Which side of the bed?

10 years of marriage!!  That’s what we celebrate tomorrow.  Can you believe it?  I can’t.  Those years flew!

After we got married, we were trying to figure out what to do with my wedding dress.  It seems a lot of people keep it for a lot of years and then, well, they’ve kept it.  With limited storage space, I wasn’t sure if I thought that was a good idea for us.  So the sometimes-overly-practical me looked into selling it.  Gratefully, the sometimes-you’re-too-practical part of me kicked in.  We decided that the fraction we’d recoup didn’t seem worth the possible regret of not having it later.  So we kept it.

Then I had another idea.  I told Dave that if I fit into the dress on our 10 year anniversary, that I wanted him to take me out to dinner in it!

I got it out and tried it on a few weeks ago.  Gratefully, it fits!  With the advice of a helpful friend, I’ve been carefully cleaning parts of it that have turned weird colors with a toothbrush.  It’s cleaning up ok.  I got some updated jewelry, and we made our reservation.  I think we’re actually going to do this.

We’re going to our favorite restaurant.  Dave’s favorite meal is steak (next to PB&J, of course!).  Mine is Chilean sea bass (it’s one of the first ‘animals’ I ate after I moved on from my vegetarian days, and I love it!).  There is one restaurant that serves both:  Bonefish Grill.

So that’s where we’re going.  Wedding dress and tux to Bonefish.

I think we might stick out.

We’re not big ‘attention’ people.  It will be awkward for both of us.  Maybe we’ll wear shades?  : )  But hopefully it’ll also be a lot of fun.

It’ll be fun to celebrate 10 years and how wonderful they’ve been. We’ve certainly had our share of tough situations.  Yet for some reason, the Lord has been so gracious with our marriage.  It is truly such a gift.

It’s entirely the Lord that He’s chosen to bless our marriage as He has.  In the times where we haven’t messed that up too much : ), we’ve often noted that it’s the little decisions that have made the biggest difference.

Like praying together every night before we go to bed.  Dave started that right when we got married.  It’s a seemingly little thing that he’s led us to be super consistent on.  And  a little thing… done daily for 10 years… well, it becomes a blessing of an impact on our marriage.

And you’ve heard the statistic, right?  Whereas the ‘regular’ divorce rate is about 50%, the divorce rate among couples who pray regularly together is less than a fraction of a percent.  It’s a ‘little’ decision that makes a big difference.

Another ‘little’ decision had to do with our wedding vows.  I’m one of those weird women who never dreamed about her wedding.  I wasn’t super invested in all the physical details.  One of my friends offered to help, and I remember asking her if she’d pick out the flowers.  I didn’t think it was that weird… everyone else did!  : )  It just wasn’t that high of a priority for me.

Our guests, on the other hand, I cared a lot about.  We prayed specifically for each person we invited whether they could come or not.  That consumed a lot of our ‘planning’ time.  But all those crazy details?  They just weren’t me.

And my husband?   That I cared a boatload about.  Whereas I wasn’t overly invested in the wedding, I was crazy invested in the marriage.  I cared a lot about what our marriage would look like, how we would do things, how we would work through things, and what our vision was.  So our vows were a big deal to me.

The dress and the shoes and the hair?  Not so much.  The vows?  Totally.

I felt like they were the opportunity to really clarify and crystallize what we wanted this life-together-thing to look like.

So we worked on them.  And worked on them.  And worked on them.

We had customized vows that I just loved.

And then we did what my parents did at their wedding.  We memorized them.  We figured if this is what we’re committing to each other and to the Lord, we’d better know them!  And know them by heart.

I loved that part of our ceremony.

Yet it’s a ‘little’ decision afterwards that has made an especially big difference.

vows

We got them framed and were hanging them in our bedroom.  At first, I put my vows to Dave on his side of the bed, and his vows to me on my side of the bed.

But that didn’t sit quite right with us.

Yes, they are our promises to each other and to the Lord, but is that what I want to be focused on?  What Dave is supposed to be committing to me?

Or do I want my thoughts and energy focused on the opposite ~ what I’ve committed to him?  As I’m standing there getting ready for bed, do I want my thoughts to be about what he is or is not living up to? Or do I want my thoughts to be about what I am or am not living up to?  Do I want to focus on improving me… or judging him?  And on the flip side, do I want him focused on his self-checks… or on nagging me?

It’s one of those unusually little decisions that we believe has made a big difference in our marriage.  I hung the vows I made to Dave on my side of the bed.  And he hung the vows he made to me on his side.  So our focus isn’t on judging the other person’s commitment; it’s on consistently evaluating and refreshing our own.

It’s not on nagging or tearing down.  It’s on trying our best.

And knowing I fall short at times helps me give him grace… should he ever fall short!

It’s choosing to focus my energy and efforts on how I can improve – instead of on critiquing how he should improve.

And that, my friends, is truly our heart in this blog.  We talk about some tough topics.  Some hurtful issues.  Some things that likely bring to mind what others have done wrong.  Some things that have undoubtedly brought to my mind of how others have been so incredibly hurtful.

Yet we’re not about pointing fingers.  We’re not about blaming.  And we’re not about critiquing others.

We’re about keeping things on our side of the bed.

