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Archive for April, 2013

riverIt was on odd, perfunctory ending to what had been an opportunity for reconciliation and restoration.  After years of dysfunction, I had hoped for more from our relationship.  More understanding.  More normalcy.  More love.

Sometimes, though, healing is slow…laborious…painful.  It’s like the scar I bear on the soft underside of my foot where the sharp edge of glass penetrated deep beneath the surface years ago–severing tendons and limiting movement.  Now, all that seems to remain of the injury is a rough, jagged line drawn tightly across the skin.

Heart wounds sometimes heal in the same way.  Open, festering hurts diminish with time.  The balm of forgiveness and gentle doctoring of the Holy Spirit soothes the pain, confusion, and fear.  But–the scar still exists.

Maybe the scar remains for a purpose.  Maybe, just maybe, the scar reminds me of the One who can and will heal all–if not today, perhaps tomorrow; if not here, then on the other side of heaven.

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I can imagine the perfect woman for my husband–and she is not me.  Now, I’m not suggesting I would rather Dave be married to someone else.  What I am saying is that if I were his best friend, parent, or sibling I would have expected him to marry someone unlike me.

Dave’s perfect wife  would  eagerly anticipate the next shared hike together, certain she could conquer the ragged terrain of any mountain.  This someone would engage in political debates, enjoy running in marathons, and read Time magazine.

Instead Dave chose a woman who’s afraid of heights, rarely reveals her political affiliation, and prefers a relaxing walk on the beach to the rush of endorphins at the end of a five-mile run.  And my favorite reading material?  Think Jane Eyre and Anna Karenina.  I don’t remember when I read Time last.

But, Dave didn’t want perfect–he wanted me.  And, after all of our years together, he still does.  The remarkable part of all this is Dave is more aware of my flaws, faults, and foibles than during the early years of our marriage.  He sees me clearly.

My dislike for closet doors haphazardly left open?  Dave hears about it regularly.  The temper that flares when we disagree about discipline?  He’s been an object of that anger.  My high-maintenance food ordering habits?  If the avocado is fresh than I’ll have the southwestern burger, if not then I’d like the patty melt with the onion straws on the side but no cheese.  Yes, Dave is aware of this hang-up.  (He says I’m discerning; not picky.)

Despite knowing me as intimately as he does, Dave loves me all the more.  What, then, is principle number three?  Accept your husband for who he is.  You cannot change him.  When you are convinced your husband needs to change, begin praying the Lord will change you.

3 Ways to Demonstrate Acceptance Toward Your Husband

  • Talking Trash–Have you been around a group of women lately?  Don’t join their “My Husband is an Idiot Club”.  Honor him with words of affirmation–even when he isn’t nearby.

             Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others upEphesians 4:29

  • Point of Reference–Extend grace and mercy to the husband you have pledged to love.

             Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. Ephesians 5:21

  • Practically Speaking-  Just put the lid down yourself.  He won’t mind and it will make you happy!

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His brow wrinkled in concern, Pastor Strutz revealed the results of our pre-marital personality tests. For every crest marked on my chart, Dave had a trough. If one area was my weakness, it was his strength. We were living proof of the old saying, “opposites attract”.

“Your differences could be a good thing…or not. How are you at communicating?”
“Oh, we’re great communicators,” I said.

Fast forward four months.  Dave and I had set up house in our first apartment–which was strategically located next to the railroad tracks.  (The managers conveniently forgot to tell us that when we signed the lease.)  Our decor was an eclectic mix of college-aged bachelor pad, family hand-me-downs, and bargain friendly purchases made on a newlywed budget.  Imagine a flag on one wall, a large wolf photo on the other, and a blue-and-white striped sofa in the middle of the living room.

One day when I was rearranging our wall hangings, Dave’s favorite framed piece of art–a work signed by the artist– slipped through my fingers.    Shards of glass lay scattered about my feet.  The frame was bent.  What have I done?  Dave’s going to be so upset.  I spent the rest of the afternoon dreading the moment of my husband’s arrival; imagining the worst.

At the sound of my husband’s footsteps I opened the door, offered a perfunctory kiss, and hurried to the laundromat below.  After folding a load or two of my own laundry–and offering to wash a neighbor’s darks–I finally made way back to our tiny home.

