Category Archives: Marriage

Are You Decorating a Prison?

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Are You Decorating a Prison?

I settled into the driver’s seat and kissed my sweet hubby goodbye. As I backed out of the driveway, anxiety bubbled up, competing with excitement and anticipation for control of my heart. I spoke a few words aloud to stifle it. “I’m fine. He will be fine. God’s got us.”

I sipped coffee from the Tervis he had handed me moments earlier. The aroma of the caramel liquid mingled with the scent of Polo and I missed him already. Once again anxiety threatened to steal the joy of embarking on a journey I had anticipated for months.

I drove in silence for a bit, considering my penchant for imagining the worst case scenario.

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I’ve never been good at good-byes. As a child, I hid from them, usually in the bathroom linen closet. It wasn’t often that we sent loved ones on their way, but when our Hoosier grandparents loaded the car for the long trek home I was not about to stand on the lawn and watch them drive away. I quietly slipped into my hiding place, where no one was leaving. I couldn’t bear the separation.

I am absolutely sure I didn’t say goodbye when my oldest brother reported to the Navy. As preparations were made for his departure, I withdrew. With every crisply ironed article of his sailor suit readied for packing, my anxiety increased. The world was a scary place and only God knew when I would see my brother again, if ever.

Not many years later, I got married and soon after we began our family. Imagine the joy when we finally bought a brick and mortar house and made a home. I was the mother hen and my chicks were all under my wings.

My husband had noticed that I didn’t handle goodbyes well; more like I didn’t handle them. At all. He couldn’t imagine missing the chance to get a last hug and speak one last expression of love and care.

And then one day he came home with an announcement. His parents were moving to North Carolina. He would be driving the truck with their household belongings and returning home by plane.

Ya’ll, I could not even. I was distraught. Seriously. I was quite certain that I would be widowed when there was either a tragic accident involving the truck or the plane fell from the sky. I was not in the habit of throwing fits, but I threw a good one.

How would I raise our daughter alone? How could his parents think this was reasonable? Why couldn’t everyone just leave us alone in our little bubble?

In retrospect I can see it so clearly; I was a young wife making feeble, yet frantic efforts to tightly wrap my arms around all of my loves and hold them tight. I believed it was up to us to protect our family; in this case it appeared it was up to me, because everyone else had lost their ever-loving minds and thought it was a good idea for my husband to leave us.

I was not being manipulative; I didn’t have a problem with my husband helping his parents. I was genuinely anxious and fearful and wanted to hold my little family together.

Forty-five years later I’m less concerned about a traffic accident than a potentially life-threatening drop in his blood sugar.

But here’s the thing that occurred to me later that evening as I walked into a conference center filled with stunning women, as their voices and mine blended and lifted praise to the Beautiful Name of Jesus. He never called us to live safe and cozy lives. He called us to step into our calling trusting in him alone.

I listened to Jennie Allen share her surrender of “yes” to Him for ANYTHING. I looked around at the vendor booths, filled with women who had started non-profits to support children in foster care and foreign missions. They risked stepping out of safe and cozy because they knew that God was with them in the first step and every one after.

They yoked up with Jesus and heard his voice, “I’ve got this, just get into the unforced rhythm of grace and watch how I do this.”

I had tried to wall us in; my goal was to create a safe and beautiful place for us to hide. The trouble is, those hiding places become “cutely decorated prisons”[1] where we do little or nothing for the kingdom.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand.[2]

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 God’s plan is better than hiding in a closet or spinning out of control over what might happen.

The weekend was absolutely perfect. There was so much joy in every part. He is good and He is calling us out to places unknown to us but known perfectly to him. He will be with us in the first step and every one that follows.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 ~ The Message

What is he calling you to, my friend? I would love to hear about your faith steps. Where is he taking you? Tell me about it in the comments, won’t you?

Finding the rhythms of grace,

lorraine

 

 

[1] Jennie Allen

[2] Hillsong United Lyrics, Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

I Wouldn’t Wait! Confessions of a Teen Bride…

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I Wouldn’t Wait! Confessions of a Teen Bride…

We married on my 18th birthday.  I didn’t even have a driver’s license.  I’d known him for one year and he’s the only guy I ever went out with more than once or twice.  He was all of eight months older.

My parents were not thrilled about the wedding plans. There were threats that they wouldn’t come; I was their Catholic daughter marrying a Baptist boy in a Baptist church. I was too young and way too naïve. I was rocking their expectations, to say the least.

