Sunday, July 26, 2015

15 Things It Took Me 15 Years To Learn About Marriage

I am still happily celebrating 15 years of marriage.  We're a long way from the big "25" or "50" years mark, but for me, every anniversary is a big deal.  I grew up with a worldview that divorce was normal, common, and expected.  I once thought marriage was a "trial run", but now I expect to be running through trials with the same man until we die.  My husband and I have had our share of fun and frustrations, but the freedom we've enjoyed in Christ has been predominant throughout our marriage.  With a broad brush, here are 15 things I've learned that help our marriage be more peaceful and less problematic.

  1. Arguments shouldn’t always be avoided, and are nothing to be ashamed of.  It’s important to develop an “art of arguing” where couples stick to the issues, and are willing to have conflict that produces future peace.  There is tremendous freedom in being able to share one’s feelings without fear, in a way that brings clarity resulting in solutions.

  1. If something about your spouse is frustrating, determine whether his/her action is rooted in sin, personality, or style.  Confront sin, be intrigued by a differing personality, and enjoy laughing at differences in style.

  1. Books and blogs on marriage are great, but nothing can take the place of studying, understanding, and knowing your spouse.  Read your husband/wife and become an expert in him or her.

  1. Most people don’t get what they want in marriage because they don’t ask God for it.  James 4:2-3 is clear - people fight because of their own selfish desires, don’t have what they want because they don’t ask, or they ask with wrong motives that only benefit themselves.  When is the last time you asked God to fix something in your marriage for His glory and not simply for your own convenience?

  1. There is a tremendous satisfaction in persevering through hard times.  One can not experience that kind of unique joy by giving up or giving in to the despair of marital lows and woes. One moment doesn’t define a healthy marriage but a healthy marriage defines each moment.

  1. Since eating is such a daily activity, it is helpful if at least one person in the relationship ENJOYS cooking.  Otherwise, for the rest of life, there is tension.  I've accepted that's just the way it is.

  1. Some marriage problems don’t have solutions this side of heaven.  This is because marriage isn’t a saving agent--it reveals the need for a Savior.

  1. No other marriage should define what is “normal” for others.  If God approves, the best thing couples can do is enjoy each other without comparing themselves to other relationships.

  1. Focusing on the marriage can be dangerous and actually magnifies the source of some problems.  When believers focus on eternal things, they tend to forget about the earthly issues that bother them in the marriage.

  1. As 1 Peter 4:8 says, love really does cover a multitude of offenses.  I’ve had to ask myself, “Is getting mad about ___________worth the wall I’m about to put up between me and my spouse?”

  1. When it comes to each person’s strengths and weaknesses, we have the choice to appreciate or get aggravated.  A family may be happy when everyone sees things the same way, but equal perspective isn’t always helpful.  Some of the things that once created the most tension between me and my husband have brought the most benefit to our household, children, church, and society.   

  1. The easiest thing to do when angry at a spouse is to fight him or her.  Instead, we should be fighting the "cosmic powers over this present darkness" (Eph 6:10).  We need to redirect our anger and get mad at sin, Satan, and the spiritual forces that are damaging our good gift of marriage. 

  1. We should not be surprised that marriage is so much work.  God planned for man and wife to do kingdom work together.  God’s first command to Adam (the first husband) was to work the ground, and then God showed Adam his need for a helper.  We have kingdom jobs to do—WITH our spouse, not AGAINST our spouse.

  1.  The best thing to do when hungry or tired is to shut the mouth until it’s time to eat or sleep.  I take a lot of naps because it’s better to drool on my pillow than duel with my partner.

  1. It’s important to keep priorities in order. Contrary to a few books, one doesn’t need to make the bed every day to be a good wife or start the day well.  There are other things to be done in that marriage bed.  Take “frequent and fun” over “spick and span”.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

We're Expecting

I remember laying on the hay bales in the pasture of my childhood home whispering my dreams to my best buddy Jack.  We'd sit under the big blue sky for hours solving the world's problems--hunger, poverty, homelessness,  caring for the fatherless.  My ideas were a bit far-fetched; whether I was dropping turkey bombs by plane over Ethiopia or transforming my parent's land into a orphanage, Jack, the best four foot-tall, graying sidekick was the best listener a little girl could ask for.  He agreed with my assumptions that every problem had a simple fix, and I was surely supposed to solve them all.

Jack was my donkey... last name nonessential for this blog.

I don't know how I first learned that there were children without parents.  But for as long as I can remember, I was convinced that such a thing should not exist.  With child-like reasoning, I would press my mom about adopting a sibling.  I didn't understand at the time why anyone wouldn't WANT to adopt.  Up until my 20's I seriously thought everyone should be taking in the world's orphans.

As I grew into my teens and adult years, I thankfully grew in the knowledge of the world and how it works.  The biggest problems don't have easy solutions.  There are real issues that are not easily addressed.  But fortunately, I have a new best friend to tackle these challenges with.  I married Chris when I was 21, and though, not as good a listener as Jack, he's wiser, not quite as stubborn, and able to bring clarity with steadfast solutions.  While Chris and I could never agree on how many kids to have (as if we humans  are REALLY in control of that), we dreamed about adopting.  He grew up with foster children, was aware of the many issues kids without parents face, and had a tender heart for the less fortunate.

Our early years of marriage we had planned to live overseas and adopt internationally.  Both of those plans were re-routed.  We soon had our first biological child, then the second, and the third, with little to no money saved up to pay for an international adoption.  Chris and I became entrenched in caring for our pre-schoolers, wondering when we could ever have the energy to add one more thing to our schedule or person to our life.

But God was up to something in our family that we couldn't see at the time.  We were in preparation years.  Once, we knew of a college student who did not have a home.  I sat the kids on the couch and told them our young friend's situation.  Our son, who was 5 at the time, adamantly jumped off the couch yelling "I KNOW!!!  He can have MY room!"  Instantly, three little kids cleared the dressers and the closet to make room for a young man they had met only a few times.  For 6 months, our son slept on a toddler mattress in his sisters' room without complaint so that someone else could have his full-size bed.  I realized then that it was easy for our kids to share their house, their things, their friendship and their love.  As the years have gone by, our oldest daughter has remarked at dinner that "it seems like someone is missing from our family.  Our table just isn't as full as it should be."  And for at least three years, we have continually heard from the children "when are we going to adopt?"  Our youngest child, who has longed for a younger sibling to nurture, scrolled through pictures of orphans and pleaded with us, "I don't care how old.  I don't care if we have a boy or a girl--there are too many kids who need a home.  Just adopt one."

We shifted our focus from international adoption to local when we realized there was no up-front cost through DCFS.  Our heart breaks to know that currently, there are 587 children in Arkansas whose parent's rights have been terminated.  As of this month, we have completed all paperwork and training, and are now an "open" family ready to be matched with a little boy. 

And so we wait. 

But we do not wait like I did as a child.  Then I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I thought I had to solve everything.  I've since found a Savior that is much better at solving big problems.  God the Father, has adopted me in His family, and I just can't imagine not extending that love to someone who needs it.  Chris, the kids, and I are only one small part of giving one person a safe home.

I'm scared.  I'm prepared for this to be the hardest life-change we've encountered. 

But we're expecting.

Not just a child; we are expecting to watch God work.  I'm expecting God to fulfill the dream He instilled in me 30 years ago.  I'm expecting God to equip our family of 5 for the mission we're on.

We're expecting one less child in the system who will find his forever family with us.