Enjoy Your Coleslaw!

In our newlywed years we lived across the street from a grocery store. One night while preparing dinner I realized I did not have lettuce for salad. I asked Jerry if he would mind going to the store to get some. He was amenable to the task.

Wanting to make life as easy as possible for him I told him it did not matter what type of lettuce he got, I could work with anything he selected. As I said this, I was thinking Romaine, Green or Red Leaf, Butter, Iceberg, etc.

Jerry came home pleased that he could take care of this need and smiled as he pulled a large head of green cabbage out of the bag. I am not sure what I said, but I thanked him and thought, I guess we’ll have coleslaw instead.

food-water-summer-texture-134877
Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

What I do remember is his surprise to learn his purchase was not lettuce. Apparently, he had tossed salads growing up that were made with cabbage. That was a new idea to me, but, ok.

 

Our families of origin had some significant differences. But in the things that matter (faith, love, care) they were more similar. It was always intriguing to make a visit to one of our parents homes. We often uncovered more things in our family backgrounds that we just assumed were “normal,” only to find others did not do things the same way.

I think of that little story now as we prepare for Christmas. I hear from couples how difficult it can be to spend holidays with in-laws. I am thankful this was not our experience. I would love to visit again with any of our parents, but they have all passed. If you are blessed to still have your families of origin may I make two suggestions to perhaps ease some seasonal stress?

First, remember your in-laws are the ones who raised the man or woman you love. Even if they do everything polar opposite of you, they did something right in raising the person you chose to commit your life to.

Secondly, time is too short to sweat the small stuff. When you trip over a difference in your families, celebrate it. Talk about it, maybe even laugh about it. Try not to let it ruin your trip, or negatively impact your visit. From my experience – enjoy your cabbage salad, you may even find you like it!

Give of Your Best

Have you ever had someone describe the behavior of a family member and you thought, Who are they talking about? That’s not the person I see at home? This seeming dichotomy makes sense to me. Most of us were taught to be our best when we are in public. Home needs to be a safe place. Part of being safe is letting ourselves be real.

I like letting my hair down, changing into comfy clothes, and letting go of pretenses. But there is a danger in this thinking. Putting my best foot forward in public, but not at home, means my husband gets the dregs of my day and myself. Let’s be honest, some days there is little way around that. Those are times we cling tighter to grace and mercy.

three-red-heart-balloons-704748Most days though, I have a choice. The relationship I have with my husband, next to the one I have with my God, is the dearest to me. It makes no sense to treat him in a way that communicates anything other than this.

When I am meeting with someone who has asked to talk with me, I put my phone out of sight, I focus my eyes and my heart on listening to them. If I tell them I will get back to them on something I try to make that happen in a timely manner.

When I do not interact with my husband with at least the same respect, something needs to change. Usually it is me. I may need to be more mindful of how I tune in to him. I may need to cut something out of my day to have more margin for him. I may need to put my own desires aside to focus on him. I may need to ask for a do over so I can give him the priority he deserves.

As life ramps up this month celebrating the One who was born to bring us peace, I think I’ll take a step back in my head and heart and make sure I am giving my best to the ones I love the most.

Loving Well

Recently, in one of “those talks” I told my husband that there were several ways in which I didn’t feel like he was loving me well. I felt I was valued higher as his co-worker in ministry and caregiver than as his wife. He took my feedback well. Over the next few days I affirmed him trying to put more focus on me, his wife.

Funny thing is, though I noticed his efforts, my feelings of being cherished as his wife did not change. I began praying that God would show my husband how to love me in a way I could experience it.

You may be able to imagine what came next. As I prayed that prayer God nudged me to pray that I would love my husband in ways that assured him of my honor, respect and love. Then God prompted me to do some introspection.

After evaluating myself, I asked to talk with Jerry again. This time I shared that perhaps this whole experience had nothing to do with how he loves me. The problem was me. I was the one putting more energy into being the co-worker and caregiver I thought he needed. Interacting with  him as my husband came in third. I apologized and began to focus on ways to spend more time and energy in our personal relationship.

man-and-woman-wearing-cloths-sitting-on-brown-sand-near-792729
Photo by Anastasiya Lobanovskaya from Pexels

It would have been easier to assume and lay the blame on him. But only easier in the short run; ultimately that ease would morph into tension. Owning up to my part doesn’t mean my feelings change right away, or that our relationship has no bumps. It does mean that when I am feeling underappreciated, or under-loved, it’s time to take inventory of how I am giving love.

