5 Seconds Of Encouragement For The Worst Days Of Your Marriage

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This one’s worth tucking away for a rainy day…

Because Lord knows, the rain will come!

“The vows are serious. Staggeringly serious. But you did not take them trusting in your own strength to perform. The grace that enabled you to take those vows will be there to draw on when the performance of them seems impossible.”

-Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman

… and that’s all folks! Some things are just so good they don’t need any help.

 

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Marriage: This Is NOT What I Envisioned…

IMG_3350I don’t know about you, but the last few weeks have been a little chaotic around here.

There has been one massive NYC snow storm complete with 10 inches of snow and painfully low temperatures, 2 bouts of the flu, and an innumerable amount of diaper leaks… on my lap!

I have also – rather impressively I might add – gone through two boxes of Kleenex… of which the remnants are still scattered in and around my bed!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I caught my hair on fire while trying to light a candle, my daughter saw a picture of an elephant and called it “Mama,” and I tragically learned that ALL Fruit Loops are the exact same flavor! Oh, the cruelty!

All that to say that after two weeks of making a permanent home in my sweatpants, ordering takeout, rocking the messy bun (with special emphasis on messy!), and spending many days sprawled out on the couch watching countless episodes of ‘Scandal’ on Netflix, I came to realize something…

I am not as cool as I once was!

6 years ago, I was tan & toned, and I wore high heels more regularly than some brush their teeth! I had aspirations of putting meals on the table that would make Mario Batali swoon, and I believed that every outfit would be best accessorized with a coordinating bow for my daughter and a flawless coat of nail polish for me!

All this is laughable considering that my current chipped nails are tinged with yesterday’s blue play dough, and my daughter is running around – without a bow mind you – but with only one pigtail intact that looks more like a growth on the side of her head! … And seriously, WHERE ON EARTH ARE HER PANTS?!?!

Sigh. I digress…

There is no denying that my life is in no way reminiscent of a Harlequin Romance Novel, and that my parenting style would be nothing to write a book about… which is what often leads me to question if THIS is what my husband knew he was signing up for when he said ‘I do’ all those years ago!

… if spit up, stretch marks, messy buns and sweatpants were even on his radar?

And now that they are, if I still have what it takes to make him happy?

Oooooooh shoot! It’s about to get REAL!

As a little girl I used to day dream about love and marriage. I can remember passionately kissing pillows as if they were Disney characters, poring over elegant wedding gowns in bridal magazines, and meditating on advertisements depicting romantic getaways where couples are shown tossing their heads back and laughing joyously, as they soak together in hot tubs in the shape of champagne glasses.

And yet it would seem that the romance-filled, passion-infused, lifelong commitments we dream of exist only until we are actually in one!

Sadly once you’re married, a “successful” marriage is often weighed merely by whether or not you are ‘still married’… ‘Still in love’ and ‘still happy’ with our spouse only seems to be an added bonus!

Recently though, while watching on old Barbara Walters interview she did with Ronald Reagan, I was caught by something he said that I will never forget…

Ronald Reagan’s marriage to his wife Nancy was always in the spotlight. Even to this day it is remembered by them always walking hand in hand, leaving each other love letters, and by the fact that they never stopped courting.

Reagan said his wife gave him “…a marriage that was like an adolescent’s dream of what marriage should be,” and then he quoted this powerful statement by Clark Gable:

“There is NOTHING more wonderful for a man than to approach his own doorstep knowing that someone on the other side of the door is listening for the sound of his footsteps.”

Usually I envision the moments before my husband gets home a little differently …timers going off…  me scrambling to retrieve dishes from the oven… chasing a pants-less child around and attempting to put a bow on her head…. and hurriedly changing out of my sweatpants and hiding the evidence before my husband walks through the door…

But like Clark Gable so beautifully communicated, it’s about the significance of truly valuing our spouse! It’s about offering the gift of welcoming him home each day just as he is.

It’s about desiring to be the first person to high-five your husband when life has worked in his favor, and being the sounding board he can rant and rave to when it’s not! Maybe even throwing in a curse word in agreement to reeeeally drive home the fact that you are on the same team! 😉

Our husbands don’t care if the kid has a flipping bow on her head, or, if on occasion, the sweatpants beckon (… though I speak from experience when I say finding kleenex in the bed might be a problem!) He doesn’t care what new shade of lipstick we are wearing, or what Pinterest-inspired feast we have slaved over; our husband’s want US!

