marriage

Laughing Is the Best Medicine

bed

In 2013 When our 14 year old son was visiting Kenya and preparing to fly home alone using the unaccompanied minors program, the international terminal at the Nairobi airport burnt down. Jay and I were reading the news late at night on our phones while we lay in bed. When we checked British Airlines to learn of any updates and read the part that mentioned their “luxury lounge,” we lost it. It was one of the best laughs we have ever had. I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks and my sides hurt.

Now don’t get me wrong, we were also concerned that this would impact his return flight just a few days later, and we pondered all the possible outcomes. But there is something comforting about getting bad news while you’re in bed. Our harried, frantic lives have been put on hold. It’s just the two of you. It seems like all the stress just melts away and you are just left with the one person who you can conquer the world with. Jay and I have a reputation for laughing in bed. It is not uncommon for the kids to ask us in the morning what we were laughing about the night before. Typically, it is something stupid like the time that I told Jay he smelled nice and then realized it was actually my own hands I had just washed in a new soap. Sometimes it’s really stupid because we are tired and slap happy.

For us,  one of the best times to talk is those moments before sleep takes over. Jay, who is a chipper morning person, know enough than to start a conversation with his wife in the hostile hours of morning light. Getting ready to go to work or while I’m making dinner are also not great times. We chat about how our day went and the practical day-to-day schedules and plans at dinner or in the evening, but bedtime is when we often talk about the hard things or the humorous. I like the later better.

sunset

As a couple, don’t just find the best time for you; make those times. Go beyond the daily need to have communication and reserve those times for the want to have conversations.  Maybe you are both morning people (unnatural as that is) and you enjoy chatting over breakfast. Maybe it’s Saturday morning while the kids sleep-in (teens!) or Tuesday nights while they are at soccer practice. Maybe you take a stroll through your neighborhood twice a week after work or  just sit on your back patio after dinner drinking tea while the kids play in the yard.  Take those moments not to settle the carpool schedule for the week, but to laugh over what happened in the office kitchen. Reminisce about your first date and plan that vacation you’re going to take when your house is finally paid off. Laugh at each other good-naturedly. Dream. Look for the humor in that disaster of a work day, or in the not so stellar parent teacher conference you just had. (True story: This year, I knew the end of the year conference wasn’t going to be all about how superb a student our child was, so Jay and I created bingo cards with key phrases we rightly anticipated hearing and distributed them to the teachers at the start of the conference.) Sometimes the humor is hiding in the chaos just waiting to be discovered. Trust me, it’s worth searching for.

Being a couple who makes laughter a habit adds a protective layer over your relationship during the hard times. Trust me, I know.  Maybe it’s true that the family that prays together stays together, but the couple who can literally grin and bear are more likely to get through those hard times with an honest smile on their faces.

Who wants their marriage to just survive when it can thrive?

 

 

Advertisements
Standard
family, marriage, parenting teens

Surviving the Natural Disaster Known as Parenting

Everyone has heard stories of people who have fallen in love after surviving a traumatic ordeal together.  These romantic dramas make for great books and movies. Perhaps time spent together overcoming a mutual trial can create these deep bond. We think about the couple who met and married after Sully landed his plane in Hudson, or people who met through 9/11 and other tragic ordeals. Then there are the stories of patients and their nurses who fall in love.  I’m sure the list could go on to include stories from every war throughout history and so much more.

Research shows that people facing acute stress, as in a natural disaster, show an increase in cooperation, friendliness, and increased connections between individuals.

Parenting teenager definitely qualifies as acute stress, and I would argue it has to constitute a natural disaster.  Parenting is hard! Raising human beings into adulthood and releasing them into the wild is a lot of pressure. If being trapped in the house with a child you have grounded doesn’t constitute a hostage situation (for you), I don’t know what does. And, if I had a dollar for every time I told an irate teenager that, “This administration doesn’t negotiate with terrorists,” I’d have at least enough money to put myself into a world-class sugar coma. Trust me, I know stress.

family wall

In all seriousness, some couples fall apart when they confront the increasingly difficult struggles of raising their children. Add to that the conflict created by real crisis or loss, and it can be too much for some couples to bear. Life is hard, and all couples have times of brokenness and sorrow; you can’t be on the same page all the time. Crisis often throws couples into whirlwinds.  When the storm passes, couples can find that they have landed in different places. They feel lost and alone.