Generally I support the idea “it’s not about me.” But sometimes I must step back and make it about me just long enough to do a better job at loving my husband and those around me.

Marriage, such a joy and such a work in progress . . .

heart-shape-multicolored-stand-698420
Photo by Simon Matzinger from Pexels

MARRIAGE MONDAY: 24 by 24

Today marks 24 years since Jerry and I stood before our family and friends and committed our lives to one another. The plans and dreams we had then have changed. We have certainly changed, as indiviudals and as a couple.  But we wouldn’t turn back the clock, even if we could. Here are 24 lessons in marriage we have learned in the last 24 years.

 

  1. Never stop dating.
  2. A good marriage looks nothing like what we see on tv or in the movies.
  3. Learning to disagree or fight well takes time.
  4. No matter how many more days or years God gives us together, it will never be enough.
  5. Let your kisses linger at least ten seconds.pexels-photo-424517.jpeg
  6. Appreciation and gratitude are the kindling to keep the marriage fire burning brightly.
  7. Resolve anger before you go to sleep.
  8. Never let your spouse give up on their dreams.
  9. Submission is not a big hurdle when my husband loves me as Christ loved the Church.
  10. Wives are called to submit twice – to God and their husband. Husbands are called to  submit to Christ and die! To die means to stop putting my own goals, ambitions and desires first.
  11. Nobody is ready to get married when they do.
  12. Your spouse is proof of God’s grace to you.
  13. Praying together is one of the surest ways to strengthen your relationship.
  14. It really does take a village, a family, a church to do marriage well.
  15. Being married means you get instant feedback – good or bad.
  16. When you get married you become one, but it takes a lifetime of learning and living together to work that out.
  17. You’ll be surprised what are the points of tension or struggle; it is rarely the big things.
  18. Disability is not our biggest challenge.
  19. There is no shame in seeking help or mentoring in your marriage.
  20. Figure out what works for you as a couple. It’s likely not identical to your family or friends marriages.
  21. The roller coaster is more fun than the merry-go-round. Also scarier and more intnese, but still more fun!

    kent-weitkamp-AlkZ18Jsg-8-unsplash
    Photo by Kent Weitkamp on Unsplash
  22. Make time to talk each day.
  23. Spend time together in the Word of God. But don’t let the enemy discourage you when you don’t. Accept grace and start again.
  24. Marry your best friend. If you didn’t, make your spouse your best friend.

We would love to hear your lessons, be it 1, 24 or 50!  We know we still have much to learn in marriage, please share . . .

It’s Been Said . . .

Sometimes a few well phrased words can speak more than paragraphs of prose. I hope you enjoy some of my favorite marriage quotes.

A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.  Dave Meurer

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.  Winston Churchill

Marriage is like watching the color of leaves in the fall; ever changing and more stunningly beautiful with each passing day.  Fawn Weaver

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.  Dr. Seuss

Any good marriage is secret territory, a necessary white space on society’s map. What others don’t know about it is what makes it yours.  Stephen King

Marriage is not just spiritual communion; it is also remembering to take out the trash.  Joyce Brothers

A good marriage is one where each partner secretly suspects they got the better deal.  Unknown
To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow — this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.  Elizabeth Gilbert

When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.  ‘When Harry Met Sally’

All the above quotes are sourced here.

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” – Ruth Bell Graham

What quote resonates the most with you? Is there one I missed that you would include in your favorte marriage quotes? Please share.

Just for fun – comment on which of the quotes above you think is the one I identif most with at this phase in my life.  I’ll fill you in next week!

Margins in Marriage

Margins . . .

We need them in our writing or creative arts so the focus of our work can be readily seen and embraced. We know we need them in other areas of our life, so we can catch our breath and re-energize for what comes next.

Merriam Webster gives several definitions for margin. Two that hit me hard are: a) a spare amount or measure or degree allowed or given for contingencies or special situations; b) a bare minimum below which or an extreme limit beyond which something becomes impossible or is no longer desirable.

