Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Expression of Love

In the quiet, him & me time, I am amazed at all marriage is; all that it could be. And sometimes, when our baggage gets in the way, I think about how it was supposed to be when God first created. The picture of Adam and Eve before "the fall" (Genesis 2) is beautiful in my mind, but it's not how it is now. Are we on a path to getting there?

Our baggage takes many forms. A suitcase full of things learned, truths believed. But where did our ideas of boys, relationships, marriage, even sex come from? Was it truth from the Creator? Or did we pick it up from our parents, our public school health class, our peers, romantic movies, or worse, the inside walls of a bathroom stall?

The world I've seen, the information I've collected over time tells me sex is an impersonal, self-gratifying act. It holds no value anymore. And the more impersonal it becomes the easier it is to give it away. It becomes a physical action. No romance, no emotional connection, no LOVE. It has become a meaningless act. People using each other, to feel loved or for physical release. Nothing more, nothing less.

I think what we believe about marriage and love plays into this husband and wife union. And when our ideas, our beliefs, our expectations come together in holy matrimony it could make a mess instead of a blessing. It happened to us; perhaps it's happened to most.

Does a wife spend most of her time trying not to be known intimately? Just because you "meet" your spouse in the bedroom doesn't mean you are sharing intimacy. Making love is not about what you need and what he needs. If you ask yourself why you are coming to your spouse, wanting to share this time and space together, what would you say? The answer may be different each time. Or perhaps it's always the same. If you do it just because it's what you're "supposed" to do. If you check out in the middle, if you "have a headache", if you "hurry up and get it over with", then your missing out on something. If you do it to "keep" him, if you do it so he "keeps his eyes on you", that's not what intimacy is all about.

What if it meant something? What if you spent time letting each other into the deepest parts, sharing everything, not just skin?

Every time we give it away, even when it's with our spouse, every time it DOESN'T mean something more, when it's just an act or something we do, are you satisfied? Do you feel closer, more connected to your spouse? Because I believe this intimacy is PART of our expression of LOVE to one another. If it doesn't leave you feeling loved, cherished, safe then are we just using each other?

If everything we do is to glorify God, then we must include intimacy with our spouse in that. And although I've been talking about physical intimacy primarily here, that also means emotionally. Do we express our deepest thoughts and feelings? Women are definitely better at this, but it doesn't mean husbands don't have to go there. In fact, I believe emotional intimacy where we vulnerably share the deepest parts of our hearts leads to true physical intimacy.

It's hard enough to do this without relationship baggage. It's much harder when you have been battered and bruised. But we are still called to love.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." (Ephesians 5:25-33)

Why is it so difficult to share who we are? Why is it so difficult to love one another like we were made to? I know for me it can come out of fear, insecurity, and a lack of confidence and trust. What holds you back?

Your marriage union means you're on the same team, working together to live out Ephesians 5. It is hard. I don't believe it was meant to be easy. God knows good things come from having to work at it. We love and cherish the things we've worked hardest to keep. Struggling in this area isn't any different. When you have to work at love and intimacy it makes the experience sweeter. My husband and I have had to work hard to make this marriage work. And God continues to reveal new areas that need His light. Intimacy happens to be one of those areas right now. I never thought about how my view on, my perspective on intimacy could so strongly effect my marriage.

So again I ask, where did your understanding about relationships, marriage, sex come from? Was it from the Creator or the created?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Melting the Ice, Learning to Love

A two-hour school delay after a night of precipitation. Snow, freezing rain, sleet... Outside our front window we have a pink dogwood tree, bare of leaves in it's winter slumber. It's branches dressed in a clear sheet of ice. Hard yet delicate. Beautiful, like glass, a sheen of clear crystal.

Inside it's crystal casing a living tree, dormant, but not dead. Waiting for warmer rain and a springtime that will come. Sleet turns to rain and slowly the ice melts away leaving the bare branches free, yet exposed.

And it got me to thinking...

My heart. I keep it protected from most. My hard exterior, pleasant yet cautious. I am covered, my heart is covered by this thick skin. No one can see inside unless I let them. But no matter what I show or the me I project, my heart is delicate. We all want for the same thing. To be loved. To be valued.

What if our shell was clear like ice? What if we could all see the living, beating heart inside? What if we couldn't hide who we are, how we feel, or why we are afraid? Would we be more loving, understanding of each other?

I am special and unique. God made me that way. No one else is like me and yet, I still want to fit in.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

(PSALM 139:13-18)

I rarely show you who I am. Because my skin is not a clear shell. And although sometimes I feel free and exposed, I carefully build back that wall or throw on an extra layer of protection, just in case. I make assumptions. I believe lies. I let you see me in parts.

But why? Why are we so motivated by fear? Fear of rejection? Fear of being and showing who we really are? Sharing how we really feel?

Where do we find our identity? Who do we believe?

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:6-8; Matthew 10:29-31)

Because whether we like it or not we are loved by God, even the unbeliever. You can't escape it. And it's a love like we can never fully know because it's a love we aren't capable of giving away. We think we are loving, but what does it mean to love anyway? Who taught us what love is? Because it's not a one-night stand, giving a gift so you can get one, helping so you can feel better about yourself, putting your needs first, disrespecting, objectifying, judging. Love is undeserved. It is self-less. It is compassion, empathy, sacrifice.