They want our respect, our admiration, and our constant support!

So no matter what the climate our husbands are walking in from – whether they drag themselves in sopping wet from an impending storm, frazzled and disoriented from an especially turbulent day, or radiating big smiles and good news on the tip of their tongues – let’s remember there is not a more wonderful gift we can give the men in our lives, than to be on the other side of the door awaiting the sound of their footsteps…

… For as long as we both shall live.

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Misconceptions of a Godly Woman

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I realize that this post may offend certain people: Good people, who I would probably really get along with otherwise…

But for the record, I am not sorry.

Last week’s post Worthy of Rubies was me, buttoned up in my ‘Sunday’s best’ and smiling pretty. But over the last couple of days a fire has come over me and I can’t keep silent.

You see, I hate when women stand before other women and use their platform to hide behind facades of ideal marriages, perfect specimens of children and strong opinions on the likes of breastfeeding, vaccines and church politics…

I cringe when the Kim Kardashian’s of the world pose half-naked in an attempt to prove that they are still sexy, when any ‘real mom’ feels like anything but!

When friends on Facebook post statuses like “ …Made 6 loaves of banana bread, ran 12.8 miles, fed the homeless, and saved a cat, and was still able to get home in time to make homemade apricot pork loin and apple crisp for dinner tonight,” while the rest of us are left wondering how we even made it out of our pajamas today?!?

I don’t know when being sexy and domestically superior made us more of a woman, but let me challenge you with what I believe is the #1 Misconception of a Godly Woman…

Years ago I took a class in Bible College that still to this day gets my blood boiling. It was a class called Christian Womanhood.

Three times a week, hundreds of college freshman ladies piled into the auditorium, who if they were anything like me, anticipated by the name of the class ‘Christian Womanhood’ that we would come to understand what it truly meant to become the godly woman the Lord desires for us to be.

Most of the girls attending the class would one day go on to become pastor wives, missionaries, and christian school teachers; women who would have the potential to impact other women, communities and the World in POWERFUL ways!

And yet, THIS is what we learned…

– How to execute a wedding. Complete with rehearsing a mock wedding in which each of my peers played a ‘part.’ I however, sat in the audience (on the groom’s side if you want to be specific) uninterested, and unapologetic … I mean, seriously? 

– The importance of making dinner for our families each night, and the convenience of using a crock pot. …Yep, it happened.  

– Why we must only read the King James Version of the Bible. But I have no notes on that lesson because unashamedly, I tuned that one out!

It was also in this class that we did an in-depth study of Proverbs 31 in the Bible. Which wasn’t bad per se, but due to all of the above and the fact that I actually paid for this nonsense of a class, I don’t think it would surprise anyone to know that still to this day I have a physical aversion to any of the topics covered in that class, including the beloved Proverbs 31 woman!

Interestingly enough though, my husband came to me last week and asked me to write a devotion for our church (on you guessed it – Proverbs 31!)  And in all honesty I fought him about it HARD, completely downplaying the significance of it in the Bible!

And yet as I pored over the chapter myself I realized something I had never seen before, something I can assure you was NEVER taught in my class all those years ago:

Who can find a capable wife?… She is energetic and STRONG…  She has NO FEAR of winter…  She is clothed with STRENGTH…

Proverbs 31:10, 17, 21, 25

The Proverbs 31 woman is a lot of things- domestic and lovely, successful and well-respected. But most repeated, she is STRONG! Not anything like the passive and weak woman we are so often encouraged to be! She has no fear of winter – the difficult times to come – and is not limited to planning weddings and using crock pots.

65 (1 of 1)It got me thinking go the times I have had to be strong…

When 2 years into my marriage, when we should have been comparing paint swatches for the living room and eating breakfast in bed (or whatever it is that newlyweds do) but instead we were battling it out in screaming matches and trying to decide what we would do with the house in the event of a divorce.

…When The Lord asked me to forgive my husband, and even more clearly, when I begged God kicking and screaming to let me move on. To give me permission to break ties with the man I was petrified would hurt me once again! But how the Lord never wavered.

How I was furious and shaken but STRONG when to choose to please the Lord above all else and embark on a journey to learn to love my husband again.  And for the record,  I am so incredibly glad I did!

