Tuesday, July 31, 2012

15 Things {Day Thirteen}

Happy Anniversary to my brother Eric and his wife,  Megan!
~July 31, 2004~

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
This phrase is open to opinion.  If you don't believe me, just Google it.  :-)  Others can debate it all they want, but it's definitely true for me!  The infrequent separations that Greg and I do experience are a huge reminder to me that our lives have really grown into one.  When I'm away from my husband it feels like half of me is missing. 

Tonight is my second night away this week, and I am looking forward to the huge embrace I will receive when we arrive home tomorrow - if the girls actually let me have a minute with him - they're missing daddy!  As much as what I'm doing is important, home is tugging at me.

Unfortunately for some, absence makes the heart to wander.

Lots of couples are running in different directions.  Some are military families.  Others are traveling for work.  There are a variety of reasons (some legitimate, others not so much), and if either spouse is lax in their commitment...boy, can the devil use that to perform his dirty work! 

I'm gonna go out on a limb here by saying that I don't think that it's God's best for us to, on a regular basis, be separated from our spouse.  Even if we are a Christian.  Too many of us set ourselves up for marital failure by simply ignoring the safeguards that hold families together.  I know.  Sounds radical.  But radical love and radical commitment is what it's gonna take to get us through these days.  And those may only be possible by radical decisions.

I believe people are selling this marriage thing far short of its actual value.  There are too few happy endings in our generation. And more are even avoiding the whole commitment thing altogether.   

Let's make a commitment to each other, shall we?  Let's determine to do whatever it takes to remain commited to our marriage.  If we walk beside our husbands throughout the days of our lives, they will be more inclined to grow toward us and less tempted to look for substitutes for our companionship. 

As I tuck into bed shortly, there will be an awkward emptiness next to me.  It draws me toward home, cause that's where I left the best part of myself.

To keep the fire burning brightly there's one easy rule: Keep the two logs together, near enough to keep each other warm and far enough apart - about a finger's breadth - for breathing room. Good fire, good marriage, same rule.
 ~Marnie Reed Crowell

Monday, July 30, 2012

15 Things {Day Twelve}

My spouse really can be my best friend (or my worst enemy).

When something great happens, who is the first person I want to tell?  When something not-so-great happens, who is the first person I want to tell?  These are a couple of the questions I have asked myself over the years as I have done my best to develop my marriage as my number one relationship.  

Lots of people can live in a mediocre marriage, or even a contented one.  But a fantastic marriage happens when a man and a woman become the absolute best of friends. When they choose to work together, play together, pray together, rest together, and grow together.

Maybe that's why, after 70+ years of marriage, my great-grandfather had the nursing home staff push the twin beds together in the room of he and my great-grandmother. They wanted to be able to hold hands as they fell asleep. They had grown toward one another in a bond that made them the best of lovers and the best of friends. 

Last week, a terrible tragedy happened in our town.  A man was disgruntled with his estranged wife, and he entered the home in the middle of the night and shot his wife, his 20-year-old daughter, and eventually himself.  His 17-year-old son hid and avoided being wounded or killed in this horrific case of domestic violence.

Just yesterday, we found out that this couple was the one who had lived across the street from my parents not much more than a year ago.  When I gave the news to Kaitlynn, she gasped, "I just saw them at Halloween and they were in love!" 

Who knows the path that their marriage had taken since the days we would see them working in the yard, or their son playing basketball in the driveway.  Apparently, they had gone from being the best of friends to being the worst of enemies. 

It's beyond comprehension that marriage could have such a devastating ending, but somewhere along the way love was lost. 

My best friend isn't a hobby.  It isn't an organization.  It isn't a possession.  It isn't one of my precious children,  or even my precious parents.  My best friend is the man I fall asleep beside every night, and plan to grow old with one day - whenever we start to age...lol.  :-)

Sentimental Moments

Special moment with my parents and maternal grandparents,
Papa and Mama Yount  (1977)

This evening I'm in Cincinnati, savoring a few hours with a woman who has been like a best friend to me for all 36 years of my life.  Her back porch is one of her favorite places, and I'm hanging out there watching my girls let off some steam in the back yard for awhile. 

As I sit here and reflect, I can't help but have my mind flooded with thoughts of my Mama Yount.  Her unconditional love, constant concern, and genuine kindheartedness make her one in a million, in my book. Although my grandfather passed away at the age of 56 from a very rare blood disease, she has kept his memory alive for the rest of us, and I can feel the love and respect that she continues to have for the man he was...33 years later. 

I remember the trips that I took with her as a child.  One of my favorites was when she and her sisters cooked breakfast for my cousin, Andrea, and I on a charcoal grill near the Nolin River in Kentucky.  It was 5-star cookin', let me tell ya!  Mmmm!  :-)  I was able to ride along on several of her trips back "home" to Evansville, IN, and those are some of my earliest chilhood memories that I will forever have in my heart.

She took me on my first city bus ride.  I was probably 8, and we went from her house in Hyde Park down to the beautiful Riverfront Stadium.  After we finished walking around the downtown for awhile, we rode the bus back home.  Nothing huge, but it was just another one of mama's efforts to make my visits fun.

Her house was my favorite place on earth. 

