Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs a little girl I imagined my name was Tamara–so much more elegant and interesting than plain Tammy.  I wanted to do amazing things…serve in the Peace Corps…write a bestseller…perform on Broadway.  Even now–mid-way through life and buried beneath loads of laundry and books about childrearing–I have dreams of being applauded as I belt out tunes to Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera.  In reality,  I’m yelling through the door at my teenaged son who chose not to go to school because the traffic jam was too difficult to navigate.

I’m tired nearly all of the time and always seem to have crumbs on the kitchen floor.  My closets are only organized once or twice each year and the kids rarely wear matching socks.  Where do they all go? 

My husband and I watch movies in installments because we fall asleep.  The towel rack in the bathroom has fallen off–again. And, we’re happy.

Our home isn’t quiet–how could it be with three boys and a feisty little girl?  The children argue, have tantrums, and lose their homework.  Dave and I feel overwhelmed most of the time.

God may not have given me a stage on which to perform.  I haven’t travelled to third world countries to hold impoverished babies.  Instead, my challenges, joys, sorrows, and delights are directed by and immersed in this messy life of motherhood, marriage, and moments of worshipping the God who provided it all.

Joy can’t be found in the what-if’– it’s in those moments that make up living.  I think I like being plain Tammy.

Verse for Reflection:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy SpiritRomans 15:13

Recommended Reading

Product Detailshttp://www.amazon.com/One-Thousand-Gifts-Fully-Right/dp/0310321913/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356279769&sr=8-1&keywords=ann+voskamp

Read Full Post »

His brow wrinkled in concern, Pastor Strutz revealed the results of our pre-marital personality tests. For every crest marked on my chart, Dave had a trough. If one area was my weakness, it was his strength. We were living proof of the old saying, “opposites attract”.

“Your differences could be a good thing…or not. How are you at communicating?”
“Oh, we’re great communicators,” I said.

Fast forward four months.  Dave and I had set up house in our first apartment–which was strategically located next to the railroad tracks.  (The managers conveniently forgot to tell us that when we signed the lease.)  Our decor was an eclectic mix of college-aged bachelor pad, family hand-me-downs, and bargain friendly purchases made on a newlywed budget.  Imagine a flag on one wall, a large wolf photo on the other, and a blue-and-white striped sofa in the middle of the living room.

One day when I was rearranging our wall hangings, Dave’s favorite framed piece of art–a work signed by the artist– slipped through my fingers.    Shards of glass lay scattered about my feet.  The frame was bent.  What have I done?  Dave’s going to be so upset.  I spent the rest of the afternoon dreading the moment of my husband’s arrival; imagining the worst.

At the sound of my husband’s footsteps I opened the door, offered a perfunctory kiss, and hurried to the laundromat below.  After folding a load or two of my own laundry–and offering to wash a neighbor’s darks–I finally made way back to our tiny home.

“I broke the picture.  I dropped it and now it’s ruined.”  The words sprang from my mouth as quickly as the tears spilled onto my cheeks.  “Is that what you’re upset about?  A picture?”  And, instead of being upset, my husband laughed.  A warm, I-love-you, it’s-not-a-problem sort of laugh. “We’ll just have it reframed, babe.”  “Oh, okay.”  Sniffle.  Sniffle.

Great at communicating?  Not me.

Even now, I sometimes struggle to express my feelings well.  I prefer sweeping things under the proverbial carpet.  But, my wonderful husband–being my opposite–thinks communication is great for a marriage.  And, he’s right.  No, I’ll never be as skilled a communicator as Dave, but I have learned a lot about  it through our years together.  Pastor Strutz might even be surprised to know our differences have been a good thing  (most of the time).

Three Important Communication Pointers

  • Pray together.  It’s tough to be angry if you are praying with and for each other.
  • Listen without interrupting.  This includes controlling your inner-monlogue–don’t prepare a rebuttal while you pause to “listen”.
  • Avoid trigger words.  Words like always and never are especially inflammatory when they’re attached to the word you.

What are your best communication tips?  Why not share them with us?

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart  be pleasing in your sight,  O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:13-14

Read Full Post »

As a young military couple Dave and I made four moves, had two children, lived through three hurricanes, and experienced two deployments–all within our first seven years of marriage.  Our life was exciting, tiring, and unpredictable--and we loved sharing it.

