Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reason 15: His wisdom in words

This past week my man and I were with a group of friends. My man had to step out of the room for a few minutes, and it seemed as soon as he did so the conversation turned south. A position that I firmly believe is unscriptural was held by the majority of those who were present--and seemed to come completely out of left field. Verbalizing what I believe under those circumstances is very difficult for me, but I tried to because I cared about the people involved.

Awhile later my husband returned. I thought I knew his response already--though I was startled the topic had come up with our friends, this particular issue is one my husband and I have discussed at length the past couple weeks. However, he did something quite different from what I expected.

Instead of allowing himself to be drawn into the debate, he very simply pointed out that in this case, we weren't the proper people to be talking to. The conversation continued for awhile, but every time my husband responded it was with some variation of, "Your opinions are valid, but you need to take them to the individuals who can make the changes you want--not to me. And not to other people."

I was proud of him.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reason 14: His writing

My man writing a story for me--several years before he was "mine"

One of my man's first loves is writing (not the first in priority level, but the first in life span. He's been jotting down thoughts and stories since he first learned how to form words). Well, my man has been writing again. He writes many things. He writes sermons, lessons, thoughts. His newest addition to his writings are his blog posts, found over at The Gentleman Adventurer.

For years, however, my very favorite writings of his have been the stories he writes. He has many different stories. When he was younger he wrote about a place called Amboria--it was medieval in style, but set in a totally different world. It featured dragons, and ladies, and courageous heroes.  He wrote these stories with an extreme concentration on detail and the history of the world. Only a handful of people have read these, so they are extra special to me.

In a just-for-fun genre, my man also writes some superhero stories. While I've never read a comic strip and am only vaguely aware that when it comes to super heroes there is DC comics and... something else ( :P) I do enjoy super hero themed things. Batman, superman, The Incredibles--all of those I've watched and enjoyed. But I don't enjoy those as much as I enjoy the stories my husband writes--maybe because he actually includes a point in his stories and a Christian world-view that put his stories a cut above what is available typically.

My man has also started a series of animal stories for our children. The stories feature talking woodland creatures and are designed to pass on relevant truths. His first book in the series has been written and we had it printed the Christmas before last. Someday, Lord willing, we may seek to publish the stories, but regardless of whether we do or not our own children will have many hours to enjoy and learn.

When we were just getting to know each other many years ago we often talked about whatever his current writing project is. I am a born book worm, and he was a born writer. A perfect combination. He loved writing things chapter by chapter, leaving the end of each chapter a cliff hanger to "torment" me until his next chapter was finished. I'm not sure who "tormented" who the most, though. The writer would torment the book-worm with a cliffhanger--then the bookworm would torment the writer for more, showing no mercy for "lack of inspiration" or "writers block."  Waiting an extra day just wasn't an option I allowed him.

 Recently my man has taken his pen in hand and started writing creatively again. It does me good to see him writing--and I can't wait to see what he has up his sleeve this time!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Reason 13: His encouragement

Recently I was struggling with some difficult things in my walk with the Lord. I knew in my head exactly what my Savior would do if he were here in my shoes, and yet seemed completely unable to follow in his steps.  While I'd not yet succumbed to genuine discouragement, I was beginning to allow my failures in this one battle to define my entire Christian walk and identity in Christ.

After sharing my battle with my husband I exclaimed, "This isn't the person I want to be!!"

As a Christian brother and as my husband, my beloved would have been perfectly in line to show me from scripture where I was wrong and what I needed to do to improve. If I had been him that's probably what I would have done.

Instead he looked me in the eye and said, "Dear, that isn't the person that you ARE. You are a beloved daughter of Christ and my beautiful bride. Don't let a few hard days define your life."

Instead of giving me what I deserved, he gave me grace. His encouragement, like cool water to a thirsty soul, refreshed me and gave me the strength to continue the fight.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Preparing to be a Help Meet

Preparing to be a Help Meet, by Debi Pearl, is a sequal of sorts to her older, more widely known book Created to be a Help Meet. The original book was written as an encouragement to married women. It was hard hitting, and extremely good. My mother intruced me to the book when I was about 16, and by the time I got married late last year I'd fallen into the habit of re-reading it yearly. If I had to list off the top five books that directly impacted the way I relate to my husband and vew my role in marriage Created to Be His Help Meet would be one of them.

Preparing to be a Help Meet came out last year, the same month I was engaged. It was written because many of the women who read Created to be His Help Meet wanted a similar book for their daughters.
Like her first book, Preparing to be A Help Meet is direct, forthright, and sometimes runs contrary to commonly accepted Christian Conservatism. I think this is a good thing. Most people will not walk away from any of Debi Pearl's books agreeing 100%, but they will walk away having assumptions challenged and having grown as a result.

Here are some things I liked about Preparing to be a Help Meet, and a few cautions.

1. Throughout the book there are comments from men. These are in bracketed boxes, and most are distinguished with symbols depending on whether the man is a Prophet, priest, or kingly type (which is explained in the book, and is also covered in greater detail in Created to be His Help Meet). These comments were written after the text of the book, and often provide a balancing perspective (by which I mean, the men don't always have the same opinions asMrs. Pearl). This is VERY helpful!!!

