Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shadow Boxing

 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 
(Ephesians 6:12)

A lot of times I forget that marriage is lived in the midst of a battlefield. There is a very real albeit invisible enemy fighting a very real albeit invisible war on unions everywhere. 


It happens when I'm at my weakest--when I'm tired, haven't had enough time alone, or when it's almost that time of the month. Joseph will say something that normally wouldn't bother me and I'll think "Why is he so mean to me?" He will forget to do something, and I'll think "Why do I always have to do everything?" He'll try to kiss me and I'll think "Is that all he wants me for?"

The thoughts continue to snowball until without even realizing it, I start becoming annoyed by everything he does. I'll start wondering what life would be like if I wasn't married to him. On a couple of extremely difficult occasions, I have even threatened to leave. 

I am not at all proud of these moments. But they do happen. And as I talk to more and more women, I realize I'm not alone in thinking these thoughts. Most of us married ladies truly adore our men. So what happens? How do we go from "Til death do us part" to "I'm better off without you?"

1 Peter 5:8 happens: "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." In the beginning, all he had to do was put one little doubt in Eve's mind, "Did God really say?" and it was enough to make her question God's love and doom the entire human race. His tactics still work thousands of years later. One little doubt "Does Joseph really care about you?" and a year or two down the road my marriage is doomed to fail. 

But I'm promised in James 4:7, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!" Woohoo! I'm learning to stop and pay attention to my thoughts, especially in times when I am physically weak. So I invite God's presence to come wherever I may be. If I can, I turn on some worship music and focus on the Lord. Sometimes I have been so deep in my hurt against Joseph that all I can do is say "Jesus, please help me!" And I feel His presence, and he reminds me of who I am, and who Joseph is, and who we are together. 


Father, let me always remember that my husband is not my enemy. My fight is not with him. 

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)






Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lessons From a Wedding

He was the best man. I was the maid of honor. He was 23. I was 21. We met at the rehearsal dinner and hit it off instantly. We joked and danced and discussed nerdy topics during the entire reception. Then he asked me to dinner (very cliche, I know) and I said yes. 

Our evening was lovely: sushi and a glass of wine, walking through the twinkling streets of downtown with my arm in his, stopping for an espresso at an artsy cafe. Laughter and starlight and music and warm summer air. He was the perfect gentleman. I felt like a queen. At the end of the night, he kissed my forehead, saying he was glad to know there were girls out there who who were beautiful and smart and not afraid to be themselves. We hugged goodbye and parted as kindred spirits. We remained friends for a long time after that. 

This is such a contrast to the rules of dating I've been taught: A girl alone with a guy all night? Dressing up? Wine? Going out on the town? And if he was so perfect, why didn't I end up marrying him? Girls should not lead guys on like that! 

I have a better idea. Why not teach our young men how to treat a young lady like a princess? Why not teach our young women that they are treasures worthy of respect? And by respect, I don't mean sitting on the opposite side of the room with eyes downward!  

Of course, there's always wisdom involved. Our friends and family at the wedding knew where we'd be and what time we'd be back. And we each knew that it was just a date (we lived 12 hours apart. He was going to med school. I was finishing ministry school.) But we wanted to enjoy each other's company just a little while longer. It was freeing. It was fun. And no one's heart was broken in the end. 

Ladies, may you know the quality of woman you are, so you may attract the quality of man that deserves you--without shame, without fear, without pressure. May your relationships be the kind that you will remember with affection for years to come. 





Thursday, June 26, 2014

Beauty

I walk by her at the front desk every morning. A very put-together, no-nonsense woman. I'm very intimidated by her and usually try to avoid eye-contact.

Until today.

I don't normally use the first-floor ladies room, but this morning the one upstairs was full and so was my bladder, so I ran downstairs and as I walked into the ladies room, so did she. 

I asked her how her morning was going, and what ensued was a conversation about life, love, and loss. She explained how she had moved from Virginia not too long ago to be closer to her elderly parents. Just days after she had moved in, her Daddy passed away. She described sitting by his side and laying her head on his head as he took his final breaths. Now she went home every afternoon to take care of her mom who is a stroke victim. 

I was speechless. I could see the softness in her eyes that I had never noticed before. My own eyes teared up and all I wanted to do was hug her. But all I could do was murmur a "God bless you" as she walked back to the front desk.

 Beneath that tough exterior was a woman who felt deeply and loved deeply. 

How wonderfully God has created us women! 

