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Folded Shirts and the Garden Hoe – Letting small things go

You’ve been married for a while. Me too! You think you know that person so well. Same here. Well, even though you have tried for years to “fix” her or show him how to do it the “right” way. we as couples still have our differences. It’s frustrating to see that I still want things dome my way and Jimmy still wants things done his way.

These differences in how the yard work gets done, how the bills are paid and how the laundry gets folded can really grate on one’s nerves. Have you tried delegating the jobs so that you are in charge of what you enjoy doing the most? I know, I know, no one enjoys housework. Or do they? I will admit that there are a few things I actually enjoy doing. I love to mow the lawn. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to sit on the tractor and get some sun. I was a figure skater as a child and also like pretending that I am driving the Zamboni for the Olympic rink. I truly love folding the laundry too. There is a fresh smell to it and it makes me feel a sense of serenity knowing I have these wonderful, clean clothes to wear.

Jimmy seems to like to organize the garage, for he does it several times a year. He also cleans the bathrooms. I gladly let him “enjoy” those activities and love the fact that when I am about to garden, I know my tools are all in a row in the gardening section of the clean garage.

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There have been times where I have had to clean a bathroom or straighten up the garage. I know I will have to hear about how I neglected to scrape the mud off of the shovel and hoe or how I did not get the area around the back of the toilet clean. Let it go. Say a simple “OK, next time.” and move on. There are times when Jimmy sees the laundry and folds it himself. He folds shirts in a way that leaves a crease down the center of the shirt. Having worked retail for years, I like the fold where the sleeves are tucked underneath and the entire front of the shirt is exposed, sans creases. Do I take a grown ass man and teach him how to fold? Let it go. Hang the darned shirt on a hanger for a day and the crease will dissipate. Be thankful he is such a help around the house.

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The differences in the small things are so trivial, and when we pick on our mates for these things, it can be a real buzz kill. It can even lead to insecurity in other areas like the bedroom, and that is one area where I personally want to feel confident, loved and appreciated.

Let the small things go so that the big things will matter most.

How Much Autonomy Should There Be In Your Marriage?

Autonomy. Independence. Self-reliance. All good stuff, right? So many couples I have spoken with and interviewed seem to be living separate lives under the same roof. Having a few friends your mate does not care for is fine, and so is the occasional night out with your buddies, but once a couple becomes more like roommates with benefits, the marriage may be heading down a slippery slope or is already in trouble.

In our early marriage, I thought that we were so evolved because we could be these super independent people. We had a lot in common and spent time together but we also had our own lives. I was a new Christian and had not fully understood what Mark meant in Mark 10:7-8 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one.”

My husband had his work friends while I had a slew of mommy friends whose children were in the same gymnastics, skating and ballet classes as our children. My husband and I were both still working out to stay in shape, but even the athletic events we attended, were different. He would go off to a road bike race and I would compete in a running race.

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In hindsight, I wonder if all of this autonomy had created an environment more tempting for my husband to cheat on me. As I thought it through, a couple of things made sense. I was there for him physically as we made love often, but I was working several part-time jobs and was not there for him emotionally. I was all about doing my thing without regard to what hours I needed to work. I will never get that time I spent away from him back, and I will live with the scar that he did, in fact, stray for a time when he felt that we were together, yet lonely.

Before I discovered his indiscretion, I never questioned the time he spent with his guy friends from work. I can’t believe at that time that I did not even really miss him. Perhaps I was too tired from the grind of balancing home, work and child-rearing.

This is why I write this warning to all of you out there that are allowing your relationship as a couple to turn into more of a couple of ships that occasionally bump in the night.

Go and enjoy lunch with the girlfriends. Don’t stress when your husband wants to hang with the guys one night. But, make sure you are also both putting forth the effort to find mutual friends and being reciprocal in the way that your relationship is treated and treasured. God loves a happy marriage and I know you do too!

