Is Religion The Only Offender Against Women?

praying woman

(FreeImages.com/BrendaMihalko)

I recently saw a friend’s comment on Facebook about how a lot of issues within the church are based on gender issues.  I understand the validity and even pain of what she is saying because I certainly saw the reality of some of this personally.  Yes, the Church has allowed some of those false ideas and lies from the past to remain.  They are just labeled with “religious-sounding” terms so it sounds better or more Biblical.

Just because I call a dandelion a flower doesn’t make it so.

So often, terms have been falsely defined, and so we reject the term without understanding that within every lie, there is often a nugget of truth.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he took God’s Word but twisted it and misapplied it in the wrong context, making it a lie.

There is the term submission mentioned in the Bible, but it has been often twisted and misapplied in the wrong context.  Within the same passage as submission is also God commanding husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church.

How did Christ love the Church?

How did Christ love the Church?  By domineering, forcing submission, commanding their service while lording His position over them, devaluing them, ruling with harshness and unrelenting pride…?  No!  Rather, Christ served.  He laid down His life.  He listened.  He healed.  He cried.  He restored.  He forgave.  Everything He did, He did for them.  Christ did not come to the Earth to be served and but instead to serve.  His was an example of humble, servant leadership, always seeking the best for the other person.  He saw the value of the weakest, most vulnerable in society and acknowledged them and gave them His time and attention.

What Scripture shows is not one ruling, and the other serving and submissive/subdued.  What Scripture shows is both husbands and wives are called to lay down their lives to love/serve another one.  Both are called to put the others needs first.  Both are called to Christ’s example of Agape love, which is the most selfless and humble love of all.  Both are required to lay down their life for the other.

I wrote the following in response to my friend’s FB post, with some additional thoughts:

It is sad the way religion has abused women. It is also sad the way the world abuses women. One tells us that we are inferior to men. The other often continues to promote the same thing by taking it from a different angle, telling us that to be important we have to prove we are like men or better than men, which only says, “We are only important if we can prove our worth by being like a man or better than a man.”

What if the truth is, our uniqueness is part of our amazing, beautiful package of worth?!!! It’s not in being like a man or better than a man, because that actually feeds into the lie; it’s merely a reaction to the lie rather than the authenticity of the truth.

It’s also not about us being a sub-category, inferior, subdued, oppressed, or dominated.

The truth of what I see in Scripture is God restoring the broken image — the bad rap. women got at the Fall (false teaching, BTW). In religious circles, women are often blamed for the Fall.

God always noticed the down-trodden, the wounded, the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the undervalued.  That is why I believe He made sure He restored that broken image by how He demonstrated His thoughts concerning women in His life on Earth.

Jesus revealed Himself to women who in that society often felt unnoticed, unloved, undervalued. He demonstrated that He saw, heard, and honored them.

Jesus allowed women to be the first ones present to testify of His resurrection. Women were the first ones to see and hear Jesus in His resurrected state.  Interesting how the very things that women seem to feel within in religion — not seen or heard — are the very things Jesus did for them.  He saw them and revealed Himself to them.  He spoke to them and heard their cries.

God speaks of many women in the Bible whom He showed He valued, regardless of how society at the time regarded them. By lifting these women up and telling their stories, God shows that He heard and saw their worth. (See Abigail, Hannah, Sarah, Rebekah, Eve, Esther, Miriam, Jochebed, Rahab, Bathsheba, Deborah, Lydia, Priscilla, Dorcas, Mary Magdalene, Mary, Elisabeth, Mary and Martha, Samaritan Woman, woman caught in adultery, Tabitha, Damaris, Naomi, Ruth, and the list goes on.)  Entire books of the Bible were dedicated to telling some of these women’s stories.

He showed in the Proverbs 31 woman a woman of amazing dignity, strength, resourcefulness, honor, and trust. She made the decisions for the running of her household, for doing business, for buying land. By sitting with the elders, her husband demonstrated great trust and respect in her abilities. She had freedom, responsibility, and the trust of her husband.

That’s the kind of woman God has called me to be, and I am thankful that His picture is of strength, dignity, honor, trust, resourcefulness, intelligence, wisdom, etc…!

God has restored in me so much of the image that was broken. God alone knows what our purpose looks like — religious doesn’t, and the world doesn’t. Each are just vying to react against each other — too busy pitting against one another.

The authentic image steps out and away from the mess and is secure in knowing her worth.

Religion rejects our image and undermines it.  It says we are inferior and meant to be controlled and dominated by men.

The world rejects our image and tells us there is no value in the way we were created unless we compete to be like a man.  This is nothing more than once again undermining our image.

Christ shows the Father’s heart, and what we see is that women are unique, a glory to God, they are clothed with strength and honor, virtuous, and our voices are heard.  We are seen, we are heard, and we, as women, are valued.  We don’t have just a place in God’s Kingdom.  We are an integral part of His Kingdom!

