April 26, 2013

{Unconventional} Marriage Secrets Day 9

{Unconventional} Marriage Secret #2 :  Keep 'IT' Sacred

     So in our last post we talked about the importance of sex in marriage and how we as spouses are called to come together with our bodies because ultimately it glorifies God.

       So today we are going to dig in to keeping intimacy sacred and holy as God intended and how easily it can be polluted.  It is also possible to go overboard and hold the actual act of sex on a pedestal and idolize it, which is just as sinful as withholding it like we talked about yesterday.

       Michael and I have both read the book Wired for Intimacy- How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain-- and I highly recommend it for any believer- married or not! I think so many ladies are way too oblivious about what goes on with their man and inside his head as well as what goes on inside their own heads and what that can lead to. I don't think women realize that even something as simple as that darn Victorias's Secret catalog that comes 3 times a week is, in reality, pornography on some level. The male brain is scientifically proven to be visually stimulated. It just takes one tiny flash of skin to turn a man's head. For example, Michael and I were scrolling through my Pinterest feed on my phone. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw this thumbnail and flung his head around and said, "Whoa! Is that somebody naked?" This is a photo of a leg and it's a link to an article on dry brushing for skin tone, cellulite removal, detox, etc. Nothing sexual about it. And me, in my woman brain would've never thought about it sexually at all. But when a man sees a glimpse of this naked leg his brain starts firing.

    And ladies, here is my soapbox for you.  Our 'porn' is not what you think it is. Our 'porn' is not Hustler or Playboy magazines or even the ones that feature men. Our 'porn' is trashy romance novels, movies like Magic Mike, and even photos on Pinterest of a shirtless Ryan Gosling or Taylor Lautner. Think about it, even when you watch a movie that has a romantic scene like in The Notebook or even Dirty Dancing (my sinful personal fave), if it makes you think lustful or longing thoughts, it is porn. Anything that takes your heart or head to that place that is not your husband is pornography. And pornography is the gateway drug to infidelity. Your husband should be your standard of desire. Your eyes should undress no one but him, your heart long for only him.

Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

So this is Michael chiming in and in true MC fashion I will be honest. We live in an over sexualized culture that has most of us deceived. Bachelor parties are synonymous with strip clubs. The Super Bowl half time show is not something I let my kids watch at their age. The top 40 hit Locked Out of Heaven features the lyric "your sex takes me to paradise". You think ole Bruno and his baby face is singing about sacred love between a husband and wife? I think not. 

Everything in our culture is about sex. Marketers learned a long time ago that sex sells and they have been taking advantage of you ever since. It's funny... one of my competitors in my business uses it as a recruiting tactic. He find the hottest "transportation barbies" as we call them and sends them to career fairs. 

But Who Does it Hurt... Really

What is the consequence though? It's a victimless crime you've been told. What you do in the privacy of your own home is no one else's business. It's your choice, your body and people can do as they wish with their bodies. If you believe any of that crap you are stupid. Yes... STUPID IGNORANT AND BLIND. Porn is not victimless. 

Do some research on sex trafficking in the United States. 

Porn hijacks the male brain. It changes the hedonic set point - google it. Sexual addiction is more powerful than heroin. Viewing pornography literally short circuits your brain and the way you engage the world. I am not going to make a case because I will do a bad job of it. But I am going to provide resources here that you can review for yourself. Don't hide in shame. Deal with your dark passenger. Statistically speaking, most men struggle with this. It's not the multi-billion dollar industry it is for no reason. 

Consider The Cost

It is not victimless. We color sex trafficking up in the US and call it porn. Most of the girls involved in pornography are drunk, high, and have been duped into the lifestyle. Makers of porn prey on young girls that have been abused and suffer form low self worth. Every time you click on "free" porn you are complicit in advocating and perpetuating the abuse. 

Please review the material I link. Read the short e-book Porn Again Christian. Pay attention to the Jeffrey Dahmer story. Read the info we provide. Take some time to educate yourself in the things to which you expose yourself.  Read the link below One Real Man's Story. He is a real person we know in our real life and whom we love dearly.  What are you inviting into your home through television, movies, books, etc? What legacy are you creating? Search your soul. Stop the darkness. Women, learn what your men are going through. Stop your own stupid fantasies that drive us away. We can never measure up to the BS fantasy you have in your head of some Ryan Gosling internet meme! Stop! 

A list on TheResurgence 
Porn Again Christian
One Real Man's Story
Scroll Down to Topics of Sexuality
Wired for Intamacy
Hookers for Jesus
Resources relating to Rid of My Disgrace
Rid of My Disgrace - For victims of sexual assault

April 22, 2013

{Unconventional} Marriage Secrets Day 8

{Unconventional} Marriage Secret #3: Just Do 'It'

Warning: Mom & Dad--- Feel free to skip this one if you like :)

     Michael and I feel that sex is SOOOO utterly important to marriage. Also, we think sex is so important, we are devoting two out of our  ten secrets to it, today's post as well as tomorrow's.  And ladies, notice how I am saying "we" not just "he."We have continued to mention that we have had struggles and terrible times in our marriage, but somehow, the one thing we have pretty much always managed to keep intact is our intimate life. If you have ever spent any time around us as a couple, you can sense the passion and deep love we have for one another.

