Three Lessons from a Young Marriage

In June, I will celebrate two years of marriage. Wow! It really does feel more like two days than two years, but at the same time, I can definitely look back and see two years of the goodness of God.

In many ways, it feels like I am still so young and immature in my marriage, but I am thankful for the gracious lessons God has already been teaching me. And I wanted to share them with you. They’re really pretty simple, but they aren’t just principles for marriage. We should be applying them to all our relationships. Still, marriage (home life) is somehow always the hardest place to live what we teach and believe. At least, it is for me.

These certainly aren’t truths I’ve mastered at living out, just ask Daniel. 😉 But they are truths I am trying to live out, and I hope they bless you too.

Manners Matter

The other day, my niece commanded me to turn on the lights as we walked into a room. I, not wanting to encourage bad manners, reminded her, “Please, turn on the lights, Aunt Sharon,” as I started to turn on the lights. And she corrected herself. It was just a little incident, but I began to think about how all the time I and other adults around me are reminding those children around us to be polite.

Say, “Please.”

“What do you say when someone gives you a piece of candy?”

“If you need to get by me, say ‘excuse me,’ so-and-so.”

It seems strange to me that the same manners we want from our children, we find difficult to use in the confines of marriage. Why is that?

I suppose there are many reasons we forget to be mannerly. We get lazy or busy or just too used to our spouse. But it seems to me that if we would say “Thank you” to a friend, how much more ought we to say it to our spouses who we’ve vowed to love for all our lives? If I really stop and think about it, I have many reasons to be saying, “Please, thank you, I’m sorry, excuse me” every day of my life. And I bet you do too.

It’s not so much the words that matter as it is the attitude behind the words—an attitude of appreciation, humility, a graciousness that, as Christians, should be an everyday part of who we are. We say “thank you” not just to check off a necessary task, but because we appreciate the person and are thankful for what they’ve done, whether great or small. And that mannerly attitude really does make a difference in the overall tenderness and kindness of marriage.

One Word of Criticism, Ten Words of Praise

I first heard that rule in a teaching class I took in college. It’s meant to be applied to students, but I think it’s applicable to all relationships.

The truth is that no one likes to be criticized. Now sometimes we need gentle constructive criticism, but in general, praise is ten times more effective than criticism. If you criticize your spouse more than you praise him, you are, in short, askin’ for a heap o’ trouble. Bitterness, hurt, distrust, anger—these are just a few of the natural responses to the acid of criticism. Criticism, like dripping acid, always burns, and eventually, it will destroy what it continually falls on.

And romance is one of the first things that acid burns away. I’ve been told many times that the romantic love of my young marriage will fade, and I can’t help but think that if it does, then my marriage is in terrible trouble. Romance ought to be a normal part of any healthy marriage no matter how long that marriage has lasted. (I can think of many couples, my parents included, that can testify to this.) Of course, that romance changes, but it should simply grow stronger, not disappear. I’m not trying to negate the fact that marriages go through hardships. Clearly, everything isn’t always diamonds and roses. Romance is certainly not always at the forefront of marriage, but it is a part of marriage. And in my experience, one certain killer of romance in a marriage is criticism.

Still, the real problem with criticism is that it undermines the work of the gospel. We know from scripture that a Christian marriage is an example of Christ and His church. It sends a loud message to the world, this is what Christ did for His beloved; this is how His beloved responds. In short, your marriage is a testimony of the gospel, and criticism is one way to destroy that testimony.

Where the gospel redeems, criticism condemns.

Where the gospel forgives, criticism reminds.

Where the gospel encourages, criticism discourages.

Where the gospel enables, criticism disables.

There is no room for gospel truth in the words of criticism.

I feel so guilty as I write this because I am so guilty of criticizing. It is such an easy trap to fall in, which is why I am so thankful for the gospel. Because even a wicked critic like myself can be forgiven and given a second chance. I am also thankful for a loving, gospel believing husband. 😊

I have found one way to help myself avoid criticizing Daniel is to ask myself, “What does the Bible say about this?” Because, honestly, if the Bible doesn’t say anything about it, maybe I shouldn’t either.