If we want to know our value, we won’t find it in the world, and we won’t find it in religion.  We will find it in the God who made us, who loves us, and who shows the greatest servant-leadership by lifting us up and calling us into positions of amazing influence and honor.

We don’t have to be more or different to be validated!  We already are of infinite worth!

What Emotional Disconnect And Porn Have In Common

Chained

(FreeImages.com/CharlieBalch)

Warning: This is heavy reading, but I believe this is worth the read.  (You can judge for yourself though.)

Pornography is one of the most prevalent addictions within the Christian community.  It is so prevalent that it is almost guaranteed that you or someone close to you struggles with this addiction.

Why is porn considered so harmful when it is something that is done in private and may not lead to harming a literal person or so it seems…?

Before responding to that question, I want to first look at some root causes to the porn. addiction.

I grew up in a culture, surrounded by a community of Christians that taught a strict code of moral guidelines.  Purity was strongly stressed within that culture.  I am not trying to imply that purity is a bad thing so stay with me…  What shocked me later was to find how many people within that strict culture seemed to clandestinely participate in practices that even a morally decadent culture would often find repulsive: incest, sexual abuse of minors, and even going so far as to “sell” daughters to pimps.  (Note: I didn’t know anyone closely who did the latter.)  I was not aware of most of this until in my later years when the victims finally broke their silence.

What I am seeing is that obsession in any form can often lead to obsessions of the complete opposite form than intended.  An obsession or skewed view of “purity” can lend itself to an obsession over sexuality…  It is not my intention to delve more closely into this specific discussion at this time though.

What I do want to look at is what I have observed among many I know that struggle with the porn addiction.  I have observed that many of these men are emotionally disconnected.  Right now, some of you are arguing, “{…} is very emotional.  He displays harsh outbreaks of anger.”

Anger is not the same as emotional connection.  It is an emotional response but does not indicate healthy emotions or emotional connection/awareness.  In fact, anger is often what we resort to when we don’t understand or are unable to produce other healthier emotions.  Note: anger is appropriate in some cases.  It does indicate a problem so anger should not be ignored.

Anger though is often one of the last emotions expressed by a wounded soul.  In the end, anger can also eventually end with depression.

Anger is one of the leading emotions that porn addicts often display.

What do anger and porn have in common?

They both are indicators of emotional disconnect, and emotional disconnect indicates a far deeper root issue.

Every man I know (emphasis on know) who struggles or has struggled with porn has also struggled with emotional disconnect because… And this is where it gets deep…

...Because of emotional neglect or abuse that they suffered within the home.  It could be that the parents were harsh in their discipline and didn’t know how to offer the emotional nurture that their child needed.  It could be there was even physical abuse within the home.  It could be that there was divorce.  It could be that the parents were enduring their own pain to such an extent that they were unable to emotionally meet the needs of their child(ren).  Whatever the case, these men/women often came from homes that did not meet their emotional needs fully and did not give them a healthy sense of value and worth, unconditional love, and perhaps displayed a more abusive type of “spirituality” (not true “spirituality” or God-relationship).

Note: I am not trying to blame parents for the causes of their children’s sins because we are all accountable, and we all have the opportunity to choose how we respond to life’s situations.  What I am trying to say is there is a very strong correlation between the two, and lasting freedom can be found when we are able to deal with root causes.

As a result of this emotional abuse or neglect this individual experienced, they often close themselves off to the empathetic side of their emotions and to the side that desires emotional intimacy.  Why?  Because to open themselves to that type of intimacy is to make themselves vulnerable and to provide opportunity for more emotional wounds — more rejection and the ability to feel pain again.

As a result, the individual will only reveal the part of themselves that they can control and from which they can disconnect.

For the marriage relationship, this becomes even trickier.  A man can enjoy the pleasures of physical intimacy without the emotional or even relational connection.  For a woman, this is not the norm as much; though our culture is trying to brain-wash us to believe that physical intimacy is no more connecting than holding someone’s hand.  I might add that physical intimacy was actually designed to help both partners to connect on an even deeper plane emotionally as a result of the physical connection.

This is where porn comes in.  Porn requires no emotional connection or even physical connection though it often does lead down the slippery path to actual affairs.

Wives often get confused over this and personally take porn as a rejection of themselves.  The truth is a husband does not look at porn or even have an affair because of you — your lack of some measure of appeal.  He looks at porn because of a lack within himself, and you are not the cause of his lack.

Note: I am not saying that there are selfish, bitter wives who don’t create greater hurts in their husbands. BUT, God never intended a wife to meet every need of her husband — in other words to be god to him.

