One True Fragrance (in Marriage)

roses

Roses. I do like roses and their fragrance.

‘Especially on our anniversary, my birthday, on Mother’s day, or any other time in-between. Especially other special times, like the births of our babies – I like roses.

I used to tell folks that when I wanted a dozen roses, all I had to do was have another baby.

While it’s true that roses were waiting for me six times over when I got back to my hospital room from Labor and Delivery, it’s also true that I don’t get roses for every birthday, every anniversary, or every Mother’s day. Just sometimes, and sometimes in-between.

After all these years, he continues to splurge. He keeps saying that he doesn’t know how much longer we’ll have each other and he wants to have no regrets, so I’ve quit fussing about the cost.

roses

You know what makes the roses so special? 

The fact that, on any other day when there are no roses, my man is in my corner. Any other day when I’m unkempt and the house is a mess, he helps pick up the pieces and puts me back together again.

Any other day when there is no wafting fragrance in the house, he becomes the fragrance by serving me, again.

The man’s rather imperfect, and no one knows it better than I.  But then, so is his wife. Imagine that. He can verify that, but he won’t broadcast that because, he says, we are one. To speak negatively of me is speaking negatively about himself because we are on the same team. Even so, in a world of strife where so many marriages have dissolved or  are falling apart, we are blessed.

Like so many other marriages, ours could simply be a statistic.

It’s not that we’re so smart or so special. It’s that God – and the way He tells us to do marriage – is.

When you go to God for help, when you really seek for wisdom, when you truly apply what you know to do even when you don’t feel like it,  you  will find that marriage can be done well.

There have been days when I’ve stormed the gates of Heaven, asking God to show me how to understand and love this man. Every time I have asked, He has given me answers.  ‘Not that I always liked the answers or felt like following the directions, mind you. But every time I’ve asked for wisdom, He has given what I needed. ‘Trouble is that sometimes we just don’t bother to ask or we just don’t really don’t want to know.

Our marriage bed is not an array of roses minus thorns.

It’s a fragrance that comes when the petals are crushed as  becomes us.

It’s a fragrance that comes when making love is not so much about “everything is perfect and we’ve got it all together” as it is about “even though we are frustrated with each other, we are still committed to each other; so tonight making love to you is a great way to emphasize that commitment.”

I always thought I’d want a summer wedding, but that didn’t happen. Does that matter now? Not at all. That’s how it is with marriage. The things on the “must have” list, many times, are no longer important and really weren’t that important in the first place. What really matters is commitment.

I figure some folks are tired of hearing me say that, but it’s true. If more people truly believed it, there would be fewer marriages floundering by the wayside.

In a small town in western Maryland over thirty-two years ago, in the church where my parents were married many years before, we tied the knot. Amid freshly-fallen snow, family, and friends, we celebrated. With flowers, music, family – and with God – we were wed.

Life happened, and now our kids are grown and mostly on their own. Life happened, and it is still happening. As life happens, we still celebrate. I still enjoy roses and their perfume. Most especially, I enjoy the fragrance of commitment.

Most especially, we continue to celebrate the greatest fragrance of all: the true faithfulness of God.

pinterest fragrance

How Affairs Begin in the Mind

An affair in mind will end up breaking hearts and relationships.

Most folks don’t start out planning to have an affair. Why then do they happen so frequently?

There are three stories here. I personally know every one of the people in these stories, and I know the stories are true. The names have been changed, and I’m sure you’ll understand why.

Sue was a new mother and fighting that baby bulge, sometimes feeling less than attractive to her husband. Bob was the manager of a business and he was being sent to Atlanta. There was another person who was also going on this trip. Amy was a slim, young female – and available. They got to Atlanta the evening before the business deal and went to their motel. Amy invited Bob to join her to watch a movie in her motel room. This is exactly what Sue had been concerned about. You know what Bob did? He said thanks, but no thanks. “I’m going to go to my room and call my bride.” And he did.

You know what Bob did? He said thanks, but no thanks. “I’m going to go to my room and call my bride.” And he did.

Bob knew Sue was concerned about this trip. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust her husband. She didn’t know if she could trust Amy and she certainly didn’t trust the devil.

Bob was cautious and aware of the temptation that could be thrown at him. He made himself accountable to Sue and he let Amy know that he was committed to Sue. That provided a wall of protection – by which this young couple reaped so many benefits.

You see what he did there? Bob was open and accountable and he put up a wall of protection. He didn’t have to tell Sue about the conversation, but in doing so, he made himself accountable. There were no secrets.There are still no secrets between them. Imagine how different things could have been. The steps this couple took helped affair-proof their marriage.

