Love Does not Keep a Marriage Together

Love does not keep a marriage together.  I know that is what we all want to believe. We want to believe in the happy every after and the fairytale endings. But fairytales don’t tell the rest of the story.  Marriage is hard.

What right do I have to talk about marriage? I am not a marriage counselor. I am married, but I have not been married long, only six years. That is not a long time in the large scheme of life. We work hard to make our marriage stronger every day, but as in all marriages, some days we have more conflict than other days. Some days we try harder than other days. We love each other, though there are many days where we really don’t appreciate each others’ actions. There are times we are rude to each other and say things that we do not mean. I don’t say all this to berate marriage or bash my husband (it is a two way street), but I only want to be real with you, and this is the honest truth. I love my husband with all my heart, but that is not the reason I stay married to him.

I challenge anybody who says their marriage has been easy the entire time they have been married. They are lying. They are either lying to themselves or they are lying to you.

Don’t get me wrong, marriage has many good merits. I don’t mean to discourage anybody thinking about getting married. I do mean for you to think, to think long and hard why you want to get married and why you want to marry the person you want to marry. I want you to talk to each other and know that your opinions will probably change and that you will not always agree and you will probably forget to talk about the things you should talk about before you get married and during marriage.

This is not a lesson in how to make your marriage work or a check list of what to do before you get married. This is just the truth.

Lately, this subject has been on my heart. This season of young children has not been an easy one for my husband and I. We find ourselves, at times, disagreeing more than agreeing and we often find ourselves blaming each other instead of encouraging each other. Maybe this subject has been on my heart because I know of several newly married and young married people getting a divorce or talking about divorce. I know of some marriages that I thought were strong that are faltering and are on the brink of breaking up. I know of many women scorned and hardened and bitter about their previous marriage(s), and probably justly so.  It makes me sad; my heart breaks for them.

That brings me back to the point.

Love will not keep your marriage together.

It takes much much more than love. Marriage takes commitment, sacrifice, perseverance, and hard work. Lots of it!  You have to choose to work through your conflict and make your marriage work! Don’t compare your marriage to others and don’t pretend to be something you are not.  In this world of social media, all we see are glimpses of the good and the happy in people’s lives. Rarely do you see the whole picture.  A picture is not always worth a thousand words. Have you ever taken a picture and right before you snapped the picture,you were all fighting or the toddler was screaming or the teenager was sulking? Or have you ever been in a feud with your husband, then walked into church and put on the happy church mask?  People rarely take pictures of their kid in a tantrum or their husband with the other woman. They don’t usually take pictures of their house with laundry piles everywhere. I’m not saying we should post these things, and I’m especially not saying to get on social media or with your friends and bash your husbands or wives and hash out your spouse’s latest failings.  That is neither healthy, nor productive. I’ve heard of these said groups, and while I don’t try to be fake on my social media accounts, I do try to be real and positive. The world or your mother or your sister do not need to hear about your latest argument or the latest thing your spouse did to wrong you. I’m not saying to never discuss these situations with a trusted friend or mentor. However, I do believe that those moments should mostly be between you, your spouse, God and a licensed therapist, if necessary.

Yes, marriage is hard. It takes sacrifice and a whole lot of sweat!  You may wonder, why am I saying all this?  Haven’t I talked about how sweet and helpful my husband has been?  Yes, and he is, much of the time. But many times, he is not. Many times he fails me and yes, many times, more than I can count, I fail him. But you know what? We choose to stay together. We choose to work on our conflict and work on our marriage.  We both acknowledge that we are not perfect (most of the time). As stated before, I do not want to berate marriage or my husband, I just want people to know the truth, the real genuine truth.

Your husband is probably not going to pick up his shoes; your wife may never put your clothes away and they may constantly be wrinkled. Your husband may withdraw when he gets home from work or spend more time then you like in front of electronics. Your wife may insult your parenting skills.  Your husband will probably forget to pick up the milk. Your wife will probably bust your budget.

But marriage is from God, and only good comes from God.