Our wedding was on a Friday night; there was a small reception at the church. A few of the ladies served cake, punch, nuts and mints.  I thought it was fabulous.  It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized just how plain and simple it really was, but I was in a beautiful dress that I had sewn with my own hands. I was ready to be a wife, HIS wife.

It’s interesting the things that you remember from such a significant life event. The pastor’s wife positioned my veil as my mom frantically hemmed dresses in the Sunday school room where the bridesmaids were getting ready for the ceremony. I was really glad my mother was there.

My brother Steve slipped his arm around me as I stood in the foyer and peeked through the back door into the sanctuary. In all of the hustle and bustle I remember him saying that I was beautiful. He waited with me for my dad to come and walk me down the aisle.

I didn’t hear angels sing as we exchanged our traditional vows, but a guy I went to school with named Angel sang the love theme from Romeo and Juliet. What can I say? It was the 70’s!

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When it was over, we climbed into our ‘68 Impala and drove to a car wash. Well-meaning friends and family had written all over the car with shoe polish (again, the 70’s)). There was a peace sign on the top of that car until the day we traded it. Make love, not war, people.

We drove to our little home and closed the door on the world for a week. I was completely content.

Our first home was slightly larger than the tiny houses that have recently become popular. We had purchased a 600 square foot mobile home at a price of $3,995; it came fully furnished. The sofa was so lightweight I could powerlift it over my ninety-eight pound frame.

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I felt like the queen of a castle. It was hardly majestic but it was our home. We were happy to start life together there. It was exactly what we wanted.

Over the next few years, we made a lot of decisions that we would later regret, but we have never regretted our choice to have our first child. We waited only six months to get pregnant – we were still getting to know each other, but we loved our growing family.

That simple ceremony was forty-four years ago. I suppose the odds were against us making it. We were too young, too poor, undereducated and naïve.

We started our marriage with less than one hundred dollars in cash, a fully mortgaged mobile home that began depreciating the day we signed the papers, and a car payment. Neither of us had a great job. It would be seven years before he earned an associate’s degree; thirty years to his bachelors. I never got around to college.

But we did make it and I’m convinced it is because of what we did have, mostly a legacy from our families, dysfunctional and imperfect as they were:

  • An example – Our parents were fully committed to keeping their families intact.
  • Lifestyle – Ours revolved around spending time rather than money.
  • Low expectations – We didn’t even once think that we should begin with what our parents managed to acquire in their twenty-five years of marriage.
  • Lots of siblings – We were used to sharing everything; we both came from large families and one bathroom houses.
  • Peer pressure – The couples around us were counting on us to remain a couple.
  • Hearts to serve – He did the laundry and ironing and cleaned the house after school and on weekends because his mother worked; when my sister was bed-ridden with a broken hip I got out of class early and walked two miles home every day so I could be with her when my dad left for work. Our parents taught us that families serve one another; we brought that gift into our new home.
  • Faith in God – Even when we lost faith in each other we knew that we were in his grip; that was enough when we couldn’t hold onto each other.
  • Inexperience – We didn’t bring a lot of comparisons to our bed or any other area of the house.
  • Refusing to keep score – We trusted each other enough to bring 100% most days; on the days one of us didn’t, the other picked up the slack.
  • Going to bed mad – Sometimes sleep and time are the best antidote to frustration and anger. So often the light of a new day brings clarity and peace. We learned to insert a pause and get some rest.

Everyone’s love story is different. I’m not advocating marrying right out of high school, skipping college or making babies in the first year of marriage. I guess what I’m really saying is that if two crazy, naïve and clueless kids could do it, maybe you can.

My simple prayer is that our story will encourage you to walk in his mercy, every new day and extend grace, first at home.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

By his grace alone,

lorraine

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Perfecting Our Days

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Just this afternoon I read answers from a well-known author who was asked a series of typical ice breaker type questions. The one that has rattled around in my brain all evening was this: describe a perfect day. Her answer was detailed. The location and activities, right down to the football game that would be on the TV were mentioned; the menu and the guest list were specific. It was the sort of event that I would love to attend!

I’ve been thinking about how I would answer the question today. Right now. Because, the truth is that the answer is a moving target for me, and I think I might not be alone in that.

