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Archive for May, 2012

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.  (1 Cor. 13)

I wander through the aisles of Hallmark cards and wonder if I’ll find a card that honors her– without extolling the sort of childhood that never existed.  God nudges my heart. “It wasn’t what she wanted for you, either.”  I pause long enough to stop feeling sorry for myself and remember…chocolate chip cookies, coloring together, and all of the basketball games/recitals/plays/track meets she attended–proud I was her daughter.

I pass by the drippy sweet cards lining the shelves and choose one that thanks her for who she is.  She’ll like this one; it’s sincere.  I smile, knowing that –for a while–she’ll forget the sadness and just remember chocolate chip cookies.  And, maybe, she’ll know I’m proud to be her daughter.

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You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.  Psalm 30:11

“Mom, will you teach me how to dance?” These sweet words were the first Connor said to me this morning.  With a heart full of mother-love, I shuffled around the bedroom in red pajamas with my son–dancingThe little boy was gone and in his place stood a young man on his way to adulthood.   What a wonderful, bittersweet thing to behold.

Sometimes my heart aches when I slow down to notice these fleeting moments.  I long to keep Connor safe within the circle of my arms.  Protected from struggles.  Sheltered from storms.  But, growing up means stepping onto that dance floor–without me.  And whether or not the music is fast or slow, erratic or calming, I know he’ll adjust–not because of something I’ve done to prepare him, but because the One who gives us a reason to dance will be there.  Singing tender words of comfort when there are tears; whispering “Follow my lead” in moments of uncertainty, and celebrating life’s joys with the child he created.

Teach him to dance, Lord. 

 

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If stereotypes hold true (which is rarely the case), I might imagine him as a burly, rough-around-the-edges sort of guy.  But because of his willing sacrifice, the entire world now recognizes him as the man who endured the pain of chemical burns in order to pull his co-worker to safety.

Just yesterday, Rob Nuckolos jumped waist-deep into a vat of nitric acid when he saw a co-worker fall 40 feet into the corrosive liquid.  As a an experienced contractor, Mr. Nuckolos had to have known the probable side effects of nitric acid–severe burns, coughing up of blood, low blood pressure, and possible long-term damage to eyesight.  Why, then, did he follow his friend into liquid fire?  Because Mr. Nuckolos acted out of love.  Not love as emotion or love as a feeling, but love as a noun–an action oriented, selfless giving of oneself despite the cost.

It’s an unbelieveable story–repulsive in its horror and beautiful in its sacrifice–that reminds me of the story of another man.  He was a blue-collar worker from Galilee–a town ridiculed for the worthless rabble it produced.  But, because of his willing sacrifice, the world knows him as the One who endured the pain of crucifixion in order to offer us salvation.

As the Creator of all things, Jesus knew what he would endure–temporary loss of glory, poverty, contempt, and abuse to the point of being unrecognizable.  Why, then, did the King of Kings embrace life as a man?  Because he acted out of love–the kind of love meant to bring us safely home.

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friends.  John 15:13

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Dave came home one evening after standing duty. “You’ll never guess who stopped by with dinner tonight–Rachel. And she brought T.J., too.” Surprised, I paused to listen. “You know, I’ve seen her a lot lately. Last week, she asked if I would spend some time with T.J. cause he misses his dad so much. When I got there, he was in bed for the night and she was dressed to kill. Rachel asked if I wanted to watch a movie with her, but I said you were waiting for me and hustled out of there. It’s been uncomfortable.”
I wasn’t surprised. The woman I had known as “friend” was lonely, unhappy, and looking for love. In her desperation, she didn’t mind betraying our friendship if a relationship with Dave might be a possibility.
A few years later, I found myself in a similar situation. Ben’s elementary school teacher seemed fond of my little boy–and of flirting. As a room mother, I spent regular time in the classroom and endured his winks and familiarity because they were inherent to his personality. Mr. Leonard began confiding in me, “Tina and I are having trouble. The girls won’t talk to me and I don’t know what to do.” I felt sorry for Mr. Leonard and appreciated the attention he gave my little boy, but knew that he was more than professionally interested when, during a couple’s dinner, he said, “Tina won’t be coming to the party. She doesn’t want to meet you because I told her you are everything beautiful and I’m attracted to you.” I stammered something incoherent and, red-faced, hurried to my husband’s side.
Thankfully, Dave and I had invested enough time and attention in our relationship that neither of us were tempted to take advantage of these situations. But lengthy deployments, grad school, and emotional ups and downs have all created deficits in our marriage at certain times. If Tina or Mr. Leonard had approached us during our more vulnerable moments, would the outcome have been any different? While I like to think we would still make the right and honorable choice, both of us are human and–sometimes–are less than honorable.
To protect our marriage and one another, Dave and I set up certain boundaries as a safeguard. They are to:
1.  Avoid building friendships with anyone of the opposite sex. We don’t meet childhood friends for coffee, join colleagues for lunch, or engage in activities unless the other is present.
2. Give each other access to all Facebook and e-mail accounts.
3. Be transparent with each other when emotional needs aren’t being met and make our relationship a priority.

Recommended book:

His Needs, Her Needs:  Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley, Jr.

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Then the LORD God said, “I see that it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make the companion he needs, one just right for him.  Genesis 2:18

Exotic flowers of every hue  filled the garden with their beauty while nightingales whistled a love song.  Admiring the innocence and perfection of the young couple, their Father smiled in approval.  Adam and Eve were married.