     From the very beginning of the Bible, God instructed Adam and Eve to be "fruitful and multiply". He said "two shall become of one flesh" and so God is telling married couples to have sex! So as He is calling me to speak His truth, I am telling you to "do it".

        Sex was made by God and to glorify God. He loves it when you do it with your spouse. He loves it when you do it to serve each other and not to control one another. It helps you connect, it protects your marriage, it relieves stress, it is FUN. Why are we not all having sex all the time?

Plan For It

     Early in our marriage when we were kid free it really seemed like any time and place worked. Right? Even when we just had one kid who slept alone in his crib and spent many weekends away at my parents, we still managed to maintain some spontaneity in our physical life. But the more kids we add and the more activities those kids have, it;s like Farmer in the Dell up in here and we just can't seem to muster up the time or energy to do it. Can I get an Amen?

     I've said before it is often 9 pm before I sit down in the day to unload and decompress. When I walk downstairs after tucking in all the boys- disagreeing on school clothes for Mikey,  reading Clifford's Birthday for the 157th time to Linc, and nursing Knox-- sometimes physical connection is the farthest thing from my mind. I often need to switch over from Mom Becca to Wife Becca. But what happens if I am too tired and never make that switch. Or too hi-strung from the stressors of my day? And then it goes on to the next night? And then the next?

    We can tell when it's been too long because we will both start picking at each other and about silly things. Usually, we are able to identify the problem- lack of sex. So at that point, we make a plan. No distractions, sucker up and just do IT! We no longer live our lives where there are abundant opportunities for sex. As a busy couple, the actual window opportunity is pretty narrow.

      And I will be honest, sometimes I am like "okay, let's go on with it" but sex is like working out. It may take some effort to get your running shoes on and get to the gym, but once you sweat it all out on the treadmill you never regret it right? There has never been a time when afterwards I said to myself "Gosh, I wish I hadn't taken the time to do that." Sex is also a lot like pizza.  Even bad pizza is still delicious. Even bad or quick sex is still sex.

   And on that let's talk about frequency. I am not here to say there is a set amount of times per week or month that we should be consummating as couples. I think that depends on the couple. For some couples 'normal'= weekly. For others it could be daily. I think that it's 'normal' if both spouses desires and needs are being met.

   So I challenge you this--- when was the last time you did IT? If it has been more than a few days, pencil it in, text your husband, add it to your Google calendars and set an alarm reminder on your phone!! Just do IT. It is important. And remember, bad sex is still better than no sex or even bad pizza.

Give It Freely

    So here is where I think ladies struggle more than men. On this specific post I'm not going to go into all the biological details of how women work vs. how men work. But simply put-- women are like crock pots and men are like microwaves. Right? As a whole, women need the mental warm up in order to be physically intimate.  Some women, however, either knowingly or unknowingly, use that 'warm up' time to control and manipulate the situation. They make their men do all sorts of tricks in order just to get a little lovin' time because they think men will often do almost anything for sex.

   Ladies-- nowhere in the Bible does it say "Have sex with your husband if he is nice. Have sex with your husband if he buys you gifts. Have sex with your husband if he does all his chores."
SEX in marriage is not a privilege to be earned. It is just a part of marriage. It is to be given freely. If you are making your husband earn sex then essentially you are engaging in prostitution! Do not make him 'pay' for SEX.  One of my favorite verses is
For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

It means exactly what you think it does. It then goes on to say that one is not to deprive the other of sexual relations unless there is consent from both, and even then, only for a short period of time.  Michael and I are huge fans of the controversial marriage book by Mark & Grace Driscoll, Real Marriage. They have some awesome advice on sex for our generation of married couples.

Now, of course there are reasons, logical reasons that difficulties and 'dry' seasons come up in intimacy. Maybe the wife just had a baby and she is feeling exhausted. Maybe the husband is struggling in his business and is feeling insecure about his worth as a man. Maybe there has been some secret sin in the marriage. We will go into depth about these type of things at another time.

Bottom line-------> If you are choosing to be and stay married, you choose to do all parts of marriage, especially sex.

Yeah... what she said. 

I'm a little leery about agreeing to putting all this out there. While all things here need to be said, they are personal. These things are private. There is a much more delicate way to say things. It is certainly possible to be a little more guarded and vague. But could that be a problem in our churches and conversations?

Tomorrow we will get more into some of the conversations we should be having. 

For now let's revisit our earlier post about models. It's possible many people have unrealistic models in our head about what our sex life should be. Herein lies another problem. You shouldn't have an idea or model outside your spouse. Your spouse should be your standard of beauty. You two need to TALK ABOUT YOUR SEX LIFE. Sit down over a cup of coffee or glass of wine and TALK. Talk about what you like and dislike. Talk about what you expect. Be honest about what's in your head and allow the other to feel safe to share with you. 