2. She includes many "courtship stories." This was excellent. Each of the stories is a start of the chapter, and each of them is different. Some of them are VERY different (I've NEVER heard a story like Mrs. Pearl's!!). It is extremely benificial for young women to really grasp the idea that every love story is different. Sometimes there are similarities--but sometimes there just aren't. I remember during my courtship there was a fair amount of tension because our love story was different than other love stories that our families had closely observed. There was fear that because our story wasn't "by the book" (the book of expectations) that it wasn't "by the Book" (as in, the Bible and God's will). Young women need to know not to put God in a box by expecting every love story to be identical. Their story may be completely different than they were expecting, but as long as they follow hard after God that's okay!! God is MUCH too good at writing  love stories to write identical ones!

3. At the close of each chapter there is a page or two for guided reflection. The study guide is very helpful in driving home the points of each chapter.

4. Debi Pearl relies heavily on scripture. Preparing to be a Help Meet consists of Scripture, stories to illustrate, and conclusions--in that order.

5. I really like the "Prophet, Priest, and King" descriptions that Mrs. Pearl gives for each type of men (In Created these types are called Mr. Visionary, Mr. Steady and Mr Command Man). While each individual man will be a different combination of one or two of these, I can look at each of the men in my life and see which part of God's nature he tends  to reflect. My husband, for example, is Mr. Command Man (king). My Dad is Mr. Visionary (prophet). My oldest brother is a Mr. Steady (priest). The types aren't intended to "put men in boxes" but they do help us ladies a lot in knowing what type of responses the men in our lives need!!

6. Chapter 7, the entire chapter but particularly the end, is worth the purchase price of the whole book. Chapter 11 is more negative (negative in a good way) but contains extremely valuable advice on  the potentially devistating effects of modern technology (texting, chatting, facebook, and the internet in general) on relationships.

7. Despite the fact that this is a book about preparing to be a help meet, Mrs. Pearl never gets into the "courtship vs. Dating" debate. As this is a hot-topic in the conservative Christian world I know not everyone will agree with her decision, but I think it was a wise one. I think a lot of times Christians can get overly focused on debating which method is best, or which rules should be kept, instead of focusing on making the main thing the main thing. Mrs. Pearl does a good job of focusing on keeping Christ in the center.

8. As I mentioned earlier in the report, this book didn't come out until the month I got my engagement ring. As such it didn't have a particularly big impact on my "preparaing" to be a help meet. What it DID have an impact on was my wedding, and the chapter that most impacted my wedding was chapter 13. Before reading this book I'd never heard anyone else vocalize the concept that when a bride is preparing for a wedding the wedding night should be part of the preparation plans. In other words, a bride should plan in a way that she won't end up being an exausted, stressed, basket case as soon as the wedding adrenalin wears off. As Mrs. Pearl says, it takes a LOT of emotional and physical energy to be a wife the first few weeks of marriage, and it is foolish for a young bride to expend all her emotional/physical reserves on a "dream" wedding and not take into those demands into account. "Taking into account" means not being out till midnight the wedding day and having to drive two more hours to get to the honeymoon suite. "Taking into account" means being so tied up in wedding details that you don't sleep the week before the wedding. "Taking into account" means long hours of rest (physically), mental preparation, and prayer (spiritually) the week of the wedding.

9. As always read with parental guidance. There is nothing in this book that I would hesitate to have my daughter read when she is an appropriate age (somewhere in the early to mid teens, depending on the young lady), but each family is different. There are some things, for example, in chapter 7 that Mrs. Pearl recommends young ladies research that some parents might not be comfortable with (chapter 7 is about a young lady continuing to learn and prepare, some things are necessary some things aren't, each family will be different. The purpose of her list is to provoke thought, not provide a complete curriculum. So, of course, parental guidance is a good thing).

End analysis? This is a GREAT book, and one I can recommend to just about any young lady. In fact, someday I'd like to do a study through it with some of the young ladies at my church. We'd ALL learn from it, even those of us who are already help meets!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Who sets the standards?

Due to some questions I've recieved about my previous post, "Responsibility and Purity" I think some clarification is needed. In that post I had two seperate ideas, and didn't do a good job of explaining the difference between the two. Here are my two main ideas:

Idea #1: Men should take the leadership role in pre-marital purity.

Idea #2: Men should become couragious protectors of their lady's "sacred boundary line."

The question was, "If men are taking the leadership role in purity, why talk about the woman's sacred boundary line? Shouldn't the man, if he is the leader, be the one setting the standards?"

This is an excellent question--and one that points out the delecate balance of give-and-take that exists in relationships. In order to answer it I need to touch on some Biblical truths about marriage.

In the marriage relationship the husband, scripturally, is the head. This does not mean that the wife is less than her husband, it is simply an authority structure. As part of that structure the husband is called to love his wife with the sacrifical servant-leader love that Christ showed for the church.  A husband who does not acknowledge this and instead lords his authority over his wife is not filling his role of authority in a scriptural way. A good husband will be a reflection Jesus's love to his wife.

Just as a husband is called to lovingly lead a wife is called to respectfully submit. Again, this is not a reflection of worth, it is simply an authority structure. Just as Jesus chooses to submit his will to the Father, even though he is in every way equal to His Father, the wife chooses to submit to her husband, even though she is in every way equal with him before God.