It seemed to be the biggest place I had ever seen, and when I visited again just a few years ago (I explained to the current owners who I was and they offered my sister and I a tour), it didn't seem to be any smaller.  With three stories plus a full basement, who wouldn't feel like they were in a castle?  And we always wondered what lurked behind the little door in the wall of the third floor.  Probably just attic space, but little girls can have great imaginations, right?  :-)  All of us cousins loved putting on our yearly Christmas drama on the lower landing of the dramatic staircase, playing ping pong in the basement, helping make biscuits in the kitchen, opening Christmas gifts in the living room, and yes, even spying on the Catholic priest who lived across the street. Usually did that from the bay style window on the second floor...lol.  If we were bored inside the house, we might get walk a couple of blocks to Hyde Park Square, where we could shop at Pier 1, get ice cream at Graeter's, or browse the children's section of the library.  If the timing was right, we could always go to mass across the street.  Ok...so I only did that a couple of times.  :-)

As the years passed, mama felt that she needed a different style of home, something easier to navigate.  She moved to a beautiful brick ranch in Amberley Village, and we made hundreds more memories there.  When I had my wisdom teeth cut out, she came to be beside me and change out my ice packs every twenty minutes.  As I enrolled in college in  Cincinnati, she gave me a job working under her in home health care.  That was a huge blessing to me all four years. When I chose a husband, she accepted and loved him.  Then we had children.  And she started the cycle all over again.  Now Kait and Alli love to help mama make biscuits.  Her house is one of their favorite places to go.  And they feel that same unconditional love, constant concern, and genuine kindheartedness.

But we're entering a different season.  Last week brought difficult news. The strong woman we know is fighting a physical battle that will be rough at best.  She has a large ovarian tumor that is likely cancerous.  Within the next couple of days she will be making the decision of whether to pursue surgery and treatment, or let nature run its course.  Her doctor has told her that physically she seems to be 20 years less than her actual age, and that is why surgery is an option.  Although none of us wants to have to see her face these difficult decisions, they are here.   If you think about it, please pray for her to have clarity in the face of this. 

In the meantime, I'm going to get back to savoring the moments and making some more memories.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

15 Things {Day Eleven}

Marriage likely begins as a selfish venture,
but can only continue as a selfless expression.

Do you remember how it felt to be on that first date with the person who would eventually be your spouse?  I do...I'll never forget!  And from that point, every time I would think about him, hear his voice on the phone, see him coming toward me after a long commute,smell the scent of his cologne, or feel his hand clasped in mine, well, there it was again!  It was the amazing sensation of young love (or complete infatuation...however you define).

God designed us with emotional, physical, and spiritual needs that draw us to one another.  And I don't necessarily think we come into love because we have this enormous innate desire to meet the needs of another person.  We are attracted because of how that person makes us feel and how he/she meets those specific needs in our life.

As a marriage develops and strengthens, it's hard to decipher where the change occurs.  But it does.  And in a good marriage, a spouse finds himself/herself focusing less on their own feelings, comforts, etc., and more on those of whom they have grown to deeply love. 

The most beautiful marital picture is the one in which both spouses simultaneously grow in selflessness.  Each spouse continues to have their needs met because each of them have made meeting the needs of the other a primary priority.  It's a really great cycle that

When the relationship is lopsided (one spouse doing the giving, the other being more of a taker), someone ends up unfulfilled.  The marriage may or may not last, depending on how long the giver can keep giving without much reciprocation.

Then we've all seen marriages where each spouse is wrapped up in their own selfish interest, and there are a couple of good years, followed by a couple of bad years, and then typically before year 7, the big explosion occurs.  How incredibly sad that is, but scary enough, it doesn't take too much to divide us once we begin to focus on ourselves rather than our spouse. 

God's comparison of marriage to His relationship with the church is an interesting parallel.  It is so drastically different than the majority of the marriages we see in our culture, and it's no wonder many of them end the way that they do.  Whether we've been married 5,15, or 50 years, our marriage is only as strong as our relationship with God and our selfless and complete commitment to one another.

Hope your Sunday was blessed!  :-)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

15 Things {Day Ten}

You had to know this one was in the mix...


My husband's desire for intimacy is not something he
has made up for selfish purposes. It is part of God's
design, and it is a genuine need to be met through
 the bond of marriage. 

If you've been married less than a year, you may wonder why anyone would actually need to learn this.  If you've been married more than a year, well...momma told me there'd be days like this...haha! 

Without getting too personal, let me state my case.  No matter what the average woman goes through (physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually), her "drive" is affected.  No matter what a man goes through (well, almost), his "drive" stays in overdrive.  Although I do realize that there are situations where the roles seem to be reversed, this is the typical scenario.  (If you can't tell, I'm doing my best to override your internet filter:-))

At different points in our marriage, I struggled with frustration (and sometimes even anger) because of my inability to recognize his needs as needs and not simply selfish, superfluous desire.  Let me be clear that these frustrations didn't originate through any action of my husband, rather my own inner battles which often occurred during times of hormonal upheaval, stress, worry, or exhaustion (2 kids within 14 mos? Yeah...). 

It's easy for a wife to enjoy intimacy when her world is all lined up just right and things are going well, but the real gift that we can give to our husband is to be available to him when we might not just quite feel like it.  After all, he didn't program himself.  God wired him with needs that, as a Christian man, only his wife can meet. 

I'm so thankful to have a husband who is striving for all he's worth to be faithful to his commitment to me.  There's so much more to this topic, but it's only a post so I'll see you tomorrow for Day Eleven of 15 Things!

Friday, July 27, 2012

15 Things {Day Nine}

My husband cannot read my mind.  And he's not illiterate.
(and this picture is not of us...hahaha)

Every wife knows this, but it's like we just can't believe it or something!   I mean, the poor guy comes home from work, and it's written all over us, right?  It's either been a bad day, or it's fixin' to be a bad evening!  And by just walking in the door, he oughta know exactly what's running through our overactive mind. 
Lots of books have been written about how to fight or fix this phenomenon, but on it lives.  And for every poor, unassuming husband who has just put it a long day providing for his family, it's a shame. 

Think about the myriad of details a wife could oversee during any given day:
  • Paying bills/balancing checkbook
  • Household chores
  • Family members who are emotionally or physically needy
  • Church responsibilities
  • Purchasing - groceries, gifts, household needs, clothing
  • Tending children
  • Making or keeping appointments - doctor, dentist, music lessons, etc.
  • Working a job outside of the home in a professional environment
  • Most likely a huge combination of these

And her frustration at the end of the day may concern one of the above, or something completely out of the ordinary and unexpected.  Some husbands are genuinely concerned about their wife's feelings, and are kind enough to ask what's up or if everything is ok.  Others may not even notice the expression, the mood, the tone.

