Marriage

My Husband is Not my Third Child

Jason and boys

I am a mom to two preschool-aged boys, Caleb and Garrett. They are wild and crazy and caring for them occupies a lot of my time and energy.

I am also wife to Jason, a wonderful, crazy, goofy man who makes me laugh and loves me deeply.

But sometimes, when I talk about being a mom, people jokingly say something about me really having three kids – my two littles, and Jason. I don’t know if it’s because he has a silly bent that they joke about him being a child, or if it’s because they feel this way about their husbands. But it bothers me.

When somebody calls Jason my “third child” I usually will politely chuckle or smile uncomfortably and look away and say “yeahhhh…” quietly, because I’m not very confrontational by nature, and in the moment I never know exactly how to respond to those accusations. But inside I’m irritated, and sometimes even angry.

Because my husband is not my third child.

If I was great at thinking on my feet in uncomfortable situations and bold enough to correct someone who tries to get a laugh by belittling my husband, this is what I might say:

I have two children. When they have to go to the bathroom, I go with them and help them with the tricky snaps and buttons on their clothes, help them wipe their bottoms, and lift them up to flush the toilet and wash their hands.

When they need to eat, I fix them a meal, cut it into little bites, remind them over and over to sit down at the table, and sometimes feed it to them when they need extra motivation to finish.

When we have to go somewhere as family, I help them find their shoes and put them on. I get their coats out of the closet, hold out the sleeves while they shrug into it, and zip it up for them. I lift them into the car and buckle them into the seat.

When it’s time for bed, I brush their teeth, read to them, and tuck them in.

My husband, on the other hand, manages to do all of those things for himself.

Now, I do take care of Jason in other ways. I make meals and wash clothes. I buy stamps and schedule appointments and give advice when he asks for it. And if I were not around, he might struggle to manage our household the way I do. As far as I know, he doesn’t know how to bake bread or use the sewing machine or have any clue where I keep the snack schedule for Caleb’s school.

He might very well be hopeless at accomplishing many of the things I do as a wife and mom if they fell to him. And this is because I contribute to our household by offering the work that falls within my skill set and available time.

Jason, as the other half of the marriage that underlies our family, does the same thing.

Just as he cannot do everything I do for him and our kids, there are tons of things he does for our family that are beyond me, or at least outside of my everyday contributions to our household.

I could probably manage paying our bills if I had to, but I don’t know all of the account numbers or when they are due like Jason does. I’m not sure I could ever learn how to change the oil in a car or have the upper body strength necessary to change a flat tire. I don’t know how to work our lawn mower or run a computer clean-up program. (Defrag something-or-other? I am clearly so far out of my element on this I don’t even know what I’m talking about here.)

These are the the things he gives to our family, without expecting me to help.

Of course I take care of my husband. And of course my husband takes care of me. That is what marriage is. And neither of us cares for each other in the same way we care for our children.

So stop calling my husband my third child, please.

Marriage

Here comes the bride

It was this day, five years ago, that I was a bride. For months–or more accurately, my whole life–I’d been looking forward to that day. The day I would become a “Mrs.” Finally, it was here.

My photographer told me later that many brides are reluctant for the “big day” to be over, and try to stretch out their days as a bride by dragging their feet on ordering a wedding album.

Not me. Well, it did take me forever to order my album, but not because I wanted to be a bride forever. Quite the contrary. I was all too happy to shed the identity of “bride.”

You see, my wedding day was delightful, but the days leading up to that happy day were not so easy. On top of the stress of wedding planning, I was heartsick. I spent as much of each day with Jason as I could, but at night, he went to his house and I went to mine. It was right and proper, and I don’t regret one single boundary we placed around our relationship during that season. But the living it was difficult. As an engaged woman, my heart and my life already belonged to Jason. In my mind, I was his.

And yet, that wasn’t our practical reality. For four months, I cried myself to sleep nearly every night with homesickness. My home was in Ozark, with my husband-to-be, and I was in Springfield, without him. That’s the secret side of being a bride, the side the magazines never tell you about.

It isn’t exactly unrequited love, but it’s something like it. I didn’t think I was going to make it, until one morning, when reading my Bible, it occurred to me that I was not only Jason’s bride, I was also Christ’s bride.

So if you’re an engaged woman, especially if you’re one who is struggling in the heartsickness of simply wanting to be married already, let me encourage you: lean into those feelings. Let yourself fully experience the longing, the sighing,and  the homesickness, until they’re imprinted on your soul and you cannot forget them.

Your wedding day will surely come, and all of that will fade from your immediate experience. But it is my belief that those are the exact feelings the Lord wants us to have as we consider his kingdom and the promise of his return.

Because this is not our home.

