Posts tagged #marriage

Give the Man a Fish: Being a Wife that Helps Her Husband Take the Wheel

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To be perfectly honest, I am the “go-getter” when it comes to family matters in my home. I have been envisioning this phase of life since I played with my dolls as a toddler and named myself “Mrs. Judy Davis” after a Tide commercial. I love being a mom. My husband always knew he wanted kids, but that was as far as the daydream went. He pursued a career, he prayed for a wife, God answered…. And then seemingly all of a sudden four kids were clamoring to sit in his lap.

If he doesn’t get poked or prodded upon every encounter, he is lucky. Then the pour guy got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that zaps his energy. If he makes it to the kids’ bedtime without falling over, we are winning. This may not be your family situation, but perhaps your husband isn’t the CEO spiritual leader you were expecting.

What does it look like when the wife tends to have a more strategic vision for the family? Does it mean my husband isn’t our spiritual leader? No. I think we have a very narrow-minded view of what spiritual leadership looks like. God created a lot of different personalities, and His order works with each and every one of those. Sometimes our expectations of what it “should” look like are not from God’s Word. I challenge each of you to pray for your husband to lead biblically. In the meantime, if you have unmet hopes for him taking the wheel, try to discern if they are rooted in biblical truth. If you are seeking wisdom in this area, Entrusted With a Child’s Heart: A Biblical Study in Parenting, truly is based on the biblical standard. This is an excellent resource to guide you. Perhaps you have a husband who isn’t there yet… Keep praying, and maybe he is more ready than you think.

As you set your heart to seek the Lord, I want to give a few tips I’ve discovered that have set my husband’s personality up to lead. Perhaps they will help you as well:

  1. Give the Man a Fish.

We all know the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I must confess that I have been waiting for my husband to learn how to fish, when he just needs me to throw him some snapper. Sometimes we want our husbands to do the whole process of leading, but what our families need is his engagement and willingness. I want to propose that we act like the helper we were created to be, and we throw those guys a fish instead of always expecting them to “learn to fish.” Right now it looks more like, “Get that frozen fish out of the freezer, cook it, and hand it to your husband.” And he’s a good eater, so I’m giving it to him. Let me share some examples.

Because I homeschool, I read a devotional with my kids every day. (Ideally we would do that at breakfast time together, but we have a 5-year-old trapped in a teenager’s body and he.doesn’t.even.wake.up.for.natural.disasters. He rolls out of bed after Dad is at work.) Should I stop the devo because I’d prefer my husband to do it with them? No, it is a great part of our day. Instead I am going through a book, somewhat like systematic theology for kids, and I have my husband read the devotional at the dinner table. Here’s how “holy” this interaction was:

“Hey Travis, You know how you eat faster than everyone else in the family, and then you often get up and start doing the dishes? Would you mind reading this devo to the kids before you get up?”

“Sure.”

And he does it. Later I asked him if he felt I was bossing him around to ask him to do that. He didn’t think that at all. He was thankful for the opportunity. It turns out that most men do not stand around and talk about what Bible stories they are reading to their kids lately. As Christian women, we are flooded with great options… sometimes we have too many books to pick from and we are overwhelmed! Is it wrong to provide our husbands with a great book so our kids can see him leading? I don’t think so. If he has it in his heart to lead, don’t force him to complete the whole process. Sometimes your gentle “nudge” will get you where you want to be faster than you wishing and hoping he’ll be someone he isn’t.

Here’s another example:

“Hey, Travis, I feel so overwhelmed by everything our family is going through. I think we need to commit to praying as a family each night at bedtime.”

“Okay, great idea.”

It was typical for us that whoever put the kids to bed would pray over them. Now we sit in a circle most nights,  and we each take a turn praying. Travis closes the prayer for us. When my sons hear their daddy honestly approaching the Lord on our behalf, they are learning to be prayer warriors and spiritual leaders. Does it matter that it was my idea? No. Not.at.all.

And another:

Before we left for our recent road trip to visit family,

“I’ve been wanting to read this parenting book. Should I download the audiobook so we can listen together?”

“Cool. Sounds good.”

It wasn’t complicated, and we had some great discussions along the way. I also got to see Travis’s heart in wanting to lead… and he heard from someone else how crucial his influence is. Mwahahahaha, Mastermind Steph strikes again.

2. Leave.

Sometimes I worry about my baby getting diaper rash because Travis forgot to change her while I was gone. Or maybe he’ll give my son a food he’s allergic to. Or maybe they’ll all starve because every time I get back home the kids famishly greet me and say they haven’t eaten. (I hear this is typical for men, so I’m not husband-bashing, just being real.) They are always still alive when I get home, and they are probably learning valuable life lessons about not having their needs met immediately.