My husband should get a trophy for the amount of nights he has come home and tried to figure me out.  We are at this little point in time right now where we know there are certain cyclical times when I can't even figure myself out, so I weakly smile at him and say, "When I get it figured out, I'll let ya know."  That seems to make so much more sense to him than a grumble and a cold shoulder.  I wonder why.  :-)

In my head I've always known Greg couldn't read my mind, but it took my heart a little longer to catch up. Now I'm trying to make it a point to clear my head of all the distracting junk (pressures, discouragements, etc.) before he gets home so that my mind is a more focused on him than myself.  As with the rest of this learning process called marriage, it hasn't happened in a day or a week, but it's definitely a habit worth repeating as often as I'm able.

Now...hurrah for the weekend!  This week has been long and heavy.  Life hurts sometimes, you know?  I'm having to give myself some of the same exact counsel I've given to others in the last few weeks. God won't always protect us from the effects of the fall.  Disease and death...they didn't have any part in his original plan.  Sin brought all of this on us, and it's because of the curse of sin that we must endure these trials.  But...God will give us the strength and the courage to face the circumstances that come our way.  He will bring us through with victory!  As I've had to face discouraging news, God has reminded me of His faithfulness to the generations on my family.  His blessings have been innumerable. He will not forsake us in the time of our suffering!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

15 Things {Day Eight}

My husband needs to know that no matter what,
my relationship with him is my #1 priority (after God).

Ok...so this one was really easy for the first few months.  Maybe even for 2 - 1/2 years.  At least until a certain red-headed newborn arrived.  :-)  Really though, it's so easy to get caught up in something, anything, and forget our priorities.  God didn't give children and then husbands.  People do it that way these days, but that isn't God's plan.  God wants the marital relationship to have preeminence over any other relationship that we have. 

Some of us become distracted by our hobbies.  We spend more time online, shopping, hanging out with friends, couponing, organizing, or reading than we do being the emotional companion that our husbands so desperately need and desire. 

Some of us have kid-centered homes.  We structure our days around the kids activities, the kids have our attention from early in the morning until late at night, and then sometimes the kids rule the night, as well!  We think that because our hubbies are grown ups and the kiddies aren't, that the hubbies should be the ones short-changed.

Some of us are expending too much energy on other relationships.  Momma is an important person, but once we are married, our husband takes preeminence over momma.  If we talk to her more than we talk to him, there's a big problem.  Our home should certainly be open to show hospitality to others, but if  our homes are getting too much traffic, our marriages suffer. 

Some of us are workaholics.  When we aren't at work, we're thinking about work, or working from home.  Because work = money (and jobs often have hard deadlines), it seems like a good excuse for husband neglect. 

Some of us are dreamers.  We are lost on our own little planet of "what ifs" and we don't purposefully neglect, it just ends up that we aren't in tune to reality.  Our husbands can't reach us because our minds are off in another world.

I have recently read a couple of articles where the wife asked her husband to list his priorities for happiness and comfort in the home so that she could see the areas she should put at the top of her list.  Whether it was a hot meal on the table when he arrived home in the evening, a tidy environment, peace and quiet, 20 minutes in the recliner...she wanted to be able to focus on what mattered most to him.  In each instance, the wife was surprised when her husband wrote at the top of the list something similar to this:
"Just be available to connect with me."

At times throughout our marriage, we have had to ignore the doorbell, turn off the phone, decline an invitation for a night or a weekend away, or place a careful distance between some relationships that were becoming dependent and unhealthy, simply for the sake and the safety of our home. Those aren't always the easiest choices to make, but if my husband is my priority, love will help me willingly make those sacrifices.

I don't know if all husbands have the freedom to approach their wives when they feel the have become 3rd on her list, but I'm thankful that mine does.  In earlier days, I was tempted to think, "Well, there's only so much of me, and sometimes what's left is whatcha get."  Fortunately, time and experience has changed that mentality, and I find myself terribly missing my husband when we don't have time each day connect on an individual level.  Without the noise of the kids, the cell phone, or the door bell.

I have made a life-long vow to only one person. 
And the recipient of that vow should be my #1 priority.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

15 Things {Day Seven}


Constructive criticism is a necessary and beneficial part of a successful marriage.

Do you remember how it felt the first time your spouse indicated that you could use some improvement in a specific area?  Whatever they are, most of us married folks have our imperfections "outed" from time to time.  :-)
An important part of marriage for me has been to learn the art of giving and receiving constructive criticism.  This is a sensitive area where time, observation, sensitivity, and communication are vital.  Each personality gives and receives criticism differently, and it is important that we approach this is a way that is tailored to our spouse. 

My husband and I are both pretty strong-willed people.  In some relationships, one of the spouses will be subdued and quiet, but we are both verbal and "out there" with our feelings.
No matter how much either of us would try, we can't (and shouldn't) change that. 
Instead, our goal should be to better one another in Christlike love.  And I think we've done a much better job of that during the second half of our first fifteen years together.

On giving constructive criticism:
  • Is my motive pure?
  • Is the timing right?
  • Will it encourage my spouse toward Godly character or throw him/her on the defensive?
  • Am I using the "sandwich" method? (slipping the criticism in between two positive traits)
  • Am I content to live with the outcome, even if it isn't exactly what I wanted?

On accepting constructive criticism:
  • Am I willing to listen to the criticism without becoming defensive?
  • If I feel attacked, can I respond in a way that will cause my spouse to be more sensitive yet let them know I am open to their advice?
  • Am I open to asking God to help me work on those areas of weakness that have been "outed?"
  • Can I genuinely thank my spouse for his/her honesty and concern for me?
  • Can I let the criticism do its work and then move on with life without letting it eat at me for hours or days?

