Great Expectations

Last week at a friend’s bridal shower, I had the awesome opportunity to share what I’ve learned about marriage. I haven’t been married all that long, but I have been married long enough to learn a thing or two. And I’m learning that when God teaches me something, it is a blessing to me each and every time I get to honor the Teacher by sharing it with others. So, I thought in addition to sharing that night, I would post it here to share with the rest of you.

Besides that, when I want to remember lessons God has shown me, I write them here as my reminder and re-read them later – revisiting this altar of stones. It’s a way of reminding myself of a personal and loving God who is continually molding and shaping me, refining me to be a bearer of His image. And it’s a way holding myself accountable to what God has already taught me. So… lessons on marriage? Um, yeah… that’s one I need to visit often…

Great Expectations
Lessons I’ve Learned about Marriage

So… 11 more days! You’re almost there. I bet you have been dreaming about this day and the days and years to follow. It is a wonderful time. A time to plan and to look forward with excitement! All of us here are so excited for you, too. It’s a time of great expectations.

I have to be honest, when Michele called me and asked me to pray about doing the devotional for tonight, I was hesitant. I told her that yes, I would pray, but that no, I wasn’t sure this was something I could do. Then I got off the phone and cried. This year marks just 9 years for Matt and I… I am certainly not the most experienced wife here. We’ve had lots of ups and downs and have made plenty of mistakes through them… I’m certainly not the wisest wife here, either. And you deserve the best. I almost said no, because I felt inadequate, like I couldn’t fulfill expectations for a marriage devotional. I thought others would have expectations of me that I couldn’t possibly fulfill. I had expectations of myself that were impossibly high.

Thankfully, I calmed down from my panicked cry and was reminded that this time here isn’t about me and what I can do or say about marriage. It’s about what God has already said, and what He has taught me in my short time of being married that I can share with you. I almost missed out on the blessing of sharing the things I’ve learned because I had misplaced and impossible expectations.

Here’s the thing… I’ve learned marriage is a lot like that. No, it’s not about lowering expectations. It’s about putting expectations in the right place. God gave me an incredible gift when he gave me Matt. We’ve had some great times in 9 years, and we’ve had some tough times too. For me, some of the hardest times were not about the actual circumstance we were facing, but about the expectations I had that were not met.

It’s not that I needed to lower my expectations for Matt, it’s that I was looking to him instead of to God to fulfill all my needs or to make me happy or feel secure. And while there were plenty of times he did those things, I was placing a God-sized burden on human-sized shoulders. I had placed Matt on so high a pedestal that my dependence on him began to surpass my dependence on God. Heartache and failure – for both of us – were inevitable. Psalm 118:8-9 says this:It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

You have a great prince in your life. Just like I do. But if I could share just one piece of advice with a new bride, it would be this: Don’t ever let that prince take the place of the King.

The King of Kings, who knows you best and loves you even more than your fiance does, more than you can imagine, has given you an incredible prince to spend your life with. And while your new husband isn’t and won’t be perfect, he is the perfect gift for you because he is from your Heavenly Father, who knows you so well. This is a gift you get to unwrap each day as you wake up next to the man God picked out just for you and spend your days getting to know the gift and the Gift Giver even more.

Marriage is wonderful. And hard and beautiful and crazy and exhausting and confusing and exhilarating and a million other things. But God is steady. A solid rock. He never fails. He always keeps his promises. We can expect that and never be disappointed. And He has given us His Word full of promises He will fulfill in our lives and marriages. All you need to do is to first love the Lord your God, and then love others, your husband included. As you obey those commandments and unwrap this gift of your prince, here are 6 of God’s promises, Great expectations you can be sure of…

