Tag Archives: love

Marriage: Why It’s No Good to Keep Score

This piece originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.

My husband has one big rule for our marriage. Babe, if you’re reading this, I know you’d say it’s not a rule – perhaps more of a guideline. But for me, it’s a rule. If I don’t follow it, I go down an extremely unhealthy path, and I know it. So here’s the best “rule” or “guideline” I’ve ever heard for a husband-wife relationship: Don’t keep score.

You might begin explaining this by saying that any healthy relationship can’t be seen as a game. The only reason you’d keep score is if it’s a game of some sort, and if you’re serious about it, you’d better not call it a game. Right? You might follow up with the fact that keeping a record of rights or wrongs is just not a good idea. Let’s ask a few questions about this concept… because I think it’s important.

If you happen to “win”, what are you actually winning? The game of who does more laundry? Or who gives more meaningful compliments? Is that a worthwhile competition? Why or why not? (I’m guessing it’s why not.)

What’s your “winner’s” criteria? Who was the last one to load the dishwasher? Maybe he had a lot on his mind from a tough day at work, or he gets tired of you re-loading it when he’s done. Or is the criteria which one of you usually texts the other one first? All that leads to is fear of not being loved enough, or inaccurately thinking that you love the other person more, just because you send more messages.

What’s the prize? Getting to taunt your other half about how you changed more diapers this week? Or likely being shunned because you’re on your high horse about how you always clean the toilets? That’s not a very good prize.

What if we shifted our thinking to loving our spouses as well as we can, as often as we can? Instead of waiting around to receive love in the way that we’re expecting, maybe we should consider showing them love in the best way we know how, whatever that is. It’s always a good idea to know how your spouse best receives love from you, and how you best receive love from them. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages is a great place to start if you don’t know each other’s “love languages”. Taking the initiative to show love first, no matter the circumstances, can’t end poorly. Being the first to say, “I love you!” when communication is hard, or the first to forgive after an argument might feel like a submission, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Usually, it shows that you’re willing to work and sacrifice to strive for health in the relationship. That’s what marriage is: work and sacrifice. Love comes first, and is quickly followed by commitment – often a “head” matter rather than a “heart” one. You keep choosing love over fear or anger or hurt feelings every single day.

There are always possible scenarios where we need to have a sit-down about issues that don’t seem to be resolving themselves. There are always times that bringing our feelings calmly to the table is the only way to move on from a hard season. But if we stop keeping score, stop trying to play a game of little chores completed and well-meaning jabs delivered, those bigger issues might just stay away longer. Being the first one to show love, forgive and forget might make your spouse feel more comfortable doing the same.

Known. Loved. Accepted.

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

What greater desire do we have in our lives than this: being entirely known, being unconditionally loved, and being accepted for exactly and only who we are?

As humans, we are made with desires, passions, personalities, gifts, and emotions. We are all very different, with unique needs and ways that we operate. But I don’t know many people who wouldn’t be fulfilled by being known, loved, and accepted. I’ve recently been reading up on the Enneagram, finding out my type, and learning about myself and what makes me tick. (If you haven’t done this yet, I highly recommend it!) I have learned that my particular type puts great emphasis on authenticity, and being known/loved/accepted for who I truly am, not who I may or may not project myself to be. (Consciously? Unconsciously? That’s for another post.)

So as a Jesus follower, a wife, a mother, and a person who likes to think she’s a good friend, I try my very hardest to show people that I see them, that they are known. I try to show my love without holding back or waiting until it’s required that I show it. (That’s part of the reason I love giving and getting gifts randomly, not just for birthdays or Christmas – just a “thinking about you” gift.) I try to allow those close to me to fully be themselves… ugly parts, struggles, sins, and all. I know what makes me feel valued in a relationship, and I strive to give that to others. I know that being able to come to a friend in vulnerability and not feel judged is such a blessing in my life, so of course I want to provide that safe space for my people as well.

But why is it so hard sometimes? Why is it often difficult for us to overlook what we could perceive as mistakes, or poor choices, or flaws of another kind? How is it that seeing others as God sees them is still so difficult? We all have been made new – If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17) The old – the flesh, the sin, the death – has passed away by the power of Jesus’ blood, and the new – the Holy Spirit, the life! – has come! So how can we take this knowledge and apply it to our view of others?

Remember you are holy. In 1 Peter, Peter quotes Leviticus when he says “for it is written, you are holy, for I am holy”. The rest of that verse in Leviticus says God’s chosen ones are “separated from the peoples, that you should be mine.” We have been set apart to belong to God. WE. BELONG. TO. GOD. All of us. The playing field has been leveled, and we Christians are all in the same kingdom, and we belong to God – and to each other. We need no other reason for loving, encouraging, and accepting each other.

Ask for help. Who does the Bible say is our forever Helper? Holy Spirit. John 14:26: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. You guys, I LOVE this. What more could we ask than to have a Helper who will bring to mind all that Jesus taught? This Helper will help us to remember how God sees us, our friends, our families, and even – yes – our “enemies” or those we struggle to know, love, and accept.

