Rest

Sunday night, Matt and I drove back up our driveway to reality. For the past four days, we had lived as newlyweds, except on this ‘honeymoon’ we were content to sit next to each other with a book in hand.

I read two books this week. I have to admit, I was relieved to know that I could still read considering I had taken six months to read my last book. I guess all I needed was a beach chair and umbrella and a couple of hours to myself.

And for four days, that was our existence. We woke up late and went to bed late after spending hours at the beach doing nothing. It was glorious. I’ve never been one for doing nothing, but now I see what I’ve been missing.

We started our vacation by getting our rings polished. Those first few years of marriage, we kept our rings sparkly and clean, but neglect from the last few years had taken its mark. They had become dull, merely a symbol that encircled our fingers but didn’t catch our eye. However, when the attendant walked out with our rings, I actually giggled. I found myself staring at my ring the way I had when it newly graced my finger.

Matt and I took long walks on the beach talking, not ‘how was work?’ talking, but really talking. We talked about our future and remembered our past. We didn’t talk about our kids much, either. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t really miss them.

Sure, I enjoyed talking to them every day, but I didn’t want to go home. I entertained the thought of hiring a nurse like the one in Romeo and Juliet. I would play with my kids and then hand them over to her when they started fighting or peed their pants. I decided that that plan wouldn’t work, though, because I actually do want to raise my children–just not during those days on the beach.

On the second full day, I surprised myself. I didn’t feel tired, anymore; sure, I felt lazy, and some of my plans for the day included a nap under the umbrella, but I didn’t feel like I couldn’t go on. And that feeling was one of the best of the trip.

We drove up our driveway last Sunday, and as the garage door rolled up, three little munchkins in pajamas ran out. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time we received applause from our children. I wanted to scoop them all up–there is just something about newly bathed children in clean pajamas.

And then the reality of what we’d been missing hit us quickly. Matt went right back to work, and I spent a morning at the chiropractor’s yelling at children who were fighting over toys. But I noticed, even while having pain in my back that wouldn’t let me turn to see what was actually happening in the rear of the van, I had patience. I disciplined better. And I loved greater.

I spent more time playing with my kids’ hair, and Matt and my kisses ‘goodbye’ lasted a little longer. I longed for him, and I desperately wanted, want, to keep up our walks at the beach where we talked about everything and nothing, together without distraction. I don’t want to fall into the rut of TV and Twitter; I want to keep our rings polished.

Rest was exactly what we needed to see each other with fresh eyes, and I don’t want to wait another ten years to rest again. I love Matt and my kids too much to run on empty. So the next time Mommy says” I need a vacation!” everyone better start packing their bags.

Have you taken the time to get the rest you need? Realistically, we can’t take vacation all the time–and in this economy, sometimes we can’t take a vacation at all. What are your suggestions for getting the rest we all need?

I’m linking up with Michelle for her ‘Graceful Summer.’

Risk

The rain began to tap the windshield as it had ten years prior, when we first drove away as husband and wife. I remembered the nervousness I felt as we sat in traffic (traffic at 11:00 at night, amazingly), quietly waiting to enter the rest of our lives. At the young age of 22, I really didn’t understand the risk I was taking, only that I was in love with a man whom I wanted to love forever. But, now, as we left our car and ran to take cover from the rain that came down cold on our backs, I realized how brave we were.

Ten years ago, we had decided to enter a union knowing that the odds said we had a 50 percent chance of losing. We risked making the vows anyway, deciding that divorce wasn’t an option for us. We knew that rough patches would come along, and we were committed to loving and working together through those times.

Of course, we didn’t know exactly what those rough times would be or the endurance we would need to keep going. We didn’t know the disappointments along the way or the helplessness we would feel when we didn’t know how to help one another. We didn’t know the strain that three kids would bring to our journey nor the darkness of depression. We didn’t know how tired and empty we could feel.

But we had heard ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ and we risked the ‘I do’s’ anyway. And every day since then, we’ve risked giving a little more than we think we have left, losing a little bit of ourselves as we try to serve each other, forgetting comfort as we do what is right instead of what is easy.

I looked across the table that night at him as we ate risotto and laughed at not being cool enough for our waiter and wondered if it was still raining outside. We let our tired selves relax in our chairs as we pushed aside everything but each other.

I watched him smile across the table at me, and I missed our kids–but not really–and I thought of his braveness, our braveness, and strength. We were tired, but we were enjoying each other too much to leave. And ten years later, knowing the risks but experiencing the gain, I quietly said, ‘I do.’