  1. Expect to be blessed when you serve your husband with a humble heart. When Matt and I were first married, people told us, “Always remember, love is a verb.” A verb is an action word. That means you can show your love for your husband by serving him. Think of ways to bless him. Iron his favorite shirt. Make him his favorite meal. Leave him a sweet note on the mirror when you head off to work first. Or get up a little earlier to send him off with a good breakfast. Proverbs 11:25 says, “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” When you bless your spouse, you will be blessed in return.
  2. Expect to have fun when you maintain a joyful heart in Christ. Fun can come in big ways, like when you plan a surprise outing doing something you know he loves. Or it can come in small ways, in the daily grind, by keeping your heart joyful, especially when you don’t feel like it. These are the times where it’s a lot harder to have fun. You might feel a little less joyful and a little more irritated over dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is empty, or when a pair of white socks continually end up in the dark laundry divider in the middle, no matter how many times you’ve told him “white on the right.” (Not that that’s ever happened in our house.) But allowing your heart to be irritated over things that are minimal will only eat away at your joy and his, and will eventually lead to bitterness. I’ve done this. It snowballed to the point where I’d be irritated for how he put pillows on the bed after making it, rather than being thankful that he made the bed. Maintain a joyful heart in the Lord. Think of these times as opportunities to be a humble servant, and as reminders of things to be thankful for. Dirty dishes means you’ve had plenty of food to eat. (I haven’t figured out what white socks in the wrong laundry divider means yet, but instead of getting mad about it, I had Ari hold the bag open so I could take a picture and send it to him with a joke about the kids switching his socks over again. His response was perfect and caused us to laugh, “I’m such a moron.”) Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Keep your heart light and find ways to laugh with each other, especially when you make silly mistakes. It will make your relationship fun, and it will draw you closer together. Sometimes when I mess up, I make Matt a cup of coffee and bring it to him in a mug that says “I love my wife.” (Just in case he needs the reminder.) We already know you make a mean cup of coffee. Now all you need is the mug…
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  3. Expect your friendship to grow as you make time to communicate. Don’t expect your husband will be able to read your mind (because after 9 years of marriage, I’m more convinced than ever that men cannot do that). Instead, share with him your thoughts: your gratitude, your concerns, your dreams, your frustrations. Be his confidant and closest friend, and let him be yours. For this is your beloved and this is your friend.” —Song of Solomon 5:16. And James 1:19 “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Friends listen to each other. Take the time to really listen to him. Learn what he likes, what makes him feel loved, what empties him and what fills him up. As you seek to know him more, use that knowledge to find more ways to bless him.
  4. Expect your love for each other to grow the more grace you give. Marriage provides lots of opportunities to forgive and show grace. It can be hard to let go of hurtful things that are said or done, especially if they happen more than once. You may be tempted to bring up past mistakes and hold on to repeated mistakes when they happen yet again. Remind yourself of these verses. Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” When you argue or have wronged each other, instead of expecting your spouse to be the first to apologize, soften your heart towards him. Pray that your heart will be softened. Be humble and quick to forgive, and forgive as many times as is required. Know that showing grace will increase your love for each other. In Luke 7, Jesus teaches Simon about forgiveness. Remember the woman who lived a life full of sin that washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair? She then poured perfume on his feet and kissed them over and over. Jesus pointed out that Simon’s reaction to seeing Jesus was much different. He did nothing but greet him. She had been forgiven more, and therefore loved more. In verse 47, Jesus says this, I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Forgive BIG. And know that not only will you be blessed because you are obeying your King, but expect that the more you forgive your husband, the more his love for you will grow.
    As a side note, my mom has said as long as I can remember, “Love isn’t always a feeling, but it’s always a choice.” There may be a time or two where Matt has told me he loves me and my response through gritted teeth was, “I’m choosing to love you too.” It’s easy to love when things are great and when others are lovely. Choose to show love in the hard moments. In the times when you don’t feel the love flowing, look at your husband and remember he is the perfect gift for you from the One who knows you best. Love him as Christ loves him, and forgive BIG, as Christ forgives. And in case you need a little help with that, (maybe when you’re just really not feelin’ the love), pour yourself a cup of coffee, read your mug, and breathe
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  5. Expect your relationship to be strengthened as you honor and pray for your husband. Proverbs 31:10-12 says this, A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it.” Pay attention to all the good in your husband: his faithfulness, his steadiness, his servant’s heart, his hard work. Honor him for those things. Tell him and show him how much you appreciate and respect him for his leadership in your home. Pray for him in his role in your home, in his role at work and in other areas. Honor him in how you speak to him and about him. I love how Ephesians 4:29 reads from The Message Bible, Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” When you do that, Proverbs says your husband will trust you without reserve, and your relationship will be strengthened because of it.