Even greater confusion is when a spouse commits an affair.  I want to say this as clearly as possible so as to not be misunderstood: an affair is a frequent substitute for the real marriage when there is emotional disconnect.  Why?  Because an affair requires no lasting commitment or emotional investment.  It’s a fling normally.  It can lead to a divorce and remarriage, but when there is emotional disconnect or emotional immaturity, you often see two responses: a quick fling or affair — one of many or a new marriage where there is obsession (this is often seen on the wife’s end) with one spouse or both trying to get their sense of worth from that other person.

In fact, as a result of the hurts and wounds, the spouse of the one having the affair often puts up with emotional and perhaps even physical abuse because they too are struggling with an unhealthy sense of worth.  The wounded spouse is often trying to find their sense of security and value within the abusive spouse. This makes this situation particularly harmful.

I also want to clarify that pornography and affairs definitely are sins against the spouse.  They are allowing someone else or the false image of someone else to enter into the sanctity of the intimacy of the marriage relationship.  As such, just as any other sin, this needs to be repented of and confessed.

The sad thing about this is the shallowness of porn and affairs creates even greater emotional disconnect.  There is no lasting fulfillment or well-being within, and the individual is left, ever seeking and never finding permanency and lasting satisfaction.

What is the answer?  How do we help a person who is so wounded to finally begin to thaw?

First of all, realize that by “protecting” yourself, you are actually keeping yourself from finding help, healing, and true intimacy/connection.

Disconnecting yourself from your emotions is not “protecting” you.  It is simply putting up more barbed wire and more locks on the gates of your heart so that the only emotions you are left with are depression, anger, bitterness, and lust (the very false form of love).

Secondly, you need to be willing to revisit the pain from your past and the wounds.  This is where you need to be brave in order to find why and when you disconnected emotionally.  It is not easy to revisit those painful moments from the past.  It might be a parent, sibling, respected elder, relative, friend, etc… that really wounded you.  It might be a series of them.

Thirdly, and this is the most important, our view of God is often affected by our relationships with our parents or authorities.  If your relationship with your parents was off, it’s a good chance your view of God is and therefore your relationship with God is.

I would encourage you to check out my past blogs on forgiveness.  There is a powerful quote on bitterness/unforgiveness that says, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill someone else.” 

Forgiveness does not mean we allow abuse to continue nor does it mean we ignore the pain or minimize the offense.  It means you acknowledge all of the pain.  Get it out in the open before God.  Scream it out.  Cry it out.  Whatever you have to do, but bring it before God.

Then, the hardest part of all comes, you have to choose to forgive.  If you can’t choose, ask God to help you.

I remember a situation that happened in my past.  I was struggling with unforgiveness so I asked God to help me to forgive the person.  I then saw a picture of Jesus and I sitting on park benches in a garden.  He held out His hand and showed me the nail print in His hand and said, “I did this for you.”  He then held out His other hand and showed me the palm with the nail print and said, “I did this for [….].”  That was my answer.  Jesus wasn’t saying all offenses are the same.  What He was saying is that the result of sin is the same: the Innocent One had to die.  He died for my sins!  He died for your sins!  He died for those who crucified Him and said and did vile things against Him and to Him.  If the Perfect One can die for the sins of the world, how can I refuse to forgive the sins done against me?

It is when you finally choose forgiveness that a dam will break.  That will be the start of your journey of healing.  As God brings up more memories from your past, you may have a lot of garbage to work through.  You may have layers and layers of hurts and lies to work through, but God wants to walk this journey with you.  He wants to gently bring nourishment to your soul.  He wants to heal your wounds and bring you into freedom!

God wants you to be able experience the beauty of intimacy in relational commitment and the beauty within imperfection.  Marriage isn’t perfect.  Friendships aren’t perfect.  Spouses aren’t perfect.  You aren’t perfect.  BUT, as you begin to understand forgiveness and grace, you will begin to understand that your worth and strength doesn’t come in pretending perfection or trying to live your own version of “perfection.”  Your value comes from God Himself!  You are beautiful, loved, and chosen by God Himself!  You will find that once you get ahold of that truth, living the “perfect” life will be easier than you think!  A holy life isn’t found in you or I; it’s found in God Himself and intimately knowing Him!

May I end with this, in order to fully become the man or woman of God you were designed to be, you first need to “run” to Abba Daddy as His son or daughter.  Your heart first needs to come home.  So, come home, dear hearts!  You will be amazed to find that He isn’t that Big Daddy in the sky waiting to punish you when you do wrong.  He is the Abba Daddy, watching and waiting to gather you up in His arms and to welcome you home.  So, come home, dear hearts.  Come home.

(Note: This is not all-conclusive on the topic of pornography addiction, healing, and recovery for all individuals impacted by the affects of pornography.  See a qualified counselor for further assistance.)

When Your Marriage Is Breaking…

wedding-rings

(http://www.freeimages.com/photo/wedding-rings-1416826)

Marriages are breaking all over the place.