Reflecting on the past week, I thought it included a couple of perfect days. Friday night I played a hilarious game with a group of women I love after walking on the beach in the afternoon with my sweet hubby. Over the weekend I got to cook for and chat with my women – my family. And then yesterday…I went to the happiest place on earth with my cousin!

Beach WalkingHonestly, each day had its moments. The beach trip? Traffic on the way home was horrific. Bumper to bumper with my navigator (who would much rather drive than ride) stressing more every mile. We were behind schedule the rest of the day due to the hour delay.

Cooking and serving for my sweet family brought up all sorts of discontent over stuff like tableware!

The Magic Kingdom was packed yesterday. Apparently it’s Spring break somewhere in the South. As I explained to my young cousin from the Midwest, you know people are from the South when they address their children “first name, middle name” and every family member is wearing monogrammed clothing. Lines and wait times were long with charming southerners.

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And yet, each of these is securely locked in the “perfect day” pages of my mental scrapbook. And the reason is simple. I know that “perfect” days aren’t perfect. They are normal days, when wonderful things happen.

Imagine this: your closest and dearest friend has died. The one friend who had the potential to impact this dire situation is taking his sweet time showing up. The day is off to a rough start when that same friend seems to be in denial about your mutual friend’s status. You might even be a little mad about his apparent blasé response. But then…as you are watching for him, he shows up.

Jesus spoke to Lazarus and he walked out of the grave, still wrapped in the burial garments. A bad day turned perfect, I would say. I think Lazarus and the ones who loved him would agree!

Traffic that disrupts schedules is an annoyance, but it doesn’t have to rob the day of its shine. I won’t wait until everything is “perfect” to entertain. When I’m in an amazing place with people I love, I hope I can relax and enjoy the moment without losing patience over annoying circumstances.

Perhaps perfect days are the ones when I’m watching for Jesus; when things are going as bad as they can get and he shows up.

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When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him… John 11:20

“Yes Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is come into the world.” John 11:27

 

A Habit of Faith

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It’s Sunday morning and in our house, that means we are going to church. It’s always been that way. As newlyweds, we slept in on Saturday mornings. My earliest irritation with my father in law (may he rest in peace) was with his Saturday morning drop in visits. The man just never got the hint that newly married couples 1) like to stay in bed on their day off and 2) even if they are up, they are not interested in entertaining a third. We loved our lazy mornings. We needed those lazy mornings.

However, on Sunday we were up and out the door to church. We were already serving as teachers and for you Millennials, there was also church on Sunday night. It would have been so easy to justify staying home, but we established a habit from the start.

I grew up around priests and nuns. They were easily recognized by their religious habits, the clothing that identified them as consecrated to God. The habit is an outward reminder to all  of their devotion to Christ and the church. Our faith “habits” are a regular reminder of the price that was paid for our redemption as well as our commitment to the Body of Christ, the church.

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If memory serves me well, this was her first time to church.

With the addition of a baby we were even more determined to be there. Our firstborn entered the world on Sunday and the following Sunday morning she was dressed up and taken to church. You read that right…I took my newborn, one week old into the house of God, aka the Temple of Germs. I’m sure we were warned, but we were determined to be back in our community.

This paragraph is a little disclaimer: I didn’t put my precious little in the church nursery and I let no one – not even her grandmother (I didn’t want to put her in the awkward position of saying no) – hold her while we were there. I politely declined and explained that we would love for them to stop by our home where they could cuddle to their heart’s content. No. One. Ever. Came. People didn’t want to hold my baby, they wanted to hold a baby. They were not nearly as excited about getting to know her as they were about giving their uterus a baby fix. Not my baby.

Six years later our second little girl was born, also on a Sunday. After a Lamaze birth and a couple of days of rest we set out to church the following Sunday, continuing in our pattern. I returned to work five weeks after she was born. When not at my job, I hung cloth diapers on the line to dry while my husband worked in a very physically demanding job six days a week. It never once occurred to us to use Sunday mornings to recover from the week or get things done for the following one.

Of course we stayed home when we were sick. There were vacations and other things that kept us away, but it was our pattern, our habit to get up, get ready and go. There was never a Saturday night conversation about whether we would be going. It was our routine. Just like we went to work and school on Monday, we showed up at church every week.