While respect and submission play a big role in a scriptural marriage relationship, they are not the complete story. A wise husband will not just make decisions without consulting his wife, assuming that as the leader he knows the full story. Instead, he will recognize that God has given him a valuable asset in his wife and will  take her counsel and concerns seriously. If the husband is the captain of the ship, the wife is his radar. A husband who ignores his wife's counsel is as foolish as a ship's captain that ignores the coming dangers that his radar reveals.

What does all this about the marriage have to do with purity in courtship? Everything!! The pre-marriage relationship, whether it is called courtship, engagement, or dating, is a valuable opportunity for both the committed young lady and the committed young man begin to learn what it is to be a wife or husband. He should get comfortable in being a leader. She should grow accustomed to following his lead. It is a time of preparation for marriage, both in physical skills (he being a provider, she being a "keeper at home") and in relationship skills.  They both need to learn to think as a team.

During that time a young man is getting his first taste at being "captain" of his own ship. Probably one of the first opportunities he will be given for taking the leadership role will be in the area of purity. What boundaries are needful for him to set? What balance between love and rules? What dangerous waters does he forsee, and how should he, as the captain, avoid them? As he makes these decisions a wise young captain will remember to consult his new "radar" to see what troubled waters she reveals.

So who sets the standards? The man or the woman? The short answer is YES! They BOTH do! Though a young man chooses to take the leadership role in purity, he also can also be a courageous defender of sacred boundary lines. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Neither is it mutually exclusive for a woman to allow her future husband to have the chance at leadership while still revealing things that she is and isn't comfortable with. He may not see the danger his radar reveals, but he can choose to act in accordance with it, knowing that one of the purposes God has given his future-wife is to be a wise counselor.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reason 12: His suspense

This morning I was getting ready to head to work. My husband hugged me good-bye and asked, "So, have you found--" Seeing how I suddenly perked up he cut off abruptly. "Err, never mind."

Of course I wouldn't leave it there, and I found out that there was some sort of surprise he'd obtained/made/gotten me last night. My mind jumped to all sorts of possibilities, but my husband resolutely refused to divulge the nature of the surprise. "Just go about your day just as you usually would and you'll find it."

A half hour later I was at work. My charge was sleeping soundly, so I reached for my Bible to read a few more chapters. There, sandwiched between the pages, right beside my #1 marker, was a letter from my man. Not only had he managed to write the letter on a night he was already up extra late working, he'd also managed to draw out the suspense to make the surprise even sweeter.

This may be redundant, but I sure do love that man! :-)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Reason 11: He Prays

Recently my husband and I were talking about some hard things. I thought we'd finished the topic, but instead he put his arm around me and began to pray. All to often I forget to pray over things until I've tried everything else--I love that my man takes things straight to God.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quotable Quotes

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. ~ G.K. Chesterton.

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Purity and Responsibility

Within the realm of relationships I believe that Christians, even Christians striving for purity and aiming to please Christ, have created false and unhealthy expectations for women. Because men generally have a higher sex drive and greater struggles with physical temptation* the responsibility for keeping the relationship pure is usually placed on the woman. The woman is expected to be the stronger of the two, to set the standards, and to maintain those high standards even when the man's resolve is weakened due to physical temptations. While that logic makes sense on a surface level, placing the responsibility for relationship-purity on the woman is at best unwise and at worst anti-Biblical.

Why is that?

 God created women to be helpmeets to their husbands. That means that helping, serving, and following are natural (and good!) instincts. When we are expected to take the lead in pre-marriage relationship-purity we are put in a place of leadership that is unnatural--a place that God didn't intend for us to have. Can a woman fill this role? Yes! Of course! However, there are almost always negative results.

First, a woman who has to lead in relationship-purity will lose respect for her man. If she can't trust her man to be a stalwart protector of her purity and their relationship's purity before marriage, how can she expect him to be after marriage?

Second, a woman who has been the "gate-keeper" pre-marriage often struggles post-marriage with letting that go. I know of so many woman who had serious struggles post-marriage because it was so strongly ingrained in them during their single years that physical pleasure was sinful and that it was their responsibility to keep the relationship from sin.

Third, it robs the young man of a prime opportunity of demonstrating servant leadership and Christ-like love for his bride.

Placing the weight of this burden on the woman runs against the grain of scripture. The marriage relationship  is designed to reflect the relationship of Christ with his bride from the beginning (courtship) to the end (till death do us part). When we consider this relationship we see that Christ ALWAYS places a high value on his brides purity and would NEVER entice his bride toward sin. He protects and cherishes his bride's purity, in fact, he literally gave his life to protect her purity. This is exactly the character quality that a woman longs to see in her future spouse.

As Eric Ludy states in his book "God's Gift to Women:

A woman doesn't just want her man to understand her sacred boundary line--she wants him to heroically protect it.

He later continues:

As guys we haven't been trained to protect femininity, we've been trained only to conquer it. But the essence of a Christ-built warrior isn't just overcoming difficult obstacles (ie. women with morals) but rather to become a difficult obstacle, standing in the way of all forms of impurity and injustice. A warrior doesn't complain about sacred boundary lines--he gives his life to protect them.
A woman needs to have the confidence that her man will zealously protect the purity of their relationship. She needs to know that though purity is important to her, it is even MORE important to her man. She longs to be assured that even where she is weak (regardless of whether she is) her man will, like Christ, be strong and courageous in defense of her purity.