We’re about identifying situations so we can respond differently next time.  We’re about understanding hurts so we can strive not to be hurtful.  We’re about identifying where we fall short so we can work on improving.  With the ‘other side of the bed’ in mind, of course.  But primarily with our commitment square in our sights.  We’re primarily focused not on what *others* should be doing… but on what *we* can do to help this kingdom be a better place.

Part of my passion to help make the kingdom a better place is to help people be aware of these hurts – often unintentional – that often end up delving into that crazy term that can seem unimaginable.  My desire is not to point fingers.  It is to raise awareness so that we can all do it better.  It is to help me identify how I could have handled situations differently to have curbed some of the impact.  It is to help me live out my side of the bed.

And I pray that as you read these, that you’d join me in this.  That yes, we’d grieve and process the hurts that come to mind.  But primarily, that we’d seek to focus our energy and efforts not on how others should improve.  Instead, we’d seek to focus our energy and efforts on how we can improve.  What we can do differently to change the dynamic.  Not that we’re responsible for it.  But that we can impact it.

That’s what we’re all about.  Hanging our commitment on our side of the bed.

And celebrating the fruit of it years later!

QUESTION: What seemingly ‘little’ decisions have you made that have made a big difference?

The Case of the Missing ‘E’

Jack and Janie have been married for years.

Many of them, happily.

They both loved the Lord.  And they both thought they were doing what was best for their marriage.

hiding woman

But lately, it just hasn’t been working.

This is Jack’s take…

I believe communication in marriage is important, so I try to communicate with her.  I share with her what I’m feeling and thinking.  I want to talk about the tough issues and work through them.

But she doesn’t.  She just leaves the room whenever I try to work through the hard things with her.  She doesn’t treat my perspective as if its valid.  And she’s not willing to own the things she does wrong.  She’s so mean sometimes, but then she won’t talk about it.

And it’s not just that she won’t talk about it.  She gives me the silent treatment.  I mean, we’re grown adults.  But she gives me the silent treatment.  Sometimes for days.   And sometimes, it feels like she won’t even look at me.

Communication is important in marriage, and she’s not communicating.  We’ve got to communicate more if we’re going to save this marriage.

It sure sounds like Janie is doing it all wrong, huh?  But there are always at least two perspectives to every story.

Here’s Janie’s take…

I’ve loved being married to Jack.  Our first years were great.  But the last several years, I just can’t seem to do anything right.  It doesn’t matter what I say or what I do, he’s upset.  If I pick up extra hours at work to help pay the bills while he’s looking for a job, then he gets mad and claims I don’t want to be around him.  But if I don’t pick up the extra hours, then he says I don’t care about our marriage and our future.  If I make a lunch for him, he says that I think he’s incapable.  If I don’t make a lunch for him, he says I don’t care about him. It doesn’t matter what I do, it isn’t right.

Sometimes I don’t even do anything!  I just live, and he says I don’t love him or don’t care about him.  He gets so upset and goes on and on.  I don’t know where he comes up with the things that he does.

Sometimes I just try to pretend like I don’t exist.  It seems like existing makes him upset no matter what I do.  So I try to tip-toe around and act like I’m not there.  It seems to work ok.  It doesn’t seem to rouse the grizzly in him.

But sometimes it doesn’t.  And he just unloads with all these hurtful, hateful, unfounded things.  My counselor told me when he gets illogical and so upset, to simply excuse myself and let him know I can’t be around him right then.

I don’t know where he comes up with the things he communicates, why he thinks them, or how to change it.  We have got to quit this communication if we’re going to save our marriage.

Now whose right?

As we mentioned, there are always *at least* two perspectives to every story.  Here is a third!

It sounds like Jack is doing his darndest to save his marriage as best he knows how.  And he’s right – communication is essential to a healthy marriage.  But more communication only helps if it is healthy communication.  If it is destructive communication, it just causes more damage.

It sounds like Janie is doing as best as she currently knows to protect herself from destructive communication.  Though Jack is not intending to be, his communication sounds abusive.  When Janie feels that abuse, she removes herself from the situation.  Though she is not intending to, Janie’s protection of herself comes across to him like the silent treatment – which, ironically enough, is a form of abuse.

Neither are intending to abuse the other, yet both feel abused.  Both are seeking as best they know how to protect the marriage, yet instead, their actions are hurtful to the other.  Both feel like they are fighting for their marriage, yet to the other, it just feels like they are fighting.

Now I know one little tweak can’t solve everything, but it is a start.  And I think E is a valuable place to start.

It seems that the root of the issue – or of their ability to solve their issues – is abusive communication.  If Jack learned how to communicate nonabusively, Janie would not feel a need to retreat and protect herself.  Yet if Janie retreated more effectively, Jack would better understand that he was doing something hurtful, and he would have the opportunity to understand that she was not pulling back from their marriage – simply from the abusive communication.

All she needs to retreat more effectively is E.

As Janie throws her PIES, she Prays, then she politely Interrupts Jack,

“I need to interrupt.”

Her next step is E: Explain briefly.

“Presuming to know my thoughts and motives and negatively characterizing them is verbal abuse, and I will not be abused.”

It is not a long explanation. It’s not a lecture.  It’s not a defense nor an attack.  It’s a sentence or two brief explanation that states her position.

The value of this is manifold.

