No Couple is an Island

When you move hundreds of miles from most of your friends and family, the time you do get to spend with them becomes extra special. And we’ve been blessed with a lot of that lately. We spent the holiday weekend catching up with college friends, old roommates, old acquaintances, family, and church friends. We ate tons of food, had meaningful discussions, and really just enjoyed one another. Yet throughout the past few weeks, in interacting with other couples and doing life with them, it all seems to come back to one theme: We’re not failing.

In spending a few hours with some of our closest friends and family (which we haven’t done a lot of since we got married) it really opened my eyes to one universal relationship truth: all marriages are exactly the same. Some have been in effect for longer than others, some marriages take on extra duties (houses and children), some are still just getting used to living with another person. But the more you dive into the marriage of someone you love, the more you realize that it looks quite similar to what you’re living out on a daily basis. The routines are the same, the “you’re in trouble” looks are the same, even the conversations are the same.

And the more you’re around it, the more you start to realize that maybe you’re not doing so bad after all. Other couples bicker sometimes. They have recurring issues they’re trying to work on. They have intense discussions over simple things like groceries and dirty dishes and whether or not dinner is overcooked. Other girls get emotional and cry and (Kyle’s favorite phrase) have “freak out moments.” Other guys tune their wives out and it’s not actually so they can hurt their feelings. And most of the time these couples are actually very much in love.

As I was reflecting on it all this week, i really started to wonder if there really is something to this whole fellowship thing. The more you talk about the things you struggle with, the more likely you are to find a couple who will breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Really?? Us too.” The more you hear other couples talk about their relationships, the more you think, “If they worked through that together, we can work through this.” And maybe some divorces, instead of being the result of unhappiness in marriage, are just the result of two isolated hearts that need a little encouragement along the way. Maybe they just needed to know that none of us are perfect. Even in love.

Are you open about your struggles or do you feel like we have to pretend that everything is always perfect?

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A World-Class Oatmeal Chef

I’ve been bouncing this concept around in my head lately. I don’t know if it’s a real thing or just some convoluted blabber that I write and erase and write and erase in my mind. Probably a little bit of both.

It seems to me if I want to become a world-class oatmeal chef then the most efficient, productive way to do that is to commit to something easier (or more enjoyable) than cooking oatmeal every day…like, say, eating oatmeal every day. If I commit to eating oatmeal every day I am forced to cook it and unless I want to eat oatmeal that tastes like poo then I will become good at cooking oatmeal.

Or if I want to become an expert at waking up early I should implement an early morning activity that makes me wake up. I should commit to running every morning at 6 AM (because I enjoy it…hypothetical obviously) and before I know it I will become good at waking up early. One activity is the catalyst for another.

The point is that the mastery of a hobby or an art is much easier when an alternative activity is the primary focus…and that activity becomes a means to an end of something else (the mastery).

Let me give you a marital example:

I want to become a good husband (if such a thing is even attainable) and to that end I am incapable. I have neither the discipline nor the knowledge to just “be a good husband.” So I have to put activities in place, things like going on really fun dates and reading books together and writing wonderful letters and putting together great gifts for no reason at all. Things I love to do. It seems that through these, unless I want to experience terrible dates and write horrible letters, I will become a good husband (or at least a better one than I was yesterday).

Maybe I’m crazy and surely this has been thought of before but my own personal revelations are sometimes few and far between. Translation: LET ME HAVE MY MOMENT!!

Let me know what you think too. I’m curious, what activities do you participate in that unintentionally lead you to an in-depth knowledge or mastery of something else?

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P.S. Obviously there are times when we, as humans, aren’t always going to be able to become better through enjoyable activities and will have to make decisions and do things we don’t like. I realize that but for this post am simply speaking to being able to put in place the things we can enjoy.

Why Marriage Must Change You

You’ve been hearing from Jen a lot lately…sorry about that, I’ll try to make it up to you in the next few days. But this is a little bit how my week has been going:

Sunday – Played tennis, watched Mad Men, tried to think of cool blog posts to parallel either tennis or Mad Men to our marriage, came up empty, went to sleep.
Monday – Tried to play tennis, couldn’t find a court, tried to write a blog post, couldn’t find a thought, went to sleep.
Tuesday – Played kickball, told Jen whoever got home last had to write the post for yesterday, quoted her Matthew 20:16 (last shall be first, first shall be last), she complained, I quoted Ephesians 5:22 (wives submit to your husband), she wrote the post. Also, made note to not play the Ephesians 5:22 card too often…
Wednesday – Went to the Rangers game, saw Josh Hamilton be awesome, hung out with old friends, laughed a lot, rode home semi-silently, couldn’t think of a post, saw Jen passed out on the couch with Gilmore Girls blaring on the computer, said a curse word in my head, almost went to sleep, realized we had no post, ate a cookie, and had this thought:

Every post I write doesn’t have to change the world, but I am changed every time I sit down to write.

