Saturday Linkage

[Starting clockwise from the top…you can click on the pictures OR the links below]

From a newfound favorite, the Messy Canvas blog. A story that hits especially close to home for women in leadership, written eloquently on another Jen Porter favorite, Virginia Woolf.

A less emotional, much more practical view on the financial perks of marriage as a contrast to my post on finances in marriage this week.

Good ol’ Dave gets a new house. Check out Dave Ramsey’s new $5 million home. Total money makeover seems to be working! Any thoughts on this one?

Photo Attribution: Autumn Walk | Messy | Dave

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Camping is Intense (get it?)

I went camping this weekend with three of my better college friends. They’re the kind of guys it’s easy to rekindle (no pun intended) good conversations with around a weekend of hiking and other manly things (like driving 20 miles from our campsite to watch the Oklahoma State game at a Buffalo Wild Wings). They’re also the kind of guys who aren’t ashamed to borrow camping supplies from their girlfriends/wives, so we didn’t have to go far in the conversation before humility came up.

Anyway, here are 7 unsolicited thoughts on marriage from 4 guys who have been married a combined 36 months. Grains of salt and such…

1. Pursue who you actually like – file this away under the “don’t over-think it” category. The idea of liking someone is fun, but it’s vastly different from actually liking who that person is. Especially when you have to get to live with them 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

2. Continue to romance – This is something we all admitted we struggle with. It’s just so comfortable to fall into the “let’s just hang out, cook dinner together, and read every night” routine. Romance is different. It’s emotionally strenuous. It’s necessary.

3. Learn how she learns – As the male is the de facto leader of the pack, it seems to us that to understand the way your wife learns things is an effective way to lead her to the places God would have for both of you. Then again, we also gleaned hours of entertainment from burning plastic spoons so maybe “us” and “leadership” need to get reacquainted.

4. Ask “why am I doing this?” – This goes hand in hand with #3. In fact, I think asking “why am I doing this?”, honestly answering, and changing our actions based on that answer would solve 75% – 99% of all marital fighting. But we’re human so it’s not always that easy.

5. Love her generously – All four of us commented multiple times about how wonderful our wives/girlfriends are about submitting to our leadership and playing the beautiful role God would have for them in the relationship. It’s easy for us to take this for granted and yet in today’s world where women are idolized for all the wrong reasons it’s up to us, as guys, to lavish our girls with praise for their humility and honor.

6. Be consistent – The most difficult of all these if only for the longevity needed to accomplish such a task. It’s funny (and not funny) that 35 years of consistency can be thwarted by 1 minute of indiscretion. Success = prayer + humility.

7. Protect at all costs – The tie that bound this weekend was how much we, as Christians, come under attack. And the (sometimes) humorous punch line was that these attacks aren’t always from who we would deem “enemies.” During one of our long talks, one of the guys said, “Satan works in creative ways” while we all nodded in agreement.

As we stared at the fire’s embers deep into Friday and Saturday night, we thought about how to protect our marriages, protect our wives, and protect our hearts from spiritual warfare. We went camping to have a weekend with the boys and it turned out (as it usually does…) to be all about the girls. I think God was laughing at us and smiling too.

I think he likes camping trips to be like that.

What would you add to this list?

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A Beautiful Mind

It’s funny how 4 months of marriage can change you. I loved Jen when we wed for sure, and yet the love that has grown out of the overflow of my heart when joined in union with the passion I have for her in my mind is something I’ve yet to know in my time here on earth.

I think it’s probably up for debate whether or not one can be passionate about or love something or someone in his or her mind, but to me the head and heart are connected in some sort of beautiful way.

To love something or someone without knowledge of that thing is simply overreaction or a blind grasp for fulfillment. But to know a thing (or a person) fully and for a love to develop and continue to grow because of (or sometimes in spite of) that knowledge is, I think, a little glimpse of what marriage is supposed to be.

You can follow us on Twitter, I promise we aren’t always this sappy.

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Kyle Interviewing Jen

10 for Jen

1. Who’s your favorite person in the world right now? Hi. You know it’s you. I’m not asking you this question because I know it will be some famous athlete and my feelings will be hurt.

2. What was the last crafting project you worked on? I tried to make a stuffed animal. It was supposed to be a giraffe, but his legs ended up on his sides instead of under him. Like he was a baby giraffe just learning to walk. I think I’ll make him into a pin cushion.

