Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

It’s All About Taste

I was putting on my mascara in front of the den mirror so I could watch Good Morning America when Keith looked up at me and said cheerfully, “Well, isn’t that a cute little make-up frock.” (I think he meant smock.) I looked back at him, using my mascara wand like I pointer and said, “Honey, this is a dress. It’s what I’m wearing to work.”

“Oh!” he said.

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked.

“Nothing’s wrong with it, Baby. I see exactly what you mean now. It’s not a frock for putting on make-up. It’s a dress. And you’re wearing it to work,” he replied. He quickly went back to his newspaper.

I went back to my mascara. And then, for some reason, I got tickled. Tickled enough to nearly have tattooed my hairline with L’oreal Volume Shocking Mascara: Blackest Black. “Poor man,” I thought. He meant to come up with somebody so different than me. But, then again, this entry is not about marriage. It’s about different tastes between people who, ironically, have a strong taste for one another. Keith and I did not start out with one single shared taste. Not one. Not in denominations. Not in vacations. Not in friends. Not in hobbies. Not in jobs. And most assuredly not in wardrobe. And that one, like most of them, never changed. He is all western. I am…not. I don’t know what I am. Neither does he. No big deal except that Keith likes to buy me clothes because that was his sweet daddy’s love language to his mother.

For the first 15 years of our marriage, Keith took every special occasion to dress me like a business executive. Lots of black or navy suits with white blouses. Expensive things for our tight budget. I loved him so much that I acted thrilled but my inner man was asnore. I’d imagine how many conglomerations from Weiner’s (a low-budget, high-clutter department store back in the day) I could’ve mixed and matched for that kind of money. A whole closet full of frocks! He’d interrupt my thought process with stuff like, “I got you this because I never see you in anything like it and thought you could use it.” Where? Taking the kids to MDO? But he was so precious, I couldn’t resist him. I’d think of places to wear it, especially when I had to go somewhere I didn’t want to go. That way I could offer a sacrifice of praise.

The second set of fifteen years, he gave up on the executive look for me and took a giant step upward to western wear. Between the wide open cactus-lands of West Texas and the cold mountain air of Wyoming, my well-worn boots and scruffy leather jackets testify to his celebratory success…in the casual-wear genre. The problem is, he doesn’t just have casual western wear in mind for me. I have a closet full of fancy jackets with studs and fringe on them (a few look to have been be-dazzled) as well as a multi-colored assortment of broom skirts. Though I’m tempted to stop here and make several comments, I’m going right on to the next sentence. What doesn’t help Keith’s shopping variety is his strong propensity to be in West Texas just prior to every special occasion we have: Christmas, wedding anniversary, you name it. Since he’s not one to shop in advance, he invariably panics on the way home then, thanks-be-to-God, remembers that great Texas icon, the D&D Western Store on Interstate 10 at Seguin. (Good Heavens, I just had a flash back to all Keith has taught me about Texas hero Juan Seguin and the history of that town and actually came within a dot of thinking you’d care to hear it.) Awash with relief, Keith eagle-eyes the exit in the horizon and flies so fast that Beanie’s birddog-lips nearly wrap around her head. He then, the way I picture it, commences to have the sales woman ring up everything fancy in my size. Another occasion saved.

And sometimes they’re just darling.

And other times only he is. Every time I see one of the less worn western frocks in my closet, I feel really guilty. Right then I wish I fished or something.

Keith has a small measure of mercy on my lack of good taste since it wasn’t my fault. It was my parents’. They took too long to get to Texas. Back where I come from, western was something you were for Halloween. In Keith’s estimation, tastes are developed early which is precisely why Jackson has had a wide assortment of camouflage in every size from newborn on. Keith intentionally waited to purchase the boy’s first western wear until just last weekend, however, because it’s more sacred. He believes a soul ought to be old enough to appreciate the privilege. He walked through the door from out of town with an arm full of boxes and presented Jackson his first ensemble: a snap-up western shirt, Wranglers and Justin boots. I could have sworn I saw a tear in his eye. (Not Jackson’s. Keith’s. But I’ve had tears in my eyes on my own occasions.) Keith awarded him the prize with all the pride and emotion of a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo first-place bull rider. Praise God, it wasn’t wasted on the boy. To his Bibby’s delight, he is big on enthusiasm. Though he walked a bit strange in his boots at first (kinda like he was walking in meadow of fresh cow patties), Jackson clearly knew he was a stud. He’s already worn the ensemble to church. Amanda says he loves to put the boots on but they have to make sure they’re going somewhere he can mosey since he has to stop every few steps to stomp one foot. And make sure everybody’s watching. Especially Ella or Ava. It just makes a woman swoon every time.

I know because I did.

But that doesn’t mean I have a mind to wear them.

My make-up smock.

The big day.

Trying to get a picture of the all-important Wrangler tag.