Proverbs 5:18-19 “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer, may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.”

Habits I Needed to Break

Do you remember when your man looked at you like David looked at Bathsheba when he saw her bathing? (2 Samuel Chapter 11) I remember. I keep my favorite picture of my husband and me on my bulletin board. We were in our twenties, and honestly, I don’t even remember who took the photo. The point is, he looked at me with those dreamy eyes of a man smitten.

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Somewhere in the marriage things became too familiar, and he no longer looked at me that way. It took a brave and smart thirteen-year-old to tell me. Yes, when my daughter was a teen she brought to my attention that she no longer wanted to see me come home from work and don the grubby sweatpants and crocs. What if one of her friends came over and saw me like that! I laughed it off thinking that all moms are entitled to look frumpy when raising multiple children. I wanted to be comfortable while cooking and cleaning. I was all ready to quote 1 Peter to her (3:3-4) “Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” But, instead of quoting scripture, I realized how much it bothers me when my son would go out in public with his hair looking like he just woke up. I was always reminding him of what a comb looked like and what it was used for. Could it be that my husband would like to see me with my hair down once in a while? Would he give me that delicious kiss coming through the door if I looked like a woman worthy of kissing? Hmmmmm.

It made me think of what other things might irritate him or what other things have gotten too familiar. I always assumed that once we were married we could share everything, even the bathroom. Was it a big deal if I passed gas or burped in the comfort of my own home? Yes. If I was mortified about those things when we dated, I should be more discreet once married.

I am not suggesting turning the clock back to 1958 and stepping into an episode of the Donna Reed Show, but keeping myself looking my best goes a long way in keeping the romance alive and well. In like manner, my husband refrains from annoying habits that kill intimacy.

Solution? Keep private things private. That lock on the bathroom door is there for a reason. When done working out, shower and put some cute but comfortable clothes back on. Have you ever heard the saying that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have? Well, it works in marriage too.

There are plenty of times to lounge around in the sweats and let that hair go another day without washing it, but for the most part, I want to attract and not repel my husband. A little effort goes a long way.

The “D” Word

My husband had been married for a very brief time as a very young man. As short as the marriage was, it still hurt him that it ended in divorce. When he and I fell in love and married, we had an agreement never to use the “D” word. He knew he did not want a repeat of divorce and I could not imagine, as a 22 year old girl that I would ever be mad enough at Jimmy to threaten him with such a terrifying word. So we agreed.

Kylie-2.jpgWell, real life throws some real crap at your fan and there have been many times where one of us wanted to use it. In the 30 plus years we have been together, we broke our pledge and have used the word twice, always with that sick feeling in our gut that it was not what we truly wanted.

I enjoy a good Google search. So, I peeked at the statistics wondering why divorce used to be so rare, and is now so commonplace.  Prior to the 1930’s, less than 7% divorced. Part of that may have been that the laws of divorce were very strict. It was often hard to prove abuse, adultery or abandonment, which were the only reasons a divorce would be granted. But, in 1967 the laws changed to include “no-fault” divorces. By the 1970’s the divorce rate jumped up to 33% and culminated with 53% by 1980. Currently, it has gone down slightly and leveled off at about 50%.

Think about the phrase “no fault”. Really roll it around in your head for a few moments. Are you really ready to say there is no fault in your unhappiness? Why do we feel that things are different (more difficult) today than they were in the past? Did people 100 years ago have money problems? Did they argue? Did they have poor communication skills? Did they cheat on each other? Did they grow tired of one another? You and I both know that indeed they did. So why have we become a society where we just throw away a marriage like last years cell phone, and then take no responsibility or “fault”?

