50 Shades of Green Valentine’s Day

Do you picture a 50 Shades kind of Valentine’s Day?

Are you doing Valentine’s Day wrong? I was for years and didn’t realize it until recently. The gift that made me realize just how much I’ve changed wasn’t really for me and involved new socks. And real love isn’t 50 shades of grey; it’s one shade of dark green, trust me.

This year my husband has to work late, may not even make it home for dinner, and will probably barely drag himself through the house and to bed after the week he’s had, and I’m okay with that.

In fact, when my husband “warned” me he has to work Valentine’s Day, I calmly replied, “Uh, okay? But we can celebrate another day, right?” He looked at me like I had two heads. That is just not the response I would have given a couple of years ago. 50 Shades of Green Valentine's Day - Heaven Not HarvardBecause I had gotten Valentine’s Day all wrong, caught up in the hype, the commercialization, feeling like this one day had to measure our relationship or how much he loves me.

And it sucked .  .  .

. . . all the joy out of celebrating our relationship. My husband got stressed about not disappointing me. He didn’t feel loved by worrying about whether I really wanted flowers even though I said I didn’t. He didn’t know if ‘I’m on a diet’ meant ‘don’t buy me chocolate’ or ‘you better buy me really good chocolate worth the extra treadmill time’.

So what changed? I did. I learned that I’m worth loving because God loves me. I learned to let God be my true love every day.

Psalm 73:26b (ESV) “. . .  God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

I started searching out and focusing on the promises of God’s devotion, paying attention to the times I see God at work in my life, then I started to worry less about getting love and more about being loving.

Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

When I started hoping in the Lord, I stopped placing unfair expectations on my husband.

I EXPECT him to be faithful. I EXPECT him to have a job, work hard, help care for our family.

There are many things that I might like or hope for, but don’t expect, because 1 Corinthians 13 says nothing about rigid expectations in what loves is and does.

In fact, my new attitude gives him permission to relax, and that is when he is his best romantic self. He took me out last week for a surprise trip to the theater to see a musical because he was going to miss Valentine’s Day.

But you know what got me really all week in the knees? He bought himself new socks. THAT ALL MATCH.

Heaven Not Harvard - 50 Shades of Green You may not understand the joy of this if you’re not a military wife. This will save me the weekly headache of matching ten pairs of socks by discoloration, wear, and amount they’ve stretched out.

But what made me happy is that he listened to me. I once told him how much frustration matching his old nasty socks caused me, and he remembered.

And Thursday, when errands kept me out later than he had to work, I came home to a clean house. He mopped, vacuumed, cleaned the counter tops, straightened up. I almost cried.

Our baby girl is sick. We’re going to spend the night home, on the couch, and maybe do some hot hand-holding after we germ-x each other.

Besides, the best way I can celebrate Valentine’s Day now is demonstrate what love should look like to my daughter, not expensive gifts, but true love, the real, hard, messy, wonderful stuff of folding army socks and kissing snotty faces.

This 50 Shades of Green Valentine’s Day beats 50 Shades of Grey, because real love will say, “I want to do disgusting things with you!”But you won’t see any of them in that movie.

Real love will say, 'I want to do disgusting things with you . . . like change diapers.' Click To Tweet

Real love asks you to wash someone’s dirty underwear, clean up puke, stay up all night rocking a feverish baby, drive him to work in yoga pants with no make-up, and other things so disgusting you couldn’t imagine doing them until the person you love needs a bandage changed or help after surgery doing even the smallest things for themselves.

But real builds a love so deep and lasting, you’ll forget what greeting card love ever was.

So whatever you do this weekend, don’t get the two confused.

The Light of the World

Letting Christmas be about reflecting the light of the world

I’m a work in progress. I was a bit of a pushy, bossy porcupine for a long time, intent on controlling my world and all the hurtful things in it. Every day, I work toward being different and walking the difficult road to change people’s expectations of me. Christmas is a huge chance to demonstrate a shift in my heart towards humility and gentleness.