I have it better than most being married to Becca. She has a really balanced, healthy, and biblical view of sex. She has done a great job going after the women here and calling them out to step up in love and service to their husbands. Men, revisit my comments in this prior post. Think about what your wife wants! 

When was the last time you thought about what she wanted? When was the last time you thought about the tough day she had wiping butts and playing chauffeur to your crazy kids? I've been in sales for 11 years. I've been managing sales people for 6. I've been in charge of training our entire sales staff over a year. Here is the cornerstone of communication in any sales relationship; sell the way your customers want to buy. Sell to your wife the way she wants to buy. This is beyond business. This is how people are wired. They want to matter. They want to feel loved. Use it at home - it works! 

You've heard the golden rule right? What about the platinum rule? Treat others the way they like to be treated. Men, we tend to be selfish. We tend to think with our sex drive. Slowwww down. Think. Think about your wife. You live in your pants, but your wife lives in her head. That's where you have to meet her. You gotta talk, man. Becca said above for women not to use "romance" to manipulate. I'm telling you don't use your privileges as a husband as an excuse to not be romantic. 

Here's a practical tip. Pick a sex night. It can be the same night every week. It can be an alternating night you pick. But pick a night. Husbands, be sure that you are giving her what she needs while you are getting what you need. 

April 21, 2013

{Unconventional} Marriage Secrets Day 7

{Unconventional} Marriage Secret #4: Secrets Don't Make Friend

      Today friends, we are talking about honesty.

      If you know me, you know that I am a terrible liar. I have a hard time concealing anything, and there is not much that embarrasses me. But in writing this series, I am learning that my husband and I really are one, and his junk is my junk, his sin is my sin,  his secrets are my secrets, and vice versa.  Are there secrets that you are keeping or have kept from your spouse?? We keep secrets because we have shame. We fear rejection. We fear the domino effect of the events that may unfold once our secret is exposed.   The beauty of being in a marriage where God is in the center, is that when we do stumble and when we do hide things, the darkness always comes to light.

       If you do have an area that needs some light shedding, the enemy love to throw shame your way. He wins by heaping condemnation on your head. But the loving Holy Spirit guides us into conviction and to the arms of the grace of the Father.

      I am telling you friends, secrets will destroy your life and destroy your marriage. One of the most important lessons we have learned along the way is that if one of you struggles with something, the worst thing you can do is to hide it from your spouse. Because you can never hide anything from Jesus.  And if you can share your struggles with your spouse, your spouse can struggle with you. They can hold you accountable and help you and be a resting place of comfort when you struggle.

     Don't let secrets and dishonestly devour your marriage. Allow the beautiful light of the Father to expose everything.

In other words... secrets will kill you. Not your marriage at first. They will kill you. Then the sin of your secret will kill your marriage. I'm not saying people with secrets all get divorced, but I am saying many of us have dead marriages. 

When we have a secret, it's a secret for a reason. That secret carries some amount of shame or guilt. It's a secret because if it came out there might be a consequence. We might have to own something or change something. Even worse, we may have to give something up. For many of us, we love our secret. 

Our secrets bring us comfort. The emotional affair in which we are engaged is comforting. The pornography we view has hijacked our brain. What's more the women on the screen don't reject or ask anything of you. Women... I'm not letting you off easy. Your fantasies - your ridiculous and unrealistic fantasies are secrets that are subversive to your husband and you should fall down in repentance. 50 Shades of Gray, Magic Mike, Swooning over Taylor Lautner before he becomes wolf boy... it's just porn for women. Bring into the light the secrets of your heart. 

Some of us have past sins we carry. We have things we don't want to deal with. Some of us carry shame from things that were done to us. I've met many women that carry the secret of abuse around. They allow it to alter their identity and they bring that fractured identity into their marriage. It's not your fault. Bring it into the light. Get some healing. 

I've got a story for another time. But I can tell you that I (Michael) carried secrets. I carried (and still do) struggles that I have had since I was a child. Bearing them alone only made things worse. The baby snake grew to a monster beast that was about to kill me. Then I killed it... I drug it into the light and killed it. It fights and kicks, but at least it's out there. 

What secret do you need to tell your spouse?

April 20, 2013

{Unconventional} Marriage Secrets Day 6

{Unconventional} Marriage Secret # 5:Pray For Each Other- Together and Apart

      I know this sounds like a no brainer, but it's one of those things you don't realize works until you actually put it into practice. There are two parts- praying for each other together and praying for each other while apart.

I see all of these cutesy little things on Pinterest like "31 Days of Prayer for Your Husband" or "10 Ways to Pray for Your Husband." Those are fine and dandy if you need something to follow. I am not knocking them whatsoever. But I fear many ladies out there may use these tools to just go through the motions and check off their 'wife duty' for the day without really realizing the power and importance of prayer for your mate.

