Archive for the 'Marriage' Category

23
Sep
13

gifts

I decided that I needed to take a day and sit outside, praying, reading, thinking, letting go, receiving. I set up different areas in my backyard so that I wouldn’t get too bored being in the same spot. Between that and trying to dodge the sun throughout the day (this 42-year-old girl doesn’t need any more sunspots), this worked pretty well. But the day I kind of planned out in my mind ended up being different, better. A gift.

Before I even ventured outside, Jeff told me that there was a song he felt described me, my relationship with God, anyway. He had left our bedroom quickly that morning because he felt that there was something for him, and sometimes my voice drowns it out. (He would never say this; I just know it to be true :)) And the something that he received was, in fact, for me.

It was a John Denver song that got stuck in his head, and whether or not you like John Denver, the song fits me, not in terms of human love. because I realize this is impossibly sad for someone to try to fill, but in terms of my relationship with God. And it was perfect for my day.

You fill up my senses like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses come fill me again

Come let me love you let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you let me always be with you
Come let me love you come love me again –“Annie’s Song”

I made a copy of the song, took it outside with me and started softly singing this song in my chair, next to my table, piled with my books. By the second verse, I was weeping. I couldn’t even get the words out. I sang it over and over and over. I was grateful that Jeff was the recipient, the messenger. Another gift.

All day, I sat in the backyard with books and Bible and journal and songbook and coffee and tea and water. It was chilly and then warm and then chilly again as night came on. I soaked in God’s presence and His abundance. I heard the birds and the crickets, almost deafening at times and watched and heard the tall grasses in the field behind our house blowing in the wind. I saw butterflies flitting and birds flying. Clouds in the sky came together in one instance and then moved quickly to another position, followed by a cloudless, bright blue sky. Another gift.

For some of the time, I sat under a tree that was just a little taller than my husband when we moved here six years ago. He thought about chopping it down at the time because it was little more than a bush and rather scrawny at that. Jeff wants things to look more manicured. I love overgrown and tangly and crazy. And now, this tree offers shade from the sun. By the end of the day, the tree was raining sap down on me, on my chair, on my books, and now I have sticky dots to remind me of this day. A gift.

This was the Psalm for me for that day.

…I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother…

That’s what it was like. I felt content, satisfied to just sit and soak in what God had for me, not demanding that He meet my needs, not demanding that He feed me like a child who is desperate to be fed, but I felt content, happy to just be in His presence. Calm and quiet. A gift.

I noticed my tea bag held a special message for me that I never noticed before. On the little piece of paper connected to the string of the teabag that is supposed to sit outside the mug, it said “Be heard.” For me, I always thought asserting myself was presumptuous, and that I had nothing to say. This was a lie that I believed for years. We each have a story; we each have a gift to bring to this world, a gift that no one else has, and it is okay to be heard. My presence matters. A gift.

Jesse came out to check on me around 3 o’clock, and we talked and laughed for a while. He didn’t plan on staying but ended up pulling up a chair and hanging. Jeff came out after a while. And we all talked. Another gift.

As night came on, Jesse came back out to see if I needed a jacket and then brought me a blanket. Julia and Jeremiah came out later, read with me, and we sang “Amazing Grace” together. Julia did numerous cartwheels, and we belly laughed because she was so dizzy that she almost hit the table every time. Then, we watched the stars come out and sat quietly, mostly. A gift.

Jeff took care of the food that day. From my husband. From God. To me.

Solitude. Relationships. Beauty. God. All gifts.

19
Sep
13

cry of my heart

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, God cursed both Adam and Eve in very particular ways. Man’s curse was to have a hard time working the ground. There were going to be thorns and thistles, and he would have a difficult time earning a living. It was going to be by the sweat of his brow. And then, after he spent his entire life working hard, he went back to the same dust that he worked.

Part of Eve’s curse was to have pain in childbirth, which I can attest to after having five children. During those five births, I had 11 epidurals. I finally got it right and felt absolutely no pain with my last child, Jeremiah, but I couldn’t move for almost twelve hours after he was born…part of the price of trying to fight the curse, but, in my opinion, well worth it.