How years later, we faced an unimaginable tragedy in our church while my husband was away at summer camp. How I wanted nothing more then for my husband to walk through the door, so I could immerse myself into the comfort of his arms, allowing myself to freely fall into a heap of tears with the one person who shared my mutual heartache. And how it never happened…

Because upon returning home, my husband made only one request: we not cry. How instead, he wanted to watch the news footage covering the accident over… and… over… and lay on floor and listen to worship music until late into the night. How he needed me there, and how more than anything he needed me to be STRONG!

How impossible it felt (how impossible it would’ve been apart from the Lord!) but how I sought hard to find my strength in Christ, relying on Him wholeheartedly for my comfort so that I could be strong for my husband so that in return, he could be strong for so many others as their Pastor!

In those moments, Oh, how my soul longed for a woman to have opened up and spoken to me as a college freshman about THAT! To have a woman stand before me, vulnerable about her overwhelming fears and unworthiness, but speaking on behalf of God’s immeasurable strength available to us in spite of it!

And so if I could teach a class on Christian Womanhood and if all of you reading were my exceptionally lovely students…

I would tell you that the most breathtaking picture of a ‘christian woman’ is not merely a sweet, modest, well-spoken domestic goddess, but the woman whose strength and unshakeable faith lifts up all those around her despite her circumstances or the ‘winter’ she has found herself in. (Prov. 31:21)

I’d tell you no matter how beautiful of a bride you make, that one day your marriage may feel hopeless. And to remember when that day comes: it’s not a direct reflection of the INADEQUACY of you, but the potential GREATNESS of God if we allow Him to restore the broken pieces left of our hearts, and our vows.

That one day, the strong men we marry may need OUR strength to – literally and physically – pick them up off the floor. And that it won’t be a damn crock pot that will save the day, but the fire deep within us to FIGHT for our marriages and for our husbands to be the godly men that the Lord desires them to be!

Because the truth is, EVERYONE can let us down. But by choosing to find our strength in Christ, there is NOTHING God can’t grant us, and NOTHING He cannot restore! We need only to turn to Him, for He is the only one capable of giving life to our broken hearts and the strength we need to keep holding on.

And it would be as simple as that.

Class is dismissed.

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Worthy of Rubies

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.”

Proverbs 31:10

Over the years I have received lots of (unsolicited) advice on how to be a good wife…even long before I ever was one!

One of the first instances came when I was only a teenager. I can clearly remember the woman that had stood before me; sporting perfectly pressed clothes, flawlessly curled hair, and much too strong of perfume. Even more clear was how much I hated her. Especially when she began to speak on the importance of looking good for your future husband. I can remember her words exactly as she drove home the point by saying, “get out of your sweat pants, brush your hair, and put on some lipstick before your husband gets home!” And it’s quite likely that I rolled my eyes…

Or maybe, like me, you have heard a good christian wife described as being both passive and agreeable… and YOU rolled your eyes!

Even my favorite cookbook offers advice by promising that landing a man (and keeping him forever happy in your arms!) is as simple as making the recipe on the bottom of page 24 for lemon and rosemary infused “Engagement Chicken”.

And while I do find that we underestimate the super-human power of a good roast chicken and a little lipstick, my heart goes out to women! We are being tossed in all these different directions; a myriad of messages bombarding us with what kind of wife we should be!

Are we to be passive or strong? All dolled up or au-naturel? Should we strive to be a domestic goddess or a successful businesswoman?

However, in this verse it explains that the most valuable things a woman can be are virtuous and capable! This woman, who is said to be worth far more than rubies, is moral, upstanding and will do whatever is right no matter the cost! She is the picture of strength, is gifted, and well respected by others!

So how is it that we can become more virtuous? How is it that a woman can be more of a treasure in the eyes of her spouse?

In verse 30 it goes on to say… “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”

This rare woman puts God first above all else! When society puts priority on rock hard abs, hefty pay checks, and impeccably coordinated ensembles, she is wise enough to realize that such things will fade away in time! Instead, she chooses to find her significance in Christ and looks to become who He has designed her to be!

So it could be said that the better advice – according to the Bible this time – would be to BE the kind of woman (or man) who deeply loves their spouse, but loves the Lord even more!