You’ll notice each of these expectations isn’t about something your spouse should do or will do. They are about you. And they’re about God’s promises. They are about you being obedient to Christ, and God’s blessing being poured out in your marriage because of your obedience. Your spouse will see this and be blessed. Others will see, too. And you will point all of them right to Jesus by your words and actions. So the last expectation is this: #6 Above all, expect to glorify God as you continue to seek Him in your marriage. Because that is exactly what you will be doing when He maintains his rightful place as Lord of your life… when you first love the Lord your God – your King, and when you love, honor, and cherish the gift he has given you in your spouse.

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Belated Birthday Treat

Yes, it took a painful amount of time.

Yes, I had to spell EVERY word for her out loud. Slowly. Except for “Daddy” “love” and “Annalise Joy.”

Yes, I had to calm 3 near fits after she didn’t form the perfect “G” “K” and “5”.

Yes, I had to give her a time-out for banging the table and snapping “No! I DIDN’T!” when I said she had made a good letter R.

Yes, I got “in trouble” at various moments for: 1) Spelling too quickly. 2) Spelling too slowly. 3) Offering help. 4) Not helping enough. 5) Suggesting that yes, in fact, she can do it. 6) Suggesting where to put it when she was done.

And yes, she’s doing this on Mother’s Day. And she’s using my coffee card that I got for Teacher Appreciation week.

But seriously? MELT.

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Stuff like this. It’s why I love being a mom. So really? It’s a Happy Mother’s Day to ME! Because I got myself such an awesome kid. (TWO awesome kids!)

And P.S. My favorite? The Es with lots of bars. Bless her.

Oh yes, and sorry, future Kindergarten teacher. I’ve tried to work on the lower case letters. But honestly? I don’t get paid enough. (Although, neither do you. But she’ll be nicer when you teach her.)

When you’re gone

I know I just blogged, but you’re gone. And that equals no adult to talk to at home. And that equals me not getting all my daily words out. And that equals too much to say and no one to say it to.

And so I blog again.

It’s just that when you’re not here, I don’t know what to do when one of the kids clogs the toilet with way too much TP so that it won’t even plunge. Yes, again. (Other toilet. Same kid.) Despite me plunging it 27 times to no avail, you were able to fix it last time. I don’t know your secret. Dish soap still doesn’t work for me.

And when you’re not here, I can’t get into the closet with the latch that locks that a certain (other) child shut while I was getting ready this morning. Thankfully, they weren’t in it this time. And thankfully, I was already dressed and didn’t need to get anything out of there. But tomorrow I will. You’d think there’d be at least an outfit or two in all the clothes on the floor, chair, and your side of the bed so that I could put together something, but you’d be wrong.

And even if there were something, it would likely be dirty. And my only drawers outside the closet are: PJs, sweats, undies/socks. At least I’ll be wearing clean underwear while I dress in a pajama top with yoga pants at work tomorrow. Or maybe I could call the fire department to come bust the door in with an axe. Do we own an axe? Because maybe I should just do it myself.

If you were here, I could just ask you that in person. Except I wouldn’t need to, because you would have gotten the closet door open by now. I just don’t know your trick.

In any case, since all the laundry bins are in the closet, nothing is getting washed. So really, I’m not in that much of a hurry. Except to have you home, of course.

Because when you’re home, we can get the mail. I don’t know when I last did that. You’re just always home – and so is the mail – by the time we walk in. So today, when I realized it was maybe something I should do, I couldn’t even find the keys to get it. Where do we keep the keys to the mailbox? This is something I should know.

It’s just that I’ve never had reason to think about it until I did today, right after I watched the garbage truck drive by and realized I maybe should have put the can out. But no worries, because I checked: The can was empty. It turns out all the garbage was still in the house. No one has emptied them since you’ve been gone. Well, I did empty them. But you know how I always set them aside and continue on with what I’m doing? The magic trash fairy never came by to take the bags to the outside garbage. Maybe she’s in New York with you.

So, I took them out myself. But now the outside can is pretty full and pick up day is another week away. Can you tell I need you home?

And also? The housecleaning. Well, you know how I already feel about that. You remember my definition of adulthood: Cleaning the kitchen even when no one else is around to see it. Going to bed at a reasonable hour when you have early morning responsibilities. NOT eating ice cream every day even though you can drive yourself to the store and have your very own money to buy it.

I’m proud to say that yesterday, I did get the kitchen and dining room clean. 67 minutes of tidying, and the job was done. Mopping to come later. And toys and books and shoes that were dumped in the living room to be put away later. But still, those rooms are pretty tidy now. And it only took 67 minutes.

