Saturday, September 22, 2018

. . . reading



In the past few years I have read some excellent books on marriage. I try to read a book on marriage at least once a year, but for a lot of years that did not happen. I hardly read anything outside of my Bible reading and quiet time (and school work for the kids).

I realized that if I am not reading, researching, studying, and seeking information to improve,  my marriage would stay fairly stagnant. not necessarily in a bad place, but not getting any better. A couple years ago I started chasing after a new high water mark and these books made a difference in where our relationship is today:


Cherish by Gary Thomas. The description of this book captured me before I even opened the cover. "The one word that changes everything." It challenged readers to get beyond love and life-long commitment to make marriage something fresh and beautiful and life giving.

I realized that my approach to marriage had been to stick it out regardless, but this book woke me up to the fact that marriage could and should be a passionate adoring even beyond the first few years. I like my husband, I love my husband, but this book started to stir again a cherishing that our relationship had seen fizzle.




Took me a year to read another book, and this one came to the top of my book list when I felt like the differences in our marriage were making it difficult for me to truly cherish even when that was so much what I craved.

Dealing with the Elephant in the Room by Dr. Mike Bechtle gave me some practical tips to talking about some of the hot topics and relational strains that were preventing our marriage from continuing to thrive and grow. Maybe you have a different hot topic, but for us the whole area of how to productively discuss areas of conflict had grown burdensome. Practical tips from this book kept us talking and moving closer.



A lesser known study that I am currently in the midst of continues to strengthen me in my role as wife. Wife of Noble Character brings page after page of sound Scripture teaching and personal conviction to avoid life in the status quo. This should be done with at least one other person, and it is a hefty workbook that should be spread out over a year or two to really get the most out of it. On the website you will also find lots of free resources including audiofiles and other downloads to enhance your study. The chapter on forgiveness prompted my post a few weeks back on the topic and so much in this book has reset my thinking as a wife.



A classic, and one that has stood the test of time and many ups and downs in our marriage, The Power of a Praying Wife. I actually prefer this abbreviated version that is just the prayer cards. I keep them in a pile in the top drawer of my nightstand and most nights I grab the pile and pray through the top one or two before my brain checks out. I don't have the ability to articulate my desires for my husband as well as Stormie Omartian has already done, and these put words to so many deep, heart cravings for him and our marriage.

All the books in the world will do nothing if you are not lifting up this life-defining relationship in prayer regularly.



My most recent discovery, No More Headaches by Dr. Juli Slattery, provided a very practical refresh. Some of it I knew, but needed to hear again. Some of it I knew, but she presented it in a way that made me rethink my conclusions and practices even based on a similar perspective. I read this through fairly quickly, near the beginning of some sweet time away, alone with my husband and this book gave us some excellent talking points as we continue to strive for greater intimacy.

We both come from Christian backgrounds, and saved sex for marriage, but that doesn't mean we aren't without baggage and barriers to complete sexual intimacy. Definitely a much needed spark at the perfect time. Could have been read together, but instead I read it and bookmarked throughout. We would then discuss the talking points and highlights in some of the sweetest conversations we have had in our marriage (not all easy conversations I might add, but needed ones, and moved us closer in the end). I have kind of known before, but have never realized to this extent how critical a healthy, united view of sexual intimacy is to the rest of married life. Can't fully express how important it has been for us to be on the same page and thankful that this book helped us get there.


Those are just a few of the books that have grown our marriage in the past few years. Most importantly, I have refocused the need to be a student of my husband. He isn't the same man I married 25 years ago, and I am not the same woman (Thank God for that!) I can't let up or think we have arrived. Where we find ourselves now is amazing, but we also continue to press on to even greater days. Praying the same for each of you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

25 years

25 years.

They were not all beautiful, not all memorable, but they all formed another step that brought us where we find ourselves today and made us into the couple we are. For that I am unbelievably grateful.

In the past I would at times read people's anniversary posts, "Love you so much more than the day we got married . . ." yada, yada, yada.

I could not really relate. (please don't leave me hanging here). Not that I was less in love, but I was more confused about what love was, and I didn't feel more love. Maybe more thankful, or more committed, but not sure about the more "in love" part.

Please don't misunderstand this. Our marriage was good. It was solid. But, I continue to discover what makes a good marriage a great one.

This year I went down an interesting journey to define love. I don't know that I have my final definition yet, but I'm getting there.

  • It's a choice.
  • It's being kind when they don't deserve it and expecting nothing in return. (taken from Wife of Noble Character)
  • It must be fresh each day.

But, those things are the same kind of love I should show any one of my fellow humans, especially family members, but what is different about marriage love?


I decided to dig out my vows and see if my 20 year old self had something to say that I had forgotten.

We peppered our vows with Scripture readings. I loved it, and still do. So thankful that from the beginning our marriage grew out of Scripture -- philosophically, symbolically, and verbally.