…Because God forbid our promising chicken burns, and we forgo our ‘agreeable nature’ to give someone a piece of our mind! When our lipstick is used for much more important things like writing on the wall (thanks to a toddler that has us thisclose to losing our minds) and when our sweats, for the life of us, wont stop calling our name! Even amidst our deepest feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness, we can rest in the fact that It is our character and virtue that is the rare quality that sets us apart from the majority!

And like an irreplaceable treasure to her spouse,

A bounty worth far more than rubies,

So is the woman who above all else, loves the Lord and desires to be more like Him!

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Lessons Learned from a Beautifully Imperfect Marriage

image Crowds of our closest friends and family roared with excitement as we pushed open the door and stepped out onto streets of Downtown Portland! Gwen Stefani’s ‘Sweet Escape’ played out in the open air as we made our way down the steps, where a Volkswagen convertible waited for us -the backseat filled with beautifully adorned presents.
Just Married.

photoAfter last hugs and well wishes, we waved until everyone lining the streets behind us had faded into the distance. I let out a deep sigh of relief and grabbed the hand of my new husband. A perfect end, to a perfect day!

At the stoplight, a flood of panic ensues! He looks at me, You grabbed my bag right? The one with all my clothes?  I have no idea what he is talking about. WE HAVE TO GO BACK THEN! He persists. I instantly burst into tears at the thought! He turns the car around and I literally scream out to him, YOU ARE GOING TO RUIN MY EXIT!!!  I plead with him to turn the car around, imagining the embarrassment of going back to face our guests just to casually grab a bag, when we had just previously exited so dramatically- so perfectly!

He turns to see tears streaming down my face, his eyes soften when they make contact with mine. This is not how you envision your first moments together as husband and wife.

He ends up giving in to my demand and leaves his bag behind -And our wedding night is instead, spent searching for a gas station in an attempt to find toothpaste!

But I was happy-

because at least everything looked perfect from the outside!

Isn’t that how marriage so often is? We are content so long as we look perfect.

So long as our family doesn’t suspect anything has gone awry, and so long as our Facebook profile represents what a picturesque family should look like to all of our friends.

Though our tear stained faces, and nightly yelling matches may prove otherwise!

After celebrating my 6th wedding anniversary last night, I got to thinking about the most significant lessons I have learned over the last few years. And believe I am in no way saying that I know it all  in our mere 6 years, or that the lessons I share are ones that we have mastered. ‘I speak from scars and not theory…’

Lesson #1:  Practice Fighting

My husband and I were doing premarital counseling with a couple just months before they were to get married, when on the topic of ‘conflict resolution’ they brought up the fact that they don’t often get in arguments and even when they do, it’s always about something petty.

The couple then described their last disagreement which was about whether Sweet Potatoes were the same as Yams. We laughed with them as they described how the conversation actually got heated! They couldn’t agree, and it resulted in the both of them getting frustrated with each other!

Those of you who have been married for even a month, know that married couple have no problem finding MUCH more to fight about then just spuds! But I have found for my husband and I,  it’s not what we fight about or even how often, it’s how we fight that is most important!

If my husband and I have a differing opinion on who should take out the trash, and every time its brought up I shut down and he leaves the house in a fit of rage, then how do you expect we will handle a different – more serious – conflict?

In our case, we resorted back to what we knew – to the unhealthy fighting habits we had put into place from the beginning! And because of that, our lack of communication skills nearly threatened to end our marriage before it had truly even started!

I don’t care what you are fighting about potatoes, pa-ta-toes,  or who’s choice in carpet matches better with the curtains; Practice fighting each fight as if its a BIG one, because the truth is, one day it will be!

Life can bring deaths in the family, children, surmounting bills, and debilitating illnesses -all of which make effective communication more difficult. But if you allow yourselves to struggle in the beginning – doing your best to make a habit of good communication and problem solving in the small areas – when difficult circumstances arrive in the future, you will have already worked out most of the kinks that will help you walk through the most daunting disagreements a little more effortlessly!

heartLesson#2: Say Nothing Negative to your Spouse

Two years into our marriage, my husband and I were at a crossroads; He had hurt me, and I had forgotten how to love him. We didn’t have children yet, and were considering our options of walking away from it all and getting a divorce.

We wanted it to work, it just didn’t seem likely that it would.

It was around that time, that we picked up the book “Love Dare” from the movie Fireproof  (that I’ll admit, had me falling asleep due to incredibly horendous acting. No offense Kirk, my heart still skips a beat for you on ‘Growing Pains’)

The reason I bought the book though, was because it was a devotional that each day gave you an assignment on how to better love your spouse – which is exactly what I was struggling to do at the time!

