I wanted to write a great, fantastic, and helpful post about marriage, but I kept staring, paralyzed, at the screen.
Marriage is too complicated, messy, beautiful, and varied for me to write anything helpful. Not me, anyways. But, I do feel passionate about the subject. God gave us marriage. It isn’t something to take lightly.
I love my husband. He is my favorite blessing. He is my biggest fan, my most ardent supporter. He makes me feel strong and beautiful. Because God gave me a man like him, I have become the woman I am.
That is my story and my marriage.
This month we will have been married 11 years, lived in four countries, welcomed three children into the world, said good-bye to one. We’ve cried together, laughed together, and committed to be a dedicated team with our eyes fixed on God.
But what makes a good marriage? How is it shaped and sheltered? I’ve read lots of books and articles and listened to many speeches and sermons on this topic. There is a plethora of advice to choose from. But, the one that sticks out the most for me is that a good marriage has been fought for.
A good marriage has been under-siege but has come out stronger. A good marriage has seen dark days but fought hard so that vows and promises wouldn’t fall apart. A good marriage has had to become flexible while still unbreakable. A good marriage has been anchored in love—a husband’s love, a wife’s love, and God’s love.
Romantic love is on the minds of many during the lovey-dovey season of Valentine’s. I totally understand. There are few things sweeter, here on Earth, than the love of a good man and a marriage that stands the test of time.
If God has blessed you with a partner, I pray He gives you both the strength, wisdom, and love to fight for your life together.
Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!
In your own relationships, what advice have you found to be helpful?
Armed and Ready
There is a precious and good work being done as we raise children and be help-mates to our spouses. And, if there is something that the Devil attacks on a regular basis, it is our hearts and homes. It feels like there is little we can do to protect our family from the evil of the world, sometimes, even the evil in our own heads.
Our Christian world is under attack and the intensity of the war increases each day.
This is my challenge to you: Each morning, for a week, I want you to concentrate on prayerfully clothing yourself in the armor of God.
Belt of Truth: God’s truths will negate the lies that attack your heart and head.
Breastplate of Righteousness: Carry out your day with the power of righteous living. When temptations knock, we are protected as God strengthens us to do what is right.
Sandals of Peace: Purposefully choose peace as you interact with family, friends, and strangers. We can choose not to pick fights or finish them. We can choose to cultivate goodwill with and between others.
Shield of Faith: Faith in God’s love, goodness, and power will “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” So when the devil tries to make you feel unloved, unappreciated, overworked, or misplaced we can thwart those attacks by our belief in the care and promises of our awesome God.
Helmet of Salvation: Rejoice as you place this helmet on your head. You are God’s chosen one, His child. Your helmet not only protects, it also marks you as one of His own. And the Enemy must respect to Whom you belong.
Sword of the Spirit: Let the power of God’s word, both in the Bible, and spoken through the Holy Spirit, be what you use to fight back in today’s battle. This means you need to invest time in both studying the Bible and praying with God.
Living in this world is never going to be easy, but it can be full of victory claimed daily as we put on the Armor of God. Let it strengthen and guide You as you fight for the good works done in your home and heart today.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
Have you experienced a way in which the armor of God powerfully protected your family or marriage?
Dads Love in a Different Way
I watched Jovani hold Micaela, her IV line draped across the couch, her curly head resting on his shoulder. His eyes closed. Soon they were both asleep.
I had no idea how he could do that. Earlier, I had attempted to hold our fussy & frustrated three-year old while resting, but had been unsuccessful. The moment she put her head down I would wonder if she was comfortable, if the IV lines would kink, and if there was enough airflow around her nose and mouth. No Jovani, he simply held her and settled into the moment. Micaela loved it. She needed to feel his strong heartbeat and loving arms.
As we sat in the hospital after this last formidable seizure that Micaela had, I considered the ways in which Jovani’s love is better than mine. What I discovered was surprising.
While this list should be taken with a grain of salt (not all family dynamics, marriages, etc are the same) you might find that some of these describe ways in with your significant other, parent, neighbor, or friend bring another flavor of love into your child’s life.
If you are blessed to have other people in your life that help you raise your children, think about all the ways their love is different than yours. Sometimes these differences can frustrate us, but, most the time, they are nurturing your children in ways that do not come natural to your own personality.
So, the next time your children have the opportunity to spend quality time with someone who cares for them, take a moment and thank God that their lives are blessed with many different kinds of love.
(Love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Can you think of other ways your spouse, parent, parent-in-law, or neighbor gives your child love that is different than yours?