Lest you think I was a conformist, I must tell you that I was the pioneer who (I’m sure of this) was the first person to introduce the notion of not having Sunday night church. Don’t get me wrong, Sunday night church was awesome. It was more casual and relaxed; from the music to the atmosphere in the sanctuary, it felt more like family than Sunday morning. Almost without fail, we traded hosting casual after church dinners with another family. That was the best time, whether we adults played cards or just chatted while the kids gathered in the other room.

The problem with this? By the time the evening was ending, it was past bedtimes and we were already behind in our normal weeknight schedule. I’m not known for boldly introducing groundbreaking new ideas but one morning as we sat in a fast food restaurant with our pastor and another local pastor, I made a bold statement: “Sunday night church isn’t good for families. I think we should consider not doing it.”

WHOA….I might as well have said that pastors could wear jeans in the pulpit and Baptists should speak to the Episcopalians in the liquor store. Based on their reaction, I was sure that if the Baptists excommunicated heretics, I was on my way out.

Needless to say, I now know that my vision was clearly anointed since this new enlightened generation realizes that Sunday nights are best spent with family, friends and neighbors, building relationships and sharing Jesus over supper. And therein is true Sunday Night Church, my friends.

I pop out of that rabbit hole to tell you that I’m so glad we have a habit of going to church. Last week, one week after my husband’s discharge from the hospital, I guided my car into a handicapped space, pulled his walker from the back seat and we made our way to the elevator that would carry us to the room where the church meets.

Walker at Church

It would have been easy to stay at home. He is recovering from major surgery. There are germs in such a large group of people. But the community that is the church was there, waiting for us. They greeted us with concern and care and open arms. We were with them again as we worshiped our Jesus, the one who knows our hearts and loves us anyway. The one who has brought healing and comfort in the midst of every storm. Our habit led us back to that place of imperfection and our hearts were encouraged.

The messages haven’t always been great. Sometimes things that were spoken from the pulpit made me cringe. We’ve been let down, hurt, overlooked and overworked. People have lied about us and to us. They are all flawed, these people who love God. We are all flawed. But the one who we seek is perfect. In his perfect love, we see the hope for redemption that is within every one of us. We encourage one another in that hope.

It is because of the community of Christ-believers that we have remained married for over forty-three years. The people in our community expected that of us; we know that they have counted on us to walk with them, learn from them and share with them our struggles and our victories. We owe it to them to show up, so if you’re looking for us this morning, we’ll be in the center row, about 2/3 of the way back.

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“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (The Message)

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A Fitting Date

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sale-1149344_1920I’m not sure what prompted the urgency, but late last week I was sure that I had to have new bras. It might have been spillage (don’t judge – I’ve gained a few “el-bees” what with the meal train pulling into the station right on time with lots of amazing food and my commitment to not let a morsel go to waste). Perhaps wearing the same bra 24/7 at the hospital and seeing its dingy condition in the unforgiving light of a hospital room pushed me to this conclusion.

I love new “intimates”. Fresh and well-fitting lingerie makes clothing fit and look better. Truly, I love new undergarments when they are beautiful because they make me feel beautiful. However, finding the right fit in this particular category is challenging and even frustrating. Couple that with the obscene prices and it’s pretty easy to understand why I dread shopping for them.

 

For whatever reason, the stars aligned and there was a sale and a coupon and it was a Monday holiday for me. My hubby is recovering from back surgery and hasn’t been able to venture out much, so he was anxious to ride along. Note that he was a willing participant, lest any male readers think I dragged him along against his will. The poor man has been confined to the house, so even knowing how painfully frustrating this experience can be he was willing to tag along.

underwear-627302_1920We walked to the back corner of the store where there were no less than a few thousand bras on display. Seriously, I’m always overwhelmed by the “variety” and selection afforded. The next thing that amazes me in the process is the fact that no matter what size I am currently in search of in this vast array of garments, there is nothing in my size in any style that even remotely appeals to my taste or body size.

Hubby took a seat just outside the fitting room and I wandered the maze of white, beige and the occasional colorful options. He was helpful, encouraging me to select something other than white or beige and certainly nothing sensible, because you know, testosterone. That, and the fact that he’s still prone to thinking like a middle school boy.