“Have you not heard that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19: 4-6

Marriage is good. Marriage allows for unconditional love by choice. Marriage opens your heart and mind to other perspectives and other ways of doing things. Marriage is someone who is there for you when a loved one dies or when you are laid off or your dreams are crushed or your children go astray. Marriage is someone who supports you and stands up for you. Marriage is waking up to the same person everyday with morning breath and morning gas, and disheveled hair and no make up. Marriage is the man or woman cleaning up vomit on the carpet at two am. It is all these things and more.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Do you ever wonder why there are so many comparisons to marriage in the Bible?  God knows we need someone to slap us in the face sometimes (not literally). He knows we need unconditional love and great mercy. Oh the mercy we need, daily.  Perhaps God meant to show a glimpse of his unbounding merciful love and sacrifice for us. That he will love us no matter how much we argue with him, no matter that we fail daily. He sacrificed his Son. There is no greater love than that.  To lay down your life.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38-39

You know what else, Satan does not want your marriage to succeed.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spirituals forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6: 11-12

For if your marriage succeeds, then it is a testament to the one true living God. A testament that there is a God and he is powerful and merciful and just. God will see you through all that the devil throws at you!  When you feel your marriage is failing, please don’t give up;  keep praying and trying. For it is more than love that will see you through.

Prayer:

Oh, God,

Hear our prayers. Know we are sinners daily and we need your mercy daily. Teach us to love unconditionally like you and to practice great mercy daily. Be with our marriages and keep Satan out of them.  Amen

What are some ways that God has sustained your marriage?

 

Thank you for reading! Please share with those who might be struggling!

The Middle of Nowhere: How I Learned to Love More

I’m visiting grandparents this week. They live in the middle of nowhere at least 5 miles down a country dirt road. I am not exaggerating! This is not where I grew up, my dad moved here for his job my freshman year in college.

Everything here seems so much more expansive. You can see stars for miles. You can see all sorts of creatures. We see birds, flowers, bees, spiders, lizards, raccoons, and even the occasional deer or fox.  Of course we can see most of these at home, but somehow it seems more impressive, more expansive, bigger.

Life is slower. There is no rushing here and there, partly because it’s the way of life, and partly because there are just not that many choices. You can only drive so fast over a 5 mile gravel road with potholes. There is so much to do, yet so little. My daughter has a huge forest land to run and play in, a nature park right outside the door. “Granny” has tons of old toys and books which are completely new to my daughter.  There are birds to watch, lizards to catch, bees to run from. There is plenty of space to throw a ball that does not entail mommy chasing it down a steep hill (our current home situation)! The best part of all: there are at least 2 other people to give her attention: Granny and Granddaddy!

I love my city, my house, my life. I don’t wish to move to the country (though I would not rule it out), but the country is a nice place to visit. This country place reminds me of just how beautiful life can be. It shows me how to be present and oh, how the opportunities abound for teaching about how awesome our God is. How majestic is His name!

“Can you count the stars?”  “Isn’t it amazing how God made all these stars.” “Look how many variety of flowers there are; it looks like a painting.” “How great is it that God gave you so many people who love you.”   “Look how God made the lizards and spiders.”

This country place makes me stop. It makes me slow down. This place reminds me to appreciate the world God has given to me and to respect it. It reminds me to share my love of God with my children and with others.  There is something about an old porch swing that gives you answers, answers that were in front of me all along.

1. Point out God’s wonder and beauty around you. God made the butterflies, the stars, and you. Just like you can’t count the stars, you can’t measure how great is God’s love for you.

2.  Spend Thirty Minutes a Day with your loved ones.  I’m currently reading Purposeful Parenting, by Jean S. Barnes. She suggests to spend 30 minutes a day with our loved ones.

“Practicing the Thirty Minutes a Day Rule became intentional- and turned into so much more. By intentionally making thirty minutes a day for simply delighting in one another, we learned how to really pay attention to each other in snatches too…. Looking for ways to give one another undivided attention became a lifestyle, and it strengthened our relationships just like layer upon layer of glue holds things together, because nothing makes the ones you love feel more cherished than your attention, your constant practice of being there. In being there, I discovered another wonderful practice in how to show the kind of love that’s transforming. This practice is about seizing extraordinary moments that might otherwise pass you by as ordinary. It’s about seeing the cracks in your child’s soul, where values, discoveries, and new ideas can be planted and begin to seep in and take root.”

I say we take this a little further, and also apply it to significant others or anyone else we may be living with at the moment, be that a roommate, a parent, or sibling.

3. Pray in the moment. In the serenity of the country, I was looking at Facebook (ironic, I know!), and I saw a post from a friend whose son is having surgery. I showed my daughter the picture of the little boy and I said, “He is sick. He needs our prayers.” Then we prayed right then. I had never done this before. It must have been God given. I think it did leave an impression on my 3 year old, but it taught me so much more.

