{Marriage Journal} A Baby Is Not An Escape

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Here are a few thoughts I drafted one month before Caleb was born, but never posted. 15 months later, I’m convinced more than ever that a solid marriage is the best foundation from which to begin adding children to the mix! =) 

Andrew and I are bursting with excitement to meet our first child sometime in the next several weeks. It’s truly a day we’ve talked and dreamed about for years, and it’s finally here.

Goodbye, Just Us

Saying hello to this beautiful new season of life called parenting has meant bidding farewell to an equally amazing time as just the two of us, and that makes me sad. Andrew is my very favorite person and best friend, and no matter how much one-on-one time we are blessed with, I could always enjoy even more. I’m never tired of his company, and when he is at school, I look forward to his return all day long. Sometimes we can’t even wait through his 20 minute commute and one of us calls the other when he’s out of class so we can start talking while he drives. =)

This is not to say that we do not sin against each other, behave selfishly, hurt one another’s feelings, have conflict, and hit bumps in the road, because we do. But thanks entirely to the grace of God, our relationship is characterized by unity and camaraderie. He has enabled us to establish the habit of keeping short accounts, so that matters of conflict are addressed quickly and willing forgiveness is granted regularly. This makes for an imperfect but oh, so sweet friendship. Praise God!

Hello, Parenthood

The natural progression of life is to start having children sometime after your wedding, and that’s a very good thing. But I think it would be easy to seek this “next step” of parenting as a means of escape from the monotony of a marriage that has become at best boring, or even downright unhappy.

Escape is never the right reason to begin having children. Adding babies to an unhealthy marriage is a sure way to make that marriage even worse. I cannot imagine navigating just the challenges of pregnancy with a husband I’m not close to, let alone trying to raise a little person(s) together. That sounds like the recipe for disaster.

If you happen to be someone currently married and pre-babies, I would encourage you not to crave that “next step” as a way to restore excitement or add a new distraction to your life. It may be wise to evaluate your relationship with your husband and take purposeful steps to help it flourish. (This is always a good idea, regardless of your season of life.) Pinpoint where you are sinning or slacking off in your marriage and ask the Lord to change you from the inside out and grow you into the wife He has called you to be. Communicate with your husband and work together to strengthen your friendship. Of course, all our people problems can be traced back to where our hearts are at with God, so this area of our lives must be addressed first.

Having children should be a joyful step that married couples decide to take as one happy unit. I don’t know this first hand yet, but I have observed that parenting is a team effort and should draw dad and mom closer to one another as they learn to lean on God through brand new challenges and responsibilities that children bring.

You’re Already a Family

Instead of thinking of “starting a family” as the morning you get a positive pregnancy test, think of your wedding day as that moment. You are a family, just the two of you. Soak up this precious season of life as “newlyweds” (even if it’s been years) and build into your friendship with your husband. After all, when the kids are grown and gone, you’ll be right back where you are now. If your littles were your escape from “just the two of you”, that doesn’t sound like a happy way to enter the “empty nesters” phase.

I know there are countless stories of unhappy couples having children, and God using parenting as a tool to refine the marriage and bring the husband and wife closer together. All is certainly not lost when babies are added to a rocky marriage. Praise the Lord! But it is ideal to work toward that healthy relationship before the kiddos come along, so consider how you might do that now. Never view a baby as an escape; instead ask the Lord to create a marriage you don’t want to escape from.

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{Homemaking Journal} New Spring Recipes

Five months into this whole mommy thing, I’m still loving the extra time I have to cook proper, delicious meals for my little family. Granted, this week included two nights back-to-back where I got precisely nothing on the table due to completely packed apartment days, but under average circumstances, I have the time and the energy to put yummy food in front of my hubby each night and I love it! Here are a few favorite new recipes from recent weeks. Please pardon the language in one of these blog URLs. It’s an unfortunate blog title but the food is scrumptious! My new favorite cooking blog for sure.

As always, I made numerous changes to these fine recipes…including altering them to be gluten free. Sorry for the poor photo of the Bang Bang Chicken! I always forget to get my Nikon out after I’m done cooking. =)

Trader Joe’s Spaghetti Squash Carbonara – I personally loved this more than the Cheesecake Factory version. To die for!

Cheesy Enchilada Rice Skillet – Nothing earth-shattering flavor-wise, but SO easy.

bangbangchickenBang Bang Chicken – I’ve made this twice already! DELICIOUS! Worth the fuss!

Cauliflower Chowder – I’m honestly not a big fan of cauliflower, but I absolutely loved this soup. And it was sooooo simple.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Panini – These satisfy that occasional and obsessive craving for something toasted with cheese.

{Marriage Journal} Why Can’t He Just Remember?

Towel_Rack_1This morning, Caleb was napping and I was working on apartment management items, when Andrew called to me from the other room, “Hey Hon, could you grab me a towel?”

I sighed as I set my laptop aside and got up to retrieve the item that I seemed to deliver quite often. Why can’t he just remember to grab a towel before he gets in the shower? I grumbled in my head.