I was thrilled to find a handful (no pun intended – now who’s thinking like 12 year old?) of options and proceeded to the fitting room. While he was willing to accompany me while trying on, I was not willing to be banned from returning to this particular store so I declined his kind offer. However, he continued call out encouragement to step out of the fitting room into his line of sight. His motive, of course, was to evaluate the fit. My motive was to maintain my current status of never being arrested, so again I declined. He maintained that his request was Biblical:

“Oh, get up, dear friend, my fair and beautiful lover—come to me! Come, my shy and modest dove—leave your seclusion, come out in the open. Let me see your face, let me hear your voice. For your voice is soothing and your face is ravishing.”
Song of Solomon: 13a-14

What is wrong with retailers? The lighting in most fitting rooms is harsh and honest. I don’t want honesty when stripping down to my skin, friends. Lie to me! If you can make me look tan, even better!

Part of the problem is figuring out the size. I felt really ignorant and alone in this until I read that Angelina Jolie said “I didn’t even know my bra size until I made a movie.” So, there’s that reassurance.

My rule of thumb is that if you are hanging out of any part of the garment, it might be too small. I err on this one a lot because I tend to underestimate my gradual growth in this area. When did I become a “full-figured” gal???

When I was a teenager, my brother made skinny girl jokes about me wearing skis in the shower (you know, so that I didn’t go down the drain). Even as a young mom, after two pregnancies and finally achieving a normal weight, there were some bold (rude) people who made inappropriate remarks about my lack of cleavage. I fantasized about making an equally inappropriate response about the size of his, well, you know, but I was timid and shy. His teasing was not was not okay and I would never let it fly today.

The first trip in yielded nothing, but with a more realistic idea of the proper size I ventured into the fitting room again with exactly three options. A veritable gold mine of choices were mine to make.

Half an hour later I had selected not one, but two winners! One was even in the color choice that he was voting for! As we made our way to the front of the store, he pushing a walker and me victoriously grasping my new lovelies, I couldn’t help but notice a few stares. Apparently our foray was an anomaly! I just love being married to this man who makes life fun and reminds me that I am a beautiful, desirable woman even from behind a walker while completing the most dreaded of chores!

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Great Expectations of the Heart

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Dear Valentine2Valentine’s Day is upon us. According to Bankrate, the typical basket of goods and services exceeds $500. Expectations are high, especially among women. That “basket” includes chocolate, diamonds, roses, dinner for two and a bottle of champagne. Individual expectations may vary from that, but for many the day won’t come anywhere close to their idealistic expectations for expressions of love and romance.

The basket referenced above didn’t include a card. I happen to love cards…any written expression of thoughts and feelings is dear to me. Hence, there is a keepsake box of cards on my closet shelf from, no kidding, the 1970’s. As I sorted through it recently, I found a folded sheet of notebook paper. It was a Valentine note from my husband.

We were new parents. Our little Kathy Jo, as we referred to her then, was not quite five months old and we were….well, economically challenged. There was no budget for chocolates or flowers, and in that era expectations didn’t yet include all of the extravagance outlined above. All of those were luxurious and honestly, not on my radar. In fact, even cards were not in our meager budget. So, this man took a sheet of notebook paper and penned words of love and devotion.

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Dear Valentine,
Though I have no fancy card today,
complete with sweet refrain,
you’ll always have the sweet assurance
of my love even when I’m old and on a cane.

When I read that again, I laughed. Out loud. I LOL’ed, something that I don’t do that often, but how sweet. I wasn’t laughing at his silliness as a young husband, rather at the irony of his prose.

How could we have known what he was prognosticating, that more than forty years later we would be walking through a season that we couldn’t have dreamed of then? He’s recovering from back surgery; and he’s relying on a walker. Face palm.

We can afford to buy cards these days, but ouch! I admit my irritation at paying $5 for a valentine. Over the years, he’s bought many beautiful cards; in fact, this man usually buys two for every occasion – one funny and one elaborate with lovely sentiments. As I pulled that box down and again sifted through its contents in preparation to write, the handwritten note is the one and only valentine remembrance there.

I married a romantic. He’s hired barbershop quartets to serenade me, one of my favorite and yet most awkward valentines. Four men surrounding your desk as coworkers gather round whilst they sing sweet songs of love and devotion is an original and fun idea. However, everyone watching your face for a reaction is a lot of pressure even if you aren’t an introvert! However, to this day, when I hear those sweet harmonies I remember his thoughtful surprise.

Roses, chocolates, dinner dates and jewelry – over the years as the budget allowed each has played a role in the annual observance of a day set aside to celebrate love. I’m a romantic as well. If you read my “We Kissed Dating Goodbye” post and think that I’m not into that, I misled you. I love making plans for a special evening out… planning an outfit that will thrill him, anticipating the foreplay of sweet talk and stolen kisses in an evening devoted to just us two. Now that’s a date that’s going somewhere.