However, the second part of the woman’s curse continues to haunt me. God stated that the woman would need her husband, that her desire would be for him, and that he would use that desire to rule over her. This can happen in a multitude of ways, hence the power struggle in marriage where both parties try to “win” at getting their own needs and wants met through manipulation and control.

As a woman, I want to be loved and cared for, but sometimes it turns into this demanding, selfish neediness that is unquenchable and unstoppable. And my husband, as good and as godly as he is, is still going to, at times, lord it over me or use it against me because he wants his needs met too. We all do. Anyone who’s been married any length of time knows this, has felt this, has experienced this. It’s part of the curse, and, unfortunately, there is no epidural to take that kind of “heart” pain away.

Tim Keller talks about this in his book The Meaning of Marriage.  The woman remains dependent and desirous of her husband, but it turns into an idolatrous desire, and his protection and love become a selfish lust and exploitation. (174)

I find the passage in Colossians interesting because it commands husbands to love their wives and not be bitter toward them. Ultimately, women can make their husbands bitter against them. We can be so needy that not only will they rule over us but become bitter against us in the process. And all we wanted was love. But apparently, it becomes more than most men can bear at times.

So where do I go with my neediness? my sometimes unquenchable loneliness? my thirst for attention? my quest for love?

If I can take my need to be loved to a God who loves me way more than my husband ever could, I can allow my husband the spaciousness of being who he is and not demanding that he try to meet my every need. If I can view Jeff as my partner and not try to make him everything as so many songs try to portray human love, then the curse no longer has quite the hold on me that it had before. And I’m all about fighting the curse. 🙂

I’m not saying this is easy or simple; it’s not. But I do know the Someone Who walks with me when my own neediness threatens to strangle me and when my heart is overwhelmed. I know this God Who never leaves and Who never fails and Who never gets tired of my coming to Him with everything. He alone can handle me, all of me…

(I want to clarify…I’m not talking about any kind of abuse here…that is not what the Bible talks about when it says a man will rule over a woman. A man should NEVER be abusive to a woman. If that is happening, you need to tell someone and get help.)

05
Sep
13

no more dirty laundry

In one of my latest posts, I shared how God used our broken washing machine to get my attention off of myself and onto people who had to do their laundry and pay crazy kind of prices in some of the laundromats. (where do I even start?)

I absolutely refused to use the laundromat, but I still had dirty clothes to wash. And we were kind of getting desperate in the underwear department. So a few days later, I drove to my in-laws and did my laundry at their house, grateful that I had this option. Not having a washer was inconvenient, but we could make do and wait until God provided another one. In the meantime, we would wear our dirty clothes a little longer, and I could continue to use my in-laws’ washer when we needed to. I didn’t know how or when God would show up in this, but I knew He would. We’ve seen Him provide again and again the things that we need. And, really, in terms of the whole rest of the world, whether or not we had a washer that worked was very small.

The day after I washed clothes at my in-law’s house, we went on a camping trip with some friends. As we got to the campsite, my brother-in-law Josh called Jeff to let him know that he had just dropped off a washer and dryer in our car port. We had no idea that this was even a possibility. God had once again provided for us. And so soon….

But the craziest thing to me was how God provided this time. We originally thought that someone was just upgrading their washer and dryer (Jeff and I don’t live in the world where you upgrade something before it breaks. :)) But we found out that the man who owned the washer and dryer got back together with his wife, and they both had washers and dryers and didn’t need two sets now, so the husband gave his set away to my brother-in-law. We were in need of a washer and had not even thought about a dryer. But, by no coincidence of course, the heating element in the dryer we owned was worn out. I hang our laundry outdoors most of the time, but it’s nice to have a dryer that actually works when it rains.

God gets the glory for this couple’s reconciliation and for providing our new washer and dryer. And we get to praise Him for the abundant blessing of it all.