4. Accept distractions.  Though the country is quiet at times, often it really is not. You have tree branches creaking, birds chirping, porch swings rocking, bees and hummingbirds buzzing. At night there is the wind blowing when it is stormy, frogs and crickets singing their melody. And the occasional cougar screaming (yes there are cougars in that part of the world). Owls may hoot and woodpeckers are pecking, but though the wind may be blowing through the trees, the distractions are different. It is the distraction of just watching in amazement at the bumblebees for 20 minutes as my sister and daughter did; it is the finding of extraordinary large pine cones and the variety of flowers all around you. It is the distractions of chasing the squirrels and raccoons off the bird feeders. Yes it is a different distraction, one that is God given.

I recently attended a conference where the one thing that stuck out to me was that our children our an interruption ministry. That has changed how I look at parenting. Instead of being annoyed every time I am interrupted while cleaning the dishes or doing laundry (these tasks will take me all day, if finished at all), if I look at my children as a ministry, it changes my whole demeanor.

5. Tell them you love them. This goes for more than just your children, but includes your friends, your spouse, your siblings and parents. We all need to hear that someone loves us. God did not make us to be solitary people, he made us to be loved and to love. Tell those that are important to you that you love them. All the time. Everyday.  I love you even when… I love you especially when…. I love you all the time.

Thanks for reading! Please share with those who need to hear these words!

For the Love of Chocolate

DSC_0197I LOVE chocolate! Just about any kind, with nuts, without, with peanut butter, caramel, whatever. If it has chocolate in it or around it, I will eat it and be bribed by it. One of my favorite kinds of chocolate is Dove chocolate, every flavor. I even love the little sayings that come in the wrapper. Now, I’m sure the Dove manufacturers did not intend to provoke profound thinking on their wrappers. And often, I just read them in passing. Some are cute, some are downright stupid (sorry Dove), and some are sweet. But one recently did have me pondering deep thoughts (maybe it’s the breastfeeding hormones).  “Do all things with love.”

Do ALL things with LOVE. Really?? Do ALL things with LOVE? Am I supposed to potty train with love, change diapers with love, eat, feed my children, fold laundry with love? While these things seem trivial, are they? What if we did everything from the lens of “Do ALL things with LOVE“.

Would that make the mundane things a little more enjoyable, or just increase the pressure of being a parent? After all, as all moms and dads know, toddlers and infants are exhausting (as I’m sure any age can be).  Between taking my two year old to the potty for the millionth time, cleaning the floor and sheets from pee and poo (I am happy to report that we are now almost completely potty trained!, just trying to get that #2!). Between  begging her to go # 2 on the potty and bribing her with a new toy and ice cream (which has not worked), and just short of forcing her on the toilet (which I realize does not work either!).  Between nursing every few hours to soothing a fussy baby at all hours, the last thing I  think about sometimes is love. I think about sleep and rest and peace! I think about being able to sit down with my lunch and not have little hands grabbing at my plate demanding at that instant to eat, even though they may have just eaten or just said they were done! I think about drinking HOT tea or coffee. I want to read a book in its entirety and in one sitting. I want to finish writing this post without interruption. I want to be able to eat my chocolate without having to hide it or share it with my child.

Maybe that is the point. Parenting is not glorious work. But neither was Jesus’ work . Did he want to constantly be traveling and speaking and healing? How many times did he get interrupted while praying or having a meal with his friends. How many times did he get woken up by cries and whines? How many times did he just want to spend time with his Father without having to break up an argument or soothe somebody? He did those things out of love and with love. Do ALL things with love.

“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16: 14

What if, instead of lamenting our days away we said the following instead:

How amazing is it that my two year old is learning to go to the bathroom all by herself? How awesome is it that I can see my baby boy growing right before my eyes?. How extraordinary are all those dirty and wet diapers, for they are a sign that he is healthy?

While not the most glorious acts, these are all opportunities to show love. Show our love in discipline and teaching and learning. And even though this season of my life with young children seems to be dragging by at times, I know this too shall pass. Will I look back and say I did all things with love and that my children knew they were loved? At the end of the day, ask yourself:  Did I have a heart filled with love or was my heart weary and weighed down with the tasks and to do lists of the day?

I want to make sure my children know that they are loved. I don’t want them to remember a clean house, every meal being at 6:30, or an organized playroom. While there is certainly nothing wrong with, and I do aim for those things, my point is this:

I want my children to remember the laughter we shared, coloring and building blocks together. I want them to remember me baking with them and taking them to the park. I want them to have love filled memories.  I want them to remember that I loved them, just as they were. And, perhaps, I will share my chocolate. 🙂 (Sometimes…)

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to share!

