfriend that wasn’t me. I had lost my job. Life was pretty terrible. And I had pretty much resigned myself to a bleak existence for a while.

I dated a few guys who were never ever marriage material and some that I suspect still aren’t. I had dated a few guys who thought they were in love with me, but they scared me because deep down, I knew I just wasn’t ready for love.

As the story usually goes, I met Byron when I least expected it and when I truly wasn’t looking. I had no desire to impress him nor did I see him as a dating option. Naturally he would be the man who would steal my heart for good.

In reflecting over the last 5 years (almost 9 if you count our dating years), here is some wisdom I have garnered over the last few years of my marriage to the greatest man I know:

  • Marriage is, in general, a great deal of work-Our marriage is good, in part, because we both feel lucky. Meaning that we both feel like we married up. But no amount of luck will keep any of us from having to actually put effort into our marriage. And effort isn’t flowers on a birthday, or a pot roast on father’s day. Effort is a daily, continual effort that flows from a desire to love on the person you choose to spend your life with.
  • Love is a verb-Love can be a noun, but love as a noun won’t sail the love boat. Love has to be a verb, an action that tells, shows and echoes not just an emotion, but a deep, never-ending, robust commitment to your partner.
  • Love isn’t enough-We can love each other so intensely that honey drips from our mouths, but that isn’t going to cut it. Women need to be cherished, adored and sought after. Men needed to be liked, appreciated, respected and admired. Love without these needed ingredients, will feel impotent and incomplete.
  • Respect isn’t a 1-hit wonder-You can’t just tell a man you respect him and call it a day. Respect is proven over years of letting him finish his sentences, retell old stories, honoring his decisions, standing down when you are convinced he is wrong, and praising him when you have every “right” (in your mind) to criticize him. Respect is the marathon of marathons. It’s an Iron Man competition when you don’t even know how to doggie paddle. No amount of love when ever make up for a deficit of respect.
  • Relationships have boundaries, not rules-It’s true you can’t control others, nor can you get very far with ultimatums, but each of us has the right to establish healthy boundaries that tell others what we as humans (and children of God) are willing to to accept and tolerate. The hard part for many of us, is sticking to our own boundaries. Don’t expect others to honor them when you move the lines to enable others to step on you. Setting boundaries early is best, just like declaring your house rules in Monopoly; it takes a consensus to change them later.
  • Life is hard-Well there’s a big fat DUH. But seriously, even if you have met your Prince Charming, or if you are living happy and single, life is just hard. Sometimes it’s just too much: conflicting needs, arguing teens, failing grades, health problems, chronic infertility and pregnancy loss, PLUS all the other stuff I don’t care to blog about. But no matter how hard it gets, we never stop working at strengthening our commitment and our covenant. If we expect life to be easy for our marriages to flourish, no one would ever stay married!

I met with a friend recently, and she was saying how hard marriage is and she’s been married a very long time. She was surprised when I told her that I don’t think that it’s supposed to be easy. I think marriage is a training ground for eternity and a multi-decade exercise in self-sacrifice. Ephesian 5:21 tell us to, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” You don’t even have to like your spouse that day to honor them; you just have to have reverence for Christ.

Marriages that last do so because two people are working for the benefit of the marriage, not themselves. They are following Christ, even when they don’t feel like following each other into the next room.

Byron and I have a good marriage, but not because we have a perfect marriage. We disagree, argue and have times of great stress. Our marriage is lasting because we admit when we are struggling, we keep seeking God as the center of our marriage, and we don’t let the bad overwhelm the good, even when it’s damn tempting.

The biggest lesson that I have learned is that when you find a caring and decent human who loves you and gives a rip about how you feel, do everything possible to appreciate them and thank God for this gift.

God has blessed me beyond measure.

And I plan to live like it.

IMG_2233I married my husband when I was 35 and he was 32. My boys were 9 and 7. My honey has never had any natural children, and we have been “infertile” for 5 years.

We started trying to get pregnant about 6 months after we wed, and get pregnant we did. By our first Mother’s Day together, we had experienced our first miscarriage.

Just months later I was pregnant again. I was 36 but felt good about this pregnancy. I miscarried again.

I miscarried four more times over the next four years, three of those times in 2014, the last time resulting in the loss of my right tube.

I desperately wanted a child with Byron. He tried to play it cool because he never wanted to put too much stress on me. With each loss, I had new emotions and the remaking of old ones: angry with God, sad, achingly heartbroken, fearful, confused, hopeful, elated, resigned, and eventually even somewhat at ease (at least much of the time).

Somewhere in my mind, there was something fateful about turning 40 though. It was an unspoken drop-dead date as if this is it, it’s now or never, it’s time to start planning for grandkids…and loafers…and polyester…and soft foods.

My boys are starting high school and middle school this year, and I am starting to fear an empty nest while also dreaming of sipping mimosas in bed with my hubby at noon and flying to Martha’s Vineyard without reservations (we never had a kid-free newlywed stage!). I daydream of talking on the phone with my boys after they are grown, and enjoying their own lives, them telling me about their jobs and their girlfriends and their golden retrievers. I dream of growing out my grays and walking through city streets in Europe, cruising with my adult children and picking baby names…for my grandkids…or some stranger’s kid (because strangers love that).

Yet when I see your ultrasound pics, and your baby bump pics, and your baby shower pics, and your baby’s 7 month pics, and your baby-eating-cake pics, I get that ache that says, it ain’t over yet, slow down granny, you might need to rest up for the possibility of procreation. And each month, I get a little hopeful, and I like to imagine when our baby would be born and what the weather or holiday will be when I bring him or her home and what it would feel like to have a naked baby lay on my chest again.