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Twenty-Nine Years

My Beloved Siestas,
Today is Keith’s and my twenty-ninth anniversary and my mind has been awhirl all day long. I wanted to share a few things that are on my heart because many of you are married and more than a handful of you could probably use some encouragement. I’ve had such a sweet day but, strangely, not with Keith. He’s out of town – yes, again – but don’t feel too sorry for me. I am a well-loved woman and he and I will celebrate plenty when he gets home. And, anyway, this is what I get for scheduling our wedding day during the best part of hunting season. I was with him out of town until last night and he’ll be home in a few days.

In many ways, it’s appropriate for me to occasionally spend my wedding anniversary alone with Jesus. After all, this day is as much about He and me as Keith and me. Two more messed up people have never converged into one household. Talk about the double portion of dysfunction. Neither one of us were strong people. Neither one of us had our head together. We absolutely did not have what it took. God alone did it. He required a whole lot out of us a whole lot of times but He alone could have empowered us to give it. The rest was just a stinkin’ miracle.

I think Jesus just wanted me to spend this day in deliberate grateful reflection about His part in my marriage. Conspicuously, none of the people I usually sit with were at church this morning. All my young girl friends were out of town and many of the families that I usually sit near were also in absentia today. I have many loved ones in that worship service so, certainly, I could have gotten up and taken a seat by any number of people but, by that time, I was onto what I believed God wanted from me. He wanted me all to Himself…and after I got it, I was tenderly flattered. I sat alone, worshipped alone, listened to the sermon alone, then had lunch alone. And, except for a few minutes when Melissa came by, have spent the day alone. But so very much un-alone. I had an invisible Date for my wedding anniversary. One who wanted to remind me that He’s the only reason why I’ll have a visible date in a few days (late). One gray at the temples and tan and weathered of skin, but just as handsome as the day I married him. And a whole lot sweeter. I like him better these days. He does me, too.

Some of the things God has taught Keith and me are not for public consumption. Others are meant to be shared. These are a handful of things God has helped us practice along the way that led up to this particular day:
*We try more often to live by the law of kindness. In the old days, we’d figure out one another’s weakness then aim that direction with arrows of harsh words on purpose. Most of the time these days, we avoid the targets that we know good and well are the other’s Achilles’ heel. We just don’t like to be mean much anymore.

*We snuggle a lot. We have a big, long couch in our den but a whole lot of times we sit in the leather chair that’s almost not big enough for one hind end. Let alone two. Or three when Beanie gets jealous.

*We still talk a lot – over coffee, walking dogs, or bubble baths – and try to be interested in the other one’s world even when we don’t get it one iota. When you have a mix like Beth the Librarian and Keith the Barbarian, you have to try extra hard.

*We’ve had to choose to put stuff behind us. We have had no few problems, no few differences, and no few conflicts and, if we wanted to keep a record of wrongs, we could have a list long enough to trip over for the rest of our lives. Neither one of us thinks highly of letting the other run all over us nor is either of us likely to keep an opinion to ourselves. We still fight. But then we get on with living and make a choice not keep punishing each other with yesterday’s stuff. Life’s too short and a house too small. You have to forgive – and be forgiven – a ton.

*We just keep going. This isn’t going to sound profound but it’s actually one of the biggest things God has used to turn a rocky start into twenty-nine years. We just kept getting through the night till the sun would come up and we’d made it another day. Before we knew it, the next anniversary rolled around. And we’d be so glad. And little by little, we just got happier and happier. Hard times have always come calling but so have good times. God just gave us the wherewithal not to quit before the next sweet season came. Oh, that He’d continue to.

I am so tender to those of you who have endured the pain of divorce and I plead with you not to let this entry invite you to destructive feelings of condemnation or failure. I know how hard marriage can be. I know what a miracle it takes at times and how willing both parties have to be to receive it. But, with your blessing and your security in Christ, I also need to be able to say to those who may be on the edge of giving up, please, I beg you, don’t. Just make it through the night and see the sun come up tomorrow morning from your knees. Fight your battles ferociously with your face to the floor. Give God time and room. Wives, quit being the husband. Fire yourself. Let God take it over. Get counseling if you need it – even if your man won’t – but don’t quit. Even if you don’t love him…or like him. Even if you hate him. God can soften a heart of granite if you’ll let Him. Wait it out a little longer. Laugh a little harder. Snuggle a little tighter. Love by faith. Not just by sight. As the Apostle Paul says, all that matters is faith expressing itself through love.

Yep. Some anniversaries are more about God and you than your spouse and you. Like this one. Gotta go. My cell phone’s ringing and it better be Keith.

Or he’s had it.

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Thinking Again This Morning About That Faith Thing

I’m sitting out on my back porch this morning watching two squirrels fight over one of my birdfeeders. When Sunny’s had enough, she’ll charge through the middle of them and they’ll learn their lesson for a pair of minutes. Beanie’s out of town with Keith. They have serious stuff to do this time of year. A birddog can’t be bothered with snuggling during hunting season. She’s Keith’s dog for about five months a year, watching every move he makes until he says her favorite words, “Load up!” And to the (front seat of) the truck she flies. The rest of the year, however, I am a big contender for her favor and all fifty-six pounds of her transforms into a lap puppy. That’s when Keith refers to me as “Absalom” for trying to steal the heart of his dog.