It’s just that those rooms don’t match the rest of the house anymore.

And so, I decided I needed to put a little more effort into this adulthood thing. I didn’t eat ice cream today. Oops. I went to bed at a reasonable hour last night. Oops. I did make a dinner. A good, sit down, semi-healthy dinner. The kind I try to make when you’re here. Instead of cereal, I mean. (Did I tell you the kids have had cereal for more meals than I care to admit and one day we had smoothies for lunch? Only not fresh berry/green smoothies like I’ve made before. Sugary smoothies from Woods. With whip cream. And it actually wasn’t one day. It was two days. Sorry.)

But I did it tonight. A decent meal at the table. It was weird without you. And the problem is, I just don’t know how long is a reasonable amount of time to make the boy sit there and stare at his food before I let him get up having not eaten a thing. And I have no one here to discuss that with. And also? How many meals should I put that same meal in front of him before I finally throw it out? Because baked tilapia and corn and parmesan toast isn’t great re-heated over and over, you know. I like having your input on these things.

And yes, I know what you’d say about the tilapia. You don’t like it either. But the corn? He even got to pick the vegetable for dinner. He chose corn. Parenting 3-year-olds is hard all alone. They make no sense.

And the ironic thing about being a grown-up and making a good healthy dinner is this: it messes up that kitchen and dining room. Real bad. At least they match the rest of the house again.

And about that laundry? I thought maybe I should get some done. And since I can’t get to the laundry bins inside that locked closet, I washed the sheets. Yay for adult-like productivity! Only know what? It’s past bedtime now (darn you, adulthood), and our sheets are still in the dryer instead of on the bed. But why bother rushing to get them on the bed when I’m just going there alone? I might as well just sleep in the living room on the couch. I’ll have to turn the air conditioner off in there, though, because it sounds a bit like an injured cow. I’m just not sure what to do about that. You probably wouldn’t know, either, but at least we’d be not sure together.

I hope you don’t think I’m whining. Because really, I’ve had enough of that this past week. (Week? Wait. You’ve only been gone 4 days. It just seems like it’s been a week.)

How can – in just 4 days – the kids miss you more than they can express in words, but it comes out in their every behavior?

That’s really a rhetorical question, because you know what? It comes out in my behavior, too. It’s clear: We need Daddy!

But no, not whining. Please don’t think that. Just missing you bad.

And the truth is, we don’t want you to come home early. Because you’re doing important work. We’re so proud of you all, and we’re praying for you and the work you’re all doing.

And for those few minutes I did get to talk to you? My eyes filled with tears as you told me about that man who’s house some of you worked on. It’s hard to imagine losing so much and living with uncertainty for so long. I’m so thankful the team was able to help him.

And my eyes filled again, when you told me about the other man you’re all helping with a surprise tomorrow. How he just sat there while you all worked, near you all for so long after you all prayed with him. I think he might have just been overwhelmed, maybe, by the generosity of people serving. Or maybe? He just wants a glimpse of Jesus. I know that if I ever felt like I had a glimpse of him, I wouldn’t want to leave either. I might just sit there all day long to get one more glimpse. Maybe, just maybe, he saw something in all of you that caused him to stay and watch. In the midst of his poor and desperate circumstances, he could see the hands of Jesus at work and felt a little bit at peace. Maybe he just wanted to witness that a little longer. And to just be near.

So no, not whining. Because how could I when we are so blessed? When we have a place to live with dry walls and floor? A way to get from place to place? A life filled with people who love us and care for us? A Jesus who still loves when the kids whine and fight and argue and sass, and I am so incredibly unlovable.

Not whining. Just missing you. Bad. And noticing all you do when you’re here.

And also? Just a wee-bit sad we won’t see you on your birthday. But I know you’re right where you should be. In the palm of His hands is a good place to be.

So, Happy Birthday (tomorrow). I love you so bad.

And don’t worry about us. I think we can make it until Friday.

Love-with-a-capital-L

Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day.

Maybe it’s the commercialism… buying gifts to say “I love you” on a day you’re supposed to just doesn’t say “I love you” as much as it says “I’d like to keep myself out of trouble, so I will follow the rules and get you cheap chocolate and expensive flowers.” I’m not saying that’s what every person thinks when they’re buying their significant other a gift. I just find it much more thoughtful on a day when it’s not expected. Plus, I don’t know about your kids, but MY kids certainly don’t need another excuse to get presents.