He’s a hard-working man who has been dependable for years. He’s held the same job almost as long as he’s been married (nigh unto thirty years), committed to his family, his church, and his job. You don’t hear him say much, but he lives his commitment daily. He’s one of those solid folks who is just there without letting others know his presence.

One day a co-worker came to him.

“George,” his friend Pat said. “One of our co-workers is interested in you.”

George was startled. “I’m a married man. You all know that.”

“Yeah,” Pat said. “She knows that, but she’s interested in you. She wants to know if you’re interested in having an affair.” [Yes, he said those words.]

You know what George told him?

“I’m a married man, Pat. I made a commitment before God to my wife. As for the woman? I don’t even want to know who she is.”

You see what he did there?

He put up a barrier. He can’t think about the woman because he doesn’t even know who she is. He might work side by side with her or she might be one of the secretaries in the office. He doesn’t know. He didn’t even let that temptation start in his mind!

You know what else he did? He went home and told his wife everything that had happened. He made himself accountable to her. He put up a wall of protection. The steps this man took helped affair-proof his marriage.

Affairs in the mind can be fed by social media.

The other day via Facebook, Donna received a friend request from someone she didn’t know. Whenever this happens, she checks out the person.

Donna is in several groups and it’s always a possibility that this person is in one of those groups. Maybe she and this person have mutual friends. Donna is also a blogger, and she thought maybe this person had seen her blog and wanted to follow her.

Who knows? Sometimes Donna can figure it out. Sometimes she asks one of her mutual friends about the person. Sometimes she asks her husband. Donna never, ever accepts a request from someone unless she knows enough about the person to feel that it’s a good thing.

If none of the above reasons are there, she usually deletes the request. Other times she messages the person and asks how they are connected and why she was sent the request. More often than not, after getting a response, Donna is able to accept the request.

The following scenario happened the other day. Donna received a friend request from Victor, a total stranger with no mutual friends. She finally sent a reply, asking how he knew her and why he asked to become friends on FB. If this “someone” was interested in Jesus, she didn’t want to shun him. Maybe he read one of her blog posts, she thought. She could connect him to her husband if he was a serious seeker.

His reply was that he liked her cute profile picture (you wouldn’t believe how uncute that photo is) and wanted to get to know her. Donna explained that she was married and “totally committed to my man and to Jesus Christ.”

Victor thought that was cool (at least that’s what he said). He added, “Please accept my request and let’s talk and see what is in store for us.”

Donna had a choice. She could continue to chat, sharing the gospel of Jesus. She could ignore him, or she could respond and tell him there was nothing in store for them.

Donna called her husband and then replied to Victor as her husband requested. She told Victor that the love of her life said Victor could call him if he wanted to know more about Donna, and then she blocked Victor.

You see what she did there? Donna let her spouse know what was happening. She made herself accountable to him, and she put up a wall of protection. The steps Donna and her husband took helped affair-proof their marriage.

In our minds, where no one else sees or knows, thoughts come from our enemy. We can have the best intentions, but intentions don’t provide protection.

Especially in this day and time when marriages all around us are crumbling, Satan tries his hardest with those who maintain commitment. If he can begin a seed of doubt or intrigue in a person’s mind, he has cracked the door to the beginning of an affair. Our thoughts must be kept captive to the obedience of Christ.

I don’t think any affair has ever happened where both parties kept that boundary, kept no secrets, and didn’t try to wing a flirtation from someone on their own. All of these temptations begin in the mind.

Protecting your mind from affairs begins with several keys: accountability and a wall of protection.

You know one way to affair-proof your marriage? Protect your mind.

  • Let your spouse know what’s happening in your world and your mind.
  • Make yourself accountable to your spouse. Don’t think you can handle this yourself. Don’t keep secrets from your spouse.
  • Keep that wall of protection. Never, ever tell yourself, “This one time won’t hurt,” because it will.

LIke wilted flowers, affairs will destroy relationships.

When you keep watering the soil of your marriage by letting your spouse know what’s going on in your mind and your life, when you stay accountable and keep that wall of protection, you can be certain that your marriage will flourish.

It really is true. Affairs do begin in the mind. In the same way, affair-proofing your marriage begins in your mind.

P.S. If you are experiencing grief and pain from things in your past or the past of your spouse, rest assured that forgiveness and grace are available at the Cross. You can start a new path. Beginning today, you can set up those boundaries, keeping no secrets, and being accountable to each other. Your marriage can begin to thrive and flourish today.  There is nothing that God (and I) would like better!

I Want To Grow Old With You

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It’s Valentine’s Day, and young lovers are enjoying the freshness of their relationship. I watch them, and I remember how it was with us.     I treasure the memories of our beginnings, for there is nothing quite like the fragrance of an opening flower.