This post was inspired by Lisa-Jo’s ‘Five Minute Friday’ on risk and, of course, my husband of ten years, Matt. I wanted more than five minutes to think about my words, so I mulled over them this weekend. I love you, Matt, and I look forward to risking the rest of our lives together.

 

Wonder

I’m linking up with The Gypsy Mama for her “Five Minute Friday.”The rules: Write for five minutes flat without tweaking or editing.

 

 

GO:

We lay in bed, two separate twin beds, three children crammed in sleeping bags between our beds, at the foot, beside us. And I looked over in that dark room at you, a tall man in that small bed, and you said, “You can come over here.”

And I excitedly climbed over kids to cuddle next to you, if only for a minute before we drifted to sleep. In wonder I lay as you wrapped your strong hands around me, wonder that you who had driven until three in the morning, tired and uncomfortable, loved me so much that you would exchange a good night’s sleep for a sleep holding your wife.

It was then that I knew how much you truly loved me; it was then that I knew I would be safe in your arms forever.

STOP:

We are on vacation for a long weekend, but I figured I could muster five minutes of writing! I was very distracted by a two-year-old who has suddenly developed separation anxiety–as in I cannot be more than 24 inches away from her at any given time without a meltdown ensuing. Nevertheless, I wrote what I could, and I look forward to reading and commenting on your posts later this weekend. Thank you for stopping by!



 

 

Rethinking My Thinking

It was 7:45 a.m., and I had already made three trips up and down the stairs. Little children, on a quest to find hidden Easter candy, would take turns sneaking downstairs while I was helping their brother or sister get ready for school. By the third time I pulled a toddler off the kitchen counter, my mood was wrecked for the day.

When is he going to install those baby gates?! If I can’t even change a diaper without a child climbing on top of the refrigerator, I certainly can’t do any tasks myself that would require power tools!

And with that thought I recalled every item on my husband’s ‘honey-do’ list. I began to organize the list into a book with chapters, and I wrote a mental preface explaining how hard my job as a stay-at-home mom to three crazies five and under was and how it was exponentially harder because my husband’s list had grown too long.

I know the power of thoughts. I can drive from 0 to 60 on the witch-mobile in two seconds flat.

So I really didn’t appreciate the sermon yesterday on Phillipians 4:8-9:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (The Message)

Think about the best not the worst? The beautiful not the ugly? Please! How can I not think about the four inches of hair my daughter clipped from her beautiful head?! And of course, if I think about that event, there’s no way I can stop myself from thinking about something on the ‘honey-do’ list that was the inevitable cause!

But then I realized that there was a time when I taught myself to think differently, to find thoughts full of praise instead of curses. For Lent, I decided to give up complaining about when Matt came home from work–and I didn’t plan on indulging in complaints once Easter arrived, either. I knew that my complaining was a sin, and every time I was tempted to do it, I wanted to remind myself that it was sins like this one that sent Jesus to the cross.

After all, Matt’s doing his job and providing for his family. He comes home right after work and can’t help it that he sits in traffic for an hour and half. We tried to move–it didn’t work–so now it was time for me to move on in my thoughts. I needed to provide a place of refuge in our home, not a storehouse for tension.

I don’t know if Matt noticed, but I learned to bite my tongue. And after biting my tongue enough times, I trained myself to not have the thoughts causing me to bite my tongue in the first place. I wasn’t perfect–I slipped right before Easter–but I saw how changing my overall thinking for 40 days changed my entire mood.

And I hate to admit it, but John Maxwell was right. In his sermon yesterday, he challenged us with the thought that “when we want to fix others, it’s normally we who need to be fixed.”

Ouch.

I don’t like thinking that way. I’d rather think about baby gates and cluttered attic spaces instead of the junk cluttering up my own mind.

The best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.


But, perhaps, there just might be something to not thinking about the baby gates after all.

 

Linking up with Michelle

and Jen

 

He’s Just That Good

While I typically can write a blog post with relative ease, I struggle every Thursday night like my former high school students, not knowing where to start, not able to hit that first key on the laptop, staring at a blinking cursor. The past few weeks I struggled because I knew what I was lacking, and it’s hard to write about my own spiritual failings. However, this week I struggle because I know I haven’t done my subject justice.