  • It lets Jack know exactly why she is retreating.  It is not because she is unwilling to work through the tough things.  It is not because she wants to give him the silent treatment.  It is not because she does not care about their marriage.  It is because she expects to be treated nonabusively.
  • It gives Jack a path.  Though he may not agree, at least now he has an opportunity to know that better understanding verbal abuse could open the door to better communication with Janie.
  • It affirms Janie.  It does not attack Jack.  Importantly, it is not trying to convince or teach Jack.  It simply states her position.  As she opens her mouth to speak, she affirms that she can influence being treated as a beloved child of God.
  • It brings things into the light. Satan thrives in shoving things under the carpet.  While it can take so much courage for Janie to clearly state her ‘E,’ it is so worth it.  The Lord is a God of clarity.  He thrives in the light.

This clarity is critical, yet it is often the hardest.  Janie may think,

“Of course he knows what he’s doing is hurtful.  Who would talk to another person that way?”

The key is what we call ‘the last 10%.’  It is that last 10% of clarity that makes all the difference.  It can feel like stating the obvious.  It can feel like confirming what seems evident, yet often, it’s where the critical pieces of clarity lie.

Janie’s E gives the last 10% of her retreat.  Her brief, clear explanation gives the key Jack was missing in understanding what was going on.  It names the problem.  It calls it out.  And so much of a solution is accurately identifying the problem.

Stating that last 10% is hard.  Stating it clearly and directly takes determination.  It takes courage.  Yet don’t all problems worth solving?

photo purchased from 123rf.com

NOTE:  Janie of course is not responsible for Jack’s verbal abuse.  Even though it stinks to be put in an abusive situation, we are responsible for how we respond.  As in any situation, though we may not at all be responsible for the situation, we are responsible for how we respond to the situation.  As Janie comes to understand that the attacks she feels are caused by verbal abuse, she articulates that.  This gives Jack clarity and offers the possibility of direction towards solution.

Why I am creating margin

I am an efficiency and productivity nut.

Part of it is that I simply love to accomplish things.  Part of it is the strategy of trying to squeeze it all in.  And part of it is that I usually have more ideas than can realistically fit into a lifetime… and I love trying them all!

hurry-man

It’s fun at times.  I like to keep hoppin’.

But something a wise woman said the other day really struck me.

And it’s kind of stuck with me.

And I can’t really shake it.

Susan is my coach.  She is amazing. She was talking with me the other day about creating margin.

I like that phrase: creating margin.

Margins are important.  They frame things.  They give room for important notes.  They makes things more appealing.  They serve a purpose.  And they have value.

For example, Susan gets up three hours before she needs to be anywhere.  Yikes, right?  I usually time it right down to the wire… and then end up a few minutes late! : )

Susan does it differently.  She paces herself, allows herself not be hurried, and create margin in her life.  It reduces stress, allows her more time for people, and enables more peaceful living.

That sounds nice and all, but I must admit, it’s still tempting to give heed to my efficiency and productivity.

Until she said this…

Susan believes creating margin enables her to better hear the Lord and be led by the Spirit.  Responding to God’s gentle whispers, trusting, and being obedient results in an abundant life of freedom:

“When I do respond, I experience his fullness of what He’s willing to do in me and other people.  That is the abundance path.  I am ministered to, given the experience of joy, integrity, strength, and other people are experiencing it.   Freedom is occurring.  My experiences have given me that desire to be led by the Spirit and continually keep my life set up in a way that I can hear and respond.”

Wow, right?

Crazy powerful.

It’s not just slowing down to slow down.  It’s not just reducing stress or whatever.  It’s creating margin in life to better hear the Lord, be led by the Spirit, respond to His whispers, follow the abundant path, experience joy, strength, and freedom, and share that with others.

That’s compelling to me.  A free and abundant life simply by creating margin!  (and then of course praying for the courage to respond!)

Another benefit of creating margin?  Less conflict.

The other day I was driving somewhere, and I was getting frustrated with the person crossing the street.  And then I was convicted.  It is just a nice person crossing the street!  They aren’t doing anything wrong.  They are crossing the street. And they are perfectly entitled to cross the street.  The problem was that I hadn’t created enough margin.  And the 30 seconds they took to cross the street was making me late.  The conflict wasn’t with them!  The conflict was my stress of not creating margin.

Yet another benefit?  Improving your marriage.  I read someplace before my husband and I got married that married couples should spend 20 hours a week together.  Now that doesn’t include lying in bed sleeping next to each other! : )  That’s 20 hours of awake time together.

Especially when you first get married and are adjusting to living together, there are lots of little things here and there that need to be worked through.  Where will you keep this or that in the kitchen?  How will you roll the toilet paper?  Who will take out the trash?  Where do dirty clothes go?  If life is fast-paced and the only time together is seemingly filled with providing ‘input’ on the tweaks of adjusting to living together, it can quickly feel like time together is nagging or negative… even if you say them nicely!  But lots of quantity time together makes the tweaks a tiny percentage of the relationship and truly less big of a deal.  20 hours together each week allows for relational margin and emotional margin… needed margin for the adjustments of life together!

So I’m working to create margin.  For me, it’s much more enticing than ‘slow down.’  That sounds boring.  But creating margin?  To me, that sounds innovating.  And purposeful.  And valuable.