Be sure to follow me for weekly encouragement from the realities of my ordinary life!

If That Isn’t Love

I wanted to share the following excerpt from one of my favorite daily devotional books. This is from “Grace for the Moment”, by Max Lucado.  (http://maxlucado.com/)

“You Were in His Prayers”

“The final prayer of Jesus was about you. His final pain was for you. His final passion was for you. Before he went to the cross, Jesus went to the garden. And when he spoke with his Father, you were in his prayers…

And God couldn’t turn his back on you. He couldn’t because he saw you, and one look at you was all it took to convince him. Right there in the middle of a world which isn’t fair. He saw you cast into a river of life you didn’t request. He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body which gets sick and a heart which grows weak…

On the eve of the cross, Jesus made his decision. He would rather go to hell for you than go to heaven without you. 

If that isn’t love then I don’t know what is!  I hope you enjoy your weekend loving your family and friends! Thanks for reading!

I will leave you with a link to one of my favorite gospel songs:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jltKwX6ifzQ

Choose Before You Lose the Choice

IMG_0192I’ve always prided myself on being independent. I enjoy my privacy and “me” time. I can sit for hours reading a book or watching “chick” flicks and be totally content. When I was a young girl, I could completely tune anybody out if I had a good book in my hand. I have gone to movies and restaurants completely by myself. I never realized how much I would miss the presence of just being in the company of another woman. Not til recently that is. You see, we lost my mother- in- law to a fight with pancreatic cancer last summer. On July 7th, it will have been a year.  When we would visit, she would just sit in the same room with me, while the guys would be watching football or NASCAR, or whatever stupid stuff that guys watch. I admit, at times, it slightly annoyed me. I just wanted to be left alone. With a new baby and working part time and keeping the house in order, it was nice to get away, to not have to worry with responsibility, to not worry about spending the few hours my baby was asleep in getting the laundry done, getting dinner started, etc. Even when my baby was awake, she was entertained by “Mimi”, and her uncle and “Pop”, and I could get even more time to myself or just feel free to be with my daughter without having 15 million tasks in my head. I longed for alone time, as it had become a luxury.

Now, it’s changed. There are still the presence of people, but nobody is there to just talk, or just be. (Not in the same way, at least). I try not to live with regrets, but I regret not utilizing that time to open up and talk, instead of selfishly reading my magazines or books. Sometimes, now, I wish for someone to just sit with me, not having to say a word. I know it will get easier, but it was not expected so soon. You never have enough time. The choice is gone, the choice to talk or the choice to be silent. Not that I can’t talk to the rest of the family members, but as all women know, it is not the same. God made men and women different, and we need both for a reason.

So the next time you find yourself getting annoyed, remember you nor they will be in this world forever. God plants you in this world and other people’s lives for a  reason. Don’t waste your time not realizing what you might be missing one day. One day you won’t get the choice.

As we approach the year anniversary of our loss, we have recently lost another family member to cancer.  The upcoming anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death and the recent loss of my husband’s beloved uncle serve as reminders for us to live in the moment. And to remember, that if it is not going to matter in a year or five years, then it should not matter now.  This has always been a challenge for me, as I do have the tendency to worry and be overly critical. I tend to avoid the awkwardness of those “touchy, feely” moments”. I am not the girl who needs lots of affection. Not that I don’t love my family or my husband’s family, I just don’t have the inclination to always be holding  or hugging somebody. My love language tends to be more quality time and acts of service then touch. Being that I am almost 8 months pregnant, I do not enjoy people touching my belly, even if they are family. I will let them, but it is honestly just awkward to have anybody touch my belly, including my husband. Now of course I will let my husband touch my belly, as I want him to feel his son kick. (and kick he does!)

I know we all get busy in our own lives, and our intentions are rarely to not spend time with our loved ones, but truly our time is fleeting.  Recent events in my own town serves as a reminder of that as well. Recently there was a horrific crash, totaling six people dead and three more injured.  These were wives and husbands and fathers and mothers and friends. It all seems so meaningless, but let it remind us that our life on earth is but a moment. I see it all too much in my career as a nurse:  A young man’s life taken from one silly driving mistake, by him or others. A bad judgment call of the elderly women, only to cause her to fall and hit her head.  A complete accident on a horse or at your job, that can completely paralyze you or take away your ability to work. It only takes one of these times for you to know that life is too short. We need to hug our loved ones close and let them know how important they are to us.  Love like it is your last day. I don’t mean you have to spend every last moment checking off your bucket list, and telling people you love them constantly. We all have our daily tasks that are important in their own right. But don’t let it consume you, and even through the fights and tears that we all have, make sure your husband or parents or children, or anybody else in your life know that they are loved. Maybe all you need to do is send a text, maybe it is a phone call to a long lost friend, maybe it is a hug or reaching out and holding somebody’s hand, maybe it is simply being in their presence or bringing them their favorite tea or coffee. We all have ways of showing love, we just need to choose that path.

