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Marriage

Words and Anger: What it All Boils Down To {Construction School For Wives}

Construction School Button It’s Wednesday here at Quiet Graces and that means today is the day where wives are digging in to the dirt in our own marriage and, with God’s grace, growing it better wives. Today I’m writing a bit about my most recent struggle with words.

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There’s a part of humility that scares me: the part where I let down my walls and let you (or my husband) right down into my mess.  It’s not so much anymore that I really care what people think. Although before 3 children in 25 months, my level of humility was always outweighed by my people pleasing perfectionism.  But after living in that tough season, I know showing you my mess encourages you in yours. 

The truth is sometimes I don’t like sharing my mess because it holds me accountable to growth.

This last month as I lived and worked out my focus on words, I had a a number of failings that all boil down to two things (Which I’ll tell you in at the end. Enjoy the suspense!)

My husband’s job has recently begun to require travel.  He’s been gone for 10+ working days in the last 3 or so months.  This last trip was hard.  He was scheduled to leave early Sunday and I was counting on having Saturday to just lay around and recharge. My husband walks in the house on Friday at 4:30, rather unexpectedly, and informs me he’ll be leaving at 6 am on Saturday.

I flipped my lid. I flew off the handle. I boiled over. I was madder than a hornet’s nest.  You can pick your metaphor: but I was filthy angry.

Best Face of 2010 {Greenville, SC Natural Light Portrait Photographer}

Really? Who can be mad at this innocent face?

 

I yelled (and in front of the kids, too.  Yikes!). I might have repeated that sequence a couple of different times.  I might have sequestered myself in a room for a bit.  I pulled it together still simmering for a family dinner out.  But I had a client expecting me that evening.  I  was still seething on the way home from the ordering session.  I had to call a friend (actually I went through three before I could find the one the Lord needed me to talk to) just to calm down enough to be semi-reasonable.

Here’s the deal: part of my anger was righteous.  My husband had made a decision without consulting me (though he had tried to text me, but I didn’t get my phone) that hurt both me and my little ones by taking him away for a whole extra day.

My angry vomit of words, however, was not righteous. I’m pretty sure that Jesus knows the best discipline for me is often utter failure. (<—Click to Tweet) I learn more from tripping over my own mess than a lifetime of someone telling me to clean up already.

Derek’s trip this last time was to Oregon.  He got to see 60 new life birds including that last warbler in his Eastern birds book (for a lifelong birder in 2-3 days: that’s a big deal). He saw the Pacific Ocean.  He got to go out to eat on the company for 3 meals a day and make some new friends. He came home and told me (and anyone who would listen) all about his trip.

Do you see where this is going?  Yeah, I’m jealous.  I don’t get a paid vacation to an exotic locale, away from my children, and all by my introverted self ever. Never happened for me.  And really, it’s not all that likely to happen.

I was pretty angry about this injustice.  But this time the Lord was gracious.  Rather than vomiting words all over Derek, I called Julia whose husband also travels.  I asked her how she deals with the jealousy.  I cried a bunch about my ugly heart.

When there was an opportunity, I asked Derek to please stop telling me about his trip.  I told him that jealousy was rearing it’s ugly head and I needed him to protect me from my own filthy heart.

You ever notice how that is music to your husband’s ears?  Say it sometime: “Honey, I need you to protect me from…”  Just a little side note.  That one is free; you’ll thank me later.

But do you see what my Jesus did in my heart?  Do you see how He changed me in just over two weeks of living?  I went from a woman who flew off the handle in a sinful way over something that I had a right to be angry for (but not a right to treat him in that manner) to a woman who called someone before spewing angry words to work through my own sinful mess before calmly telling my husband what I needed.

That first incident resulted in this scripture proving true of me:

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Proverbs 29:20

That second scenario kind of had this feeling on both sides:

A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

Proverbs 25:11

Isn’t it amazing the way that He works in us? Now, I’m not saying I’ve got this word thing down.  I”m sure today and tomorrow and the next I will fail again and again and again. But I am saying, that I’m kinda startled at my reaction in this second scenario.  Was that person who spoke calmly and rationally to my husband really me?  Yes… through the power of Christ working through me… I have changed a little.  Moved just a little closer to who He created me to be.