Until…a silent predator stayed for a visit.  It’s name?  Depression.  You see,  I had effectively submerged deep-rooted emotional scars left from an earlier time in my life but–for some reason–those feelings weren’t willing to be contained any longer.  I became someone I no longer knew.  Anger, anxiety, and fear became my constant companions.

At the same time, Dave began pursuing his post-graduate degree.  Any flux in his schedule was swallowed up by studying–after work and on the weekends.  My days were full of two rambunctious little boys, errands, and….those other constant companions.  Our once blissful marriage began to deteriorate.  Instead of building one another up, Dave and I exchanged sarcastic remarks or avoided talking altogether.  Rather than cuddling, we sat at opposite ends of the couch.  We were lonely–in the same house, in the same room, and even in the same bed.

One day, I walked into the family room and stood staring at my husband–this man I loved and adored–not knowing what to do.  Looking up, Dave asked, “What are you thinking?”   “Like something is dying inside.”

We knew something had to change and, at that moment, realized we were at a crossroads.  Were we going to choose each other or a road that led us in a new direction?  Dave and I chose each other.  We began practicing the best advice ever shared with us–always date each other–which we did (and still do–after almost twenty years of marriage, four children, two full-time jobs, and my impending return to school).  It wasn’t easy, it took work, and we found love was both a decision and a feeling.

A few of our tried and true tips?

  • Set aside at least half an hour each day for “couple time”.  Take a walk, sit beneath the stars, or just hold hands.
  • Institute TNC (better known as Thursday Night Club).  Choose one mid-week evening to spend a significant amount of time with each other.  Go out or stay in–but make that time about the person you love.
  • Take turns planning for dates no less than twice every month.  You can get creative–even on a budget. McDonald’s at the park, anyone?
  • Finally, get away from it all.  Stay at a quaint bed-and-breakfast or nice hotel three or four times each year.  (And, ladies, wear something pretty.)

Read Full Post »

Frayed edges

 

I methodically fold each piece of laundry–bending, creasing, aligning edges–and wish life would align as closely to my hopes.  If only the loose ends left from the hard, dirty places of living could be trimmed as easily as the loose ends left at the bottom of my son’s jeans–clipped away they look almost new.  Nothing remains of the damage.  But there are frayed, raw edges and nothing is as neat and trim as the cotton or flannel I press beneath my palms. 

The danger is that I begin to confuse the Designer with the one who creates the damage.  I forget that the One who wove each piece of fabric lovingly in His hands–stitching together flesh and bone and spirit–would never destroy his masterpiece.  But that January afternoon twenty ago when the farm girl and the ensign made a covenant with God to honor Him in their marriage and family, the Destroyer grew angry. 

He threatens and roars–while He can.  But this home?  This marriage?  These children?  They were purchased for a price.  Stains, rips, and faded places will all be made new.  The Destroyer may try to damage, but the Designer removes every blemish and stitches the beauty of His redemption in their place.

Read Full Post »

Transition–the uncomfortable place I find myself when the latest move, deployment, or reunion requires adjustment.   As with most military families, one of the most challenging transitions for our family involved the return of my husband from his tour.  This doesn’t seem to make any sense, does it?  After all, like a young mother anticipating the birth of her child I spent months imagining what life would be like when my husband returned safely from Afghanistan.  Emotions ran the gambit—joy, relief, and anxiety—until the day finally arrived.    But, after a few weeks of renewing family relationships, the day-to-day reality of sharing life set in.  We had to adapt to togetherness as much as we did to being apart.

Rules of Engagement

Two-hundred-forty days of boots on the ground—not including training.  That number symbolizes the amount of time Dave spent in the combat zone and away from the home front.  It also defines nearly a year of our family life.  Dave slept on a narrow cot; I slept (or lay awake) between two anxious children.  He dealt with insurgents outside the wire; I installed a home security system to keep adventurous teens inside the home.  My husband ate the cold remains of what had conveniently been labeled food; I served cereal for supper.   The “normal” of each of our lives assumed a different shape. Now that he was home, how were we to re-engage?

I could temporarily vacate my parenting role; perhaps enjoy an emotional vacation while Dave re-established his position in the home.  Or, maybe I should assert my way of doing things.  Why exchange predictability for a different approach?  Unfortunately, I sometimes waver between these two extremes.  But scripture reminds all of us to “consider others better than yourselves.”  (Philippians 2:3)  Neither approach is acceptable.  Wives and husbands—even those experiencing the interrupted lifestyle of being a military couple—provide their children with a level of stability and security when family norms are jointly agreed upon and managed.