Did you know that when you pray for someone it softens your heart towards them? Don't believe me? Think of someone you are in strife with or someone who just really makes you crazy. Make it a point to pray for them daily. It may not be today or tomorrow but over time, the Lord will soften your heart towards that person.  When Michael and I are going through a difficult time, if I just stop and pray for him, my heart is softer and much more approachable.  When you pray, you are initiating a voluntary conversation with God, creating an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit is much more welcome to speak His truth.

       Praying together is something we still struggle with. I think because it makes us so vulnerable. We never even actually did it until a couple of years ago and we both admit we need to do it more. Have you ever prayed for your spouse where they can physically hear you? There is something so humbling about it. When you hear your spouse talk to the Lord about you it speaks volumes about the way he sees you.

Becca must be going soft. This is the most sugar coated post she's written yet! Here's the truth, friends. We suck at this!! 

Right now we are going through it. Our 6 year old is going through some things emotionally, our middle one is mad at the world and yells about everything, and our baby has to have tubes next week. Add to that I am in the busiest and most trying time I've ever been through professionally. I barely have time to think. We are going through some transitions as it relates to church. We are starting a slight remod to the home. Everything is tumultuous. 

We are great about trudging through things. We can take a lick and keep on going. Neither of us rests well let alone pray well. Becca and I can fight things out. We can talk and figure stuff out. I love to solve problems. I can see things before they happen. I can figure out what Becca is really thinking and diagnose root cause (she hates that). Unfortunately, the last thing we do with one another is sit down and pray about things together. 

Usually my quick wit and condescending tone wins out over a careful, contemplative, and prayerful heart. If you have read any of our blogs lately I hope you will see a couple of themes. One major theme is intentionality. If we are not intentional about making time for and prioritizing things that matter, they will not happen. This is a place where we are not giving advice. We are offering you insight into our struggle and inviting you to struggle with us. 

How do you and your spouse make time to pray and hear God together?

April 19, 2013

{Unconventional} Marriage Secrets Day 5

{Unconventional} Marriage Secret #6:  Ask For Help When You Need It

    I said earlier in this series that the main reason we have it on our hearts to write this is not because we think we have this perfect marriage, but because in our 8 short years of marriage, we feel like we have faced many more troubles and woes than many couples, especially for such a short time. And by going through these trenches, God has carried us through, all the way. And because we have made it, we know others can too.

    If you don't know much about our backgrounds, Michael's dad died when Michael was just 9 years old. His grandfather- aka "Grampy", and his Uncle Curtis both played a significant role in his upbringing after that. He was extremely close to both of them. He lived with Curtis for awhile even in high school. And even when I met him in college, he had daily phone conversations with Grampy. Six months into our dating relationship, Curtis passed away unexpectedly at the young age of 34. Michael, of course, was devastated. He had lost his dad already and now his uncle. Two father figures gone by the time my husband was only 21 years old. Luckily, Grampy was around to help fill up that gap.
      Fast forward about two years later. Michael and I were married in April of 2005. With his northeastern accent, Grampy gave a toast that normally a Father of the Groom would give, full of pride and joy. We all wiped a tear as the tough, Yankee old man told us "And may the only problems you have, be little ones that crawl on the floor." If only we knew at that time the truth that would come to fruition from that statement. :)

     It was early November when we found out. I honestly can't even remember how or when, I just remember thinking, 'NO!!! Not another one!!" We had been married no more than 5 months when Grampy was diagnosed with cancer. And not just one tumor or one area. He had cancer and his cancer had cancer. It was everywhere. Lungs, liver, and the worst place- the lymph nodes. In early November they told us that he hopefully would make it to Thanksgiving but more than likely not Christmas. It had already spread so much and he knew the treatment would be hellacious. He was prepared to kiss his full life goodbye.  He was a spirited old man and had fought many battles. He was done fighting. But funny and awesome how our God works.

The week after that Thanksgiving, Michael and I found out we were expecting......completely and utterly unplanned. We were actually quite frightened. We were planning to wait 5 years before starting a family. God's plan always comes out on top in case you didn't know. The promise of a grandchild gave Grampy the fight he needed. He started treatment right away and perked up for that Christmas he wasn't supposed to see. It was an up and down next few months. Me being pregnant, Michael establishing his career, and Grampy fighting for his life.  Grampy climbed a slow uphill battle and we thought he was going to pull thru and show us a miracle. Sadly though, around Father's Day of that year he took an instant decline and passed away a few days later. I was about 6 weeks before my due date. He almost made it. He wanted so bad to see his first great grandchild.

        There are no words to describe what my husband went through. Now, at the age of 25, he had lost three 'dads'. Now that is just not fair, right? Oh and he was about to have a baby. Oh and he was starting to blossom in his career. He began to sink emotionally. He was withdrawn. He was angry all the time. He worked and drank to drown the pain of loss. And that was about it for awhile.