*I am speaking in VERY general terms here. Women increasingly struggle with lust and physical temptation, as evidenced by the fact that 1/3 of pornography is viewed by women. This is a HUGE issue in the church, and one I don't intend to mitigate.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reason #10: He's stayed out of debt

I love that my man has committed to stay out of debt. He has done a number of things in the last 4 years that he could have legitimately borrowed money for. He's put himself through college, started his own home with a decent amount of savings, and purchased two cars (three if you include the one we bought after marriage when mine was totaled). He could have borrowed money for any one of those items and it would have been considered a reasonable--even needful--decision. But he didn't.

Instead he committed to stay out of debt, even when it was uncomfortable. Even when it meant waiting a little longer for college. Even when it meant driving a car made the same year he was born. Even when it meant a year-and-a-half wait for marriage. Because of his wise decisions with money before we were married--or even engaged--we are now debt free. We have no payments tying up our income, which means we have a good deal more freedom than most young couples do.

I really appreciate the wise way my husband has handled his money over the years.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Part Eleven: Febuary 15, 2009


She looked around the room. The bedroom wasn't large, and this afternoon it was bursting at the seams as four girls prepared for a banquet. It wasn't just any banquet either, it was their church's very first annual Valentines  Banquet. It was for adults only, so for some of the younger ladies it was their first.


She wondered how many of those girls could see through her smile to the heartache underneath. She had been told before that her face
was like an open book,expressive and easy to read. 
For one evening she hoped she could keep that book shut.
For one evening she had to be what everyone thought she was. 
For one evening the mask must not come off.


She glanced at the corner of her bedroom with the full length mirror. The other girls were clustered around it putting the final touches on their hair and makeup--checking the overall effect of their dresses. 
Quietly she tucked a card into her purse. 
Then the call came--it was time to leave for the banquet. 
Her secret was still safe.


As she walked into the church she reached a delicate hand up to adjust the pearl circlet that crowned her long curls. Her dress, handmade for this occasion,  fluttered gracefully around her ankles. It was pink and white--simple, elegant. The kind of dress little girls dream of wearing when they become a princess and their knight comes to
carry them away on his noble steed.


Every stitch on that dress was a dream, 
a promise of the future, a step of faith. 
Or was it faith? 
That knowing she'd had for the last year 
that she wouldn't be alone much longer? 
Or that instinctive understanding she'd had 
for over two months that tonight was to be the big night? 
And that her knight had actually been disguised as her dearest friend?


How had she known? 
Achingly, painfully, she went over the memories 
that had brought her such joy and hope just days ago.
She had been so sure. So very sure.
Though it had never been spoken, 
the message had seemed so clear from him and his family, 
Even her bible reading had shouted the same message. 
She was loved
She was wanted
And he was coming soon.


But all that was past now. 
Twice now she'd had it confirmed that her knight wasn't coming after all. 
Twice now she'd come to understand that he wasn't the one, after all. 
Twice now she'd discovered that somehow, somewhere, 
 she'd made a terrible, horrible mistake. 
How could she have been so foolish? 
She was loved...
as a friend. 
She was wanted...
as a friend.


The dress of dreams seemed to mock her as she turned toward the banquet hall. She smiled as she greeted her friends, but inside she was discovering the agony of brokenness. In her purse was a card, secretly, joyfully written to her knight in times of hope, to give to him when he asked her hand. She wasn't sure why she had brought it. 
Maybe, as long as she had it, she could cling to hope. 
Maybe, as long as she had it she could
pretend her heart hadn't shattered. 


As the speaker took the platform she waited silently. Silent. That's what she had been for nearly three months. Silent over the fears. Silent over the excitements. Silent over the joys. Now she was silent over the pain. But that was fine. This particular burden she wanted to carry alone. 
She needed their joy more than their comfort. 
She wanted to hear their laughter.


The speaker continued on, but she couldn't hear. The Lord was asking for her. He wanted her dreams, her hopes, her joys. He'd taken them away, but he wanted her to give them willingly. 
He wanted to be her prince, her knight. He wanted her trust. 
He wanted her to feel the joy over Him that she had felt over him.


Silently, as always, the battle was over. The dress of dreams wrapped around her as she gave her dreams away. Softly, quietly, her Lord took the gift she gave. Softly, quietly, he promised the gift wouldn't be in vain. Softly, quietly, he bid her... 
Listen... Wait.... Trust.


She looked up as the speaker introduced a guest. The side door opened. It was a knight, the gold of his armor glinted in the light as he stepped in from the night. In his gauntleted hands he carried a dozen roses. Startled whispers began as instead of taking the podium the mystery knight crossed the room and stopped in front of her.


She looked up at him, amazed, confused, stunned. He gestured for her. Dreamlike she stood. He removed his helmet, revealing to all the identity she already knew. 
Boldly, bravely, in front of all the witnesses he proclaimed his love for her. 
Boldly, bravely, he gave her his heart. 
Boldly, bravely, he asked for hers.


Joy reflected off the diamonds in his hand. 
Joy streamed down as she answered. 
Joy filled the room with applause. 
Joy covered her face as she realized... 
She WAS loved. 
She WAS wanted. 
Memory returned and the dress of dreams rippled as she bent down to take the card of acceptance, of faith, of hope from her purse. Love in her eyes she looked up at him and quietly put the gift in his hands.