From the beginning, God intended marriage to bless the men and women joined in this one-of-a-kind, soul binding union.  We know, though, the simplicity of marriage was forever altered when the inaugural couple chose self before God.  Like the thorns that sprouted from the ground as a result of sin’s corruption, disharmony erupted in the fledgling relationship.  If you’re married, you’ve experienced this yourself–finger-pointing, fault-finding, or disappointment in one another.

Some have experienced marriage at its worst, others are struggling to hold fast to their vows, and a few are on a marriage mountaintop.  Whatever place you are in today–even this very moment–be encouraged.   While a husband and wife are meant to bless one another, true fulfillment comes from our relationship with our Heavenly Husband.  He is the one who can meet every need, relieve every worry, and love perfectly.

3 Action Steps You Can Take

    • Give thanks for your husband–Let God AND the man in your life know how you’ve been blessed because of him.  If you’re marriage is struggling, look each day for one positive thing he’s said or done that you can mention in appreciation.
    • Reach out to others–Couples need other people.  Don’t rely only on one another to meet the impossible task of fulfilling every need.  You’ll both be better equipped for marriage if you have friends.  Need guidance?  All couples do at some point.  Don’t be afraid to seek counsel from a couple you admire or even professional  assistance.
    • Perspective–As much as you may love your husband, have you thought about Him lately?  He loves you perfectly and completely.  If you’ve been let down by the hope of a marriage made in heaven, dear friend, then one day you will celebrate a relationship like none other–the bond shared between you and your Heavenly Husband.  He waits for you with open arms.  If you haven’t already, why not ask Him to be part of your life today?

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My husband loves honey-do lists–the longer the list, the more satisfied he feels when each item has a bold hash mark through it.  Mow the lawn.  Done.  Change the light fixtures.  All set.  Pay the bills.  Taken care of.  Despite Dave’s affinity for these lists, I have never given him one.  Even more than that, I’m careful not to mention things that need to be taken care of around the house because–like Santa’s list– they’ll be added to the queue.

I know some of you are wondering  if I’ve lost touch with reality.  You may be thinking, “What I wouldn’t do just to get my husband to take out the trash or wash the dishes.  She’s nuts!”  The issue for me is not whether or not chores get done or if I can rely on Dave’s help at home.  Instead, I’m concerned about spending time together.  We’ve actually agreed to put all work aside by noon on weekends–just to guarantee time is spent doing what is necessary at home AND necessary for our relationship.

Love–in my language–is spelled T-I-M-E.  Others of you may feel most loved when your husband brings you flowers, writes a love note, snuggles–or vacuums the family room.  What is it that make you feel special?  Starry-eyed?  Affectionate?  While you’re thinking about it, pause to consider what feeds your husband’s love for you.  Does he beam when you pack his lunch?  Would he prefer a back rub?  Or, does he just need to hear you say, “I’d marry you all over again.”?

Early in our marriage, Dave and I read a great book by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages.  If you want to know your spouse better–or even need to share with him what would help you feel loved and appreciated–then you might want to read it.  Even better, read it together.  Who knows, maybe your chores will get done after all!

Does he need…

  • words of affirmation?  Tuck love notes in his dresser drawer, lunchbox, and CD case.
  • time together?  Plan a date for him–action movies, pizza, and beer.
  • acts of service?  Ask him to make a honey-do list for you.
  • physical touch?  Cozy up during a football game or hold his hand–in public.
  • gifts?  Stop by the office with coffee or give him a book he’s always wanted to read.

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 “I am by nature a people pleaser, which means that by nature I’m a coward.”  –Pastor Mark Bates

Those words resounded with me.  How many times in my relationships had I been “diplomatic” in order to avoid disappointing someone?  Or, even worse, appeared to agree with that person, but instead proceeded to erect a DMZ (Demilitarized Zone for those of you who are non-military wives)?

What is a DMZ?  Let me illustrate.  Imagine I am South Korea.  Dave, my dear husband, is North Korea (for demonstration purposes only).  We’ve been at war with one another–although we can’t seem to remember why or even how it all began.  Now, though, we’ve decided to declare a tenuous peace.  We’re tired, bear noticeable war wounds, and need to regroup.  An agreement is drawn and, with distrust in our eyes, we draw lines in the sand.  If neither of us crosses this line, we’ll be just fine.  Peace has been made.  Really?  Have North and South Korea found that to be true?

Of course not.  Peace in the home is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of humility.  As Matthew 5:3 reminds us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  Another version puts it plainly, “Great blessings belong to those who are humble.”  I don’t know about you, but humility in the marriage relationship can be tough.  What if he’s the one was wrong in the first place–or, if I was just a little bit in the wrong?  Shouldn’t he apologize first; ask forgiveness first?  Maybe–maybe not.  But am I more concerned with who crossed the DMZ first or do I desire to be reconciled in my relationship with the one I call husband?

I tell you honestly that making peace after even after an imagined insult  is one of my greatest areas of struggle in marriage.  Could it be a challenge for everyone?  I would guess that it is–after all, don’t we all enjoy being “right”? Most of the time, though, being right is far less important than acting in love.

3 Tactical Pointers to Help Disarm the DMZ–and Declare Peace

  • Relinquish your “rights” and admit your “wrongs”
  • Make the first move
  • “Do it badly if you must.  It’s worse not to do  anything at all!”  –Pastor Mark Bates

What works best for you to diffuse tension?  How have you learned humility in your marriage? 

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