Here is a transcript of my vows:
Genesis 2:18-24
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; 
I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed 
every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man
 to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, 
that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, 
and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; 
then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 
22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, 
and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

From the beginning of time, God designed woman as a helper to man, an intimate companion. I, Erin, covenant to you, Charles, before our friends and family that with God's help I will do my best to be the helper and friend God intended for you.

I Corinthians 13:4-8a

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,  
does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, 
does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, 
but rejoices with the truth; [a]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, 
endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of [b]prophecy, they will be done away; 
if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

I know my love will not be as perfect as this love, but each of these qualities are my goals in loving you. As we grow together and toward God I pray that it will be clearer and clearer that I love you with patience, kindness, and selflessness.

Ephesians 5:22-24
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, 
He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, 
so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Proverbs 31:10-31
An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
14 She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
15 She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
18 She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.

 Charles, I pray that from now, through the years to come, until death separates us temporarily, that I will be a submissive wife. I will be to you an encourager, a supporter, a friend, and one who respects you. I will love you and be your constant friend and companion through both the very good and the very hard times. Whether money is tight, or we have plenty to put towards savings. I will be here for you to cry on and to laugh with. I will always love you and be faithful to you and our marriage.

With this ring I promise to stand by the commitment I have made before God, you and our friends here today.
 
Those vows still stand. Thankful for God's faithfulness to us all these years. 

And, what struck me as I read through this yet again . . . Marriage love is to be the purest, fullest love that can exist between humans. It is more intimate than any other love. And, amazingly, it grows through hard times. In the midst of a trial it might seem to flicker a bit, but then it roars back with even greater intensity. 

Still much to learn as a wife. Wonder what the next 25 years will teach me. Praying for another 25 years of beautiful, messy, committed, growing love that we will both be the better for.  
 


 

Friday, August 31, 2018

K-I-S-S-I-N-G



I don't know about the expression, "Don't kiss and tell," but I think we should do a little more telling and a little less hiding of kissing in marriage.  

So, I discovered this year that kissing is amazing if you take the time for it. Maybe you already knew that, but maybe you forgot. Or, maybe you never really knew either. Really. 

After researching how a kiss could change our marriage, I decided to do a little clandestine research. I didn't have the guts to actually mention my hypothesis to my husband. Figured he would be lost as to why I hadn't figured that out from 27 years of it.

But, along the way I realized one important step I was missing. I forgot to stop thinking. 

And, start living in the moment.

For a kiss to be real, you have to get lost in it. 

I thought we were doing good because we always "kissed" when coming or going and at bedtime and after prayer before each meal. But, that was really the bare minimum. Maybe that habit helped maintain a basic level of connectedness, but that was about it. 

However, it all changed when we started lingering there a little bit. We didn't need to time it or give it rules or boundaries, we just had to let the moment be. 

That has made all the difference in the world. It has been integral in resetting our relationship and restoring the feelings of cherishing my husband that I had somehow compartmentalized over the years.  

So simple, yet so profoundly different. Now, this won't solve all the marriage woes amassed over years of marriage, but it can start chipping away at them if you let it.

It takes hardly any time. Knits your hearts together throughout the day. How long has it been since you thought about your 'good-bye' kiss after he was out the door in the morning? Most days I can't stop thinking about it now . . . 

Ready for a challenge? All you have to do is kiss. For real.

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

. . . kissing

Image result for love is . . . kiss
 Early in our dating lives we had a conversation about kissing and it showed the different perspectives in physical contact that we shared then and that continues now.

I thought of kissing as a right of passage. Proof of a relationship. A check box that a relationship was moving along. A "base" (in the lingo of the time).

My husband thought of kissing as the best thing ever. No outside context or meaning, just amazing in and of itself.

It took 27 years for me to catch on.

Last year I read this book called Cherish that opened my eyes to the need for me to be more affectionate in our marriage. We had the duty, commitment, etc. down to a science, but, honestly, it wasn't much fun any more. Oh, I looked forward to date nights and time alone together, but it seemed so required. Kinda bland. Maybe a little too "settled in."

I didn't just want the "til death do us part;" I wanted the "love and cherish" part to characterize our marriage.

But how?

It started with a kiss.

I read a blog post somewhere in my searching for answers, something about a kissing experiment.

Could it really make a difference? Well, let me tell you . . . 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Love Is . . .

Love Is... when your search is over.

I used to collect these little comics, ages ago when our relationship started turning into something more serious. Like, after the first date.

Falling in love was easy. I didn't have to try. It just happened. Pretty quickly we knew that this was more than a temporary attraction. This was the stuff marriage was made of.

I've learned a lot since those days of fledgling love. 

No one told me then that love was a choice.

It was a verb, I had that hammered into me.