Pray

Everywhere I go, everyone is saying this, and finally, I realized, there’s a reason why. It really does change lives. I don’t know what else can be said about it other than, do it. Get on your knees and pour your heart out to God as often as you think to, and if you aren’t thinking to, set an alarm on your phone. Write reminders on sticky notes, on your mirror. If you have too, put a sign in your fridge, cause if you’re like me, that’s one place you’ll see every day, multiple times a day. The best thing you can do for you, your spouse, your marriage is to pray.

Even if you don’t get the laundry done that day, pray.

Even if you don’t fix supper, pray. (Okay, maybe try to fix supper.)

Make it a priority, always.

 

I hope these thoughts encourage you. Marriage is an incredible adventure, and learning to love your spouse is one of the greatest things you’ll ever do. It’s so hard because it’s two sinners in close quarters, but it is so good because Christ is there every step of the way helping us to love and offering grace when we don’t.

I’ve only been married for two years, so my thoughts on marriage are still pretty simple, but I’d love to hear your marital/relationship advice in the comments below. 😊

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Why I Want My Children to Learn to be Alone.

Realistically, most of us have been or will be alone at some point in our lives. I don’t mean alone as in, “There is no one on this planet who loves you or who you love.” I am not talking about loneliness. I mean alone. Physically you are alone.

For whatever reason, we tend to feel that this sort of aloneness is a negative thing.

But I don’t think that is the case. Obviously, all things in moderation. I’m not advocating isolation. But aloneness can be a wonderful time to learn about who you are and who God is.

As obvious as it sounds, it is when we are alone that we do the things we only do when we are alone. And those are the things that define who we really are.

So let’s just get the obvious out of the way. I want my children to learn to be alone because I want them to learn to behave well while they are.

But it’s more than that.

Over the past almost two years, I have been more alone in my life than ever before. It is in those times of aloneness that I have had to face myself. What is the natural pattern of my thought process? What does my real self-discipline look like? The kind that doesn’t have a boss or parent overseeing. Who am I at heart?

It is so easy in the midst of people to be good and believe that you are good. At least, for me. It is so easy to not focus on the inner workings of your heart when life is noisy. You just do what everyone else is doing, and then they like you. And you like you. But believing in the goodness of oneself is a dangerous belief to hold because in the pride of self-righteousness we fail to experience the joy of the gospel.

When you are alone you have to face yourself. And no one can take an honest look at himself and not shudder. No one.

Which probably makes it sound like, “Oh, be alone because it’s an honest, but miserable time of self-reflection.”

But for the Christian, that’s only two percent of it.

When you are alone, you have yourself (and you will disappoint yourself), and you have God. As soon as you can get past yourself, being alone is a wonderful time to pray, read God’s Word, and experience the goodness of God.

How does anyone describe the joy one can have when they see how wicked they are and how saved they are. Isn’t that the whole point of the Gospel? And yet, I forget it, daily. Somehow, I get it into my head that I am only semi-wicked, which means I need the gospel, but God got a pretty good deal when He got me. In my pride, the gospel becomes less important to me. Of course, I still need the gospel, but I just don’t feel desperate.

When I have access to water, I don’t really enjoy the water. I’m not really thirsty so even though I am drinking the water, I’m not really enjoying it. Sometimes, I need to drink the water, but because I don’t feel desperate (I mean, I will always have clean water, right?) I don’t drink. But when I am running on a hot day like today and I am far from my home, without any water, all I can think about is how much I want, I need, water. I get desperate.

Sometimes I feel like my Christian walk is like that. When I am surrounded by human fellowship and love, I don’t really feel desperate. I am not really aware of my need for the gospel. And I lose focus of a gospel mindset. I start finding my trust and contentment depends on earthly things.

There is nothing wrong with friends and people. In fact, I highly recommend spending time with fellow Christians both in church and out of it. I am not saying that you alienate yourself from others, but it is a wonderful thing that sometimes God situates us such that we have no one we can talk to except Him. It is a wonderful thing to HAVE to turn to God. Not that you or I won’t have people we can and do share our hearts with. But when we are physically alone, we are reminded of an emptiness in ourselves that no human companionship can fill. And it is a joy unspeakable when we learn to fill that hole with the contentment, peace, love, presence of Christ.