3. What has been the most rewarding part of writing on Marriage Project every day? I know we say this all the time, but it really does force you to be creative. It stretches me to think and create and write. And it’s a lot less scary to be vulnerable and share my heart when I’m doing it with someone else.

4. What one thing do I do that you didn’t expect? We had a friend recently ask what we were most surprised by since we’ve been married. Everyone always made jokes about how different it is to live with a boy… hardy har, tee hee, etc. At least I thought they were jokes. The thing is, Kyle was so clean and organized before we got married. It only makes sense that it would carry over, right? Hi- he has a wife to clean up after him all day, what’s the point of being clean? We have discussions quite often that start like this: “Cakes are these your shoes in the middle of the floor? They’re going to cause a fight…”

5. Who is your fictional character hero of 2010? I wish it was someone from a book since that would make me sound more intelligent, but it’s probably Tami Taylor

6. If you could play any sport professionally what would it be? Tennis. Minus the tennis elbow.

7. If you could have one tool to make this blog better, what is it? A graphic designer.

8. You can be transported to one country NOW, where are you? Possibly Israel. New obsession.

9. What is your lasting memory from our wedding? This is a hard question because I feel like I mostly remember all the little things that went wrong, even though nobody noticed. I know I’m not supposed to focus on those things, but it’s hard not to when you put so much time and effort into it. But my favorite memory is probably seeing all our friends and family after the video. That, or driving to Oklahoma City with you after the wedding.

10. What book are you dying to read? They’re not really reading books, but I have three on my Amazon wish list right now; all sewing books. Handmade Beginnings, The Bag-Making Bible, and Twinkle Sews. Gah, I’m an eighty year old woman.

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Two Seven

Today is my wife’s 27th birthday (and my half birthday). Yesterday was our 100th post in a row. Those two statements have little in common other than they are both minor milestones she was probably at times unconfident she would ever reach. Now I’m at her side for both of them, what a joyous occasion for her. Perhaps she’ll bake cookies in my honor. In her honor I’m writing “27 absolutely random things I love about my wife in absolutely no sensical order.” Here we go…

27. She up-cycles and amends her own clothes – suffice to say I’ve kept her away from mine, but I know it’s coming. It’s really a war of attrition. I feel like Sly Stallone in the first Rambo, just fighting for my life.

26. She just ran by our doorway in slo-motion on her way to the bathroom. I have no idea why, I thought she was going to moonwalk back into the living room and break into a limited edition Thriller dance. Alas.

25. She always lets me drive – Some might call this a “control issue” but I prefer to think of it as “the natural progression of leadership a man displays in a marital relationship.” Or something like that.

24. I rarely have to buy gifts for my friends or family – Never mind the fact that we spent $126 and 17 hours to make a scarf J. Crew would have given us for $11.99…

23. She comes up with my fantasy football team names – No really. Get this: Pot of Gould (<— Bears kicker) At The End of Dwayne Bowe (<— Chiefs wide receiver)…you should have seen my face when she said that phrase out loud, it was the same face I imagine my dad made when he got his grades from his first semester at college.

22. She always keeps the house clean…

21. She’s constantly saying things like “wait, under par is good in football right?” and “I heard Peyton Manning has the best ERA in all the world!” She says them with such confidence too so I always feel bad about laughing.

20. She trusts me.

19. She’ll play tennis with me even though we’re both terrible at it. Our “matches” usually end up looking like the first episode of Lost. You know, the one where the plane crashes and utter disaster ensues.

18. She drives a truck around Highland Park, Texas like a tiny-town Oklahoma girl should.

17. She reads. A lot. Or that’s what she tells me via email while I’m at work. Perhaps the wool has been pulled and she’s really been spending all our hard-earned money at the craft store?!? I’m going to need somebody to look into this…

16. She makes me take her to Braum’s instead of Cheesecake Factory. Our house fund would also like to take a moment to say he loves this about her.

15. She won a local pillowcase challenge. Well, she told me she won, then later on I found out that it wasn’t a competition at all, just a bunch of girls getting together to chat and sew. I was devastated. “Why did you even go?” I asked. I don’t want want to live in a world where sifting through various fabrics and sewing chic pillowcases has no more pressure on the line than an afternoon of tea and crumpets. I blame Martha, ever since that prison “incident” it’s just been all fun and games, minus the games.

14. An intramural referee once mistakenly identified her as a male participant in our softball game. It was love at first sight gender-identity crisis.