That I would often need to choose to love was not something I was prepared for.

At one month I bemoaned the fact that we went from a couple that had been dating for 3 years to a couple that had been married a month, which seemed so insignificant. As if milestones made the marriage.

At one year, I turned my nose up at people that still called us 'newlyweds.'

At two years, we moved back to the United States. Still relative newlyweds as I look back at it now.

At five years, we had a one year old -- and soon another on the way.

At ten years, marriage became the side show as we constantly tried to stay afloat as parents of three with the fourth on the way, and part-time parents to a dozen other boys from Sunday night through Friday.

At fifteen years we celebrated in Maui, while my in-laws watched our kids and finished potty training our fifth.

At twenty years I felt like we had been married forever. Only old people were married that long. Maybe that was the problem, I just felt old.

Now, we approach twenty-five this year.

Our marriage has grown so much in the last five years. Mainly in the last year.

Relationships are always cyclical and the many ups and downs are to be expected, but lately we've been on a pretty big upswing and I thought in the month surrounding our 25th I would share a little of what God is doing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Forgiveness

"Father, forgive them"
"Do not hold this against them"
"They know not what they are doing"
"Forgive as Christ forgave"
"As you forgive others, so your father in heaven will forgive you"

Honestly, forgiveness is not something I struggle deeply with. I'm just not a grudge holder. But, even in areas of relative strength there is room for growth.

This morning God challenged me to take my forgiveness to the next level. How can I tell I'm truly forgiving that other person?

Have I prayed for them as Jesus prayed?

Do I simply avoid thinking about them, or have I actually carried their burden and borne them into God's throne room on my prayers?

Have I wrestled in prayer for God to forgive them?

Not long ago I read The Devil in Pew Number Seven and the author talks quite a bit about forgiveness. She had a lot to forgive, and by God's grace she did. But, she also said that even though she did forgive, she will need to do it again.

We aren't like God who can choose to not remember. I will dredge up an old memory. Or, more likely, some comment or person or product or smell or date or something trivial will trigger a renewed feeling I thought I let go of long ago. That's when I realize that I need to forgive, again.

Maybe that's some of what was behind the forgiveness count that Jesus gave. We might have to forgive the same offense dozens of times because we continue to wrestle through it at various levels. It seems praying as Jesus prayed would accelerate this process. Praying for God to forgive them makes me consider the seriousness (or lack thereof) in their offense.

Think about it, how silly does it sound to ask God to forgive someone for wasting our time? Or, taking our parking spot? Or, taking credit for our idea? Or, making a snide remark? Or, not forgiving us? Maybe those are easy things to forgive, but even more serious stuff shows it's insignificance when couched in a prayer.

And, if God can forgive them when the offenses nailed His only son to the tree, I guess I can work on that, too.


I'm thankful that God's forgiveness is complete, knows no limits. And, He patiently teaches me to forgive, bother others and myself.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

School planning

Anyone else seriously starting to prepare for the upcoming school year?

Now that it is officially August I can no longer wallow in my delusion that summer will continue on forever. On facebook the observation that, "August is like the Sunday of summer" has started floating around. I relent. It's all true.

But, I have to admit, that I do get a little twinge of excitement as I fire up our Homeschool Tracker software for the first time in a couple months and start marking holidays and end dates. Hmm, am I already excited about days off? Oh dear. This isn't going well.

Bible  time planning does stir genuine excitement though. I picked out our first missionary bio and a chapter that we will work on memorizing this year. We will start with Mary Slessor. I don't think I have ever read her bio and definitely not to the kids. I will look forward to that. And, Psalm 37. I can't wait. This one has been on my heart for a bit now. Already printed everyone's copy.

On to history -- I toyed with spending $60 on the one Mystery of History volume I do not have, and then quickly decided to check out Ambleside Online instead. We are going to go with Year 10. 1815-1900. That's a time period I truly enjoy, but haven't spent much concentrated time in recently. I sense a field trip to Springfield in the making.

Of course, I'll likely end up spending more than $60 in late library fees and kindle books, not really coming out ahead . . . I can dream though.

Science -- The younger set will be using Apologia Chemistry (the grade school version). Love all the experiments we are in for! I don't know about the high schoolers. One is done with science, the other might do physics at home.

English -- our schedule here is fairly routine now. A rotating pattern between Shirley and Rod and Staff with a pinch of Easy Grammar in the middle.

Math -- Saxon at appropriate levels. This year I'll have third grade, Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. Might end up with an online college class at some point depending on future plans.

And, co-op, homeschool PE, robotics, and Liberty University round out the rest (sign language, music, karate, dance, theater, dual credits, cooking, lit, etc.) Thankful that I don't have to teach everything my kids need to know. I could never do this all on my own.

I'm starting to feel ready. Sorta. I know I'll still be glad when Friday afternoon arrives every week.