I have a lot to learn about love. But we have a wonderful example in Jesus. Consider reading "Love Walked Among Us" by Paul Miller, a great book that scratches the surface of how to love like Jesus.

Could we melt the ice by allowing ourselves to be free and exposed, letting people see who we really are?

Could we learn to love by taking the time to see through each other's thick skin to the living, delicate heart inside?

HOLD ON - by Nichole Nordemann
It will find you at the bottom of a bottle
It will find you at the needle's end
It will find you when you beg and steal and borrow
It will follow you into a stranger's bed

It will find you when they serve you with the papers
It will find you when the locks have changed again
It will find you when you've called in all your favors
It will meet you at the bridge's highest ledge

So baby don't look down, it's a long way
The sun will come around to a new day

So hold on
Love will find you
Hold on
He's right behind you now
Just turn around
And love will find you

It will find you when the doctor's head is shaking
It will find you in a boardroom, mostly dead
It will crawl into the foxhole where you're praying
It will curl up in your halfway empty bed

So baby don't believe that it's over
Maybe you can't see 'round the corner

To hang between two thieves in the darkness
Love must believe you are worth it

Monday, January 17, 2011

Appreciating My Man

Sometimes it's dreadful to be alone. Perhaps I'm exaggerating a tad, but what is it about being alone that's so...lonely? I used to spend quiet, reflective time alone as I was growing up. I remember fondly walking and exploring the arboretum, long drives in the car with good music and time to think, the quiet stillness of hearing my own thoughts and pondering my life. But a lot of those times were before Adam came into my life. It's like solitude gives way to relationship, companionship. It makes sense. It's the way God made us.

Here I am today, married these 11 1/2 years with two busy and sometimes LOUD children and I'm no longer an expert at "alone".

It's on my mind because Adam just returned from a retreat. Only two sleeps without him and we were fine. But it was lonely here without him. I suppose it's a good sign. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Sometimes we refer to these rare occasions as "appreciation weekends". Alas, there is something soothing about having your man by your side and the children snuggly tucked into their beds.

But at the same time I realize the importance of space and quiet "me" time. Even if it just reminds me how happy I am to have Adam - all that he is, all that he brings to our family.

And I'm happy to share him - as long as they give him back. It's the temporariness of his absence that makes it bearable and -- dare I say it -- enjoyable at times (watching a cheesy chick-flick because I can). Because I know he'll be back (atleast that's the plan) and I hope it takes me awhile to forget how much I appreciate the blessing of him. Because this is what love's all about.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finding the Balance (ASHMWKSFD Part 4)

It's finally quiet around here. The weeks leading up to Christmas were a blur of activity for me, between school musicals, parties, and all the usual Christmas preparations. Things are steadily getting back to "normal".

This week I have had a mini-epiphany about my adventures as a stay at home Mom with both kids in school full day (ASHMWKSFD). Some may call me an over-achiever. I'm definitely a perfectionist. And most days I have an attitude of trying to do it all. But I had a realization that I don't WANT to do it all. It's been a great blessing to stay home and raise our kids. And I am thankful that without a paid full-time work commitment I have the flexibility to do anything I want. There are no limits.

Originally I think I made my new "role" feel more like a prison cell...laundry, groceries, cleaning, cooking, being a prepared and together housewife. But now I'm slowly realizing that it can be so much more then that. It can be volunteering at school, blogging, ministering to a friend, or attending a bible study, along with all of that other stuff.

It's taken me about 5 months to figure it all out. A reminder that everything is a process. The kids don't go off to school and you all of the sudden figure out how to fill your 9am-3pm time slot. It's been a lot of trial and error. And as expected, God has thrown in His own twists and turns, leading me in new directions.

So consider this an update of my ASHMWKSFD. December was a little bit more crazy and hectic then I wished it would have been. But we live and learn, right? It's all about finding a healthy balance that includes doing God's work, even if the dishes don't get done today. And I am thankful to have a husband that understands and encourages that, as well.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary!

I wanted my first blog post of 2011 to be on my blogging anniversary, but I couldn't really wait another day. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my first blog post back in 2009 meaning I have been writing posts into the bloggersphere for TWO YEARS! I can hardly believe it!

What started out as a curiosity has become a big blessing to me. It has connected me to so many people (you know who you are!). And I am humbled and grateful for my loyal readers, as well as, my many occasional visitors. I continue to hope that you will be encouraged and inspired by what you read!

I am excited about the new year and all that is to come! Each day full of new possibilities and opportunities to trust God! I don't really make resolutions because I think they set you up for failure. But what I do know is that God has a plan for my life and my desire in 2011 is to allow Him to do His thing (instead of trying to do it all on my own -- I know from experience that doesn't work out very well).

So a toast, to friends new and old, to family, and friends that feel like family -- Thank you for your love and support and Happy New Year!

"For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (JEREMIAH 29:11)
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