Less conflict is always a good thing.  Yet I’m especially excited about enabling a pace that allows me to better hear and respond to the Holy Spirit… to the fullness, freedom, and abundance of what He’s willing to do in me and other people.  That’s crazy amazing.  All by creating margin.

QUESTION: What margin are you creating in your life?  Or what margin have you been grateful you’ve created?  Examples in addition to time: (1) Financial margin to reduce stress and enable crazy generous giving as the Lord calls or when an emergency arises  (2) Emotional margin – my friend and her family are moving to create more emotional margin in their lives by providing more space.  (3) Physical margin – like eating well most of the time so you have margin to splurge some of the time.

photo credit: I found this photo on Mark R. Spencer’s blog post, “The difference between being busy and getting hurried.”  It’s fantastic.  He makes three distinctions:  1) Busy-ness is outside our hearts and souls, but hurriedness affects us internally.  2) Hurriedness produces isolation.  3) Hurriedness lacks a sense of accomplishment or completion, but busy-ness mirrors God’s, “It is good.”

my new take on submission

I’m impressed you’re reading this!  The ‘S’ word normally turns people off. : )

This is my new take.  Let’s see if you agree…

hike 2

In my quiet time, I was in 1 Peter.  And you know me well - I often end up with ‘4 word days.’  I love people who read through the Bible in a year!  But golly me – I rarely can make it through more than about 4 words before the Lord convicts me of something or challenges me with something or before I find something I want to understand better.  And this was one of those days!

I was reading in 1 Peter 5 about shepherding, and I came across verse 3, that being a shepherd of God’s flock should include ‘not lording it over’ those entrusted to you.

Hmmm… I thought.  What *exactly* does that mean?  We’re of course supposed to submit to our leaders and those in authority.  But what exactly is this ‘not lording it over’ thing?  What distinguishes it?

So I did a little word searching.  Shepherds aren’t to ‘lord it over’ like the government does.  Ok, so rules and governing.  Ok, that sort of helps.

And I did a little commentary digging.  Most of them said things like, “And of course no one wants to be lorded over!”  It doesn’t sound like something I want. But how do I know if I am doing it?  And what characterizes it when someone else is doing it?  I wanted to know what it was… what distinguishes it…  how to recognize it… what we are called to submit to… and what is actually sin that we’re being asked to submit to.

I contacted one of my favorite places, gotquestions.org, and asked them.  They are normally my jackpot… yet their response was similar to the commentaries.  I still didn’t feel like I had crystal clarity.

So I kept digging.  I found a guy’s dissertation that looked promising.  He went to seminary in Wake Forest, NC, and I went to college at Wake Forest, so I was kind of endeared to him!  I hoped his study would be helpful!  And it was.  I felt like I was getting warmer.

He does a comprehensive study of the role of elders, including my 1 Peter 5 verse in question.  He makes a distinction between authority de jure and de facto.  Authority de jure is authority by right or according to law, while authority de facto is authority in actual existence or possession.  So de facto authority is more earned influence: “personal influence based on respect that is earned in accordance with the character, skill, and knowledge.”  His conclusion is that elders have “leadership, but not government or control.”  He emphasizes the influence and respect of leadership, not the control, power, or hierarchy of a government or military analogy.  And this, in fact, is exactly the second half of my verse in question:

“not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

True leadership embodies de facto respect and influence.

So I felt like I was getting warmer.  I now had a sort of framework or paradigm that helped distinguish what exactly ‘lording it over’ entailed.

But do you know where I finally found my jackpot?  On a hike.

hikeWe were enjoying a great hike with some friends.  Somehow we started talking about another friend’s dining out preferences. I asked, “Does she cook?”  And this was my big crescendo.  One of the guys on the hike said,

“No.  At least she didn’t use to.  Unless her husband submitted her to it.”

“Unless her husband submitted her to it.”

Wow.

And I felt like the Lord was like, “That is the answer to your question.”

That is exactly what ‘lording it over’ is: *being* submitted to something.

Yet that is not biblical submission.  Submission isn’t something that is done *to* you.  It is something you choose to do in response to worthy leadership.  Here is one definition I learned in the marriage context:

The voluntary willingness to encourage and support your husband in order to elevate him.

It is voluntary.  It is a choice.

Because you’re a team, it elevates both.  It’s encouraging him and supporting him to be a good leader (not stressed, focused, etc.) so that he’ll lead the family well.  The result is value added, not value depleted.

It is in the best interest of both parties.

Here is my trusty gotquestions.org‘s take on it:

“Submission is a natural response to loving leadership.”

Submission is something you *choose* to do in response to worthy leadership.  Submission is not something that is done *to* you.  That is someone lording it over you.

At last fall’s Catalyst One Day Conference in Pennsylvania, Andy Stanley hit this concept hard.  He called it “an abuse of power.”

“We have this culture that somehow took an Old Testament paradigm – that has been abandoned by the way and replaced with completely new New Testament language… And we take this Old Testament king… and we bring it over in the New Testament, and we cram it down and force it on the local church.   And it’s nonsense.  Non.sense.”

Instead,

“The New Testament could not be clearer:  We are not a kingdom.  We are a body.”