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Once I was away and my husband sent me a picture of his three “Mighty Men of Valor.” One of them was struggling with fear, and Travis was teaching them a Bible lesson. I didn’t set it up. And it probably wouldn’t have happened if I was home. Another time, and another moment of fear struck while I was away. Upon calling to check in, I found out that Travis was teaching our oldest Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I don’t think this would have happened if I had been home to “take care of everything.” If we want our husbands to lead, we have to get out of the driver’s seat.

Now whenever I leave, I give clear instructions for dinner and snacks… and sometimes it feels like I am prepping for a babysitter. But it’s okay. I didn’t marry the man so he could make gourmet meals for our kids. If setting out an easy dinner frees him up to build into them, microwave away those chicken nuggets, Babe.

The win for me is that we have now decided I will leave for a couple hours every few weeks to go get tea, read my Bible, and plan for homeschooling. I am getting refreshed, and my kids are getting more time with their dad.

3. Daddy Dates.

As a mom of four I work really hard to pour into my kids as individuals. It is a lot of work to make sure no one fades into the background. I like to take them on dates or errands as much as possible. Recently I realized they do need individual attention from me, but they need it more from their dad. As much as I’d like to be the one to take Ryder out for ice cream and 20 Questions, he needs a strong relationship with his father. This revelation came right after I had created a brand-new schedule for our season of life. I had adjusted everything around the baby’s naps, homeschooling, co-ops, etc… It turns out that Saturday mornings are the best time for Travis to have dates with the kids. Good-bye free morning with errands… I realize that I need to move my errand time to a weeknight after the kids go to bed (or take the other three for all my errands which happens a lot but is not nearly as efficient!). It’s not my preference, but I think the end result is so worth it to me. Now I plan on cleaning the house on Saturday mornings while the baby naps, and I will be teaching the other two boys to clean. Honestly it is a lot easier training two kids to clean than three, so it’s okay.

Here are some ideas for Daddy Dates that don’t break the bank:

  • Go out for cheap ice cream cones.

  • Do a workshop at Home Depot.

  • Go to library and let the child pick out their favorites.

  • Go play at a park.

  • Go out for breakfast (the cheapest meal of the day!).

  • Look for sports opportunities through the rec center that allow for a parent and a child to participate.

Also, we have the boys have “Work Dates with Dad” too. Maybe they help weed or go to the hardware store for supplies. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it’s okay to have them have a realistic view of life. They need to contribute to your family too.

I also asked my husband if he would like me to print out some questions to ask the kids to have in his wallet. Instead, Mr. Technology prefers to use his phone. :) I may still remind him to use the list, but he is willing and set up for intentionality!

4. Give him credit in front of the kids.

My kids may not see one of the most pivotal ways Travis leads our family. He is a rock when I am anxious. When the kids are in bed, and I pour out my worries to him, he prays with me, and he often helps guide me to make decisions that are rooted in faith. When the storm of my fear passes, and all my kids see is a calm mom, they need to know their father was part of the solution.

Also, Travis falls asleep every night listening to God’s Word. I want my kids to know that. These are things I can tell them about because they may not see it otherwise.

How is your husband leading your family? Is it emotionally, mentally, physically, financially? Ask God to give you eyes to see who he is and who he was created to be…. And then give him grace in the transformation.

Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” God is challenging me to give myself grace and live by the mighty work of the cross. I need to extend this grace to my growing husband too. How about you, Mama?

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Photo Credit: Red Sweater Photography

Posted on September 26, 2018 and filed under Building Your Family.

The Last Lemon Cake: A story about submission and the tender loving care that God the Father had for our three sons

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A lemon cake is baking in my oven right now.  It is the 13th lemon cake baked in my kitchen in as many years.  Here is the true story of why, and how and who it is for. On January 6 of 2003, a day we’ve come to call Bloody Monday, David was told that he no longer had a job—as of that day! 

 

The natural reaction to conserve kicked in.  He called to let me know this had occurred and that there would be a moratorium on spending. 

My deepest concern, even more than the natural reaction of “what are we going to live on?” was how my sons would perceive God, what would they think of him when the church that claims to love and obey him was so callous?  Would they be able to separate the two?  Would this shipwreck their faith?  I pondered this for a couple of days.