I challenge you today to look at any unhappiness you feel towards your mate and realize that they are not responsible for keeping you happy. You are in charge of how you feel, think and act. Take authority for how you are feeling and do not project it on your partner. Work on yourself first and then work toward a better alliance

If you are a law of attraction follower, don’t forget  that what you think about you bring about. If you are a Christian, you can remember that Malachi, Proverbs, Matthew and 1st Corinthians all talk about protecting marriage and hating divorce. If you are unsure where you fall in your spiritual journey, find a way or a place where you can recollect the joy you found in your original attachment to your spouse.  It won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it to co-create a loving bond where you can continue to grow and evolve together and not apart.

Busted!

Look at the base of these two trees. Very different trees interlocked at the base. It always reminds me of a married couple, different, yet growing together somehow.

Were you caught having an affair? Busted! Having been on the other side of that table I know how I reacted when it happened to me, but how the cheater reacts is what many people never delve into. Do they have feelings of remorse? Don’t those of us who have been cheated on want to understand why?

If you have wronged your partner, fess up! Be honest and tell no more lies. Determine if your real relationship is more important than the affair and get busy making things right. Put your big girl panties on or big boy pants on and get to work.

The most important decision you will both make is whether to work it out or go your separate ways. Both partners must have some desire to want to work towards a stronger marriage or else one of you is just kicking a dead horse.

The cheater must understand why he or she crossed the line. Did you two think of setting boundaries at the start of the marriage? You see, some partners have the opinion that “I don’t care where you get your appetite, as long as you eat at home” so flirting, porn, internet contact etc… may be acceptable. In other marriages just looking at the opposite sex feels like cheating. In the Bible, the book of Matthew 5:28 talks about lusting for another is considered cheating.  So for some, having coffee or lunch alone with a co-worker of the opposite sex may feel inappropriate. It is all about boundaries you two should have set in the beginning. If you did not, now is as good of a time as any.

Now, look at how tall and lovely those two trees can grow. Together, side by side!

 If you want true transparency, integrity, and honesty with your spouse, begin today to break off the affair and show your newfound transparency and integrity. Start with a sincere apology. Begin to rebuild trust, even if that means sharing passwords on all of your social media sites.  I know of couples that share the same Facebook page and have nothing to hide from each other.

Remember that cheating not only ruins marriages but also sends a message to the future generations that cheating is ok or even expected. Many millennials are not even bothering to get married because they assume it may end in divorce anyway. Some see marriage as a contract and not a covenant. Big difference.

All couples should ask what kind of legacy they want to leave on this earth before satisfying a feeling, a connection or an urge with someone outside of the relationship.

Dare to be different. Boldly step into making things right and loving and honoring the commitment you made at the altar, or the courthouse. In an affair, feelings were hurt. Trust was broken. It won’t be easy, but where there is an ounce of love left, you can make it worth it.

My First Rant!

Oh boy! I usually like to be a beacon of light and positivity, but there were two separate occurrences recently that had me wondering what the heck are people thinking?

I took some children to a nearby farm that had a fantastic playground. It was a place where in the fall you go to buy pumpkins, kettle corn, fresh cider, donuts and then enjoy your goodies at the picnic tables while the kids run around the vast playground. This farm is a childs dream, with climbing structures, swings, a rock wall, an old tractor to pretend to drive and multiple slides.

I saw a young girl, maybe in the 8-11 age range sitting on the swing looking at her smartphone. Hmmm. An anomaly? But then I saw not one but two or three other children running at breakneck speed, laughing and having fun (as children should have) but also with their cell phones in their hands.

Why does an 8 to 12-year-old child need a cell phone to spend a half hour playing on swings and rock walls? How do you even climb with one hand? When they run and fall and break the $600. phone will mommy and daddy just buy them another?

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The second incidence happened a few days later when my husband and I were leaving a restaurant. We saw a mother with her two young (maybe 5-9 age range) children eating at a booth. Each child had a set of headphones on and a tablet with a movie playing. What?! How will this generation learn to communicate face to face? How will they know what it feels like to be unplugged? When will they learn table manners and etiquette? Most of my absolute favorite memories and stories I tell are taken from moments where the family had dinner together or went on a trip together. Having your children at a restaurant plugged into anything but you cannot be considered “together”.