Part Ten: Death of a Vision

"It's going to get darker before it gets lighter." This shaky assesment by the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz has stayed with me through the years. While it seems a pessimistic statement, it holds a good reflection on life.

Look at any good story--before the hero conquers, before the villain is vanquished, before fair maiden is won, the story must pass through a time where things are so dark, so desperate, that hope is almost lost. Pilgrim doesn't reach Celestial City until he has given up everything he has, Alice doesn't return home until she fears for her life, Hawkeye doesn't win his girl until they both have lost their families.

I think the reason the best stories follow this formula is because instinctively we know this formula reflects our own stories--reflects what the Bible tells us is truly real. Before the joy of resurrection was the dark horror of crucifixion. Before the shining light of the millennial Kingdom is the unspeakable trouble of the Tribulation. Before the wonder of Heaven is the dark waters of death. Before the thrill of bright victory comes the dark night of the soul. With that in mind, perhaps what the Scarecrow SHOULD have said is, "It gets darkest before it gets brightest."

My story was no different.

In the first couple days of February my dad came to talk to me. He told me that it was about time for us to determine as a family, and for me in particular, how we wanted to handle a eventual courtship. Over the course of the conversation he said something that made me realize no one had talked to him yet--including Richard. I knew my dad wouldn't lie to me. (Later I found out that dad had stumbled over his words, and was unable to correct his mistake without giving the secret away). I also knew that if Richard hadn't  talked to him yet there was no way he'd have time to pull together a Valentines Day Proposal. I knew Richard well enough to know that he wouldn't settle for anything less than wonderful and unique. There just wasn't time for that anymore. Sadly I gave up my two month daydream of a proposal at the Valentines Banquet. 

As sorry as I was to find out things weren't as far along as I thought, the disappointment over having to wait longer was fairly mild. I still knew Richard loved me, wanted me, and was working toward marrying me. I still had hope. Just a few days after that conversation with dad I was to have another conversation that would change that.

"You know I'm nowhere near being able to support a family, right? I couldn't even consider something like that at this point. It's going to be a couple years before I can even start thinking about it, much less start actually courting somebody." 

I don't know if that's exactly what Richard said or not. The way I remember the conversation and the way he remembers it are two totally different things. By the time it took place I was so confident of Richard's love for me that the only person who could have convinced me otherwise was Richard himself. While this may have been a total misunderstanding of the words he said, in my journal I wrote:

"he told me clearly that he had no intentions toward me of that nature, and that even if he wanted to he wasn't in a position to. Everything has changed now."

 In one conversation, a few words spoken, I went from being the loved and cherished soon-to-be-bride to the friend who stepped "over the line" and made false assumptions about the relationship. I went from being greatly desired to being loved--as a sister.

The pain of rejection was one of the most painful experiences I've had. Not that I felt rejected, exactly. I still knew that Richard loved me. But instead of loving me as his future wife, which was my desire, he loved me as another sister. I was one of seven when I wanted to be one of one.

I don't know whether I was completely and totally wrong about it--maybe God has somebody else for me. Or maybe I was right, but this is the "death of a vision". I always expected the death of this vision if something ever happened between us. I never expected it to come this way, though. I expected it to be something like that January. I mean, a literal cutting off of communication. Something that would wake him up. I never expected to be "given a vision" and then asked to bury it while still being in close contact with Richard. It isn't nearly as agonizing this way, but in a lot of ways it is harder. Harder to let it die when I still am so constantly with him--not that I don't want to be, but it is more difficult to give up hope. I'm really not sure how to go about the burying process.

I didn't blame anybody but myself. I assumed I'd simply read into conversations things that I shouldn't have. I knew it wasn't Richard's fault, or his family's fault. They had loved me and made me a part of their family, the fact that those actions had given me unreasonable expectations wasn't their fault--in fact, it was terribly ungrateful of me to repay their kindness with such unreasonable expectations.

The love I'd experienced had deeply changed me, but it had changed me for the better, with or without an end result of courtship. I could glean from this experience the lessons that God wanted to teach me, I could allow myself to be painfully pruned, I could choose to throw myself on Jesus instead of human support. I could embrace the pain, knowing that night comes before day. I absolutely believed that God would work all things together for good, even the devastation I was walking through. As the initial shock began to wear off, I searched for God in the midst of pain.

And I found Him.

Even when I'd lost everything my heart desired, even then, my Lord walked with me. He taught me to see joy in the midst of my pain. He taught me to count my apparent misunderstanding as a Gift.  He gave me a deeper understanding of the true blessing that singleness is. He showed me the ways that I would be more useful having walked this rough road than I would have been had the painful path been left untrod. He didn't just walk that path with me, he carried me.

And I, desperate, clung to Him.

Part One: October 20, 1999
Part Two: The Highschool Years
Part Three: The First Moments
Part Four: Everything Grows
Part Five: A Threestrand Cord
Part Six: And how it Broke
Part Seven: Love is Pain
Part Eight: Realization  
Part Nine: Rhema

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Part Nine: Rhema

I've always had a thing for writing. I have about 13 journals that I filled up, writing faithfully evening after evening when I was growing up. Though I still have a great affection for words scratched on paper, when I got my own computer my itch for writing gradually transferred from pen in hand to the typed word.