Instead of ‘lording it over,’ he advocates mutual submission as modeled by Christ: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). He hit the concept hard because it is a big deal:

“This isn’t some peripheral thing.  It hurts the local church.  It communicates something that is not just unbiblical.  It is anti-New Testament.”

Cloud and Townsend in what is for me a life-changing book, Boundaries, are also leery of this lording-it-over, top-down submission.  In their counseling practices, this is the conclusion they’ve come to:

“We have never seen a ‘submission problem’ that did not have a controlling husband at its root.”

So if someone in the church tells you, “You need to submit to my authority,” I’d suggest that you not.  If they are presuming to know your motives and presuming to believe that you are being unsubmissive, well, that is a big button of mine.  That quickly delves into the territory of verbal abuse.

And, as we now understand ‘lording it over,’ they are sinning.  They are doing what the Lord expressly tells them not to.  We are not required to submit to that, nor should we.  Even though they may make it sound like we are the one sinning by not being submission, they are in fact the one sinning by lording it over.

If you have been ‘lorded over,’ I am so sorry.  It is a perversion of the truth of the gospel, and it stinks.  This ‘lording it over’ distinction has been helpful for me in knowing when to follow and when to be assertive.  I hope it can be helpful for you as well.

Dave Battle photography

Who knew a hike would lead to such a helpful – and freeing – truth!

So ‘being submitted’?  Uck.  We must be clear about when we are ‘being lorded over’ and when we are choosing to entrust ourselves to worthy leadership.  God asks us to submit to godliness – to make a choice to entrust ourselves to loving leadership.

Submission that honors the Lord honors us, too.

Submission:  If you exert power and control, it has to be in the other person’s best interest.  ~ Compassion workshop

And that is a beautiful thing.

photo credits: Dave Battle Photography

the value of feelings

I was lying in bed crying.  My husband was sound asleep next to me.  And all I could think about was how unloved I felt.

My pillow was getting wet from my tears… and that just added to my frustration.  Not only do I feel unloved, but now I am sleeping on a slimy pillow!  Gross.

As I lay there glumly, the Lord was gracious to nudge me.  Yes, I’m feeling unloved… but does that mean that my husband doesn’t love me?

My feeling is important – feeling unloved is a big deal.  Yet I’ve got to remember that it’s a feeling – a trigger that something is wrong.  It is not a foundation of truth.  It is a warning light.  It is not always accurate, but it is such an important indicator.  Its value lies in its ability to draw my attention to something that needs to be looked in to.

So I asked the Lord to look under the hood : )

Since feelings can be caused by my sin… or by Satan… or they can be prompting from the Lord, where was all this feeling of being unloved from?

Since my goal is the last option – that my feeling be of the Lord, I want to be sure to get any uckiness out of me that fits the first two.  For me, when I feel a bit discombobulated, I find it helpful to distill my thoughts and feelings by running them through God’s Word.  Philippians 4:8 is especially powerful for me:

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.

In all honesty, I rarely make it past the first two.  And that’s exactly what happened that night…

The Lord brought to mind a bunch of things that were true.  My love language – by a landslide! – is physical touch.  My absolute favorite time of day is climbing into bed with my husband and cuddling.  That’s how I fell asleep every night for years – cuddling with my amazing husband.  I loved it.  It was the happiest, best place on earth for me.  We teased that we have a king sized bed but could sleep on a twin…

…or I did, anyway!

After years of falling asleep this way, my husband finally told me that he has trouble sleeping every night because of back pain.  Before I knew him, he had two major back surgeries.  He permanently has a huge metal plate and six metal bolts in his back.  And they’re not very comfy.  Especially with your wife curled up next to you causing the mattress to lean at an angle… or with your wife’s leg or arm on top of you pressing down on all that metal.  He asked if we could sleep on separate sides of the bed so he wouldn’t be in as much pain and could sleep better.  Of course!  Well, that was my rational answer, anyway.  But when implementation time came, my feelings took over.

So that’s why I was laying in bed crying.  I felt so unloved.  And in that intense emotion, as much as I wanted to turn it into, “Therefore, my husband doesn’t love me,” the Lord was gracious to stop me.  What was true?  Cuddling makes me feel loved.  I was in a situation where I normally was cuddling and thus normally felt loved, but that was different tonight.  What was different was whether or not we were cuddling – not whether or not I was loved!  What is noble?  Um, my crazy husband lay in pain every night for years letting me cuddle with him!  That’s insanely loving of him.  How much more noble of a man could I ask for?!

And, like most times of conviction, that’s about as far through the {dhs} sifter as I made it.  So I lay in bed blown away by how much my husband loves me – how much he has sacrificed for me every night for years.  Yet I also acknowledged that cuddling is important to me.  So the next day, I asked since we weren’t cuddling falling asleep anymore if there was some other time we could.

That conversation went over much better than “You don’t love me” would have!

Because it was of the Lord.  It was realigned with His desires – that we think things that are true and noble.  That feelings are a trigger that something is wrong… but not a foundation of truth.  I am so grateful for the damage and destruction in relationships that is averted when we align our hearts and minds with the Lord’s before acting on our feelings.  And I am grateful for the peace, clarity – and love! – the Lord brought to me that night.

Just because I feel unloved doesn’t mean my husband doesn’t love me.

He does.  Madly.  Sacrificially.  And for that, I am blessed.

