Posted in Marriage Monday

Pride

We all know that pride can destroy a marriage in so many ways. Pride keeps us from admitting wrongdoing, acknowledging the wisdom of our spouses, or even simply being willing to allow someone else to get their way even when there is no clear right or wrong. It keeps us from becoming one flesh because we each want to maintain our independence and individuality.

But there is also an aspect of pride that can be strongly beneficial to a marriage: pride in one another.

How often do we vocalize pride in our spouses? And when we do, how well does it resonate? How well does it match the other thoughts we communicate to or about our spouses?

Contemplate this scenario. Over and over again, a child is harped upon to be better at this or work harder at that. Nothing is ever good enough in his behavior or his accomplishments. Every now and then, the child hears his parents say, either directly to him or to someone else, that they are proud of him. But, can he truly believe it? Or has the weight of the criticism mounted so high that the proclamation of pride has a hollow ring to it?

I think this is often what happens in our marriages as well. We criticize, harp, fuss, and complain to the extent that any mention of pride in our spouses falls flat. They just don’t believe us. The rest of the world probably doesn’t either.

My husband makes me proud in so very many ways. Doug plants seeds for so many things that he cannot or will not take credit for. Someone else gladly takes the credit and the glory while he stands humbly by in the shadows. He is more of a servant than anyone I know, but he does so quietly such that few people see his service. He is observant and brilliant. He sees needs far in advance and lays the groundwork for them to be met, sometimes even waiting years for his efforts to come to fruition. He knows how to help others succeed and is not hesitant to give them the limelight. In fact, he much prefers that over any of the light shining on himself.

Because his brilliance and service are quiet and behind the scenes, he is frequently seen as someone without many successes of his own. As a result, he receives so much more criticism than praise from the world around him.

As his wife, I want to be the opposite. I want to make sure to express just how proud I am of him and rave about his strengths and accomplishments. I want him to know how proud I am of him.

Just as selfish pride can destroy a marriage, so can withholding pride in our spouses. May we always be proud of them. May we pour into them. May we never hesitate to tell them and the world just how awesome they are.

Posted in Marriage Monday

Just Normal

Some days I struggle with knowing what to write about marriage.

First of all, I am no marriage expert. We are in our nineteenth year of marriage, but I still have so much left to learn. We have a good, secure marriage, but we still have our ups and downs. The downs always make me nervous about offering any marriage “advice.” I am glad to share our experience in hopes it will help others. But, I never want anyone to be intimidated because they think we have it all together. For the record, we don’t!

I do hunger to encourage others in marriage, though, whether it is young women looking forward to the experience, young marrieds learning how to become one flesh, those who are just going through ups and downs like we are and need some encouragement, or those who are struggling and need a listening ear and a prayer partner. Even when I struggle to know what to write, that desire to encourage prods me on.

Unfortunately, that desire does not answer the question I’m still stuck with. What do I share? If I am to talk about our experiences, what do I say? Our experiences are just so normal.

And then it hits me: we are often ashamed of normal in marriage.

Our entertainment presents the idea that being a settled married couple is boring and to be avoided. We learn from magazines articles and self-help books that it is important to keep marriage exciting and fresh. Normal, mundane, day-to-day marriage is to be avoided if we are ever to survive and remain together.

So, again and again, we see couples work hard to keep their marriages fresh and exciting – and anything but normal. And again and again we see those same marriages fall apart. Why? Because normalcy is inevitable in life.

Just as in our spiritual walk, how we handle the exciting or challenging times of life is not a clear indication of our strength. Instead, our actions during those stretches represent the endurance we have developed during the normal, mundane, and even boring stretches. Those are the times when we can establish discipline, exercise muscles, and solidify the relationships we will lean on in the abnormal times.

Marriage is not about keeping things exciting or interesting or fun. Instead, marriage is about growing in strength during the mundane normalcy of life so we can enjoy the highs of excitement and weather the lows of challenge and struggle. During the normal times, we keep talking to one another. We share the routine details of our lives so we both understand exactly what normal looks like for the other (and can quickly recognize the moment life steps outside the normal bounds). We play together. We establish times of rest together. We “date” one another. We put extra effort into making one another smile and laugh. We pray and study together.