It is invaluable to me to see my need of Him, and then to remember that I have Him because of the gospel, and then to spend time alone with Him.

I think sometimes when we are faced with alone time, we frantically try to fill it up. Whose house can I go to? Who can I text? Who can I call? Let me pull up my Facebook or write an email. But I want my children to have times in their lives when they are forced to be alone, and not to be afraid of it. But to see it for the opportunity that is.

A time to worship.

A time to pray.

A time to read God’s Word.

A time to accomplish the tasks that God has given them to do.

I want them to learn to be alone.

The Value of a Couch

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or in our case, another man’s dining room set. Despite the time and effort it takes, one of the best decisions we made as home owners was furnishing our home through estate sales. Basically, this means Daniel and I have spent countless Saturdays driving from house to house to sort through someone else’s expensive junk until we found one priceless item for $20. Okay, maybe the item wasn’t always $20 or priceless, but I have certainly spent a lot of time in stranger’s homes, sifting through their junk.

The morbid side of estate sales is that most the time you are buying something that belongs to someone who is either dead or close. Typically, someone born years before myself owns a lot of stuff that no one wants or desires to deal with. When this happens, companies are paid by the owner of that someone’s stuff to sort, tag, and sale the estate. Hence, estate sales. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but for us, most of what we purchase comes from generations before our own.

After being inside many different homes, I noticed that each unique house held certain commonalities with each other. Whatever the styles of the houses were—Art Deco, Country French, Contemporary, Asian, Coastal—each house had common traits. Even though I probably shouldn’t be, I was surprised that humans everywhere (everywhere in Northern Virginia at least) whether rich, middle class, Indian, Asian, Caucasian, city dwellers, or from the country—they all possess the same things.

Here’s my list:

Religious objects. Every house I’ve been in so far has either a cross, altar, or at the very least, a book on Islam, Christian Science, Mormonism, or Catholic teachings. Some had multiple faiths represented, but everyone had at least one. People care about religion.

Art. Seemed like people have more art in their homes than I have food in my pantry, and I have a lot of food. And they want to put it everywhere. On the silverware, toilet seat, bed sheets, napkins, over the fire place—art to home owners is like sunshine to me after a long span of dreary winter days. I can’t get enough.

Books. Even if they just have a few, everyone owns books. Not just a book, but at the very least ten.

And music. Lots of music.

And furniture and plants and dishes and rugs and all the other common things you’d expect to find in a home. All our houses have commonalties because we all want the same thing; to live in a comfortable home that suits our idea of beautiful.

But you know what is the most common thing you will find in a house? Worn out stuff. Couches that have been sat on. Tables that have held dinner for many, many nights.  Books that were read, dishes that were used, burnt candles, stained linen, used stuff. If you try to say, “Um, excuse me, this has a scratch on it.” They will say, “Duh, this is an estate sale.” (Although, doesn’t hurt to say that because they also might knock a chunk off the price.)

The other day, though, we went to an estate sale where the bragging rights of the owner was that all their stuff was barely used. And they were right. The couch was immaculate. This of course thrilled us, and we happily bought it. But on the way, I started to wonder was it worth it? Here was a woman at the end of her life, selling a couch to a couple at the start of theirs. She didn’t have any children, grandchildren, and I suppose hardly any nieces or nephews, apparently, none that came visiting. And I guess her friends visited enough to mean she could own a couch at the end of her life that, though bought many years ago, was practically brand new. I wonder if we paid her enough for that? Was a like-new couch worth the money we paid?

Only she knows. But I got to thinking as I admired the couch in its new home. I hope that it doesn’t stay that way while we own it. I hope my niece accidentally drools on it while she takes her nap. I hope crumbs get lodged behind the seat because of the movie nights Daniel and I share on it. I hope I’ll need to flip the cushion eventually because a friend accidentally spilled their drink and left a stain. I hope this couch gets used by the people in this home and the people that come into this home. Because, for me, the value of a couch is rather worthless when compared to the value of knowing people were here, in my home, using my couch.

Also, the turtle photo has no connection to the post. I thought someone might enjoy a photo of a turtle sunning himself. I took that shot in Maui, and that turtle in particular was a favorite of mine simply because he seemed to delight in posing for the camera.