Meanwhile, I realized I had made commitments, which I felt would have to be fulfilled, regardless.  The first of these promises was a batch of cookies.  These had to be made and taken to the kindergarten class to celebrate Michael’s 6th birthday.  They were going to be Veggie Tale cookies.  I already had the cookie cutters: Bob the tomato and Larry the cucumber and budgeted for the baking ingredients.  I also told Michael that I would get a lemon cake mix per his request,  and bake it for his special day which would be on that Wednesday.  While shopping for the cookie ingredients and cake mix, I remembered that I actually had a yellow cake mix at home already!  I had to honor David’s wishes—no extra spending! Yikes!!!  Although I felt in good conscience about spending for the cookies to give away, I didn’t feel as free to buy another cake mix—a lemon cake mix—when I had a perfectly good yellow cake mix at home.  I would just have to explain it to Michael—he would understand, after all he would be 6 years old! When I broke the news to him he accepted it like a little man!  Phew!

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It was now Wednesday, January 8, Michael’s birthday. I started to bake that yellow but decidedly very un-lemon cake!  First, however, I would need to get my mixer blades back from my neighbor, Laura, who had borrowed them some time ago. I called that morning to say that I was baking that afternoon (I did not tell her why or what) and could I pick up my mixer blades?     I went over later and she handed me a grocery bag with some movies she’d borrowed,  the mixer blades and since she’d been feeling guilty for keeping my stuff for so long, she threw in something from her pantry…a lemon cake mix!  I remember pulling that out and giving it to Michael, he began running around the house shouting--“How did she know?!  How did she know?!”  I just answered, “God knew!” Right there beside me were my other two sons, Andrew and Nate.  They were seeing this miracle, knowing that no matter what or who brought us to such a difficult place that God did not forsake us and beyond that, cared for a little boy to the fine detail of the flavor of his birthday cake. I determined from then on that Michael would always have a lemon cake on his birthday and that we would remember that God cares for us personally.  He cared for my sons.  I’ll ever praise him (Psalm 146:2) and let this be a reminder that it is my job to obey—He will provide! 

Today, then, I’m baking what might just be the last lemon cake; after all Michael said recently now that he’s all grown (18 years old) this should be the last lemon cake—I didn’t promise anything!  

(Welcome guest blogger, Helen Jones, wife of Dr. David Jones, Pastor of Village Church, Barrington, IL!)

Posted on July 13, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

5 Habits of a Healthy Marriage

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My husband and I are fast approaching our 14th anniversary. That’s pretty hard to believe. It’s also hard to believe that, aside from the occasional misunderstanding, we’ve had a really happy and peaceful life together so far. As I analyze why we get along so well, I keep coming back to the same things.

We treat each other gently, communicate openly, pay attention to each other’s needs, spend time together, and have common interests. I don’t remember anyone giving us the formula, or even being very conscious of keeping to it. But these 5 simple things have, in a compound way over the years, deepened our friendship, love, and dependence upon each other in exponential ways. Conversely, I’ve seen marriages where the lack of these practices erodes friendship and love, as years pile upon years of neglect and regret.

1.             BE GENTLE WITH EACH OTHER

I am careful with my husband’s feelings. I try to speak to him as kindly as I would any other friend or acquaintance. That’s not to say that I would ever withhold the truth or hide my true feelings from him, but that when I talk to him I don’t take him for granted. It’s easy to lash out at those closest to you when you’re frustrated or having a bad day, but we really try not to fall victim to that temptation. We’re respectful of each other’s feelings and we are gentle in the way we say things to each other.

2.              SAY WHAT YOU NEED

I think this is a particular struggle for a lot of women. They expect the people in their lives...their mom, their friends, and especially their husbands, to be mind-readers. No one can read minds, and no one, no matter how well they know you, really knows exactly what you need when you need it, all the time. (And as someone who is terrible at reading a room or sensing felt needs, I have to implore you on behalf of my fellow ignorants. Just tell us what you need!) More than likely, your husband wants to take care of you and meet those needs. You’ll have to be brave, and express them. Yes, you open yourself up to rejection if he says no, or refuses. But won’t you feel better, and more confident, having said it out loud? Be done with the cycle of disappointment in someone who wasn’t even given a chance to know how you would have liked to be helped.

If your husband isn’t hearing it the first time, try writing it down for him. My husband is a spectacularly bad auditory learner, but if I put something on a list it will be done within hours. Other husbands would balk at being given a list...so, learn your husband’s communication style and express yourself in the best way for him to truly hear you. Writing it down is one way to ensure he knows how important this is to you.

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You also have to be specific. You can’t just say “spend more time with me,” because that’s vague and unattainable. You’ll be setting yourself up for more disappointment, because he still has to read your mind to know how much or how often you expect. Instead, say (or write!) “Have breakfast with me every Monday from 8-8:30.” This is something he can check off a list.