We are betrothed to Christ. Our hearts and lives are his. Our home is with him; we are simply awaiting the day when he sweeps us off our feet and carries us over that heavenly threshold.

So long for it. Eagerly expect it. Be homesick. Be the Bride.

Marriage

Sit there and take it

This weekend, we celebrated my father-in-law’s parents’ anniversary.

They have been married for 70 years.

No, that wasn’t a typo. They’ve spent the past seven decades side-by-side, facing the world together as husband and wife.

I can hardly imagine being 70, let alone getting that many years to spend with the man I love. Few people are so lucky. Very few.

So when I got a moment, when the party was dying down, and Granny wasn’t talking to anyone, I asked her if she had any marriage advice. This is what she said:

“I guess if I could say one thing, it would be when you get to fussin’ and pickin’ at each other, you know, just sit there and take it. Don’t get up an leave, now. Young people these days, they get ideas in their head about what they want, and when it isn’t that way, you know, they just leave.”

This surprised me, but the longer I think about it, the happier I am that this is what she said. I guess I expected her to say to never let the sun go down on your anger, or to always be each other’s best friend, or to make each other laugh every day, or something.

This certainly isn’t the advice I would have given. But what do I know? I’ve only been married four and a half years. Granny’s a little more qualified than I am to be giving advice, and it boils down to one word: Stay. 

Now, I know that there are some circumstances this doesn’t apply to, such as repeated infidelity. And if someone is being abused, of course they shouldn’t just stay and take it.

But when that isn’t the case, when marriages are falling apart simply because someone is unhappy, or bored, or selfish, I think this may be the best marriage advice I’ve ever heard.

Just stay.

After all, isn’t that what we promised to do in the first place?

For better, for worse (I’ll stay).

For richer, for poorer (I’ll stay).

In sickness and in health (I’ll stay).

As long as we both shall live (I’ll stay).

What would happen if more marriages actually looked like this? If people just stayed together? I think good things would happen.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the woman who’s been married to the same man since 1942.

Books & Reading · Marriage

Why I’m not reading Fifty Shades of Grey

I know I have said it before, but I am going to say it again: I love to read.

Love, love, love.

And I read all kinds of books.

On my list of books to read just this year are two biographies, two parenting books, four memoirs, two books about church ministry, three classic novels, eleven contemporary novels, a cookbook, and a book about politics.

It all interests me. It all enriches me. It all helps me to be a better writer.

I don’t even mind reading books in which I disagree with the author. In Acts 17:11, Luke writes that the Christians at Berea “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” That’s how I approach most of the books I read. I discern what the author is trying to say, and I hold it up against the measuring rod of the Bible. “Test everything,” Paul reiterates. “Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)

For this reason, there are very few books which I avoid; in fact, if you tell me I should not read something, I’m usually that much more likely to read it. I can be stubborn that way.

But I want to explain to you why Fifty Shades of Grey is different, at least from my perspective.

Allow me to frame my explanation through the biblical examples set for us by Joseph and Daniel. Both were taken as young men from their homes, and forced to serve pagan rulers in foreign cultures. But Joseph was such a good manager, he quickly rose to the head of Potiphar’s household. Daniel was also talented; he was specifically chosen for his aptitude in the classroom, and was educated in the literature and language of Babylon.

These men did not run from knowledge, but they knew where to draw to line.

Daniel “resolved not to defile himself,” while in the courts of the King of Babylon (Daniel 1:8) and Joseph, when presented with the opportunity sleep with Potiphar’s wife, literally ran from temptation (Genesis 39:13).

From what I understand about the book, Fifty Shades of Grey opens wide the door into someone else’s bedroom, and invites you and me inside, where all that await us are explicit images and thoughts, the kind against which God’s word specifically warns us:

  • “Flee from sexual immorality.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)
  • “Any who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)
  • “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality….”
    (Ephesians 5:3)
  • “Whatever is pure… think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
  • “It is God’s will… that you should avoid sexual immorality.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
  • “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immoralilty, impurity, debauchery….” (Galatians 5:19)

You see, once those words are in my head, I can’t un-read them.

So this is where I am drawing the line. I will not read Fifty Shades of Grey.
__________________________________________________________
For more on why I don’t think you should read it either, you can check out these terrific posts:
Not As Grey as You Think by Brianna at Just Showing Up
50 Ways Porn Might Be Sneaking into Your Church by Dana Gresh
50 Shades of Magic Mike by Melissa Jenna

Marriage

He asked, I said yes

Four years ago today I got the most expensive Christmas present I will likely ever receive. I’d been dating this guy, Jason, for most of the year. I was in love. I wanted to marry him.