I implore that parents take a look at what media is doing to your children. Take the media away during dinner, outdoor time and playtime. Learn what is really in your children’s hearts and minds. Connect with them in a way that no iPhone or gadget will ever do. These children are yours for such a short time. Teach them well and you will leave a legacy that you will not regret.

Age Old Question: The Chicken or the Egg?

I know you have heard the age-old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” I still argue that one with people just for fun. In marriage, I think about the question “Who gets most of my attention, the husband or the kids?”

I grappled with this for years. On the one hand, my husband came first, before all of the children were born. But on the other hand, the babies are so cute, innocent, needy and defenseless. Shouldn’t they get the best of my time and energy to become secure and independent adults, knowing they were loved? Or should the children see that I put God and my husband first so that they grow up strong in the faith and secure in knowing that their two parents love each other deeply?

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My husband and I love our children. They truly are a joy to us, but as each one was born, I found myself spending every waking moment thinking about them, nursing them and nurturing them. I worked extra hours at my job to afford more lessons, clubs, and toys for them and eventually I chose to homeschool them through 6th grade. They were my entire world and I made the foolish assumption that they were my husband’s world too.

I remember a woman from my church telling me a Biblical principle that my husband should still come before the children. It may have come from the passages in 1 Peter that talk about wives being submissive to husbands and husbands being considerate and respectful to their wives. Either way, I rationalized that the kids needed me more. I never imagined that by putting my husband on the back burner of our marriage that the relationship would begin to fizzle out burner by burner.

My sex drive was low, as I was so consumed by mommy duties. Our finances were off from all of their extra curricular activities. I could not justify spending money on date night when that money could be spent on new ballet shoes for our daughter or for skating lessons for our son. I could not figure out why my husband would want to spend his only night off from his job with just me and miss out on family time with the kids. (I am now flattered when he wants me all to himself)

At some point, I had even put the kid’s sleep before the sleep needs of my own husband. I breastfed each child for a long time by American standards and there always seemed to be a small person in between us at bedtime. My husband was a wreck at work from his poor nights’ sleep and the fights just led me to keep the peace by moving into the kid’s rooms at night until they were weaned.

Eventually, my husband and I fought all the time, wrote nasty notes to each other when we really didn’t want to speak face to face and the time we did spend together was at a swim meet, ballet recital, skating competition or other child related activity. I had the occasional girl time with my mommy friends and he had his guy time with, well, the guys…..or so I thought. The children grew but when we still had two of them living at home I found out that he had been having an affair with another woman for about 5 months.

What a wake-up call. We went to our pastor and eventually made our marriage better than it has ever been. That story is in the book Stronger Than Broken – One couple’s decision to move through an affair. Ah, but I digress. The lesson I learned was that although my children did need me, what they needed more was to see two happy parents.

So which came first, the chicken or the egg? We may never know. Whom shall I give my best to first, my husband or my kids? Kids are with us for 18 years. My husband and I will be together until death parts us.  I often wish I had put my husband first during those ugly years of fighting over so many things but there is no opportunity for a do-over.
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I know that our kids were always watching us and I pray that they never fall into dysfunctional relationships as they date and marry. I pray that they don’t remember the loud arguments as much as they remember the trips to the zoo and the amusement parks. I pray that they don’t remember the nasty notes on the kitchen counter as much as they remember the love notes we would also write from time to time. I pray that they don’t wonder why I slept in their rooms for years as much as they remember that we are a loving couple that sleeps together, prays together and looks forward to each passing day as a couple.

Love your God first, husband second and everyone else next. I can assure you that you have enough love inside of you. I know that everyone will have their love tank filled and no child will ever come up to you and say that you loved their daddy too much. Go out and set the example of what a functional marriage looks like and know that you are always #strongerwithlove.