1 John 1:7 ESV  “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

My house is decked with lights and holiday greenery, wreaths and stockings hung with care, but it’s all window dressing if my heart isn’t set on reflecting the light of Christ. And, let me tell you, God is definitely giving me lots of chances to practice my obedience and devotion to Him through loving my family this year, or even just this week!

Being His light means putting myself humbly last, letting God care for my heart when others don’t. And not acting like a martyr in the process. Easier said than done, but I’m growing in grace. Letting Christmas be about reflecting the light of the world

Christmas is MY favorite time of year, while my husband does his best to pretend he isn’t a scrooge with all the stress of shopping and worrying about money and making people happy. Warming his heart to the real meaning of Christmas has to start with demonstrating CHRIST in Christmas and being intentional about the environment of our home. How can I love him with a generous spirit? With quiet kindness and invitation rather than expectations and perfectionism.

I’m finding little ways daily to do that, rather than get caught up in just the decorative trappings.

For example, like having a good attitude and a servant’s heart when my plans get rear-ended by the army. I learned about his “office” Christmas party very last-minute, and even more last-minute that I was to prepare a side dish and three dozen cookies for an exchange. I had a couple of slips of irritation, but I could choose to adapt and overcome or cause an argument and bitter feelings. It says a lot about the work God is doing on my heart that I could see his need for me to be cheery and relaxed, so I was, because I love him, instead of holding onto my “right” to be upset that my weekend wasn’t going my way.

1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV  “Let all that you do be done in love.”

As I baked and cooked, my husband spent most of the day resting on the couch. While I was feeling like my to-do list for Christmas was growing with every thought, it was hard for me to watch him doing nothing. It took quite a bit of self-control to keep my tongue quiet. I could see a long list of things that needed his attention, but rather than react with my panic over what wouldn’t get finished, I quietly struggled with my attitude in prayer.

And God gave me the heart not to see my to-do list, but my husband’s “what I’ve done list.” He was wiped out from working 18-hour days, weekends, and nights. I realized what a tiny gift a few hours of quiet really was, and how simply I could give that with grace, not bitterness.

Romans 15:1 ESV  “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”

In that moment, I needed to find the compassion to be strong. Other days, his strength and energy have carried me through. A few days later, my husband was able to tell me how exhausted he had been, and how much he needed that rest, even though it wasn’t really enough. He really appreciated those precious hours in which he had no demands placed on him, a very rare time he didn’t have to be moving at warp speed.

Leviticus 19:34 ESV  “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself . . .”

Trying to have a Godly attitude, I imagined how I could love him as I would like to be loved. Convicted that my heart needing adjusting, I finished the baking and cooking without saying a word, letting him rest.

So, not a single present is wrapped, I haven’t even finished shopping, the stockings are going to be full of candy and not much else, cookies may or may not get baked, and no one is getting a Christmas card this year. I could look at all these things as failures, but in them I see a woman who realized how I act is way more important than how much I get done, and if that means some things don’t get done, God sees, he understands. And I think he’s way more impressed with my heart than my hearth.

I am not the light, but I am learning to be a reflection of the light by learning how to truly love those around me, by seeing them with the same eyes that offered me grace and the gift of Jesus Christ.

 

 

Secret Service: the key to unlocking a bitter heart

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which, in turn, saved our marriage.

We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team.

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By the time we tried to communicate, we were boilers ready to explode, harboring so many hurts and slights.

My marriage was failing!

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying so hard to be a “good” wife while he was such a selfish jerk.

He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. He used the last of the milk, broke my favorite dishes with his carelessness, and left me home with the stomach flu and toddler to go hunting. If I ever dared to complain, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

The train wreck of our marriage was hiding so many broken pieces, I didn’t know where to begin.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I could live the rest of my life with this awful person who hurt me at every turn. Guarding my heart from him, I walked on eggshells whenever we were together. Often, I went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would start being what I needed.