Love and War

The distance imposed by Dave’s deployment clouded my thinking in the same way a dust storm filled the desert sky.  Was he safe?  Did he still love me?  Would he come home?  Such thoughts, constantly a part of my mental landscape, stung.  Unfortunately, remnants of the storm remained behind even after my husband’s return.  What if became my new mantra.  What if Dave isn’t happy to be home?  What if being a family man seems less appealing than it did before?  What if…

Fear and negativity, my strongest adversaries, threatened to invade the confines of our home.  If Dave expressed frustration or felt overwhelmed by the demands of four children and an unusually independent wife, I reacted defensively.  Separation required we re-examine boundaries, adjust to the climate, and expect the best of one another.

Standard Operating Procedure

Our first step toward preparing for transitional trials was to create a plan in advance of major change.  We set aside time with each other to discuss questions, concerns, and feelings.  Then, Dave and I prayed together.  After all, what better way is there to support a marriage and family?  And, thanks to technological advances, praying for one another—and our family–continued throughout training, deployments, and more.

While we expected difficulties, we didn’t invite them.  I quickly learned that when my inner monologue developed into a diatribe, I had to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 2:5) and replace it with positive thinking.

Finally, remembering the storm will end provides motivation to continue.  Eventually the dust settles and, sometimes, an oasis lies within reach.

Read Full Post »

What tigress is there that does not purr over her young ones, and fawn upon them in tenderness? —Saint Augustine

Trying desperately to hide the I-have-a-colicky-baby circles beneath my eyes, I applied the third layer of Cover Girl magic.  Not bad for three hours of sleep.  Moving to our full-length mirror, I turned first one direction and then another.  Suck it in, girl!  Inhaling, I tried to hide the remainder of my baby bump.  Oh, well.  At least we’re getting out.

After the 5-minute transfer of baby, car seat, blankets and diaper bag to the car, Dave and I grinned at each other.  Date night!  We hadn’t enjoyed “couple time” for a few months–the result of first time parents living thousands of miles from trusted grandmothers.  It took some charm and convincing on Dave’s part, but I had agreed to leave our 4-month old in the capable hands of childcare workers on the base for a couple of hours.

A little pizza joint was parked conveniently within minutes of the Navy gate and we ventured inside– giddy to have alone time together.  Sliding into the red, plastic booth I began the conversation.  “Do you think Ben is alright?”  I was consumed by baby thoughts–on this long-awaited date.  Ugh!

Twenty minutes later, the waitress stopped by our table.  But instead of delivering pizza, she delivered a message.  “The daycare lady is on the phone.”

“I got it,” Dave reassured me as he walked over to the business phone.

“We’ve got to get Ben,”  he said when he returned to me and my empty glass of soda–which had sucked down in my nervousness.  “He won’t stop crying.”

Tucking a box of uneaten pizza beneath an arm, Dave and I rushed the few miles to NAS Pensacola only to discover the gate was closed.  Dave teased, “I guess we’ll get him in the morning.”  I didn’t pick up on the joke–instead, it fed my fear.  Frantic that my helpless baby and I were separated by barbed wire, I decided nothing and nobody who would keep me from my baby!  A fifteen-foot fence?  An armed officer standing duty?  Not a chance.

Shoving the car door open, I sprinted to the fence and–in all of my post-baby glory–scurried to the top of that metal barrier like a commando on a night raid.

“Tammy!  Tammy!”  Dave’s voice just penetrated my world.  “I’m kidding, hon.  There’s another gate.”

A few minutes later we pulled up to the daycare center.  I had transformed from Navy-seal-wannabe to packing-a-few-extra-pounds-new-mommy.  It can happen.

Read Full Post »

Philippians 1:4-6 “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

As a newlywed, were you surprised to discover you and your husband failed to share all of the same expectations?  Disappointed because he left the toilet seat up?  Startled to learn he was as much in need of the cross as you?  I was.

When we exchanged our vows, I hadn’t realized the number of expectations both David and I had of each other.  I knew my husband would lovingly tolerate mood swings, easily give up the majority of closet space, and avoid comparing my cooking to his mother’s.  In turn, he assumed I would recognize the value of his waxing the pickup every weekend, the importance of creases in Navy uniforms, and the necessity of always arriving 20 minutes early for church on Sunday mornings.

Our expectations weren’t wrong, but they were inaccurate.  Preparing for deployment is similar.  Planning ahead, while important and certain to ease some transitions, will not eliminate challenges each of you will face.