I’ve been pondering all of this as the big day approaches. I listened to the woman who called the radio station complaining that her boyfriend refused to join the commercial madness that is Valentine’s Day (his opinion, not hers or mine). She had minimum requirements. Anything less than her expectations meant he didn’t care enough. Based on what I heard, they were significantly more than words penned on notebook paper, but somewhere south of the $500 estimate by Bankrate.

It’s ironic that in a time when lovers are sometimes cast off like last year’s fashion, the outward expressions of love are more extravagant than ever. It’s also easier than ever to make things happen with our access to virtually (no pun intended) everything on the internet. Faster than you can write a few lines of silly prose you can make dinner reservations, order flowers complete with candy and stuffed animal and check her Pinterest page for the perfect bracelet. Just a few more clicks and love is in the air.

That note I received all those years ago didn’t end with the silly poem. The sentiments that followed were filled with promises and hope for the future. The last paragraph is remarkably apropos:

“As a new phase of our life begins I look to you for encouragement and support and most of all, your love. I love you more today than ever before.”

Today more than ever, with your Facebook feed filling up with pictures of flowers and gifts and status updates from dinner dates, it’s tempting to devalue simple expressions of love. Compared to the highlight reel of others your love life may appear to be pretty normal.

For many, normal is no longer an option. Today, I read this, Rory Feek’s plans for his last Valentine’s Day with his beloved Joey: “…I’m hoping for a few soft kisses. The passion for each other that Joey and I once had has been replaced by the sweetest, gentlest kisses. I live for those kisses. They are enough.”

This year, consider this: the purest expressions of love from a sincere heart will not only be enough, they will endure.

 

 

 

 

 

Medicine, Mirth and Marriage Vows

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My husband had major surgery last week. You know how I know it was major? Because minor surgery is any surgery performed on someone other than you or your loved one. Truly, though, a spinal fusion is major surgery.

In these days of healthcare reform, a five day/four night stay in the hospital is not common. However, if they had discharged us one day sooner I might have staged a revolt. And yet, I’ve never wanted to leave a place more.

hospital sunrise.JPGThe room was spacious and contemporary; the view was beautiful. We watched the sunrise every morning. There was a flat screen television with cable and meals were delivered by room service (for the patient, anyway).

But hospitals are, after all, institutions. Things tend to happen at a snail’s pace and by day three it feels like Groundhog Day. I stayed with my hubby 24/7 because he is my life and I was not about to trust complete strangers with taking care of him after surgery.

I think he appreciated that I was there to help him with things like using the bathroom, but he may have had second thoughts the night that as I was standing behind him holding his gown up, I dropped it. Two people, weary and one under the influence of narcotic pain medication, laughing hysterically over pee. And let me tell you, that announcement on flights about placing your own oxygen mask before assisting others? Applies to assisting with bathroom needs in the middle of the night. There should have been a sign on the door; perhaps I would have avoided falling into a half giggling/half crying heap in a puddle of my own urine.

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Roomies making the best of it

The best part of “rooming in’ is middle of the night visits from nurses for medication and vitals. It was sweet when they mentioned that we are so in love and remarked about how tenderly we spoke to each other. They see things, apparently.

 

 

Little did they know, I was right on the edge several times. Last year, we chose to “divorce” cable and I’ve been missing one of my favorites, HGTV. I was very excited when I realized that the hospital cable stations included my channel. After the first day, every time Mike was taking a rest, he would say, “Watch anything you like, but not HGTV.”

Seriously? I knew he was about to fall into a drug-induced semi-coma in two minutes. I cried out from my anguished soul and dug deep in the vault of forty-three years of commitment for the strength to love him in spite of this decree. As it turns out, in a drug-induced coma you hear a lot; as he “slept” he was very involved in the renovation projects and he was totally stressed out. Only my sweet hubby could be stressed while under the influence of narcotics and muscle relaxers!

Hospitals are lonely. They are noisy and busy places, but behind the door of a patient

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This is hospital food – have mercy.

room time drags. Visitors are awesome, especially when they come bearing food and drinks from “outside”. Please, if you are going to visit – for the love – stop by Starbucks or Panera and pick up a treat! Otherwise, your presence will simply be tolerated. My daughter brought me her leftovers from the Cheesecake Factory and a huge Starbucks mocha. I kissed her. I probably would have anyway, but I was sleep deprived and literally had been scavenging from the leftovers on my hubby’s tray. I might not have recognized her, but black beans and tacos smelled like love.