We simply choose to live life intertwined in the normal. Then when the abnormal comes around, we are inseparable, no matter then strain.

I think I just might be proud of the normal.

 

Posted in Marriage Monday, Repost

Wishfulness or Certain Hope?

This is an article I wrote for Family Magazine last year. To try a free sample of Family, click here.

Once upon a time, little girls had hope chests.

Some were fancy, while others were just plain wooden boxes. No matter what the construction, each chest held items made and collected in anticipation of that “someday” when the keepsakes would be used to turn a house into a home – a home the grown up little girl made with her brand new husband.

Although occasionally we may run across a young woman with a hope chest in today’s culture, these keepsake boxes seem to have become a thing of the past. Nowadays, the collection of items for a new home waits until the engagement has been announced and the wedding date set. Wish lists are created through gift registries, and new houses are turned into homes by friends and families who shower the happy couple with gifts.

Have We Lost Something?

On the surface, the change in tradition is just a cultural shift. But, a deeper look reveals a more critical change – a shift in our symbols.

The hope chest was aptly named, because it was a tangible symbol of hope. A girl and her family took action on the hope that one day she would marry and have a home of her own. It was faith in the unseen.

Wedding showers and engagement celebrations, on the other hand, represent a faith in what is seen. A relationship is present, and, unless something unforeseen happens, a marriage will ensue.

Were it just about the hope of a husband and family of her own, this shift in symbols might not be all that big of a deal. The tragedy lies in the fact that this shift reverberates into marriage itself. Our hope lies in the tangible of circumstances and actions rather than in the intangible nature of God himself.

We have replaced certain hope with wishfulness.

Because life itself is so continually uncertain, how we face that uncertainty represents what we believe about biblical hope, whether it be as young girls looking forward to the “someday” of marriage or as women clinging to the “someday” of answered prayer within marriage.

What we should believe is visible in Hebrews 11:1.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Or perhaps we can flip over to 1 John 3:2-3.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Oswald Chambers has this to say about the certainty of our hope in Christ:

Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation.

Hope Is Not Common Sense

Precious friends, there is absolutely no certainty in any aspect of our common-sense life, including marriage. A marriage that is trucking along nicely right now may be blindsided by a financial crisis, illness, depression, temptation, or spiritual laziness. It could even be that what you believed to be true and certain was actually a lie.

The opposite could also be true. A marriage that seems to be in the full throes of failure and without hope could actually be right on the verge of complete restoration. What appears to be a long, dark tunnel with no end in sight might in reality just be a short stretch, with visible light and healing blocked only by that sudden turn you cannot see ahead of you because of the darkness.

Common sense tells you to trust in what you can see. Common sense keeps you trapped in fear that what is good might sour and what is bad may never change.

But hope is not common sense. Instead, hope is certainty in something much more solid that what you can see. Hope is certainty in Christ himself, the Almighty God who not only sees the unseen, but controls it.

When I think of those old-fashioned hope chests, I picture a young lady caressing each treasured item in breathless expectation of the unknown. For years, she has collected piece after piece. Some have been passed down from generation to generation. Some have been fashioned by the hands of her mother or grandmother. Still others she has lovingly prepared herself. She is uncertain of the future, yet each item represents her certainty in a promise. True, the occasional fear will tickle the back of her mind. What if these treasures never find a home? What if the hoped for future never materializes? Yet, the items themselves remind her to not lose hope in the future laid out for her.

How much more powerful is our hope in Christ? That is all the certainty we need.

This article was originally published in Family Magazine, 2016 Issue 2, then on WellPlannedGal.com.
Posted in Marriage Monday

He Doesn’t Need Me

So, I meant to publish this two weeks ago. Then last week. Both weeks, I realized on Wed that I hadn’t published it! So here it finally is…

I have to chuckle sometimes at the comments I get from church members, and have gotten in every church we have ever served.

“You make sure to make him behave!”
“It’s a good thing he’s got you to keep him in line.”
“Keep him out of trouble, now.”

It’s all in good fun, and I always make sure to respond in fun as well. But, usually not quite in the expected way.

“Behave? Well, that’s no fun!”
“Oh, he keeps me in line!”
“I’d just get him in more trouble!”