What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how
compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility. 

~George Levinger

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

15 Things {Day Six}

- a 2007 pic with Livvy -
My husband’s personality is different. 
Different from my dad’s. Different from my brother’s. 
He is a man, but does not always think, act, or
respond like the men with whom I have grown up. 
They say a girl will often choose a guy who is somewhat like her dad.  Greg and my dad have some similarities - they are both kind, compassionate, funny, tender, masculine, hard-working, and family-oriented.  And then they have their differences - levels of patience, levels of organization, etc.  I knew I wasn't marrying my father (duh), but I hadn't prepared for some of the "minor" adjustments that would need to be applied to my expectations.

For instance, not too far into marriage, it was time to change the oil in the car.  Imagine my response when Greg said, "I'll make an appointment to get it done."  To really imagine my response, you have to know that I grew up with a dad who did all of the car maintenance and repairs himself.  Although it wasn't really verbalized, dad doing those things implied to me that it was a waste of money to take one's care to WalMart or the Jiffy Lube for an oil change.  What was completely normal to my husband, was completely foreign to me. 

So, I'm not sure how that one ended, but as time moved on and life became more expensive, Greg learned how to do car maintenance and minor repairs.  And I learned that if he wanted to take the car to WalMart, it wasn't the end of the world.  I also learned not to expect my husband to function, react, or lead like my father.  They are both great men, and I respect them both very much, but they are different.  And that's ok.  :-)

Don't marry the person you think you can live with;
 marry only the individual you think you can't live without. 

~James C. Dobson

Monday, July 23, 2012

15 Things {Day Five}

My husband is at his best when he knows
I believe in him and am supportive of him.

You've heard variations of the saying, "Behind every good man is a good woman." There is a lot of truth there, but I think an equally accurate statement would be, "Behind every successful man is a supportive woman." 

Men have varying levels of self-esteem and confidence, but I don't know of any man who wouldn't thrive a little more with the affirmation of the woman he loves.  One of the sad losses that has resulted from the women's lib movement (as well as the Hollywood influence) is that the ideas, dreams, and goals of men are no longer respected.  In many instances, they are ridiculed.  In some homes, it is simply the case that the wife forces her husband into the dreams and roles she wants for
him, rather than allowing him to follow his calling or his natural bent. 

During the earliest years of our marriage, I succumbed to the temtation to think that my "work' was more important than that of my husband.  I had endured 4 years of college while working several different jobs, planning a wedding, serving as assistant dorm dean my junior year, and then during my senior year, being a wife.  My job followed my degree path, and I was working in ministry.  Sounds noble enough, right?  And I'm ashamed to say that wasn't emotionally supportive of my husband in ways that I could have been during those first few years of his getting up before dawn, and often getting home well after most had finished their workday.  I underestimated the importance of his blue collar job and the powerful way it would serve our family for these many years.

Greg spent a few semesters at Bible college, and he jokes about his GPA, which he says resembles Cheerios.  After he decided that college wasn't for him, he went back to his home state and worked until we met and married.  We had been married for two or three years,when he decided to take some classes at our community college.  These classes benefitted him in various ways and he did very well, but as we had several kids in a short period of time, he decided that it was time for him to focus on his job and our family.  I supported him in that, because I no longer had an agenda for him.  He was not me, and I was not him.  Our personal fulfillment hinged on differing criteria, and he needed to do what benefitted him, and ultimately the good of the family. 

Through the years, it has been important for me to learn how to support my husband.  To help him strengthen his strengths and eliminate his weaknesses, not through nagging and mothering, but with careful, thoughtful wisdom, and actions that allow him room to learn and grow in his unique role.  I haven't arrived in this role of supporting, and there's lots more work to be done, but we've come a long way, baby!

Oh, and the guy with the "cheerio" GPA? He's a hard workin' man who is into his 15th year at the good job that God blessed him with. When he's ready for a different challenge, I want to be there to provide just the right amount of support and encouragement that will propel him into his next level of success. 

Three ways to support your mate:
  • Encourage the dream - It's easy to shoot down another's dreams by deeming them unrealistic.  Maybe jealousy kicks in and we are afraid for them to accomplish more.  By remembering that we are a team (i.e. he wins, she wins, we both win), success becomes mutually fulfilling.  And any success begins with a dream.
  • Communicate your desire to share their needs - Many times we don't know how to meet the needs of our spouse because we don't even know what the needs are.  As we trust one another with our most intimate thoughts, we should then be listening for signals that indicate need.  If you aren't getting anywhere through observation, make it clear that you want to be supportive and ask for help in identifying areas where your support is needed.
  • Adopt a sacrificial attitude - When we choose to focus on the needs of another person, our life will become less about us and more about them.  This is God's plan, but self-centeredness often keeps us from reaping the rewards of sacrifice.

Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate,
but through being the right mate. 
~Barnett R. Brickner

Sunday, July 22, 2012

15 Things {Day Four}

Trying to change my spouse (even in very small, inconsequential areas)
will only result in frustration and bitterness.

We've all heard two things about marriage:
1. Don't expect to change your spouse.
2. The things that you like most about each other when dating may be the things that ultimately annoy you the most once you are married.

If you're married, you will likely agree with at least one of these.

When I met Greg, he had to be the pickiest eater I knew.  This post isn't intended to reflect negatively upon him, so just take it for what it's worth.  If you know him, you already knew this.  :-)

The only veggies he would eat cooked: corn (if that counts), potatoes, and more corn.  The only fruit he would eat: grapes, oranges, maybe watermelon, and maybe an apple - if it was the right kind.  He wouldn't touch anything made with mayo, onions, tomatoes.  No salads.  No casseroles.  No pies.  Of course, broccoli, cauliflower, cooked carrots, green beans, peas, etc. were all out.  He would eat most meat if it didn't contain a bunch of "foreign" items, such as seasonings.  No lasagna, spaghetti, alfredo...you get the picture.  It was bad.  Without a doubt, this was the most annoying thing to me.  Even before we were married.  It was awkward to go places (especially to family gatherings on my side-where onions are the key ingredient of any entree'...lol), and after we were married it was magnified. 