He seemed to be a little better once the baby was born, but within a few weeks, he slipped back into his deep pit. He was angry all the time. We fought all the time. I was needy-- all the time. I had just had my first baby. I was adjusting to life as a stay at home mom for the first time. We were the first of all of our friends to have a baby and I felt completely alone. And I longed for my husband to be with me and to reach out to me for comfort instead of pushing me away. But all we did was push each other farther and farther apart. We got to a breaking point when Michael, jr was about 7 months old; this was one month before our 2 year anniversary.

Neither one of us could take any more. I had been begging and pleading to go to counseling for a few months and he refused. Then finally one day, to my surprise, he angrily said "Yes, but I get to pick the person."  I was fine with that. Anything to get him to go.

      The counselor, let's call him Mr. C, met with each of us individually initially, and then we started meeting together as a couple. The 2 of us went together one week, then he went by himself. We alternated like that for about 10 months until Mr. C. finally said we had graduated. When we were going through counseling at first we didn't tell anyone. We were so embarrassed and ashamed. What young couple has to go to counseling after being married less than 2 years? What was wrong with us? Why couldn't we just be the normal, happy couple I always dreamed of being? Slowly over the course of that 10 months we told a handful of people. But it wasn't until the past few years that we've been more transparent about those first 2 horrible years and the fact that we were in counseling.

     Now we look back on it and we are so grateful. So grateful the Lord put us together. So grateful that He carried us through such a tumultuous time. So grateful the Lord said "Hey guys this is not about you. Give me the reigns and let me handle it." And so we did. We gave in to the process. We learned most importantly to forgive. We also learned that if you make the choice to be married, you make the choice to figure it out. We learned to let go of the past and press on with tomorrow. And most importantly, we learned how to talk to each other. We had no clue how to communicate effectively with one another. It is honestly still something we struggle with. We will never be perfect. But now we know we are on the same team, not opposing.

      We look back now and say, "We didn't get help because we are terrible. We got help because we cared enough about our marriage."

Whew... this is a tough one. It's hard not to weep as I read this. Reliving the pain of those first few years is awful. Sometimes it's a blur. Remembering those times is like watching a Lifetime special and feeling so sorry for those poor people. I still fight shame and regret from those times. 

I remember the day my uncle died. We had all been awake and waiting at the hospital for about 36 hours. We had to take him off life support and let him go. Once he was gone, I went to the bar and drowned it out. I remember the night my grandfather died. One of the most regrettable nights in my life. He was at home on hospice. We waited, we watched, and I drank. As we waited for him to pass the time cut like a knife... I drank. 

By the time he finally died I was blitzed. My heart bled out loud. Then I got ugly and mean. I lashed out at everyone around me. No one was safe from the pain. This continued on for a long time. This is the world I brought my son into. This is the life I had built for my wife. Good money, house, cars, addiction, and strife. It was terrible. 

I don't even want to talk about the events that led us to our breaking point. I wanted out. I couldn't believe I had gotten married. I felt stuck because I had a kid. I carried mother wounds, father wounds, wounds of loss, and insecurity into my marriage and I wanted out. Our counselor was awesome. One day I was lamenting how I felt duped into marriage and now stuck. I'd like to quote him: 

Mr C.: "Michael, who had the gun"
Me: "Uh.. what?"
Mr. C: "At your wedding, who had the gun? Who held the gun and forced you down the aisle?"
Me: "No one"
Mr. C: "You're married; now let's make the best of it."

Sounds romantic right? Sometimes that is the great truth about marriage. This is not Disney. Becca is not a princess and I am far from prince charming. I sat astonished. I could not believe that this was the best this cat had to offer. "Make the best of it" Really????

This is when I began to learn about leadership and choices. This is when I began to learn love and grace. This is when our marriage really began. Prior to that we were two college kids that got in over our heads and were drowning in heartache. Then we got help. 

Look... I'm still no peach. Probably never will be. But by the grace of God and the forgiveness of my wife we have grown. We are a model of how to do everything wrong and still stay together. Ask for help. Raise your hand and scream for help. It is ok to have no idea what you are doing. I give you permission as your friend to be jacked up, broken, and mess up. Just get guidance. If someone has a problem and seeks to judge you, send them to see me. I have no problem removing a plank from someone's eye while they are looking at your speck of dust. 

Remember... we sin well He saves well. Be open, be honest, no when you are at your limit. 