If you paint a painting someone out there is going to think it’s dumb. If you put a new album on iTunes somebody is going to disagree with your message. They might not voice it but you know that they know.

There’s resistance in the world (even on a small blog with only a few followers!) and this forces me to write things I believe in and stand for. It forces me to tell a good story and convey what I am learning. To create art is to change because art is nothing but a sliver of your story, it is a part of who you’re becoming. And if you’re not becoming anything, if you’re not changing, there is no story.

Paul writes to the Philippians that he will “remain and continue with them, for their progress and joy in the faith.” Sometimes it feels like life is just a series of snapshots lined end-over-end like one of those kids flippy-picture-books when, in reality, it is a linear progression of becoming more and more of who we were created to be.

For me, marriage is much of the same. I can be stagnant and apathetic towards my wife or I can lean into the friction caused by two sinners living under one roof. When I choose the former, I experience nothing. When I embrace the latter, no matter the outcome I become something more than I was yesterday.

I must change to be the leader of our home because if Jen doesn’t believe that I’m moving forward, towards the Lord, there will be no reason to follow.

[and technically I am moving forward right now…as I carry her to bed]

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The Fear of Marriage

I was talking with Kyle’s sister this past weekend about marriages and divorce rates according to the information we got from the M. Sue Wilson Law Offices the parents who leave their families and never take interest in their children is very high. She is single (sorry Kayc, I promise it’s imperative to the story, maybe I can hook you up with a blog reader?) and she finished our discussion with one phrase:

I’m actually really scared of marriage.

I, in all my wisdom, uttered something about why you have to choose the right person and how it could either be the worst thing in the world or the best thing. Despite my lack of eloquence, I still find that statement to be true. However, there’s a lot more depth and beauty behind this mysterious covenant, and it deserves more respect than I can ever give it in words. But I’ll leave you with this:

Marriage was created to be a picture of Christ. He died and gave Himself up for his bride, the Church. So to look upon marriage is to look upon the Lord. It must be feared and viewed with reverence, for a single slight of hand can cause unbearable destruction of the human soul. But when lived the right way, the joy and freedom it brings is like no other experience on this earth. And yet the joy we see in marriage is but a glimpse of His love for us.

How do you view marriage? Is it something to be feared?

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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

There was a period of time during my junior year of college when I felt God calling me to be a nun. Nevermind the fact that I’m not Catholic, nor had I ever stepped foot inside a Catholic church; this was my destiny and I would have to accept it. I researched, I asked questions (of Catholics, who usually laughed at me), and I prepared my heart to be single for the remainder of my earthly life, dedicated in word, deed, and action to my God. I was all in.

My calling obviously disappeared and is probably floating somewhere in the dark abyss above the Oklahoma skies. But I say all that to say this: There have been few times in my life when I’ve truly had a heart of submission. It’s not exciting stuff- I’ve never done anything illegal or life threatening, but most can probably relate. I dated boys in high school despite (and partially because of) the fact that my parents didn’t want me to. I’ve lied to my friends under pressure, cheated on exams, and put myself above others way more often than not, even when it hurts them. And I’ve ignored the innermost promptings of the Lord over so many little things, I’ve lost track.

You should help that old lady take her groceries to her car.

She’s doing fine. She probably likes doing things herself, anyway. Elderly people are always so stubborn.

Talk to your neighbor. You never say anything besides hello.

They’ll probably think I’m strange and why do I need to talk to them? We probably have nothing in common.

Call your grandma.

I’ll call her tomorrow.

And if I can’t even submit to the God of the universe, how will I ever submit to my husband, an imperfect and sinful human being?

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

{Insert doubt, jealousy, selfishness, need for control, lack of patience, arrogance, and greed.}

Most days my heart renders me completely incapable of surrendering to anything except my own interests and desires.

I really wanted to be more of the Sister Maria type of nun anyway. It would have ended badly.

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Momentum

I’ve been wanting to blog on momentum and how it affects our lives for a while now but every time I consider writing this post the only thing I can think of is Precious rolling down a hill and barreling into me like a self-propelled human avalanche. Seriously, that’s what I think of when I think “momentum.” For those of you who didn’t already move on to Yahoo or The Huffington Post or whatever you’re reading, let me be clear and say I have nothing against Precious, I haven’t seen it, I’m sure I would be inspired if I saw it, all I’m saying is that’s what pops in my head. [Jen just walked in here and read my opening paragraph and she’s furiously scrolling through her iPhone right now. I’d say there’s an 88%-89% chance she’s Googling “marital counseling” but whatever, the blog will go on.]