What a selfish creep .  .

I was.

Wait, what?

Yep, I’d been angry and bitter because I’d been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the places God should be. I was bitter from my selfish, unmet desires.

I began seeking God’s answers for my life. At first, when I read about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept reading my bible and praying about it.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Over time, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my need for grace, and understanding God’s love for me. It unlocked my heart. A veil lifted.

I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and hurts.

I stopped seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function.

Then, I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall between us.

Can Secret Service tear down the brick wall of bitterness?

Even when I had been doing the right things, I’d had the wrong heart. I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful chores I had done for him during the day and wait for his gratitude. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing things to serve or to get something from him?”

Even when I did the right things, I had the wrong heart. I wasn't serving. I was showing off. Click To Tweet

My motives weren’t pure. I wanted his love, recognition, respect.

A lesson from my Bible reading came to mind, about how we are to serve those in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Was my husband needy?

Maybe not in the traditional sense, but what if his poor attitude was because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs?

Through the lens of God’s grace, I suddenly saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion.

As God’s word poured grace and forgiveness into my heart, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine. Click To Tweet

I began my secret service.

I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to. Our Father sees what we do in secret.

Quietly, I began doing things without his asking, like noticing his toiletries need replacing, making his lunch, preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been frustrating.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret service for him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

One job I would never have considered before surrendering to Christ was picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the bathroom floor.

Every morning – He walks past his closet (where his hamper is) to leave the house, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor under the edge of the vanity. Previously, I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

But God was working on me. Before, I would have nagged him about being so lazy for leaving them there. My nagging would have become an infection between us.

Even several years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Then three years ago, I began to pick them up with a grateful attitude. “Thank you, Lord, my husband is not in Iraq.”

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that all my service is for You ultimately, and is about humility and serving without drawing attention to myself.”

One secret of my service is remembering that my service is ultimately in HIS service. Click To Tweet

I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. Mostly, I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. And I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When service filled my heart, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. My focus shifted. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. When his work day had been awful, I gave him some grace to find his peace so he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

It’s humbling and real. And every time I have shared this story with women whether 2 or 100, I’ve seen tears and nods. We all have our own dirty underwear mountain that we need to surrender.

So, I share in case another wife needs to hear my story. Nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return.

and Secret service is counter-cultural . . .

Our culture asks what’s in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude.

I’ve never been more joyful than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity underwear because I see how God has moved in our marriage and in his heart through my tiny acts of obedience.

And sometimes we need reminding that we’re not supposed to blend in.

Besides, the underwear was just a start. Once joining the Secret Service, I found so many ways to quietly serve people. Those services are treasures I hold like sweet pearls, knowing I’m seen by my Heavenly Father from whom nothing is secret.

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Imagine your tiny tyrant – a Godly wife

This tiny tyrant rules my heart, but I need to raise her to be the woman and Godly wife she is meant to be.

How do I raise a Godly wife if I’m still learning how to be one?

I originally wrote this post two years ago, I’m both encouraged by how far I’ve come and humbled by how far I still have to go.

This morning I was reviewing the book I’m reading (The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace). The author discusses how she was a spoiled-rotten only child when she first got married. Her selfishness and lack of self-control were destroying her marriage.

I read this and for the first time really realized that my daughter is not only going to grow up to become an adult, woman, mother, but also probably someone’s wife.

I spent a couple of moments in imaginary terror, picturing my almost-four-year-old as a wife, crying over every slight, demanding her way, and throwing temper tantrums. Humorous, but not a pretty picture.

My daughter is a perfectly normal almost 4 year old. She plays nicely in her room, would watch PBS all day if I let her. She reads books, asks a million questions, loves life and her energy is boundless.

Sometimes her coping skills are overwhelmed by being hungry or tired, like any preschooler. Obviously, she will mature, but will she have the strength and peace to be a woman of God as an adult?