We know this, but what do we do when it’s our own marriage that is breaking apart?

There are a few questions to ask yourself when you know your marriage is not what it should be:

1.  What kind of marriage do you want?

2.  How much are you willing to invest or work at it to improve it?

3.  What is your relationship with God like?  How would you rank it?

The absolute key to the health of your marriage is truly dependent upon the health of your relationship with the Lord. 

Let’s look at two simple areas in regards to your relationship:

1.  Are you reading God’s Word, believing that it does have answers and will help you?

2.  How is you prayer life?

These are simple questions — things we all know.

The problem is the difference between what we know and what we do — which is what we believe.

There are also two questions to ask in regards to your part of your marriage:

1.  What does God want to show you in regards to yourself?

2.  What specific area(s) do you need to forgive today?  (Note: Forgiveness doesn’t absolve the offender; it frees the offended from the stranglehold of bitterness.)

Here’s some simple advice:

1.  Ask God to show you something about your spouse today — how God sees that person.

2.  Pick one wife from the Bible (if you are a wife; otherwise, pick a husband).

  • Write down why she or he was or was not a good example to follow — give specifics (heart and actions).
  • How did this wife affect her husband (or husband affect his wife)?

3.  What is one thing you want to see your spouse change most of all?  (Focus on one thing at a time.)

4.  What is one thing you think you need to change?  Focus on that.

5.  What is one thing you think your spouse is going to say you need to change?  Focus on that.

6.  In a safe environment (with a counselor possibly present), share those things you need to change.  They should do the same thing.  Refrain from any disparaging comments.

7.  Respect is the key.  No relationship will flourish where there is a lack of respect.

8.  “Die” to yourself.  (This doesn’t mean accept or tolerate abuse.)  This refers to your own will.  Surrender it to God.  Walk in His truth and freedom.

9.  Pray, expecting God to answer!

10.  Invite God’s Presence into the situation — to convict, change, make a difference.

 

 

What If You Really Did Marry Prince Charming?

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My last blog I wrote was:

https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/why-you-can-be-cinderella-even-without-a-prince-charming/

My focus was on being the “princess” and not waiting for Prince Charming to make your identity.  In other words, we don’t become a “princess” by marrying the perfect “Prince Charming.  We are princesses because we are daughters of the Heavenly King.  We are “princesses” when we allow our Heavenly King to transform our natures inwardly so that we become “princessy.”

Girl-friends, what if we are married to Prince Charming?  Really?  Yes, really!  What if Prince Charming is the man you married after-all?

Think about the fairy tale of Cinderella again.  In fairy tales, the story normally ends after the wedding, and “they lived happily ever after…”  If this story was real life, don’t you think a lot of women would have complained about Prince Charming?  After-all, didn’t his father dictate and plan his life for him?  Makes you question the guy’s backbone.  A redeeming quality was Prince Charming did seem to know a good thing when he saw it.  He also was willing to go to a lot of trouble to find the missing Cinderella.

In real life though Cinderella would have had the interfering father-in-law, the mean stepmother and stepsisters to still handle.  As a princess, Cinderella didn’t have a lot of say over where she went, what she did, and how she lived her life.  There are certain dictates of society for those who rule…

In some ways, I like the story of Beauty and the Beast better.  The story is probably the most applicable to some of us.  Belle meets the Beast, and he’s quite “beastly.”  Belle though is able to look beyond the gruff exterior to the tender heart within.  In the story, she falls in love with the Beast while he is still a beast.  Her kindness and love help with the softening of the Beast.  Yet, within his heart was a willingness and readiness to change.

Gaston was the handsome and popular dude who wanted Belle.  He was egotistical, controlling, self-centered, and cruel.  His outward appearance though made him charming with the girls of the town.  Even though Belle could have had Gaston if she wanted (he wanted her), she instead chose the Beast.   Belle saw past exterior personalities and appearances to the inner heart.

As wives, do we see past the gruff exteriors that our husbands may erect to protect themselves?  Do we see past the outward exteriors and personifications to the inner man?  Do we take time to truly get to know our men?  Do we seek to bring out the “prince” in our men — rather than relegating them to the status of  the despised or feared “beast”?

Grant it, some women are married to true “Beasts”– the “Gastons”.  If we are perfectly honest though, most of us aren’t married to “Gastons.”  We are married to normal guys who are sometimes a little “beastly” but when given the opportunity “transform” into true “princes” that totally out-shine the shallow “Gastons”.

The truth?  Girl-friends, the truth is that we do have a lot of influence over the men/husbands in our lives.  We can cut them down with our words, relegate them to the status of “beasts”, despise them because of our own shallow misconceptions, and as a result completely miss out on the transformation process!

The truth is that our husbands may not even need a transformation process.  It may be that we do.

Contentment isn’t a matter of circumstance or certain people.  It’s a matter of the heart.