At times, this subject became a major source of contention.  I would get angry if he would look at a bite of food more than two seconds...I was just sure he was inspecting everything for hidden substances.  He couldn't understand why it was such a big deal.  He argued that I should be happy that he was easy to please.  After all, when you only have like ten ingredients to choose from, how complicated can dinner be?

After realizing that my getting annoyed wasn't going to suddenly turn my husband into a vegan, I backed off.  And our kids became old enough to sit at the table and know what they were eating.  "Why do I have to eat it?  Dad's not."  All of the sudden, Greg would reach for what Ryan was whining about and pop it into his own mouth, grimacing all the way.  "See, dad's eating it, " he would say.  And so the transformation began.  But it wasn't my whining that made the difference, it was his own realization of his example.

Fast forward 15 years, and I might be able to name 10 things that Greg won't eat.  In fact, just the other day he came home from work with a big bag of tomatoes.  "I stopped at Suter's and got these.  I've already eaten two of them."  Whaaaaat?  I'm not so sure about this...now I have to share my tomatoes!

That night at dinner, Greg cut up another large tomato and put it in an extra bowl beside his plate.  Evan said, "Dad, you don't like those things, you're just eating them because they're good for you."
Greg replied, "Believe me Evan, if I didn't like 'em, I wouldn't eat 'em!"  And that's the truth.  :-)

Trying to change our spouse is not a good plan.  Loving them as they are and allowing them room to grow and develop (with prayer and hopefulness) yields far better results. 

I'm off to water my tomato plants...

A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love,
trust, partnership,tolerance and tenacity. 
The order varies for any given year. 
~Paul Sweeney

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I haven't really followed the fallout of J.C. Penney's recent corporate decisions, but I thought it interesting when I ran across this news piece the other day.

I wonder if they are still confident in their new strategy?

15 Things {Day Three}

My husband's compliments are genuine and heartfelt.

From the earliest time I can remember, I have had difficulty accepting compliments.  My dad was really good about teaching us kids in the church and school to accept a compliment and defer the glory to God, and so-all these years later- I still remind myself to do that. 

A funny story that I will never forget:  I had a high school crush on the man I eventually married.  I was 17, and we were sitting together during an outdoor drama at a youth camp.  He had asked me to sit with him, and during the drama he leaned over and told me that I looked nice.  To this day, my response floors me.  I looked at him and said, "You must need new glasses."  It was probably then and there that he decided I needed a few more years to grow up!  Haha!  I don't think either of us have ever mentioned that awkward moment, and it's likely that he doesn't even remember it.  I'll find out after he reads this!  :-)

Even though lots years have passed since that hot July evening, there are times when I find myself making my own addendum to his compliments.  He says I look nice, I make a comment about my weight.  He enjoys a meal I've prepared, I find a flaw.  He  notices a success in my career, I focus on the one thing that wasn't so successful. 

What I have learned in 15 years is that throwing off a compliment is annoying to a man.  When he says it, he means it.  He isn't trying to impress me, or simply make me feel better about myself.  He's telling the truth from his heart.  There are reasons why he was drawn to me, and he should be able to remind me of those now and then without me rejecting his words.  I think he would tell you that I'm doing better.  I'm sure trying!

I don't know whether you struggle with accepting compliments, but if you do, practice accepting them with a smile.  Even if your insides want to argue about it.  After awhile, your heart will receive complimentary words just as genuinely as they are given. 

The bonds of matrimony are like any other bonds - they mature slowly. 
~Peter De Vries

Friday, July 20, 2012

15 Things {Day Two}

Submission isn't only an act, it’s an attitude.

I'm sure you've heard the words, "Sure can tell who wears the pants in that house!"  It's not always a specific action that leads to such an assumption, but more often a prevailing spirit that can be felt by anyone with decent perception.  Maybe you've been the one to wear the pants...or secretly wished you could...

Although our wedding wasn't completely traditional (the thoughts of a veil over my face just weirded me out), Greg and I did choose not to see or talk to each other on our wedding day until I walked down the aisle to meet him at the altar.  Thing is, we had a lot to talk about (like the brakes being redone on the car, etc.) and had to catch up during the wedding.  If you were there, you probably noticed us chatting throughout the ceremony.  ;-) 

The chatting turned to smirks and giggles at one point.  I'm pretty sure it was when one of the ministers began to read this passage...

22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  -Ephesians 5

Here's the deal:  Greg knew he was marrying an independent woman.  Anything that I could do for myself, I would.  When we were dating, I didn't like him to open the car door for me.  In fact, I asked him not to.  It was a visual image that went against the grain of who I was.  {Ok...so I'll even admit that it was hard for me to change my name when we got married.  Eeek! Please don't think I was a complete feminazi...}

From my earliest memories, I took all of the freedom and independence I could get.  My parents can tell you...they didn't have to push me or help me when it came to getting a job, doing my taxes, filling out paperwork for college, or anything else that I can remember (except cleaning my room - lol).  I wanted to take care of myself.  Period. 

Submission is a word that sounded awkward to my ears.  It produced images of weakness and dependence.  I didn't want to be a burden or be burdened, and my warped idea of submission gave me visions of inequality that made me uncomfortable, to say the least.  Since the subject of submission is often misinterpreted, or avoided altogether, it could easily be laughed off and forgotten... at least until the next time God whispered it to my heart.

Throughout the early years of our marriage, there were instances where my resistant spirit caused tension, frustration, and coldness.  Because I was out of place, my husband could not fill his role as he should.  Of course, I didn't see all of this at the time.  I was blinded by my pre-conceived ideas plus a little immaturity. 