As I mentioned in part 4, over the course of our friendship I wrote Richard more and more letters. He  became my confidant, my trusted place. When I first found out that Richard had intentions toward me it killed me to not have the writing outlet of a letter to him. With everything bubbling up inside I needed the release of putting my thoughts into words, but for once I wasn't able to. Finally I decided I would still write him, but instead of sending the letters I would put it in my special marriage account and only give them to him after he proposed.

I think the next step in our relationship is nicely summed up in one of those letters, written December 22, 2008.

My dear Mr. Richard,

Well, this is the second time I've written you and not sent it....  I probably will do it again, but I don't think I'll do it a lot. I wanted to tell you about today, though. I've been very.... troubled about everything, as you have probably gotten the idea from the last letter I wrote (and didn't send). This has weighed heavily on my mind. I've had trouble fully engaging in everything around me because I'm so wrapped up in thought.
After Hearthstone this morning Jonathan and Amanda and I were on our way to church. I was in the back seat, and pretty much completely oblivious to them unless they called my attention (which they gave up on, after awhile). I was thinking things over, and suddenly God gave me a verse. I knew I had to look up what Naomi said to Ruth after she came home from meeting Boaz. I had no idea WHAT she said, in fact, I don't think I even realized she'd said anything on record. But suddenly, for no known reason, I desperately needed to know what (if anything) Naomi said to Ruth.
I paged through my Bible, desperately searching, and finally found it. 
Ruth 3:18 "Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day"

I nearly cried when I read that--would have, if I'd been alone. It was as though God Himself were directly addressing me--which, I guess He was, but it wasn't just a nice applicable verse, it was like God had verbally spoken it to me--and he called me his daughter. He knew how hard it was, how fretting I was, how tense--and I wasn't rebuked, I was loved. Of course, He also told me to learn the same lesson I've had trouble on before--to be still. *smiles*

I've held onto that verse like a lifeline all day long. In the two parts it encompasses everything I need. The second part reminds me that I trust you. Completely. I know that if you are doing something you will pursue it wholeheartedly--will not rest until it is finished. There is no need or place for impatience. I can be at rest, the situation in Gods hands, and in your hands--the two I trust most in the world.

It is the first part, though, that I've clung to the most. Richard, I guess I just
cannot believe that you love me like that--that I'm the right one for you. I had somebody else in mind--somebody much better than me. In an effort to be entirely honest, I think there has always been a hope in the back of my mind that you were the one, that you might choose me--but serious thought, when it was given, convinced me that somebody else would be better for you, somebody without the struggles and weaknesses I have, somebody more accomplished--I mean, a better woman. It isn't that I ever doubted your love for me--I am absolutely convinced that you love me dearly. But you love your sisters dearly also. Loving somebody and being close to them doesn't mean they are spouse material. I don't think you'll ever realize the fearfulness, the anxiety, the quickening of my pulse--afraid you did love me like that, afraid you might have been blinded, afraid you were making the wrong choice, afraid you wouldn't realize until too late. And I would grab at the words, "Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall." I don't know how the matter will fall. If I am the one God has for you (and I can barely imagine), then I will feel like I am the most blessed woman in the world. If I'm not, well, that's fine too.
From that time on I was at peace. Trusting God and trusting Richard, I was able to rest in the fact that neither one would choose to make me wait longer than necessary. I didn't know what exactly was going on, but I knew I could trust that every day of waiting was a day well spent.

I didn't twiddle my thumbs either. I'd wanted to start a class for single ladies at my church for a long time. Knowing that I was soon to leave their ranks, the growing desire took on a new urgency. By January I had started the class, and began meeting every Sunday afternoon with about 8 sweet young ladies.

The singleness class caused me to do a lot of reading on the topic of singleness. I discovered so much richness that could be had in a life spent wholly devoted to God. Even though I knew my days as a single were numbered, I eagerly shared these truths with those close to me (causing my soon-to-be knight no little amount of distress!!). At the very moment when many girls would be the most anxious to "get the ball rolling" I was able to sink blissfully into the state that God had put me, with the feeling that I must milk each moment for everything it was worth.

Not that I was perfect. In fact, as my suspicions grew that he was waiting for the first annual church Valentines Banquet, my mischivous side started popping through. I would ask leading questions of his siblings (the older ones, who I was sure knew what was going on) and then grin to myself as I watched them scramble out of danger of letting me know that they knew anything.

That month was a blissful, happy, joyful time. Even though no words passed between Richard and I about our growing love, I was absolutely certain it was there. I felt cherished, loved, and completely wholly content and useful. One would think that from that point on things would be smooth sailing.

Not so.

In early February two things happened that made the Joy of January pale in comparison to the Pain of February.... I was about to plunge some of the deepest, darkest waters I'd experienced.

Part One: October 20, 1999
Part Two: The Highschool Years
Part Three: The First Moments
Part Four: Everything Grows
Part Five: A Threestrand Cord
Part Six: And how it Broke
Part Seven: Love is Pain
Part Eight: Realization 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Reason #9: Foot rubs

This morning and I was sitting on the couch reading my Bible when my man came out. He was ready for work but had a few minutes to talk (wonderful, slow minutes we can spend together!). We talked about various life things, I don't even remember what. And then he glanced down.

