Time for a software complaint. I wrote a long blog here and just as I got to the end of it, the whole thing got eaten by the software in some mysterious fashion. I hate when that happens.
Seriously, I wrote the whole thing and it was pretty good, I must admit. It was clever and insightful and full of insightful language. No, really. It was. Now, it is gone. You should have seen it. It was really great. Too bad it was eaten by my computer.
Sounds pretty lame, doesn't it? There is something really unsatisfying about telling someone how great something was when they can't actually see it.
I wonder how many of our "marriage classes" are like that.
We sit in churches in all these classes and people all tell us how great they are doing. Or, perhaps, how great they were doing. They remember days when they were thrilled to be married. They remember how they used to do everything together. Their marriage was great. No, really. It was.
But, now, well, things are fine, they say. Not really like the old days, but, then, we're older now. We are more settled. The children take a lot of our energy, after all, and we have to get them to all their stuff. So, things are not what they were.
In Marabel Morgan's Total Woman book, she explained how she suddenly realized that she and her husband just no longer had that fire in their marriage. She thought about it and realized that, well, they were more settled now. The fires burn lower and the passion is gone, but they still have a mature, comfortable life together.
Then, she said the line that really mattered. She realized that she hated "mature love." She hated having a comfortable marriage. She hated having a marriage with less passion and less joy. She hated it all. She wanted what she used to have.
So, as you think of your marriage, how are you doing? Your words notwithstanding, how excited are you to be the wife of your husband? How excited are you to go to bed with him at night, to wake up with him in the morning, and to spend your days together? If your marriage has become a "mature" marriage with no passion, do you like it this way?
Do not tell me how your marriage used to be. "It was great. No, really. It was."
Tell me how it was this morning and last night.
Tell me how it will be today.
One of the most important moments in a day is the moment of coming home. This is something you need to think carefully about because it tells you a lot about your relationship.
When a husband comes home, the reaction he gets is amazingly important to him. I can remember coming home when my children were young. They were always happy to see me. I remember getting out of my car, tired from a day of work and a long commute, but knowing that when I walked in the door the children would be pleased to see me. I loved that feeling. Knowing that someone loved you, that someone wanted you to be at home, that someone was happy that you were at home, was a very good thing, indeed.
So, what happens when your husband gets home? For too many people, there is no joy in it at all. You know he is coming home, so it is no big deal. You are doing something else and you do not really care that he is at home. Perhaps you are "updating your status" on Facebook or sending an e-mail to someone. Maybe you are watching television or folding laundry or doing something with a child. Suddenly, your husband is home. What do you do?
I know exactly what you do. You do whatever is most important to you. If you are on Facebook and you do not get up to greet and kiss him, then we know what is important to you. It's not your husband. If you are folding clothes and keep folding, or you are watching television and keep watching, then we know what is important to you. It's not your husband.
If you even have to think about it, then something is badly wrong. When did Facebook become more important than the man you married? When did folding clothes become something more important than kissing your husband? But there are many families where the husband's arrival at home is not important at all, at least by the measure of their wives' reactions.
Don't think he misses this truth. If I walk into my house and my wife stays at her computer, there is a little something that is taken out of my life. If this happens every day, it can mean a great deal. If coming home is not important, why should I hurry home? I wonder how many "workaholics" are men who are warmly welcomed when they get home. I wonder how many men who are warmly welcomed at home will spend time "having a drink" with guys after work.
When I was a boy, there was one truth I knew every day. When my father came home, my mother was excited to see him. Whatever she was doing was over when he walked in the door. She would greet him with a smile and a kiss and, usually, they would sit down together in the kitchen and spend a little time together (with no children interrupting). Her cooking was planned so she could take a break with her husband. Her work was never as important as the man she loved.
And my father always came home. Who would delay coming home with such a wonderful welcome awaiting him?
When he walks in today, will he know that you love him by what you do? Will he know you are thrilled to see him? Will his heart be warmed by your response? Or will you tell him "hello" and keep Facebooking? Will you immediately dump all your complaints on him?
If I were in your home today, what would I learn from watching him come home?