My tiny tyrant a wife someday? How do I prepare her to be a mature woman of God? Click To Tweet
Am I preparing her to be a Godly wife? How do I prepare her for that?

My daughter is almost 4, and hyper emotional. Every bumped knee or disappointment is the end of the world.

She is used to being the center of attention, and I’ve been wondering how to parent her appropriately to guide her into self-control, patience, self-reliance, gentleness, perseverance, and faith.

I’ve been quiet recently because we’ve been struggling with spring colds and her willfulness, and I’ve been seeking some of God’s answers.

My daughter has been a tiny tyrant for the past couple of weeks. Not everyday, all the time, but it’s been a daily struggle to deal appropriately with her deliberate disobedience.

But I think the answer to her current disobedient streak and to how to prepare her to be a wife or Godly woman are the same.

It begins with me. What kind of wife and mother am I? If I am angry, selfish, loud, short-tempered, she will internalize those attitudes just the way I internalized my mom’s cleanliness and organization.

I need to live the wife, mother, woman that I want her to see and grow to be. I want her to be joyful, loving, patient, kind, funny, strange, prone to dance parties and silly songs, devouring books and learning, and knowing she is loved by her earthly parents and Heavenly Father.

I need to live the wife, mother, woman of God I want her to be. I am the example she will… Click To Tweet

Just last night, I made dinner, had all the prep dishes washed, cornbread in the oven, coffee pots ready for the next day, salads waiting to be dressed, laundry washed and folded, even had time just to play mommy, and felt like a real grown up. I know – I’m 42.

I even managed be patient all day. It was just the daily life of a wife, but I felt really good about the day.  Why? Because the house felt not just tidy, but calm and peaceful, because I had been. For too long, my focus was how clean my house was instead of the condition of my heart.

Proverbs 19:14 House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.

Would my husband say that I’m a gift from God? Whoa, I had to pray about that. And if not yet, how do I get there from here?

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Fearing the Lord is truly understanding God’s holiness, mightiness, omnipotence, righteousness and accepting our need for redemption. I immediately stopped and prayed with David from Psalm 86.

“Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psalm 86:11).

Faith starts by understanding who we are in God and starting to live in humility. But faith has to be seen out loud, as well.

James 2:17-18 (ESV) 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 

I want my daughter to see my faith, my fear of the Lord, BY my works, by my life. We’re human. We nap, we play, we laugh, and we love each other. And we serve each other and God.

I want her to see that service to God in my heart as a joyful blessing and want to serve Him, too.

This tiny tyrant rules my heart, but I need to raise her to be the woman and Godly wife she is meant to be.

This verse is very convicting for my bold, aggressive spirit.

Proverbs 9:13  The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing.

The biggest change I could make would be to become soft, quiet, and gentle. What a beautiful witness that would be to my family!

1 Peter 3:4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 

Recently, I’ve been feeling the Holy Spirit start to gentle me. My sinful nature is resisting, making me realize just how selfish I still am, but I see the beauty of a gentle spirit when I get it right.

When I get quiet, her unruly 4 year old nature doesn’t have a grip on my emotions like it used to. I can see her struggling with her sinful nature and guide her, instead of forcing her to deal with mine.

As a Godly wife, when I get quiet, he reaches for me and feels my love for him.

Titus 2:3-5 “3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Doesn’t that passage say so much? I need to be reverent, hard-working, self-controlled, pure, kind, submissive.

My answer for how do I teach her to be a Godly wife someday is right there. By example.

Proverbs 31:10 lists so many attributes of a Godly wife just in different translations of this one verse: noble, virtuous, capable, excellent, diligent, of strong character, valiant, and worthy. This wife’s price is above rubies.

How I long to exhibit this verse.

She will learn by my example. Even the world proves over and over we learn by imitation first and foremost, so I have to let the Holy Spirit work in me all day, every day so someday her husband can live in the home of my precious girl’s heart for God.

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