I really had hoped to encounter the perfect story of goodness, perhaps an unexpected moment at the grocery store, or a random phone call from a far away friend. Instead, one person entered my mind from the first moment I contemplated this fruit of the Spirit. But I didn’t want to write about him.

I prayed to God for examples of goodness, hoping there was someone I was forgetting. I searched my memory bank for anecdotes involving loved ones and relatives whom I haven’t seen in years. I even looked up the definition of ‘goodness’ in the dictionary, hoping some word in the definition would trigger the inspiration I needed to write a different story than the one in my head.

But it was always him.

And I really didn’t want to admit that fact because I’ve been mad at him for the last week.

But if I’m truly to write on goodness, there’s only one person I know who is this good.

I wish I could say that I’ve never uttered an unkind word about another, but I can’t. I wish I could say that when I fight, I always fight fair, not hitting below the belt with careless words or rubbing salt in the wounds with a stone-cold silence. But I can’t.

And he can.

He doesn’t offend easily, and he is slow to anger.

He doesn’t choose jealousy as a garment but instead clothes himself in trust.

And he trusts with the words I type across the screen, even when they’re not pretty.

He isn’t perfect, but he does walk a righteous path.

And his heart is good.

And when he knows that I’m frustrated, that after nine years we’re still not on the same page, his heart hurts as he searches for ways to find common ground. Whether through a cup of hot tea, a cannoli on a Friday night, or a kiss sending me to bed amidst the clanging of dishes in the sink.

He’s just that good. In the little things. In the big things. All the time.

And even when we’re not on the same page, I know we’re in the same story, fighting for the same things, just focusing on different battles.

His goodness sets my heart at ease, my mind at rest, and when I see the goodness of my loving husband, I taste the goodness of our perfect Father.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010). Emphasis mine.
Journeys

When you think of goodness, is there one person who comes to mind? How do you see goodness in your own life?

Link up your own post on goodness below, and please link back to my post with either a hyperlink or my button (grab the code off the sidebar). Be sure to read some of the other posts who have joined us, and show some kindness by leaving comments on the other blogs! Thank you for taking this journey with us!


Forbearance

I pushed open the door and stormed out of the bathroom.

“I told you to get your pajamas on! Do not come out of your room again!”

And back in the bathroom I went, trying to dry the baby while the thick, moist air clung to my skin. I listened as giggles and little feet ran down the hallway into the bedroom next door, now two pairs of feet bouncing on the bed.

I sighed. I am so tired of this. I am so tired…

And, again, the fatigue and frustration manifested itself in a torrent of temper.

“I told you to get in your room and get on your pajamas NOW!!” The words, starting in my mouth as an angry threat, morphed into a desperate plea as I grabbed children by the arms, pulling them onto the floor.

I can’t take this every day. I’m tired of feeling like a single mother who’s married.

Then following the thought, the guilt came immediately as an image of a true single mother came to mind.

And I’m tired of feeling guilty for the feelings I have. What is so hard about letting me know what time he is coming home? I dragged one kid onto her bed and shut the door.

“Chloe, let’s go!” The toddler in the bathroom followed me down the hall to her room. I laid her on the floor and grabbed the orange diaper I had set out before her bath. My eyes began to burn with hot tears, and I blinked them away as I worked the velcro tabs before me.

Once she was dressed for bed, I pulled her onto my lap in the brown rocking chair, cream cushions dingy and worn from rocking with two children before her. And I prayed. I cried. And with each prayer for Chloe, with each sway of the chair, I offered up more venom to share with him.

We rocked and rocked. I heard bedroom doors open, laughter as a mattress hit the floor. And I didn’t care. I just don’t care.

The bedtime routine dragged on as I moved from one child to the next, trying to wash away the anger I spew on them with the silent hug I could offer. As I closed the last door, I picked up bath towels off the floor, mounds of wet cloth in my arms, and headed toward momentary solace in my room.

I flipped on the light, swiftly moving toward the hamper in the bathroom, and I noticed the pile in front of it.

How hard is it to put the clothes IN the hamper? I’ll just do this, too! I shoved the towels in and grabbed the mound of white undershirts that lay at my feet.

I’m not waiting for him to eat. I’m hungry now. I’m tired of waiting until nine to eat every night.

Seven o’clock used to be late; now it’s the norm. Our Sundays aren’t sacred. When has he worked enough? When is our day?