20
Aug
12

Marriage: Being All In

A few months ago, we had a friend visit us. It was a timely visit for me because our friend was a huge encouragement.  One of the things that he told Jeff was that at some point in marriage, when the attraction and the passion and the romance may not necessarily be what they used to be, you just have to decide to be “all in.” You have to say at some point, “okay, I’m with this person.” It doesn’t matter how fat or sick or bald or whatever this person gets, you’re there. Period.

I have not always been emotionally present in my marriage or in my family. I’ve been physically present, but not emotionally there. For a very long time, I told myself the lie that there was something better out there for me; that there was another person who would fit me better;  that there was that ever elusive “soul mate” who could meet all my needs, and that I had somehow missed this dream of a man. For a very long time, I honestly believed that I had chosen the wrong person.  I was deceived, and I deceived myself.

It’s hard to be all in when you think the grass is greener elsewhere. And so I struggled with emotional affairs for many years. It was a form of escape for me. Emotionally, I didn’t have to be where I was if I always had a fantasy of a different life in my head. But a few years ago, Abba gave me much needed victory in this area. And I am grateful beyond belief.

But victory in this area didn’t resolve all my issues or the issues in my marriage. Because marriage is still supposed to be about two people covenanting together to sacrifice for the greater good of the other. And that’s just hard. Because I want my own way; I want my needs met. And Abba has had to strip away many things for me to see my own selfishness and greed.

Jeff and I just had our 20 year anniversary. And, I think, this year, by far, has been the hardest year yet.  Financially, we have really struggled. Jeff has had off and on work for three years, and I was just sick of this being our life. I wanted to be provided for; I wanted my children to be provided for. I didn’t want to have to worry about whether we were going to be able to pay the bills or lose our house or eat rice and beans forever.

But I think my real issue was with God. I was mad at God for giving me this man who couldn’t provide for me in the way I felt I needed to be provided for. And then questions and doubts about whether I was even worth providing for kept screaming in my head. Those were lies too. But it’s really hard to see the lies when you’re wallowing around in self-pity.

Honestly, in the last year, there were many times that I questioned whether or not this marriage thing was even worth it. I tried to convince myself that this wasn’t the best thing for my children either. More lies, because I had had enough of my needs not being met. This was more than I could handle and instead of supporting and loving my husband, who is in a tough situation, I threatened him and made demands and put pressure on him that only made things worse.

For me over the last three years,  Jeff’s main value became whether or not he was able to provide for our family. And so, what happens when the person you’re relying on doesn’t provide what you think they should provide? When the relatively “normal” no longer exists, what does the relationship look like then?  These difficult circumstances that were beyond my control really cut to the heart of what my relationship was all about.

I thought marriage was about having a companion who could meet my needs and who could  help me figure out who I am. I thought marriage was supposed to be this sentimental, exciting  romantic in love feeling forever. I wanted Jeff’s theme song to be “Everything I Do I Do It For You.”

Recently, I read Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. In it, he wrote “self-centeredness is a havoc-wreaking problem in many marriages, and it is the ever-present enemy of every marriage. Self-centeredness is easily seen in the signs Paul lists: impatience, irritability, a lack of graciousness and kindness in speech, envious brooding on the better situations of others, and holding past injuries and hurts against others.” (56-57)

After reading Keller’s book, my paradigm of marriage shifted dramatically. I finally came to the realization that I don’t really know how to love and that I haven’t really understood marriage. It struck me that I bought into our culture’s view about marriage. I bought the movie version of what love and marriage look like, instead of the biblical view that Tim Keller describes by saying that “marriage was designed to be a reflection of the saving love of God for us in Jesus Christ.” (15)

What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness. You’re committed to his or her beauty. You’re committed to his greatness and perfection.  You’re committed to her honesty and passion for the things of God. That’s your job as a spouse. Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you’re just playing at being married. (123)

I was just playing at being married. Because, honestly, it just feels good to have someone around, someone there, until it doesn’t.  And then I had to ask myself, Do I really love this person? And not for what he can provide, whether it be financial security, romantic passion, a great father-figure for my children, a person to keep me from being lonely, but do I really love Jeff, in a Jesus kind of way? And I’m not talking about the “in love” feeling that quickly fades away when a few tough years come crashing into a marriage. But having Holy Spirit power to love and keep committing  to him when I want to scream and run away…run for higher ground, run for something better,  just run.