Now back to my little cliff-hanger.  What do these two word incidents have in common? Anger and discontent.  So ladies, that’s where I’m digging in over the next four weeks while Elizabeth, Danielle, Sarah, and Julia treat you with their words and growth.

Tell me: where do you struggle with anger and discontent in marriage?  Do you have any words of advice for me as I embark on this new journey?

The Intentional Marriage Bed {Construction School for Wives}

My dear friend Julia is here today writing about what I hoped none of these girls would be brave enough to tackle.  Mainly because my heart is that selfish… and I don’t want to change.  This post and a couple books I’m reading are starting to soften this hard heart.  I hope it softens all of your hearts too.
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As a mama of a six-month-old and two three year olds, I am in a season of life that leaves me just bone-tired.

I love the way Steve Weins describes this level of tired,
Ragged, how-am-I-going-to-make-it-to-the-end-of-the-day, eyes-burning exhausted.
Nailed it, right?
I don’t know how you make it through days like this. I, pretty much function on coffee, prayer, and the hope that schedules will align, and just maybe (please, please, please-with-a-cherry-on-top, God?) all three girls will be down for a nap at the same time.
By eight, most nights, all three girls are in bed—we might come to the 8:00 bedtime limping and barely hanging on, but we get there. Then, Brad and I enjoy a bit of time together before we head to bed.
So. Here’s the scene:
Teeth freshly brushed, face washed, comfy pajamas on, lights off, head nestled into my pillow, eyelids heavy, soon to be asleep—when it happens—my husband speaks into the quiet darkness of our room, asking for some “couple time”. (Click to Tweet this little cliffhanger line.)
I reel, because I was halfway asleep, and being jerked back awake when I am oh-so-tired is jarring. My head spins with:
Say what? Are you freaking kidding me?? (Only, maybe I don’t use the word “freaking”) Doesn’t he know how tired I am?? And Ruby will be awake in a hour or two—doesn’t he realize that I need sleep! What a selfish jerk!
What I actually respond with is way worse:
All day long the girls have wanted a piece of me—my time, my energy, my milk—I have given all of myself, and you’re just One.More.Thing….wanting. You’re just not on my to-do list. 
 Ouch!
Yeah. Not pretty. A glimpse into my ugly, albeit, weary heart.
When God created man and woman and gave them the gift of sex, it was beautiful:
…and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:24b-25)
That kind of love and vulnerability is indeed a good gift.
(I’m a closet science nerd) Did you know that there are only two other mammals that have sex for pleasure?
The dolphin and the bonobo. Don’t know what a bonobo is? Neither did I.
So cute, right?
So, since we’re one of three mammals on the planet who enjoy sex, it’s special. A gift.
Speaking of other animals, do you know what the next verse says?
Now, the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord had made. (Genesis 3:1)
If you keep reading, the serpent tempts Adam and Eve, they munch on an apple, and sin enters the world.
God designed marriage to be the closest, most important relationship we have here on Earth. It’s no mistake that just after describing the beauty of physical intimacy with our spouse, the serpent enters the story.
When sin entered the world, that snake coiled around marriage and sex and oneness—and made a relationship that was complete and full into something that we have to claw and fight to find joy in—sometimes.
My response when my husband asked for “couple time”? Those words were full of slippery, slimy snaky-ness.
I described my Love, the person closest to me on this planet, as grocery item to be checked off a list—and this day, he didn’t even make it on my list. I put everything else ahead of the one who is supposed to fall in line right below God.
So….
What to do.
I’m still super-tired. With that sin-snake comes babies who don’t sleep, and toddlers who test boundaries Every.Waking.Second.
But.
I am trying (claw and fight, right?) to be intentional with my husband. To go to bed earlier. To say yes. To love him well in this bone-weary, sleep-deprived season of life.
Join me in the fight?
Because he’s important.
Because this oneness thing is a gift to be enjoyed.
Because “couple time” is an important part of a healthy marriage.
And, I really, really, hate snakes.
(Love those bonobos though!)

Showing Unconditional Love {Construction School for Wives}

Hey there fellow wives! My name is Sarah

I’m 28 years old, mother to two little ones (Emma is 7 and the other one is still in utero) and wife to my hunk of burnin’ love, Lee! 