As women we bring something into the world that is ours alone to give. Who puts fresh flowers in a vase, or lights candles for a bath, or sets out a pretty table cloth for dinner? We give beauty to the world. Why are so many nurses and school teachers women? Because we have a way with the sick, and the elderly, and the young--a tender way, a nurturing way--that cannot be duplicated by a man. And yet it takes a certain strength to see loved ones pass away or others make the wrong decisions in life and still love them and stand up for them. 

Ladies, you are the beauty in your world, and it has nothing to do with what you look like or what you do for a living. And you are not the beauty that is timid or weak. You are a fierce breed that protects those entrusted to you. May the world see more and more of your beauty each day.


Thank Heaven for little girls...
and the beautiful, strong women they become!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Forever Young

My new swim partners were two older students, both looking to be in their late 60s. They were both long and lean and strong with no hint of slowing down yet. I was fooling around blowing bubbles before our class when the lady waded over to me and looked straight at me with sparkling dark eyes, "What's your name?" she asked. "Sarah" I answered in my strongest voice. "What? Hold on I can't hear ya..." She pulled back the ears on her swim cap and pulled out one ear plug. "What's your name?" I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was kind and possibly humorous. I told her my name again and she said hers and pointed to the man stretching next to her. "That's my husband." So I asked her, "How long have you been married?" By this time she had already put her ear protection back on so she looked at her husband and said, "What'd she say?" I chuckled. I could tell she could hear me just fine and was just trying to make me laugh. She looked straight at me with those full-of-life eyes and chuckled, "More years than you've been alive!" Another chuckle. Almost as if she was making good-natured fun of me for not being nearly as old as she. Like I was missing out on something because of it. "Forty one years!" she said, proudly holding her head up. "Forty-four!" came her husband's correcting voice behind her. She hunched over and put her hand up to her mouth like she had just done something naughty. Her eyes went wide and she let out an "Oops!" I laughed again. 

The drum circle at the lake. Old and young alike
full of life and dance! 
I've been watching these two interact for a few weeks now, she the ever-talkative one, commenting on the temperature of the water or how hard it is to remember each skill at the same time. He the ever-quiet one, only a grunt here and there to acknowledge something she said or to show the instructor he was listening. But they were here together, doing very well in a class that was new to them, encouraging each other on in their own way. I don't think they realize what an inspiration they have been to me, just by being there. In a world of divorces and unhappy marriages, they are a shining beacon. 

And she is no less lovely or kind than she must have been in her youth. I can't see her graying curls or wrinkles because of the light in her eyes and the joy in her laughter. She might as well be a little girl for as much dancing and joking and laughing as she does. 

That is the kind of woman I want to be! That is the kind of marriage I want to have! Keep on keeping-on sweet couple! Your lives are touching many! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Motherhood is Not for Wimps

Life is never the same again!
I have several friends who are more than ready to have children, and some who are more than ready to have more. I want to shout at them "No! You just got married!" or "No! Enjoy the children you have!" or simply "No! Just wait a couple more years!" because life is never the same once you pee on that stick and those two lines stare back at you. I'm not saying never have children, or resent the ones you have. Because life is full of little giggles and tiny toes and big brown eyes full of wonder. But I am saying do not expect a child to fill the deepest longings of your heart. 2 or 3 or 8 children will never do that. 

I guess I'm writing this article because I see so many moms using their kids as some sort of emotional crutch: "my husband doesn't love me so I'll just have more kids" or "my girlfriends have 5 kids each and I only have 2; better start cranking out more". I see the media using pregnancy and motherhood as some sort of popularity contest. And worse I see teenage girls wanting babies like someone wants a puppy--to have something to cuddle and love them back. 


I'm also writing this article because as my 30th year of life stares me in the face, I realize that I must have something of value to share and leave as a legacy to my children. Lydia is 15 months old. She is starting to want to do everything Joseph and I are doing. And the thought settles on my like a heavy weight...do I have anything of value to show her? I see young moms texting on their phones or on Facebook constantly while their children are crying for their attention. And then they get rewarded with a slap or a spanking. All for what? Because they just wanted to be with mommy? The cute babies we moms so wanted haven't transformed into the cuddly things who will love us forever. They are needy, they are messy, they are always there. We don't get a break...ever. Our husbands come home and veg out in front of the TV, but we still have babies to attend to. No 9 to 5 here. 

And if we as women don't know what we want out of life those children will suck out the little life we have left. And then we will start to resent them, or just as bad, we will start to use them as a way to get what we want, and our children will start to resent us.