3.              TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER

Now since we can’t change our husbands, we can only be responsible for how well we perform in each of these categories. But hopefully, if you’ve been gentle with him, and if you’ve openly communicated your specific needs to him, he will rise to the occasion and meet them. But even if not, you need to find ways to take care of him. I am not advocating for a woman who’s already drowning to put more responsibility on her shoulders. Don’t enable him to carry even less of the load by doing more to pick up his slack. But, assuming all things are equal, then be his helper. My husband is kind enough to do all of our grocery shopping. But I make sure to jump up from what I’m doing and help him unload the bags when I hear the garage door open. When he’s working on the house, I will be in charge of the kids and make myself available to help measure or carry a load. And if he asks me for help, I always say yes. If he was brave enough to ask for something, I’m going to give it.

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4.              SPEND TIME TOGETHER

It’s very easy for life to get away from you, and to feel like ships passing in the night. There are three major things that come between married couples: work, house, and kids. That last category is especially dangerous, because it feels like you’re focusing on something noble. You are...just not when it’s at the expense of your marriage. I’ve seen this many, many times, especially from dads. They’ll plan a family outing or take the kids for a bike ride, but the kids are just a shield from the wife that he should be investing in. His guilty conscience is assuaged because he’s being a “good dad,” but his wife is left lonely and starving for his attention. Not ok. Family time is wonderful, but husband-and-wife-alone-time has to be a priority. Women do this (and I’m guilty too!) when we spend all night putting the kids to bed, or falling asleep with them while tucking them in, only to have nothing left for our husbands. It’s totally fine to do that once in a while (or when they’re babies, because seriously, #itsaseason), but if you’re spending every night with your kids and never meeting up with your husband at the end of a day to debrief, then some habits need to change. You’re teaching your kids that they’re your priority, and your husband is not.

5.              FIND COMMON INTERESTS

This is really hard for women, because really, guys like the dumbest stuff. Basketball, superheroes (ok, just mine?) golf (the worst!) or cars...whatever the guy thing is, I know it’s hard to get interested in it. But can we just admit for a second, they have it worse? Vintage shopping? Crafts? Snooze! The reason you got married is because you were best friends, and best friends have common interests. They do things together and have fun together. You have to try to find them, and if he isn’t budging, then you’ll have to cross over to his side. It won’t be hard forever. As it turns out, if you can find a team to get behind, basketball isn’t boring. And thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, superheroes are fun now too. I am proud to admit that I was with my husband on opening morning of the Avengers at 8:30 AM (kids dropped off at school), wearing his Spiderman shirt. And after all this time, I was every bit the excited nerd about it that he was. I know that married couples can find this kind of common ground, and they’ll be stronger for it. Go have fun together!

Posted on May 9, 2018 and filed under Building Your Family.

Kids on Marriage: What Makes Someone a Good Wife?

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Sometimes you just feel completely uninspired about how to be the wife that your husband needs you to be. If you’re in one of those slumps, never fear. I have polled the experts...the ones that live with you, watch your marriage, and soak in every word and nuance like sponges. Yep, your kids.

 

Turns out they have some GREAT advice about how you can be doing better. Here’s a sampling of kids’ responses to the question…

What do you think makes someone a good wife?

“Not being mean to children.”
-Canden, Age 5

“Number one, they have to love the Lord. They have to be patient and calm so that they don’t really get too hot tempered. They have to have good work skills too, because the guy’s gonna be away almost every single day except for two days. It’s hard to think of anything else.”
-Isaiah, Age 11

“Why are you asking me?”
-Eva, Age 8

“She cares about her husband and the family and the people she loves. And she does surprises.”
-Sam, Age 11

“If you want kids, you need a nice wife.”
-Jocelyn, Age 8

“Someone who cleans up after you.”
-Andrew, Age 12

“Someone who is an artist, helps the poor because that is a nice thing to do, loves the husband, makes food for the husband, sleds with her husband, and has a lot of fun.”
-Jane, Age 6

“Someone who believes in God and also that they are beautiful. And that they are nice.”
-Gavin, Age 8

“It’s someone who listens to you, someone who will give you help when it is needed, and someone who has many talents so that they could be the mom at home or the mom at the job. Having a wife is great.”
-Brayden, Age 12

“Zero!!! I don’t want to fall in love!!”
-Lincoln, Age 6

“To be good to your kids and to help your husband if he gets old.”
-Abby, Age 6

“I love you and that’s what makes you a good wife. I don’t know what else makes you a good wife. Going on dates with Daddy, that makes you good. Mama, can I have a popsicle?”
-Violet, Age 4