But not everyone stays that way.  Sometimes couples endure and come out stronger. They land in different places, but they find each other again. I think that’s what happened to Jay and I.

hotel fire

We’ve had the normal ups and downs that every marriage faces, but there were a few years in which we were never on the same page, not even in the same book. I had changed so much already, and the heartaches of life made our differences all the more profound. The challenges of parenting teens, demanding careers, caring for aging parents, and all the costs associated with these things seemed like ever strengthening waves that were constantly crashing over us and making it hard to even catch our breath before a new wave would send us tumbling head over heels.

I think what made the difference for us was the belief that marriage is forever; divorce is not an option. I remember a Valentine’s Day Couples dinner at church once where the speaker reminded couples that their partners were not their enemies. I have needed to remind myself of that many times. I didn’t have the strength to take on a new enemy anyway. We needed to join forces to survive; so we did. Every time the dust settled, we looked for each other. Our marriage, not our kids, takes priority of our home.

We found each other not because we had common interests, but because we had common ground. I can’t speak for Jay, but I clung to him for dear life. There were times I honestly thought I might die.  In the midst of the absolute worst, I fell in love with him every day that I didn’t hate him, until the days I hated him were fewer and fewer and my love grew deeper and deeper. I know that probably sounds horrible, but it’s true. One day we’d be screaming and the next day he’d hold me as I sobbed. I’m a very passionate person, so it can often be all or nothing with me. And if you think you are going to die, and someone rescues you, you just about can’t help but fall in love with them.

I’m all in with our marriage, and so is Jay and that’s why it works. And bonus: every time we find each other again, I not only love him more, I like him more.

jay and barb 1

 

 

Standard
Christian, marriage, ministry, women

He Sits at the City Gates

Her husband is known in the gates
Where he sits among the elders of the land.
(Proverbs 31:23)

It isn’t easy to be married to me. Let me give you an example of a recent conversation. (These interactions happen regularly in our home. This is just one area in which out views diverge.)

Me: You say you believe in a literal interpretation of “An elder must be the husband of one wife,” but you don’t. You believe an elder must be a man because of this verse, but you don’t believe the verse literally.
Jay: Yes I do.
Me: But you don’t think he needs to be married. You’d be okay with a single guy being an elder. If the pastor’s wife died, you won’t say he needed to step down because he didn’t have a wife.
Jay: Yes, because I don’t think that’s what that verse is saying. It’s saying that if the guy is married he can only be married to one woman.
Me: So, you’re okay with saying that the elder doesn’t need to be a husband nor does he need to have a wife, but you still claim to “literally” interpreting the verse to mean it must be a man because of the word husband even though that man doesn’t literally need to be a husband.
Jay: Yes.
Me: But you can’t possibly interpret it to mean that in a male dominated culture, where men were the vast majority of leaders and women were often uneducated, that the author was speaking to an all male audience, and not that he was specifically excluding women.

Jay: Correct.
(It was a lot longer than this abridged version. Obviously choosing the parts that make me look particularly witty and bright.)

Let me tell you why my husband sits at the city gates. That man needs a break. He has gone out to “sit with the elders of the land” just so he can hang with the guys. I suspect they have gone to the gates of the city so that they can be as far away from home without actually leaving the city. And because they are guys, they are probably out shooting each other with paintball guns, which I expect that they find less painful than listening to all the words that their wives and kids have. Maybe instead, they will go fishing and sit in utter silence. They’ll come back home ready for the chaos of kids, the endless chores, and the day in and day out grind of their jobs. They might have discussed theology or politics or what would be the best way to beat the land speed record without causing severe harm or death.

worship

The all male Elders Board and Board of Trustees at my church, along with the other male leaders of our congregation, are good men. They are doing hard things. While they are doing it with limited input from women based on their convictions, they are doing it with prayer, integrity, and pure intentions. Most of the men in the God fearing churches I know are living lives of servant leadership. And if they were to included some women in those decision making teams, I am sure they would still be “sitting at the city gates” trying to snag a few minutes of guy time. I not only can’t blame them for this, I fully support this. Guys need that time, and society doesn’t encourage it in the same way they encourage girls to build friendships. Too many men don’t have close male friends, and we are all the worse for it. When they come back from these times, whether they are weekend retreats or a weekly time of coffee and conversation, they are better equipped to navigate this crazy life. They are better leaders, teachers, husbands, fathers, workers, and better Christians.

So yes, I hope I am the kind of wife whose husband sits at the city gate.

wedding


Side note: Yes, I know that the city gate was the place where business was transacted and the leaders sat. I understand the author wasn’t talking about guy’s poker night. I am somewhat twisting the line for sake of humor and to make my point. However, society has changed. The closest walled city I know of is Quebec City, and I don’t think Canadians are more spiritual as a result of this. The word of God transcends time, but I think its wise to look it scripture keeping this in mind.

And to the Godly wife whose husband isn’t sitting among the elders be it at the city gates or among the church leaders: it may be no reflection on you at all. You might sanctify your husband through your actions, but it’s neither your job, nor within your capabilities to make that happen. God’s got that.

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
Christian, family, marriage, Proverbs 31, women

Proverbs 31: A Love Hate Relationship

Like every woman, I have sat through my fair share of Bible studies and women’s events that focus on the Proverbs 31 woman. I have wanted to love this woman, but I just don’t know how I feel about her. First off,  the Proverbs 31 woman is not so much about womanhood; it’s about wives and mothers. And while many people might think that is six of one, half a dozen of another, it’s not. Women encompass so much more. There are many women who have yet to become wives or who may remain single. There are women who are divorced or widowed. Those who are married may or may not be mothers. Where do these women fit into this passage and all those Bible studies? Secondly, this woman is loaded. Quite frankly, many of our income levels don’t allow us to be the kind of women who have servants to be feeding in the morning. But having a few servants would give me a little more time in my day to do all the things this woman is apparently able to do from dawn to dusk.

Of course, the Proverbs 31 woman, let us remember, is a fictionalized composite person not an actual woman, and she cannot be replicated by everyone….or maybe even anyone.

family 17
As a wife myself, I have a bit of a love hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 woman. I desire to live up to the expectations set for me as a Christian wife, and yet I find her Pintrest perfect and there is a reason I don’t go on Pintrest. In addition to her unrealistic expectations, being a wife is only a part of who I am. Yes, I am a wife and mother, but I am also a friend, sister, employee, writer, social justice advocate, and human being. I cannot focus 100% of my efforts on being the Proverbs 31 woman, lest I lose myself in the task. And while many aspects of who I am can certainly fall under the umbrella of the Proverbs 31 woman, such as employee and social justice advocate, it’s important for me that my identity is more firmly rooted in Christ than it is on my role as wife and mother. I am an expert in what Brene Brown calls “Foreboding Joy.” I know that my positions as wife and mother can be stripped away from me in one tragic moment. I have imagined it a million times as my kids drive away in the car or my husband’s flight is taking off for a business trip. However, my position as daughter to the Living God can never be taken away. That is who I am first and foremost.

In A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Rachel Held Evans tells us that Proverbs 31 is a poem that men memorize and sing to their wives and the other women in their lives (mothers, daughters, sisters). Did you catch that? MEN. It was never meant to burden women with a task list of things to become. Wife (check). Mother (check) Domestic Goddess (check). Business Owner (check) Pintrest Perfect life (check). I have made it into a burden that is too heavy to bear.

I love the idea she shares in her blog post on this topic that Jewish women cheer one another on with the phrase “eshet chayil” or “woman of valor.” Women, we need to cheer each other on. Women building one another up. Men building women up. That sounds like a world I want to live in. It wasn’t meant to weigh us down but to lift us up.

donuts

So, I’m working on becoming a woman of valor. Sometimes that is by making homemade doughnuts. Sometimes it’s by swinging by McDonalds on the way home from work so I don’t need to cook. Sometimes it’s by sitting and studying the word of God and learning more about His amazing character that moves me to grow more like him. Sometimes it’s by skipping my quiet time and watching a movie with my husband after a long week.

I haven’t arrived. I don’t expect to arrive, but this is my journey, and I’m still moving forward.

Standard
Christian, marriage, Proverbs 31

Marriage: Loving Tension

“For the record, in Bereshit (Genesis by you) where it talks about the “helpmmet,” the Hebrew is not just Ezer, but Ezer k’gnedo, which means “the help that opposes.” The Rabbis explain this term like two posts of equal weight leaned against one another. They stand because of equal force.” A letter by Ahava as it appears in A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

            I have a theory that solitude is a major contributing factor to people becoming a little crazy. I mean who hasn’t seen Castaway? My parents were very different from one another, but they balanced each other. Mom couldn’t give all her money away to the poor, and Dad couldn’t spend his entire life at caving conventions or Renaissance Faires. There was someone to talk to, cook for, clean for, to stretch you into doing things outside your comfort zone, and most importantly someone with whom to compromise. I don’t think people need to live with someone to have these kinds of accountability and stretching relationships, but I think the loss of my father meant the loss of that balancing factor for my mom. Mom seemed to slowly slide into a world of her own making, with total freedom to do what she wanted, or more often than not felt obligated to do, and she had no checks and balances. We like to think that there is nothing better than total freedom, but I’m not sure that’s true.

jay and barb 1

Marriage is a partnership of two imperfect, sinful people joined in a permanent bond of mutual submission. They have different strengths and weaknesses. They come to the union with different upbringings, dreams, and expectations. Hopefully they are driven by common life goals and faith, but even with their commonality they are bound to have friction. They are going to pull and push against each other in a million tiny and not so tiny ways. And through the tension they will sharpen one another. They will refine each other, mold each other, balance and sometimes annoy each other. It is actually part of the miracle of the two becoming one.

I can’t say that Jay and I enjoy living out the “iron sharpens iron” part of marriage, but it’s part of the strength of our marriage. There is trust in our relationship because we know the other person isn’t just going to “yes” our ideas. We are going to give alternate viewpoints. We will argue our points until some more reasonable middle ground rises up. As a result, Jay isn’t going to buy every piece of new technology that lands on the market, and I am not going to take the family on road trips across Europe (even though it is clear my spending goals are way better than his.) We are not going to uproot the kids or quit jobs without diligently thinking through the implications and prayerfully coming to a mutual decision. Sometimes we practice giving up our desires for the other. We submit. We stand firm. And we are both better for it. Our family is better for it.

It is in the Ezer K’gnedo, the help that opposes, that we discover the strength of our union.

 

 

Standard
Christian, gifts from God, marriage

Marriage: Having Each Other’s Back

I wish I could say that I have total faith in God and His strength to carry me through any difficult circumstance that comes my way. The truth, however, is that I rely far too often on the flesh and blood people around me when times get tough. I have an amazing support system of family and friends, which I thank God for. Truth be told, I feel like I could handle almost anything with God and Jay. The struggles we have seen are not for the faint of heart. The strength of our marriage is in part due to the sheer need to cleave to one another as we pass from hardship to hardship. It is something we have done well these past 20 years (though far from perfectly). When I look back on the last few years, the hardest and most terrible moments had less to do with the circumstances we were going through and more with the state of our marriage in the midst. I have grieved many things in the past 20 years, from both of my parents to one of our children, and from my  dreams to my sense of self. I have confronted many trials and worked through many hurts, but there has yet to be a pain that cannot in some way be softened once wrapped in the arms of Jay. There is something about knowing that there is someone whose primary role in life, before any other earthly job, is to have your back. I suspect that it is this mutual goal that makes our marriage strong. It isn’t about seeing eye to eye (though that’s always a nice treat) or everything around us being perfect (it never will be). It isn’t about evenly dividing the chores (though that helps ease some burdens) or trying to meet each other’s every need (we can’t). It’s about “where two or more are gathered,” and one person lifting up the other who has fallen. It is a three-strand marriage, and it is very good.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him- a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Standard