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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.

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My husband loves honey-do lists–the longer the list, the more satisfied he feels when each item has a bold hash mark through it.  Mow the lawn.  Done.  Change the light fixtures.  All set.  Pay the bills.  Taken care of.  Despite Dave’s affinity for these lists, I have never given him one.  Even more than that, I’m careful not to mention things that need to be taken care of around the house because–like Santa’s list– they’ll be added to the queue.

I know some of you are wondering  if I’ve lost touch with reality.  You may be thinking, “What I wouldn’t do just to get my husband to take out the trash or wash the dishes.  She’s nuts!”  The issue for me is not whether or not chores get done or if I can rely on Dave’s help at home.  Instead, I’m concerned about spending time together.  We’ve actually agreed to put all work aside by noon on weekends–just to guarantee time is spent doing what is necessary at home AND necessary for our relationship.

Love–in my language–is spelled T-I-M-E.  Others of you may feel most loved when your husband brings you flowers, writes a love note, snuggles–or vacuums the family room.  What is it that make you feel special?  Starry-eyed?  Affectionate?  While you’re thinking about it, pause to consider what feeds your husband’s love for you.  Does he beam when you pack his lunch?  Would he prefer a back rub?  Or, does he just need to hear you say, “I’d marry you all over again.”?

Early in our marriage, Dave and I read a great book by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages.  If you want to know your spouse better–or even need to share with him what would help you feel loved and appreciated–then you might want to read it.  Even better, read it together.  Who knows, maybe your chores will get done after all!

Does he need…

  • words of affirmation?  Tuck love notes in his dresser drawer, lunchbox, and CD case.
  • time together?  Plan a date for him–action movies, pizza, and beer.
  • acts of service?  Ask him to make a honey-do list for you.
  • physical touch?  Cozy up during a football game or hold his hand–in public.
  • gifts?  Stop by the office with coffee or give him a book he’s always wanted to read.

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 “I am by nature a people pleaser, which means that by nature I’m a coward.”  –Pastor Mark Bates

Those words resounded with me.  How many times in my relationships had I been “diplomatic” in order to avoid disappointing someone?  Or, even worse, appeared to agree with that person, but instead proceeded to erect a DMZ (Demilitarized Zone for those of you who are non-military wives)?

What is a DMZ?  Let me illustrate.  Imagine I am South Korea.  Dave, my dear husband, is North Korea (for demonstration purposes only).  We’ve been at war with one another–although we can’t seem to remember why or even how it all began.  Now, though, we’ve decided to declare a tenuous peace.  We’re tired, bear noticeable war wounds, and need to regroup.  An agreement is drawn and, with distrust in our eyes, we draw lines in the sand.  If neither of us crosses this line, we’ll be just fine.  Peace has been made.  Really?  Have North and South Korea found that to be true?

Of course not.  Peace in the home is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of humility.  As Matthew 5:3 reminds us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  Another version puts it plainly, “Great blessings belong to those who are humble.”  I don’t know about you, but humility in the marriage relationship can be tough.  What if he’s the one was wrong in the first place–or, if I was just a little bit in the wrong?  Shouldn’t he apologize first; ask forgiveness first?  Maybe–maybe not.  But am I more concerned with who crossed the DMZ first or do I desire to be reconciled in my relationship with the one I call husband?

I tell you honestly that making peace after even after an imagined insult  is one of my greatest areas of struggle in marriage.  Could it be a challenge for everyone?  I would guess that it is–after all, don’t we all enjoy being “right”? Most of the time, though, being right is far less important than acting in love.

3 Tactical Pointers to Help Disarm the DMZ–and Declare Peace

  • Relinquish your “rights” and admit your “wrongs”
  • Make the first move
  • “Do it badly if you must.  It’s worse not to do  anything at all!”  –Pastor Mark Bates

What works best for you to diffuse tension?  How have you learned humility in your marriage? 

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I can imagine the perfect woman for my husband–and she is not me.  Now, I’m not suggesting I would rather Dave be married to someone else.  What I am saying is that if I were his best friend, parent, or sibling I would have expected him to marry someone unlike me.

Dave’s perfect wife  would  eagerly anticipate the next shared hike together, certain she could conquer the ragged terrain of any mountain.  This someone would engage in political debates, enjoy running in marathons, and read Time magazine.

