Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Iron Sharpens Iron

The past few days, I have gotten somewhat off-track. My mind has not been focused on Jesus, trusting Him, striving to grow, seeking to honor Him. Rather, it has been on work, on finances, on how messy my house is. Yesterday, I attempted to make hamburgers for lunch, but after putting them on the grill, I went inside and forgot about them, getting caught up in cleaning my house. I'm not certain how much time passed before I remembered that I was supposed to be cooking lunch, but regardless, it was too much time. The burgers were charcoal. I snapped. The burnt burgers were the last straw and I burst into tears. As my husband attempted to comfort me and tell me that we could have something else for lunch, that it was not a big deal, that he would grill some more burgers for us, the true reason for my breakdown came out. 

"The house is a mess and we have no money," I say as I continue to cry.  

"It's not a big deal that the house is a little messy," he responds, "and I am working so that we will have money." 

But that was not the point. Because it does not matter how much I clean, the house will still be messy again and I will have to clean it again, and although we work and make money, it will all be gone again by the next paycheck. Work and clean and work and clean, and still we are getting nowhere. What is the point of it all? It is meaningless. 

And as I got out my notebook to move on to the next item on my to do list, my husband stopped me and ordered me to read my Bible. I could not really argue, since reading the Bible is important and even I knew that I needed a perspective shift. So I stomped up the stairs, grabbed my Bible, and flipped open to somewhere in the middle and started reading. 

Before too long, I stopped crying. Then my perspective shifted and God reminded me that what was holding my focus was not actually important. He showed me that I had gotten my focus off of Him and onto this world. As I finished Psalm 16, lunch was ready and I had gained some perspective. 

"Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance."
Psalm 16:5 (HCSB)

And that is one of the many instances that my husband has helped me to refocus, to grow in my walk with the Lord, or to stretch myself in an aspect of it. 

His example of sharing his testimony with random people, his emphasis on looking at the original languages and learning the historical background when studying the Bible, and his willingness to step out in faith and trust God, even when it is difficult for him all inspire me to do the same. When he is having a bad day and stops to read his Bible, the way that he picks out illustrations for aspects of God's word in movies and books, and his encouragement and prayers for me, all encourage me in my own walk with God. 

While my relationship with Jesus looks different now that I am married, that does not in the least mean that I am not growing or He is not working in my life. God very often uses the cause of my divided interests to encourage growth in my walk with Him. 

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
Proverbs 27:17

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Divided Interests

"The unmarried woman is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband."

1 Corinthians 7:34

Before I was married, I would read that verse and get quite frustrated with Paul for dissing marriage. I am a girl, I would think to myself, Girls are not allowed to be pastors, and I would be much more productive as a missionary if I had a husband. I can serve God just as well married as I can single; probably even better. I did not understand. Paul is not necessarily saying that single people can serve God better than those who are married (although there is that vibe, and those who are single do have a unique opportunity that those who are married do not.) Paul is simply pointing out a simple fact of marriage. We now have (necessarily) divided interests. 

While I was still single and did not have any cares in the world, or at least, no husband to care for, my relationship with God was very spontaneous and time consuming. I spent time in the Scriptures and prayed when I was lonely or depressed or afraid or conflicted. I looked at the world as God's gift to me specifically. When the trees blossomed in the spring I viewed it as God giving me flowers. When the leaves changed color in the fall, I could not help but know that God did that just for me, because I love it so much. Every so often, I would go out to coffee or to the park with the sole purpose of spending time and hanging out with Jesus.

When I got married, things changed. While I still schedule time with God and in His word each morning, the spontaneous prayer walks, the afternoons at the park, and the hours spend poring over the Psalms when I was depressed have largely disappeared. It is not that I no longer want to dedicate long hours to spending time with Christ or that I have replaced Jesus with my husband. Rather, it is because I have "divided interests." 

I would love to spend hours upon end each week studying the scriptures and going on long outings to pray. I would love to read through half of the book of Psalms as I cry my eyes out and ask God for some direction and peace. But I am no longer on my own. I have promised much of my life and affection and energy to a certain man who is my husband. Having a husband takes time, on top of which I also live with him. 

Bedtime is no longer a good time to cry and read the Bible and cry and pray for help and cry and read some more. Having your wife crying in bed with the light on so that she can read is not very conducive to sleep. Plus, my husband is certain to ask what is wrong and want to help make me feel better (which is great, by the way). The middle of the day is no longer a good time to go to a coffee shop or the park for serveral hours to read the Bible and journal and pray. I have work that needs to be done, a house that needs to be cleaned, and dinner that must be made before my husband needs to leave for work at 5:30.