13. She plays the piano better than anyone knows.

12. I always act like I loathe getting dragged to antique stores and vintage markets, and if OSU is playing I actually do loathe this, but I actually enjoy the adventure. Shhh, don’t tell her though, I’m hoping she won’t read today.

11. She lets me eat popcorn for dinner. And watch tennis.

10. Statements like: “Somtimes, I guess I just wish I was a hobo…”

9. Her iTunes wish list makes indie, hippie, local coffee shops blush.

8. We don’t even ever have to actually bear children to get the effect. Note our 6-hour (six, not sixteen) honeymoon flight to Hawaii: [2 hours in] “Are we almost there? Is there more food? What movie are they showing? I hate this movie!”

7. She won’t let me settle for “good enough” – It actually makes me upset at the time but deep down I’m smiling. You hear me, Jen? DEEP DOWN I’M REALLY SMILING!!!

6. She’s like a fabulous combination of Lorelai and Rory from The Gilmore Girls. Yes, I watch it. Yes, I’m serious. No, I’m not kidding you. Yes, it’s better than 99% of current TV shows. Yes, I’m serious. No, I’m not gay. Yes, you should watch it. Yes, yes, no, yes, yes, no, yes. There you go.

5. 101 days in and we haven’t had our first “I want a baby and I want it now” meltdown. The clock is ticking though…both of them.

4. Matt Chandler is right, boy has a smell. I didn’t realize it until recently. Girl has a smell too and it’s a lot better than boy.

3. She believes in what I am yet to become. That’s tough, she’s great at it.

2. Even if everybody else stops reading my words she still will. I think. Well, I know she will if I can convince her the only way I’ll continue to feed her Netflix documentary fetish is if she can formidably discuss any and every thing I write on this and my other blog. And even then it’s probably 50/50

1. She’s just…mine. And we are God’s. And it is good.

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Football Season…as a Married Man

Well my perspective has changed, marriage and such. As a mid-20s single “adult” male the first week in September used to mean 18-weeks-too-soon in-depth Heisman analysis. It used to mean watching College Football Live so much I actually wanted Lou Holtz to have a medical “accident” debilitating enough for him to not be on the air anymore but not serious enough to threaten his life. It used to mean waking up at 9 AM, riding my bike with my friends to our tailgate, and not riding it home again until at least 9 PM. This year? Things are a little different…

The 5 reasons I’m fired up for my first college football season as a married man (in reverse order of course):

5. Waking up at 11 AM for the obligatory Wisconsin vs. Northwestern game on ESPN2. I’m excited for this because I can’t wait to watch two unathletic Big 10 teams that have a 293:4 run to pass ratio “battle” to a 9-6 “thriller.” I’m also excited for this because I know my new wife of 3 months will faithfully cook and serve me smoked Brazilian sausage and freshly imported Norwegian eggs for breakfast as I turn my body into a corpse and stare at games for 19 straight hours.

4. Road trips to Stillwater to watch OSU go 7-5 for the 29th year in a row (I just erased the Bob Simmons years). I can’t wait to hear things like the following:
“Ugh, Weeden’s eyes just aren’t as pretty as Zac’s were, do we HAVE to go to this game?” “Jen, he has 29,302 passing yards through 4 games…let’s cut him some slack.”
“Wait, why are there eleven teams in the big twelve next year?” “Um, because Nebraska hates the forward pass and wants to run the ball a hundred times a game with the likes of those Big 10 teams I mentioned in #4.”
“Is there going to be food this time?” “Yes Jen, there’s always food.”
“How old is Gundy this year? He has such weird hair.” “I know he does, and he’s 43, let’s get over the “I’m a man”  thing, please.

3. Because we’ll undoubtedly have the “will you choose your love for me and take me to Canton for antique searching or your love for this barbaric event of sport and stay home and be numb all day?” conversation. And I’ll probably feel bad and give in and while I’m gone Ryan Mallett will throw for 900 yards as Arkansas beats Georgia in 9 OT in the greatest college game of all time and Jen and I won’t talk for 2 days. The part I’m looking forward to is 10 years from now when we look back and laugh about it (although mine will be one of those nervous “nobody knows if I’m a lunatic or not” laughs because I’ll still be a little bitter about it).