Yet the fragrance of our love is deeper and richer than that of a fresh blossom.  We’ve weathered storms and seasons because we are committed to each other.  I want to weather many more storms and seasons with you.

I want to grow old with you.

I always said I wanted to marry a man who was a leader.  Who, by the love and character he possessed, would cause submission and following to come easily and readily.  Then I found you. You encourage and challenge me to be my best, yet allow me to be different from you.

I want to experience your leadership, when I grow old with you.

I said I wanted a man who was tough as well as tender. Then I found you.  I’ve watched your face soften as you’ve held our babies. I’ve watched you deal out tough discipline when necessary.  Then I’ve marveled at the productive results.

I want to experience the tough and the tender of you, when I grow old with you.

I said I wanted a man who was made of steel and velvet.  Then I found you.  I’ve watched your steel endure long hours to provide for us.  I’ve watched you stand alone when you’ve been asked to violate your convictions and conscience. You are a man of your word.  If fame were integrity, you’d be the star.  Our children have a stellar example to follow in you.

I want to know the strength of your steel, when I grow old with you.

old dogs

Burying a dog one morning before school.

I’ve felt your velvet as you’ve held me or asked forgiveness.  I’ve experienced your velvet as you’ve taken the time to dig a grave for yet another dog and allowed your sons to help shovel in dirt when you could have done it faster yourself.  I’ve seen your velvet with the little girls you call Princess when they come running with excitement because Papa is home.

I want to feel the softness of your velvet, when I grow old with you.

old girls

The little girls he calls Princess.

I always said I wanted a man who could make me laugh.  Then I found you.  You have a way of making me laugh (especially when I’m mad at you!)      You’ve helped me laugh when I intended to cry.  I’ve watched our children’s faces as they enjoy this rare side of their father, wondering what he’ll do next.

I want to laugh, when I’m old, with you.

I never asked for a perfect husband. I knew I couldn’t be a perfect wife. I wanted someone who didn’t always agree with me. We found imperfection and disagreements when we found each other.

You trim the kid’s nails and leave the clippings wherever you happen to complete the job. You track soot into the house from your shoes and forget, at times, to call me when you’re working late.

I forget to keep a grocery list and we’ve been out of essentials when you could have picked them up if only I had remembered. I’ve thrown away papers that were important to you, and eaten your food at McDonald’s when I said I didn’t want any.

You willingly dress the children but leave PJ’s and nightgowns wherever you dropped them. You’ve left medicine within reach of a toddler, an opened shampoo bottle on the side of the tub, and forgotten to close the toilet lid.

I’ve forgotten to give you important messages relating to jobs; forgotten to mail bills due tomorrow; been too tired to tidy up the house, and cooked meals without tasting them.

When the kids are gone, I’ll still be forgetful with you.

old clock

You think the day is half over at 10 AM, which is a good time, I think, to be getting out of bed. I like warm beds with the electric blanket on high; you think a crisp, cool bed is invigorating.

I love peanut butter and chocolate. You refuse to eat either. I like coffee in the morning. You dislike coffee kisses.

I’ll still disagree, when I’m old, with you.

old coffee heart lips

 

I wanted a man who loved me for me, who believed in me. Then I found you.

There have been times you’ve said, “I don’t know what to do with you, but I can’t live without you.”

You continue to love and cherish me, even when I am unlovely.

I want to be cherished, when I’m old, by you.

I wanted a man who believed in commitment and the permanence of marriage. Then I found you. There have been days I have been especially grateful for that commitment. It was the glue that held us together. It was the source for “working it out” no matter how many hours or days it took.

Your assurance, “I don’t know how we’re going to work this out. But I want you to know that I love you and am committed to you and to us,” is the best marriage insurance we could have.

I’ll still have that insurance when I’m old, with you.

old bench

I wanted a man who wouldn’t grow tired of me–nor I of him. You are my best friend, my most creative critic, my favorite person. Even when I am angry with you, I want to be with you. I enjoy your company more than anyone else’s. I pick out your voice from a hundred in a room. My eyes find yours across throngs of people. I recognize the feel of your skin, the clasp of your hand in the dark. I am at home with you.

I want to be at home, when I’m old, with you.

Through seasons of uncertainties, your love and commitment is certain and sure. “A good marriage doesn’t just happen; it takes work,” you’ve said.

We’ve worked and cried and prayed together. We’ve laughed and sung and played together. We are committed to each other. That is the essence of our relationship, our marriage.

On this Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that I am deeply in love with you. I admire and respect the man you are. For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness or in health, I am committed to you.