Different Days Ahead
And then she was three.
Micaela’s birthday is a time of immense joy for us. She has overcome much more than we ever thought possible and her future is full of hope. But, the momentous moment is accompanied by one huge change: no more early intervention therapy.
So, to catch some of us up to speed, in the State of New Mexico a child with developmental delays receives therapy at home through an Early Intervention agency until the age of three at which point parents can choose in-school therapy or clinics. We have been blessed to work with Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Pathologists, Developmental Specialists, Vision Specialists, and Orientation & Mobility Therapists since she was discharged from the NICU in 2014. They all came to our home and interacted with Micaela in her own environment.
I will miss the constant education and encouragement they brought into our lives.
For months I have dreaded this day, this turning of age that will bring such a great change. It wasn’t until a practical friend told me to think about the pros that I considered the positives. I only had two, but they were big: Less appointments to coordinate for a child who also has seven doctors in her life. Also, perhaps I will relax and be more mom than therapist.
Either way, there are different days ahead.
I am so proud of Micaela. She defies odds and is filled with personality and determination. God had provided for her and our family. As I meet her teachers and the therapists who will provide service for her in the school, I am resolved to meet this change head-on.
Different days are ahead. New challenges. New blessings. New ways in which we will witness God’s awesome power and incredible love.
This time of the year there are many people peering into the future and very different days of their lives. It is wedding season with couples committing their lives to each other. Some parents are expecting their first child with anxious excitement. Countless graduates complete high school or college. For them all, life won’t be the same.
But God, remember, has not changed a single bit. He walks this journey, His hands on our shoulders, His love in our hearts, His peace in our souls.
Can you think back on a season of great change? As you moved forward, how did you experience God's goodness, care, love, protection, and grace? If you are looking at big life changes right now, take a moment and commit your future to the God who will walk this journey with you.
Intense Training (A New Point-of-View When this Season of Life Feels Impossible)
I force a smile when my husband arrives home. We exchange the “Hey, Honey. How was your day?” I say that my day was fine...long... exhausting.
The girls, full of energy, jump all over their Papá.
An hour later while we sit together on the couch, I feel defeated. There are still dishes in the sink. I might or might not have picked up the floor. I have sixty minutes left to do something else with my life. I should write or study, but my mind is as weary as my body.
I have learned to give myself grace.
It only took four years of motherhood to realize the beauty of this season. Ask any parent, with children the age of six to sixty, and they will confirm: these early childhood years take a special amount of endurance and heart.
It is the most beautiful training we might ever experience.
In these years we learn to prioritize. Our kids remind us that they need a balance between healthy meals and healthy time spent with their parents.
They pull us out of our obsessions with plans and goals and make us learn to live in the moment with sticky-finger-hugs and bubble baths.
We develop a whole new appreciation for spouses, parents, neighbors, friends, and in-laws as we let go of pride and let others have a wholesome share in our little ones’ lives.
We learn to relax when we have a moment to do so. The work will always be there, but we won’t let it define us.
Our emotional, mental, and physical health begins to demand significance. We learn to let our me-time do double or even triple duty as we combine prayer and workouts and quiet.
We earn hearts that know how to serve. Serve our husbands, our children, our family. We understand how critical it is to reach out to others in need.
No longer do we take wakeful minutes for granted.
Habits, thoughts, and attitudes are weeded and pruned as we start to see ourselves in our children.
God becomes and intricate part of our inner thoughts because we know our sanity is best kept in His hands.
I could make this list go on and on. Some days it is hard to stay on top of my enthusiasm for motherhood, but I admire how this way of life continues to toughen and soften me. It is intense training ground.
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
Can you think of more ways we are “trained”? What about other areas or seasons of our lives? God wastes nothing. How is He shaping you today?
The Languages of Love
Have you ever doubted the affection of someone close to you?
When I was about fourteen, I went through a period where I greatly questioned my mom's love. It disturbed me how much she did for my younger brother. She paid attention to his grades, sat down with him to do his homework, and worked hard to help him succeed. Her treatment of me was very different. Of course, I had straight As and did not struggle in school, but I still felt she did not love me like she did my brother. Now, Mom did find things for us to do togethers and liked to give me little things. The hormonal teenager in me believed that she attempted to convince me of her love, but it was obvious that my brother was the one who truly held her heart.
A decade later a friend handed me the book The Five Love Languages. My world was rocked. I gobbled up the theology of the book and sighed with relief. I understood my husband better and became a better friend. I realized that Mom did love me. However, our love languages did not match up.