So before we have that first baby, or before we have any more, or before our little ones gets any bigger, we have to figure out who we are as women. We have to figure out the broken places of our hearts and get them healed and filled. Whether that's through time with Jesus, or deep friendships, or counseling. That is the best legacy we can leave our children--"Mommy is emotionally well. She is stable. She loves to spend time with me." 


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Never Too Old

I pull an ear bud out and huff a cheery "Good morning" to the young woman getting on the elliptical next to mine. She smiles at me shyly as she adjusts a textbook in front of her screen. "That's a good idea" I say between breaths. "What are you studying?" "For my MCAT". "You go, girl!" She smiles at me again, and starts pedaling. I can tell by her uneasiness on the machine, that this is her first time on it.

Then over at the weight-machines, as I'm resting between sets, I notice the older gentleman doing reps on the machine across from mine. I can't help but notice the wrap on his arm, the slow, steadiness of his movements, and his many breaks. After a few minutes of talking to him, I learn he's a veteran and is recovering from a fall. I marvel at his age, and his strength, and his determination.

At the pool, I meet a lovely older lady who can move through the water like she was born in it. Long, graceful strokes and perfect form. It surprised me to learn that she was almost 70 years old, and that once out of the pool, she shuffled slowly back to the locker room.

I have never been a workout person. I swore I'd never step foot in a gym. I hated the thought of being around sweaty strangers in an enclosed environment. I hated the thought of having to compete with other, much more fit human beings.

But I have found myself falling in love with those same sweaty strangers. Some are old, some my age, some men, some women, but each has his own challenge to face when stepping into a class or up to a machine or into the water. Each of them has a story. Some are retired and finally have the time to dedicate to their physical well-being. Some are getting back into shape after a long illness or childbirth. Some want to lose weight and be able to chase after their children, and some want to face their fear of water, or body image, or disability.

I now look forward to each workout, because I am always being inspired by these men and women. When I feel I'm too old or too out of shape to do something new or keep pressing on, I look around me and I know I have no excuse. If they can do it, so can I.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Other Woman

Mothers-in-law get a lot of bad rap in our society. So I want to tip the scales the other way some and brag on my mom-in-law for a bit. (And in case you're wondering, I've already written a couple of posts on my own mom, so I'm not leaving her out. She is an amazing woman who also had a great relationship with her mother-in-law.)

This past summer was an incredibly lonely one for me. I packed up 18 years of life into the back of a U-haul and said good-bye to my family and friends. I didn't realize at the time how little Lydia still was, how much healing my body still had to do, and how crazy my hormones still were. The night we moved into our new home I was completely overwhelmed by exhaustion and the full realization that I was not going to be going home tonight. I looked at my 6 week-old baby, at the empty house, and at all the boxes laying on the floor and I broke down in tears. Why had I agreed to this? Why did I ever leave home? 
Sweet moment with Grandma :)

But I was not completely alone in that moment. Along with Joseph's amazing friends and family, my mom-in-law especially became my dearest friend. The first thing I noticed pulling into our new home that day was the basket of flowers hanging on the front porch. Then there was bottled water and homemade food waiting in the fridge. The bathroom was clean and well-stocked and two beds had been laid out and dressed with fresh sheets and pillows for the night. At the time, I was too emotional to really grasp the love that went into preparing for our arrival. But it has not escaped my notice. My mom-in-law had made a map of the town with all its important landmarks highlighted (like the coffee shops, of course!) and she had prepared a notebook with information on the history of the house and how to care for all its components (like a water-softening system that I had no experience with). I could tell, reading this little notebook later, how much love had been poured into this house over all the years she had lived in it, and how much it meant for her to entrust it to me as the new woman of the house. (I'm still very humbled by it, and hope I can make the house one day as beautiful and full of love as it deserves to be.)

Then, of course, there were yard sales we went to together, and shopping, and long drives in Amish country (she pokes fun at me because I'm so fascinated by their lifestyle. Haha!) She made me part of her ministry to young girls and invited me into her close group of girlfriends. She provided quiet places for me to nurse and showed me little tricks to getting things done with a baby. She cooked for me and sewed for me and even planted a garden for me.  She took care of me like my own mom would, during a time when I desperately needed it. And the most amazing and humbling part is that she did it during a time when we were still very much strangers to each other. 

Strangers no more! I look forward to Lydia growing up with such an amazing woman as her Grandma. I look forward to lots more shopping trips and walks and doing ministry together. And I pray for the restoration of the mom-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship in my society. It is a treasure that has been left abandoned far too long. 

The reason Joseph is the man he is today...
a sweet mama who raised him well :)