My feet were tucked up on the couch beside him. After studying them for a moment he grabbed a bottle of lotion that happened to be near and started rubbing my feet, still carrying on the conversation. When I gave him the "you've totally just got brownie points" grin he just shrugged and said my feet looked like they needed a bit of lotion. By the time he was done they felt sooooo much better. :-)

Moral of the story? I'm gonna keep a bottle of lotion in EVERY room of the house. Just in case. *grins*

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reason #8: He sees needs

It's amazing how inconvenient a small injury like a burned hand can be. Really, I can't complain. I can still use my hand for most things. Even bandaged up I can still pick up things, vacuum, drive, and do nearly everything I usually do, which I'm grateful for. Soon it will be healed enough that I won't need to wear a bandage. But it is true that we tend to not appreciate what we have until it's gone.

What has been "gone" for me this week is the ability to work with anything that is wet. Showers are more difficult. So are dishes. They both involve warm water, and both can get bandages dirty. Both of those, though, I've figured out how to do one-handed. The thing I HAVEN'T figured out how to do one handed is wipe down counters. It involves a dirty, wet rag held in two hands. That definitely is not working for me right now. The current state of my poor counters backs up that statement.

Yesterday evening I was tired. I've been unusually tired this past week (I imagine it has something to do with not sleeping enough. Funny how that works). It was late, I was tired, the house was a mess, and I was discouraged both about not having done everything I could have done and also not having done everything I couldn't have done anyway.

Noticing my distress, my husband suggested, "Why don't you go to bed while I stay up to do the kitchen?" The kitchen is usually my domain, but (for the moment) he can knock out all the kitchen chores much more quickly than his lame wife.

I ended up asking him not to stay up because we hate going to bed at different times and he needed his rest as much as I did. (He did put the food away, choosing not to give me an option on that one). But I knew his offer to stay up and clean was genuine, self-sacrificing, and born out of his love for me. That alone was enough to cheer me up as we went to sleep that night.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reason #7: His commitment to loving me

My husband happens to be a very busy man. He currently is working 4 jobs--his main one plus three others. Granted, two of those only take a couple hours or so a week, but it is still more than enough for any one person.

With all of his work, I really appreciate the fact that he makes a point to spend time with me. Daily. It would be so easy for him to put that aside, to not quite get around to it, but he doesn't. I've always appreciated this (and made sure to tell him so!!) but I didn't FULLY appreciate how much quality time we are able to spend together until the book "168 hours: You have more time than you think" challenged me to spend a week cataloging every moment and how it was spent.

For the most part the results were what I expected. With two jobs, plus a lot of church involvement, my days are pretty structured. What I didn't realize was how MUCH quality time my hubby and I are able to spend together each week. It came out to be nearly as much time as I spend on my secondary part time job!!

With my love language of Quality Time, I can take as much time as my hubby can give. Pretty much anything in my schedule is negotiable when it comes to quality time with my man.

Work? I'll let them know at the end of the week that I did a bit less than usual.
 Church? We're there every time the doors are open, one day won't make a difference.
 Housework? Seriously? When my man is free? I don't think so.
 Dinner? Freezer cooking is wonderful--and short of that, there IS always delivery.

Obviously, as the primary breadwinner in our family my Beloved doesn't have that luxury.Work is non-negotiable. There are lots of non-negotiable deadlines, and frequently they are inconveniently placed in the evening, morning, or late at night. It makes me wonder--how does a man who does so much, STILL manage to spend that much quality time with his wife?

But I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Instead I'm celebrating the fact that my husband is absolutely committed to our marriage, and more specifically, committed to communicating his love in the best way possible, with his time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reason #6: His tenderness

"You really should be more careful." My man's lips pursed into a frown, but his eyes were loving.

The admonishment was well earned. Just last evening I'd been making some tea for him in a pot. The water had come to a beautiful, rapid boil and I decided I wanted some tea as well. My man likes his tea iced in a tall glass, I prefer mine hot in a small mug. There was plenty of water for the both of us, so I pulled out a cup measure to dip the boiling water over the tea bag, which was waiting expectantly in my own particular Wild Strawberry mug. Unfortunately, in the process, I missed the mug and accidentally spilt the just-boiling water over my hand. Now I was on the couch, meekly allowing my man to bandage my burn.

He handled it tenderly, much more carefully than I would have myself. And it didn't matter that taking the time to tend to my hand was making him late for an appointment. The most important thing he was doing in that moment was tending to his wife, and doing so with gentle tenderness.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reason #5--he makes me strong

I remember an evening not to long ago when we found out we had bedbugs. I hardly knew what a bedbug was before I discovered our sheets were full of them. Distressed, upset, anxious--I curled up on the couch and couldn't deal with it. I needed time. I needed space. I needed strength. My man was already reading up on them, learning what to do, handling the problem, when he found me on the couch. He stopped what he was doing, wrapped his arms around me, and breathed strength into me.

Perhaps a month earlier we had gone out to visit his family. It was raining, and the car lost traction. We skid through one lane and plowed into the guardrail. The car, my first, limped slowly home before it gave up the ghost. At home I curled on the couch, trembling. Realizing that we could have lost a lot more than our vehicle. Knowing that God could have taken one of us home, that our vows "till death do us part," spoken scant weeks before, could have been fulfilled that afternoon. My man, already dealing with the insurance, stopped everything. He held me tight, whispered his love, and breathed strength into me.