For those of you who haven't read this amazing book, let me give you a little idea of what it is about. AuthorGary Chapman wrote that we all express love using a primary and secondary love language. There are five different languages to choose from:
My primary language is acts of service and my secondary is physical touch. That means that if someone hugs me or does something to help me, I feel perfectly loved. My mother liked to receive (and give) gifts and spend quality time with others. I didn't realize that all those years she was actively demonstrating how much I meant to her in the way using her love languages.
Information is powerful. As we gear up to extra loving next week, wouldn’t it be nice to know about the love languages of those close to you? Anyone can sign on to the Love Languages website and take a quiz for free. We can also find out the love language of our children (if they are above age 9). http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
God made us unique and special in our ways. Let us honor that by finding the best way to show our love to the special people in our lives.
I know with deep shame the cracks that fall into place with who I am, how I love, and how I serve others. And perhaps that is why, when people tell me they are amazed at my dedication to mothering my girls, especially little Micaela who needs so much, I feel confused. I look at the day spent, the hair-breaths I was from losing my cool with all the little things, the way my heart rebelled against the constant demands, and the way my mind kept trying to slip away into a daydream so I could forget it all for a moment.
The honest truth is that what my girls need from me and what my husband deserves are far beyond what I am capable of. If I wasn't doing this with Jesus, I wouldn't be doing this at all.
Today we started week two of Micaela's weaning from the G-tube. She was cranky and on strike. I kept her hydrated but the 2 & 1/2 meals she got from the machine was significantly less than what she wanted. The mom in me tried to rebel, you truly hate to see your kid hungry when a simple syringe of food would fix it. But, God helped me stick to my guns. God kept my heart from delving into worry and coming up with at hundred excuses to abandon our fight to help Micaela eat on her own. Oh, if I wasn't doing this with Jesus I wouldn't even be attempting such a heart-wounding challenge.
Adela's speech has started to explode into our lives. Our quiet little girl is quiet no longer. In her Spanish/English jargon she asks a thousand questions and tells a hundred stories. On and on the dialogue goes. About midday today, with my nerves stained to breaking, I turned to my little girl and started to tell her she needed to be quiet for a little while so I could think. Mid-sentence my voice stilled because I felt that nudge, God's Spirit, telling me to look at my child with my heart instead of my pounding head. I pulled her confused face into a hug and asked her if she would like to read a book. The next half-hour soothed me more than a bubble bath with her little warm body squeezed next to me and her fly-away hair tickling my cheeks as we read story after story. Oh, if I wasn't dong this with Jesus I would never have got those moments.
Motherhood is hard. I am too battered and jumbled to do this on my own. A little pressure and I can feel myself breaking. A sudden storm and I know I will be blown away in the wind and hail. God not only ensures that I am anchored and given armor to weather the pressure, He guides my hands and my words and sees that my family and I arrive safely to the end of each day. I would be such a mess without Jesus.
Sometimes the lives of my two girls that I have been entrusted with feels like too big a task for me to ever be part of. But, then I watch Micaela learn something new or watch Adela's gentle hands pet the head of a sick lamb, and I remember the wonders of Our God. The God that parted waters, the God that quieted the storm, the God who defeated death--that God, my God, is right beside me.
You are not the man I married.
The man I married had never fixed bows in little girls hair or rocked a feverish body. The man I married had never laughed with me watching toddler feet discover bugs and tumbles. He had never snuggled tiny bodies to his chest and watched monitors confirming their every breath.
The man I married had never held my hand at the most painful moments of our lives. He had never wrapped me in his arms when we had both hit rock-bottom and told me, "It's going to be okay."
You've changed, you know. You like a good time as much as you ever did, but a day of solid work you are more pleased to call your own. I did not know this man when we slid rings onto our younger fingers.
You are not the man I married.
You have more callouses now, more scars. You think about things like Life Insurance and baby-proofing cabinets. You work not just to put money in the bank but also to show your daughters integrity and perseverance. You believe in church and dreams and hope.
Who you are now is so much more than I could have ever wished for. You are the man who tells me at every meal that he loved my cooking and was thankful, even if it was his fourth meal of the same leftovers. You are the man who asks me about our girls with the same interest and excitement as you give to livestock sales and new cars. You are the man who surrenders a potential morning of longer sleep because little girls crawled under the covers with you and wanted tickles and stories and to stomp around in the pasture with you.
You are not the same at all. We are not the same. We tell way too many silly inside jokes and think about health insurance. We talk about the strange, the mundane, family, politics,...everything. You know my every hope and fear and encourage me constantly.