Photo credits Ellen Swalley/ Red Sweater Photography

Photo credits Ellen Swalley/ Red Sweater Photography

“Give people good food.”
-Andrew, Age 5

“They love the Lord. They love you. They like their husband’s mom and dad.”
-Eva, Age 8

“Happy!”
-Everett, Age 3

“She has to be cool to me.”
-Ryder, Age 4

“Religion, meaning the same religion we believe in. Why are we even having this conversation like 10 years before I even get married? Actions, if they are nice to people. If they have any bounty.” [Mom: “What’s that?”] “It would take me like 5 years to explain. Ask Dad.”
-Luke, Age 11

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“To be a good wife is to help each other and get brothers and sisters for your babies.”
-Abby, Age 6

“I don’t know, I’m not married yet. Being a Christian, that’s about it. I honestly don’t know, I’m not getting married for like 10 years. I haven’t even thought about this stuff before!”
-Owen, Age 13

“Umm, a good husband.”
-Emerson, Age 4

“To have kids and be happy. And then maybe your kids will love you too.”
-CJ, Age 5

“When they give him a surprise.”
-Shay, Age 2

“They are happy.”
-Hudson, Age 6

“How she takes care of the family and if she tries her best.”
-Ben, Age 9

“Loves her children and takes care of her husband.”
-Ainsley, Age 6

“Ants. And moms.”
-Jesse, Age 3

“With a boy. With her wife, and her man. That she has a man, that makes her good. And she’s gonna marry him. And she gets flowers. And she gets a dress and she gets a crown. And she gets to, um, eat cake. And she gets to have wedding cake. And she gets to put it on the wife’s face. Sometimes the wife puts cake on their face and stuff. And she gets to dance with him. And the yucky part when she kisses, ugh.”
-Samantha, Age 6

“Carrie.” [Dad: “What’s Carrie? Do you know what a wife is?”] “Yeah. Her.” [Points to stuffed bear.]
-DJ, Age 3

“Make sure she doesn’t not pay attention to her husband.”
-Zoe, Age 8

“Being nice to your husband and nice to your family.”
-Abi, Age 5

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“Helping people by taking care of them, keeping them alive.”
-Ethan, Age 6

“A wife who is always growing in her relationship with God and her husband.”
-Carson, Age 13

“Loves somebody.”
-Emery, Age 5

“Emery.”
-Adley, Age 5

“I don’t know...take care of babies really good?”
-Lilyanna, Age 5

“When they dance with their husband and then he says thanks.”
-Emerson, Age 4

“She says nice stuff.”
-Anastasia, Age 5

“Someone you can trust and trusts you. You need complete trust in each other.”
-Marc, Age 18

“Someone who does the dishes instead of the husband.”
-Ryan, Age 10

“Other than someone who loves the Lord...wise and smart.”
-Zeke, Age 11

“I don’t know. Just kidding, I know. I’m just not telling you.”
-Evan, Age 5

“Loyalty and the ability to put yourself in your husband’s shoes. Intelligent and moral.”
-Sallik, Age 18

“Personality, honesty, and a good cleaner.”
-Calen, Age 10

“She is loving and caring and has ‘everyday skills.’ “
-Charlie, Age 11

“Nothing, just be good.”
-McKenna, Age 3

“My mom.”
-Lana, Age 6

Well there ya go! This was actually quite an eye opening experiment. I assumed we would get all sorts of nonsensical and hilarious answers (and there were certainly a few…!) but in general these kids knew what was up! The most common answers were that a good wife loves the Lord, is kind, is helpful, is a good listener, and loves her husband and children. Those answers were given countless times! The good news I see is 1) that our children are listening, watching, and seeing the RIGHT things modeled (yay moms!), and 2) that the formula is actually pretty darn easy to boil down. So keep it up, girls! Grow in your love for the Lord, and for your husband. Love your children. Be nice. Be helpful. And keep his “surprises” coming!

Posted on August 9, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

A Strong Helper: Supporting your husband when you have little ones

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I have a love-hate relationship with personality tests. I find them thoroughly fascinating, and yet, I sometimes “break” the test. I often end up with results that have me evenly split between two opposite categories! Regardless, I enjoy the process of learning how I can grow. Augustine said “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself, that I may know Thee.”

I find this true to a certain extent. We should not view God through who we are, but through the truth of his Word. However, knowing our own strengths and weaknesses can make us aware of how we might err in relating to an all-perfect Heavenly Father.