When I'm weak, he is strong for me. He gives me his strength to keep my chin up, to keep on taking that next step. His love makes me strong.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reason #4: His playfulness

My husband is fun. Pretty much all the time. He's got a boyish sense of humor that sometimes raises my eyebrow, and sometimes has me giggling along. He does random things, just (as he says) to keep me guessing. I have to be wary as I walk through the house, because hug-tackles are now common place.

Just yesterday he stepped out of his office for a break. I thought he was coming out for breakfast, but found out quickly when he snatched me up and carried me captive that it wasn't food on his mind--it was the giving of bristle-brushes. Apparently after 3 days of being snowed in, my man is going stir-crazy. I made him work for that victory.

I may sometimes be absolutely convinced that I married a mad-man, but I love the way that he can always laugh at life.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Part Eight: Realization

Part 7
It was a cold December day when I first realized what was about to happen. My entire family was in the van as we trekked to Richard's house. His mother was my piano teacher, and it was time for my yearly recital. I told them they didn't need to come, but my parents insisted.

Just three months before my brother had started courting my best friend, and ever since our conversations had naturally turned in the direction of courtship. That evening was no different.

"You know, we've got one taken care of," Mom turned back and grinned at me teasingly, "And it won't be long before a second one's gone."

I recognized the teasing tone, but with that one sentence my world started spinning. It wasn't much, but somehow in that instant I knew, really knew, for the first time in my life, that Richard was the one I'd been waiting for. Somehow I also realized that he knew the same thing and was at that very moment working as hard and as fast as he could toward the goal of marrying me. I suspected he had already talked to my parents, and that was what made my mom say what she had.

(It wasn't until much later that I found out that on that cold December day things weren't nearly as far along as I suspected. It wasn't until the next evening that Richard would even talk to his parents--and several weeks before he would speak to mine. )

I was floored. I'd wondered a few times, of course, if Richard was the one I was waiting for--but that wasn't saying much. Like most single people there is always an unspoken question in a friendship with the opposite gender, "Are YOU the one I'm waiting for?" The fact that I'd wondered this about Richard didn't put him in any more of a special category than a handful of other quality Christian young men I'd known over the years. 

The part that set my world to spinning was the realization that he actually wanted me. Like all young women, I'd wondered who my prince was... but somehow I never really expected him to come. And I certainly hadn't expected him to take the form of a man who had, in many ways, become the pinnacle of what I found admirable in manhood.

It might be expected that the revelation that evening would have left me ecstatic. Not so. In fact, I was horrified. I knew Richard, through his family, was friends with a number of godly young women. Any one of them, in my opinion, would have been a better choice than me. By the time we returned home that evening I had convinced myself that my best friend was about to make the biggest mistake of his life. As I confided in my journal:

 "I'm just his best friend, his sister--somebody who stands by his side until she needs to stand to the side to make way for somebody more important. And that's okay. It is what I expected, what I signed up for, and it isn't fair to ask or want more."

In my mind, whether or not he was everything I'd ever wanted and more was entirely beside the point. The point was that as his best friend it was my responsibility--my sacred duty--to protect Richard, even if that meant protecting him from himself. Even if, in some twisted way, it meant protecting him from myself.

But God had other plans, and He was about to reveal them to me in just a few more days....

Part One: October 20, 1999
Part Two: The Highschool Years
Part Three: The First Moments
Part Four: Everything Grows
Part Five: A Threestrand Cord
Part Six: And how it Broke
Part Seven: Love is Pain

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reason #3--he is protective

We had an ice storm this week, I heard it was going to be the worst since 2005. When my husband found out it was coming he told me that he planned to work from home. His job allows him the freedom to do that as needed, which has been a blessing to us both. My jobs, of course, won't allow for working at home. I take care of an elderly lady in the morning and babysit children in the afternoon. I can't do that at home.

When I mentioned that to my husband he told me that he wasn't planning on staying home for his own safety. He was planning to work from home so he could drive me to my jobs. He didn't want me to drive alone when the roads were bad, even if there was just a small amount of ice, and he was willing to cramp his work day to make sure he was there to take care of me.

As it turned out, the roads were SO bad that neither of us went out until it cleared up. But it meant a lot to me to know that my husband was willing to go out of his way to make sure I was safe--even if it was a little thing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reason #2--he is understanding

I haven't exactly kept this up like I intended to, but the year is still young and this is the month of love! So, I'm going to try to post a reason every day between now and our 2 year anniversary on Valentines day.

The past month has been rough on me. My hubby and I have been going a mile a minute, and have taken very little time to stop. We make our marriage a high priority so we've still had a good amount of time together, but there have been very few pauses for rest.

The natural result of that schedule was that by the end of January I was exhausted. One evening we were sitting together and I completely lost it. As I sat there and bawled  my hubby put his arms around me and just held me. Instead of running from my tears he embraced me--and when I had finished he started listing off all the things he loves about me (which just made me cry again, but that's okay!!!).When he had finished he gave me an extra hug and told me he'd finish the chores that evening--I was to go to bed.

My husband is so understanding--even when I don't make much sense!!