The truth?  The truth is that a lot of — most of us — are married to Prince Charming!  We just haven’t learned to look into the hearts of our men or learned to act the “princess” part — to be the Belle who saw into the heart of the Beast.

It’s often not about how “princely” our husbands are.  It’s really more an issue of how we see them and treat them.  Anyone can be quite “beastly” when they are treated as such or seen as such.  It’s not even necessarily that they are even close to “beastly”.  They may be more “Prince Charming” then we realize, but we may be so busy lusting or longing after the “Gastons” or too busy complaining and finding fault to recognize how “princely” they are.  Our complaining or discontentment may be destroying our husbands’ desires to even attempt to be “princely” towards us or at the very least obstructing our perception of their actions.

In other words, our contentment is not based on our circumstances or the “Prince Charmings” in our lives.  Our contentment is a heart attitude.  It’s all about our perceptions.  No man can change the way we see/perceive life.

The question is whether we — you and I — will recognize that Prince Charming just may be the man we married after-all.

You see, it is possible to live happily ever after

Why You Can Be Cinderella Even Without A Prince Charming

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Girl-friends, let’s be honest.  Most of us have had dreams of meeting Prince Charming.  It’s amusing, considering that Prince Charming only exists in fairy tales — yeah, FAIRY TALES! 

How come then does my friend seem to be married to Mr. Perfect?  He’s knock-dead gorgeous.  He’s smart.  He has a good job.  They have a gorgeous house.  They go on romantic dates.  He’s a fun dad.  He’s romantic.  He seems sincere in his walk with the Lord.  Sometimes, the “grass does look greener on the other side of the fence.” 

Most of us love our husbands.  In fact, we would say our husbands are good, kind men.  They do romantic things — didn’t say how often…  They are pretty good looking … most of the time.  But, they do sweat…

Would Prince Charming sweat?  I mean did he ever forget an important date or leave Cinderella to take out the trash.  Wait!  They were royalty.  No work there.

Why do we long for Prince Charming?  Why do we envision fairy tale weddings and fairy tale lives?  For what are we really longing?

Is it because having a Prince Charming somehow makes us the Cinderella?  Do we think we only become “princesses” when we marry a prince? 

What if we could and can be Cinderella without having a Prince Charming?

What if we understood that our Heavenly Father created us to be His “princesses”? 

What if we understood that no matter our circumstances and the people in our lives, we can still be “Cinderellas”? 

What if we understood being a “princess” isn’t about finding a Prince Charming or living in a palace? 

What if we understood being a princess is simply all about “being” — living like royalty because we are.  Yes, you and I…  We are ROYALTY! 

We are princesses because that’s what God thinks of us.  We are daughters of the Heavenly King!  He made us to live amazing lives — lives full of His peace, love, joy, kindness…! 

You and I…  We don’t need to wait for the perfect Prince Charming or for some very futuristic time when our husbands suddenly will become “fairy tale-ish”.  Nope.

God hasn’t placed us in imperfect homes or with imperfect people to try us or to punish us.  He’s placed us where we are to reveal and work within us the transformation of becoming true “royalty” in the way we conduct ourselves, within the very fiber of our being. 

We are becoming “Cinderellas” within — daughters who live and act like their Heavenly Father, the Heavenly King!

 

 

Letter To The Future Bride

(Picture was taken by Becca Davis Photography.)

It is a special privilege to be able to write a letter to you in reference to, Lord-willing, your future role as a wife!

I have enjoyed almost 10 1/2 years of married life presently.  I hope this is just the first of many decades that I have to spend with my husband!

Per your request, I will share some of the lessons I have learned in a decade of married life:

Be ready to forgive 70 X 7 + more.  Don’t keep a record of wrongs.  “Don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath.”

Always honor your husband before others by how you speak of him, how you speak to him, and when you speak.

Practice the art of listening.

Respond with humor whenever appropriate.

Be willing to say “I am sorry,” without casting blame.

Avoid complaining.  Seek to edify and encourage.

Make your home an environment of rest both in body, mind, and soul.

Make your husband happy to come home.

Honor your husband by how you take care of yourself.  (You represent your husband.)  A wife who neglects herself may speak of disrespect towards her husband or inattention on his part towards herself.

Honor your husband before any children God gives you.  Show a unified front to your children.

Pray for and with your husband on a daily basis.

Frequently write your husband special notes of encouragement, putting them in his lunch or special places in your home.

Meet the physical needs of your husband.  Don’t view them as an obligatory burden but as a way to minister to his needs.

Be grateful and express it.

Have devotions as a couple and eventually as a family.

Discuss Scriptural questions with your husband.

Be loyal to your husband above any other relationship outside of God.

Be willing to seek Godly counsel, if your husband is truly living in a seriously un-Biblical way.

Gain your husband’s consent before making plans that affect him or the function of the family.