A big charade

I just lost my voice.  AGAIN!  It’s crazy.  About once or twice a year, I lose my voice for about a week.  This year it was on my birthday!  Whether it’s allergies or being sick, my voice just takes a little vacation every now and then.

And really, it’s often a fascinating sociology lesson.  Laryngitis has been such a gift.

The first time I lost my voice when we were married, I thought we’d be ok since Dave and I both took a little bit of sign language in college.  Turns out we each remember different words, so it is comically unhelpful!

So I end up kind of doing charades for the week.  I actually highly recommend it.  Even if you have your voice – pretend like you don’t for a few days.  It’s fascinatingly revealing.

Like one night, we were getting ready for dinner.  Dave asked if he could help – love that! : )  I nodded yes and pointed to the dinner table.  This is what it looked like:

He said, “Oh good!  So the table’s all set.”  I shook my head ‘no.’  He said, “It’s not?”  I again shook ‘no.’  He looked at the table and looked at me confused.  So I busted out the charades. I put my hand in front of me like I was grasping something cylindrical and then raised it to my mouth.

He guessed, “Oh – a ‘C’?  A ‘C’ on your mouth?”

I shook my head ‘no.’

“A ‘C’ on your nose?”

Ummm… no.

“A seal balancing a ball on his nose?”

How did we get to seal tricks? : )  So I pointed to the dinner table again.  He guessed, “A seal on a table with a ball on his nose?”

He really thought he was getting warmer.  So I started making what I thought was a pouring motion, but he thought I was giving a baby seal a bottle.  Huh? : )  So then I started acting like I was milking a cow, and he thinks I’m playing that game where you bop the hedgehogs on the head.  “Arcade games?  Seal tricks.  You want to go to Sea World?  You want us to talk at dinner about planning a vacation to Sea World?”

Hmmph.

So clearly I’m horrible at charades!  But this was so crazy valuable for our marriage!!

To me it seemed so obvious.  Look at the dinner table.  What is the obvious thing that is missing?  I didn’t really think I’d have to make any motions about it.  Then when I had to make motions, I thought surely they would jog his mind to the thing that seems so obviously missing… and to me, what was obviously missing wasn’t a trip to Sea World!
So I poured two glasses of milk and laughed.

Sometimes we get frustrated when another person isn’t doing what seems so obvious to us that they should be doing.  Look at the dinner table – it’s so obvious that the glasses are missing!  To me, that is.  But the thought never crossed his mind.

So when someone isn’t doing something that to me seems so obvious they should be doing (did you follow that? : )), I have a choice.  I can get mad at them for not doing the thing that seems so glaringly obvious that they should be doing.  I can storm and brew and feel like I want to bop them like a hedgehog.  I can assume they are intentionally *not* doing this obvious thing.  I can start to think that they are bad or mean or unhelpful or selfish – or whatever motive I choose for them – for not doing this obvious thing.  I can make a big charade out of the whole deal.

Or I can consider that they may simply not see what I see.  And they’re not a bad person for not seeing what I see how I see it.  Maybe they’re not intentionally avoiding or omitting whatever it is I think should be done.  Maybe the fault is actually with me – that I haven’t communicated clearly – or at all.  So the solution isn’t anger or blaming or frustration; it’s communication.

It’s simply bringing into the verbal realm what seems so obvious in the mental realm.  It’s gently and lovingly articulating what I desire.  It’s inviting them into what I’m doing – because maybe they’re willing, but maybe right now, they’re simply off in another (Sea) world. : )

Our Team Name

My husband and I just love the team name concept!  It’s so valuable. So what is our team name?

Well, what God has joined together – our cord of three strands – is my husband, me, and the Lord.  So we tried to think of something that reflects that.

We also wanted a team name that reflects a verse we just love:

O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.  ~ Psalm 34:3

It’s our goal in our marriage.

So we started brainstorming.  And the Lord brought something fun to mind.

When I first became a believer, I learned the phrase soli deo Gloria.  It means ‘to God alone be the glory.’  Kind of fun – Bach and Handel used it at the end of the masterpieces to give God credit for His work through them.

(GFH = George Frideric Handel)

Whenever I would read something in Scripture that just put me in awe of the Lord, I wrote ‘SDG’ next to it.  It was kind of like my ‘Amen!’  Like the first time I read the Great Commission – I was totally awed that the Lord entrusted us to carry forth His Gospel.  Soli Deo Gloria!

We love its meaning – to God alone be the glory.

We love that it reflects the verse that the Lord impressed upon us – to exalt His name together.

And we love that it just so happens that Soli Deo Gloria’s initials are, well, obviously, SDG.  My first name starts with S.  My husband’s starts with D.  And God’s starts with… well, again, obvious! : )

So that’s what we ended up with as our team name: SDG.  We love it!  (I don’t love that my name comes first, but we love everything else about it!)  It reminds us that we are teammates, that we are unified, that we are joined together by the Lord and with the Lord, and that our team’s goal is His glory.

It’s such a great reminder for us that we have it on our fridge…

SDG magnets

Yes, it’s weird that God’s is pink – but it’s better than my husband’s being pink! : )

We have it in a frame…

We have it etched on the glasses we use to celebrate our anniversary …

We had it on our wedding programs, and we have it on our luggage tags (thanks, Dad!), our ice bucket (thanks, sis!), and anyplace else it can remind us that we are a team.