We have been posting the Love Their Children audio sections for a month or so now. I am impressed with just how many things are involved in being a parent. Sometimes, it seems really complicated. Not only do you have to be consistent, but you have to be consistent in all manner of situations, from grocery stores to restaurants to service station bathrooms. Children, being children, are always just a moment away from some horrible (or horribly embarrassing) action.
Two thoughts come to mind.
First, how easy it is to let this kind of pressure overwhelm you. There are so many things going on at once that it can quickly take control of your life. Your fear for your children, greatly magnified by the current news story approach to life, can almost destroy you. You will focus on them to such a degree that you will forget everything else. Especially your husband.
In families with young children and stay-at-home moms, the "coming home" of the husband is often not a time of joy but of relief. "He is here," the wife proclaims, and immediately begins telling him all about what has happened or instructing him about what he needs to take care of. His coming home is, she thinks, her moment of freedom. He, on the other hand, is coming home from WORK! You remember, that place he goes to every day in order to pay bills. He is tired. He has driven from work (we all know how relaxing it is to commute). He is looking for the comforts of home. This is a source of a lot of domestic tension.
Being an Excellent Wife is often tied to things like how well you "run your house," which includes your children. If your husband's appearance is the relief of your every day, if your idea is to dump everything on him when he walks in, something is badly wrong.
Second, as I look at parenting, I grow more optimistic about marriage. If you can handle parenting, then being an Excellent Wife should not be very difficult. Your husband is not likely to run through the aisles at the grocery store, grabbing things and demanding candy. He is not going to throw a tantrum at the cleaners or start drawing on the walls of your bedroom. He is not going to bite the husband next door or spit on his friends or be sent home from school with a note demanding a wife/teacher conference. Marriage is an adult relationship and you never have to buy band candy.
Compared to raising children, being a wife ought to be a piece of cake.
As I have written before, I am not a fan of the whole Valentine's Day plan. Far too many people place a lot of stock in "what happens on Valentine's Day," which means they care about what happens that does not happen every other day. They want something "special."
Well, let's think about what you "got" for Valentine's Day.
1. Did you have your husband in your bed last night? Seriously. Did you? You may not think this is a big deal, but it is huge. The number of divorces and abandonments continues to amaze us. There are many women who were once married who slept alone last night. There are many women who are still married whose husband was in someone else's bed. You may not like his snoring, but his presence is very big indeed.
2. Did your husband go to work today? Again, this may not mean much to you, but it ought to. Recently, the President has been claiming that he is responsible for "unemployment going down," but that is just a game of numbers. The government no longer counts men who just aren't looking for jobs anymore. If your husband is working and making money, that is a gift of great value. He is putting up with annoying co-workers and complaining customers and interfering government agencies, so you can have a home to live in. Did you count this in your day?
3. Did your husband come home this evening? There are a lot of places a man can go when he decides to go home. There are bars and bookstores and libraries everywhere, but he comes home.
So, if these three things happened, you already have all you need for proof of love, don't you? You have a man who, in a world that tells him to indulge himself and ignore his duties, has held to his vow to you. You have a man whose life is forfeit to his word, who continues, day by day, to love and honor you and your children. That is a pretty good gift for a foolish day pushed by card companies and candy makers.
Did he sit and spend time with your children? Did he fix something? Did he take care of bills? Did he hold your hand this evening? All of these are great gifts.
When you sit down with your girlfriends and talk about Valentine's Day, think about these things. They will want to talk about some card he purchased (which is a commercially made card sold to thousands of other people). They will want to talk about chocolate he purchased (which is just like the chocolate sold to thousands of other persons). They will want to talk about the flowers he purchased (just like the flowers purchased by thousands of other persons, all of which will be dead next week).
Your husband will probably bring you some of that stuff as well, but it is just noise, not actual love. Cards and candy and flowers are not proof of love. The greatest proof of his love comes when he leaves home to head to work every day and when he comes home after work. You know those times, when you kiss him hello or kiss him goodbye.
You did kiss him today, didn't you?
I am posting again after a break of ten days or so. I have been tied up in all kinds of things and had a bit of a hiccup with the website stuff, so I have not been around. Sorry about that, but, hey, at least it is all free and we have been putting up the parenting class things every week. :)
Life kind of goes on, doesn't it? Sometimes, it seems like we just cannot do all the things we need to do, but life goes on. We keep getting more things to do and, somehow, we get through. Things change and move and grow and recede, and we just keep on moving.