April 17, 2013

{Unconventional} Marriage Secrets Day 4

{Unconventional} Marriage Secret # 7:  Have Your Own 'Things'

      I don't mean 'things' in the literal sense like material objects.  We actually strongly suggest against separating belongings like bank accounts, power tools, and fraternity sweatshirts. By 'things' I mean- activities, hobbies, and interests.
      For some reason, we women dream up these fantasies about marriage in our heads where once we tie the knot, except for work, we are with our husband 99% of the time. I really thought was how it would play out. That was my version of Happily Ever After. We would get married then every waking moment possible would be spent together, right? Nope. I remember being so offended when he would want to go do things without me. I took it so personal. I always thought, "Why on earth would he want to do something without me, his precious wife?" It took me the first 2-3 years in our marriage to learn that him wanting to do something outside of me was not because he didn't love me or want to spend time with me. And honestly, every now and then, I still struggle with it sometimes. My own insecurities and fear made me become that sitcom nagging wife that was trying to muzzle her husband and only let him out every now and then. The tighter I would pull, the more he would try to break away. If you don't let your husband lead and be a man, he can lead and be a man--- his divine calling.
      Over time we both have developed our own interests and hobbies. Now that I think about it, we actually have more NOT in common than we have IN common. Over the 8 years we've been married, his interests/activities have included the following: cycling, reading dead theologians, church activities, and now Crossfit. I have dabbled in just about every type of form of exercise and fitness, Bible study groups, my sewing business, and now my blog.  He likes non-fiction books and I barely have time to read. He likes to sit and listen to concerts and tv and I despise it. It seems like we are both always evolving; creating new little facets of ourselves for our partner to explore and learn about. And because we have these things of our own, neither of us is struggling for 'space' or our own identity. We are extremely different people and have grown to appreciate our differences.  We freely give it, without making the other feel guilty. Actually, right now, he is out at a Mavs game and then tomorrow I have Pink Impact, a big women's conference at church.
     Back when we just had one kid and our life was not quite so crazy, Michael had just gotten really interested in cycling. When I say interested, I mean he spent a total of about 12-14 hours per week on his bicycle. Now, looking back, that was pretty extreme. But at the time, we just had one child who was the easiest baby in the world. I kept busy with the gym and playgroups, and so I really didn't think much of it. I remember a mom in playgroup saying, "You let your husband ride his bike that much?????"My response was, "Yes I do. It makes him happy and healthy at the same time. Who am I to try and keep him from something that does that? It's a stress reliever for his hi-stress job and he is much more pleasant to be around when we has ridden and relieved that stress."
    So are there things that you are criticizing your partner for doing? Things that bring him/her joy? Don't you want your partner to have the desires of their heart, just as God wants for all of us?  Do you think that your mate will be much more pleasant to be around if they have some time or things for themselves? Are there things in your heart that you would like to spend some time exploring?  As long as it lines up with scripture, go for it!! Something new and fun will bring something new and fun to the relationship. And that time away will help you feel refreshed and give you some clarity to the every day mundane tasks.

And I am type for him tonight, since he is out--- get the point? :) 

April 16, 2013

10 {Unconventional} Marriage Secrets- Day 3

{Unconventional} Secret #8:   Honor Your Temple

         It sounds so simple. Honor your temple. (1 Cor 6:19) But what does it really mean and why?
I've been attempting to write this one actually for awhile because my fear is that I will come across as vain, idolatrous and/or judgmental.

        Take care of yourself. Really, do it.  I recently finished a bible study by Jennifer Rothschild and she talks about taking care of your temple. She lists it as 3 easy steps:

  • Eat
  • Move
  • Rest
  • ****get pretty ( I added this one on my own, I'll explain below)

       Eat.  If you've been following me for awhile you know that I eat Paleo. That is NOT what I'm saying you have to do. What I am saying is don't fill your precious temple with garbage. By garbage I mean excessive amounts of over processed foods, lots of corn products, hi amounts of white grains and sugar. When consumed regularly, all of that junk makes you tired and sluggish. When you feel icky, you don't have the energy to a.) focus your heart and thoughts on serving God  and b.) do the next step...

     Move.  Nobody is saying you have to run a marathon. Actually, don't run a marathon. That in no way sounds fun. You don't have to get up at 6am at go to spin class and you don't have to go join a gym. Just go for a walk when you can, fit in some outside play with your kids, ride a bike to carpool lane, etc. Exercise raises your energy levels and is also a stress reliever.  I get up at 5am and go get my workout in because I truly feel like I can tackle the day if I have already done that. My mind is sharper and my patience is greater. I can more readily worship and serve Jesus when I have this task out of the way. This is what works for me, I'm not saying it has to work for you. But find something that does work for you.

     Rest.  So do what I say and not what I do here. Okay? :) Women in general are TERRIBLE at this, me included. I always feel like I need to be doing something. I almost never sit down until 9pm at night and this is not what I recommend. All throughout the Bible we are commanded to take rest and to rest in the Lord. He gives it to us. He tell us to do so.

      Be Pretty.  Okay this is where I may hurt some feelings. Ladies, get out of the sweatpants/ maternity pants, put on a little mascara, blow dry your hair and take a little pride in your appearance. Your husband picked you. He picked you out of a crowd. Honor him by being his prize, his precious jewel that he is proud to come home to. As a busy mom of 3, ya'll know I have don't have excess time to primp and fuss. I only have time to wash my hair once about every 5 days or so. !GASP!  But when I do, I take the time to straighten it so that it looks decent for a few days. And on that, there is a fine line between yoga pants and sweat pants. If you are still carrying around a few extra baby pounds, get yourself some cute yoga pants or some knit waist skirts to transition into.  Remember in Friends when Chandler broke up with Janice and he wore the pj pants for forever? His lack of care in his appearance did something to him mentally. It kept him down. He didn't even have the confidence or energy to leave his apartment until he was able to change out of those dreadful pants.

