The God of Angel Armies

Happy New Year!

Michael and I just returned home from four days in Atlanta, worshipping with sixty thousand young adults in the Georgia Dome. Passion 2013 was more than I ever dreamed it would be, and one of the best experiences of my life. There are memories that I hope I will hold onto forever, because God used that time to completely undo me in so many areas of my faith. The main area is fear, and my ability to trust Him.

I don’t mean to be so serious, but I need to write about this. It helps me process it and work it out in my mind. I’m also very transparent and honest, and I feel strongly that we need to share what we go through in order to encourage others.

The week before the trip was a mess. If there was a germ in this house, we caught it. There was flu, ear infections, eye infections, stomach stuff…the whole shebang. I knew on Christmas Eve that I was getting sick, and then Aidan and Molly went down with me. We spent most of that day and the rest of the week in the living room, under blankets, watching movies. Paisley came down with it a few days later. I prayed constantly that God would protect Michael, and He did. Michael is still not sick. I’m in awe of that, because there is no logical explanation. But our God so often defies logic.

The worst part of the week, however, was not the sickness. I was attacked with fear. I am not a fearful person. I have never worried about taking a trip, or leaving my kids with my parents, or spreading an illness. I’m usually brave and ready for anything. Last week, however, I was wracked with a terrible fear that something bad would happen. I would shake involuntarily. I would cry out as I tried to fall asleep and my mind was filling with thoughts of all the awful things that could happen if I left town. I would beg Michael to pray over me, because I just felt so afraid all the time. I couldn’t understand it, it was so out of the ordinary for me. I was afraid of being afraid! I didn’t know what it all meant, and why it was happening. I talked to my husband, my dad, and friends and they all told me I was overthinking and worrying unnecessarily. That’s true, I was, but it was more than that.

I believe that there is an enemy who hates us. He lies, steals, and tries to ruin whatever joy and hope we are promised. He lives constantly in fear, because he knows he has already been beaten, but still he tries to make us believe lies that keep us from identifying with the One who is victorious.

In the worst of the fear, I wanted to stay home. I had thoughts of guilt for leaving my children. I had thoughts of guilt for possibly exposing the students to sickness (even after I was better). I had thoughts of getting so behind in my work, school and housework that I’d ruin the start of my year and spend the rest of the year catching up. They were ridiculous lies, and I was believing them.

There was hope, though. Throughout the week, I held on to the knowledge that Michael wasn’t sick. He was able to care for all of us, work his job from home, and help me get ready for the trip without getting sick. I knew that if God was answering my prayer for Michael, then surely He wanted us to go to Passion2013.

So I packed my suitcase, and the knot in my stomach started to release a little. We took the kids to my parents’ house, and the knot loosened more. The next morning, we loaded the van and headed east, and I felt the anticipation and excitement of the teenagers with us, and the knot came undone. I was fine. There was no more fear.

We arrived at the Dome, and found a row for the nine of us. The lights went out, and the music started, and I knew I was exactly where God wanted me to be. At some point that night, we sang a new song with these words:

“You hear me when I call, You are my morning song. Though darkness fills the night, It cannot hide the light.

Whom shall I fear?

You crush the enemy, Underneath my feet. You are my Sword and Shield, Though trouble lingers still.

Whom shall I fear?

I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind. The God of angel armies, Is always on my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a Friend of mine. The God of angel armies, Is always by my side.”

While singing that song I was so aware that He has WON. I have nothing to fear. He has defeated the evil one, and nothing formed against me shall stand. I’m in awe of that truth, knowing that it’s so much more than I deserve, and yet, it makes perfect sense because why wouldn’t a loving Father protect one of the children He gave His life to save? He loves me. He loves us. He wanted me there because I needed to move past the fear that paralyzed me in the process of getting there. Once I was there, I learned so much and loved every minute with our students and worshipped with everything in me. But the real lesson was just in the going. Even in the darkness, God gave me something to hold onto: Michael being well. That was an answered prayer, and I could trust that He was working. Then once we actually moved forward with what we were supposed to do, God affirmed that it was right, He was there, and there was nothing to be afraid of.

There is so much more I could say about the week. I’ve laughed my head off and sung my heart out. It was a time of refreshment for both Michael and me. We rarely get to spend four days just soaking in, we’re usually being squeezed out! I feel recharged and energized and ready for a new year. It was great for our marriage, because spending four days talking about what God is doing in your life is pretty much the same as getting a steroid shot in your relationship.

So many people prayed for us, and I’m so grateful. Our students had an incredible time, and they are amazing young people. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Labor of Love

Last night, I had the opportunity to sing with my family in a program at church. It’s always fun to make music with them. I sang a song called “Labor of Love” and before I sang, I shared just a little bit of why that song means a lot to me. This is what I said, and the song I sang (but not me singing it, lucky you!).

When I was a kid, and later as a teenager, I appreciated Mary for who she was, the mother of Jesus. I recognized that having a baby in a stable must’ve been quite inconvenient, but it never occurred to me that the inconvenience was probably not the hardest part of her becoming a mother.

I’ve heard a quote that I think is attributed to Beth Moore. She says that becoming a mother is like watching your heart walk around outside of your body. The day I held Aidan for the first time, I understood that completely. I remember that first Christmas as a mother, I cried a lot, because I GOT it. Mary didn’t just have a baby that would save a sinful world. She became a mother who would love, protect and raise the child who would change everything about how we approach and know God.

In today’s broken, uncertain times, motherhood is a gut-wrenching job. We can control so many things about our kids’ circumstances and environment, but there are times when we just have to trust the God that made them. There are times when we just have to know that God is sovereign and all-knowing and His plan supersedes our own. I don’t know if Mary realized what all her firstborn son would have to go through to redeem us, but I think surely as a good Jewish girl, she’d been taught what the prophets had foretold. Maybe she realized that tragedy would come one day, so she held him even tighter that night in the stable. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that the labor she experienced, both in childbirth and the work of raising a son, was a labor of love. Not because Mary loved us, but because God loves us, and chose a girl with a servants’ heart to show us just how much.

Since It’s Rude to Point…

I don’t have one at all.

No point, whatsoever. But I haven’t written a pointless post in quite some time, so I’m due.

Michael is down for the count. He came home from working out of town today and didn’t feel well, so the kids and I just finished our two episodes of Duck Dynasty and they headed off to bed.

Remember how I said that I have to talk at night to decompress from the day?

Lucky you.

When Michael feels bad, I am completely at a loss on how to help him. I know just enough medical information to be dangerous. I gave him ibuprofen and told him I loved him and left him in the dark. Considering he’s the man who wrapped his arms around me and quoted scripture to me during my epidurals, and held my hair back when I’ve had a stomach bug…I feel like I probably shortchanged him.

Next month is his birthday. It’s so weird to think that he’s almost thirty-nine. I still picture him as nineteen, which is when I met him. Gosh, we’ve been friends for twenty years. We talked about that Monday night. We are both so much the same as we were then, but we’re also both so different. Our basic personalities haven’t changed. I’m talkative, extroverted and silly. He’s thoughtful, considerate, and hardworking. We have both been those things all our lives, but we’re both so different now in so many other ways. We’ve matured together, and for that I’m thankful.

The story of how we got together still amazes me. I will say to anybody that you just never know what God has in store. Michael and I were good friends. He was the nicest guy I’d ever known. I didn’t think I would, or deserved to marry the nicest guy I knew. But I did.

In the last few months, there have been some great men that have meant a lot to my family that have gone to be with Jesus. They leave behind beautiful, loving wives who are grieving. I think of them, and the love they shared and the life they lived together and it makes me want to be a better wife. A better supporter. A better friend. A better homemaker. True Christ-following men are becoming harder to find in this world, and I have been given the opportunity to be married to one. I want to give my best so that he has everything he needs to be the husband, father, friend and worker God called him to be.

I promise we have rough days. There are lots of times when we aren’t really crazy about one another. I’ve written a couple of posts that make it sound like it’s sunshine and roses around here all the time. It’s not. We’re as human and messed up as anybody could be. We are sinners, and grateful every day for our Savior.

We just try really hard to make home the best place to be. It’s safe here. Nobody makes fun of you or talks down to you. That’s at the top of our unwritten house rules. No matter what you look like, smell like, say or do…you can come home and be loved here. Another one of our unwritten rules is that you have to dance in the kitchen while cooking supper.

Continuing with my whole theme of not having a point…I’ve been making wish lists of places I’d like to go with just Michael. We haven’t been on a trip by ourselves in years, and we still have a horrible honeymoon to redeem. I’ve suggested cities we haven’t been, scenic places…but my top choice was DisneyWorld. I think it would be a blast to go by ourselves. Michael said it would cause way too much emotional damage to our children, so that’s off the list. I don’t know why they’d have to know, but he insists that they’d never get over it and become adults who need therapy because we took a trip to Orlando without them.

See? It’s not all sunshine and roses. Which is why Disney needs to be an option. It’s the happiest place on earth.

But you know what’s NOT the happiest place on earth? Home, when you tell your kids where you went without them.

Yeah, that breaks that unwritten rule about home being safe and loving, I suppose. I don’t think Michael and I would ever be safe if we did that. We’d have to sleep with one eye open for the rest of our lives.

Speaking of sleep, I need to do that. Thanks for letting me talk. I promise, once Michael’s back on his feet, you’re off the hook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Thoughts on Some Things

Um, hello. (Sheepish wave and grin inserted here.)

I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been living. Sometimes it’s really hard to do both. I admire those who can.

Apparently, my last post was before we went to England. Well…we went to England.

In July.

We had an incredible trip, and made some really special memories with some of the best people I’ve ever had the privilege to serve with. God is so faithful, and He never fails to teach me a very specific lesson every time I give up my time and my priorities and my money to make Him known. The first year I went, it was all about seeing others as Jesus sees them. Realizing that so many don’t know Him, and don’t know how much they are loved by Him opened my very blind eyes and changed me so deeply I am not the same today as I was before I went. The second year, it was about the church, and the way we love one another and serve one another. I’ve been in church all of my life, and I’ve belonged to some great congregations, but we don’t love or serve one another in a way that demonstrates our love for Jesus. We love and serve because it makes us feel good, and we do want to help others, but there is not a desperation to be a part of the body of Christ. This year, it was about learning to lead. I’ve always been very comfortable letting someone else take the lead in situations that require a leader. This is not because I couldn’t do it, but because I didn’t want anyone to think I was being bossy, or trying to elevate myself in any way. I learned on this trip that leadership doesn’t mean you think you are above anybody. Being a leader means you see what needs to be done, and you help equip others to be able to do it. You also work alongside and share the labor and follow the leadership of others in the areas they are gifted in. My experience with working in this particular church led to several opportunities where I needed to be able to lead our group and know what had to be done next. It was a step out of my comfort zone, and I’m so glad I had the chance to learn.

Since we’ve been home, I’ve started homeschooling, and started a job. The leadership skills I learned while in England are paying off now! I spend much of my day overwhelmed. Teaching fourth and second grade, and kindergarten is a blast, but involves a lot of preparation and thinking. At night, when it’s finally all done, I can barely form sentences in my mind. But amidst the mental marathon of the day, and the constant housework (homeschool is messy, y’all!), the atmosphere in my home is wonderful. We laugh, we play, we create, my kids are reading constantly, they’re learning cool stuff, and I pray above all else, God is being glorified here. He is the only reason I’d even attempt this crazy endeavor. He equipped me for it, and so I’m doing my absolute best to be what my kids need right now.

But I haven’t talked about marriage yet. It’s funny, while writing about the England trip, I’m reminded of the hardest part of the experience. Michael and I love serving together. We love traveling together. We love working alongside one another. We celebrated our thirteenth anniversary while on the trip. But it takes a toll on us. We have very different personalities. I am so verbal. I love to talk things out and at the end of the day, I process my thoughts and emotions by discussing every little thing. Mission trips are so emotional for me, I need to work out all those feelings at night when we get to our room. Michael, on the other hand, wants to stop talking. He has used all his words for the day, and he wants to spend some time in God’s Word, and then just get some rest.

Now this is not a comparison to say that one way or the other is a better way to decompress. I have my way, he has his. But after three or four nights of me needing to discuss and him not wanting to talk…there is tension. Nothing major, but tension nonetheless. We’ve made this same trip together twice, and have experienced the same struggle each year. Both years, at the end of the trip, I got on the plane and asked myself if it was worth it: going on a mission trip with my husband, only to struggle with communicating with him. Both times, the answer is a resounding yes. It’s completely worth it. We’re always able to work it out. It may be after we get home, but we work it out. I’d rather have the stress of those few moments than give up the experience altogether.

And as for recently, I’m learning how to be a wife in the midst of being a mom, teacher and employee. I’ve always worn just the two hats, wife and mom. Putting on more hats is a challenge, because Michael is wearing several of his own. We both feel strongly about the things God has called us to do. Right now, more than anything, I think we are to encourage one another at all times. We’ve started going to the gym, and that calls for encouragement. He’s teaching and counseling, and working his very busy job. He is also committed at church, and is the best dad our kids could ever have. I’m doing all my stuff, and every now and then I sing in church, and try to invest in the lives that God has put in front of me. We don’t take any of those things lightly. So we encourage one another. Just today at lunch, Michael had to remind me of some things I needed to hear because I was having a tough time with school. He is such a cheerleader for me, and makes me feel like I can do anything. I know God put us together, but I am certain at times like this that God is sovereign and knew before “we” ever happened that I’d need him at this time in my life.

So every stage, every experience, is a time to learn and grow. Marriage, just like life, should never go on autopilot. It’s worth our full attention, and our one hundred percent. I’m sure I thought when I was younger that by thirteen years of marriage it would be cruise control from here on out. It’s never going to be cruise control if we want this to be the best it can be. If marriage is a reflection of our relationship with God, then cruise control is not an option.

And I’m glad, because I don’t want to miss a minute of this trip.

Being Equipped Doesn’t Mean It’s Easy

I just tucked in my kids for the last time this week. For the next eight nights, my parents will tuck them in and give them hugs and kisses.

They’re in good hands.

But my hands are better.

I’m their mom, and naturally, I’m the one to be doing the tucking in. It takes a lot of my evening time, but I love the hugs and kisses and “love you” as I walk out of their room. My middle girl has told me every night for about three years, “You’re the best mom a girl could have”. For someone whose love language is words of affirmation, hearing this makes me feel like I can move mountains.

Tomorrow, Michael and I head back to England. I went in 2010 on a mission team to Nottingham. It was a defining experience in my life and changed so much about who I am and how I view the world and the church. Last year, Michael and I led the group, and had another incredible week serving with the people we now call our dear friends. This is the third year of our partnership. We are the group leaders again, and have been consumed lately with plans and packing and schedules and money…not to mention packing for the kids, and finishing projects at work and cleaning house and all the things that come with an weeklong absence. Our minds and bodies are ready to just sit on the plane for eight hours and not do anything.

But I’ll miss my babies. I love them more than I could ever express, and I love being their mama. I love serving with Michael, and I believe I’m called and equipped to go, but it’s never easy.

I know God has set aside this week for me to serve Him, and to share with others the freedom that I’ve found in knowing Him. I’m certain that I’m supposed to do this thing.

If I were going away for any other reason, I don’t think I could be gone a week. But I can do it for Him. There is a job for me to do, and He has given me what I need to do it. There are so many other things that moms have to do in the summer, and I’m aware that leaving my kids can be stressful on everyone, but I also believe that we are to go and tell, and God has richly blessed my family because I’ve followed Him in obedience. My kids know the importance of speaking the gospel and encouraging other people in their walk. They know this is why we go, and they have accepted it as something our family does. I pray in a few short years we will all be going and telling!

We are excited, but the last tuck-in for a week is hard. I know God has prepared a work for us to do, and I know Michael and I are called to do this together. So if you see my babies this week, hug them for me. Thanks for praying for us, we need them!

Cheers!

 

All the Magic I Need…

…is right at home.

So you’ve probably heard about that movie, Magic Mike.

I’m not going to argue with anybody about it, because arguing is just not my style and personally, a movie like that isn’t worth the effort spent on an argument.

However, I do want to address it in light of marriage, because as you know, I like talking about marriage. Grin.

In the review on pluggedin.com, which is my favorite site for checking the content of what I see or listen to before I spend time or money, the reviewer for Magic Mike wrote in the “sexual content” section:

…”And it’s difficult, if not impossible to describe the pornographic nature of these scenes without sounding, well, pornographic. To detail every pawing grab at a leather g-string, every mimicked sexual act and every naked male backside we see would take pages.”

So the guy couldn’t even write about the whole movie without it sounding pornographic. The review also goes on to say that the story line is pretty weak, because the main point is just to demonstrate gratification of lust.

I could go see it if I want to, he doesn’t tell me what to do and not to do. But I love him, and only him. I want him, and only him. I need him, and only him. If me going to see a movie that is so obviously geared to visually stimulate and cause lustful thoughts would dishonor him, then I’m not going.

On a side note: the reviewer also said that there were one hundred and fifty f-words in the movie. Y’all, I’d hate that no matter what the movie was about. There are so many movies I’ve only seen the first thirty minutes of, because the language was awful. I just really don’t like it. I don’t understand how people can make money writing screenplays that have no other words. How is that entertaining? It makes my head hurt.

So instead of spending our hard earned money on movies that desensitize our thoughts and ultimately hurt our relationship, I’d rather spend it on a date night with MY Magic Mike. He’s better looking to me than he was on our wedding day, and still looks better in blue jeans than anyone I know. I adore his gray hair, and the way his eyes crinkle up at the corners when he smiles. I love his voice and his sense of humor. I love the way he works hard and provides for us, but will jump on the slip-n-slide the first chance he gets. I love how he looks at me and talks to me. I love that he thinks I’m pretty cute. Those guys in the movie? They don’t, and they won’t, and they offer us nothing of any value.

Wives, love your husbands…and husbands, be your wife’s dream guy. Apparently, by the response to the movie, she’s looking for a dream guy and if you don’t step it up, then she will find him in a book or in a movie.

I think it’s ultimately about trying hard for each other. If you want Magic Mike, then you have to be the kind of girl your husband would want to be a Magic Mike for! I had a boss tell me a long time ago when I was engaged that he didn’t believe marriage should be work at all. Love should be enough. (He was divorced.) Well, in almost thirteen years, I’ve learned that yes, love is enough, but love is not a thing. It’s an action. So love is giving your one hundred percent to love your husband. If that’s work, then work! The good thing about work is that you get paid back!

The sex industry is huge. It’s huge because we accept substitutions for what we have, which leave us wanting more of something that ISN’T REAL. If Michael goes to movies with naked women, then that becomes his standard for women. Even if he never actually acts on what he sees in the movie, those images are in his head. Well, I ain’t ever gonna look like those women. So he chooses me, and I choose him, and our standard is each other, and we hold each other accountable and spend our life together building each other up and steering one another to looking more like Jesus. It’s a choice on our part to live that way, and the payback on the investment has been amazing.

It’s your choice what you go see, and how you spend your time and money. But if you’re married, please consider investing in each other, rather than something that’s not real and offers you nothing.

Real life, and real love, is the best way.

 

 

 

It’s Hard to Write About Marriage…

…when you’re spending so little time with the one you’re married to.

Michael’s in the middle of a crazy time with work. It gets like this every few months and he works pretty much around the clock. He’s also teaching at a local college (and is so great at it), and he gives that a few nights a week. This week, we’re going to a camp with first through third graders from church and then next week we leave for our mission trip to England. I hope that the eight hours we have on the plane together will be a good time to catch up on the quality time we’ve missed in the last month.

So while I haven’t had much time with him this summer, I’ve had tons of time with the kids. They’re having a great summer and except for a few days when I wanted to go sit in my new van and just stay there while they yelled at each other in the house, it’s been fantastic.

But I miss my husband.

Right now, he’s sitting on our bed working, and listening to Needtobreathe. We’ve watched the US Olympic swim team trials and played Twister with the kids…and he just reached across the bed and squeezed my hand. I said “I love you.” He said, “I love you, too.”

Even when the quality time is limited, I’m grateful for the quality of this man, and the quantity of his love for me.

 

A Word from Your Friendly Neighborhood VBS Teacher

VBS.

Those initials evoke memories of red kool-aid, the cookies with a hole in the middle that you could stack on your finger, pledges, songs, crazy games and fun.

I adore Vacation Bible School. Regardless of denomination, it’s a big week in the life of kids and the church. Many, many children grow in their faith during this week and many become followers of Christ.

I’ve worked or taught in VBS for more years than I can remember. I started in the seventh grade, and except for the four years that I worked at an office, I participated in some way. I’ve helped with snacks, assisted in crafts, led the worship rally time, counted the attendance sheets, worked with preschoolers, and for the last five years, fifth and sixth grade. I love these kids. They’re fun, and the games for older kids are games that I enjoy too, so it doesn’t feel like work at all.

Side note: I know this is a marriage blog. But my husband is crazy busy at work, and I am crazy busy with VBS. We’re still happy. Things are great. But I have nothing new to say about married life at this moment. Oh wait, yes I do. He bought me a minivan yesterday. It’s my dream vehicle and the nicest thing I’ve ever owned. I adore it, and I adore him for getting it for us. The old one was about to fall apart. That’s the update on married life.

So this is what’s on my mind right now. Children and teenagers have an awesome opportunity to grow spiritually over the summer. Camp staffers, ministers, volunteers…lots of people spend lots of time investing in kids and praying that they will discover how much God loves them and enter into a relationship with Him. Summer is a wonderful opportunity for a young person to start to become who God has created them to be.

The flip side of that is, so many parents want the church or the camps to be the source of spiritual training for their child and hope they’ll “catch it” while they’re there. The kids come home and the attitudes or behaviors of the parents de-validate everything they just spent a week learning. The kids are surrounded by people that love the Lord and want them to know Him, and they come home to parents that are absent, critical, abusive, hurtful and mean. Or they come home to people who have good intentions, but take no responsibility for the spiritual training of their children, and everything they learned falls by the wayside because the parents are not taking the time for spiritual growth themselves and the kids receive the message that it is not important at all.

It’s a responsibility issue. The church is there and wants to be a part of the spiritual growth of young people. But the church is not the biggest influence in their life. Parents are, whether they think they are or not. The church supports and facilitates, but kids are going to learn truth by what is modeled in the home. We as parents cannot expect the church to shoulder the responsibility for our children growing up to be godly people. If we are not following Jesus and shaping our lives to look like Him (meaning who God’s Word says He is, not who we want Him to be) then our kids will have a much harder time following Him, even if they want to.

Now, I believe with all of my heart that God can and will protect those that want to follow Him and they can grow and have an intimate walk with Christ on their own. I’ve seen that happen with people I love many times. God draws people to Himself all the time, despite our circumstances. But if a child has parents at home that care enough to send them to camp or church, it’s the parents’ responsibility to live in such a way that what they learn at church or camp cannot be denied. Mixed messages can confuse a young person and cause them to doubt and draw them further away from God. Consistency is the key.

Living a life of faith requires effort and sacrifice. It also is full of blessing and ultimate reward. Your children will benefit greatly by you caring about your own spiritual life. It’s worth it. Jesus is always worth it.

 

 

Summer.

My kids have been out of school a few weeks now and we’ve gotten into a summer vacation groove.

Apparently, they think that ten o’clock p.m. is the appropriate bedtime these days.

It’s nine o’clock now, and they just went upstairs and they’re talking. Loudly.

Michael and I are exhausted. He works really hard all day long, and I work hard here and come up with activities that keep them from watching the television all day.

We would love a little bit of time together in the evenings, because that’s what helps us deal with the constant demands of our jobs.

Next week is VBS, and the kids and I will be really busy every morning. My hope is to get bedtime back on track as of Sunday night.

However…in the midst of my grumbling about being really tired…we are LOVING summer. I love doing crafts, and reading books, swimming, and picking up Michael and making a run to Sonic during happy hour for cherry limeades.

Our kids are vastly different in their approaches to summer vacation. Aidan wants to lie on the couch and watch tv or play the wii. He thinks summer should be brainless. Molly has made four friendship bracelets, colored a million pictures, painted, read books, played games, built forts, and had long discussions with me about things I didn’t know a seven year old thought about. Today I bought her a workbook to do over the course of the summer and she worked twenty-two pages in it this afternoon. Paisley wants someone to play with her at all times. But not her mother. She wants her brother or sister to play with her toys and do what she tells them to do. This is not going over very well with her siblings.

So during the day I motivate (Aidan), plan creative activities (Molly) and referee (Paisley).

And when it’s finally quiet at night, I think about all the housework that I need to do, and my head begins to ache.

This is really good material for a blog on marriage, huh? But life moves in seasons, and when you have three kids close in age, the summers are pretty much their time. Michael and I have to be very deliberate to have time for us during these months. We have to put away computers and phones. We have to pray together. We have to watch funny stuff on tv, because laughing at the end of a long busy day feels awesome. (Duck Dynasty is our favorite these days!)

It’s now almost ten. I figure I have about an hour before both of us are passed out cold. I’m going to pay attention to the most important person in the world to me.

The dishes in the sink will be there tomorrow.

 

I grew up thinking that every kid got along with their parents. I thought everyone went to church and all the activities offered there. I thought everyone stood around the piano and sang Disney songs with their families. I thought everyone put God first, their family second, everyone else third, and themselves last.

I was wrong.

People are selfish. Our society has a sense of entitlement that goes beyond my comprehension. We are told that if it doesn’t make us happy, then we don’t have to do it. Adjusting our behavior to accommodate the feelings of a loved one is a ludicrous suggestion.

Tonight, Michael and I were talking about this and I asked him why we treat each other the way we do. I wanted to know because apparently, I have been completely delusional about how most folks act at home.

His answer: the Holy Spirit.

Michael and I are both Christians. We have given our lives over to Jesus and strive to follow His leading in every area of our life. However, we’re also very normal, sinful people. We have a sin nature, like everyone since the beginning of time, with the exception of Jesus Christ. When I get angry, my first thought is not a verse of scripture. I wish it was! I pray that the Lord will give me that discipline and ability as I grow. But right now, it’s not my instant reaction. However, I don’t attack my husband or children in my anger. While my first thought is not, “Man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (James 1:20), I know through the things I’ve been taught and the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life that acting out in anger does not glorify God. I may not be actively thinking about how I can glorify God in the moment, but because of His dwelling in me, He glorifies Himself through me by giving me the self-control to not verbally attack my family.

Of course, we make mistakes, but through the presence of the Spirit in our lives we are given what we need to change our behavior if we need to. Because we know we are not our own, and we belong to Christ, it is easier to be selfless. When you’ve already died to self, then you realize that you are not in relationships for your own good, but for the good of others. This is only possible through a relationship with God through Jesus.

When I do something Michael is not crazy about, he never fusses at me or tears me down by telling me how his way is better. If there is something I’m doing that really upsets him, he asks me to adjust, and I trust him enough to know that he’s asking me for my good, not for his selfish gain. Y’all, this makes us sound like we have it together. We don’t! But we practice, every single day, loving each other selflessly. Michael takes seriously the scripture that commands him to “love your wife just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her to make her holy…” (Eph. 5:25-26). He wants me to be holy before God. He desires for me to have a close relationship with Jesus, so he does his best to love me as Jesus loves me. He loves me for how it benefits ME, not him.

I hope this doesn’t sound self-righteous. I don’t mean it to be at all. We’re as messed up as anybody when it comes to the everyday sin in our lives. But we know we have a Savior who has paid the price for our sin and given us a new life. Because He lives in us, we can live every day in marriage and know that it’s not about us. It’s about Him. We love only because He loves us first.

I’ve learned that what I thought about the world as a child was not the reality. But in my house, in my marriage, in my life, I can create my own reality based on what God wants for my family. That’s not naive’, that’s being responsible to protect my marriage and my family from the ugliness of the world, while loving those that God puts in our path.