“I broke the picture.  I dropped it and now it’s ruined.”  The words sprang from my mouth as quickly as the tears spilled onto my cheeks.  “Is that what you’re upset about?  A picture?”  And, instead of being upset, my husband laughed.  A warm, I-love-you, it’s-not-a-problem sort of laugh. “We’ll just have it reframed, babe.”  “Oh, okay.”  Sniffle.  Sniffle.

Great at communicating?  Not me.

Even now, I sometimes struggle to express my feelings well.  I prefer sweeping things under the proverbial carpet.  But, my wonderful husband–being my opposite–thinks communication is great for a marriage.  And, he’s right.  No, I’ll never be as skilled a communicator as Dave, but I have learned a lot about  it through our years together.  Pastor Strutz might even be surprised to know our differences have been a good thing  (most of the time).

Three Important Communication Pointers

  • Pray together.  It’s tough to be angry if you are praying with and for each other.
  • Listen without interrupting.  This includes controlling your inner-monlogue–don’t prepare a rebuttal while you pause to “listen”.
  • Avoid trigger words.  Words like always and never are especially inflammatory when they’re attached to the word you.

What are your best communication tips?  Why not share them with us?

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart  be pleasing in your sight,  O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:13-14

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As a young military couple Dave and I made four moves, had two children, lived through three hurricanes, and experienced two deployments–all within our first seven years of marriage.  Our life was exciting, tiring, and unpredictable--and we loved sharing it.

Until…a silent predator stayed for a visit.  It’s name?  Depression.  You see,  I had effectively submerged deep-rooted emotional scars left from an earlier time in my life but–for some reason–those feelings weren’t willing to be contained any longer.  I became someone I no longer knew.  Anger, anxiety, and fear became my constant companions.

At the same time, Dave began pursuing his post-graduate degree.  Any flux in his schedule was swallowed up by studying–after work and on the weekends.  My days were full of two rambunctious little boys, errands, and….those other constant companions.  Our once blissful marriage began to deteriorate.  Instead of building one another up, Dave and I exchanged sarcastic remarks or avoided talking altogether.  Rather than cuddling, we sat at opposite ends of the couch.  We were lonely–in the same house, in the same room, and even in the same bed.

One day, I walked into the family room and stood staring at my husband–this man I loved and adored–not knowing what to do.  Looking up, Dave asked, “What are you thinking?”   “Like something is dying inside.”

We knew something had to change and, at that moment, realized we were at a crossroads.  Were we going to choose each other or a road that led us in a new direction?  Dave and I chose each other.  We began practicing the best advice ever shared with us–always date each other–which we did (and still do–after almost twenty years of marriage, four children, two full-time jobs, and my impending return to school).  It wasn’t easy, it took work, and we found love was both a decision and a feeling.

A few of our tried and true tips?

  • Set aside at least half an hour each day for “couple time”.  Take a walk, sit beneath the stars, or just hold hands.
  • Institute TNC (better known as Thursday Night Club).  Choose one mid-week evening to spend a significant amount of time with each other.  Go out or stay in–but make that time about the person you love.
  • Take turns planning for dates no less than twice every month.  You can get creative–even on a budget. McDonald’s at the park, anyone?
  • Finally, get away from it all.  Stay at a quaint bed-and-breakfast or nice hotel three or four times each year.  (And, ladies, wear something pretty.)

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Frayed edges

 

I methodically fold each piece of laundry–bending, creasing, aligning edges–and wish life would align as closely to my hopes.  If only the loose ends left from the hard, dirty places of living could be trimmed as easily as the loose ends left at the bottom of my son’s jeans–clipped away they look almost new.  Nothing remains of the damage.  But there are frayed, raw edges and nothing is as neat and trim as the cotton or flannel I press beneath my palms. 

The danger is that I begin to confuse the Designer with the one who creates the damage.  I forget that the One who wove each piece of fabric lovingly in His hands–stitching together flesh and bone and spirit–would never destroy his masterpiece.  But that January afternoon twenty ago when the farm girl and the ensign made a covenant with God to honor Him in their marriage and family, the Destroyer grew angry. 

He threatens and roars–while He can.  But this home?  This marriage?  These children?  They were purchased for a price.  Stains, rips, and faded places will all be made new.  The Destroyer may try to damage, but the Designer removes every blemish and stitches the beauty of His redemption in their place.

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