 

 

I’ll start my topic with a story. I’m good with those.
A few days ago I sent my dear friend Melissa an email stating this:
“Hey I haven’t formed much thought past lay still and don’t vomit. Having a rough time starting my blog post for wives.”
Her, as always, kind response (I’m laughing because we both struggle with kindly responding to many things sometimes hahaha) was this:
 
You’ve got a whole other 2 weeks minus two days. I think you can manage. Use a pen and paper and just write here and there… How can you love Lee unconditionally while worshiping the porcelain god?… Pray and see what comes. I really think you’ll be able to do this… and I really think this is a good time/topic for you: even though it feels hard…. I’ll be happy to take it as late as Tuesday. And I know you’re the straight A super lady who held down a job/internship/school. This is easy stuff in that way… but hard stuff in the heart arena. You need hard stuff in the heart arena. It keeps us on our knees… Hang in there. I’m praying for you.
The words “You need hart stuff in the heart arena. It keeps us on our knees (and not just worshiping the porcelain god). Hang in there. I’m praying for you.” resonated in my heart only to be smothered by nausea and the desire to sit and not move so I wouldn’t vomit. I made it to the kitchen to grab a little bit of juice, get Emma on her next task for the morning, and sit in the family room/dining room/whatever you want to call it.
 
Then, in walks my sweet husband. The reason why my heart still gets butterflies and often the reason why I smile through my tears (because he’s absolutely and ridiculously wonderful). He’s also often the reason why my patience is tested in the morning and why I’m often late to things. No one’s perfect. We try to go with the flow. However, sometimes going with the flow isn’t always that easy.
 
So, there I was, not wanting to move and I hear Lee ask “Would you like to do your amazing and loving husband a huge favor?”

I literally cringed and not so lovingly gave a very sarcastic “Sure.”

He bravely responds, “Can you iron my clothes?” (He was running late again)

 What my heart didn’t do in this moment was say YES! A chance to respond in unconditional love like the Lord has been teaching me! It did this:

 “Yes.” (It was not a polite yes)

Lee gives a sound of frustration and walks off.

And I respond with another win!

“You should’ve woken up on time! Don’t make me feel bad because you’re running late.”

Yep. I cringe again. But this time, at myself. Ugh! That was NOT how that was supposed to go! I knew I blew it.

However, I felt the Lord draw near as He so very often does when I screw up because He’s pretty amazing at encouraging us when we don’t get it right. Why? Because His love is (say it with me now) UNCONDITIONAL. 

 So, I get determined to do the best freakin’ ironing job I’ve ever done!!! Because when we mess up our first instinct is to DO better right? We tend to focus a LOT on doing as wives and mothers. 

Then I hear, “Can I have a glass of water?”

I look at Emma and her big blue eyes and literally almost respond with: does it look like I can get you a glass of water while I’m trying to iron? However, I’ve had a little more time being her Mom than being Lee’s wife so I’m a tad bit more used to swallowing my pride and responding with kindness.

I’m able to muster a very controlled response of “Mommy is busy and will get you water as soon as she can.”

Thank the Lord Emma responded with, “Okay.” And walks off to create more chaos with my Mom’s sweet pup that we were watching that week.

I then get back to ironing (and yes this story does have a point). When Lee comes in to get his clothes I, without making eye contact (because I’m thoroughly embarrassed at how I handled the situation), kindly apologize to him and he apologizes to me. We then look at each other at different moments and stifle a laugh because we both know we both messed up that morning and smile because we still love each other very much. 

 It’s truly moments like that, that make my heart beat harder for him. 

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Unconditional love.

That is my topic.

 It doesn’t come easy to me. Life has been hard for me since the age of three and I’ve been through a lot. In a quick nut shell, living through childhood abuse and realizing later in life that your parents desperately tried to hold you together while you fell apart during recovery is how I learned my first lesson in unconditional love. My parents, quite simply, love me. A lot! Recovering as a single parent after my heart was almost irrecoverably broken during my first marriage from Emma’s father un-repentantly committing adultery is how I learned another lesson in unconditional love. When someone throws us away, tells us and shows us we’re nothing, we are ALWAYS the bride of Christ and we are ALWAYS lavishly adored by our Savior. (<— Click to Tweet) His love is always unconditional.

Let me say that again because this is key to everything.

His love. is ALWAYS. unconditional. He is a loving father to His children, and those truths hold my core together.

Unconditional love.

How do we show this in a marriage?

Let’s get personal. How do I show this in my marriage?