We like to maintain an image of "happiness" in our lives, a lot of the time. We tell everyone we are "fine" when they ask, even if we are miserable. We do not want to clean up the messy garage and, when we start, we often stop right away because the mess is too big. So, we just keep people out of it. We go to churches where everyone looks so happy and we look happy, too, even though we are not happy at all.
One of the central truths of our lives, as CS Lewis put it, is that we are "amphibians" between the natural and the spiritual. We have natural lives and bodies and desires and boredoms, on the one hand, and we have spiritual lives on the other hand. We move constantly in these two worlds.
Usually, our "happiness" is mostly a natural happiness and our unhappiness is mostly the same. We are happy when our physical world is what it needs to be. We get a good night's sleep, have a nice breakfast, and we are happy. We think we are being spiritual when we are reallty being natural.
The next day, we feel terrible. We slept poorly or caught a cold or one of our children did something stupid and we are now unhappy. Oddly, we then decide that our unhappiness is somehow spiritual, when it is just natural.
The Christian life is about getting hold of this truth in a real sense. It is about learning to handle both the natural high and the natural low with the same spiritual wisdom. It is about not letting ourselves get on the merry-go-round of natural life, from highs to lows, and learning to be content with whatever nature brings us.
For wives, this is often very difficult. By nature, women deal with more changes than men face. Their bodies change more often, they go through very different phases of life, and they have to cope with all these things. Your ultimate happiness must be based on something more than how you feel or it will last only so long as you feel good. You must learn to value that which is most valuable and not to fixate on little things of no eternal value.
Think about your day as you walk through it. Do not let things of this world, natural things, get you so off key that you can no longer sing the song Christ gives you. Keep your spiritual self strong and the winds of the natural world will not take you hither and yon.
You are not a sailing ship, blown wherever the world blows you. You are a steamship, going where the Spirit takes you.
Long ago, we divided the year up into months, days, and such, for our own convenience. God did the same thing when he gave such divisions to Israel (starting in Exodus 12). There is a convenience about having such repetitions and divisions in our lives.
Americans have a tradition of making "New Year's Resolutions" at the start of a New Year, which we start on January 1. The insanity of starting a "new year" in the midst of winter seems to escape most of us, but so it is.
Now, we are a month into the year. WIthout buying into the whole "New Year's Resolution" idea, how are you doing? How was your month as a person, as a mother, and as a wife. These are, after all, rather different questions, aren't they?
As a person, you have certain hopes and ideas for your time. You would like to lose weight, perhaps, or learn a new language, or learn to make a perfect pot roast.
As a mother, you would like to be more patient or, perhaps, more stern. You would like to better discipline your children and have them learn something new and special (the piano, the violin, how to make their beds, etc.).
So, as a wife, what do you want? Have you set down and thought about being an Excellent Wife in the coming year? How did you do in January?
Were you kinder, more organized, more disciplined, more patient, more understanding toward your husband? Did you, in January, make your husband's life better day by day? Or did you have a few bad days?
Months have very little significance, to be honest. But maybe this could be a significance just for you. Weeks seem kind of short for any real thoughts about how you are doing. Years are much too long to actually condense into any one idea. But a month is pretty straightforward.
How was your month? If it was a good month for you as an Excellent Wife, then be glad and thankful and get ready for February. If it was not a good month, then put it aside and get ready for February.
After all, being an Excellent Wife has this nice feature -- every day is a new day and a new chance to do it right.
One of the traditional marriage vow designs says that we will remain faithful "in sickness and in health." Well, these last two weeks have been a real test of that at my house. I have been the sick one. I am beginning to get over it, I think, but I have been really sick for two weeks.
I realize (not being totally ignorant) that this has not been a pleasant two weeks for my wife either. I have been hacking and coughing my way through every day, taking a lot of naps, unable to sleep at night because of the coughing. I have been tired (worn out really) and have not felt like carrying on any conversation at all. I have not been a pleasant companion.
These kind of events (and greater ones with greater illnesses) are a real test of our commitment to our marriages. Too often, we have almost a daily barometer of our relationships and, if we feel bad about it one day, we are depressed about it. I think this is primarily true early in relationships, but have seen and heard of it much longer relationships.