The thought was barely finished when I realized how many dozens of times I’ve sat down to nurse Caleb and then realized I forgot to pour myself a tall glass of water first. (I am always parched during feedings!) “Hey Babe, could you bring me some water?” Andrew never complains that I don’t prepare better for nursing sessions.

It’s funny how easy it is to notice my husband’s quirks and minor shortcomings without ever stopping to look at my own. If we both picked at each little mistake or got annoyed every time the other’s forgetfulness made a little extra work for us, we’d be at each other constantly. This is everyday life together. This is being married. It means smiling when Andrew forgets the towel or I forget the water. It means laughing when I pick up the dirty laundry that ended up exactly next to the hamper instead of inside it. It means Andrew kissing me on the cheek when he discovers that his earbuds have grown legs and wound up in my nightstand. Sometimes it is in a million of these tiny decisions that a happy or frustrating marriage is made. (There are plenty of bigger factors, too…but small things often become the big things!)

Next time I hear the Towel Summons, I hope I smile instead of grumbling. I hope I say something sweet as I toss it to him. I hope I thank God that He gave me a husband.

And hey–I should be grateful to be married to a guy who showers! ;)

Photo taken from imgkid.com.

{Marriage Journal} Four Years

Four years ago today, I said “I do” to my best friend. I never could have imagined how wonderful marriage to Andrew would be. There’s no one I would rather do life with. God has been so gracious to us and I am beyond grateful to Him.

Happy anniversary, my love! Here’s to many more!

Photos courtesy of Ben Bender Photography.

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{Marriage Journal} Resetting

1613976_10152374377448109_1231145455_nAndrew and I have been married a little over three years now and it has been an amazing, rewarding, and fun journey together. As every  human does, we’ve encountered some valleys, varying in “categories” and levels of difficulty.

A few weeks ago, we hit a trial of a new genre. I hesitate to even call it a trial, because on the scale of difficulties, it ranked pretty low. But often whatever challenges God gives us feel very big in the moment, even if we know in our heads that they are comparatively trivial.

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, in the middle of the semester, we moved to our new apartment and immediately started functioning as the managers, taking care of the property, fielding dozens and dozens of phone calls and emails, and giving tours of our vacancy. We weren’t settled into our new home yet, I was extremely nauseous and exhausted almost 24/7, and Andrew was getting increasingly behind on his homework.

Tension started to build. Every time the phone rang, we’d exchange glances, hoping the other would offer to get it. Every “failed” tour left us more frustrated. Every new wave of nausea increased my stress levels. Every buzz at the door broke Andrew’s concentration. We began getting short with each other, feeling on edge and cracking under the pressures and exhaustion. Our edginess continued for about two days. We weren’t even really arguing, we just felt at odds and annoyed with one another, and we didn’t talk about anything but work.

The next morning, I happened to read a chapter in a book claiming that love is truly tested in times of trial. I was immediately convicted as I realized that this season was a new “hard” for us, and we were letting it pull us apart instead of coming together and growing stronger in our commitment to and love for one another. At a time when we needed each other, we were functioning independently. Talk about a humbling eye-opener!

I came home and poured out my heart to Andrew. We talked for a good long while about the various frustrations and pressures we were feeling. We asked and granted forgiveness for the ways we had sinned against each other. We promised to choose to make this new season of life draw us closer together as a team instead of letting it distance us. We discussed our need for one other’s support. Most importantly, we acknowledged our need for our Savior and His sustaining grace at every turn. Ultimately we’d gotten our eyes off of Him in the midst of the craziness.

What a change this conversation brought about. It sort of “reset” our relationship and helped us head into the following days with zeal and different perspective and goals. We’ve learned how to work together, give and take in the responsibilities, and communicate clearly our expectations/desires so that we can work out a plan instead of just guessing each other’s thoughts. We’ve been happier, more efficient and successful, and grown closer as we work as a couple in brand new ways. The challenges haven’t disappeared, but how we face them has changed.

If you are in the midst of a day or a week or a month of being at odds with your husband, don’t wait. Stop and communicate, humbly acknowledging your part in the tension and asking him to help you work out a “plan of attack” going forward that will keep you playing on the same team and keep lines of communication open. It’s miserable to waste hours disgruntled with your best friend; it robs you both of joy and accomplishes nothing good.

I’m grateful for a husband who is willing to listen, talk, and implement change, and for a God who always forgives and lets me start over when I have failed. It is deeply encouraging that we can totally blow it but start fresh the next day, going forward in the grace of Jesus Christ. We are never beyond His reach and it is never too late to repent and begin anew!

{Reading Report} For Women Only

for-women-onlyFor Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn promises to take its reader “beneath the surface into the inner lives of men”. Its information is based on a “national survey and personal interviews with over one thousand men.” This book has its helpful qualities but also its flaws. Let me try to explain.