The first assignment:  For the next day resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all.  If temptation arises, choose to not say anything.

I kid you not, it took me 9 whole days to sucessfully complete this assignment!!!!

For the life of me, I could not stop making biting remarks towards my husband!

“Don’t say anything negative….Don’t say anything negative…” I would think to myself, and then I’d nag at him about the dirty dishes in the sink.

“Don’t say anything negative…” and then I would bring up his past and why we were in our predicament in the first place!

Either way – whether justified or nit picky – the book clearly said “Say nothing negative to your spouse” -and I even more clearly, sucked at it! I could only wonder how long the rest of the book was going to take me!

But the truth is, once I got past the first assignment, I was surprised to find that the rest of the book – and the journey to learning to love my husband – got a whole lot easier!

Choosing simply, to not to cut each other down, laid the foundation to help us build our marriage back up!

In the book “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts” they discuss a study conducted by Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington. ‘Gottman and his team of researchers have been studying marriages for more than twenty years, identifying which ones will improve and which ones will deteriorate. They are now even able to predict their results with an astounding 95 percent accuracy rate!! ‘

He says it’s all about how the couple can handle conflict within their marriage. And he goes on to discuss ‘the four ways of interacting that will sabotage you attempts to resolve conflict constructively’

The #1 way to sabotage your marriage: criticizing your spouse!

Saying negative things to your spouse is proven in this study to be a gateway for the other things that can creep in and destroy your marriage! (You can read more on that here)

Lesson #3: Admit Defeat

This might not mean what you initially think it means.

Admitting defeat to me, means finding someone you trust and being honest about what you and your husband are going through. Let go of the perfect image you are trying to uphold and reveal your true dishelved selves.

This lesson proved to be one of the most helpful steps we took in our marriage – I only wish, I would have done it on purpose!

I doubt I would have, if it wasn’t for a family friend who came up to me after church one night and asked how Ricky and I were doing, and when without thinking, I responded with a desperate plea for prayer. I can remember regretting my vulnerability almost immediately! Yet because of that vulnerability, God was able to use her as a pivotal piece to getting my marriage back on track!

She met me regularly for breakfast over the course of that year; relating to my heartache, walking with me through my uncertainty, and telling me of the miraculous ways that God had saved her marriage 15 years prior!

In Psalm 145:4-6 It illustrates this perfectly

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts;
let them proclaim your power.

I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles.  

Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
I will proclaim your greatness.

Find someone who can speak up when God seems silent, and remind you of all the extraordinary ways He has provided for them in their lives and in their marriages!

Someone who’s story gives you the hope to hang in there just a little longer – to give it your all until there is nothing left- so that we too, can proclaim His greatness when he transforms our most fragile relationships one day!

But in order to do so, we have to step away from the facade that we have been living behind, and admit we can’t do this on our own.

Lesson #4: Meet At The Cross

I had the privilege of hearing a Pastor by the name of Wayne Codeiro speak just last year in Orlando, Florida.  And what he would say in a room of thousands of other pastor’s and their wives would be a game changer for me and my marriage!

He spoke of a prenuptial agreement he made with his wife before they got married:

After asking her what she would do in a handful of different scenarios that could occur over the course of their lives, his wife always responded,  “I will follow you”

“What if it gets really tough?” he pressed

“I will still follow you!” she replied with no hesitation.

“We’re going to get lost you know…”

Confused, she asked what he meant.

“We are going to get lost, and there will be be times where you or I might drift… but will you make me a promise?”

She nodded.

“When we get lost and we can’t see the light of day -when we can’t find each other- would you promise that you would meet me back at cross?

He pauses, tears whelling in his eyes as he outloud recalls the conversation he had with his wife 38 years ago,

“And if I stray, will you wait for me?

I pledge that I will come back.

And if I get there before you, I promise I will wait for you.

Just meet me at the cross.”

The truth is, we stand with our spouse before God on our wedding day- dressed to the nines, giddy and clammy-handed, anxiously awaiting our future together- and yet along the way we do get lost, and our future together may no longer seem identifiable.

But I pray in that moment, each of us could stand together in the presence of the same God -badly bruised and broken maybe– but willing!

Expect to lose sight of one another,

but promise even then that you will meet at the cross.

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