I vomited up more thoughts; the lava of pressure and frustration was rolling down the sides of my body as I descended the staircase. I was ready for him to walk through that door, and I would be waiting. No smile, no kiss, just discontent written across my face.

I headed into the kitchen and began working on the dirty dishes in the sink. I rinsed the filth off each plate but couldn’t wash clean the grime over me. I shoved the dishes into the dishwasher, the forks and knives in their separate compartments, and I heard the garage door.

I wasn’t even going to look up. He would know I was unhappy without my saying a word. But I was ready with words, and I wanted the fight. And, yet, I dreaded the fight that I would provoke.

I wanted to yell so that I could cry, and I wanted him to hurt so that he would know how I hurt. I wanted to point out everything he had ever done wrong, every sock left on the floor, every time he hadn’t returned my call during the day, every time he had come home late from work at night. And I wanted to be vindicated. I wanted to convince him our life had to change.

I held onto the dish in the sink without looking up as he walked through the door.

“Hi.” He came over and kissed me on the cheek.

Setting his computer bag down, he wrapped his arms around my shoulders.

“Go sit down on the couch. I know you’ve had a rough day. I’ll make you some tea.”

I looked up, ready to turn around and face him, ready to rattle off the litany of offenses he had committed, but instead, I made my way to the couch.

I stared straight ahead at the T.V., not uttering a word, feeling the breath rise and fall in my chest. I listened to the clanking of tea cups, the high pitch of the kettle screaming that it was ready, the sound of forks and knives rattling in the drawer, and the wall of defenses I had built began to dissipate.

He walked over, tea cup in one hand, plate of food that had been waiting on the stove in the other, and he set them before me.

And in a rare moment of grace, I simply said, “Thank you.”

I waited until he returned with his own plate, bowed my head as he said the blessing, and rested comfortably with my husband on the couch. And, for the night, I allowed myself to forget.

22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010). emphasis mine

Journeys

When have you displayed forbearance? What area of your life is God telling you to endure with patience?

Share your thoughts below by linking up your own post on forbearance! Copy the URL to your actual post, not just your homepage, so others can read your post related to this topic no matter the day of the week. You can link up any time through the weekend. Add my button or a link to my blog somewhere on your post, and be sure to comment on the other posts, as well. Thank you for sharing your journey with us!


Marriage According to a Four-Year-Old

As we were riding along in the van on Sunday afternoon, I lazily closed my eyes and rested my head on my hand.  I wasn’t really comfortable, propping my elbow against the window, but it was the best improvisation for a pillow that I could make.

In the back of the van, Caleb and Hannah Grace were having their own conversation, and I was pleased with the relative quiet for a van filled with five people.  I hadn’t heard what started the conversation that caused me to sit up abruptly, but as I caught that first sentence, I focused my attention on every word that came out of the mouths of the two in the back:

Caleb: “Hannah Grace, you’re going to grow up and marry a boy someday.”

Hannah Grace: “Which one?”

Caleb: “I don’t know.  You’ll just have to pick one, I guess.”

Hannah Grace: “I want to marry Daddy.”

Caleb: “You can’t marry Daddy; he’s already married.”

Hannah Grace: “But I want to marry Daddy!”

And my heart melted.  I’ve heard that all girls want to marry their daddies when they’re young, but when those words came out of my daughter’s mouth, I couldn’t stop the smile that spread across my face.

That is, until my son continued:

Caleb: “You can’t marry Daddy!  He’s already married, and one day you’re going to grow up, and Daddy and Mommy are going to die, so you have to marry somebody else.”

?!?!

And after that description of marriage, my heart froze back over.

Joining Mama Kat today for her Writer’s Workshop!

Mama's Losin' It

And don’t forget to come back tomorrow with your own post ready to link up for this week’s journey on Peace!

Journeys

Finding Financial Peace

When Matt and I went through premarital counseling, our pastor and almost every book we read warned us of the power of money in a marriage.  Money is blamed as one of the leading causes of divorce.  And while I hate to think that something material plays such a significant part in a marriage, I can testify to its power.

We need money.  The grocery store is not going to accept one of my blog posts as payment, and the mortgage company wouldn’t find one of my kids’ drawings cute.  Money pays the bills, and the paid bills ensure we’re warm at night with clothes on our back.  So when money is hard to find, and financial problems begin to mount, so does the stress and tension.