It’s a catch 22 isn’t it? Because we live with disability in our families, we need more margins because our lives are full of contingencies and special situations (definition a). But at the same time, living in a constant state of special situations makes it nearly impossible to create margins. Yet I do not want my life, my marriage or my ministry to become impossible or no longer desirable.

Several months ago I attended a Caregiver seminar where I saw a visual that slabs-931581_1280made so much sense to me. The speaker took a tile and named a task she needed to accomplish any given day, like grocery shopping. Then another tile for a doctor appointment was laid on top of grocery shopping. A tile for a stop at the dry cleaner was next. There were tiles for cleaning the house, taking the child to physical therapy, making dinner for the family, attend small group at church and on and on. Soon she had a stack of tiles so high we could no longer see her face.

Then she took those same tiles, representing the same activities, and laid them out like stepping stones in a garden path. There was now space between each tile. Our speaker commented that by allowing space between each activity she was creating margin. When the road to the dry cleaners was rerouted it did not throw off the rest of garden-54366_1280her day; she had space to accommodate this unexpected delay in travel and still keep up with the other activities.

That visual came back to me recently when I was functioning in a stacked tiles kind of day. When I encountered a glitch the stack of tiles collapsed on me. It was then that I wished I had built some space into my day.

This week Jerry and I are trying to practice this lesson in our marriage and ministry. We are attending a conference that is a little less than an hour away from home, depending on traffic. Could we commute to attend this conference? Yes we could, but likely it would result in stacking tiles. We’d get home from the day at the conference and still try to pay the bills, do laundry, and tend to a myriad of other details before getting to sleep. The next morning we would get up, pack a couple phone calls in before returning for the next day of the conference.

So we decided to get a hotel room at the conference site for the week. We even came in the day before the conference starts. As we turned in to the parking lot I began to feel guilty that we were spending money to stay so close to home. Then I remembered our margin making mission.

As we get older (this month we each hit a new decade!) we must be wiser in realizing our time, health, and energy are worth at least as much, or perhaps more, than our dollars. Decisions cannot be made on money alone. Each of those things must be balanced to produce margin.

Kicking guilt out of the way, I remembered we made the decisions we did for the purpose of producing margin in our marriage. In the past we would arrive at the site the day the conference started, and already be exhausted. Then after a day filled with interacting with people and learning sessions, I would unpack us into the room. By arriving early we had time to unpack and set up our room (the hoyer lift, the alternating pressure mattress pad, the shower chair, etc.). We walked around the conference site so we would know our way around when the sessions start. We also had time to exercise and get a decent night of sleep before entering conference mode.

I realize we may not be able to do this every time we travel. But the difference in our stress levels and interactions with one another already tell us we made a good decision. Margins are not just boring white spaces; I could get used to this.

Those Glorious Differences

“I had a bad day today.” Those were the words my husband spoke after returning home from work.

Wanting to be supportive, I asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“I just did,” he replied.

And truly, that was all he needed to say. I, on the other hand, wanted to know what happened hour by hour, resulting in the overall sense of a bad day. Thankfully, God had already been teaching me the differences in our personalities and make up so that I was able to give him some space, rather than increase his frustration.

I marvel at the intentional differences in God’s creation of men and women.  Not just physically, but how we each process, our use of language, what we store as memories, how we each approach tasks, or problem solve, just to name a few.

Sometimes my marveling takes the form of, what were you thinking God ? and other times it is more along the lines of, grateful for our different perspectives on this matter.

On the days when I rail against the way my husband does or doesn’t function, I try to remember that I am taking issue with the Creator who said his creation of man and woman is very good. Jerry and I imagine God saying, “this will be fun to watch!” and then enjoying a belly laugh as he watches us grow into one.

I think God is on to something. I’ve tried the arguing, the questioning, and the objections. Those options get me more frustrated. The snickering at and embracing of our differences results in less stress, more enjoyment and a quicker acceptance on my part. We may still need to talk the situation through, but it is easier to do so after the tension is released.

brain-2146156_1280
Image by Elisa Riva from Pixabay

Try it the next time you and your husband or wife encounter one of those classic male/female differences. I’d love to hear how it works for you.