Love might just look like tolerance. Ephesians 4:2 says this: Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by the means of the peace that binds you together. The Helper also gives unity! By giving us peace, our Helper binds us together! People who are bound together can live in unity and peace much more easily by truly knowing, loving, and accepting each other.

As many times as we are commanded in the Bible to love one another, it seems we should actually follow it. Yes, it’s tough. But when you have that deep, vulnerable conversation with someone, and at the end, you can tell your listening ear was just what they needed? Oh yeah – it’s worth it.

The Father’s Love

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

The other night, as I was spending some one-on-one time with my daughter, who is five, she caught me off guard with a question.

“Mama, what’s the thing you love most about me?”

I paused to think for a moment. That’s a weighty question. Would a pause any longer than a second be interpreted as not being able to think of anything? Would a simple answer like “Everything!” be too flippant? Even if it’s true that I love everything about her (except the obscene amount of laundry she generates) it seems like a silly answer to give when she’s clearly asking me for specifics.

“Your smile!” I say. “And I love that you’re kind, and a great big sister.”

“What else?” she asks.

Here goes. “I love how excited you are to read! And I love watching you dance.”

It went on like this for a few more minutes, me naming things I love about her. Even as it became harder to pinpoint specific things that I knew she’d like to hear me say, I could that my words were bolstering her, giving her what she needed in the way of affirmation. Who doesn’t sometimes long to climb into the lap of a loving parent and hear the things about themselves that are good?

The idea of a loving Heavenly Father is in the forefront of my mind as a parent. While I know I could never measure up to His perfect and unconditional love, He presents Himself as a good model for me to follow. He knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8) and He is even a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). His love has been compared to storms, ocean waves, mighty winds and raging seas. His love for us, weak and weary sinners, is the greatest example of sacrificing for the good of someone you love.

So come like a child, and ask Him to exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17). He loves you and rejoices over you! He wants us to come close to Him (“like a little child” we’re told in Matthew) and allow Him to speak life and blessings into our lives. All we have to do is draw near. Like my daughter, who knows that if she comes to me, and asks for compliments and showers of love, I’m always happy to oblige.

Book Review: The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

Y’all know I love a good book. I love it even more when I just can’t put it down. I love it EVEN MORE when I simultaneously can’t wait to see how it ends but don’t really want it to be over, because I’m attached to it. This book was all of that for me. I read it in a little over 24 hours – a testament to how good it was, and also that it happened to be that time of limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. The perfect time for a splendid read.

lost and found.jpg
Image found on Amazon.com

It was an awesome combination of romance, a little history, some art, and surprises. Lucy Foley did an amazing job hopping back and forth from the past (mostly the 20s, but some parts up through WWII) and “present” (which happened to be the 80s). That often tends to confuse and/or frustrate me, but it was done clearly and purposefully, which I totally appreciated.

We follow Kate, who has recently lost the only family she knows, through a journey to find where she came from. Her mother, a prima ballerina, was adopted, and Kate needs to know who her family would have been if she hadn’t been given up. It’s an incredible journey through the past, and Kate’s feelings during the present, to find the truth, and from there, decide where she should go. There are wonderful, true feelings on every page, and a couple of love stories told, wanted, missed, and achieved. There are intricate characters to love, and ones to hate, just like every great book should have.

I can best describe the book with a great quote from near the end: You want a love story.  But you see, I’ve given you a love story. It just doesn’t all work out the way one might have written it.

3 Ways to Create Space for Your Family

This article originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I listened to a podcast the other day where the guest was asked how she fostered such closeness within her family unit. I absolutely loved her answer, and pray for what she said to be true about my family. She said that all the did was create space for her family. She created space for them to get to know each other on a deeper level, for fellowship, for fun, and even for having hard conversations. It’s only one thing to do, but it’s huge. How do we do it?

One way for a family to create space for conversations and fun all together is to break bread together. In my home, our mealtimes are sacred as often as we can make them so. Yes, breakfast tends to be rushed (or finished on the way to school) some days, but on Saturdays, we can enjoy a slower (and bigger!) breakfast together. Lunch might just be with the preschoolers, but we can sit down at the table together most days. Dinners happen on the go once a week, and with friends at our table with us sometimes, but the rest of the time, dinner is a special time for all five of us to get to know each other by talking about our individual days, how we feel, what’s going on the next day, or just silly stuff. For us, eating in front of the TV or in shifts isn’t a nice as being together without distractions. Creating the space for fellowship around the table can make a big difference.

Another place to try building some space is into the bedtime routine. Of course, sometimes it’s impossible. But if you’re able to create even a few minutes of unhurried, one-on-one time with your child, you never know what they’ll open up to you about. Bedtime is one of the first things that gets rushed through at our house some evenings, but my husband and I love to spend a few minutes laying with each kid, asking how I can pray for them, and hearing what’s on their minds. My oldest is in kindergarten this year, and she often has things she wants to talk about during those minutes.

Lastly, I try to protect our unscheduled family time. My husband and I both work sporadic hours for our jobs, and so we don’t have a specific time of day, or day of the week, that’s always protected. Therefore, when we can squeeze in a family trip to the park, a trip out of town for the weekend, or just a night at home snuggling and watching a movie, we do it. We love to have friends over, so much of our time at home is spent hosting – which we truly enjoy! But when we’re home in the evenings without an agenda, it’s nice to get extra snuggles and more dance parties, art projects, or games in together.

Creating space in your home for building relationships within your family unit is important. Having conversations about their friendships, hard situations, and relying on Jesus can help them be healthier and more balanced kids and teens. And, the closeness you foster early in your children’s lives is likely to continue throughout their lives! There’s just no downside to spending intentional time together with the people you love most.

A Letter to My Third Child 

This is a post I wrote a few weeks before D was born. It was up on Mom Babble for a while, and I only just remembered I hadn’t ever published it here. It’s such a sweet memory for me, especially now that he’s 16 months old, running around, beginning to talk, and generally being more self-sufficient than my other two were at this point in their lives. It’s sweet to think of the anticipation I was feeling when he wasn’t quite here yet. I hope you enjoy it.

My sweet little D,

I’m getting really excited for you to get here. There are just nine weeks left until you’re due to arrive, and I already wish I could just see you next week. Mostly, I’m excited to meet you, see what you look like, and introduce you to your crazy siblings. Also I’m getting uncomfortable, peeing all the time, and sleeping less than ever. But mostly I want to meet you.

I know you’ve been in my womb, hearing the squeals and shouts and cries and songs of your family. We may be a loud bunch, but we’re a good one, too. We love big, and we show it often. When you get out here, you’re going to feel the love from all the kisses and hugs you get from all of us. You might also get a love tap or seven from J, but it’s just because he can’t wait for you to be big enough to wrestle him. EK will probably want to choose your outfits and give you bottles and push you in the stroller. I promise to help you look like the boy that you are instead of a princess, and only let her push you fast once you can handle it.

You gave us a scare, when you were just the size of a lime. I took some tests that made us think you weren’t healthy, that you might not make it. Well, you sure showed us! We should have had faith in you and in God, and known that you would be fine. But we had a couple of hard, sad weeks, praying for your safety. You were loved, prayed for, and longed for, even then. We can’t describe how much more you are right now, and how much more you will be once you’re in our arms.

I am sure you will be every bit as amazing as your dad and your siblings. Strong, smart, handsome, musical, hilarious, snuggly, and compassionate… those are things you’ve got going for you. I know it must seem like a tall order to such a little dude, but you’ve got a little while to grow into it.

I hope you don’t mind sharing all those things (and all the other things ever) with your siblings. You’ve got quite a bit of third-hand clothing and toys, in various stages of worn-in. But you know what? There is one thing that you get brand new, just for you, that you never have to share with anyone:

My love.

You see, I have a lot of love. There is plenty to go around. I’ve got a special love for your Dad, that only he knows about. I’ve got a love for EK that’s just for her, shared between this Mommy and her daughter. I’ve got a love for J that will also be different than my love for you; he is a special guy. The love that I have for you will be a special thing that you and I will share. The love I have for exactly you will be special between us, and it will never run out or grow weary. I get all my love from the most inexhaustible source imaginable; I get all my love from Jesus. One day, you will know Him too. You can already have His love – everyone has it. He loves us all with a big, awesome love that we can hardly understand.

Always remember: you’re brave, smart and kind, you can do anything you set your mind to, and I will always love you.

Love,
Mama

When they go low, we go high.

Michelle Obama rocked us with these words in her speech at the DNC, and they should still be true now that the election is over.

I’ve seen more hate today on my newsfeed than anything else. People firing at one another, or just firing aimlessly – ammunition for arguments, for hurt feelings, for America to take a giant step backward. I’m not writing today to make any political statements. I told you yesterday that I voted for Hillary, and I would do it again today. But there is something more important right now than who voted for who, or why they did. What’s more important is that we do not let things divide us even further. An election is divisive by nature, but we need to unite under a cause we should all be able to get behind.

Let’s unite to spread love, to be welcoming and hospitable, to be helpful and kind. There is no excuse to spew hatred. I cried myself to sleep last night, and woke crying again this morning. But I refuse to be brought to the level of pointing fingers, blaming anyone and everyone who disagrees with you. Our country is only as scary, ugly, and bigoted as we allow it to be. The way to combat the hate, bigotry, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, or any other forms of intolerance is to BE THE LOVE. Be the tolerance, be the acceptance, be the encouragement, be the grace for each and every person you come in contact with. Get to know and love people who are different from you. Support them. Love them. Even if it’s tough for you – it’s good exercise.

So as you go about your day tomorrow, the rest of the week, through the end of the year, and prepare for Mr. Trump to be sworn in this coming January, decide how to go high, even if those around you are going low. Those words won’t ever lose their relevancy. Choose the high road, the tolerant road, the road of love.

This post is a part of my NaBloPoMo, where I publish a piece each day in November. Often, I’m exercising my writing muscle and writing something that’s out of the box for me. Thank you for bearing with me and following along.