I know you might be wondering what we are doing about it, and I can honestly and peacefully tell you: nothing (anymore). We eat, rest, exercise, work, play, make love, repeat. This might not make a baby but we enjoy the trying. My husband claims it is his favorite part.

So here I am at 40 with many signs of youth still lingering, yet gray hair peaking through, favoring comfortable shoes and Netflix over a night on the town, wondering if I will be a mom to a baby ever again, or if I should focus on preventing diabetes and osteoporosis, and increasing “regularity”. But every time I think I might be pregnant (thanks to the fact that pregnancy and PMS feel a little too similar), I feel a streak of panic. Yet when I know I am not I feel a little more resigned, not devastated, just aware that my nest might be empty before I know it. So I focus on the mimosas and sunsets on the beach with my sexy husband until I feel hopeful again in 3 weeks.

It feels a little like a roller coaster ride, but not the fun and crazy ones where they just strap in your upper body and let your legs fly through the air while you try not to puke up your soft pretzel. It’s more of a ride on the teacup, round and round you go, knowing you’ll be back in the same spot with the same view in a matter of seconds.

And then I remember that I am not the only one in this situation. My husband is in it with me, yet separately. He has his own emotions and hopes that he probably doesn’t share 1/100 of the time because he is trying to be kind to his wife. And sometimes, out of nowhere I am reminded of the kind of dad he is, and the kind of dad he could be. I hear him laugh his dad’s laugh (which is a very nice laugh) and see him handle things a little more tenderly than I would expect, I picture him with a baby or a toddler, sharing warmth and affection, and it renews my hope and my eagerness.

A fertility struggle is not a one-stop journey. And it is not remotely linear or level. It is grueling, frustrating, devastating, invigorating, frightening, desperate, hopeful, loving and cruel. It is a cross-country journey across the US. I have been at the bottom of Grand Canyon and at the top of Mount McKinley. I have sipped champagne by the ocean and eaten sand in the desert. Most days I am content with my view from my porch, and other days I crave a new adventure with the man who chose me with a little one who looks a little like me and a lot like him.

Being supple to God’s plan is a new challenge every day. Some days it is harder than others. Byron and I have come a long way in our faith. Often I hear people say, “It’s not knowing that God can, it’s believing that God will.” I always sort of laugh at that, because sometimes you just don’t get what you want, when you want, or ever at all. So I say,

“It’s not knowing that God can, or even believing that God will, but knowing that He wants the best for you, even when He doesn’t.”

Amen?

AMEN.


For more insight into infertility, check out Infertility: The 1 Thing You Must Know

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 🙂

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I’ve been divorced. It was 9 years ago. My boys were toddlers at the time, and now one of them is planning on getting his permit next year. Yet, we still suffer from the ramifications of divorce. And in some ways, I suspect my kids always will.

I am not going to list biblical reasons for divorce. I am not going to offer my opinion on “good reasons” to divorce. I am not even going to share with you why I divorced my then-husband. I will tell you it took several years to make that decision. I will also tell you that I am remarried and that I am very satisfied and happy in my marriage. I will tell you, quite plainly though, that there is much pain that encompasses those who have been through a divorce, especially the children.

When I divorced in 2005, I worried about my kids. I worried what would become of them in the climate of the marriage I was in at the time. I worried how the divorce would shape them too. People told me, “kids are resilient; they will bounce back.” I liked hearing that, but years later, I wonder if they really knew what they were talking about.

My boys are good boys. I have a good relationship with them, and I am confident that I always will. They also really love their step-dad. They spend equal amounts of time at my house, and at their dad’s house. They don’t want for material possessions, athletic opportunities, educational opportunities, or chances to worship God. They are well fed, well clothed and healthy.

But there is more to them than that. Divorce, and the subsequent changes to their lives has forever changed them. Now I worry if they will have a chance at a lifelong marriage, or if their paradigm is forever changed in a way that will shape their relationships forever. I see them struggle in ways that children from non-divorced homes don’t seem to suffer. It is devastating at times.

There are many things I could say about divorce, divorce recovery, parenting plans, counseling, etc. And at some point, I will write about all of those things. But right now, I feel it is urgent for me to just say this, it is not too late for you to reconsider your divorce.

If you knew a couple that was about to get married, that had no business getting married, would you tell them? Would you tell them to forget about all the guests who are planning to attend their wedding? Would you tell them to forget about the money they had spent? I would. I would tell them to consider their forever, and not just their now, or how people would view them for changing their minds. Rows of guests in their Sunday best is not a reason to say, “I do.”

If you are considering divorce, I beg you to rethink it. Maybe you have already filed. Maybe you are already dating. Maybe you have your own place, your own bed, your own toaster…but it’s not too late. Whether you have children or not, please just pause, close your eyes and talk to God about all this. Let Him help you sift through all this. He wants to help. And I promise you, a lease on an apartment or a new social media relationship status can all be undone.

I know you might think of me as a hypocrite. That’s okay with me. I often say, “I would rather you hate me than hate yourself.” Divorce is awful. It is final. And the ripple it creates goes on for years, if not decades. And maybe you’re afraid that you will lose your nerve and not go through with the divorce if you stop to think about it. But there may be hope for your marriage that you are bulldozing over as your rush out of there as if the building is on fire.

I am sorry you are hurting. I am sorry he let you down, let you feel lonely, or said things that crushed you. I am sorry you don’t feel close to him anymore, like you can count on him, or that you are in love anymore. I am sorry he broke your trust, damaged your respect for him or let you down again. I am sorry that sometimes he’s an ass, that he takes you for granted, or doesn’t even notice you at times. You deserve more. But if you haven’t let God have His way with your marriage, how do you know that more isn’t possible with the man you married?

How do you know, if you haven’t asked?