And I want to grow old – with you.

Pinterest Grow Old

This story was written by assignment in 1996 whenI was pregnant with our youngest son.  Dave and I are growing old together – and enjoying it immensely!  It was first published in Christisn Living Magazine and later in Discover Southside, an online ezine. You can also read it under My Attic.

A Different Kind of Romance

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Romance. Ah, yes. Don’t we love the sound and the meaning of that word! Flowers and being loved. Feeling important and invigorated. Experiencing exhilaration and ecstasy. I relish it all.

We celebrated our 29th last weekend (December 8) and, as Dave told Sarah Beth on Saturday, “There’s not going to be a whole lot of fireworks around this place this weekend!”

But I experienced romance, and it’s spelled differently than r-o-m-a-n-c-e. This different-kind-of-romance one is spelled: commitment.

Dave came in from work at three o’clock on Friday. I was happy to see him show up that early because he was babysitting that evening while I went to a Christmas dinner.

I’d been busy all day, and our little foster kids were constantly underfoot. I was glad for the chance of a reprieve and thought I’d have more time to get some things done – until, that is, I learned he’d come in because he wasn’t feeling well.

He spent the extra time in the recliner, and I provided Motrin and water since there was no iced tea in the house (Woe is me!)

He can sleep through anything, so I sent the munchkins into the living room where his sleeping presence made them feel safe enough to be in a different room than mine. I even got the kitchen floor mopped before I headed to the shower.

I worried about him a little because his chest was hurting as well as his head, but my troops in other cities were on standby to call and check on their father and I knew they’d let me know if there was cause for concern. So I went and had a great evening of good food and festivities.

Three hours later, they were standing at the door waiting for me when I got home: the two munchkins and their padre.

He had fed and bathed them and tidied the kitchen. All that was left to do was to give bedtime medications and breathing treatments, and they were off to bed.

I tucked my babies and my man in and came back downstairs to finish some proofing for a family book.

When my eyes could no longer stay open, I headed upstairs for bed but ended up spending most of the night in the bathroom.

By morning, I knew the sewer system in the house was in fine working order since I’d been through more toilet paper than any person ought to go through in a week. I was keenly aware I’d never survive the day without help.

So when my man crawled out of bed, I am certain I asked him if, since he wasn’t feeling well, he’d be hanging around the house for a while. I am just as certain that he said he was.

So I went back to sleep, comforted that I wouldn’t be on my own.

That is why I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t getting Little Nugget when the toddler woke up at 7:30 AM. Looking out the bedroom window, my cloudy brain finally realized that no truck in the driveway meant no man was in the house.

I moped my dehydrated body out of bed and managed to heave the 28-pound toddler out of his crib, change his diaper, and put clothes on him, all the while clutching my swollen abdomen.

Then I called Dave.

“I thought you said you were hanging out here this morning,” I complained.

“Nope, I’m at work. I told you I was going to work.”

I didn’t question the fact that he needed to be at work. He’d taken some time off in the past weeks and was playing catch-up.

We also had dinner plans that evening with two other couples and he’d be coming in early for that. I just questioned how I could have misunderstood his reply.

“Well, I was sure you said you’d be here this morning. I’m so sick and all we have is ginger ale. You know how I hate ginger ale,” I whined.

I’m really good at hinting at my needs, hoping he’ll catch on and supply them because he cares. He’d as soon have me tell him what I want than to try to figure it out himself.

But this time he didn’t have to figure it out. He knew what to do.

“I’ll bring you some Sprite,” he assured me.

By the time Dave got home, I’d managed to give breathing treatments and antibiotics to both kids. Plus, my foggy brain had remembered Miralax and probiotics for Little Miss and Zyrtec and probiotics for the little guy. I was struggling on toward breakfast when Dave got there with two 2-liters of Sprite Zero.

BLOG medications

When we are sick, Dave and I respond differently.

I want to be downstairs where I can hear the sounds of my family.

He wants to crawl under the house and be left alone. If he survives, he’ll come back. If he doesn’t, he will have gone to be with Jesus, which is where, some days, he’d like to be anyhow. So for him, it’s a win-win situation.

Even though we both understand each other’s love language of “when I’m sick,” we tend to try to treat the other one the way we would like to be treated.

Dave shooed me off as he scrambled eggs and fixed toast for the kids.

I made one more trip to the bathroom, fixed my Sprite/grape juice drink-on-ice with insulated cup/lid/straw, and headed to the love seat recliner in the living room. Burrowing under a thick cover, I shivered for a while until all parts and limbs and the chair were warm, and fell asleep.

Once Little Miss climbed up next to me on the recliner. She was all set to cuddle up, but Dave sent her away.