    So why are these things all important? Your temple was bought for you. It was bought at a price, the life of God's only son. Your body is not your own, it belongs to God and to your spouse. Ladies, be someone who your husband wants to come home to and who shows appreciation for the gift of eternity you don't deserve.

Okay... I definitely have to chime in here. There are several reasons. I am a person that is constantly working to find balance. I don't rest well. My weight has always been a yo yo struggle. I am in no ways an expert or model. But I DO have some opinions. 

Ladies reading this... relay the following to your husband please. 

Fellas, would you want some fat, sweaty, nasty dude rolling over to get sex from you? NOPE. Do you think your wife wants some fat out of shape dude trying to heat her up. Probably not. Look I'm not saying this to be vain. I'm just saying drop the cheeseburger, lift some weight, and be a titan of love for your woman. 50 shades of Gray and Magic Mike are not the hits they are for no reason. Tune into your woman. Be her man. 

Your diet effects you. Your model effects your children. We'll talk more about legacy later. But we all pass on a legacy to our kids as it relates to faith, ethics, money, and food. The legacy passed to me was prescription drug abuse, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and binge eating. I will pass that to my kids if I don't make a conscious decision to change. Did you know that a lack of plants in your diet suppresses serotonin in the brain and produces depression? Did you know that exercise is the #1 treatment for anxiety. Good diet and exercise actually boosts testosterone in men. Bros, we want more T! 

When I roll out of my house looking sharp, the most important thing for me is that my wife is happy. I want my wife to be proud to be with me. 

I can't give advice on rest. I suck at that and could use some help from anyone that has advice. Hey... I'm just being honest. 

April 15, 2013

10 {Unconventional} Marriage Secrets- Day 2

{Unconventional} Marriage Secret #9:   Don't Call Yo Momma

.....Or your bestie, or your sister, or his mom, or his best friend, etc. 

     ALL husbands and wives have disagreements and arguments. ALL, repeat ALL. No marriage is without flaw. Some couples disagree every now and then while some disagree multiple times in a day. Every spouse experiences some disappointment in each other at some point in time. I think a common mistake many young married women is calling their mom or someone else and venting every time they are upset with their husband.  We, as women, are naturally inclined to want to talk it out. We get loosey goosey with our tongue when we get mad. We want someone on 'our' side when we get angry and so we instinctively turn to another person we are close to, like our mom, sister, friend, etc. We fill them in on every little wrong thing our husband did and then we may even embellish a little for good measure. 
Here is the problem with that; the next day or next hour or even next week when hubby apologizes for whatever silly thing he did and you forgive him and move on, the person you confided in is not as quick to move on. That other person, because they also love you, they feel the need to protect your honor. They saw you hurting and so they now feel angst against your husband. Not intentional, but that is our sinful way. 
 Ladies YOU took the marriage vows with your husband. No one else is included in or is even privy to anything that goes on with the exception of the Lord. Your husband married you. Because you made a vow to love him in better or worse, your heart is much quicker to soften towards him. You, more than likely, desire and aspire to love him unconditionally. None of those other confidants share that with you. And that's okay, you married him, not them. 

    We did our pre-marital counseling at Park Cities Presbyterian church and on the last day, the pastor spoke about this. It has proven to be one of the single most valuable pieces of marriage advice. Once in the old Testament and once in the New, the principle commonly referred to as 'leave and cleave' is mentioned. Genesis 2:24 & Matthew 19:5 both state the following :

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

   When we are upset, sad, or angry we should all seek the face of Jesus first as our ultimate comforter. He is much wiser than any earthly person could ever be and loves both you and your spouse equally. His desire is that, no matter what troubles come in your relationship, you and your husband would both draw in to Him. 

       There are times when one or both of you may need a little outside guidance, someone to physical talk to or cry to.  Things may get out of hand, ugly, and you both may be so deep in your own sin that some outside Godly counsel may be necessary. I have a whole other post coming on this, but for now if you are going to include someone else in your marriage, make sure they are of Godly counsel and are not biased towards either one of you. 

You know how most men joke about their mother in law? I don't have those jokes. I also love my wife's friends. My wife has done some things to royally piss me off in our marriage. I mean shaking in my boots, go for a drive and cool down mad. But that actually probably says more about me. Anyway... no matter how mad I get or how mad she is at me, she has NEVER included anyone else in our mess. 

There were times she could have. There were times that had she aired out my darkness, it would have changed the dynamic of all our relationships. I am happy to say that when it comes to this principle, my wife is aces. When I have to come back, repent, own my shame and sin I only have to own it to her and God. You know how much safer that makes our relationship emotionally? 