Because what happens when you realize you’ve made a vow but don’t want to do it anymore?

“This means we must say to ourselves something like this: Well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think, ‘I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me.’ No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us–denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him–and in the greatest act of love in history, he stayed. (109)

Because He stayed, I now have His power to love when I don’t feel it.  It’s because of Him and His love for me that this vow that I made 20 years ago before God and family and friends makes sense. It’s not about me. In a marriage, it’s about pointing each other to Christ…spurring each other on to love and good works…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness , in health…till death parts us.

We’ve hit the “for worse” part and the “for poorer” part pretty hard at times. When Jeff said his “for poorer” part twenty years ago, he kind of laughed and winked at me as he said it…I think he knew something I didn’t. When you’re in your wedding dress on your wedding day and you’re happy and you’re young, and you say the words, but you don’t honestly think that that’s ever going to be you. And when it is you; when the poorer or the sicker or worse part becomes part of your life, what in the world do you do?

In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up.  And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. (104)

I have to realize that my feelings will be all over the place at times. There will be hard days. And then, there will be even harder days. But I’m with Jeff. He is the man for me. I’m all in. I’m all here. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. I’m not going anywhere. And I’m beginning to get really excited about our future and the amazing person Jeff is becoming. And even though our financial circumstances haven’t changed, it doesn’t matter. I’m just humbled and grateful that Jeff”s all in too, even on my “for worse” days.

So, 20 years. Some good, some way, way less than good, but still good because all of them have brought us to this point in our journey. They’ve brought us to this road that I wouldn’t have been on any other way. It’s a long road sometimes, but it’s a road worth traveling; it’s a story worth seeing through. It’s my story. It’s Jeff’s story. It’s our story. But it’s also bigger than us too. And I’m grateful that  it’s a story that is being redeemed.

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. (1 Cor. 7:17, MSG)

29
Sep
11

All Being Equal

I really like to camp. I love the family time and being around the campfire eating good food and the talking and the hiking and the camping equipment. I like everything about it (well, except for the packing up, maybe). I recently found myself in a Coleman store filled with camping “must-haves,” and I lost myself for a while.

A few weeks back, we went camping with some friends. During this trip, I realized something about myself. It was like a voice, not necessarily God’s, but I don’t discount it, because I heard truth. In my head I heard, “You’re not as laid back as you think you are, or as much as you would have people believe.” And I realized that I have not been honest with myself or with others about the persona I sometimes portray.

During this trip, my friend talked about one of her relatives being like “whatever” about everything. Her description of this person gave me clarity about who I’m not, realizing that I’m not totally relaxed about everything like I would like to think I am. And that that’s ok. And that in realizing this about myself, that I have expected that in others and that I need to cut people some slack, especially those closest to me.

Because heaven help Jeff if he takes a tone with me or is not as relaxed as I think he should be. And my seemingly favorite words to a couple of my kids are, “Chill out” or “Relax already.” The irony being that at the moment these words are uttered through gritted teeth, I myself am neither chilled nor relaxed. I happened to catch myself saying this just a few minutes ago to the one who looks a lot like me.

And that’s where the problem lies…thinking others should be as relaxed as I think I am…

I lost my keys the other day for a few minutes. I have a habit of laying things down places and not having any idea of where I’ve put them. But when I use to lose stuff, it would make me angry, and I would have these outbursts of rage, unable to believe that I had actually lost something, meaning that someone else must have taken the thing and put it where I couldn’t find it.

After I located my keys, Jeff complimented me by saying that I didn’t rage nearly as often as I used to. And I commented that I never did do it very much. However, he kindly refuted my statement about myself by saying, “Oh, no, you used to do it every couple of weeks.” I had to chuckle because I think he’s right; he remembers these outbursts well because they were so over the top and apparently because they occurred more often than I recalled.