My interests are divided. Christ is always the first and foremost in my life, however, He has called me to love and serve my husband. And so (even aside from the fact that I enjoy being with my husband and talking things over with him), the simple fact that Christ has commanded that I make my husband a priority in my life causes me to be "concerned about the things of the world, how [I] may please [my] husband."

Jesus must be the center, the foundation, and the most important thing in my life, and I must set aside time to simply be with Him. Nevertheless, I also must be faithful to what He has called me to by loving my husband, loving my children (when they come), being sensible and pure, working at home, being kind and submissive to my husband. Husbands take time (as does keeping a home moderately clean and food on the table!). And my time with God now needs to be more scheduled so as to make it a priority. It is not a bad thing, just different. 

I have grown so much in my walk with God since getting married just as a result of sorting through the differences of then and now, as well as the differences between me and my husband. I have been challenged in different ways to rely on God and TRUST Him. The "divided interests" difficulty is not necessarily bad, simply streching, and makes me treasure the time that I do have even more.

So, if you are single, I encourage you to take full advantage of this time! Learn to lean into Christ when you are struggling, take all of your fears and desires to Him, spend a few hours simply reading through His word. It is so beautiful and worth it to simply be with Him. If you are married, tell me what works for you to keep your relationship with God going strong amist your divided interests. I have found that getting up early so that I can schedule in time with God before the day begins works well for me. But I would love to hear your ideas--I am still pretty new at this whole "being married" thing.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Being Amazing

My husband and I went to Portland last week (hence my absence). We had a spectacular time visiting with his grandparent, and had quite a time riding buses throughout the city to check out some of the amazing coffee shops that Portland offers. It was great to see family and spend time together, not to mention the break from the busy-ness of everyday life!

We rode the 700 miles to and from Portland (rain and all) on my husband's motorcycle (a 750 Honda Shadow, for those interested), so I think that makes us pretty hard core. It was a blast, although cold and rainy and windy and painful at times :) What I learned on that motorcycle trip is that it could perhaps be possible that I may be somewhat amazing on occasion. Let me elaborate:

On our way back from Portland, as we were nearing the end of our day, we stopped to fuel up the bike. The weather was cold, and rainy, and I was not feeling super attractive in my five layers and motorcycle pants (which I do not think would look good on anyone). Marshmallow-like would better describe how I was feeling about myself at that moment. Nevertheless, we are riding a motorcycle and layers (as well as motorcycle pants) must be worn for warmth as well as safety, so I was wearing them.

As my husband filled up the gas tank on the motorcycle, I surveyed the gas station and the others fueling up their cars, when I spotted a woman walking across the gas station from the convenient store to her car. And, well, she was rather beautiful. And the outfit she was wearing? Not necessarily immodest, but certainly really attractive. Immediately, I look at my husband to make sure he did not see her. Because, well, I am looking kind of like a marshmallow right now and if he sees her, he might like her better than me. Maybe it was not the most logical train of thought (he did marry me after all), but it was what went through my mind.

Before too long, the bike was done fueling up and we hopped back on the motorcycle for our last hundred miles. As we sped down the freeway, I took up thinking (there is not much else to do on the back of a motorcycle). Thinking about the girl who was more attractive than me (at least at that moment), wondering why I could not look that good while riding a motorcycle. Then a thought struck me: I am the one riding on the back of this man's motorcycle, not her. Profound, I know. But the realization came that, sure, she probably did look better than me at that gas station, but you know what? She was not riding a motorcycle. She was probably really attractive and just as her husband/boyfriend wanted her to be at that moment, but I was the one being amazing to my husband. At that moment, my husband was not wanting me to be super attractive (although I am certain that he would say that I am always beautiful); he was wanting me to ride on the motorcycle with him.

My husband often tells me that I am amazing. The amount of times that I believe him is pretty small. I suppose that in my mind amazing means attractive, sweet, clean house, delicious food, super cute clothes, awesome looking hair, and things like that. What I realized that day as we were motorcycling home, was that to my husband, I was amazing simply because I was up for doing crazy things like riding a motorcycle through the rain, for being smart and willing to not wear cute clothes so that I could be safe and warm instead. Being amazing is more about loving him and hanging out and being up for anything than it is wearing cute clothes. I am amazing to my husband because I am me.

What a thought that is. Someone loves me just for who I am? Mind-bending. Really, however, my husband is one of two (or more, as I am certain that my parents love me that way as well). God does not ask for performance or cuteness or gourmet food as a prerequisite for love, or even to think of me fondly. He created me exactly how I am and loves me. Me specifically. How crazy is that? Certainly He desires to see me grow (as does my husband), but that does not detract from how amazing He sees me as.