Or maybe it’s because I’m a teacher… if you also work with kids, there is no need for me to explain further. If you don’t, let me summarize: 27 (or more) 8- and 9- year olds (or some other age) full of too much sugar and emotion and excited bouncing off the walls about the thought of more. Anxious to read cards and savor Sponge Bob’s pre-printed words of love from the current “love of their life.” Hurt feelings. Hyperactivity. Lack of focus. Excess of drama.

Or maybe, just maybe, I get a little irritated about A day to force love and kindness. When shouldn’t we be full of love and kindness EVERY day? Shouldn’t we take time as often as possible to tell those we care how much we care?

Maybe I’m just cynical. If so, then I married the right man. He’s never been a fan of cupid, either. He shows me in a thousand ways that he loves me, and I don’t need a stuffed bear holding a heart on this day to remember. I am reminded daily.

Our typical Valentine’s Day is pretty much like any other day. Except at dinner, we try to do something special with the kids. Last year, we had all pink and red food. Breakfast for dinner: Ham, pink biscuits with raspberry jam, jell-0 and strawberries. This year, we upped the class on our dinner and had a nice meal out with Matt’s family to celebrate his brother’s birthday. Delicious food with people we love. Much better than cheap chocolates.

Yes, definitely cynical. But on this particular Valentine’s Day, there were a few things that cured me of my bad attitude about this day of love-with-a-lower-case-l, and made me remember to keep it a day of Love-with-a-capital-L. Lower-case-l-love is bought in gift shops teeming with pink and red and hearts and stuffed animals. It is the too much sugar and the costlier-than-usual flowers. It’s spending $4.99 on a card that will be thrown away tomorrow and not buying another card until next year, same time. Upper-case-L-Love is 1 Corinthians 13* Love. It’s the Love we need to be celebrating, and not just this day, but every day. It’s not the $4.99 card, but the message it holds that is demonstrated in action.

So… those things I mentioned. The ones that reminded me to keep this day a day of Love, capital L.a

  1. Seeing my kids walk by the fridge where this hangs: photo(40)And each time they do, they say in a deep voice, as though they were Jesus, “Will YOU be MINE?” Followed by an immediate response from themselves (in their own voices), “YES! I’m YOURS!” Annalise made this in her Bible Class, and the conversation was their homework. She does her homework daily and has taught her brother to do the same. I pray that all their lives they will feel the Love of Jesus. Feel him saying to them, “Will you be mine?” And I pray their answer will remain what it is today. May we always answer to Jesus, “YES! I’m YOURS!”  Love. Capital L.
  2. I came home to this: photo(41)Aww. Sweet. (We’ve been boycotting $4.99 cards – or any card – that will just be thrown out, for years now. It’s the message that counts, right?) So I read the message: photo(39)                             That message. Handwritten. Lived out. 1 Corinthians 13 Love. Love-with-a-capital-L.
  3. You might remember this post where I posted the flowers Matt got me “just because.” I died laughing: flowersWell, you may not remember. But he did. So today, next to my bouquet of flowers and beautiful note, there was another note:photo(38)How I Love that man. With the capital L kind of Love.
  4. A friend posted a quote from her 6-year-old daughter about Valentine’s Day. Maybe it is exactly my point. I had to share. (I haven’t asked her permission yet, so no names included):

“Gammy says that Valentines Day has nothing to do with God but Valentines Day is about love and sharing and God is love and sharing and so I think Valentines Day is everything about God.”

Is it just me, or are 6-year-olds full of wisdom? I think we could learn a lot from them. This girl gets it. It’s all about the Love-with-a-capital-L.

A Godly Love, because God is Love. A Love that is humble, patient, and gentle. A Love that Loves at all times. The kind of Love that serves one another.

And sometimes, it might also give really good chocolate. Just because.

*1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Bragging rights

I just need to take a moment to brag…

My husband is a stud. A very talented stud.

A very talented stud with a NEW WEBSITE!!! Check it out. It’s beautiful. Seriously.

And I’m just so proud of him!

That’s all.

Now GO! Check it out, wouldja??? Just click here!