Black Friday

wordheart

I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day.

For various reasons.

When I was younger, and less secure, I hated it more for the fact that it highlighted my singleness.  I didn’t date anyone on Valentine’s Day until I was 29.  I wore black every single Valentine’s Day as a silent expression of protest.  (I have a flair for the dramatic.)

But funnily, even after I had a “Valentine,” I never liked the holiday.  It felt like an over-commercialized, over-priced, over-forced, over-done way to pressure people into doing something one day of the year they probably never do any other time.

So Bray and I don’t go out on Valentine’s Day.  Even before we had kids I remember making a meal at home.  We don’t buy presents or flowers.  We swap a card, but we do that year round.  Now, for the kids, especially at this young age, I enjoy it.  We say I love you every day, but it’s nice to get them a stuffed frog with a heart and some red candies just for fun.  Plus, they learn to value each child in their classroom as a friend as they walk around and give everyone a card.  At this age, it has this feel of friendship and belonging, and I’m softening on that aspect of the Valentines hoopla.

But on the romantic side, ole St. Valentine has a tendency to make women feel lonely or disappointed or sad.  That’s why I don’t go in for the big bouquets of red roses and heart balloons.

However, this Valentine’s week, I realized it had been a month or more since Bray and I had a date (we try to go out once a month), so we made plans to see a movie (before Valentine’s Day – we wouldn’t brave the crowds on the 14th!).   V-day gave us an excuse to head out for a few hours and pretend we were just a couple instead of parents of three wonderful, but boundary-testing, four year olds.

As we were sitting in the theatre watching Monuments Men, I received a reminder about what love really looks like.  Matt Damon plays one solider in a rag-tag group of soldiers in Europe during World War II trying to save the world’s greatest art from being decimated during Germany’s retreat.  Eventually, he partnered with a French woman to find where the Germans stashed some of the finest French works.  He was married with two kids back at home.  Halfway through the film, he visits her apartment to get all of her notes on the missing pieces.  After they have dinner, she looks at him and invites him to stay, saying “It’s Paris, no?”

He had a lot of reasons to say yes.  He’d been away from home a long time.  That meant a long time with no sex.  He was a handsome man in his prime.  He was in Paris.  No one would know.  And the propositioning woman was lovely and French.

But he said no.  I love that he didn’t jump up and say no like he’d been offended.  He looked at her.  You could tell he considered the proposition.  He was tempted.  Heck, he’d agreed to come to her apartment!  It’s just he said no despite all that.  He said no because he had a wife at home to whom he had promised to stay faithful.  He never promised not to be tempted.  He’d just promised to look the temptation in the eye, pause, wonder, but still say no.

We did not go to a Valentine’s mushy romantic movie.  We went a movie about art and World War II.  But in that moment, it had a big Valentine’s Day message.

That’s what love is really about.  It’s not about overdone floral arrangements.  It’s not about overpriced four course dinners over candlelight.  It’s about the action instead of the expressions.  The decision instead of the displays.

Marriage Image

That title is not a typo.

It’s not supposed to say mirror image and my keen editorial eye just missed it.

It is supposed to say Marriage Image.

I don’t write a lot about marriage here.  The reality is my husband is not a blogger.  Heck, he didn’t even marry a blogger.  His wife just turned into a blogger four years and three kids after he’d already said “I do.”  And he’s super private.  So after a few ill-fated, not preapproved, marriage posts, I learned my lesson.

So I got this one cleared first.

Let me say two things:

  • I am madly crazy nuts in love with my husband who I think is insanely handsome and bright and wise and patient and trustworthy and faithful and good.
  • Our marriage is hard sometimes.

Sometimes, it’s hard because of me.  Sometimes, it’s hard because of him.  Sometimes, it’s hard because we’re both so dang stubborn.

I feel strongly that I should be respectful of my husband.  So in those hard times, I don’t attack his character.  But I do have three girlfriends that I can talk to about the yucky stuff.  The fights.  The struggles.  The pain.

I learned something this week though about the way I could get into trouble if I’m not careful.

I have friends that are in good marriages.  Like overall their marriages just don’t seem to hit very many rough spots and they have a ton in common with their spouse and things generally go pretty smoothly.  I also have friends that are in brutal marriages.  Like marriages where the spouse is affirmatively denying they’ve ever loved their wife and I’m astonished that they’ve managed to hang in there and keep praying.  And of course I have friends with marriages like mine that have really amazing months and then really hard ones.

It is easy sometimes to fall into a pattern of commiserating:  Oh, you’re struggling so much and your husband was unkind, I totally know how that goes and boy do I feel your pain.

We find ourselves Marriage Imaging.

But what if it’s not true?  Not that it’s not true EVER, but that it’s not true at that time.  Marriage Imaging can do two things.  One, it does a disservice to your marriage if it’s going through a good patch by maligning it.  Two, it makes you start seeing the negative instead of the positive in your marriage.

Now I am ALL about girlfriends sharing their struggle.  I think it is critical that we have friends pray each other through the rough patches.  If I hadn’t had Godly women praying for me in the spring, I don’t know what I would have done.  But I think it’s also important not to diminish the work that God is doing in a marriage becoming strong or healing or solid.