Unified – by the Lord.  Strong – because of our unity in Him.  And by God’s grace, we do our best to let no one separate us… especially ourselves!  It has truly been such a blessing in our marriage and in our lives.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Question: What is your team name?  Or if you don’t have one yet, let me know when you do!  I’d love to hear it!

A special thanks to 1313 photography for the fun bride and groom basketball shot!  www.1313blog.com

Team Name – a great marriage tip!

Have a team name.

That’s it.

One of the best pieces of advice we got when we got married:  Have a team name.

It simply helps us remember an important key - we are on the same team.  We’re teammates, not opponents.  And when things start to feel like we’re opponents… well, it’s totally what we talked about last time: the Enemy just loves that.  If he can get us to take each other down – oh how easy his job becomes!  If he can get us to be destructive towards each other … nit-pick at each other … say critical, inaccurate things about each others motives … have a negative, hurtful perception of the other… if he can get us to help him with his job, he is a happy camper.  If he can get us to act more like we’re on his team than our spouse’s – yikes.

But the truth is this:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  ~ Ephesians 6:12

Our enemy is not our spouse.  Our enemy is sin and Satan.

And the truth is this:

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  ~ Ecclesiastes 4:12

There is such strength in a united husband, wife, and the Lord!  Those three strands united as a team have such alliance, solidarity, and strength!

So we commit to

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  ~ 1 Peter 5:8

As we stay alert – committed to our unity as a team and focused on trying to figure out how as a team we can move forward, we move through situations with unity and strength.  With courage and fortitude, we defeat inklings of accusation or blame, and we keep the devil from a foothold!

Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. ~ Mark 10:9

Amen!!  In the strength and solidity of the Lord, commitment to a team mindset enables wonderful victory!

Thanks to Kate McElwee for the very fun bride and groom shot!  www.katemcelweephotography.com

One of my favorite things about our marriage

Today my husband and I celebrate 9 years of marriage!  The Lord has been so gracious.

There are certainly other areas of our lives that have been filled with challenges, but He has been so gracious in our marriage.  And I am so grateful.  What more could a girl ask for?

Dave did a little impromptu dance in the middle of our wedding ceremony. It was hilarious :)

So we’ve only been doing this marriage thing for 9 years so far.  We clearly have a ways to go.  And for as prepared as I was for this whole ‘oneness’ thing to reveal more deeply the good – and the bad – in my mate, I’m still waiting for the latter.  So I clearly can only speak from so much of a vantage point.

But one of the things I love about our marriage – and one of the things that I think has been such a blessing – is a paradigm the Lord has been gracious to lay on our hearts.

Where the Bible is clear, we will be adamant.
Where the Bible doesn’t speak, we allow freedom.

Now this is actually part of our church’s position on doctrine… but we find the practical application in marriage and relationships super helpful ~ and freeing!!

Has the Lord said it?  Then we do our best to be adamant about it in our relationship and in our lives.  But if the Lord hasn’t spoken about it, then there is freedom.  If the Lord doesn’t find it important enough to speak on, why would we be crazy enough to allow it a foothold in our marriage?  Marriage is important to the Lord (Matthew 19:6; Ephesians 5:22-31).  Oneness is important to the Lord (John 17).  So why allow something that isn’t important to the Lord interfere with something that is?

Let’s take Christmas shopping for example.  I personally think August is a great time to get our Christmas shopping done.  My husband would rather do other things in August.  He thinks the week before Christmas is a great time to do our Christmas shopping.  Is it worth fighting over?  Well, is it in Scripture?  Nope.  So is it worth fighting over?  Nope.  Is it worth my calling him a bunch of names and telling him he’s a procrastinator?  Nope.  In fact, buying Christmas presents isn’t even in Scripture.  But encouraging one another daily is.  How am I doing on that?  Respecting your husband is.  How am I doing on that?  For me, personally, there are plenty of things in Scripture to work on – I don’t need to make up additional things!  And while my husband is the most godly man I know, I think he would still say there are things in Scripture for him to work on.  He certainly doesn’t need me to make up additional things for him to do!

Or let’s take the laundry for example.  I am perfectly fine with throwing everything together – whites and colors – on cold.  That works for me.  My husband, however, thinks that makes his white undershirts less bright.  Hmmmm… is it in the Bible?  Nope.  So is it worth fighting over?  Nope.  Is one of us right?  Nope.  It’s just different approaches.  So we do a little maneuvering to figure out how to help our approaches dance together.  It’s not about ‘winning’ or ‘being right’ or ‘I told you so.’  If it’s not in Scripture, we allow freedom.  So we have some options.  One option is that I am glad to do any laundry that he doesn’t mind being all mixed together.  Another option is that I can choose to do his laundry separate to keep his shirts white.  And I’m sure there are other options.   What I chose is that my husband doesn’t ask very much of me, and I love knowing things that make him happy, and this makes him happy, and I’d like to do this for him, so I choose to serve in this way.  So we (honestly, probably like most houses in America) now sort our laundry between lights and darks.