But let me tell you, a woman who is generally happy can become unhappy in a flash if she has a controlling, unsubmissive spirit.   The giggles and smirks during the reading of Ephesians 5 at the marriage altar quickly become the reality of a power struggle that threaten the foundation of the marriage. 

A friend once expressed to me her concern that mothers are not doing enough to teach their daughters how to be submissive.  She said she had no clue of what being a submissive wife meant when she married. I'm really not sure what all was behind her words,  but I have thought about them many times over the last few years, and have drawn my own conclusion: 
submission is an attitude

We can teach our children how to have proper attitudes.  My parents did.  However, each person must embrace and integrate the spirit of submission in their own life.  Our parents can't just inject us with a marinade that guarantees a tasteful result.  Individually, we must get to the point where we see ourselves and the sight makes us desire change.  That takes time, reality-based experience, and soul-searching.  It's a spiritual process.

I can't say that there was any one critical moment of change for me, but somewhere along the way, I became tired of the inward struggle.  I wanted to submit to my Heavenly Father as well as my earthly husband.  I wanted to rest in allowing them to have their rightful places in my life.  It was a longer process in the marital relationship, and came through cycles of submission and trust.  When I could trust my spouse with my submission, submission became easier. 

15 years later, the word submission is beautiful to me.  I am still "myself," but I am no longer fearful of being in submission to my husband.  I realize that there is safety and contentment in submission.  Allowing him to function as the head of our home, frees me from the responsibilities that he is to rightfully bear, and allows me to become the support that he needs in leading and decision-making.   

If you struggle with the idea or attitude of submission, know that you are not the first.  Ask God to rid your heart of the desire for control.  Learn that being right isn't really important, especially if being right causes you to act in a way that brings condemnation. 

And lose the pants.  :-)

Filling your God-given role as a wife is not an inferior task.  Be the best wife you can be. 

Once you are maximizing your "wife potential," you won't want to be anything else!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

15 Things {Day One}

No matter how closely aligned our backgrounds,
marriage unearths unexpected differences.

Because Greg and I were raised with similar traditions, religious affiliations, and family structures, it seemed that combining our lives and hearts into one would be a seamless transition.  Not that we were ignorant of the changes that marriage brings, but similarity in background should make things easier, right? And I believe that it did.

However, those of you that are married know that twin backgrounds does not guarantee cloned spouses!  One of the differences that was unexpected for me was the fact that my new husband was a homebody!  His mom had told me that as a child he preferred home to anywhere and anything, but I didn't see that throughout our 18 month courtship, so it didn't cross my mind that this would again surface once we said "I Do."

As a preface to this difference, I'm an extrovert, and Greg's naturally an introvert (if you know him now, you'd never guess).  While we were dating, Greg had a 4-6 hour commute to see me, depending on whether he came to my college campus or my home.  Obviously, we didn't have our own place, so if we wanted to be alone time we would go to the mall, the park, a restaurant, or an event.  Those things were all right in line with my personality, and he would tell you that he enjoyed those times, but really...anytime we could be together was a good time (can anyone say Bible college dating rules???).

Once we were married, I went to school all morning and worked 2nd shift.  He worked mostly 1st shift, and cooked and cleaned while I was at work.  When I would come in sometime after 9 p.m., the hardwood floors were shining (let me tell you about the Pledge experiment), the rooms were tidy, and dinner was served.  And none of this was on a "honey-do" list.  It was out of the goodness of his lil newbie husband heart.  :-)

Nine months later I graduated, we moved, and he had a much more demanding job which included 12+ hour days, and lots of driving, and lifting.  Considering the fact that he was only 13 months off of major back surgery and had an easier job during those 13 months, this was quite an adjustment for him.  

Looking back, I smile at the confusion I felt inside when, after coming home from my teaching job each day, I would {with great energy and exuberance} exclaim, "Are you ready to go?"  His responses weren't as energetic, but he would quickly shower and we would go.  And go. And go.
I wanted to go to everything.  And I just couldn't for the life of me understand why he didn't!   

This was a battle that I mostly fought inside my own mind.  We did have a few arguments about my go-go mentality (lol), but over the course of about 5-8 years I really had to adjust my ideas of normal, and he had to stretch his comfort zone. 

15 years later, it's intriguing to see how our perspectives have changed.  It's less about "him" or "me," and more about "us."  Unfortunately, more than half of all marriages dissolve before they work through the stuff that gets them to the best years of marriage. 

Every couple has differences.  Most of them don't come to light until after the wedding, and most of them wouldn't be deal breakers anyway.  How we handle the differences makes all the difference in the cohesiveness of our marriage.  Greg could have chosen to sit at home, and I could have continued to go, go, go.  But that decision would have drawn us apart and made us more self-centered. 

If you are struggling with marital differences, step back and do a little introspection.  See how God has created you and your spouse as unique individuals and blended your lives to help you balance one another.  Accept and appreciate what those differences bring to your relationship, and work toward a spirit of selfless love.  You'll look back with a smile when you see the progression toward unity and marital satisfaction.
The older I get, the less time I want to spend with
the part of the human race that didn't marry me.
  ~Robert Brault~

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

15 Things I've Learned...

Greg & Stephanie
~August 2, 1997~
My 15th wedding anniversary is coming up in 15 days.  What a ride this journey of marriage has been to this point!  We're hoping that God will grant us 60+ years together, but however long He chooses to allow us to live, we want to have a great marriage that reflects love, commitment, and happiness to a world that seems to know little of the three.

During the next 15 days, I'm going to post 15 things I have learned in these first 15 years of being a wife.  Some of these things I knew in theory, but there's nothing like experience to bring us wisdom! Of course, this 15 year education has taught me waaaay more than 15 things {lol}, but you probably already knew that.  :-)

So, stay tuned...and if you have something you'd like to throw in, feel free!  Lots of women have told me they keep up with the blog, and I'm sure we can all learn something valuable from the experience of another. 