So this week, I was sitting across the table from two of my best friends, trying to maintain a train of conversation while 11 children ran around us. One of my friends had just read a personality book that received the highest recommendations from her small group leaders. They claim it has transformed the way they communicate in their marriages. We were all curious. My friends had already taken the online assessments, as well as their husbands, and were urging me to partake. After insisting I couldn’t because I need to think too much to do it in front of people (and explaining that I break these tests), they both decided to take it for me. I was intrigued how they would end up pegging me after 14 pages of quizzing. While they answered the questions, I looked at the descriptions of the 9 personalities and surmised I was one of 6 options, but certainly not 3. To my shock, both friends finished the test and received the same results. They wanted me to take it to confirm, and lo and behold… my results corroborated with theirs. I didn’t know if I felt it completely “fit”, but I had to admit that there was some conclusive evidence here.

That night I was explaining to my husband that I was a “Helper” according to the test.
“Really….” was his slightly skeptical reply. I don’t think I was supposed to notice his tone, but I did.

Ouch. My best friends thought it fit, but my husband didn’t see it. The man I am biblically-commanded to help as my life’s work thought the test had pegged me incorrectly. The old Stephanie would have cried at how much she was “failing” at a job she wanted so desperately to do well. My more mature self has learned to reflect and repent.

Why did it hurt? Because I knew exactly why he was skeptical. In these chaotic years of raising toddlers, I have found it challenging to put my husband first. What does it even look like when your babies’ needs are so pressing? When we are up turning food into humans during pregnancy, up all night with newborns, and caring for toddlers all day, it can be hard not to expect our husbands to pitch in right when they walk in the door. The other reality in our case is that I often don’t communicate to him how I try to help him. I shoulder responsibilities that I think he doesn’t want to do. Often I am right, but sometimes I am just wasting my energy. Also, I am very passionate about providing our kids with great experiences, and sometimes I drag Travis along for that vision when he just wants a nap!

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What may be even worse than neglecting my husband’s needs—and I recognize my arrogance here—I know at times I have believed my job is more important and more holy than what he does all day. Yes, we need him and the fruit of his labor, but I am spending my entire day with the purpose of directing souls toward eternity with their Maker. He is very talented and does things that make my brain hurt just hearing about them, but does it really have an eternal purpose? These are the subconscious sinful ponderings that have passed through my mind at times. Am I alone? Do any of you young mothers struggle with this?

When Travis is done with work, you bet I want him to join me in the task of raising our boys. I’m not wrong in wanting his partnership. Truly God wants us to be a team. Malachi 2:14-15 says, “Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.”

What is wrong with my attitude is the prideful way I have sometimes believed God has called me to spend my day in a more important manner than the way God has called him to spend his hours. If Travis wasn’t working so hard, our kids would be in daycare, learning lessons from someone else, and I would be working full-time too. His work provides for my work. In addition, he is building relationships with non-Christians at his workplace that may change someone’s eternity—just as I am striving to do all day long. When he uses his gift of evangelism to witness to a stranger on an airplane, he is planting seeds. I should be his biggest cheerleader in this!

Enough of my incorrect attitudes. Let’s get to the solution! How do we put our husbands “first” in this season? Well, I don’t think it is making him a literal “first.” (For example, If your child has potty needs and your husband wants to tell you a joke about his day, there is a clear priority. Your husband can be patient and wait, or follow you to the restroom to tell you the story.) As I pray about how it should look, i can picture Jesus in Matthew 14, right after he found out John the Baptist was beheaded, and he was tracked down and ended up feeding the 5,000. He was completely spent in his flesh, but he had compassion on the crowds and served them with everything he had to give. God wants to provide us with the capacity to love our husbands well. Here are some tips on what I think it can look like in this season:

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  1. Our attitude is the first thing to get in order.  Do you pridefully believe that your work is more important than your husband’s? Ask God to change your heart so that you value what your husband does each day. Maybe he gets to sit at a desk and have adult conversations. Maybe he also has a stressful boss breathing down his neck! There are challenges he deals with that he may not even be sharing with you. Make sure you are grateful for his sacrifice. Maybe you don’t believe that particular lie, but perhaps you think you shouldn’t have to serve him because of all you do each day. Realize that pouring into your marriage will grow and bless it, and often make your husband want to serve you too!
  2. When he comes home, let him talk about his day too. Don’t bombard him every day with stories about the kids. Take turns hearing from him. If he is on a business trip, when he calls home, don’t spend the whole call talking about the struggles of your day. He may have things to share too. I have a friend that tends to space out when her husband is talking to her. Long days with the kiddos wear her out, and she has little left when they are all in bed. Perhaps they need to have some time in the morning to go over the previous day, or maybe she can give him five fully-focused minutes before she goes to bed or works on anything else. It doesn’t need to be an hour to show him that you care. Just make him a priority.
  3. Make sure his intimacy needs are met… especially before he goes away on a business trip. Occasionally there will be a time, such as after the birth of a baby, or another medical reason and your husband will need to be patient. In these times, tell him how thankful you are for his patience…. And try to be creative with how you might help him. Okay, I’m moving on now before I start blushing. :)
  4. When the kids are in bed, try to do something simple to let him know you want to serve him too. Travis loves it when I bring him a snack before we start watching a show together. It really doesn’t take a lot of effort on my part, but I am letting him know I feel he is worthy of being served. Your husband might not care about acts of service. Perhaps, he just wants you to cuddle him a little. I know there are days when little ones have hung on you and touching is the last thing you want from your man… pray for God to give you the capacity. Once in awhile I think it’s okay to ask for some space; just reassure your husband that you love him and it doesn’t reflect your feelings for him. The basic point: Serve him how it counts most for him.
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5. As I shared in a previous post, I have often served Travis in ways that cost me a lot of energy, but don’t matter as much to him. Save yourself some energy and ask what he values the most. Pray for the energy to do just that one thing each day. As your kids grow and you have more energy, add more acts of service. Until then get the most bang for your buck!

6. Make choices that reflect his preferences for the family. Does he hate going to the zoo? Go without him. Would seeing a movie with the kids really excite him? Schedule that around him. What are his favorite dinners? Make those even if they aren’t favorites for your kids. That is a minor example. Here is a bigger one: My husband really values peace and relaxing, so I try to make sure we don’t “go-go-go” too much in one weekend. I want him to have down time to relax, and not feel like his weekends were taken over by my agenda for our family. In the long-term, his desire for peace will be reflected in how we have bonded as a family. Also, when he does something fun with the kids that he may not always have the energy for, be thankful!

7. Teach your children to serve their father. (For more on this click here.) I recently had my oldest ask if he could wash his daddy’s feet. He initiated it, so I can’t take credit, but it was one of my proudest moments as his mama. His dad loved it! For younger ones, it might be as simple as getting a napkin for their dad at dinner. As soon as they are able, include them in the process! Teach them that Daddy has a place of honor in the family. Also, back him up in front of your children. You are a united front. Stand by him, and support him. (If you have any disagreements, speak to him privately.)

8. Put him first with regard to how you spend money. Do you want your kids in every activity, yet have a hard time saving money for date nights? Do you go over the top for your kids for Christmas and birthdays, but give your husband very little? This may be communicating a message to him that you don't mean to convey.

A couple nights ago we were on a family walk, and our children were running ahead of us. They are really growing up now! Travis reached over and held my hand. I have to admit it was a weird feeling at first. Usually my hands are needed by little ones, pushing a stroller, or they are patting the baby I am holding in the baby carrier. As much as I want to savor these days with my young children, I am looking forward to having more time and energy to focus on my marriage. I know that I can’t just put Travis on the back burner until then; I need a greater capacity to love now. Praise God that He always answers that prayer!

Posted on June 14, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

Titus 2 for the bride-to-be: 5 Marriage tips for my little sister

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My little sister is getting married this summer. The last of us six kids. My oldest sister and I will stand as maids of honor and watch her walk down the aisle to promise her life here on earth to another.

I sit here and think about that for a moment. Fifteen years of marriage later, from the day I said, "I do," I wonder... 

 

What are the things that need to be said to her as she embarks on this new journey? What are the things I wish I would've been told or taken to heart?

The things I would tell her about entering into this covenant are the things that are still crucial in my own marriage 15 years later.

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They’re nothing mind blowingly new, but just some gentle reminders of what living in understanding of and love for one another look like when two sinners are living together. When two not-perfect people commit to spending their life together. After all, Titus 2:4, instructs “older” women (that’s me! And maybe you!) to teach the younger women a few things, so…

Here are a few sprinkles of advice I’ll share that have helped me to “love (my) husband”:

1. Take it to the Lord in prayer. 

Love bears all things. This is a key principle I must be constantly reminded of in my own marriage. It’s not focused on self-driven actions but rather on abiding in the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life. The practical translation of this advice: PRAY. A praying wife is much more life-giving to her husband then a manipulating one. 