For Women Only is primarily based on secular information and psychology, not on the Word of God. I do not mean to imply that it is unbiblical, but rather that its starting point is not one that would lend itself to changing a marriage from the inside out. One of the endorsements on the inside cover claims that the book has “the power to change you and your relationship”. I strongly disagree with that statement. The power to revolutionize you and your marriage in a lasting and God-glorifying way lies within the gospel. I would encourage anyone reading this book to put it in its rightful place: that of one that may help you to understand your husband in a new way. To read it apart from the Bible and other gospel-grounded resources could result in a list of “dos and don’ts” with little perspective or help for the root of our marriage problems. Understanding that your husband desires respect may help you to bite your tongue when you feel harsh words coming on, but does nothing to change your heart.

I also have a slight issue with the author’s insistence that men need this and men need that. I realize that she is writing to women, and authors have to shout to be heard. At the same time, if a Christian man’s whole morale system comes crashing down with a disrespectful comment from his wife, as this book implies, he has serious identity issues. My identity should not be wrapped up in whether my husband loves me, neither should his be wrapped up in whether I respect him, see to his physical needs, etc. I am commanded to honor him in many ways, yes, but he is also commanded to delight himself in the Lord, and not in my behavior as a wife.

I know that was a lot of critical nit-picking. But I believe we should be careful when staking philosophies or belief systems on a book–any book other than the Bible. All of that said, I did find For Women Only helpful in understanding more of how many men think about different issues. I specifically appreciated the chapter on romance, which helped me to see how a guy views this part of the relationship and how it can complement my idea of romance. I also found the chapter about his inherent drive to provide useful in understanding the responsibility and pressure husbands feel in taking care of their families. And there were plenty of other helpful tidbits to glean along the way.

I could definitely see myself giving this book to a wife and encouraging her to read a specific chapter that might shed light on an issue in her marriage. I would not recommend it before first promoting What Did You Expect, which is extremely gospel-centered, and The Excellent Wife, which feels like Scripture with a few thoughts thrown in on the side. In balance with books like these, For Women Only is a useful tool in growing into women who love and understand the men in our lives.

{Reading Report} Glimpses of Grace

glimpses-of-grace_1As I ate up the reasonably sized chapters in this book by Gloria Furman, I was happy to find a balanced view of salvation and its affects on our thoughts, motives, and behavior as Christian women. Glimpses of Grace offers theologically sound but practically helpful counsel for cherishing Jesus, Who He is, and His beautiful gospel in the midst of the mundane moments that a woman’s life is made up of.

The balance of this book is clear throughout, including in the following quote from Chapter 3:

I believe it is helpful and necessary to retreat to quiet places to pray and read God’s Word. But silence is not necessary for you to have a vibrant relationship with God. your spiritaul life is not restricted to early mornings before the noisemakers in your life wake up. If you feel that God meets with you only when the house is empty or quiet, you’ll view every noise and every noisemaker as an annoying distraction to your communion with God.

Here we see the well-rounded philosophy that it is helpful and even necessary to retreat to quiet places for quality time with God. Yet if we legalistically believe that we can only commune with Him in that setting, we are opening ourselves up for a lot of unnecessary frustration and wrong reactions to the interruptions He has ordained.

One of my favorite things about this read was Mrs. Furman’s emphasis on the Person of Jesus Christ as our object of contentment. I’ve realized in recent months how easy it is to think I’m content because I’m choosing to enjoy my housework, my job, and the other mundane pieces of life. That’s great, but I really need to take it a step further. Mrs. Furman explains,

Surely these things–a cheerful attitude and sense of hopefulness–are wonderful by-products of rejoicing in God while in the midst of our homes. But that’s just what they are–by-products. The source of our faith, hope, love, joy, and gospel-grounded optimism is God Himself and not our stuff or our circumstances.

I also love the connection drawn between dwelling on Jesus and becoming like Him.

We study Christ because we’ve been saved for the purpose of being transformed into His image, and in our beholding, the work of transformation occurs.

In terms of practicality, Chapter 7 “All Grace and All Sufficieny for Every Dinner Guest” was my favorite. Serving through hospitality must, like everything in our lives, must be done out of a deep-rooted love for Jesus. I’m sure every woman can relate to the fear of man that is shown in letting earning the satisfaction and admiration of our dinner guests become an idol as we prepare to open our homes.

When we serve with the strength God supplies instead of from our own energies or motivation, we can serve with cheerfulness to the praise of His glory. We don’t have to be embittered martyrs on the altar of hospitality.

Quite possibly my favorite quote from the book is also in Chapter 7:

When grief over our sin and thankfulness for the gift of grace meet together at the cross, a powerful work of transformation occurs in our hearts.

I hope these few quotes whet your appetite enough to compel you to pick up Glimpses of Grace. As a young wife looking ahead to, Lord-willing, many years of serving primarily from my home, the truth and encouragement Mrs. Furman had to share rang true in my heart when held up against Scripture. Her sense of humor and realism kept the book light and enjoyable, and her illustrations and real-life examples skillfully brought heady theology down to a practical level, while not trivializing the magnitude of the Cross. I believe this is a book I will return to in years to come as I fight carnal thinking in the mundane moments of life, and I highly recommend it to any woman seeking to love Jesus through her day-in, day-out routine.