Be blessed today!

Monday, July 16, 2012


It's quiet. Everyone else is in bed.
My mind is running a thousand miles an hour.
I have so much to do, yet...
I seriously just spent 2 hours reading blogs and pinterest.
Now that's what I call time management. Or whatever.
Anyone wanna cast the first stone?  {lol}

I'm gonna head on to bed with a headache (too much screen time) and heartburn (who knew a late dinner of leftover lasagna could feel this yuck).  My husband can't wait until school starts and his night owl once again goes to bed at a semi-decent time.  Until then, there will likely be midnight posts, and yeah, probably a little heartburn.  :-)

In other news, tomorrow brings the blast off of our VBS -

and it's making me both excited and exhausted just to think about all the work between now and then!  Fortunately, we have about the coolest team anyone could ask for, and they are all working their tushies off to make this the best VBS ever.  Anytime I participate in a group project like this, I have a new appreciation for the variety of gifts represented in the church.  I don't just mean my church, but any church that is comprised of people who are willing to sacrifice a little (or a lot) to make something worthwhile happen.  And amazing things can happen when different people with different ideas, different gifts, and even different opinions unify toward a cause. 

I know VBS isn't up everyone's alley of interest, but I will try to post a few pics as the week progresses to show our set and our stations.  This is our 3rd year to use the Answers in Genesis VBS curriculum, and since I didn't find this wonderful stuff until 2010, this year we are catching up and using the 2009 kit (the first one AIG put out).  If you are interested in hearing my perspective on the AIG curriculum, you can shoot me an email, and I'll be happy to help you as much as I can.

Now that it's offically morning, I'm off to find the Tums and my pillow.

Mahvalous Monday to ya!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bring On The Rain!

As I walked from the house to the mailbox today, I heard a sound that was strange and not at all comfortable.  It was the crunch of grass beneath my feet.  Our lawn has become a dry, prickly sea of brown stick like blades that threaten the comfort of anyone who dares cross them without shoes.  :-)

Of even more consequence, though, is the drought that is choking out our summer crops.  Here in northwest Ohio, corn is drying up and tasseling out before the ears mature.  Bean fields lack their usual robust fullness.  The earth's surface is cracking and separating from lack of moisture.  These signs spell trouble for farmers this year, and for food prices for the general public as early as 2013.  We need rain. 

As much as our earth (and our bodies) crave moisture and produce poorly without it, I'm reminded of another drought...one that threatens to suffocate our souls.  Just as nature has its seasons, our spiritual walk has cycles.  Some are rich in blessing and growth, others are like my grass...dry and withered.  Acts of prayerlessness, doubt, negativity, and elusiveness, along with a myriad of other sin can lead us into drought before backsliding or reconciliation occurs, but more often than not, busyness and misplaced priorities are the hindrances that keep us from soaking up the presence of God. Sometimes these periods of dryness come upon us seemingly out of nowhere.  If you've been a Christian for any length of time, you can probably relate to the spiritual drought of which I speak. 

Recently, I was made aware of my soul's thirsty condition, and I drew near to God, asking Him to again pour out His Spirit on my desperate heart. It wasn't long before He did exactly as I had asked, and it seemed that He was so near that His garment could be touched.   Just as our earth has experienced periods of brief showers in recent days, when we sense His presence we cry, "Send more! We aren't satisfied with sporadic droplets, bring on the rain!" 

In direct proportion to our desperation, He responds in great measure.  He visited my church on Wednesday night, showing Himself strong to two ladies, and raining on the rest of us through their exhuberant testimonies of praise.  It was as if buckets of blessings were released and those of us that were thirsty and waiting could have as much as we could soak in!  He has used those spontaneous praise notes to bless me over and over throughout the last couple of days, and my faith is strengthened. God is at work!  He is convicting, He is rescuing, He is changing destinies, and He is refreshing the hearts of those who have fixed their focus on their Creator.

How beautiful are the moments when we feel Heaven's rain!

I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill.
I will send down showers in season;
 there will be showers of blessing.

     Ezekiel 34:26

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summertime Sweetness For Moms

I love these days.  Though it is flying by, the lazy pace of summer makes me more apt to drink in the beauty around me:
the comforts of my home, insanely funny little comments from my four-year-old, hugs from my boys (which are feeling very much like man-hugs), American Girl dreams with my blondie, almost-15-years-of-forever with the love of my life...these are the things that matter, ya know? 

I wouldn't trade fingerprints and laundry piles for sparkling glass and time to rest, rv's and campgrounds for elite hotels on exclusive resorts, dirty toes and flip flops for perfectly pedicured posies, endless questions and competing voices for serene candlelit dinners, or bbq pork with mac-n-cheese for filet mignon with asparagus.  Not that the alternatives aren't appealing, but it's a fact that fingerprints, laundry piles, camping, dirty toes, flip flops, endless questions, competing voices, and bbq pork with mac-n-cheese are a few of the trademarks of our home, and these are the moments that can only be savored now

Sometimes it's hard to appreciate the role that we currently play.  We long for escapes like some that I mentioned (who doesn't dream, right?), and occasionally it's important to take the time to step back and to refresh and refocus - maybe even by indulging in one of the above.  But many times our battles aren't exhaustion or unhealthy stress levels, rather they are a result of distraction or boredom.  We get tired of breaking up fights, cleaning up spilled milk, washing the unending mountains of clothing, putting together healthy, kid-friendly meals, repeating the same mantras day in and day out, and on and on...

Although I have my share of these moments, let me encourage both of us to embrace the ordinary, seek contentment in the routine, and make each and every day of summer twenty twelve a memory worth keeping.  These moments will never again be as they are now, and we are wise to fix the precious images in our minds and hearts. 