Moses had expectations, as well.  After fleeing Egypt, Moses built a life for himself in the desert of Midian.  He gave up privilege for wealth, started a family, and grew old.  Moses knew the routine.  He enjoyed life’s predictability.  He knew what to expect.  Until…God called him to the unexpected.

For over 400 years, the Israelites had suffered in Egypt.  In fact, they had been brutally enslaved.  Children were torn from their mother’s arms, old men felt the sting of the whip across their backs when age limited productivity, and starved young men could only beg for mercy at the cruel hands of their masters.  In despair, God’s people cried out for relief…hope…deliverance.

You may know the story.  God sent Moses–a man who had once been accustomed to the riches and pleasures of royalty and now lived the humble life of a shepherd—to rescue Israel.  But, what could God do with a bent old man—a recluse?  Even Moses doubted God’s wisdom.   “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  (Exodus 3)

Despite his fears and insecurity, Moses remained faithful to God’s commands.  He asked to have an audience with the king of Egypt.  While it may seem surprising, Pharaoh granted the request—likely because he wanted a good laugh.  Think about it.  Pharaoh held the power of the world’s richest nation in his hands.  Commerce and trade were booming.  The military was unshakeable.  Wealth and education were hallmarks of the kingdom.  The ruler of Egypt had nothing to fear from a desert hermit.  Wouldn’t it be amusing to invite this unkempt, senile, stuttering fool to the foot of the throne?

So…Moses entered the glorious halls of the palace.  Unimpressed with the beauty around him, unafraid of the guards escorting him, and uninterested by those snickering in amusement at his blue-collar appearance, he approached Pharaoh and announced without hesitation, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:  ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.”

Laughter filled the room as Pharaoh and his court heard Moses’ words.  Did this white-haired relic realize he was addressing the most influential man in the world?  Surely, this hermit realized his life was at stake?  Was he insane?

Locking his gaze on Egypt’s king, Moses waited for the noise to subside.  He doesn’t realize who You are, Lord.  He is his own God. What a fool!

Finally, the room grew quiet.  Pharaoh’s face hardened.  He had expected Moses to be a cowering old man tottering on the brink of sanity.  Instead, he recognized strength and determination in an enemy more than twice his age.  Unwilling to admit it to himself, the great king of Egypt knew the Hebrew God had set a plan in motion the moment Moses entered the gates of the royal courtyards.

Remember, friend, the One who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow can also use the unexpected in your life.  Yes, it will be difficult to give up comfortable routines.  You may yearn for the security of predictability.  At times, you might even feel as if you’ve been exiled to a foreign land—abandoned to a place apart from your husband or the life you had known.  Your expectations—for your life, your family, and your faith—will be altered and changed in amazing ways when you give them to God.

Suggested Scripture Reading

Psalm 93

Read Full Post »

They could be lyrics to a catchy jingle.

                 Driver’s lessons, swim lessons,

                 soccer practice, homework,

                 Business trips, staff training,

                 open house and PTO .

Instead, they’re additions to August’s jam-packed, back-to-school calendar and I’m left wondering when I’ll find time to sleep–let alone fit in enough marital romance to keep the fire’s burnin’ and my marriage a focal point.

Have you ever struggled to balance the challenges of parenting with the needs of your husband?  Do you feel as if you have to choose between the laundry sequestered behind the utility closet or a quiet moment shared with the man you promised to love and honor?  Even worse–are you too tired to care?

My answers?

1.  Yes–most days.

2.  Absolutely.  There is something about laundry!  It multiplies like rabbits and seems to get away from me no matter what I do.

3.  Ask me this question at the end of the month.

Pausing to consider the importance of spending time with my husband, Dave, I’m reminded of something his friend once said, “The day my wife had our children, she became their mother and stopped being my wife.”  I know I’m not responsible for Dave’s happiness, but I am determined that I will remain engaged in his life as only a wife can–despite the busyness.

So…how do I avoid putting my baby on the back burner–especially when we’re both in constant motion?  There are three simple ideas (ladies, these tips are for you!).

  • Get it on!  Your husband’s sexual desire is as much an expression of love for you as snuggling is for you.  Pencil in “the night” on your calendar and give yourself enough alone time to rejuvenate, refresh, and regroup.
  • Time out!  Set aside one time each month to schedule 3 to 4 dates.  Schedule a babysitter, trade with other parents, or take advantage of “Parent’s Night Out” opportunities at local gyms.  For a little added fun, take turns planning each date.
  • Reality Check!  If you don’t make the beds or do the laundry, they’ll be waiting for you the next day.  If you don’t invest in your marriage, your husband may not be.