The main thing is to remember that people are sometimes sick. And when a person is sick, that person is not going to be very thoughtful or loving. He (or she) is not going to be really patient or interested in listening to your various concerns. He (or she) is not going to do a lot of chores or share in a lot of conversations. It is going to be like being married to a bad husband or a bad wife, because all that makes him or her a good spouse is taken up in his or her illness.
Remember, at those times, your vows from long ago. You married him not because he would always be happy and healthy, but because you wanted to commit your life to his life. His illnesses are a real test of what kind of wife you are going to be. Will you fix meals for a sick man? Will you keep him to his medications and put up with nights racked by coughing? At what point will you demand your "own time" and just want to get away?
I sometimes look at these short illnesses as a preparation. I am in my 50's now. More serious health issues are around the corner for both my wife and me. Soon, perhaps, it will not be two weeks of a virus but many weeks of chemotherapy that we have to face. Instead of days of illness, it may be days of total misery. We may, one day, have to take one another through radiation treatments or major surgeries. We may, one day, have to sit beside a spouse with Alzheimer's, who no longer knows us.
How are you doing with the little illnesses that come along in this life? If two weeks of a bad cold or the flu is hard on you, what will you do with real illness?
It is a serious thought to be thought through seriously. Marriage is not just about support offered to you, but about support you offer to someone else.
I have been indulging my "hates" a little lately, so let's do a "love." I love blueberries.
"So what?" you may rightfully ask. Well, I will tell you.
I used to hate blueberries. I am not sure where this came from, but I used to hate blueberries. I was not raised to try a lot of odd foods and blueberries were not frequent in my home when I was young. When I first tasted them, I was singularly unimpressed. I did not like them at all. They were small, rather bland, and not at all as interesting as, say, an orange or an apple or a strawberry or a blackberry (all of which I loved).
Over the years, I gradually become more tolerant. I could eat blueberry muffins, for example, but not really anything else.
Then, a few years ago, I started eating oatmeal at breakfast (another childhood "don't like" food). I found that oatmeal was pretty boring and tried putting things into the oatmeal, leading me back to blueberries. I found that blueberries in oatmeal were fabulous. Then, I found that blueberries were pretty good in pancakes and donuts and ice cream and, frankly, just about anywhere you put them. I love blueberries.
You see, things change. I changed. Blueberries did not change. I changed. I got older. I tried new things. I tried things I was not sure I liked. Then I tried things I did not like in things I was not sure I liked. Eventually, ta-da, I love blueberries.
So, how are things going on the wifely duty front? Have you thought about it much lately? There are lots of things that almost all of you "are supposed to do" that you probably don't really enjoy. You probably don't like doing dishes or vacuuming floors or taking care of laundry. You probably really do enjoy Facebooking and watching certain televisions shows and spending time playing with your children.
The temptation is to do what we want to do and leave the rest for "later," by which we mean "hopefully for someone else." If we wait long enough, our husband will clean up the mess we don't want to clean up, right? Or, if he doesn't, then, when he complains about it, we can remark on his failure to clean it up as well, and dump a little guilt on him. I do not think "she plans to make her husband feel guilty" is one of the Excellent Wife categories we studied.
At some point, we have to learn to do the things we don't currently like doing. I do not like doing a lot of things that I do every day (we call it "my job"). But I do them because it is necessary.
Being an Excellent Wife is a decision you have to make. It is, to put it simply, "your job." It is not about enjoying everything or having fun, it is your duty to get things done in a way that benefits your family and, therefore, benefits you.
Eventually, you may learn to enjoy living in a clean house rather than a messy one. You may learn to like having your children look like decent children rather than homeless waifs from somewhere without good laundry facilities. You may learn that, even if the event itself is not so wonderful, the results are marvelous.
I love blueberries. I almost never eat one on its own, however. I put them in things and the result is marvelous. Kind of like doing dishes, or vacuuming, or ironing, or cleaning up the bird mess around the cage. The result is worth all the work.
Well, they have Valentine's Day candy in the stores. I have two confessions to make regarding Valentine's Day.