My mother-in-law was a great example of loving like it was your last day. She had a servant’s heart. You knew you were loved in her presence. Even in her sickness and last days, her utmost concern was for others. She must have learned the art of loving early. She lost her mother at a young adult age, too young in a tragic accident. She must have known all too well how fleeting life could be and how one phone call could change your life forever. She had not time to anticipate a loss; one day her mother was alive, the next day she wasn’t. I did not know her then, but I can only imagine how that would change your perspective on love and life. She also did not get married until her late 20s or early 30s.  For that generation, I can only imagine the pressure she felt to settle down. I can imagine when she did finally find that love, she was not going to let it go without a fight.

You can’t always control life and what may or may not happen to you, but you always have a choice. To know you need to love everyday is one thing, to practice the art of loving and choosing to love everyday, that is extraordinary.

Choose to Fight for Love! Choose to Love Everyday

What are some ways you can show love today?

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes these partial things will become useless. Three things will last forever-faith, hope, and love-and the greatest of these is love. “ 1 Corinthians 13: 1-10, 13

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to share if these words helped you in any way. My prayer is for God to use my words for his glory!

The Moments That Take Your Breath Away

Wednesday morning I had a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting, in which we discussed, after viewing an inspirational video, having the courage to rest and rejuvenate. Inspired from the meeting, I took the time to take a stroll with my toddler and dog. (Walking is one of my ways to rejuvenate). Especially at this time of year where there are so many expectations; so many pressures. The pressure to buy the right gift, the pressure to do all the Christmas activities, the pressure to make those homemade cookies. (that’s the biggest one hanging over my head right now). There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those activities. It can all be just a little too much, a little too overwhelming.  Sometimes you just need to  stop and notice the sunset; smell the proverbial flower. That night, the sky was an incredible orange/purple; Christmas lights were coming on as we strolled. It was just what I needed. It is how, I believe, God speaks to me.

I sometimes feel as though my world is speeding by me. I am the highway on which the cars are whizzing .  I need some speed bumps slowing my life down. My little baby is growing up so fast; she is now a toddler and “big girl”. I am trying to remember to slow down and just be. Be with my Sophie and learn who she is; learn to be the parent she needs. . Be with my husband and just savor the moments. I have a hanging on my wall that says ” Life is not measured in the how many breaths you take, but in the moments that take your breath away”. How true that is. It is so hard to make yourself slow down, and I am no different. It is a miracle that I have slowed down to write this post. I have company coming for dinner; Christmas is too close. I have presents to wrap and a car to pack. My house is a mess (though much cleaner as I write this, sigh).  It looks as though we are moving from all boxes sitting all over my living room and guest (aka storage) room waiting to be wrapped. I am forgetting the reason behind all this craziness: the gratitude I feel to be able to have boxes full of gifts, the joy in my heart to be able to celebrate and provide a warm meal to loved ones. As I sit here heavy with burden of things to do,  I’ve become at peace (for the moment) realizing the joy and knowing I am loved by first and foremost my Savior.

My prayer is this:

That amongst the business of the season and this American life, we will stop. We will remember that God is in control. Maybe we don’t’ always see it, but that is why he is God and we are not. Remember the extraordinary moments. Moments where your almost two-year old shoves a whole handful of candy sprinkles in her mouth instead of on the cookies. (we did manage a few decorations on the cookies). Moments where your husband gives you a hug in the morning and tells you how much he appreciates and loves you. The moments of a father and daughter reading together. The moments of pure excitement as only a babe can manage over being able to balance on a step stool.  The moments of tickle giggles and incoherent babbling will soon be a distant memory. Those are a few of the moments that take my breath away. I would love for you to share the moments that take your breath away.

Philippians 4: 8 (NIV) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.

The day my daughter was born and my breath would be stolen in that moment forever.
The day my daughter was born and my breath would be stolen in that moment forever.