I show it only when I’m gazing up at my Father, knowing I’m a sinner saved by HIS grace ALONE and am filled by HIS love which pours out as love to my husband.

I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Let’s get very excited to hear that no wife is perfect. If a wife is aiming to be perfect……they’ve failed. You’ve lost your focus on Christ and re-centered it on self performance.

Rejoice!

Yes, your failure is good news because it means you need a Savior and if you have a relationship with Jesus then you have a Savior. THAT’S EXCITING NEWS!!!! YOU HAAAAAAAAAVE AAAAAAAAAA SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVIOR!!!!! YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT!!!!! YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT HIS PERFECT LOVE FOR YOU!!!

 You and I have to look at Jesus and let the truth of HIS love sink into your very broken and often recovering soul and rejoice.

Sounds easy. It’s not. Because like my morning in the story, we all have mornings where we don’t show unconditional love. Because yes, we do want it to be all about ourselves. Because we’re imperfect. Because we’re sinners. Because we need a Savior.

 But rejoice.

Because there is One.

Learning to Trust God and My Man {Construction School for Wives}

Danielle is here this week helping us learn to build up our homes instead of tear them down. I’m so excited about how she paints a picture of who we should trust in most.

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Hi, my name is Danielle. I am 34 years old, been married for 12 years, and have 4 children, 6, 4, 3, and 1.

I’ve been pondering the task that Melissa has set before me – to pick one area of marriage that I need to work on and then report back my findings. Well, the one thing that keeps coming to mind is  this over arching theme of trust.  I’ve been mulling over in my mind what this means and how I can apply it to my marriage.

So, let’s take some time together. Grab a steaming cup of coffee and join me on the couch. Lord willing, if you stick with me, there will be some growth in this for both of us.

Trust is a funny thing. Over time it can be built up or it can come crashing down in an instant. There are times when I find that I don’t trust that man of mine. That tall, ruggedly handsome, jack-of-all trades. Why do I let the fear taint the everyday? Why is it that when he gives me a fantastic gift  the first thing that runs through my mind is ‘Why, what has he done?’ Not, amazing gratitude. Why is it that when he offers to help someone carry signage away from the picnic pavilion, I see him helping a beautiful women, who obviously isn’t carrying around the marks of giving birth to 4 children in 5 years, instead of just helping someone in need. I question his motives.

This lack of trust curls around my heart and wafts through almost every area of my life. Does he know what he is doing with our finances, why hasn’t he fixed the house yet, is it really best to let the kids have those suckers…

This lack of trust in the man that God has given me, is it really a lack of trust in God? For me, in the end, it is.

A verse that keeps running through my mind is Proverbs 3:5, 6. If you’ve grown up in Christian circles, then you will have memorized this when you were 3 and can recite it backwards and forwards while doing a handstand. It is amazingly deep, but sometimes with familiarity, comes forgetfulness.

But, if you aren’t familiar with the verse, here it is:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

(emphasis added) Proverbs 3:5,6

You might be wondering why I’m starting out with a verse about trusting God and not about my husband. But I think that unless I’m truly trusting in the Father, I can’t completely trust my husband.

God is always faithful – ALWAYS. There is never a time when He is not. I thought that it might be a good idea to look up the word ‘faithful’ and see what it really meant. On my search, I found that the word ‘faithfulness‘ is often paired with the phrase ‘steadfast love’. Well, what does that mean? So off again to the dictionary to see what exactly ‘steadfast’ means. Most of us know what the connotation of the these two words are but maybe not the denotation. ‘Steadfast’ means ‘fixed’ or ‘unwavering’. And, ‘faithfulness’ means ‘true to one’s promises’.

So God’s love is unwavering and He always keeps His promises.

Construction School for Wives

When I look at my love for my husband in this light, I realize that I fail on a daily basis. Now I know that this article is supposed to be about me trusting him and his love for me, blah, blah, but I’m finding that God is using this to call me out on the sin in my own heart. How many times have I wavered in my love for my husband and how many times have I not been true to my promise?

Now that this has come to light, I want you, if you’re willing, to walk part of this path with me. Over the next month, instead of doubting our husbands, let’s look into our own hearts and see where we are doubting God, and where we could improve on being steadfast and faithful. Beware, fear is going to take hold, pride too, and will try to get our focus onto what (we think) our husbands are doing wrong. But know this, I’m praying for you, and more importantly, we have an Advocate with the Father who is interceding for us right now.

