Tuesday, March 24, 2015

It Takes a Village

When I was a preteen, a teenager, and a young adult, all I wanted to do was be anywhere except where my family was. I wanted to spend as much time as possible away from them. They drove me nuts and didn't let me do any of the things I wanted to do. I wanted to travel, I wanted to see the world, I wanted to do something big with my life. And the only thing that stood between me and adventure was...my boring family.

Then I got married and I was so relieved to leave the family I grew up with and embark on an adventure with my new husband...just the two of us, taking on the world! But life has a way of knocking you back into reality. It was only 2 months into our marriage that we discovered we were pregnant, and nothing brings your family to your door faster than a baby announcement...whether you want them at your door or not!

My super-independent self wanted no help or advice from my family. I could do this on my own! Until we lost the baby, and I needed more help and support than I realized. 

I can't do married life on my own. I can't do parenthood on my own. I can't even do a whole week of just living on my own!

I find myself calling my mom now at least twice a week, Skyping with her, getting a recipe or home remedy, planning an event, celebrating an accomplishment. She is the first one I call when Joseph is out of town, or when we've moved to a new place, or when Lydia reaches a new milestone. She shares memories with me that I was too little to remember. She shares stories of her childhood that I was not around to see. She teaches lessons from her own mistakes that I will gladly never have to make. 

I haven't been very good at accepting help from my family. Especially when I once thought I would be better off without them. But the Lord is teaching me that although they may not be perfect (see last post) they love me and are trying to show me just how much in the best way possible. When I turn down their offers to help or encourage I dishonor them and discourage them from using their gifts. Even Moses, who was called the friend of God and who led millions of his people out of Egypt, had the support and advice of his father-in-law, Jethro (Exodus 17). And the help of his older brother Aaron (Exodus 18). As I've learned to let go and let my family in, they have brought the depth and richness of their experiences and personalities into my marriage and my new little family. 

With her Uncle 'Miah and Daddy

Friday, March 20, 2015

Everything I Thought I Knew

My mom was raised by nuns in a Catholic all-girls school. Literally, by nuns. Her grandmothers and great-aunts were women brought up during the Victorian Era. She is one of 7 daughters with an absent father. Needless to say, she is a very conservative woman... and completely clueless about men.  But everything I learned about men, I learned from my mom. And I unknowingly brought those things into my marriage. Here's just a few of the things I had to relearn...

1) As long as you're a good cook and keep a clean home, your husband will be happy. (Ok, there's sex too, but she never said it, and I'll talk about it later) How totally wrong this is! A few dirty dishes which to me are the end of the world, aren't even on my husband's radar! He'd rather me sit with him and watch a movie or work on a project together.

2) You're too fat, you forgot to shave, your tan lines are showing, your breasts are too small, your butt is too big, your hair is too flat. Do you know how terrifying it was to stand naked in front of my husband for the first time? For the first hundred times? I cried several times during my engagement because I was sure Joseph would not like my body on our wedding night. It's utterly ridiculous now. He loves my body. Especially the parts I was so worried about.

3) Your feminine parts are shameful. Don't talk about them, look at them, and for heaven's sake cover them up with perfume so no one has to smell them! Such a terrible lie! One that is made worse by our media. The vagina is the cleanest part of the body, and except for infection, doesn't have much of a smell. Any smell comes from sweat glands in our groin area, much the way our armpits will smell when we sweat. And far from being shameful, a woman's reproductive organs are amazing! We grow and nourish another human being inside our bodies! But even now I still hesitate for my husband to approach me for fear I will smell bad...even after a shower! Shows how ingrained this lie is!

4) Men only want one thing, and it's all they ever think about. While it's true that my husband thinks about sex more often than I do, it's not all he wants or thinks about. He is worried about his job, figuring out a problem with a co-worker, making sure he gets paid enough, making sure I have everything I need to be happy. And he wants respect, admiration, support, and companionship. He wants to know his wife is his greatest fan and his best friend.

5) When a man is quiet, it means he's thinking about another woman. More lies! I still fight this one on a regular basis. But oh how far from the truth it is! Men don't figure out problems by talking like we do. They don't give a play-by-play of their day when they come home. When my husband is quiet, it either means he's figuring out a problem internally or he's just plain too tired to talk. So I've learned to offer a backrub and let him talk when he wants to. Trying to make him talk only aggravates both of us.

6) A real man will never look at another woman. If he does, get rid of him. 
If a handsome man were to come over and brush my face and tell me I was beautiful, I would definitely notice! Because I was made to be aroused by touch and words. So it's no different for my husband. (There are men who have addictions that need to be worked out, I'm not referring to those men here.) I have learned that my husband will notice a beautiful woman. And I'm not threatened by this anymore. It means all his parts are in working order! It means he was made to be aroused visually, which is a great perk for me later on in the day!  I can choose to shame him for being a man, or I can say "She is beautiful, isn't she?" and show through my confidence that beauty can be admired without perversion.

7) When it comes to sex, just grin and bear it. It won't take long and you won't feel a thing anyway.  Terrible advice. If my husband wanted meaningless physical satisfaction, there are plenty of ways he could get it. What he wants is to know that he has what it takes to make me happy. He wants to share the  most sacred of human experiences with the woman he loves. He wants to know he is safe with me, both in body and in heart. Besides, why do non-Christians and singles get to have all the fun? If the Lord made sex and made it for married couples, why shouldn't we enjoy it? It really does get better with time too!

I thank God for good mentors, books, and married couples who have shown me and still show me what a great marriage looks like. And yet I still have so much to learn!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Anniversary!

My husband and I will be celebrating 5 years of marriage in just a few days. Wow. Five years. It doesn't seem that long, and yet it seems much longer at the same time.

As we look back on our newlywed years, I know both Joseph and I never wish to re-live them. There was a lot of pain in those first few years. Pain unlike anything we've ever felt before. It was the pain of losing friends, financial dreams, and our first child. We saw everything we thought our marriage was going to be crumble and fall away, and I think we're just now starting to pick up the pieces. 

But no matter what has come at us, we knew we could figure it out together. Every hurdle and loss has only worked to teach us how much we need each other.

But that's where this past year was different. At least for me. I have been waging a silent war in my heart and mind that I never thought I would be fighting. And since we start our sixth year in a few days, I think it's time to talk about some of the deeper things of marriage, the things no one really talks about. The things I had no experience with until now. 

And it's time for you my readers, to interact with me and one another. It's time for all of us to support one another in the trenches. 

Here's to another year of marriage together!