There is a reality to our marriage that I am reminded of with each of these conversations: my husband does not need me.

It’s true! My husband is one of the most capable, reliable, sufficient people I know. He can handle himself everywhere he goes. If he doesn’t know how to do something, he knows how to get help. He does not actually need me.

Now, the reality is that Doug and I rely on each other. I am more comfortable in certain roles than he is, and vice versa. Also, the demands of our jobs, ministry, and life in general mean that certain tasks naturally fall into my hands or his. Were he to have to do the things that I usually do, he would struggle to keep it all balanced. But that is more because, between the two of us, we do more than can fit into the scope of a 24-hour day. So, we do heavily rely on one another. And that’s the way it should be. But true need is a different concept entirely.

The Real Need

We have all probably met someone who desperately needs to be needed. They often create situations of codependency because of this need. If we’re honest with ourselves, we will admit that we have at least a small bit of that tendency within us; we all desire to be needed by others. But, that is not how God created us. Yes, He designed us for community, but as individuals, He intended that we have only one need: Himself!

That’s right, our real need is Christ and Christ alone. He fills us. He supplies us. He is all-sufficient.

So, where do relationships fit in? God chooses to use us to meet the needs of one another within the community. But the provision still comes from His own hands. He grants us different gifts, talents, strengths, and weaknesses so we will choose to divide and conquer, work together, and be a beautiful example of love for this world. Not because we need one another, but because we rely on one another as we express our need for Him alone and let Him fulfill our needs in any way He chooses – through community or through some other form of intervention.

That is not less true in the marriage relationship. We need Christ. Period. As we rely on Him, He then uses each of us to meet the needs of the other. But He is our only real need.

It is actually quite freeing to know that Doug does not need me. That his real need is for the Lord Jesus Christ, and that I just get to be the Lord’s vessel. It is not always easy to step aside and let that truth reign in our marriage, because I do share that desire to be needed. But, when I do step aside, our marriage is so much more powerfully fulfilled.

May you, too, know the freedom of not being needed!

Posted in Marriage Monday

Together

Some days the writing thoughts flow. Other times, I sit staring at a blank screen, clueless about where to begin.

One evening, I knew a marriage post was next on my list, but I was in blank screen mode. I had tried to work through several ideas during the week, but nothing would come together. My thoughts either sounded too grumpy or too forced, or they just wouldn’t gel at all.

On this particular evening, my husband sat behind me working on his own computer. I finally looked at him and said, “I have nothing. I love marriage – really, I do. And I love being married to you. But I have nothing to write about.”

For the next few minutes, we just chatted. Not about a marriage post, though. We chatted about a writing lesson on character development that was coming through my inbox. We talked about this, that, and the other. Then, it was time to close everything down and head to bed, and the writing opportunity had passed.

But the interaction reminded me of how important togetherness is for the overall flow of life.

True togetherness is not about times when we need help. It also is not about the situations in life that require joint effort. In fact, without true togetherness, we will probably fail to come together when we need help, and we will possibly struggle to process through the things that demand joint effort.

True togetherness is like our relationship with Christ (shocking, I know) – it must be nourished continually and through all areas of our relationship. And, when it is nourished in the times of simply being, it will come through in the times of need.

Any glance through my blog shows that it has still taken me a couple of weeks to get a marriage post written, more because I haven’t had a chance to come back to it than anything else. But, as I sit down to get this one written tonight, I am reminded about how beautiful it is to do marriage together. To interact in every opportunity. To just enjoy being together, whether we are working, playing, or just being.

I pray you have the opportunity to enjoy togetherness this week.

Posted in Marriage Monday

Not What I Expected

What did you expect when you dreamed of marriage? What image did you hold in your head of your husband? What your relationship would look like? How married life would unfold?

How does reality compare?

As a teenager and young woman, I definitely had a mental picture of what my husband and our marriage would look like. And I cannot put into words how off-base that mental picture was! The husband God gave me is much more amazing than any dream man I ever could have conjured up in my limited mind. But, he’s also very different. Our life together is so much deeper than the shallow image of a relationship held in my mind. But, again, it’s very different.