 

 

In the Dirt Serving {Construction School for Wives}

Today Elizabeth is visiting Quiet Graces with the following piece on growing in service toward our husbands.
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Construction School for Wives
I pull the wrinkled, stained page from my recipe binder. Raspberry Barbeque Baby Back Ribs. I need to get these ribs marinated. To do them right, it takes three steps, and two days.

First, a honey-and-soy-sauce marinade is brushed on the racks, and they’re left to soak up those sweet-savory juices overnight. Next, a pungent spice mix is rubbed on, and the ribs cook low and slow in the oven, ‘til the meat practically falls off the bone. Then, the homemade barbeque sauce is made … molasses, a touch of brown sugar, allspice, vinegar, ketchup, and raspberry jam. A low simmer melds the flavors. A final turn on the grill finishes them off, basted liberally in the barbeque sauce.

This has been part of our Father’s Day tradition for years, and it’s also part of my annual gift to the dads in my life — but tonight, it just feels like a duty.

We just got back from my oldest daughter’s last softball game, and of course, we had to stop and get frozen yogurt afterward to commemorate the season properly. So, it’s late – reaching toward 9:30 p.m. – and I know our three-year-old, Adam, hasn’t had a nap and desperately needs bed.

We’re leaving the next day to visit my parents in Ohio for Father’s Day weekend. And, I’ve been  hoping, as usual, that my husband could bathe and put our three-year-old son to bed.

Because, these ribs won’t make themselves.

I’m grumpy. It’s late. And, my husband won’t do what I want him to.

***

Last month, I was supposed to choose an area in my marriage to work on – a way that I can glorify God and be more of the wife He’s called me to be. {Let’s call this one Melissa’s fault, um, inspiration.}

At first, I choose prayer. I’m a terribly spotty pray-er, and I want to pray in a more focused and consistent manner. It’s a personal goal of mine.

And, I reason, who couldn’t benefit both from praying more {me} and being prayed more for {my husband}?

But, I sense a hard knot of obstinance around another area in my marriage. Service. You see, I am a stingy server, when it doesn’t suit me.

I will make you an awesome, four-course, gourmet meal – when I feel like it.
I will go out of my way to make plans for a special outing for just the two of us – when I want to. I will help you with a project – when I’m in the mood.

Time after time, my husband has asked me, wouldn’t I work in the yard with him? I used to, before kids, and he wishes I would now. But, I take great offense to this request. Don’t I do enough work? Doesn’t someone have to clean the house? Doesn’t someone have to watch the kids?

***

I’ve written a classic “serve” scripture on an index card and placed it above the kitchen sink, where I’m sure to see it.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:44-45

I will memorize it, reflect and meditate on it, internalize it. I will pray on it.

I don’t.

Beside that index card is my weekly two verses from Psalm 139, which I’m working on memorizing in its entirety. My eyes skim over my Serve verse and work on Psalm 139 instead.

Did I mention I’m stubborn?

But, God still softens my heart enough to know this: It’s surprisingly specific, but definitely service-related. And it’s sitting in our driveway right now, a mini mountain of the double-shredded stuff.  Mulch.

Construction School for Wives

I put on faded black shorts and an old tank top after dinner and announce it’s family mulch night. The girls load buckets with mulch and bring them to me in the narrow bed filled with hosta and spirea, where I’m arranging swathes of dark-brown bark. Adam even gets in on the action {until he gets bored}, filling the bed of his big dump trunk with mulch.

Construction School for Wives

I swipe at my brow with a dirty glove and know I’ve just painted a dark smear.

But, Bob walks past me to the back yard, stops, and smiles. You look good, working there. He says.  And I know he means it.

As much as I might want to think romance means putting on a dress and high heels for a night out, my husband just might prefer seeing me in fitted workout clothes, hefting a bucket of mulch.

And I start to realize that serving like Jesus is not just about working hard, or making something for someone else.

Serving like Jesus means working hard and making something for someone else, even when you don’t want to. (<— Click to Tweet) It’s about serving another they way they want {or need} you to, not the way you feel like it.

Construction School for Wives

And, the funny thing is as the soft late Spring twilight descends on our mulch-covered family of five, I realize that this time outside, together, has been a blessing to me.

Though I never would have chosen it.