First, I love Brach's Conversation Hearts. Not any other kind, mind you, just theirs. When I see the Valentine's Day stuff on display, I start looking for those Hearts. They are a favorite candy for me and, thankfully, are not sold all year.
Second, I hate Valentine's Day. Yes, I know, we are not supposed to say "hate" this way, but there is no really adequate substitute.
The reason I dislike (how's that) Valentine's Day is that I love my wife all year. Every day that I get up and go to work, I prove how much I love her. Every day that I spend with her, I love her. My love is not toys or trinkets or paper or sparkles, it is something deep within me that colors my entire existence.
This is true of most husbands. We love our wives and we try to live that love everyday. We live it by doing things we would never do for anyone else. We go to work and we fix faucets and we play with children and we call repairmen and we change oil in cars. We take all the money we are paid for our work and give it to our families for food and clothes and pleasures and all the things that keep their lives going. We do this every day, every week, every month.
But, then we are told that we do not do "enough." Spending my life working to make a living is not "enough" to tell her I love her. Spending my weekends working on our home and spending time with our children are not enough to show her I love her. Helping her every day, for the whole year, is not enough to tell her I love her. No, I need to buy her a present for Valentine's Day.
I do not believe in St. Valentine or know who he supposedly was. I know he was not at my wedding and has nothing to do with my marriage. I have no idea who the day was for before it was for him, but I understand it was for some pagan thing. I don't really care. I hate Valentine's Day because, despite Conversation Hearts, it is nonsense. If I do not spend money on something meaningless and expensive on that day, then I am a bad husband, no matter how much work I do the rest of the year.
As a wife, ask yourself how demeaning it is to be told, once every year, that what you are doing is not enough. There is no equivalent for wives, of course. A wife who gets her husband nothing for Valentine's Day is not attacked or blamed. The day is just for women to receive presents from their husbands, whose entire lives have been presents and proofs of love. But they are then told that it is not enough. If their lives are not enough, how does a present of candy make it better?
But, there the display sits, in my local grocery, and it will be there every day until February 15. Eventually, I will give in and buy something my wife does not need in order to avoid having her think I do not love her. Do you see why I hate this day?
Women put far too much stock in days, or, at least, too many of them do. If your husband supports the family at his job, if he spends time with you, if he takes you places and enjoys being with you, why do you need something on February 14 to prove that he loves you?
Isn't his life proof enough? He gave you that at your wedding all those years ago. Isn't that better than chocolate candy on February 14?
That is the real Valentine's Day question. Where do you find his love? If you are looking in a box, you are looking in the wrong place.
This seems easy enough, to me. I buy a gallon of milk at the local store. They put it in a plastic bag. I take it home. Upon lifting the bag from my car, the bag rips and the milk carton falls to the ground, springing a leak. I end up transferring what remains of the milk into home containers and wash off the now-freezing spilt milk.
This is the sort of silly thing that happens all the time. Someone does something foolish (putting a gallon of milk into a weak plastic bag) and we suffer for their foolishness. Now, what?
I have had times when something like this would really set me off. There is something about such things that just make us so mad sometimes. Perhaps we were just a little on edge and this set us off the edge, or maybe we were just in a bad mood, or maybe we just don't handle things very well. For whatever reason, we overreact.
Today, I did not overreact. I just did what I had to do. I explained it to my wife when she came in so she knows why the milk is in plastic containers that belong to us, rather than in a store carton. We laughed about how our children will react to milk in a strange container.
But I could have overreacted. I could have gotten angry (I had cause, after all). I could have stormed back to the store to throw a fit. I could have been angry while pouring it up and while explaining it to my wife. I could have passed my anger to her. We could have both started our day with anger over what was, let's face it, a pretty foolish situation.
I can remember days when I have made bad decisions in these situations. Ultimately, we each live with the results we create, don't we? Why should I be angry over such a foolish thing?
As you walk today, be ready for the bag to break, the milk to drop, and the carton to break. Be ready for spilled milk. Be ready to accept that these things happen and that we have the choice of how to react.
"Crying over spilt milk" is the old phrase. We are told that there is no use in crying over spilt milk, but people do it every day.
So, for today, be ready for the milk being spilled. Laugh over the foolish things that happen. Build a home where a little milk problem does not become a big family problem.