Or let’s take joining a small group.  Ohhhh…. I’m inching closer to spiritual things here.  To things that actually are in Scripture.  When we were first married, I thought we should be in a couples small group.  Dave didn’t.  He thought we were too busy.  He thought we should focus on considering our current priorities and maybe consider a small group down the road.  My professional job was small groups.  As much as I tried not to let my job creep into this, it kind of felt a little personal: I can’t get my own husband to join a small group!  Yep, there were all kinds of possible tensions and potential explosions under the surface.  So I prayed about it.  And I wrestled with the Lord about it.  And I asked Him what to do.  And the Lord was gracious to bring this to mind:  “If I had a list of things for which I was going to bless a marriage, that wouldn’t be on there.”

Weird, huh?

Ok, let me first point out that what I felt like the Lord impressed on me started with ‘if.’  I do *not* believe we serve a legalistic, check-list God.  I believe we serve a loving, passionate, personal God!

So I pondered what I felt like He impressed on me for a while.  I mean, joining a small group sounds spiritual.  It sounds like something the Lord would want us to do.  It sure sounds like something I would be right about. : )  But you know what?  “Join a small group” is not in Scripture.  Even for someone who worked in ministry on a small groups staff, I had to admit this.  Are its principles in Scripture?  Well, sure.  Does the Lord want us to experience the Body?  Absolutely.  Does He want us in His Word?  Absolutely.   But does He mandate that every married couple must be in a small group their first year of marriage?  Nope.

So then I started thinking, “Ok, Lord.  If joining a small group isn’t on your ‘list’ of things for which you would bless a marriage, what is?”

And the Lord brought this to mind, “Respect your husband.  Honor his leadership.”

I love when the Lord is so gracious to steer me in His perfect direction.

So it was settled.  I have an amazing husband who values the Body and values God’s Word.  But he also values sanity and waiting on the Lord’s timing and direction.  And so we did.  And eventually, in God’s perfect timing – and with my husband’s godly leadership – we joined a small group.

And I believe, so the Lord blessed our marriage.

Where the Bible is clear, we will be adamant.
Where the Bible doesn’t speak, we allow freedom.

It’s been one of my favorite things about our marriage so far.  Focusing on the things that are in Scripture – and being free from imposing other things that are not in Scripture – has helped give so much clarity, direction, freedom, life, vitality, and love to our marriage.  It gives a safety, a peace, and a security that I just love.  We know what we’re adamant about, and we know where there is freedom.  And the life and joy that comes from that has been such blessing to me.

Happy 9th Anniversary, Love!!  I am honored to call you my husband.

Question: What is one of your favorite things about your marriage?  You can leave a comment below.  

the most *lovely* marriage tip

One of the best pieces of advice we got before we got married has been so helpful to keep our thoughts lovely – and far from intent on criticism.  It went something like this:

Beware of the things you love most about your spouse –
those are the things Satan will use to drive you crazy!

The guy who gave us the tip told us this story…

couple in convertible sports carOne of the things he loves most about his wife is how expressive she is.  She can articulate herself well, enjoys telling stories, is always full of ideas, and is never at a loss for conversation.  He just adores this about her.  She is so fun to listen to!

…until they took a cross country road trip : )

Her stories were great on the east coast.  They had some laughs through the Appalachians and towards Elvis territory.  As they hit the Mississippi, she was still talking!!  He began to wonder how big that area was that Lewis and Clark explored – hopefully small!  Passing through the corn fields of the Midwest, he began to think (hope!) that surely she was running out of words.  But no luck!  He was starting to go a little crazy.  How could one person have so many words?  He tossed her his cell phone and pleaded, “Call someone.  Anyone!  Please” : )

It was the very thing he adored about her that was driving him insane about her!  But he was able to keep from being intent on criticism by remembering that her expressiveness is (in general : )) one of her most lovely attributes.  He’s just got to watch it that he doesn’t allow Satan to use it against them.

Being aware of this was so helpful for me when my husband and I got married.  One of the things I just adore about my husband is his intentionality.  He is a committed friend, a faithful husband, and a consistent man of prayer.  He is reliable as can be, steady and rock solid (physically, too : )- ).  He is faithful because he is intentional – he considers carefully to what and to whom he will commit.  Then when he says he’ll do something, you can count on it.

I am a woman of action. I tend to have lots of ideas, and I like to make them all happen – now : ).  So his intentionality I love.  But intentionality sounds like this:

Me:  I have an idea.
Husband: Really?  That’s unusual.  (wryly)
Me: [whatever the idea is]
Husband:  That’s worth thinking about.

So there I am – kind of stuck at the starting gate, raring to go.  And he’s, well, thinking about it.  Me, in action mode…and him, sitting.  Me, almost off and running…and him, deciding.  Tension just waiting to be tested.

But the Lord is faithful to bring to mind wise words from our friend:

Beware of the things you love most about your spouse –
those are the things Satan will use to drive you crazy!

I love his intentionality, so I’ve got to love all of it!  His faithfulness comes as a result of consideration and taking time to make decisions.  So if I love his faithfulness, I’ve got to love the whole faithfulness package – including the deciding, praying, and considering!

And if I’d admit it, it’s good for me, too.  My husband is kind of like a governor for me.  He kind of helps regulate me and keeps me from running myself into the ground, which I desperately need!  Ultimately, it’s helpful.  But at the time… well… I’m glad to have this reminder to help me see it that way!