"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

Psalm 139:14

Friday, May 17, 2013

How {not} to Prepare for Conflict

Every so often, my husband will do something that frustrates me, which I have heard is pretty normal in married life. When you get two sinners together living in the same house, especially as closely as do husband and wife (you can't get away!), you are bound frustrate, annoy, hurt, and upset each other. We all make mistakes. The disagreements, hurt feelings, and irritations are generally not optional. What is in our control, however, is how we respond to those difficulties.

When handling conflict, I am definitely not the type who yells or gets obviously angry. Instead, I tend to go inward and stew about whatever it is that frustrates me. I am an introspective thinker most of the time, so I will often reflect on things like, "Why does this bother me?" "What was the trigger that caused me to become angry in this situation?" "Is this something that I need to deal with in my own heart or do I need to bring it up with my husband?" And when I stick with asking myself those sorts of questions, things usually go okay. I can either bring up the subject with my husband and explain why I feel the way that I do and what caused me to react how I did, or I can recognize that I am just being nit-picky and I need to let it go.

Things do not always go that way, however. Especially since we got married, I have a tendency to prepare for conflict in a negative way. Rather than contemplate what is wrong and how it can be fixed, think on what frustrated me and how upset I am. If it bothers me that my husband did not put his clothes in the laundry basket, I will think of every possible argument or poor response he could possibly come up with and prepare for it. That way, if he responds with any sort of a sigh or possible sign of frustration at my request (regardless of what his verbal response actually is), I can launch into attack mode. You hardly ever help clean the house. Fine, I will just not wash your clothes. Why can you not just do this one thing for me? I don't know why this is such a big deal to you. My goal with this is obviously not conflict resolution, even though that should be the point of bringing up an issue. I keep doing it, however, and it keeps turning out poorly--generally a long argument, tears (on my end), frustration for both of us, each of us feeling a lack of love and respect. Now, sometimes, his responses may not have been the best or the most conducive to conflict resolution, but my responses certainly do not help.

When a conflict comes up between my husband and I, the goal should be to resolve it, not to have the best response. In light of that, I have found that it matters immensely when I bring something up--if he is stressed with work or I am suffering from a lack of sleep, arguments almost always ensue. That is when I am much more likely to make unkind remarks and he is more likely to respond in a negative manner. The main thing that I need to handle arguments in a proper way, however, is humility and love...aka, help from God, because humility and love do not come naturally unless I am abiding in Christ.

So, preparing properly for conflict does not involve thinking up missles with which to shoot down my husband's response. Rather it involves lots of prayer, some self-evaluation to make sure that my heart is in the right place, and lots of God's grace.

Lord, give me the grace to deal with frustrations in a way that is honoring to You, not searching for faults in my husband or trying to justify myself, but with humility and love, looking out for my husband's interests and truly seeking to resolve conflict, not simply proving my point.

"Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility, consider others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Being the Wife that He Needs

At church last Sunday, there was a special message for Mother's Day on Titus 2:5-7. It was very encouraging and inspiring. One thing that stood out to me was a prayer that my pastor said that his wife would pray every day: "Lord, help me to be the wife that {my husband} needs." Now, I have heard of praying that before, but never did it strike me quite how it did this time.

As I mentioned in "Perfectionism," I have a tendency to get really discouraged when dishes are piling up, the majority of the laundry is dirty, and meals are not done on time. Currently, however, I cannot help the fact that the house is not always clean. Working several jobs, volunteering at church, hosting and attending Bible studies, plus hanging out with family and trying to invest time in my relationship with my husband leaves me very short on time. While I would like to have the time to keep the house clean and have super-fantastic meals all the time, I simply cannot do so with my life being as hectic as it currently is. And this has left me pretty stressed and frustrated. Because in my mind, nice house and tasty food equals good wife. Messy house and mediocre food equals failure. But that prayer, "Lord, help me to be the wife that my husband needs," has caused me to re-evaluate.

Yes, I want the house to be clean, and yes, I would like to be able to make delicious meals for my husband and I. And yes, my husband would appreciate both of those things as well. However, to my husband, a clean house and exceptionally amazing food are not at the top of his list of what makes a good wife. In fact, even when the house is messy and dinner did not get done on time, he tells me what a blessing I am, and that I am a great wife.