 

 

The place was a labyrinth. The few times I ventured from the room in search of coffee and snacks I was tempted to drop bread crumbs. Somehow, though, I found the gift shop.

When my oldest daughter was in high school, after a weekend that will prevent me from ever being nominated for Mother of the Year (that’s a story for another day), she was hospitalized at a small local hospital. A friend visited and brought a gift that was obviously from the gift shop in the lobby. A new family joke was born…just stop in the gift shop and by a box of tissues or chap stick. No thought required. Yes, we are classy like that.

Let me just say, hospital gift shops have changed. There were cases filled with fancy chocolates and pastries that looked nothing like the sugar free Jello that I managed to add to my hubby’s tray without pushing him over the carb count for the meal. As I passed into the Brighton purses and jewelry I knew this was a place that I needed to escape in my current vulnerable state. Fortunately, my compulsion to remain at his side overpowered the temptation to linger over the Vera Bradley display marked 25% off.

We are home now. Managing pain meds and praying for poop have kept us humble  but so far, but we are still laughing and can’t believe that we’ve been doing this for almost forty-four years. If you have to stay a few nights in the hospital, take your best friend and your sense of humor.

We Kissed Date Nights Goodbye

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Regular date Nights. Sounds great, right? Get a sitter, get out of the house and spend time together. If you don’t, your marriage is doomed. Everyone from Redbook to your pastor is declaring it.

Pisha, I say. On what grounds, you may ask, do I declare this pisha?

Forty three years of marriage and counting. Staying happily married for that much time lends credibility to one’s opinions.

I can’t jump on the date night bandwagon, in spite of the fact that hubby and I are in the “business” of hitching and counseling young couples:

  • First, the word regular. Regular as in your bowel function? Done or happening frequently? Or regular as in conforming to the usual?
  • Have you ever wrangled the kids out of the house on a weeknight? Better yet, on a Thursday night??? After a Wednesday night at church? That project that’s due on Friday isn’t gluing itself to a poster board.
  • Money. I know that you can argue that you can come up with creative date night ideas that don’t cost a dime, and good for you. What happens when we use those creative juices to come up with a way to get the baby to sleep through the night (or just through a quickie)?
  • No children in the house? Why in the world do you want to leave the coziness of your own nest? Nothing more romantic than a snuggling together and seeing where the night goes.
  • I’m totally in favor of special time together.
  • Weddings…always be the first to respond Yes! And never take your young children unless it’s a close family member. What a great gift to you! A beautiful ceremony to recall the joy and sacredness of your vows, followed by dinner (free) and dancing. What could be more romantic?
  • Coffee Breaks – I’m a striver. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to relax at home, surrounded by the things that I need to do. When he “scoops me up” for a visit to a nearby coffee shop it is a perfect diversion and gets me focused on the man I love.
  • Volunteer – What are you passionate or your spouse passionate about? Get involved together.
  • Completing projects – Paint a room, organize your pictures, or plant a garden. Work side by side, even if it’s after the kids are tucked in at night.
  • Family walks – Even with a passel of kids, you know they will run ahead and around you as you walk. Head to a park, run off some steam and you’ll be surprised what the endorphins will do for their sleep and your love life. There is nothing sexier than your man playing with your children.
  • Vacations – Biggest regret? That we didn’t take more…but as a family.
  • Every night – okay I know this doesn’t work for everyone but you know your life and can figure this out:
    • Put the kids to bed and spend time together, not just sitting in front of the TV
    • Go to bed together. It can be tricky if you’re a night owl and he gets up early. Adjust. The time before you sleep is critical to your relationship. Devote a few minutes to each other, even if you have to get up after he’s drifted off.In 1989, the Orlando Magic was established as a franchise. I married a man who loves, and taught me to love, the game of basketball. We were season ticket holders for the first few years and rarely missed a game. We were away from home lots of nights, but our girls were responsible and could look after themselves – it was “our” time. I remember seeing Larry Bird (Google him – he’s a legend) and Michael Jordan on the court and pinching myself. We thought we were in heaven.When I look back, the seats in the arena were a dream come true, but the time and money spent were extravagant. However, working as a team in that gym we accomplished something that was truly ours, yet outside of ourselves. It was ours to share.
    • Fifteen years earlier, we volunteered to run the basketball league for a local organization. Every Saturday we drove around, collecting a rag tag bunch of preteen boys in our Chevelle. The rear floor board was rusted out and we were always a little concerned about having enough gas to make the drive across town and back. We had our baby girl with us, too and she was at home on the courts. We spent all day at the gym, working together to get games started on time, pay the officials, keep scorebooks and keep tabs on those boys. Lots of weeks we spent our meager budget to buy at least one of them a burger. We worked hard side by side and we loved it.
    • It’s great to plan a night out. It’s even better to have a night out planned for you; to be dated, to be wooed and in the process remember the things that brought you together in the beginning. I love getting primped for a night out because it’s special. But I’m just going to say it. Regular sounds a little too….regular. There’s nothing magical happening at Chili’s, friends.