Recommended Reading

1001Cover_Smallest

Scripture for Reflection

The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. (1 Peter 3:1 MSG)

Read Full Post »

Dave came home one evening after standing duty. “You’ll never guess who stopped by with dinner tonight–Rachel. And she brought T.J., too.” Surprised, I paused to listen. “You know, I’ve seen her a lot lately. Last week, she asked if I would spend some time with T.J. cause he misses his dad so much. When I got there, he was in bed for the night and she was dressed to kill. Rachel asked if I wanted to watch a movie with her, but I said you were waiting for me and hustled out of there. It’s been uncomfortable.”
I wasn’t surprised. The woman I had known as “friend” was lonely, unhappy, and looking for love. In her desperation, she didn’t mind betraying our friendship if a relationship with Dave might be a possibility.
A few years later, I found myself in a similar situation. Ben’s elementary school teacher seemed fond of my little boy–and of flirting. As a room mother, I spent regular time in the classroom and endured his winks and familiarity because they were inherent to his personality. Mr. Leonard began confiding in me, “Tina and I are having trouble. The girls won’t talk to me and I don’t know what to do.” I felt sorry for Mr. Leonard and appreciated the attention he gave my little boy, but knew that he was more than professionally interested when, during a couple’s dinner, he said, “Tina won’t be coming to the party. She doesn’t want to meet you because I told her you are everything beautiful and I’m attracted to you.” I stammered something incoherent and, red-faced, hurried to my husband’s side.
Thankfully, Dave and I had invested enough time and attention in our relationship that neither of us were tempted to take advantage of these situations. But lengthy deployments, grad school, and emotional ups and downs have all created deficits in our marriage at certain times. If Tina or Mr. Leonard had approached us during our more vulnerable moments, would the outcome have been any different? While I like to think we would still make the right and honorable choice, both of us are human and–sometimes–are less than honorable.
To protect our marriage and one another, Dave and I set up certain boundaries as a safeguard. They are to:
1.  Avoid building friendships with anyone of the opposite sex. We don’t meet childhood friends for coffee, join colleagues for lunch, or engage in activities unless the other is present.
2. Give each other access to all Facebook and e-mail accounts.
3. Be transparent with each other when emotional needs aren’t being met and make our relationship a priority.

Recommended book:

His Needs, Her Needs:  Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley, Jr.

Read Full Post »

Then the LORD God said, “I see that it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make the companion he needs, one just right for him.  Genesis 2:18

Exotic flowers of every hue  filled the garden with their beauty while nightingales whistled a love song.  Admiring the innocence and perfection of the young couple, their Father smiled in approval.  Adam and Eve were married.

From the beginning, God intended marriage to bless the men and women joined in this one-of-a-kind, soul binding union.  We know, though, the simplicity of marriage was forever altered when the inaugural couple chose self before God.  Like the thorns that sprouted from the ground as a result of sin’s corruption, disharmony erupted in the fledgling relationship.  If you’re married, you’ve experienced this yourself–finger-pointing, fault-finding, or disappointment in one another.

Some have experienced marriage at its worst, others are struggling to hold fast to their vows, and a few are on a marriage mountaintop.  Whatever place you are in today–even this very moment–be encouraged.   While a husband and wife are meant to bless one another, true fulfillment comes from our relationship with our Heavenly Husband.  He is the one who can meet every need, relieve every worry, and love perfectly.

3 Action Steps You Can Take

    • Give thanks for your husband–Let God AND the man in your life know how you’ve been blessed because of him.  If you’re marriage is struggling, look each day for one positive thing he’s said or done that you can mention in appreciation.
    • Reach out to others–Couples need other people.  Don’t rely only on one another to meet the impossible task of fulfilling every need.  You’ll both be better equipped for marriage if you have friends.  Need guidance?  All couples do at some point.  Don’t be afraid to seek counsel from a couple you admire or even professional  assistance.
    • Perspective–As much as you may love your husband, have you thought about Him lately?  He loves you perfectly and completely.  If you’ve been let down by the hope of a marriage made in heaven, dear friend, then one day you will celebrate a relationship like none other–the bond shared between you and your Heavenly Husband.  He waits for you with open arms.  If you haven’t already, why not ask Him to be part of your life today?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: