Monday, February 27, 2017

Five Things I Wish I Had Known as a Newlywed

A couple weeks ago Howell told me the sermon topic at his men’s morning group was “10 things I wish I knew when I was 21.”

We started talking about how that would make a great blog post if we related it to our first year of marriage. So this week, I’ll share five things I wish I had known in our first year of marriage. (In two weeks, Howell will share his five.) 

1. It’s okay for Howell to have friends and need guy time—like hunting or playing basketball. These are good for his soul, and rather than feeling insecure that he wants time alone or time away, I’ve learned to encourage him to do so. 

2. We don't have to be the same. It’s okay that he loads the dishwasher differently or that he doesn’t know what we’re doing five weekends from now, or even that he doesn’t like all my same shows. He doesn’t have to be like me to love me, and if he doesn’t do something like I would, it also doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me.

3. In most arguments, we’re both wrong. I probably didn’t learn to apologize and ask for forgiveness until about year four or five of our marriage. If I was upset, of course my reason was legit—and Howell was wrong. Period. I had to learn that sometimes I need to apologize for getting upset—for overreacting, for being too sensitive, for responding in anger, etc.

4. My response is my responsibility. Most of the time, what Howell said or did was not offensive or hurtful, even if I took it that way. But whether my reason for getting upset was legit, I am always in control of how I respond.

5. Howell's heart for me is good. I wish I had learned to get to Howell’s heart sooner instead of jumping to the constant conclusion that “he did X so he must not love me.” So often I would get my feelings hurt over something he did or said, and it would take a while to calm down and hear that he either didn’t mean it that way or didn’t realize that X decision or statement would cause me to respond the way I did.

**Bonus! I’d tie all this together by saying a common theme in our first year of marriage was insecurity. Most of the time, however I was responding or reacting was based on my level of security. I often doubted Howell’s love for me, and I was quicker to be suspicious that he doesn’t love me than to believe that he did.

But the greatest lesson I learned—and it changed our marriage drastically—was to find true security in the Lord. Howell can’t be my all and everything. At some point, he’ll let me down—and no one wants to live under that kind of pressure anyway.

But if I trust in the Lord to be my source, then I can also learn to trust my husband’s heart toward me, and I can feel secure in our marriage because I feel secure in the Lord.

Friends, if you’re newly married, you might find yourself in conflict often, but you can get to your spouse’s heart and see that he or she loves you; you can find self-control and respond appropriately; and you can find security in the Lord for a healthy marriage.

If you’ve been married a while—what are your lessons? What do you wish you’d known in your first year of marriage?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Child-like Wonder

On Saturday, we went to visit my nephews for the afternoon and evening. Canyon is a few months shy of turning three. I know I’m always saying, “This stage is my favorite,” but y’all, for real—THIS STAGE IS MY FAVORITE!

His vocabulary is exploding. Every time I’m around him, I’m constantly amazed at the number of new words he knows and sentences he can form.

And he’s so fun to play with. Definitely a first-born, he bosses Howell and me around, telling us where to sit and what toy to play with.

As I reach two steps into the kitchen to grab Case’s blanket, I’m immediately told, “Lala, sit down! Come here. Sit here!”

“Yes, Sir.” :)

(Shortly after I grabbed the blanket for Case... LOL!)
Sweet Case is a good sport with his brother's active imagination

My sister bought Canyon a kite last week. He’d seen one somewhere or on some show, and he’d been asking to fly a kite.

Lucky for him, his Uncle Howell is quite skilled at kite flying.

(My sister and I are not, and we decided that’s another thing that falls into the category of “things we didn't do as kids.” Other items in that category include fairs and circuses. LOL!)

So, we all go outside to watch Canyon experience his first kite—and y’all, I could’ve cried.

The joy on his face. Pure joy and wonder.

There’s no other way to describe it.

I thought, Oh to be a child. To be almost-three and experiencing everything like it’s new.

New words. New phrases. New games.

Everything, every day is something new to him.

And I felt like the Lord reminded me of Mark 10:15—and what it means to have child-like faith.
Jesus says to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

This face—this look of joy and wonder and eager desire to experience—this is what Jesus means; this is what receiving the kingdom like a child looks like.

This week, my friends, let’s boldly approach the throne. Let’s wonder at the beauty of our Savior like we’ve never seen Him before. Let’s marvel at the Holy Spirit and eagerly experience all that He has for us.

Let’s stifle nothing. Let’s let go, with reckless abandon, and pursue our Heavenly Dad and His Kingdom. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Husbands: Does Your Wife Feel Honored?

A lot of talk goes around “Wives Honoring Husbands” in Christian circles today. Laura recently mentioned 1 Peter 3:7 in a blog post and that got me to thinking. We husbands need to think about honoring our wives too. Peter said to “honor the woman as the weaker vessel…” What does that mean? Well, it really means a few things.

First, it means we are to be a provider for our family.  Some people are going to say, “Whoa! That guy is a chauvinist,” but hear me out. It doesn’t always mean monetarily. I know several couples where the wife is the primary financial provider and that works for them. I always joke with Laura that when she has that first best seller, I’m retiring and becoming her “manager.” The husband does need to provide several things that only he can provide though: spiritual authority, headship over the household, and a covering of prayer over the family.

Honoring your wife means helping her. I could put that sentence in font size 42. The first way that I spot a healthy marriage is not public affection or friendship; it’s a helping husband. So many couples divide up the household and parenting duties and never cross over. Dividing up duties is okay, even essential to a point, but we all need help sometimes. If you and your wife never fold laundry, put up dishes, or clean the house together, there might be a problem.

Finally, honoring your wife means publicly acknowledging her awesomeness. Guys, you know she’s pretty great and in very specific, unique ways. Make sure people know it. She is your teammate in the game of life. She is in the trenches, fighting to raise these hooligans into mature, functioning adults with you. She needs to know that you think she’s great, and not just in private. Men who put their wives down in public or don’t show any public admiration for their wives are sending bad or mixed messages. Show the world you love her. It’s as easy as saying, “Isn’t she great?”

I pray that your marriage is honoring on both sides. When both of you honor each other, both of you will want to make the effort to have a great marriage. Both Peter and Paul spoke about this when they discussed marriage. Honor is imperative for an extraordinary marriage.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

English Ivy Meets a Black Thumb

Last fall, I was given a beautiful English Ivy for boss’s day. I know it must’ve been expensive because it’s huge and gorgeous.

I wanted a plant for my office—despite the fact that I’m not a plant person.

And the plant my colleagues chose—I was told—is very, very hard to kill.

Can I repeat? I’m not a plant person.

Around our house, Howell takes care of all things green and colorful and organic and pretty.

But I listened to his instructions and determined that I would take care of this plant at work.

My goal is always to water it on Mondays.

Actually, at first I purposed to water it on Fridays. Fridays got pushed to Mondays (can you see where this is going?), and now I usually look up at some point mid-week and think, “Oh dang! I haven’t watered my plant yet.”

She is quite resilient, though, this plant of mine. And God has used her to speak to my heart on a number of occasions.

In fact, God’s been speaking to me—the non-plant person—through all things green and organic a lot lately. (You might recall my encounters in the flower beds last summer and my faith declaration  because of the cotton harvest last fall.)

We have a solid red oak in our front yard. It’s my absolute favorite tree.

The year we moved in, God gave us a word that we were like that red oak—that our roots were deep, and our branches would be resilient, despite the circumstances, despite the heavy rains, harsh winds, severe freezes. Whatever the conditions, God told me we would be able to stand under the adversary.

Of course, a massive red oak would be resilient. It looks resilient. But when I look at this little Ivy, I think, even you, and each delicate little leaf, are resilient.

She might look weak when I’ve neglected her, and some leaves might yellow or droop a little, but when I give her a drink, she snaps back rather quickly.

My Heavenly Dad is a good Gardener. Can you imagine how big and how green his thumb must be?

He picks from me the dead leaves, to make room for new growth. He never neglects to give me water.

He’s forever my source and strength.

And because of His tender care over my soil, I can face anything.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." 

Friends, do you feel thirsty today? Do you need to let the Master Gardener care for your heart soil?

Do you need Him to breathe life and strength into your roots and limbs and leaves again? 

If my black thumb can care for a super resilient ivy, then only imagine how much more skillfully he can care for the most delicate of us.