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If you are still with me…go, enjoy a night out once in a while. If your church (like mine) is offering babysitting services free or at a great price, take advantage of it. But don’t let anyone tell you that your marriage is doomed if you don’t have a weekly date night.

 

 

 

 

 

I Smell Lion Poop!

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I Smell Lion Poop!

 

I walked into the bedroom at the end of a long Saturday of cleaning, running errands and taking care of other family business. I noticed it immediately. The package torn, the contents spilling out on the surface that I had carefully decluttered and dusted just hours earlier.

One of my favorite author “couples” is John and Stasi Eldredge. And one of my favorite things about working with young couples is premarital counseling. Hubby is performing a wedding in October and we are weeks into a video series around the book Love and War by the Eldredges. So we snuggled up on the sofa Sunday afternoon and watched the video that we would later share with our sweet little engaged couple. As John and Stasi began to talk about the danger and subtlety of Satan’s lies as “agreements”, I knew I had a fresh, real life example.

An “agreement” as John and Stasi define it, is a lie that originates with Satan. Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) is master at putting his spin on a situation. In the Love & War participant’s guide, they explain: “It typically comes as a thought or feeling. She doesn’t really love you. He’ll never change. She’s always doing that. (By the way, when the word “always” is part of the equation, you know you are well into an agreement.)”[1]

We’ve been at this marriage thing for a l-o-n-g time…forty three years and counting, but it is so easy to miss the obvious and settle for the lies of the enemy.

That Saturday afternoon, the thought that passed through my head was this: “He doesn’t care about your hard work. He disrespects you.” And in that moment, I could agree with the thought and move to anger, or choose the truth about my husband of so many years.

He loves me. He is so thankful for the way that I care for our home. He appreciates the effort required.

I wish I could tell you that I always recognize the deceit and cunning of our enemy. As we discussed this later with our engaged cuties, we talked about how the Bible describes Satan as a lion.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 NIV

Since I don’t know much about lions as hunters, I read an expert, who described the lion’s acute sense of hearing, his tendency to stalk his prey and his opportunistic approach.

Basically, they hear their prey, they stalk them and they often hang out in the places their prey frequent, waiting for an opportunity to attack. This is the nature of the enemy who comes against our marriages. He listens, he lies in wait and he jumps on opportunity. Is it any wonder that we fall into the trap?

When lions in the wild want to claim territory in the wild, they don’t bury their poop. These little agreements Satan Plats are the equivalent of lion poop.

Be on the alert for them and recognize that a very dangerous enemy is stalking your marriage and wants to lay claim to your home. Once you enter the agreement, you are ankle deep in lion poop.

Many of the agreements seem so true. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • He/she never changes.
  • I’d be better off on my own.
  • I’d be happier with someone else.
  • Nothing I do is ever enough.
  • We should never have married.

Unlike the people who live in African jungles we don’t have to worry about encountering wild beasts that terrify entire villages, but the grim reality is that there is a beast who comes against all of us. His tactic is to pit husbands and wives against one another by planting thoughts like the ones mentioned.

I’m thankful that last Saturday, when that thought crossed my mind, years of practice took me to this in my arsenal:

He loves me. He is so thankful for the way that I care for our home. He appreciates the effort required.

And in that moment, the agreement was broken by truth. This time, I caught the scent of lion poop and stepped around it.

[1] From Love & War Participant’s Guide, The Enemy is Not Your Spouse, Page 62-63