I had it on good authority that he wanted to marry me, too. We’d talked about rings, and had been going out to eat less while he was pinching his pennies. I knew he was getting close to having enough (however much that was) but we worked at the same church, and I knew he got paid on the 7th of the month.

He’d dropped a couple hints that he wouldn’t be able to afford a diamond until sometime after that paycheck, or maybe the next.

So I woke up on December 1, 2007, thinking it would be just like any other day.

Well, almost. My grandma had just died, and the funeral was that morning. So either way, that Saturday was going to be a day to remember, but not in the way I expected. (Little did I know how much Jason was sweating over our family tragedy. Was it tacky to propose hours after a funeral? He wan’t sure.)

My sweet then-boyfriend held my hand tight as I quietly cried through the service, saying my final goodbyes to a woman who’d really been taken from me by Alzheimer’s many years earlier.

We smiled through our tears during lunch, sharing happy memories of my “meme” with those who loved her most. Afterwards, Jason made an elaborate charade of pretending to arrange guest tickets to Silver Dollar City for us (even though he’d had them for days) as a “diversion” from the sadness of the day.

We changed into warm clothes, and off we went.

I love Silver Dollar City at Christmastime. I distracted myself with cute shops and rides and hot chocolate. And of course, the lighting of the tree on the square – magical! Just being there thrilled me, so when the swinging bridge was closed after dark I didn’t give it another thought. I just dragged a nervous, pre-proposal Jason to the Wildfire roller coaster line so that we could ride it in the dark.

As you can imagine, I was more than puzzled when he stopped to “sit down and rest” before we walked back to the car. I was even more confused when our lighthearted joking took a more serious turn.

But then he pulled out a one-of-a-kind oval cut diamond, set in white gold flanked by smaller, triangle-shaped stones.

And all the deepest questions of my heart were answered. For the rest of my life I’d get to wear the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen as a symbol of my commitment to stay with my true love and best friend through anything life would throw at us. It was a perfect moment. A perfect day. A perfect start to our happily ever after.

I’m so glad I said “yes.”

Marriage

Surviving a week without the man of the house


This guy is pretty great. I mean, with a sombrero like that, how could he not be?

This week, my wonderful, sombrero-ed husband is in Honduras, and the boy and I are holding down the fort. Being alone has forced me to do things a little differently around here. Here are a few of the ways I’m getting by during this short season:

Have a plan for every day
When I know Jason is going to be home at five, I can just hang on, killing time until then if I’m having a bad day. But last night, (and tonight, and tomorrow) I didn’t have that luxury. So it helps if I have a few activities planned to occupy the time. Saturday we went on a day trip. This evening, we’re going swimming. Having those plans in front of me helps me to focus on the small things – just getting to whatever is next – instead of being overwhelmed with the idea of trying to get through nine entire days alone.

Ask for help.
This is a hard one for me. I tend to think I can, or should be able to do everything myself. But I am blessed to have a great church family and three sets of grandparents who are more than willing to feed me, take Caleb off my hands for a few hours, or just keep me company when I’m lonely. Telling them I need that, and relying on them during this time, has been extremely helpful.

Keep an “I already did it” list.
Instead of a “to-do” list for every day, I’ve been writing down things that I accomplish as I do them. Sometimes, it’s something as little as making my bed. But it helps me focus on victories instead of what went wrong each day. With my pregnancy hormones raging, it’s easy to look at few difficult moments and feel defeated. Writing down what I’ve done keeps things in perspective.

Finally, and most importantly, Pray for God’s peace.
Right before Jason left on Thursday night, he knelt beside our bed, tucked me in, and prayed that God would watch over me and give me peace while he was gone. I am so glad he did that. I can honestly say that I’ve been more at peace during this past few days than I usually am when Jason is gone. I haven’t been paranoid that I forgot to lock the doors. I haven’t cried myself to sleep. I haven’t had to leave the living room light on all night. I haven’t been worrying about whether or not Caleb will sleep through the night. I am simply trusting God to take care of us. And he is. He’s faithful like that.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Holidays · Marriage

To the two best men I know:

This is my daddy:

He was and still is a fantastic dad. He made me scrambled egg sandwiches when I didn’t feel good. He taught me how to parallel park. He painted my toenails and french-braided my hair. And he showed me, by his own example, what to look for in a husband.

I am so thankful that he did.

Because now there is another daddy in my life. This guy:

He makes diaper changes the most fun part of the day. He takes us for drives when we’re getting a little stir-crazy. He is strong enough to give swift discipline when it’s needed, but loving enough to always give hugs and kisses afterward. He provides for our family. He’s happy to come home to us every evening, and we’re even happier to have him there.

I am so glad he’s my babies’ daddy.

Happy Father’s Day to my two favorite dads!