Be content.

Don’t be wasteful in your spending.  Stick to agreed upon budgets.

Don’t compare your husband to other men.

Avoid any inappropriate interactions with anyone of the opposite gender.

Be transparent and accountable to your husband with any male friendships/acquaintances that you might have had prior to marriage.  He should have full access to any communication.  Make sure your husband approves of any and all communication.

Avoid any appearance of evil (e.g. flirting with others, lunches with a coworker of the opposite sex.  Group situations are okay).

Dress modestly so you preserve your body as a gift for his eyes alone.

Avoid habits that are irritating to him.

Make dates a priority.

Share a mutual hobby.

Try to make meals that he finds palatable.

Create your own holiday traditions together.

Dress to please him.

Greet him with affection when he comes home from work or when he calls.

Don’t “dump” on him all the negative occurrences from your day.  Wait to share until later in the evening.

Keep his tastes in mind when decorating your home – make it mutually pleasing to both of you.

Take turns picking a movie to watch together.

Play games together, but don’t be a sore loser or an arrogant winner.

Joke with your husband.

Laugh together a lot.

Flirt with your husband – especially within the privacy of your home and room.

Dress sexy when in the privacy of your room.

Don’t be overly conscious of your body when sharing it with him.

View and treat sex with honor and as a gift.

Let him comfort you during child-bearing.  Don’t blame him for your pain.

Don’t use tears as a form of manipulation.

Try to avoid emotional tirades.  A man doesn’t know what to do with those.

If you need your husband to be more sensitive to you, gently tell him what would mean a lot (e.g. “Right now, I just need a hug from you, honey.”)

Take off the “rose-colored glasses” before marriage.  Put them on afterwards.

Only marry a man who will be compatible with these points.

Be flexible.  He might want to do something different than you had planned for the day or evening.

Keep yourself pure prior to marriage.  Present yourself as a gift to him on your wedding night.

Get your parents’ advice on the man you wish to marry.

Seriously consider any warnings your godly friends and family members may give.

Heed any inner cautions you have regarding a potential spouse.  It is better to end a courtship or engagement then a marriage!

Before marrying, pray if this is not just the right one but the right timing.  Some headaches in marriages could have been avoided if more time for maturation had been allowed.

Don’t haste to be wed.  The dating/courtship time is to be savored.

Keep an engagement as short as reasonably possible to avoid undue temptation.

Make sure you have had time to pursue any ministry opportunities God has called you to prior to marriage.  Once you are married, your focus will be on serving your husband rather than others.  (You can serve others together, but the opportunities are different.)

Get as much applicable training as possible before marriage so that you can bring those life skills and lessons into better serving your family.  Time and resources will probably be more limited once you are a new couple starting out.

Be resourceful in meeting your family’s needs.

Don’t be selfish with your time and attention in serving your family.

Serve with a cheerful attitude.

I may think of more, but this is the list I have for now.  This is an impossible list in and of yourself.  You and I both need the Lord’s grace and Spirit to help us actually live this in our daily lives.  We will sin at times and not fulfill these guidelines.  When we do, we need to humbly ask for forgiveness and then start again.

Let me leave you with this quote:

“If the manner of life under grace is superhuman, so, also, the provided enablement is supernatural, and is limitless as the infinite power of God …. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the fact that, since God has proposed the impossible rule of life and provided the sufficient Spirit, the believer’s responsibility is thereby changed from being a struggle of the flesh to being a reliance on the Spirit. Grace thus introduces a new problem for the believer’s life which is wholly foreign to every aspect of the law. It is the problem of the adjustment of the heart to the holy presence of the Spirit, and of maintaining the unbroken attitude of dependence on Him.” ~ Lewis Sperry Chafer

Celebrating A Decade!

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Exactly one month ago, my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary — a decade of being married!

We celebrated our anniversary with an elegant dinner to a local inn.  The drive there was gorgeous!  The inn is situated right along a wide river.

Our dinner was amazing!  The cuisine superb!

As we were getting ready to depart for home to relieve our babysitter, my husband drew my attention to a breathtaking sight.  Candle light from the inn reflected on the hazy blue of the river, while millions of fireflies danced their own sparkly tune.  It was an incredibly romantic and beautiful sight.  We stood, holding hands, gazing at the riveting sight.

Marriage to my Man has been all and more than I had hoped!  As my Man said, “My only anniversary wish is another year with you!”

We recently watched a movie about a couple where the woman died from cancer.  My husband and I were both moved to tears.  As we lay in bed with arms around each other that night, I felt the wetness on his cheeks and asked him the reason.  My man’s response was, “Because I can’t imagine life without you and want many more years with you.”  Me too.  Me too, honey.