Matt and I took steps together to try to overcome the difficulties of having a house in another state that wouldn’t sell while only having one income to cover the bills and needs of a family of five.  We tried to set up an emergency savings fund, but Mr. Murphy would show up every month or so to lay claim to his share.  We were facing an endless cycle of putting money in the bank to then have to take it out.  Any bad financial decisions that we made previously were magnified 10,000 fold because we couldn’t make any headway.

Matt and I decided to enroll in a small group in our church that was teaching Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I knew I wanted to join this group, but I was honestly a little apprehensive at the same time.  Every month Matt and I would fight as we worked on the budget, and I was afraid that those monthly fights would now become weekly!  Thankfully, my fears were for naught.

One of the benefits of the course is that we were taking advice and instruction from an outside third party.  When we were doing our monthly budgets, the guidelines weren’t coming from Matt or from me but from Mr. Ramsey, and he wasn’t taking sides.  The arguments stopped.

For the first time we had a game plan where we could feel we were gaining momentum. We now were in agreement as to the way we wanted to attack our debt and save for the future, and at the beginning of each month, every dollar we owned was assigned a place.

For the first time in about five years I can breathe.

I am so thankful for a hardworking husband who has always done whatever it takes so that I could stay home with our children.  He is an amazing provider, and I am glad that we now have a game plan to ensure we make the most of his hard work.  And I am thankful that we are on the path to finding financial peace.

I look forward to the day when money won’t control us, but we will control our money completely.  One day, maybe many years away, but one day we will be able to use our money as a means to bless other people and not just a necessity to pay the bills.

I know this post isn’t poetic or maybe even interesting, but I don’t want to forget the relief and gratitude I feel right now.  This past Wednesday we completed our last class, and I know we are graduating with the tools to make wise financial decisions.  At the beginning of each month, I get a little excited knowing that we have another chance to knock out some debt.

We’re getting there.  It will take time. And sacrifice.  But it’s so worth it.

Those who read my blog regularly know that I typically don’t use it to endorse products, but I am going to today. I would highly recommend that anyone who isn’t set for retirement with a paid-off house and money ready to give to those in need take this course.  If a person has debt, he should take this course.  If a person doesn’t have debt but doesn’t have a clear vision on how to save, she should take this course.  If a couple needs to know the best way to save for their kids’ college or their own retirement, they should take this course–no matter their age.

Everything we have is a gift. God has entrusted us with His money, and we will be held accountable for how we used it.  I hope that one day when I face my Maker, He will be able to say, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21, New International Version, 2010).

For this ‘Focus On It Friday,’ for what can you be thankful?  Leave a comment below, and share your thanks!

*I was not compensated in any way by Dave Ramsey or his organization, The Lampo Group.  I wrote this blog post simply because I am thankful.  However, if Dave Ramsey wanted to compensate me for it, we would be able to take care of our debt faster. 😉

Love Is…

Love is falling asleep in his arms on the couch.  After days of going and going and going, constantly moving past one another, our minds moving even if our bodies are not, a moment of embrace on the couch, struggling to fit with a dog who refuses to share, warms my heart that can run cold. Even though the universe doesn’t count the three hours of sleep in the den, and we both face insomnia in our beds at one in the morning, I have found rest.

Love is doing the mundane to preserve something beautiful.  A mop to the dirty floor because he said he would, even though he was tired, and the day was long.  A mop to the dirty floor while I washed clean in the shower, a gesture that spoke volumes, sacrificing his own rest so that I could.

Love is our hands clasped across the body of our daughter who snuggled her way into our bed and found rest.  Love is a warm breakfast on a rainy morning. Love is the giving and receiving, the sacrifices and the blessings, the mundane and the extraordinary, the simple pleasures and the precious treasures.  Love is looking in his eyes and finding rest.

It is so good to be in love.

Unblurring the Line

Jennifer Vignola Davis and Jennifer Escoe Holt--Feb. 24, 2000

It all started on February 24, 2000.  A silly girl and her friend, donning black leather and leopard print pants and sparkly shirts, performed moves of which no one thought they were capable while lip-syncing to the band Heart.  A silly boy, packing up his guitar and Power Point slides after a night of leading Worship, drove an extra hour back to college in the hopes of seeing this silly girl in her moment of glory.  He missed the performance, but he saw her face light up after winning first prize.

And thus began their first date, a night when they went out with friends but only noticed each other in the room…

if you’d like to read more about that blurry line between friendship and romance, commitment and existence, click here and visit me as I share my first guest post at the sweet SomeGirl’sWebsite.