I have to say, I'm enjoying my children being less dependent on me for every need.  They can each dress, toilet, and feed themselves (woo hoo!), and we have entered a new and different stage in parenting.  However, just as quickly as they moved from complete dependence to their individual levels of semi-independence, time will certainly push us even more quickly toward the day that they will spread their wings and fly right out of our little nest into a life of their own.  I will be satisfied with myself if I know that I have cherished the moments, savored the days, and made the most of every opportunity God has given me in fulfilling the great task of motherhood. 
All the while, life is rushing by us
Hold it now and don’t let go
These are the days
The sweetest days we’ll know
~Vanessa Williams

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Need A Lift?

Read a good book!

Early in the summer, I determined to make myself set aside time for extra-curricular reading.  It's not always easy to know where to start when choosing books.  There are many great reads out there today, but one has to be fairly selective because time is valuable, and peaceful moments are few (at least in my house!). 

That said, there are two books I read this month that I would encourage you to read!
I'm going out on a bit of a limb here:   

Dr. Kevin Leman is one of my favorite authors because he brings authenticity and humor to every subject he touches.  The topic of sexual intimacy in marriage really has to be approached from the right perspective for a number of reasons, and Dr. Leman does it in an amazing way in his book Sheet Music.
If you are married and can enjoy a candid conversation about intimate topics, read this book.  Your marriage will thank you.  ;-)

And on a completely different note:

At church camp, I attended a ladies' meeting that was geared toward those who minister to children.  Mrs. Isabel Rundell is an amazing, high-energy woman, and she is pretty persuasive, too!  She recommended several missionary books, and in passing she mentioned The Circle Maker.  Although she really didn't hint to the direction of the book, it piqued my interest, and I purchased it as soon as I got home.  Let me just say that this is a book I will be buying for our church library, and hopefully I can convince some friends to read it!  I have always struggled with the issue of faith.  I know God can do anything, but I don't wake up every morning excited to see how God is going to work miracles because of my prayers and my faith.  I ask Him, I hope, and I move on.  A few weeks ago, a friend talked to me about a struggle she was having believing that God was going to move in a situation in her life.  She said something like this, "I've heard about other people's miracles, but I've never really seen anything like that in my own life."  I pondered this conversation for several days, and every time I thought about it I felt sad because it seems like we are missing out on a really big part of our walk with the Lord when we can't see Him at work in our troubles.  Yes, like many of you I took Doctrine and Practice of Prayer at Bible college, read the books, wrote the papers, kept the journals...all that.  But I can't say that any of that really touched me the way this book did.  After reading The Circle Maker, I'm challenged that God is just waiting for us for us to be specific in our praying and expectant in our living. 

"After seven days of circling Jericho, God delivered on a four-hundred-year-old promise.  He proved, once again, that His promises don't have expiration dates.  And Jericho stands, and falls, as a testament to this simple truth: If you keep circling the promise, God will ultimately deliver on it." 
-excerpted from The Circle Maker

Mark Batterson has certainly expanded my view of what God wants to do for us and through us if we will persist and persevere in prayer!  If you read The Circle Maker, let me know your thoughts.

And now:

I'm currently reading Raising Motivated Kids, and am far enough into it to know that most moms (and dads) could use these wise words of inspiration and encouragement.  Some days it is so tempting to just do it all and leave the kids to their toys and recreation, but it is important that we raise our kids to live independently of us.  In bygone eras, children were seen not only as a blessing, but as a part of the wheel that kept the household moving.  So much of that has been lost, and many children leave home without a clue of how to do most basic household tasks, let alone any motivation to try to learn.  I haven't been great with chore charts, but the boys are doing the bulk of their own laundry this summer, and it's my goal to have them doing it completely on their own by the time school starts.  :-)  Score! 
The key, though, is that our kids are contributing because they are motivated from the inside.  They see and understand why things are important, and that propels them to put the effort and energy behind it.  This book shows parents how to cultivate a motivated spirit that will help kids to excel in every area of their lives.

Hopefully I will be able to digest another three or four good books before school starts.  We'll see...

What has inspired you lately?

Thursday, July 5, 2012


July 5th, 2012.  Already.  Who knew summer could sail by so quickly?  :-) 

I had grand plans for my summer, but they certainly didn't include all of the tragedy and grief that seems to have entered our world in the last little while.  Since my grandma's death in April, there have been at least 9 deaths in or related to our church family.  A co-worker's cousin (8 years of age) has tumors on her spine and is given a 15% chance of survival, a student's grandmother just found out she has 8 tumors on her brain, a close friend's husband had a stroke last Friday (at the age of 40), another friend texted this week and said that her husband had been laid off, and I'm watching a couple of children for a friend whose husband had a car accident this afternoon and is currently undergoing tests at the ER (incidentally, the motorcyclist that he hit is in critical condition, which greatly increases concerns for charges).  This definitely isn't a conclusive list of the "bad" things that have been happening, but you get the drift. 

Kaitlynn looked at me a couple of days ago and said, "Mom, it seems like this is the season of death."  That is the perspective of an 8-year-old.  I, on the other hand, am still trying to figure out what in the world is going on!  A sampling of the ages of the deceased: 4 months, 17, 47, 59, 84...death is no respecter of persons. 

These weeks have caused some deep introspection, you can be sure.  Seeing my grandmother's hat and shoes by the door, as if somehow she would be using them again soon, looking at Jordan's Chair (the symbolic place where the 17-year-old was supposed to be sitting on the last Friday night of church camp), walking into little 4-month-old Cailee's house and seeing her tiny pink clothes in neat stacks here and there, listening to my dad recount the stories of he and his best bud, Steve Russell, who suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly as he was driving to work a couple of weeks ago...all reminders of the uncertainty of life and the finality of death. 

I don't know why I'm writing this today, except that my perspective is undergoing a makeover, and the important things are becoming more important than ever. We aren't guaranteed another moment, and that makes me want to grasp every opportunity to hold my loved ones close, whisper words that are hopeful and uplifting, and define my success by living every day for the things that never die.