2. Conversations like this:

Jen: “Why are you holding a magnifying glass up to the computer screen so you can illegally watch Villanova and Miami (OH) play a meaningless game in September?”
Me: “Because I’m in a fantasy football keeper league and there’s a guy ‘Nova has that I might want to draft next year. I’m checking him out, is that a problem?”
Jen: “I thought you had your draft for that yesterday”
Me: “I did but my team stinks so I’m already looking forward to next year.”
Jen: “You’re already giving up, that’s awesome. Didn’t that cost us $40?”
Me: “Yeah…sorry…except that I’m not since you DON’T HAVE A JOB!”
Jen: “That’s mature, that was my CRAFTING MONEY FOR THIS MONTH!!!”

I promise we’ll have that conversation at some point this season. Promise.

1. We live 10 minutes from the Cotton Bowl. You can bet your fried stick of butter we’ll be killing the Texas State Fair that weekend. I’d rather stab myself in the forearm than go to that game and cheer from either team but we’ll probably eat our weight in fried foods. Can’t wait.

My Picks:

Title Game: Florida over Boise St. (that pick is about to get real on Saturday when Boise plays VT…oh and John Brantley is a better QB than Tebow…yeah, I said it)

Heisman: Jake Locker, Washington

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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.

The Fear of Marriage

I was talking with Kyle’s sister this past weekend about marriages and divorce rates and parents who leave their families and never take interest in their children. 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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Writing is Pursuing

I love to write. I think that’s fairly obvious. I once wrote like 9,000,000 words on OSU going undefeated in football last year. Then Dez got….well you know how that story ends, that’s not why we’re here though.

One of my friends (who has a great blog – shameless plug) recently wrote about the importance of pursuing a woman, about how women were meant to be chased, and caught, and chased some more. That sentence makes him sound like he moved to Utah, bought three double-wides, and set up camp as a full-time polygamist. I didn’t mean for it to sound like that. I meant for this to be a rebuttal to my wife’s beautiful post from earlier this week.

Another one of my friends (I’ve listed roughly 8%-9% of my friends on this post) told me a story one time about his story and how he was trying to make it better. He got married on May 30, 2009 and on the 30th of every month he writes his wife a letter (I don’t know what he does in February). He writes a letter about how proud he is of her and how much he loves her and how much he wants to keep chasing her and romancing her. I admire this friend quite a bit.

In fact, I decided to emulate him. On the 5th of every month I’m going to write Jen a letter (printing out my latest post and shoving it in an envelope doesn’t count either). I’m going to write to her about how much I admire her and about how she makes me want to be something greater than I usually think I want to be. I’m sure sometimes I’ll tell her where I’m struggling and where I think our relationship could use some improvement. And most always I’ll assure her that this whole thing is real and wonderful, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

J.D. Salinger, he of “Catcher in the Rye” fame and glory, was quoted once as saying “there are still a few men who love desperately.” I’m not trying to go all DiCaprio in Titanic melodrama on you, but it’s true. The world is overflowing with things to love and it would appear that a lover of one woman’s soul is not a cultural stature to be attained in this current age.

But we are not here to get lost in culture. Writing letters is how we fell in love, it’s likely how we’ll stay. For to write to another is to read and translate one’s own thoughts and ideas into something coherent and wonderful. To write is to be alive. And if you don’t believe me, just remember the medium through which God gave us the most important story that’s ever been told.

Keep writing.

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“Domestics”

Last week one of my old friends (not “long in the tooth” old but more like “we did stupid stuff in college and traveled Europe with nothing more than a backpack and now we talk about marriage and kids” old) asked me what Jen and I struggle with most. My first 55 thoughts ranged from “she likes weird TV shows” to “try to not kill each other” but I settled on something else….

Something we struggle with (and always have, as many of you can attest) is that we’re prone to let minuscule squabbles turn into full-blown fights (or “domestics” as some of our friends call them) rather quickly. We can go from “how come we don’t have any milk?” to “you have so many unseemly character flaws I don’t even know where to start belittling you” faster than Kate Gosselin can sign up for another reality TV show.

I guess on a scale of 0 to OJ Simpson we fall somewhere on the innocent side of things. But words are powerful and power can change the course of lives. James says the noise emitting from our mouths can be like a fire burning down acres and acres of trees. He compares it to guiding a ship through the sea, it controls everything, it blesses and curses. We’re just not always good at the blessing part right now.

So my friend laughed at me as if to say “you aren’t the only one, brother.” I know this and yet I can’t help but want to be better, to not struggle with unsightly flaws and embarrassing shortcomings. But that’s marriage, it seems to exacerbate those flaws and shortcomings to the point that you wonder why nobody ever told you about them before. That’s why it’s beautiful though, because it is refining and refurbishing, even if you have to go through the fire along the way.

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