So, momentum. I feel like I live under its fury much of the time. In baseball when you have a good week of hitting or you pitch 2-3 stellar games in a row, it’s called “going good” as in “man, Kyle’s 10-19 this week with 3 HRs and 12 RBI, he’s really going good” (nobody ever said that about me but you get the point…)

I find marriage to be the same. When we’re “going good” then we’re really going good. Everything is clicking, witty barbs traded back and forth, sweet notes left early in the morning, him and her going out of their way to serve each other. It’s awesome, it feels very vibrant, like a piece of the sun reflecting off an amalgamation of water and mountain deep into the afternoon. It’s beautiful. And it’s as if each moment, each day is better than the one before it.

Then something snaps. Maybe it’s because I left my shoes lying somewhere I shouldn’t have. Or maybe she made the wrong thing for dinner. Or maybe we discover we’re months years apart in our timeframe for when we want to have kids (don’t worry). But something happens, and it isn’t pretty. Then it spirals downward and it’s as if everything starts compounding, unraveling faster than PETA at a Calf Fry.

And we’re chained to it, one or the other, going good, or going really really bad. There seems to be little middle ground, often no semblance of moderation. I think it’s my job to stay level-headed and bring perspective to situations that otherwise don’t have much. But I have to say that’s difficult for me. Sometimes I just feel like Precious rolling down that mountain, for better or worse.

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Failure in Perspective

In one of his recent sermons, Craig Groeschel addressed the issue that the church he leads has problems. He said something to the effect of, “don’t complain to me about everything our church does wrong because my list is far longer than any list you could come up with. I know what we’re good at and I know where we struggle.”

I agree with this. To an extent. If those struggles are fundamentally irreconcilable divergences with the Gospel then they aren’t really struggles. They’re abject failures and need to be complained about. In the case of LifeChurch I don’t see that to be the case.

If we’re being honest, and we are (though I know that may be hard to believe since the entire premise of this blog is based on the fact that I straight-face lied to all of my friends and most of my family for 6 straight months in regards to the future of my marital status), it’s pretty easy to look at our couple friends (dating and married) and demean their inadequacies while ignoring our own. I’d like to congratulate myself on that 75-word sentence I just typed. If it’s topped in the near future I’ll be sure and let you know.

If we actually believe in other people (and I hope we do) and find importance in their friendship (I’m confident in this) then should we not also trust that their list of what they “do wrong” is far lengthier than the one we made in our heads on the way home from hanging out with them? And shouldn’t we spend our words and thoughts on other, more important things? Are we that insecure in our own relationship that the areas of “failure” for some of our closest friends serve to fulfill our own prideful void? I should point out that there is a time and place to confront those who are close to you out of love and wisdom if you find their actions to not be representative of the Gospel they claim to represent.

Outside of that though, can any good come from making imaginary bullet points summarizing the “failure” of the marriages and relationships close to us? (I continue to put “failure” in “ ” because most of what we deem “failure” is simply us not being open-minded enough to recognize that it’s OK that people do things differently from us).

Maybe one of these days I’ll start taking my own advice…

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Follow-through

Remember this post from a few weeks ago? Well I didn’t, but Kyle did.

The great thing about blogging every single day- rain, shine, or sleepiness- is that you can make a pretty legit looking blog. Forget what it says, I’m just impressed that it doesn’t look like one of the bazillion that has been abandoned somewhere in the world wide web. I currently have two. The difficult thing is remembering the things you do write about and actually putting them into action. It’s like going to church on Sunday. I can usually do a pretty good job of implementing the week’s sermon until about 7pm on Sunday night. And Monday will see my heart turn on a dime.

A friend from college recently messaged me and said the following words: “I have been reading your blog, and have decided that your husband is probably fake. Men like that don’t exist. So I’m requesting that you put some stuff on there to show the real side of him–what he smells like in the morning, etc. Thanks.” So here goes.

He doesn’t smell good in the morning.

He never shuts his closet door, and his shoes are everywhere. It’s like he wears three pairs at once and hides them strategically for me to find. And put back in the closet. And close the door.

He spills coffee on the counter every morning and doesn’t wipe it up.

He’s really attached to his couch, which sags in the middle and smells like college boys. I try to decorate it with lots of pillows but they just get thrown on the floor.

He gets out of the shower before drying off, so there’s always water on the floor, and he sets his alarm for 4:45am, but snoozes until 5:30, which means lots of awake time for me.

He’s not perfect, but neither am I. We both struggle. But we’re both realizing that life isn’t worth much when it’s lived hiding behind good intentions. Kyle wrote me a letter as a congrats for making it two whole months being married to him (and actually mentioned his own smelliness in the letter. See- not fake at all). And in leading by action, it holds me accountable to everything I’ve had intentions of doing.

How will you follow through on one thing today?

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Famous People Tweets Are Easy

I was listening to NPR as I was driving to work yesterday (I don’t know whether to apologize to my family that those letters weren’t F-O-X or make a joke about how many posts I’ll start with “I was listening to NPR…” so I’ll go with neither) and there was a man on there talking about something interesting (imagine that).

He was talking about something that I believe dominates our society and our relationships the way Heidi Montag dominates silicon production in the United States (if you don’t get that, don’t Google it). He was talking about how superficiality is drowning out substantiality.

What percent of Twitter, Facebook, Google, and, heck, the internet itself is superficial? 99%? 99.9%? You have the occasional creation of something like Kiva or Wikipedia that adds value to society but so much of it is rubbish that most of the time it’s hard to tell the difference. It’s like trying to get 4 oz. of cream to rise in a 5 million gallon bucket of milk.

But isn’t it the same in marriage?

How much of what I do in my marriage on a day-to-day basis is substantial? I would argue (I am arguing) that the emotional energy spent creating substantive conversation or activity at times seems unworthy of the time and focus I have to put into it. Perhaps that’s because I have an arrogant view of what my time is worth.

It’s easy to Tweet: “I am going to the gym because I just ate a hamburger. I am meeting friends there.” It’s even easier to Tweet: “[fill in famous quote from famous person].” The hard part? Creating your own material and conveying that material in an original manner that adds value.

What is true online is true in real life as well (can I get someone on making that a geometrical proof?).

It’s easy to buy a bundle of flowers and a vase and plop them down on the kitchen table. It’s even easier to drop two $20s on dinner at a nicer-than-Applebees restaurant. To wake up every morning with a plan of how I’m going to create content and lead conversation and block off substantive time with which I can dynamically lead my wife in our pursuit of the Lord and each other?

That’s difficult.

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To Be a Housewife

NOTE: This post does not apply to stay-at-home moms. We salute you.

So I don’t have a job.

My husband moved to Dallas 2 months before we got married, and I was told I could either come with him after the wedding or give the ring back. So I quit my job, packed all my things, and opened them again in this tiny home. And home has a much different meaning when you never leave.

For any of you who have ever been accidental (or on purpose) housewives, I think you’ll relate to this. (Unless you live in Orange County and live your life on a reality tv show with people to do your laundry and run your errands.) There’s a minor glitch in the time-space continuum that settles over the homes of unsuspecting housewives, stealing their ability to be productive in any fashion. More time equals less productivity. Your husband sets out into the workplace, leaving his home and a few instructions confidently in your hands. And yet you find yourself coming up with 8 other things to do during the day, watching the clock for 5:45, at which time you’ll hurriedly toss your lunch dishes in the sink, turn off Gilmore Girls, throw on some jeans, and apply just enough makeup to make it look like you’ve actually needed it for some outing that day. My only hope for burying the sense of shame is to make it sound like EVERYTHING was a big deal. See below.

Kyle: What did you do today?

Me: Well, I went to the post office to mail those letters and there was a HUGE line, so that took forever…. And then I cleaned out the fridge (threw away a rotten tomato) and so that took up some time. Oh, and I found this really cute pillow from Target that I want to get with our gift card, but I found it online and I don’t think they have it in the store, but it took me so long to figure that out… Technology. Sheesh.

Kyle: Hm. (This is where I know that he’s caught on, even though he doesn’t say anything.)

Me: And tomorrow I’m going to plan our menu for the week. (If I say it confidently enough, he’ll think it’s going to take me all day.)

And in the midst of it, I know he can read right through me. I know what I’m saying sounds completely ridiculous, and yet it’s my only hope to avoid what I now refer to as “Wife Guilt.”

I had 3 things to do today. 1. Apply for two jobs. 2. Write a blog post. 3. Keep the house clean.

And I sit here watching the clock turn 5:37, knowing that my time has come to an end. The sink is full of dishes, the kitchen table is covered with sewing notions, and I haven’t completed an application. Things I have done: Made a shirt, made a rug, and written a blog post. But this post took a really long time to write…

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