LAUGHTER

As cliché as it sounds, the secret is to a lasting relationship is laughter. It is impossible to be angry when you are happy. What have you done lately to make your husband or wife laugh?

Each day, couples can make a habit of making eye contact, but that is only half of the equation. Here is my favorite way to make Jimmy laugh. If I see him sitting on the couch, I straddle him and look straight into his eyes. I may ask about his day or tell him about mine but most of the time he knows that when I am facing him head on I simply want to stare at him. Eyes are the window to the soul and you can tell a lot about what kind of day he has had and what he is thinking or feeling. So we stare and stare and stare to see who can go the longest without blinking. Usually one of us just erupts into laughter.

He is known for making silly comments during serious moments and I can pick out one heck of a comedy on Netflix. He can break into a crazy dance over slicing potatoes for dinner and I can remember not to take life too seriously.

Let me know what you do to make your soulmate laugh.0910171911

The Importance of Intimacy

Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

I looked up the definition of intimacy and it included everything from familiarity, closeness, rapport, and affection all the way to sexual intercourse. For the sake of this blog, let’s talk about sexual intimacy. I consider sex to be the ultimate union between a married man and woman. Many people argue about the importance of intimacy in a marriage and exactly where it belongs in the scheme of the relationship. Yes, there should be respect, friendship, laughter, responsibility, honesty, trust, communication and more, but I also expect those things from my friends. I want the relationship with my husband to include those characteristics too but definitely include some good physical loving as well.

God starts right out in the first book of the Bible referencing to the importance of intimacy. In Genesis 1:28 God blesses man and woman commanding them to be fruitful and increase in number. In 2:18 He says it is not good for man to be alone, so He makes a helpmeet or helpmate for him, and we all know that in 2:24 a man is to leave his parents, cleave to a wife and become one flesh. There must be a certain level of intimacy that comes with becoming one flesh and with being fruitful.

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Still, the questions bounce around in our heads: How often should we be intimate? What is acceptable or okay in the bedroom, in the eyes of God? Is there a list of what we are allowed to do to each other? What if one of us wants to make love and the other one doesn’t? What if what he wants to do makes me feel uncomfortable? Sadly, there is no list we can check off about what is acceptable in each relationship. The Bible gives us guidelines, yes, but a list, no. Think about how Philippians 2:3-4 says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” This would answer the question about doing something that feels uncomfortable to you. Your husband or wife should never ask you to do something that feels disagreeable to you. Make sure that you are open with your spouse about any past abuse or trauma that you may have had that may interfere with sexual intimacy. Often one partner has no idea why the other had a bad reaction or an aversion to something he or she thought was no big deal.

The Bible also talks about marriage in 1 Corinthians. Read from 7:1-11 and you will see that not only does a woman’s body belong to her husband, but his body belongs to her as well. Husbands should fulfill their duty to their wives just as the wife should fulfill her duty to her husband. This clears up the question about making love even when you are not in the mood. Sometimes you have to “take one for the team” and just show up for your spouse. I know there are times when you are tired, distracted, feel frumpy, or have a lot on your mind. These may be the times when you need good love making the most! Believe me, there have been many nights where I know my husband needed an intimate moment much more than I thought I did. I would oblige simply out of respect for my husband’s desire. Almost miraculously, along the course of the evening, I would end up enjoying myself much more than I had expected. Always be open to sharing yourself with your mate.

As your marriage evolves, remember that your lovemaking will too. Don’t expect you or your spouse to always want the same position, duration, or even frequency. As you learn new ways to pray together, raise children together, and adapt to the various situations life throws at you, you will also find that your intimacy may also change and evolve. That is part of the fun of being married. It is never the same day. When it does become a burden, it is not the time to give up, but merely a time to seek help and pray about a solution. Solidify your marriage in all ways and you will never regret the intimate moments.

Song of Songs 7:10 “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.”