I wanted to tell him it was okay – that I didn’t mind. But I knew she’d be better off without snuggling with my germs, and I was too tired to talk, so I just went back to sleep.

From time to time I woke up and heard the sounds of family: children playing and laughing, Dave scolding, Little Nugget on the potty chair, applause from Dave for accomplishment, more laughter, and some singing, and I’d fall back asleep.

Once I woke up and smelled Mr. Clean. I heard water being wrung from a rag and wondered what he was cleaning. Sometimes I can feel defensive if Dave cleans up in my department, as though I don’t do it well enough for him.

This time I was too sick to care, so I went back to sleep. But then I’d wake up and smell that smell, and I’d wonder what he was doing.

It can’t be the ceiling fans, I thought. We just did those two weeks ago. It can’t be the kitchen floor. I mopped it yesterday.

It didn’t matter and even though I still wondered, I didn’t have the energy to care, so I went back to sleep.

I woke up to Dave telling me he was taking the kids to town with him. I offered to keep Little Miss but he said “no,” and headed out the door.

I was too tired to argue, and I went back to sleep.

roses anniversary 29 My man came home from town with a dozen red roses and left them on the kitchen counter.

He bought the roses, not because I was sick, but because our anniversary was on the morrow and we don’t shop on Sunday.

I heard the kitchen drawer open and though I heard the cutting from scissors, I didn’t think about roses and how he always feeds them with the stuff the florist sends and uses a scissors to cut open the packet. I heard more water running and being poured, but it never occurred to me that he might be watering roses he had bought for me.

I just went back to sleep.

Then this man tucked Little Nugget into bed and left Little Miss in the room with me after telling her to take a nap. He told me he was heading back to work, and I convinced Little Miss to get a pillow and blanket.

Soon she was asleep, so I went back to sleep.

We haven’t done a lot of hugging and kissing the past few days because we were busy – and tired – and sick.

We talked about our anniversary coming up and agreed we’d celebrate later because the weekend was already full. As it turned out, I would not have been up to any celebration or romantic kissing.

Yet I did get hugged and kissed – in a different way.

Snuggling under the blanket and hearing the sounds of life and home and family in the background while I slept was one big, massive I-care-about-you hug.

Having not one, but two 2-liters of diet soda at my disposal was one big smooch of a kiss.

BLOG mop bucketI asked him later about the mop bucket and dirty rag in the bathroom. He said he had mopped the kitchen floor. Yes, he knew I had mopped it the day before. Between his work shoes and my youngest (Butch’s) running shoes, it seems I am always sweeping and mopping.

But he’d seen the tracks, so he got down on his hands and knees and mopped the floor while I slept. Yet when I asked him about it and expressed thanks, he acted like it really wasn’t a big deal.

Later that evening Dave headed up to bed. I was still asleep in the recliner and kept telling myself to get up and put sheets on our already-stripped bed. I needn’t have worried. He got sheets out of the closet and made the bed. When I finally woke up enough to head upstairs, he was snuggled down in a freshly-made bed.

How nice it was to snuggle in next to him after being cared for all day long.

When it comes to romance, I really do like flowers – and going on a date with my man or spending the night away.

I enjoy spending time with him, entwining hands.

I cherish the playful tweaks he gives me when no one is watching, the way he can read my face and know how I’m feeling.

I like feeling special.

I like being cherished.

I really do like being loved.

When it comes to romance, I can hardly think of a way to feel more special, cherished and loved than to be sent to rest, sleeping all day because I’m sick – and to know he’s holding down the fort for me.

Being comfortable and cared for was what I was given because it was what I needed.

I didn’t have to ask Dave to stay – when he got home and saw how sick I was, he changed his plans (and his checkbook balance) to take care of our little ones, which was also taking care of me.

He didn’t have to say he loved me or that I was special and important.

He told me all that and more when he said, “You go get some rest. I’ll take care of the kids.”

Flowers and dinner out wouldn’t mean a thing to me if I was left to fend for little ones by myself when I’m sick.

There are many ways to celebrate commitment.

We don’t often think of mopping floors as a celebration of commitment. But at our house this past Saturday, that’s just what happened in my kitchen while I slept.

Sometimes I forget to remember that the little things he does are really big because they show his commitment to me and to us. I rather just expect him to change the light bulbs and fix broken things and figure out why something’s not working.

I forget to remember that the ordinary days of commitment are what make celebrations worthy in the first place.

I rather like this different (and wonderful) kind of romance.

Happy 29th to the man who not only says he loves me, but who lives it (almost!) every day.

29th anniversary

 

Pinterest A Different Kind of Romance