I know beyond all doubt that what I have is better than my dreams. If I’m completely honest with myself, though, I will realize that there have been times when I have clung to my dreamy expectations instead of embracing the reality. In those times, it matters little that the reality is better. The dream was mine. And I stubbornly hang on to it as if it somehow beats God’s reality.

When we hang on to an old, shallow dream, we insinuate that reality is insufficient. We become dissatisfied with our circumstances, impatient with our spouses, and frustrated with life in general. We even become disillusioned with our God.

Dreams and expectations are such beautiful things. They motivate, energized, and compel us to reach for things we might not have otherwise reached for. But, they are also dangerous if we do not handle them properly. So, how do we handle them properly?

  • First, we surrender them completely to our Savior. Even as they are being formed in our minds, we must lay them at His feet and let Him mold and direct them.
  • Second, we leave them in His hands in trust. After we have surrendered, we can’t keep picking them back up in fear that our Lord will not handle them properly. We can trust Him!
  • Finally, we embrace the reality that He sets in front of us. When we surrender and trust, God is free to put us in the center of His will. Even if we let Him guide our dreams and expectations, more often than not reality will still differ greatly from our expectations. We must choose to leave the surrendered expectations where we placed them and press forward fully immersed in the reality Christ has given us.

I have two teenage daughters now, and living with them reminds me often of the hopes and dreams of marriage I had at that age. My expectations. My ideas. Reality is bigger, starker, fuller, deeper, harder, and more incredibly wonderful and beautiful than any dream could have ever encompassed. Yes, dreams are exciting, but oh how thankful I am for reality. No, it’s not what I expected. But, I made a choice over eighteen years ago to surrender my expectations to the reality God had given me. I will continue to do that, day in and day out.

Because it really is better.

Posted in Marriage Monday

Worth Dying For

I really intended to write a nice, sweet, romantic post for Marriage Monday yesterday in honor of Valentine’s Day. Then, then day happened.

The previous week had been long and chaotic with some frustrating and tense moments worked in. Then, Sunday night, we came home to find that our daughter’s cat was missing. After calling, looking, and calling some more, we finally went to bed, but I think all of us kept one ear open, hoping she’d return. She’d never wandered far before.

Morning dawned, and we finally found the cat…forty to fifty feet up a neighbor’s tree.

After trying unsuccessfully to call, woo, and cajole her down, we finally looked at the clocks, realized we were all an hour late to school and work, and called it quits for the time being. It was only after my sweet hubby headed to work and I walked in to get the kids going on school that we realized we’d not even had breakfast yet.

The rest of the day was spent trying to juggle work and coax the cat out of the tree – unsuccessfully, I might add.

The idea of sweet romance was just not a present reality at any point during our Monday, and may not be today, either. And yet, I can’t help but think that what we shared yesterday – and will share today – is much more of an honor to the memory of St. Valentine.

The historical facts about Valentinus are pretty fuzzy, and it is difficult to distinguish fact from legend. But, it is known that he did exist and that he was put to death for secretly performing weddings when the Roman emperor outlawed marriage. For some odd reason, Roman soldiers didn’t seem to want to spend twenty-five years away from their families fighting wars on behalf of Rome, so it was growing increasingly difficult for Emperor Claudius II to build and maintain an army. Outlawing marriage was the obvious solution, at least in the emperor’s mind! But, Valentinus believed that marriage was holy and sacred. He would not turn down a couple asking him to marry them.

That decision cost Valentinus his life.

I love the romantic side of marriage. And I thoroughly enjoy celebrating it. But, as we recover from yesterday’s tension and walk into this Valentine’s Day simply trying to get Tuesday on track after another late start (we finally recruited a tree service to help get the cat down from her lofty perch!), I realize just how beautiful it is to rest confidently in the love of my husband. Even when we’re stressed or frustrated because of the curve balls life is throwing us. Even when I do and say things that frustrate him. The love we share is deep and true. It runs up on bumps and hits snags. It has to work hard to stay thriving. But, it is the foundation of the marital union that Valentinus held so sacred.

Whether with roses and chocolates or just with hugs that say, “We’re going to make it,” that is what we celebrate today. A love grounded in Christ. A love that a priest named Valentinus considered worth dying for – because his Savior had already died for it!

Happy Valentine’s Day!