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

2. Don't try to have that super deep conversation or argument late at night.

The moment my husband’s head hits the pillow is not prime time for me to share all the things, feelings and ideas that are swirling around in my head as I lie next to him. I tend to think it's perfect timing but over years of trying this I have learned—the hard way—bedtime is not the most profitable time for heart to heart conversations  

3. Grow some thicker skin.

I learned this in my first year of marriage. Anytime we had a hard conversation I would cry. The issue then became about my feelings and crying rather than finishing and working through the hard conversation. I had to learn to not be so sensitive. To get some control over my emotions. 

4. Be patiently willing to be quiet. 

My husband is a thinker. The man can actually sit in silence thinking and sorting out deep thoughts in his head before speaking them to me. Me? I basically throw up all the things that are in my head and heart and then attempt to speak and process them all at the same time. So in a heated conversation I have had to learn to sit, which kind of kills me, and wait for my husband to form all his thoughts before he answers me. Ephesians 4:29 is a good reminder for me:

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who here."

5. Do the things that put a skip or little hum/whistle in your husband’s step.

Loving him well is serving him well. Loving him well is understanding his love language and meeting him in it. Small gestures of kindness, notes, lunches to take to work in the morning, coffee brewed when he's getting home, and of course sex. (Sorry to be so blunt ladies, but it's truth. Nothing makes your husband happier.)

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So there they are. My top five tips for my little sister. What are some lessons you’d share with a new bride?

Posted on March 29, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

The Dating Reset: How A New Focus On Dating Changed My Marriage

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One of the best things Mark and I did for our marriage several years ago was to start dating again. There is something about getting ready, having a sitter come and leaving those sweet kiddos at home that breathes life back into a marriage.
Let’s face it mamas, when we are in the baby or toddler stage it often seems like we are in survival mode.

As precious as that season is, well…it’s also completely exhausting. There. Is. Never. A. Down. Moment. Ever. Until of course the kids are all in bed and you literally drag yourself over to the couch barely able to keep your beautiful but tired eyes open. Okay, I might be exaggerating slightly, but I have felt those days deeply at times.

When your kiddos get older it seems like the nights are all but consumed with homework, sports, activities (mama the chauffeur) and then of course, older kids equals later bedtimes. So, now it seems even less likely for quality time as a couple. Date nights are essential for your marriage.

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God has called us to place our husbands first after Him. Sometimes it seems like quite an impossible goal to achieve, am I right? Let me encourage your heart. There is hope, sweet mamas! God has placed within us the Holy Spirit and because we have the same power in us that rose Jesus from the dead (amen!) we have that same power to make the right choices if we are surrendered to Him. Dating our husbands is one way to show our love for them and to build and strengthen our marriages.

About six years into our marriage we hit a wall. Yep, we found ourselves in a season of busyness with work, and the endless tasks that come with ordinary life with young kids; truly the list seemed endless. We created this pocket of living life together but not really investing beneath the surface needs of our marriage—thus, creating the wall. Thankfully, about that time, some wise friends encouraged us to start going out on dates again. We decided to put their advice into action and we've never looked back. 

I am by no means an expert in the marriage realm but I will share how dating helped turn our marriage around. There are hundreds of different ways to make this work for your family, but I will give you my top four list of how to’s:

1.     Choose your date night and stick to it! Every family is in a different season of life. Young kids, older kids, lots of activities, sports and varying bedtimes play a part in your decision. Pick a night that makes sense for your date night in regards to your family schedule. Try and keep that night protected from other activities.

2.     Budget. Ah, the dreaded but necessary word. Knowing your budget will help decide your date night. Will you need a sitter? Make sure you budget for that. Will you go out four times a month or just every other week? Budget for that. Sit down and plan with your spouse. If you plan on just two nights out, make sure the other two nights a month are date nights at home. Protect that date night!

3.     Be creative. Having fun on a date doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Babysitters can be expensive and there were seasons where we had no extra income for dates so I had to get creative. I traded babysitting with friends and also traded voice lessons for babysitting. Some nights we just went out to Barnes and Noble and sat and read and talked. Make it a priority and you will find a way to make it work.

4.     Give your babysitter responsibility. In other words, let them feed the kids and put them down to sleep! It is all about getting a break and enjoying a “night off” from the sweet but ever consuming kiddos! You’ll thank yourself, I promise.

My top four might look different than yours, but it’s just meant to get you started if any of these particular obstacles have been getting in your way or seem insurmountable. You can do this!

So, here is your chance to encourage each other and impart the love. Comment on the post below and share ideas of your favorite date nights—with a cost or no cost. We would love to hear from you and so would our other readers!

Happy date nights to you!

Posted on February 1, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.