I feel so sad for men that have to wonder what the mother in law, the best friend, or sister is thinking once he and his wife have settled their dispute. My wife makes repentance safe for me. She makes space for me to be broken and find redemption in Jesus while she prays and supports me. 

April 14, 2013

10 {Unconventional} Marriage Secrets


       Next week is our 8 year anniversary. I know this sounds cliche' but--- I can't believe it!! And in those 8 years we feel like we have learned more than couples married twice that time. Our first 2 years were incredibly difficult. We are honest enough with each other to say that we almost didn't make it. But by God's amazing grace, love, and His constant presence in our marriage, we have learned some ways to make it. Our anniversary is 10 days from today, April 23,  so we will be sharing one snippet of guidance each day.

        If you have ever spent any time with us as a couple, you know that we are extremely passionate and in love. We truly are best friends and lovers at the same time. I say this not to condemn or say that we are better than anyone but to inspire others to use some of the lessons we have learned so that you and your spouse will have some insight into a true love story and that realize that it's not all foot rubs and trips to Lowe's together.  So let me put this out there------> (notice it is NOT in fine print!)

Disclaimer: The parties involved are not nor claim to be perfect. The only perfect marriage is the one of Jesus and The Bride of Christ one day when we see Him. 

{Unconventional} Secret #10Break Your Models

      My parents love to work in the yard. They always have. I guess you could call it their hobby. And they do it all themselves- no hired help. At almost 65, my dad gets out on the riding mower and mows the grass and at 70, my mom still gets out an blows leaves, pulls weeds, plants flowers, and trims bushes. When I was little, I remember weekends spent outside playing while they worked in the yard and seemed to have so much fun. They always have taken so much pride in a well manicured weed-free lawn. Many summer months our house won Yard of the Month because of the energy and attention to detail that way put into the outside of our house.  So naturally, when Michael and I got married, I thought we would work together smilingly to create a beautiful lawn.

That first summer we were married and had our first house,  I envisioned us working on yard projects together. In my head I dreamed of him mowing, me planting flowers, us pulling weeds together, then sitting back together to admire our hard work.  My Irish, red headed, fair skinned hubby, however, did not share that same dream. His idea of fun on a weekend was not being out in the hot Texas sun all day, only to have to do it again the next Saturday. Bless his heart, he tried. He mowed and trimmed and pulled a few weeds. But about a year into our marriage he decided to hire someone to mow the lawn.

WHAT??????     How could he not take pride in his lawn? How could he want to actually rest on the weekends? A real man takes care of his yard, right? He certainly doesn't pay someone to do it. I don't have a maid so why does he get to have yard help?

This fight went on and on for years. Actually until probably about a year ago if we are being honest. You see, my 'model' was one that had two parents who liked working in the yard. Because that was my only 'model' or experience to draw on, I thought that must be the way to do it. I thought that to be a real man, as a saw my dad, you must enjoy yard work. I never took into account my husband's desires about his free-time off of work. I never thought that anybody wouldn't like working in the yard. I never thought that he might have other hobbies, interests, etc that he would like to focus on when he is not working.

Here's another one for you...
Christmas. We all have our own 'model' for Christmas, right? All normal families open presents on Christmas morning right? Did you know that there are people in this world that actually open gifts on Christmas Eve??? Craziness, right? Well that is how my husband's family had always done it and I'm pretty sure early in our marriage I told him that was just flat our wrong and silly. In my 'model', we went to Granny's Christmas Eve, came home and slept in our beds, to awake on Christmas morning with a loot from Santa. Hubby's family woke him up sometime late at night to open gifts. Believe it not, this silly little thing has caused arguments in our marriage.

So what kind of 'model' do you need to break? Did your dad give your mom certain things on Valentine's Day that you expect  your husband to give you? Maybe it's not just your parents, maybe you have an aunt who folds laundry a certain way and so you do too, even though your hubby may like his shirts a different way. How often do we as females use fiction as a 'model'. How often have we played out a scenario in our head that we have seen in a favorite movie like The Notebook? Admittedly, I always wanted a guy to say "Nobody puts Baby in the corner." We, as women, have these models built in our heads and we expect our mates to live up to these high expectations that they may not even know about.

His 'model' is wrong and your 'model' is wrong. The only 'model' that is right is one that you build together, one where both of you love each other and love Christ more than you love yourself.

So here is Michael chiming in...
I'm not sure I would say that models are wrong or right necessarily. I would say to understand that they are just models. As husbands and wives we are to lead each other. We should learn to draw together on various models. The reality is that when I elevate the model in my head above my wife, I am ceasing to love and serve her and I am selfishly serving my own interests. We picked up this little nugget from Les and Leslie Parrot and I highly recommend their stuff. http://www.lesandleslie.com/

And BTW.... I do like yard work. I just like the mall, riding my bike, crossfit, and other stuff more. Not to mention that I am terrible at yard work. No matter how many guides I follow on fertilizing and watering, the weeds and clover in my yard actually get worse. But I digress.