So rather than pretend I’m a totally relaxed, fly by the seat of my pants type of person or try to be this “whatever” type of person, I need to embrace who Abba has created me to be. Not perfect, not altogether laid-back, but not exactly uptight either about most things. Just me, trying to be grateful for the people gifts Abba put in my life, embracing them and allowing them to be who they are and realizing that one type of person is not better than another.

03
Apr
11

Living on a Prayer (the dark side)

I woke up several hours ago (that’s what I get for going to bed at 9:00), thinking and worrying about things I have no control over.

Some days, I just want to throw in the towel…it’s just too hard…too difficult to walk the path He’s called me to. I don’t want to live by prayer and faith. I want things to come easy. I don’t want everything to be a struggle all the time.

But instead of going to the One who can help me shed my worries and my fears, I try to procure my own peace by escaping.

The result?

It’s not pretty. And there’s no peace to be had. Just more uncertainty and yuck.

As I sit here with tears pouring down my face, I begin to cry out to my Abba. For He alone is the One I can run to.

And He draws my attention to the small blessings He’s given me in the last few days.

  • Red tulips (I saw three at the library, and I was mesmerized,  and it was like Abba said, “You like that? Just wait till you see the dozens at the soccer field.”)
  • Watching 2 of my boys playing soccer on the same team with their dad coaching
  • Crazy little kids that laugh loud and hard
  • Kids playing outside all day long with the neighbor kids
  • The date I will have with Jeff tomorrow (well, technically today)
  • Sunshine all throughout a day when it was supposed to be rainy and cloudy
  • Laundry blowing crazily in the wind
  • Yellow air soft BB’s that you can find in the nooks and crannies all over my house
  • Songs that make me cry
  • Watching Julia as she sword fights with our neighbor, because she’s his “apprentice”
  • Kids that go barefoot, now till Thanksgiving (and that’s probably an under-exaggeration)
  • Our small family garden that now has potatoes planted, given to us by our neighbors
  • Warmer days ahead
  • A friend understanding what we’re called to do and lending an encouraging word and help

Many, many more blessings…too many to count.

My “stuff” isn’t fixed. It’s still there. But somehow it seems smaller, less consuming than it did before.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down {His peace}. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4)

01
Apr
11

fully present

Right now, I’m in the middle of learning to be fully present. Which is good, since I stink at multi-tasking anyway. I’m not the mom that can do ten things at once, which is unfortunate since I have 5 kids.

I am the mom who turns the stove top on to make an egg and then disappears into the living room to check the weather. I become engrossed in the weather and by then my egg and the stove have become a memory of the past. Being engrossed no more than a few seconds, I get on the computer to check my email, but it never ends at checking email.  I start writing a blog post.

Only then, when my kids start complaining about the horrible smell and the smoke, do I realize that I turned on the stove many minutes before, completely burning the bottom of my pan and almost setting my kitchen on fire. I think that this type of behavior might be labelled as multi-tasking ADD.

I was struck the other day as I stood washing  dishes that I need to be fully present at whatever I am doing, whether it is washing dishes or hanging laundry or listening to kids who have more words than I do. To be present and not mentally go on to the next task that needs to be completed. To just enjoy the one at hand.

When I think of everything that needs to be done for the day, it makes me grumpy and overwhelmed.  And I miss out on the blessings of the task I’m in the middle of when I jump ahead to the things in my head that I may never accomplish anyway.

But this is more difficult than I imagined…this task of being fully present.

When my older boys were little, I was physically present but not emotionally present. I was too busy looking for what I thought would satisfy my hungry heart. So my husband and children got the leftovers, and there wasn’t much left over. But, thankfully, Abba showed me grace and is even now redeeming those wasted years.

I say I want to be fully present, but I can still zone out on God and my family by the many distractions I have around me. I too often find myself trying to find life from a computer screen or trying to live vicariously through someone else’s life…trying to escape who God has called me to be and the tasks He’s already laid out for me to do.

But even in confessing that this is my struggle, I find He has given me victory for this moment. And that’s all I can ask for.

…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus… (Hebrews 12)

 

She Speaks Conference is about women connecting the hearts of women to the heart of our Father God and that your heart is to serve Him and His daughters, as He leads. A scholarship to the conference will be awarded here.



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