Actually, my husband refused to tell me what he thought made a good wife, other than "Maurie Roselaine," and would not tell me what I do that makes him feel loved. Nevertheless, I did manage to get him to tell me what I do that he appreciates. Here is what he metioned: Help, Support, and Respect. He did not metion a clean house or dinner on the table a 6:00pm every evening.

Therefore, instead of stressing out because I am such a failure of a wife, I need to pray that God helps me to be the wife that my husband needs, and not worry so much about the things that he is not concerned about. That is not to say that I should not clean the house or cook food, but if those are things that are not a big deal to my husband, I should place less emphasis on those things and more emphasis on the things that he thinks are important.

"Lord, help me to be the wife that my husband needs, and the woman you have called me to be."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Finances, an Update

Since I posted Finances, Pride, and Respect a couple weeks ago, sharing some struggles that my husband and I were having with finances and how I had determined to deal with them, I thought I would give you an update.

We have now done our budgeting together twice, and wow. It is so much less stressful than I thought it would be. Simply being on the same page does wonders for our attitudes towards each other regarding money. My husband is really supportive of my thoughts on what we should do with the money that God provides us with, and also has some really good ideas.

Yesterday, after I came up with a preliminary budget, my husband and I talked it over. He thought it looked good, except that I had entirely forgotten that both of our sisters' birthdays are this week and we wanted to do something for each of them. We rearranged the different categories a bit to free up some money for gifts, and the problem was solved. If I had just budgeted and we had not talked it over, however, there would have been conflict. When my husband asked about buying something for his sister, I would have suggested using spending money, which would frustrate my husband because we have other things to spend that on. That would frustrate me because I would feel like he cares too much about spending money and does not appreciate me budgeting. I am so glad that we went over the budget together, and he was able to catch that mistake. Talking things over has helped us immensely in avoiding conflict.

I feel as if we have it easy as far as finance conflicts go. We did have some issues, but (so far) it seems that talking it over and being respectful and willing to listen to my husband's opinions has largely solved most of the conflict. With finances being near the top of the list of conflicts between spouses, I cannot believe that simply talking it over with a humble, respectful attitude could really be all that is needed. For my husband and I, it has worked so far. Whether or not it would work for others, I suppose is up to them to find out. It never hurts to try though, and what if that really is all that is needed to resolve much of the stress related to finances?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Taking the Time

A few days ago, my husband and I had to get up quite early to finish a project that had to be done by 7:00am. Generally, we do things like that in the evening, since my hubby much prefers nights over mornings. We were too tired the night before, however, and had to get it done, so waking up early was the only option. When we finished with the project we were doing, we had a bit more time in our morning that we usually do, so we decided that it would be fun to go to breakfast together. I love going out to breakfast, but since my husband is not much of a morning person, we generally do not, so it was quite a treat for me!

As we were at breakfast, talking and laughing and planning and having a spectacular time, I started to wonder, why do we not do this when we are eating at home? Meals at home are generally fairly quiet and short, without much talking or laughing. My first thought was that it was my husband's fault (way to give him the benefit of the doubt and examine myself before blaming others, right?). I figured that he must not really enjoy talking with me and instead would rather be doing something else, on Facebook or reading the news or something.

So I asked him, "Why do we never talk and hang out this much when we eat at home?" His answer was absolutely unexpected, yet so true. "Because you are always doing something," he says. Wow. I knew that he was right, and was rather humbled by having that pointed out to me. I had not noticed, but most of the time when we are at home, I really am up doing something. As soon as we finish eating, I take the dishes and start cleaning the kitchen while he checks his email or reads the news. I get annoyed when he starts doing something on his phone as soon as we finish eating, but I was not realizing that I am actually the first to check out of our time together by busying myself with things that need to get done.

I love hanging out with my husband, talking and laughing, planning adventures and goofing off. But when we do not do much hanging out, I have a tendency to blame him for caring more about the news or phone calls than me. It turns out that I inhibit time together as much (or even more) than he does by my constant need to be doing something productive.

To have a growing relationship, spending time together is important, but that cannot be done if I am too preoccupied with getting the house clean or being productive to just sit and be together. If I do not take the time to simply be with my husband, even when there are things that could be done, we will be restricted to hanging out only when we are at restaurants or coffee shops. (Which is a bummer when you do not have much spending money.)

I realize now that if I want to spend time with my husband without always spending money and going out to do so, I need to be intentional about taking the time. My relationship with my husband is more important than getting the dishes done, more important than doing laundry, more important than making gourmet meals. If I cannot do it all (which I rarely can), I need to let something else slide--not investing time into my relationship with my husband. Dishes will always be dirty and clothes will always need to be washed, but I only have so much time with my husband. May I be intentional about it and take the time.