Recently, my man did something that still brings me joy.  He went shopping with a friend of his to buy outfits for their wives.  They went to The Loft and bought entire outfits, accessories included for their wives.  They then planned a date to take their wives on a double-date when the wives could wear their new outfits.  I absolutely loved this!  The outfit is delightful, but better yet was the sweet thought!  Later I learned that my husband had used his birthday money that he had saved over the years to buy my outfit.  His sweet thoughtfulness doesn’t end!  I am so blessed!

The past decade has seen its tragedies and triumphs, its frustrations and fun, its pain and pleasure, its burdens and blessings.  Yet, I can honestly say that I am so thankful for my husband of a decade and hope we have many more decades together!

Taken By Surprise!

If you had asked me 12 years ago where I would be today, I don’t think I would have given you an answer that looks anything like what my life is like.  I had dreams, but life is often so very different than what we imagine.

I did dream of marriage and motherhood so I am not too far off those hopes.  I don’t think that I ever imagined having such busy boys and more boys than girls.  I didn’t picture how difficult it would be to be the loving, patient, wise mother I saw in my dreams.

I also imagined myself married to a type-A personality man and just different…  I still remember the time though when I first met my husband.  I did notice his bright blue eyes.  I also noticed his politeness.  I still remember the first time we really talked.  I remember how he had a gift of getting others to talk, quietly asking questions and getting them to talk about themselves.  I remember noticing his hands: strong, long, clean — perfect for wiping away tears, cradling a baby, cupping a cheek, brushing hair…  I remember prior to meeting him, my momma told me to be open to God’s leading, to not limit myself to specific outward trappings.  “Sure, Mom.”  I really didn’t think it would happen — that I would meet my future spouse.

I still remember how he called me right after that weekend, how we talked for more than an hour.  I remember the respect he showed me and glimpses into the heart of a man that was starting to become God’s man.

I still remember when that man proposed to me, how tears filled his eyes.  I remember how excited and yet nervous I was.  It was such a huge commitment, and I knew my man was human.

I remember our wedding day.  The flowers were so beautiful.  The music.  The guests.  The tulle.  The ribbons.  The carriage.  It was all such a dream.  I remember my dad reaching up to hold my hand, to walk me down the aisle.  “Are you ready?”  Was I really ready?  Could one totally be ready?

Then there were those vows.  His were personally written.  So tender.  So protective.  So mature.  So reverent.  He got down on one knee.  Those azure blue eyes gazed at me so full of love and tears.  He paused, voice clogged with tears.  He continued to recite some of the most beautiful wedding vows to ever be written.  Many from the audience would talk about them for years to come.

Then, there was the kiss.  It was our first kiss, saved ’til we truly were man and wife.  With such tenderness, he gently cupped my face in his hands … those hands I had known earlier would be perfect for this.  With exquisite gentleness and almost reverence our lips melded.  When he finally drew back, I felt bereft and melted into him.  Sensing my vulnerability, he was gentle but strong.  That night, he showed me the depths of what it means to give in love rather than take.  I was his rare gift, and he let me know it.  I was his princess.  He was my knight.

We loved with joyous abandon.  There were no regrets, only delight!  No comparisons… Only discovery.  The months passed, and challenges came our way.  I questioned at times.  The years passed.  My man continued to grow in maturity and godliness.  I began to fall in love all over again… watching him hold our babies, his selflessness, his gentleness, his leadership, his serving…  He wasn’t afraid to hold my hair back as I threw up in the toilet.  He wasn’t afraid to help me get a shower right after giving birth to a baby.  He wasn’t afraid to clean up the bloody mess from giving birth.  He wasn’t afraid to love me when I was grumpy.

I am so blessed to have found the right kind of man and to have learned what true love is!   Such love exceeds the boundaries of words in describing it.  Such love is exquisite in its tenderness, in its beauty, in its vulnerability, in its service, in its selflessness, in its humility, in its kindness, in its transparency, in its oneness. True loves transcends past the passion to the promises that are wrapped up in the gifts of living our love every day.  …Beauty in its rarest form! How amazing this thing called love is!

Those hands that I have always loved have caught me by surprise!  As they wiped a dirty bottom, swept a floor, washed dishes, held my hands while encouraging me during agonizing contractions, cradled my face, wiped my tears, swung me around in his arms, carried our babies, chased our boys … in those hands, my heart has been captured … true love has taken me by surprise!  True love is not a confining/controlling thing — rather it is freedom … exhilarating when offered with joyous abandon!

Head Over Heels

I have been wanting to write for some time a letter to my husband.  I wrote one to the boys and one to Olivia so now it’s Jonathan’s turn.  (Some day, I want to write individual ones to each boy.)

Dear Husband of Mine,

(Maybe, I should have tried to write this when the boys aren’t running their cars all around my feet — just a little distracting.) There are a lot of things I want to say, some things I won’t say due to the appropriateness of the readers, but for now, I hope to express a little bit of my appreciation for you.