I found myself in that dilemma.  And I caught myself.  Instead of responding with marriage image to a message, I stayed silent.  Then I responded with a prayer.  “I am so sorry to hear this news.  It is heartbreaking.  Can I pray for you right now?” And then I left a prayer as part of my message asking for God to intervene on the marriage’s behalf.

That did two totally DIFFERENT things than had I responded in kind with a “marriage image.”  One, my girlfriend got something she needed way more than my commiseration which never helps anything.  She got someone asking God for help.  Much more useful!  Two, it helped me realize how good God has been in this current season of my marriage and focused me on thanking God for what I have today.  Not what I had in that hard month half a year ago or what I might have a year from now.  But how completely in love I am without any glimmer of frustration or anger this week in my marriage.

So I’m going to work on avoiding marriage imaging, and pray with my friends in their marriage struggles, and express my unbridled thankfulness to God and to my spouse when we’re in a solid place.

Sisters Stories: Praying Through A Divorce

sistersforgindi

Yesterday, you met my dear friend as she revealed the truth of an affair to her husband over a year after it ended.  I asked her how it happened; after watching my own parents’ marriage ripped apart by an affair, I’m always on alert for my own marriage.

Her response not only helped me appreciate how quickly things can unravel, but also how differently women fall into affairs.  The man she had an affair with had been an old boyfriend.  They had dated on and off and reconnected after some time.  He bemoaned the challenges in his own marriage.  She said that after a few lunches and texts, it didn’t take long.  After three months of the typical “passionate” affair most people think of, she shared that the remaining year found each of them trying to find a way out of it and trying to make sense of how something like this could have happened.  Like I couldn’t end it if it really meant nothing – if there wasn’t a reason….

Based on nothing but antidotes from those in my life, I believe men can fall into affairs for the pure physicality of it.  Women more often have an emotional connection to the person.  A past relationship.  A colleague.  A fellow soccer parent.

After sharing her dark secret with a few friends, all advised her not to tell her husband.  And yet, she wasn’t certain she could keep it from him.  The secret that had been eating her up inside finally came out in the simplest of conversations when he happened to ask, “Do you have something to hide?”

Two months later he filed for a divorce.  In response to the news, she pleaded, “How sure are you?”  His reply, “about 50 percent,” gave her hope.

Here is the rest of the story in her words.  If you pray, then join me in praying for a marriage restoration story.

While my relationship with Christ had been growing for months, it suddenly hit overdrive with my marriage in distress.  The words in Psalms rang true, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I started reading constantly. I wasn’t sleeping or eating, so I had a lot of extra time.  Books that I’d had on my bookshelf for years, Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs and His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley, were read anew along with books new to me: The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, plus lots of books on being a spiritual woman.  What I quickly learned was that I wasn’t a Godly woman, and I didn’t show love to my husband.

I embarked on The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick.  I won’t give the ending away, but I encourage anyone to do it.  Even if you aren’t married, dare to love your children, your parents, your coworkers with God’s love as outlined in I Corinthians 13.

Through all of this reading I learned, really learned to my core, several principles of Christianity:

1)  God loves me.

2) He is faithful to forgive.  Grace is instant.  I now see friends who are so complete and instant with mercy, just like God is to me.  I long to reach that level of love.

3) By seeking God first, everything else I needed would fall into place.  My husband didn’t die for me, or stay like I had hoped, but I know God did and does.

4) This life is just a moment, not eternity.  It took months of hoping for earthly relationship gain with continual disappointment to reach the point that my hope transcends this lifetime.

I still pray that my husband will return.

I hope that he will recognize this amazing transformation in my life and want to join me in living with God at the center of our marriage.  The purest picture of Christ’s love for his church is marriage.  His church commits adultery every day by worshiping gods like work and possessions above Him.  Yet His grace is instant when we fail, and His forgiveness is complete.

I pray my husband’s heart will heal, and my children will see God through this, but I no longer fear a future without him. My God is sufficient to meet all of my needs and to work for my good because I am working for His purpose.

 

My brave friend shared, at the end of our call, these words about her journey thus far:

I needed him to file for a divorce.  I was never going to be who I am today without him filing.  I have a relationship with God, a reliance upon Him, that I would have never found if he had never left.  But I still pray for restoration.  I still have hope.

Sister Stories: A Secret Revealed

sistersforgindi

I think spouses betray each other all the time, she said when we talked after all these years.  Mine was obvious, of course, but husbands and wives betray each other with more than just affairs.  They do it in all sorts of ways, and she listed just a handful of ways that husbands and wives fail to live up to the promises they made on their wedding day.

This is her sister story, in her words.

Many years ago I read that people going through divorce experience stress equal to losing a loved one in death. In the years since, when I’ve heard someone was going through a divorce, I’ve been quick to offer a prayer and a word of consolation, but I could never have imagined the hurt, the destruction, nor that would I experience it firsthand.

I grew up in a Christian home.  My parents read the Bible every day and we went to church three times a week.