Instead Dave chose a woman who’s afraid of heights, rarely reveals her political affiliation, and prefers a relaxing walk on the beach to the rush of endorphins at the end of a five-mile run.  And my favorite reading material?  Think Jane Eyre and Anna Karenina.  I don’t remember when I read Time last.

But, Dave didn’t want perfect–he wanted me.  And, after all of our years together, he still does.  The remarkable part of all this is Dave is more aware of my flaws, faults, and foibles than during the early years of our marriage.  He sees me clearly.

My dislike for closet doors haphazardly left open?  Dave hears about it regularly.  The temper that flares when we disagree about discipline?  He’s been an object of that anger.  My high-maintenance food ordering habits?  If the avocado is fresh than I’ll have the southwestern burger, if not then I’d like the patty melt with the onion straws on the side but no cheese.  Yes, Dave is aware of this hang-up.  (He says I’m discerning; not picky.)

Despite knowing me as intimately as he does, Dave loves me all the more.  What, then, is principle number three?  Accept your husband for who he is.  You cannot change him.  When you are convinced your husband needs to change, begin praying the Lord will change you.

3 Ways to Demonstrate Acceptance Toward Your Husband

  • Talking Trash–Have you been around a group of women lately?  Don’t join their “My Husband is an Idiot Club”.  Honor him with words of affirmation–even when he isn’t nearby.

             Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others upEphesians 4:29

  • Point of Reference–Extend grace and mercy to the husband you have pledged to love.

             Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. Ephesians 5:21

  • Practically Speaking-  Just put the lid down yourself.  He won’t mind and it will make you happy!

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Dementia has robbed grandma of her memory, but it can’t diminish the love grandpa has for the one he still calls my bride.  Grandpa doesn’t see grandma as she is now—confused, anxious and afraid.  Instead, grandma is known for whose she is—his wife.  Despite the snowy head, lined face and a penchant for losing her way in the halls of the assisted living center, grandpa recognizes his bride as the quick-witted beauty he promised to faithfully love years ago.

 In the same way, God offers us his everlasting love.  He overlooks our blemishes and shortcomings.  Nothing deters the Groom from caring for His bride.  He tenderly meets all of our needs just as a devoted husband does for an ailing wife.  Rather than rejecting us for who we are in the flesh, the Lord embraces us for whose we are—His bride.

Jeremiah 31:3 tells us that He has loved us “with an everlasting love.”  Even if you are in the midst of a divorce, struggle with your marriage relationship, or lack meaningful friendships remember that you are loved.  God’s passion for you is greater than any situation or circumstance–always and forever.

Make a list of the ways God has shown his faithfulness to you this month, this week, or even today.  

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Aunt Linda is the sort of woman who puts fear in the heart of every introverted woman married to a soldier.  Why?  Because Aunt Linda set the standard as the consummate military wife for twenty years.   She loved the adventure of changing stations, meeting new people, and throwing dinner parties.

Once, having just arrived at a new duty station, this fearless military wife sent invitations to all of the neighbors.  Please join us for a progressive dinner on Saturday evening.  If you’d like to serve as one of the hosts, let us know.  More than two dozen couples joined in on the festivities—and remain friends twenty years later.

I, on the other hand, fail to follow Aunt Linda’s example.  An impending move?  I break out in hives.  Mandatory fun?  My least favorite activity.  Host a dinner party for the unit?  I wake up with night sweats.  God did not bless me with the gift of hospitality.

However, a quick study of scripture reveals the exhortation to “practice hospitality”.  (Romans 12:13)  According to Merriam-Webster, the word practice means “to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient”.  In other words, all believers—even those inclined to avoid a crowd–are called to extend hospitality.

Hoops and Hospitality

In my case, practicing hospitality is a lot like high school basketball.  Let me explain.  I grew up in a town tucked between wheat fields and boasting fewer than 200 people.  Because there were limited entertainment alternatives, high school basketball reigned as the king of sports.  Unfortunately, I was gifted with neither careful aim nor steady hand.  Determined to succeed, I spent hours practicing.  Shoot.  Dribble.  Jump.  Finally, I earned a starting position on the team.

In the same way, Christians are called to practice hospitality.  By exercising hospitality, we learn to “Put self aside, and help others get ahead.” (Phil. 2:3-MSG) Invite. Invest. Intercede.  And, one day, God will grow us into completion (Phil. 1:6) How will our feeble attempts produce results?