Marriage has to be one of the most beautiful experiences on Earth. I love the way it grows us and changes us and makes us daily into stronger people as we live this life together.
A month ago I read an article written my a tired mother titled, Dear Husband: I'm Not the Person You Married and it made me sad. The lady in the article seemed worried and angry that she wasn't the same wife to her husband that she had been when they married. But, I doubt her husband saw her that way. None of us are the same, but we are beautiful and growing into God's plans for us. And everyday I'm thankful I am on this journey with the man God chose for me.
I curled Adela's little body into my lap and squeezed her tight. She smiled at me and giggled. We both know that she is rapidly getting bigger and that body doesn't fit into my arms as neatly as it did. But, never mind, hugs are often the glue that keeps our hearts intact these days. I held her tight to me.
Touch is so powerful, isn't it?
I cannot count the number of times in my life that a hug has made me feel stable when my world was rocky. A single kiss from my husband confirms ours affection and deep love for each other. The warm grasp of a friend's hand relays sympathy or shares in my joy.
But physical touch is not for all of us. It just isn't. I know several sweet friends who simply "aren't huggers". For them, physical touch does not relay that deepness of caring. These people are impacted more by heartfelt words and actions than they ever could be if someone held their hand.
In the four gospel books of the Bible--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--I am struck by how much Jesus' life on earth was full of touch. He used touch to heal the sick, lame, and the blind. He touched through the loving praises of the faith of believers and the tender innocence of children. He touched through service as he fed thousands and washed the feet of His disciples. He was constantly touching others.
What about us? How much do I withdraw into myself on those bad days and feel my skin too prickly and my words to be full of anger? How much do I resent providing for the needs of my family and do my work with half a heart? What is my touch like to those around me?
But I am learning something amazing about touch.
Today I might have needed that embrace with Adela much more than my four-year-old did. A tension headache has pulsed at the bottom of my scull for days. It is momentarily relieved by a good laugh, a visit from a friend, or devotional time with my Bible. But it comes back, a painful beat keeping rhythm with my anxious heart. My mind is filled with Micaela's hurts, preparing for five or more days of doctors/clinics in Albuquerque, and packing up Adela to spend a week with her grandparents. I am not quite at my wit's-end, but I am horribly aware that my thoughts and attitude need altering. That moment I spent with Adela wrapped in my arms was the highlight of a very long day.
And that was when I realized something amazing about touch.
When you touch someone through the gentle squeeze of a hand, heart felt words of love, or acts of service, you are touched too. When we reach out, filled with God's love pouring through us, we are touched as thoroughly and deeply as the person we sought to reach. Touch is not a one way street but an impact of hearts.
How often does everyone out there get a hug? A smile? A comment spoke to warm their day? My life is in constant contact with others because little ones fill my home and fill my heart. Touch is a consistent part of my world. And, so are words of praise and encouragement. As I focus on telling Adela and Micaela positive things I fill my home with the touch of words. As I lovingly care for my family's needs I fill my home with the touch of service. And each time I scoop my children up in my arms or hold my husband's hand I fill my home with loving physical touch.
As the trip to Albuquerque looms ahead of me, I think of all the parents I will meet in waiting rooms, the friends I will reconnect with, and the dozens of strangers that will collide with my life. I pray for God to fill me with love and understanding so that I can touch lives in His way.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
And Two Became One
I know the story does not end with the prince sweeping the princess onto his horse and riding off into the sunset. No. That is when the story begins.
This weekend, Annah and Noel took that first step forward in the adventure of marriage. How perfectly beautiful and blessed that they get to go on life's journey together. And, as I hold my own other-half's hand, I hope for them not only the sweet moments, but the bitter ones too. I hope for the challenges that will make them grow stronger together. I pray for the laughter that allows them to remember the friendship that holds their love. I hope their fights end with kisses and that they never form battle lines that separate their hearts.
And, even if they do, for these things happen, may God fix their eyes on love.
I could never be the woman I am today without my husband. Without him I would have never emerged from my shy, insecure shell. I wouldn't have saw the world with only a duffel bag to my name. I wouldn't have been mother to Adela, Micaela, and our angel Isabela. I am so different from the girl he took on a first date but have been made more his wife, his friend, his love as each passing year melds our souls together.
What sounds so scary as giving yourself, your life, to another person was divinely designed to bring fullness to your future that could not have been realized alone.
Today, I raise my heart and my hands as I pray for Annah and Noel and for the greatness that God has prepared in their journey.
Congratulations, my dear friends.
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