I went to a private, Christian college, where I met my husband.  He was raised in a similar household. Sixteen years of marriage had seen the many stresses of everyday life – births, deaths, mortgages, full-time jobs.  Though we were both believers, we did not pray or read scripture as a couple.

Christ meets us where we are in our life’s circumstance to work for our good (Romans 8:28).  The sad truth is that Satan also meets us where we are to work for our destruction.

In what I would describe as a perfect storm, I started an affair with perhaps the only that could tempt me.  Despite almost constant conviction and knowing I would never leave my husband and children, I continued the affair for 18 months.  Once it ended, I kept the secret from my husband for another 18 months.

Nearly a year after the affair ended, we left our church to find a new church home.  Our reasons were purely human though they seemed spiritual.  We took our two small daughters and started visiting churches… a lot of churches.  Every message from a new minister seemed better than the week before.

Some weeks we would visit an early service at one church and the late service at another.  I loved these times.  I was reconnecting to the core of my faith and experiencing worship in a way that I hadn’t since college.  I knew that God was tugging me to get back in a relationship with Him and to make bold moves.

As that summer turned into the New Year, I made resolutions.  I am the type of person who makes resolutions with just about each new month and rarely carry them into the next month.  Two very small events occurred in January 2013 that changed my life.

A radio station issued a 30-day challenge to listen exclusively to Christian music for 30 days.  I wasn’t sure I could live without NPR, but I would show them (like “they” cared) that I could do without pop without any problem and slip right back to it.

Then my mom gave me a copy of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling.  Mom was always giving me Christian books.  I threw most of them away because she gave me so many while I read so little. This time I was more open to exploring the Bible plus the devotionals were short.  My faith grew.

Then came April.  I took my older daughter to a Mother-Daughter Retreat at a Christian camp nearby one weekend.  While the devotionals were on an 8-10 year old level, I was tremendously moved. Something dark, however, was eating me alive.

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you might be healed,” the Bible encourages in James 5.

Two days after the retreat, I told my husband my horrible secret.  We were a strong team. We’d been through a lot together.  I knew the road would be tough, but we’d come out stronger than ever.

He was, of course, devastated.  I gave him space while I prayed and hurt for him.  He moved his parents’ RV to a neighboring town and spent a few nights a week there for the next two months.  Then one Monday, after a particularly turbulent weekend, he called me at work to say that he’d arranged for a sitter that night so that we could talk without interruption.  I was so relieved.  Our problems were huge, but all we needed was a game plan to get through them.

“I filed for divorce today,” he informed me and his words hung in the air.

{Join us tomorrow to hear the rest of this sister story.}

It Was Ten Years Ago Today

It was ten years ago today.

A Friday night the week after Thanksgiving.

I’d just come back from Italy.

I wasn’t remotely interested in finding a boyfriend.  A relationship. 

I was at the Mucky Duck.

Listening to Jack-o-Pierce.

With my girlfriends. 

Wearing black leather pants and a long gray sweater. 

It’s this photograph in my mind.

Because then in you came. 

After the first show. 

With your brother. 

He came over to talk to us and you leaned against the bar and, I thought, paid no attention.

Then he introduced you.

I didn’t know at the time that I was supposed to be meeting him. 

Because I met you. 

With your jeans and your gorgeous green eyes. 

You weren’t remotely interested in finding a girlfriend.  A relationship. 

In fact, after ending relationships that spring, we were each fine on our own.

Since neither of us was interested in impressing anyone, we didn’t try.

We “talked” for more than two hours. 

Through that whole second set.

Arguing like James Carville and Mary Matalin (in reverse).

We clashed over the politics of drilling in ANWR.

You called me the Texas Hammer when you found out I was a lawyer. 

Oh, but even in the middle of all that, I liked you.

I gave you my business card before you left.

(Not that you believe it still, but I NEVER did that!)

In my journal that night, I wrote these words, “I met this boy.” 

I called my mom and said, “So, I met a boy…”

Little did I know.

It was ten years ago today.

In ten years, I’ve lived in three places. You’ve lived in the same house.

The house we made our home after we wed.

In ten years, I’ve had three jobs.  You’ve had the same job.

(Ahem, I might have a thing with threes…)

We have traveled to Washington, California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, around Texas, Oklahoma , Illinois, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, Maryland, D.C., Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Hawaii, and Canada. 

We have had countless fights. 

We have had countless reconciliations. 

We lost Mimi, Papa, Uncle Coke and Aunt Norma Lee.

We had two more nephews and two more nieces join the family. 

We went through almost three years of fertility battles. 

And then, God made us parents together and gave us three of the most perfect humans to ever have been created. 

We have celebrated nine birthdays together.

We have celebrated seven wedding anniversaries together.  

We’ve turned 40 together. 

We’ve turned gray together. 

You have been one-quarter of my life. 

But it feels like all of it. 

Like you’ve been who I needed my whole life.

It is truly a WHOLE life. 

I can’t wait until you’ve been a third of my life.

And then half of my life.

And then whatever else of our lives God gives us to share. 

It was ten years ago today. 

Thank you for showing up.

That night.  And every day since then.