Women who aren’t hunting widows (no, I’m not a hunter. Hate it. But love him.) ask me from time to time how I put up with Keith being gone as much as he is this time of year. Three ways: 1) This is the way it’s been since we dated. He came straight from the deer lease to our wedding. I had the gall to schedule it during the coldest part of the year. 2) He is a mighty big handful and he’d probably tell you the same about me. We have a very “on” relationship and require no little attention from each other. These times apart give us just a tad of a break and make us so glad to see each other when that couple of days is over. 3) After he’s been with what he calls “nothing but a bunch of *hairy, *stinkin’ men” he comes home thinking I am darling and I get lots of attention. Sometimes *presents. After twenty-nine years of marriage, that’s pretty fun. (*I shave my legs. *I wear deodorant. *I can be bought.)

But that’s not why I’m writing you today.

I’m writing you today because I was thinking again this morning how brilliant God is. How perfectly, in His unfathomable wisdom, He set up the system. My devotional this morning was on faith and, as I stared into the distance and meditated on it, I thought once again what a bright idea God had when He called us to it. What if we could figure it out? Him out? What if what we saw was all there was and that was that? We’d have long since gotten bored and moved on. Instead, God called us through Christ to an adventure that never ends. To seeks answers that are never fully satisfied. Not here on earth anyway. You and I were given restless hearts so that we’d only be satisfied with a wild ride. Some of us try to find it elsewhere because we’ve reduced our relationship with God to a neatly compartmentalized religion we pay regular homage to. We keep our faith to ourselves because we haven’t got that much to spare. We expect little and get little. This way, we don’t have to let it get to us much. But if you engage in the real, live walk of faith with the real, live Jesus Christ, it’s GOING to get to you because HE’S going to get to you. You will get your feelings hurt at times because you’re close enough to be vulnerable. Faithful enough to put yourself out there. Because sometimes walking by faith and not by sight creates as many questions as answers.

But isn’t He brilliant? Would we really have wanted a God we could figure out? Or wouldn’t that have made us His God instead? Isn’t the unknown the very thing that keeps this life an adventure? Some of our destructive lusts for the strange and new in human relationships (inability to commit; addiction to romance novels or steamy TV series; continual fantasies about someone different; or maybe more than fantasies) erupt from unknowingly trading in a holy adventure with God for a feel-better-few-minutes with man (real or imagined) that only ends up feeding our dissatisfaction. The result is even deeper despair that pounds with every beat of our injured heart, “Is this all there is?” The answer is a resounding, “NO!” The innate human desire for something new isn’t what’s unhealthy. The need for adventure was sewn within our souls by divine hands so that deep would call out to deep and we’d drive our insatiable selves straight to the One and Only God who can sustain it. His mercies are new every morning and treasures are inexhaustible every day.

Christ: the perfect blend of security and mystery. He’s security because of all we really can know about Him. Count on about Him. Believe unwaveringly about Him. But He’s also mystery. Someone we can’t conquer. Can’t explain. We know He’ll show up (security!) but never know how (mystery!). I love that about Him.

He was right to set up this system called faith. It’s what makes the whole thing a wild ride. The very thing that drives us the craziest now will be what we loved most about earthly life when we look back on it in His Presence. The drama is the exact thing that will make our stories, told from Heaven’s perspective, so thrilling. And every single one of them will come complete with musical scores. The songs of deliverance that surrounded us at our most faith-defying times. (Ps. 32:7)

Without faith it really is impossible to please Him. That’s why I’m a broken record about it. Our greatest call to encouragement is to exhort one another to the pure practice of faith. To flat believe God. He didn’t set up the system out of egocentric tyranny. As surely as He cannot be pleased with faithlessness, neither can we. Without faith it is also impossible to please our restless souls. God knew what He was doing. The system is no accident. He knew that life in the lowlands would strain its neck for something high. And – don’t make me have to say it again – there ain’t no high like the Most High.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how fathomless His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33-36 NET

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Finally! My Impressions of the Husbands’ Survey!

My Dear, Dear Patient and Wonderful Siestas,

I am so sorry it’s taken me so long to post my impressions of the surveys I took among participating husbands! AJ may have already explained by now that my window of opportunity was suddenly eaten alive by a dear old soldier’s homegoing and, to tell you the truth, the next month was eaten up by my own unexpected grief. It zapped the energy right out of me and what little I had, I spent on the absolute musts. You’ve been very patient and I am so grateful. For you new Siestas, about 5 months ago I took a survey of 7 questions directed not just at men but at husbands for the purpose of added insight into the two-part series I was teaching out of Proverbs about being wives. The comments were not posted so that husbands would feel free to speak. They were asked to be honest but respectful and not one of them broke that code. As I share the insights I gathered from these great guys, I will quote some of them but anonymously, of course. I’m not kidding when I tell you these guys were terrific. They were warm, funny, heartwarming, and concerned. Some of them made the tears roll down my cheeks. Others caused me to laugh like crazy.

Gentlemen, months ago I tried to convey my thanks but let me say again that you changed the whole complexion of the series I taught and you taught me (and AJ) more than I could possibly have taught my class. You get an A+ from this student. Keep following hard after Jesus and prioritizing the woman God entrusted to your care more than anything else on this planet. And never minimize the power of flowers. And dinners out. (Be sure and notice her the second she walks into the den, decked and ready and tell her she’s gorgeous…and mean it.) The power of movies. And shopping sprees. And dishes in the dishwasher. And a jillion “I love you”s. Then pitch the pride and throw in a handful of well-timed “I’m sorry”s in the mix and you’re good to go.

You blessed me so.

Siestas, here are the seven questions I asked:

1. How long have you been married?
2. Accepting that no marriage is perfect, would you say that, generally speaking, you are happily married?
3. Would your answer to the previous question surprise your wife?
4. What do you wish your wife knew about you but you are afraid to tell her?
5. What is the best part of having her as a wife?
6. What do you wish she’d do differently?
7. What one thing do you wish I’d share with wives from a husband’s point of view?

Here are a few of my impressions organized under each question:
1. We had everything from newly weds to husbands who’d been married for 40+ years. I couldn’t believe it! The husbands were surprising exact in their answers to the length of their marriages. For instance, one said, “11 years, 8 months, 21 days.” Very few of them answered without some kind of extra specification. They really do remember their anniversaries…and I got the feeling that, for these guys, it was a good thing and not the birthday of their Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

2. These husbands were surprisingly – no, shockingly – happy in their marriages. I came to the conclusion that the kind of men who were willing to complete a survey on a ministry blog simply were some of the cream of the crop. They really did care about their wives and their marriages. Most of them were men of at least saving faith and all of them reflected a high regard for the covenant of marriage even if they admittedly didn’t know what to do with it. I became convinced of two things as I read their answers to this question:
*****I believe men tend to be happier in a decent marriage than women. I am convinced that, if I’d taken this survey of the wives of these same husbands, they would not have answered as overwhelmingly positively. A couple of reasons kept creeping into my mind: The men are either more easily satisfied with their marriages…or they are more clueless. Because I’m a woman, I can rag on us a second. I do think we as a gender tend to be harder to make happier but, to be fair, we also tend to be feelers (i.e., it doesn’t matter if it’s a good marriage if it doesn’t feel like it is all the time. Sometimes we’re right. Sometimes we’re too hard on it.) and our idea of good, solid relationship is usually harder to attain than theirs. Don’t get me wrong, Girls. I love us. I just think, based on the kind of guys most of us are married to, they probably tend to be happier than we do with the relationship. Food for thought but don’t choke on it. Just pray about it.

*****I am more CONVINCED than ever that Christian marriages (not perfect marriages) where couples go to church together (particularly if they attend couples classes or groups together) and pray together when they have problems are IMPRESSIVELY HAPPIER AND MORE FULFILLING than those that don’t. Our divorce rates may be an embarrassment to American Christianity but I am convinced that those who stick it out – and are willing to devote their marriages to Christ – laugh together more, talk together more, parent together better and “get” the whole idea of a life partner a whole lot more those without Jesus.

I am more convinced than ever that Jesus is the enduring common denominator of all the great marriages I’ve witnessed. (And, be encouraged! I’ve yet to see a perfect marriage but I’ve seen many a good one!) But, Siestas, our men don’t have to be like us in their expressions of faith and spirituality. They are not girls and, for that reason, they are by and large NOT as overtly mushy about Christ as we are. We’ve got to let our men be men. Trust me when I tell you that after 28 years of marriage, I have never made an iota of progress in changing my husband by trying to shame or nag him into spiritual leadership. (And goodness knows, I’ve tried) The only success I have ever had is by fighting the battle in the heavenlies through prayer and through throwing my own self before the Throne of Grace for change. I say this with great affection for our husbands: the only sustained success I’ve ever had is in bowing down before the Throne and behaving myself and leaving the way clear for God to smack my man. It really does work.

3. I asked the third question because I’ve seen a strange phenomenon over and over. I’ve seen passive men of overbearing women go on for years as if it didn’t bother them…then one day without warning, they are finished. They refuse counseling. They refuse to try again. They’ve had enough. But they never even gave a warning. I am a big advocate of finding a caring but truthful way of telling a spouse if you are (legitimately) unhappy or unsatisfied. Even the most dysfunctional people deserve a warning from spouses who are quickly approaching the end of the rope. Even a legitimate ultimatum (yes, there really are some) at least offers a chance. The question I most often ask a woman confiding her feelings about her marriage to me is, “Have you told him this?” Sometimes both women and men really are clueless and need to know how serious things are before it’s too late. But, whatever you do, don’t make idle threats! They have an uncanny way of back firing.

4. I was as moved by the answer to this question as any of them. Many of the men told me that their wives knew virtually everything about them. Others got really vulnerable in their answers. The most common responses were, “How scared I am that I will fail her (or her and the kids),” “How much I need to know I’m a man in her eyes,” “How afraid I am of not being successful,” “How terrified I am that she’ll figure out that she married beneath her.” Over and over they said, “I work as hard as I do because I want to give our family as much as I can.” I was deeply moved by the pressure many of them are under and how much stress and fear haunts them. This one said volumes: “at times I feel like a frightened little boy in a man’s world.” I loved this one, too: “that I need her more.”

5. Now I get to brag on you wives and as I glance back over my notebook of survey answers, the tears are stinging in my eyes. When I asked them the best part of having you for a wife, you should have heard them. So many of you have genuinely shown your men the love of Christ. You have loved them, graced them, encouraged them, forgiven them, and prayed for them. As I assess their answers, Girls, I’m proudest of you for proving your faith GENUINE. They’ve seen you in the Word and they know you are different because of it. Overwhelmingly the husbands who participated in the survey respected the faith of their wives even if they didn’t share it. Keep it up, Ladies, even when it doesn’t look like it’s working. Christ should never appear to be a competitor to our husbands. Jesus ought to be the best thing that ever happened to our husbands because of the impact He’s had on us as wives.

6. OK, Girls. Don’t get defensive on this one. Imagine the kinds of answers we might have offered if asked what we wish our men would do differently! The surveys were tremendously complimentary. Many of them said, “Can’t think of anything” but those don’t lend the insight some of us may need today. The ones that got specific said things like, “I wish she wouldn’t be so hard on herself.” “I wish she still had some of that confidence she had when we dated.” (Needless to say, I know many of the things you’d say to that. I’ve been there, too. Life is hard. Working full time is hard. Keeping a home is hard and so is raising children and, at times, the roles within the home – or out, at times – are not very edifying. I simply want you to know that they like us when we have, for lack of a better word, a little sass. The healthy ones like a woman who knows she’s competent…even if she knows she’s a long way from perfect. If life is beating you down, don’t just accept that posture. Get some support. Maybe even some counseling. You are competent in the Spirit of Christ, Sweet Siestas. 2 Cor. 3)

And, now, let’s just go ahead and get it over with. You knew to expect it. They want more intimacy. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t make me say it. And don’t act like they’re making you do it either. God agrees with them on this one. He’s the very one who inspired the Apostle Paul to tell us not to withhold ourselves from one another except for brief seasons of prayer. (Apparently, some of you have been in prayer a LONG TIME.) My beloved Sisters, take it from a woman who’s been married a long time and seen a whole lot of marriages go down the drain. PHYSICAL INTIMACY IS PROFOUNDLY IMPORTANT TO A DECENT MARRIAGE. With tremendous love and compassion, I will tell you what I told the women in the resulting session. You can say “no” or act miserable and disinterested so many times that you teach your man not to want you. But you can’t teach him not to want. My man is going to want. That’s the way he’s wired. SO, I want him to want ME. Want yours to want you, too. I know this is complicated, Ladies, and that some of our men have serious issues. That’s what good counselors are for. And I’m not one of them. We will never settle all these issues on this blog. With tremendous love, I simply offer a report on the survey hundreds of your men agreed to take. Very few of them were ugly. The bottom line was, they’ve got a lot of temptations out there but they really do want their wives.

And I know you want a few things from your husband, too, like real conversation and some emotional needs met. Talk to him about it! And in the meantime, pray to desire your man then respond by faith and really try to meet his needs. See if, in time, God won’t move upon him to start meeting some of your heart-needs. And if he doesn’t, God is going to get him. You won’t have to.

7. What one thing do they wish we knew? Overwhelmingly: “How special they are,” “How much we need them,” “How much we care about what they think,” and over and over, “We need their respect.” I heard this one in varying words many times: “That we are a very simple animal and it doesn’t take a lot to please us: a little food, a little [intimacy], and a lot of support.” Often: “It isn’t easy to be a man in this culture. We need some help.” This one provides a fitting final statement: “Wives, you will lead us more quickly to repentance with your love than you ever will your rebuke.”

The bottom line of the survey of this particular group of men was this: they love their wives and overwhelmingly esteemed them in their answers more highly than themselves. It was a pretty special group of guys. And I realize they were the cream of the crop and on their best behavior. Still, I wanted you to know they did you RIGHT.

In closing, my darling Siestas, I wanted to share something with you that I heard a comedian say on television a few years ago because I thought how funny and true it was. He said, “I took a survey of what women want most in their men. And here’s what I found out. They want another woman.” He didn’t mean it in the alternative sense. He meant that they want their men to act, feel, and communicate like a woman…and yet somehow be a man they can respect. Praise God, Siestas, that are guys are not girls. I want a real man. Don’t you? I like for Keith to get in touch with his sticky sensitive, metro side for about ten minutes at a time, then I want those cowboy boots back. If I can’t have a perfect man – and I can’t – then I want my own. How about you? Then let’s let them be men. And if they’re the kind of men God doesn’t appreciate, fight that war in the heavenlies and on your knees. God is faithful and He will handle it.

COMMENTS: I know this report is going to open a can of worms and I wish we were set up to handle the long comments something like this invites. I can’t wait to hear from you but please try to choose one thing to comment on and keep it pretty succinct so I can read all of them. And, please, please, please, get counseling just like Keith and I did (more than once) if you have serious issues. If by any chance you are being physically abused or you in any way suspect one of your children is being physically or sexually abused, get yourself and your children into a safe place immediately then get solid counseling. You will not do an abusive man any favors with your co-dependence and you could very well get hurt. I love you so much. Be smart, Girls. Be smart. May God show Himself mighty and miraculous to you! NOTHING IS TOO DIFFICULT FOR HIM!

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Five Years

I should be packing right now, but I’m stopping in to say Hasta luego! This weekend Curtis and I are dropping off Jackson at Camp Granny and then we’re off to a Mexican beach for five days. Why, you ask? On June 15 we will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary! Praise God!

I think we’re more excited about this trip than we were for our honeymoon. And needless to say, we were very excited about that. Maybe it’s because we’re not planning a party for 600 of our closest friends before we go. We have been working out and trying to eat right since January and now we get to enjoy being as beach-worthy as we were willing and able to get. And I do not plan on dieting on my vacation. Thank You, Jesus!

So if the Lord brings us to mind, pray that Camp Granny will be really fun for camper Jackson, camp director/camp cook Pappaw, head counselor Granny, and co-counselor Melissa. We are praying for great weather and for no crises to pop up at home while we’re gone. We’re also asking God for a really fun and meaningful time as we just concentrate on each other and celebrate how far we’ve made it in the marathon of marriage. Not far compared to many of you, but you have to pass five before you get to twenty!

My mom will probably have some good stories to tell next week, but your comment moderator is going to be far, far away from a computer. When your comments don’t show up, that’s why.

And I didn’t tell you this, but someone you love very much has a very special birthday on the 16th. Shhhhh. Don’t let on that I told.

Curtis and Amanda – June 15, 2002

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A Camp Do-Over

Don’t you love it when God gives you a do-over? He has graciously given me MANY do-overs, and my most recent was at camp last week. This camp was for the church I grew up in – where I got saved, where I got married, where I interned in college, and where I served with my husband for our first year of marriage. Last year we kicked off our summer with this very same camp. Curt had been invited to be the camp speaker and we were so honored and excited. Since college, I had been at that camp as a co-counselor and then as a counselor with my eighth grade Sunday School girls. I was used to running around with my middle school girls, getting really muddy on the rec field, enjoying worship and the Word, and getting to witness God’s work in the hearts of these kids. Some of my favorite memories happened there. I always left with a new picture of God in my mind and joy in my heart.

When I returned last year as a nursing mom of a three-month-old, it was just a little different! Now my eighth graders were all grown up and old enough to be co-counselors. The baton had been passed. It rained the entire time and Jackson and I were largely confined to our room. It seemed like just when the sun came out or something fun or meaningful started to happen, it was time to go back to my room and feed him or let him nap. I was still very new to motherhood and my insides were still grasping for my old freedoms. That is a frustrating time for new moms. Once that dies it’s a lot easier. I was also struggling with being around old friends with my new baby for the first time. I wanted to look like I had this motherhood thing down. Ha! Even if that were true, I was so thrown off by the rhythms of camp that any semblance of having it together was out the window.

Needless to say, camp was a struggle. Isolation and self-pity set in and I became what I hate most in myself…the needy wife. Just what every camp speaker needs, right? Gross! I’d been defeated.

When Curt was invited back this year I was determined not to go with him. I had one of my best friends praying for me because I was having such a hard time with the thought of going back. God worked on my heart and I eventually changed my mind.

I’m so thankful that God gave us the opportunity to go back this year. I still didn’t get to play on the rec fields, have meaningful conversations with kids, or experience much of worship and the Word, but my heart was different. I decided to enjoy fellowship with old friends rather than use that time to “prove myself.” I decided to let my husband be free and not make him feel guilty for having fun when I had to be in the room. I decided to take advantage of Jackson’s nap time and early bed times and catch up on sleep and some good reading. God gave me victory over self-pity, over the desire for old freedoms, over isolation, and over being a needy wife. He redeemed the personal failure that last year was for me. I walked away with joy and not shame. Praise be to our God who loves to redeem, who loves to get glory through second chances.

To our delight, my parents got to swing by camp on their way home from the Life Today taping. The 400-something of you who commented on the PMS post might be relieved to know that they seemed as happy as ever. He must have called. And Mom’s probably getting really excited about her own do-over in a few weeks.

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It’s That Time of Year

When I married a student minister and speaker, my wedding vows included, “I promise to love you, cherish you, be faithful to you, and follow you to as many camps as I can humanly take as long as we both shall live.” I think the second summer of our marriage we were only home for three weeks. This summer, our sixth married summer, will be a little less hectic. I’m thankful for that since I have no idea what I’m getting into by taking a toddler to camp. Tomorrow is the big day when we’ll load everything but the kitchen sink into our car and head off to our first one of the summer. We’re so excited!

Since your one and only comment moderator is going to be off in the piney woods of East Texas, presumably without Internet access, the blog is going to be a little quiet this week. My mom might post, but you won’t see any of your comments until I get back into town. My parents will be at a Life Today taping at the end of the week, so Bethie might be a little out of touch too.

For our Boone girls who are eager to get their commissioning, keep an eye on the LifeWay event recap page. They should post it soon. I’ve provided a new link to it on the left side of the page for future reference. They have recaps for a ton of events, so if you’ve attended one in the last two years you might see yours listed.

Yesterday, Memorial Day, I thought a lot about my grandpa. If he had still been alive I would have written him a little email or left him a message thanking him for serving our country so bravely. Last month I took a picture of the shadow box we have that contains his medals.

If you look very closely at his picture within it, you can see the hole in his cheek where he had been shot. Part of the bullet traveled down to his heart and remained there for the rest of his life. He had that picture taken to mail to my grandma so that she would know what he was going to look like from then on. Fortunately, the doctors were later able to patch it up better so that you couldn’t see the hole.

And this is a picture I forgot to post of my grandpa with that bunny I told you about in this post. One of the bunnies is a decoy and the other is the famous Thumper.

See you next week!

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Please Hang With Us For One More, Single Sistas!

If you darlin’ single sistas will hang in here with us for one more blatantly family-oriented entry, I promise we won’t make a habit of doing so many in a row. You mean so much to me and I make a point of keeping you on my mind when I get to serve the Word. It’s just that I’ve been speaking on marriage and parenting here at the end of my Tuesday night series out of Proverbs. So, that’s what’s been on my mind. You may be relieved to know that last night was my final session on family with one general session left for the series. (Disclaimer: We’ll always have stuff about Jackson on the ministry blog because he’s the official little prince of LPM!)

Last night at Bible study I taught on being a mom and my mind has been swimming with memories of my girls when they were little bitty. As God would have it, a few weeks ago I happened on an old prayer journal from 1982 when Amanda was barely three and Melissa was a newborn. Those of you in the throes will not be surprised to hear that it was filled with unsophisticated requests for things like more sleep, for Melissa to adjust better to the church nursery, for financial help as I got to stay home with the girls, for Amanda not to catch Melissa’s cold, for Keith and I to get along better, for him to want to go to church, for him to stop cussing (I hope you’re smiling because I am), for him to…and for him to…and for him to…and for him to…and for us to get to go to a marriage conference, for me to apply what I was learning in my first Dr. Dobson book, for me to have a better disposition (I must have used the word ten times that I could find), and for me to make minutes for my quiet time because “my day goes so much better when I do.” Sound familiar?

(My personal favorite was when I asked God for forgiveness for trying to steal some of His glory for being so prideful about the way I played handbells in the handbell choir. I laughed until I cried. Then again, it has nothing to do with children but you surely would not have wanted to miss that, would you?)

Even before I found the journal, I’d begun reliving so many of those experiences as I watched Amanda with her young family. One of the things I enjoy so much as I relive those priceless and challenging days in my memory is Amanda telling me all about her fellow mom-friends and the babies they share. Second only to seeing pictures of Jackson in his Easter outfit, I died to see pictures of Ella and Ava, his best girl buddies who were born within days of him. The pictures did not disappoint. I hang on every word Amanda says as she tells me about this mom and this baby, that mom and that baby.

I can’t overemphasize how rich my fellow moms made my parenting experience. Particularly one: my best friend, Johnnie. She had two boys and I had two girls and we dragged those four kids to every McDonalds in Houston just so we could finish a sentence. We taught Mother’s Day Out together because we were both broke. We home-made family Christmas gifts because we didn’t have the money to buy them. (We spent what money we had on our babies.) I hate arts and crafts to this day and still have burns from glue guns. That’s not all. I’d decide I’d had it with Keith and I’d leave him in the morning sometimes, go to her house with my unsuspecting girls, drink a cup of coffee, get in a better mood, and be back home by the time he got off work. He’d walk in the door, ask about my day, and I’d say under my breath, “I left you today. That’s how my day was.” Hee hee. Somehow I’d feel some satisfaction with that, repent, then fall in love with him all over again. It was his looks.

My point is, Moms, you’ve got to have you a support group of other moms. Many who are peers. Others who are just ahead of you. They will be used of God to get you through everything from the mundane to the morose. As I told my class last night, our ancient female ancestors walked to wells and rivers together to get water. Our great grandmothers quilted and canned together. We, instead, are imprisoned in our minivans driving breakneck speed, thinking a few maniacal minutes on a cell phone can replace a regular play-date where believing moms can take some time to laugh and share. I don’t think it’s a luxury. It’s a necessity for mental (and often spiritual!) health! Because, you see,…

*No day full of dirty diapers has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No tantrum has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No “but, Mom, everybody is going!” has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No “You hate me!” has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No child’s first love has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No child’s first broken heart has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No broken curfew has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No goodbye has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.

About five years ago, my buddy Johnnie’s oldest son, Jeremy, was just about to vow his life to the woman of his dreams. The music was already playing in the sanctuary and we were only about three minutes from the service starting. We looked around and suddenly realized that it was just the six of us left in the choir room: Johnnie, her two boys, and me and my two girls. The four kids were all beautiful, God-loving young adults. Johnnie and I had lived through it and they’d lived through us. Wow, Lord. The groomsmen had already gone to their posts and it was just about time for Jeremy to take his place through a sanctuary door down a long hall. Had we tried to manipulate a few moments alone between the six of us, we could never have pulled it off. It was a gift from God. The completely unplanned moment was not lost on a single one of us six and even now I could cry about the tenderness of it. Without anyone saying a word, Jeremy held out his arm for one of my daughters. Jordan held out his arm for the other. And Johnnie held out her arm to me. Arm in arm, three familiar pairs of us walked the long hall, laughing, and nearly crying, making our way toward the finish line of young family-hood just like we began: together. Those kinds of relationships don’t take place in five minutes. They take years. Crises. Prayers. Divine favor. Your fellow moms are some of the most priceless treasures God has bestowed on you to cheer you on your way to the finish line of young parenting. Grab some arms and do it together.

I love you.

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Way to Go, Everybody!

You are the best! You Sistas came through and got your guys to respond to the survey and you guys jumped in and gave me some of the most insightful answers and thought provoking statements I could have imagined. I cannot express how grateful I am. I’ve only just begun to really pour over the surveys and I can already tell that God is going to teach me volumes. I’ll still leave the survey open for responses until probably the first of the week but I wanted to go ahead and brag on all of you. I’ve often thought of taking surveys on the internet and your response has caused me to think it might really work. May God release a blessing in your own marriage because you’ve invested in others.

I’m off to minister to an arena full of wonderful sisters in Louisiana and hopefully to see the Lord Jesus reveal Himself. Please pray for a mighty outpouring of God’s unmistakable Spirit and for His Son to sweep every person off her feet. Including me. Sistas, you are so dear to me! Stay in the Word and I’ll touch base with you soon.

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Calling All Husbands!

*Update* We have completed the survey. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Hey, Sisters! I need you to help me engage a number of husbands (yours, some of your friends’) for a survey I’d like to take. Over the next two Tuesday nights in our Houston Bible study, I will be teaching out of the Book of Proverbs on marriage and being wives. Through the years I’ve gained much unsolicited insight from the husbands I’ve heard from along the way so this time I’m asking for very focused input as I prepare for these two nights of study. The men who complete the survey do not necessarily have to be Christians since God calls us to be faithful wives to our husbands whether or not they share our faith. The only qualification is that each participant is a husband willing to answer some questions honestly and respectfully. In order to answer one of the questions sincerely, if he needs to tell me something that falls into a more intimate category, all I ask is that it be worded decently.

This part is really important: THESE SURVEYS WILL NOT EVER BE PUBLISHED AND ANY PARTICIPANT IDENTIFICATION WILL BE KEPT STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL. I give you my word on that. Only Amanda and I will view the surveys. I will, however, share the overall results and the insights I gained and will no doubt share some of the quotes (anonymously, of course). I will also report on some things I learned here on the blog since I’m enlisting my Sistas to help me round up participants. (I’m grinning over how I already know it’s going to drive you crazy not to see their answers. It would me, too!)

I wish this would go without saying but you never know who is out there: WOMEN, you are on the honor code NOT to fill out a survey. I don’t want to hear what women would say if they were husbands. I’m laughing at my own self. Remember, this is for HUSBANDS ONLY.

Gentlemen, here are the 7 questions. Please answer honestly and succinctly so I can study each one. Thanks so much, guys! I have no doubt you will enrich these teachings profoundly.

1. How long have you been married?

2. Accepting that no marriage is perfect, would you say that, generally speaking, you are happily married?

3. Would your answer to the previous question surprise your wife?

4. What do you wish your wife knew about you but you are afraid to tell her?

5. What is the best part of having her as a wife?

6. What do you wish she’d do differently?

7. What ONE THING do you wish I’d share with wives from a husbands’ point of view?

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