First, when our focus involves sharing Christ’s love rather than masking personal insecurity or concern, God receives the glory.  Are we unwilling to invite someone into our homes because the dust has settled on the top of the refrigerator or there are bread crumbs on the floor?  If so, then pride is impeding our impact for Christ.  Do we claim shyness as a reason for failing to minister to the needs of others?  Perhaps He desires to grow us through our weakness.  As Philippians 2:4 reminds us, “Each of you should look not only to your interests, but to the interests of others. Your attitude should be that of Christ Jesus:  who, in being very nature God…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.”

Demonstrating obedience to Christ through hospitality also makes a difference in a hurting world.  After all, how many people are struggling with divorce, illness, or job loss?  And, as a part of the military community, each of us is regularly exposed to other women managing the trials of deployment, “single” parenting, and loneliness.  Who might Christ want you to encourage?

Four Easy Ways to Practice Hospitality

While hospitality often takes the form of dinner parties or large get-togethers, four alternative ideas are listed below.

  • Coffee-klatch Close relationships are often fostered in small groups.  Why not invite one or two ladies to join you for coffee and conversation on a regular basis?  Keep things simple and meet at a local coffee shop.
  • Baby Swap Have you noticed a young mother struggling to manage parenting and personal time?  Offer to host a playtime at your home or babysit her children once a month.
  • Silently Supportive Contact your local Wives Club or church group and suggest your home serve as a meeting place for a Military Wives Bible study or prayer group.  You provide a welcoming environment while the group’s leader organizes all other details.
  • Freezer Pleasers   Gather a group once a month to boil, bake, and baste a variety of freezer meals.  Consider donating one meal each to a family new to the community or to a spouse with a newly deployed soldier.

 

I may always prefer a quiet room to a crowd, but I also want to demonstrate obedience to Him.   Will I ever eagerly anticipate mandatory fun?  Unlikely.  Am I destined to assume the role of party-planner extraordinaire?  Only if paper plates are involved.  Can He teach me to practice hospitality in order to impact the lives of others?    Absolutely.  When do you want to meet for coffee?

 

 

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Call me a doubting Thomas, but I never believe Colorado’s weathermen. The Farmer’s Almanac, my son’s makeshift barometer, and grandma’s arthritic fingers all prove more accurate than local predictions.
Fortunately, God’s word is far more reliable and trustworthy than the Weather Channel. Unlike the storm threatening on the horizon, He is unchanging—a source of protection and love in every season of our lives and through any circumstance.
Friend, remember that whether you are in the midst of the storm or basking in the sun, God remains constant. As Psalm 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.” He stands ready to offer His strength. Why not find refuge in the Rock today?

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As a teen, I was always offended when my mother asked one of her favorite questions–Would you jump off a cliff if your friends asked you to?  If I had answered  honestly, I might have said, “Yes.”  Like most young people, I wanted to be accepted, cared for, and…well…special to someone.  Jumping off the proverbial cliff was a possibility if I could just gain that elusive acceptance.

I was like the sheep noted in a 2005 USA Today article.  Did you read it?  Imagine the setting.  A few thousand sheep dot the rugged, Turkish landscape.  Just as the sun begins peeking over the horizon, the shepherds–hungry and cold–leave their flocks contentedly grazing to make a quick trip into town breakfast.  But, one sheep–either desperate or stupid–wanders away and leaps over a cliff and to his death.  Sadly, 1,500 other sheep follow.   

Now a “mature” adult, there are times I still find myself sliding toward the slippery slope. But the Great Shepherd rescues me and restores me to His fold, a place of safety where all of my needs are tenderly met.  All believers have this same reassurance.  As 1 Peter 2:25 reminds us, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”

Today, thank God for the times he has resuced you–whether you were at the edge of the cliff or already at the bottom. 

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Why have I decided to be one of millions blogging?  Because I have a story to share that continues to unfold page by page, chapter by chapter.  Like any story there is a beginning, middle, and end.  The beginning was difficult, the middle has been full of both triumphs and trials, and the ending is unpredictable .  Who knows what adventures and lessons I’ll learn along the way?

My prayer is that this blog will be a place of encouragement for you as we journey along life’s road together.  Let’s take a walk…

How has the beginning of your story influenced where you are in your life now? 

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