We are in our tenth year of marriage now!  Can’t believe it has gone so fast!  I still so clearly remember our gorgeous and amazing wedding day and honeymoon!  I still remember those blissful first months of marriage!  I remember some challenges — those “ripples on the pond” that new marriages work through.  As the years have passed, I can sincerely say that I love you way more today then I did then.  I find you more attractive and appealing on many levels than I did the day I said “I do”.

I remember the beautiful vows that you wrote and said to me on our wedding day.  They were exquisite and even more so today because you have truly lived out what you promised.

…Twelve days later, I return to attempt to finish this blog.  It’s not that I don’t have plenty to write.  I do.  I am just afraid that I will do the subject matter an injustice by not writing in a manner that is worthy of it.  Thus, the delay.  I also have five pleasant distractions running, babbling, or asking for me so…

Sweet husband of mine, this morning it meant so much to me when I returned from dropping the boys off for Christmas play practice to find that you had straightened everything in our bedroom and Drew’s room.  I was trying to rush back home so I could clean things up before I had to drag the roofers through our messy rooms.  Not only did you straighten, but you did such a great job that I could just sit down and nurse our baby.  Many wives would discreetly have to do a little more straightening after their husbands.  Nothing against men.  It’s just that women have their way of cleaning and men, their way.  You, though, do an amazing job that I could only find lots more reasons to praise you!

You serve me like that a lot.  I am blessed!  I know it too.  I feel sorry for those many women who married their dashingly and personable you men/lovers — only to find that those men are more concerned about enjoying their hobbies, working on their projects, and doing their own thing rather than helping their wives.

You not only serve me, but you also recognize me for the work I do.  Your praise means a lot to me!  Just last night, I was complaining how our floor needed to be mopped, but it was already so late and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that yet too.  You gently said, “Knowing you and what a great job you do keeping after the house, I am sure the floor will get cleaned when it needs it.”  Yes, I know!  I am very blessed! (Your praise motivated me to mop the floor.  The floor thanks you.)

I love how you try to add humor to tense situations.  The other week as we were arriving at church and reminding the boys of proper church behavior, I loved how you then added, “No cows in church though boys.  Make sure you leave them in the car.”  The boys loved it, and we all entered church with smiles and giggles.

I admire how patient you are!  You are so careful to not discipline in anger.  Oh, you aren’t perfect, but you do an amazing job!  There are very few times that you respond to the children in anger.  I love how firm but patient you are.  If the boys become anything like you, their wives will be so grateful!

I appreciate how hard you work!  You travel many miles every day just to go to work.  You work every day without complaining just to provide for the family.  It’s not like your money even goes to all these exciting things — just to put food on the table and to pay bills.  To me though, it is exciting!  I have a smart, hard-working husband, and I am proud of you!  I am thankful you work hard and have a good job as a result.

I love how you aren’t afraid to get down and wrestle with the boys, to pretend you are a dinosaur and chase them around, to tenderly cuddle with our daughter, to brush my hair, give me back massages, and to wipe my tears.

I love how you write me sweet and silly notes that I find in creative places.  I love how you make me presents with your hands that speak of time, diligence, creativity, patience, and love.  I love how you ask me about my day and listen.  I love how you encourage me to grow in my walk with the Lord.  I love how you push yourself to do things that aren’t your natural bent because you want to grow.  I love how you don’t demand to get your own needs meet.  I love how you don’t complain when a meal turns out to be a flop.  I love how you enjoy things like holding hands and watching a sunset together.  I love how you tell me I am beautiful — even when I know I am a mess.  I love how you help me recover from giving birth to our babies — even the parts that are disgusting.  You are so selfless, so serving, so loving!

Jonathan, if I was getting married today, I know that I would choose you all over again.  This time though, I would choose you much faster and with a greater joy.  Now, I truly know how blessed I am!  On our wedding day, I saw glimpses of your character, but I hadn’t been married to you yet.  Ten years later, you have only grown to become even more precious to me!  Ten years later, I have lived with you; now I truly know that you are my soul-mate.  You are my home!  We have been through a lot together, and the years will take us many more places and stages than we can imagine.  Through it all, I am so thankful that you and the Lord are a team, showing me the secrets of love.

How exquisitely beautiful this thing called love is!

Should I die before you, I don’t know that there is anyone good enough for you.  You deserve someone who would love you and treasure the gift that you are!  🙂  Since I am the only wife you have, I am going to do my best to keep reminding you that I think you are pretty special.

Thanks, Love!  Here’s to the next ten+ years!

Thinking of Marriage

My boys are already thinking of marriage — at least the oldest two are.  The other day, I overheard them talking to each other that God has someone special for them to marry.  I know this mommy definitely prays along that line.  So, ladies, if one of your daughters marries my son(s), there are lots of prayers on her behalf already.  🙂