To a Young Bride

Big events make me “wax nostalgic” as they say.  And the 25th Anniversary of my wedding day is no exception!  I spent a few moments today looking at my wedding photos.  I was only 20 and hubby was just 4 days past his 21st birthday – we look like kids!  And we had NO CLUE what we were signing on for when we said “I do”.   If there are any “regrets” from the past 25 years they all revolve around lessons I wish I had learned sooner, things I wish I gotten better at more quickly.  And I can’t help but think about what I wish I knew back then.  So I started thinking – if I could write a letter to who I was back then based on what I know now, what would I say?  What things do I wish I had learned faster? So here goes . . .

To a bride on her wedding day –

After a 23 month engagement, I KNOW you are excited that this day is finally here! In your dress handmade by your grandpa’s cousin with an overdress lovingly hand crocheted by your grandmother, the flowers and veil made by family friends as well as the satin muffs your bridesmaids carry. . . . this day you are SURROUNDED by the love of your biological family, your “church family” from back home and the “church family” you have become a part of while at college.  You are one blessed chica, do you know that?!

Today begins the biggest adventure of your life!  In just over seven years from this moment, you will have lived at three different addresses – two of them married campus housing – and you will have four children!  Over the course of your first quarter century of marriage you will live in three different states, hubby will go full-time with UPS then leave without another job in place and eventually head back into ministry (that’s a story for another time!).  His ministry-related jobs will move you all to Pennsylvania and then to Iowa but you will ALWAYS feel like Michigan is “home”.

A few tips to make things a little easier on your adventure –

1.  Your hubby is a good man with a loving heart.  He LOVES to be your hero!  He will, later in your relationship, find a love of wood-working that will fill your home with handmade pieces that he painstakingly designs and makes – or re-makes if he isn’t happy with his first design! Don’t begrudge him the time he spends on Youtube watching “how to” videos.  He is doing ALL of it for you.  You are the first person to whom he wants to show off his new creations and he will even agree to paint his pieces at your request even though he would rather stain them.  But be careful – your “I wish I had . . . “is a powerful statement that will send him into his shop quicker than anything.  In that area, your wish truly is his command!  Make sure you use your power for good!

2.  He loves you more than anyone in the world but he is human.  Just like you are. He will occasionally be thoughtless – just like you – and sometimes that thoughtlessness will hurt.  Alot. Before you judge him too harshly, remember that you have been thoughtless and hurt him. Maybe even alot. Never expect him to read your mind. He prefers direct, blunt communication – state a direct request and then zip it! Let him meet your need in his way. It might even be better than your way!

3. He is not a girl so expecting him to behave like your best girlfriend is just crazy. You are a stereotypical girl with all the sub texted conversation that goes with the territory – your girlfriends know how to pick up that unvoiced subtext but I promise, your man does not! Don’t set him up to fail. It isn’t fair to either of you.

4. He is not the enemy. You are stubborn and will stand your ground on really stupid things from time to time. If you can learn to knock that off and stop fighting battles that should never happen you will be much more at peace.

5. Be VERY aware of what is in your eyes when you approach him. He won’t tell you until you are a couple decades in to your relationship but when you approach him to start a conversation, he looks at your eyes to know whether or not his guard should be up. When your look is “seasoned with grace” (his words) you avoid conflict and he feels respected.

5. That respect thing? It’s a VERY BIG DEAL to your love. He cannot feel loved if he doesn’t feel that you respect him. Like many women who are mothers AND wives, you will get busy and find yourself talking to him like he’s one of the kids. Don’t do that!!! He is an intelligent, capable, clever man and he desperately needs to know that he has your respect. Your opinion matters more to him than what anyone else thinks. Make it your job to laugh with him and protect his dignity. No one can touch his heart like you.

Relationships are hard and you haven’t always had the best examples to learn from. Neither has he. But that doesn’t give either one of you an excuse. God has given you the lifelong job of loving and respecting that man. You aren’t called to find flaws and fix them. Love him. Respect him. Choose to see in him all the amazing traits that drew you to love him in the first place. He truly is the greatest gift you have EVER been given. See him as that – and nothing else – and you will know more joy than you thought possible!

Support System

Let’s face it – we women can be a catty, unsupportive bunch at times.  I think we are trying to change that for the better – I see posts on Facebook from time to time about how moms of all different philosophical bents need to encourage one another in the choices we make.  Stay-at-home or work-outside-the-home, bottle feeding or breast feeding, home school, private school, traditional school or maybe even the new trend of unschool.  Being a mom is hard enough to do – no instruction manual or training academy – and we women do NOT need to make it harder on each other!

I have been blessed to find an online group of women – wives to be more specific – to be transparent with, to vent to, to share our successes with and I honestly have come to value them more than I thought possible.  We are working our way through a book that focuses on marriage called “The Respect Dare” by Nina Roesner.  We use an online resource called Moodle to “meet” online and discuss each of the chapters or “dares”.  The absolute BEST part of the encounter? None of these women will bash their husbands or allow one another do to so.  Don’t get me wrong – we are absolutely allowed to vent or share our struggles and I have done just that.  When that happens, the other women are quick to encourage and offer sympathy if needed, but they are also quick to try and help me see my hubby’s side of any issue.  The goal of reading “The Respect Dare” is to get better at meeting the need for respect that all of our husbands seem to have so it just makes sense to help push one another in a more productive direction.

As a pastor’s wife in a small town, I LOVE the ability to really be myself, be honest and get sincere support and productive, honest feedback.  I’ve even had a chance to chat with another pastor’s wife who is in the group! Don’t get me wrong – the book can be done as a face-to-face women’s study (and is happening just that way in several places) but this online setting is working WONDERFULLY for me.  So grateful to have found the wonderful community of women who are encouraging me to make some important, difficult but ultimately healthier steps in my relationship.  If you would like to know more, check out their website here!

Afraid of . . . what?

I owe a great big thank you to Nina Roesner of “The Respect Dare” (check her blog out here!) for inspiring what is probably THE BEST heart to heart conversation I have ever had with my hubby.  This conversation was mentally and emotionally intimate and we reached new levels of understanding.  They may have been levels of understanding we should have reached before but we’re there now!!

The inspiration for this conversation came from a post about femininity that Nina posted a few days ago – click here to read it – in which she dared wives to ask their husbands what the men thought it meant to be feminine.  More specifically, what appealing qualities did their wives have that the men considered feminine.

Hubby and I chatted for close to two hours, starting with that particular subject and then progressing from there to other relationship related topics.

We ended up in a very interesting area – fear.

I know – not exactly where I expected to end up!  Much of our conversation centered around the way I approach him when I need to speak to him.  I know he prefers that I be direct and succinct.  Unfortunately, I often allow “direct and succinct” to come with an edge, almost like I’m challenging him.  That brings out an edge in him that causes him to see me as a competitor rather than as his partner.

NOTE – I AM NOT SAYING I CAUSE HIS BEHAVIOR.  But I can have an impact on how he interacts with me.  And vise versa.

So if I know this – and it’s not the first time we’ve had this conversation – then why do I fail to approach him gently?  And he knows whether I am coming gently or not because he says can see it in my face – specifically my eyes.

But seriously – if I know how to make requests/enter conversation with him in a way that will avoid conflict, why don’t I approach him that way EVERY TIME?!?!   This is a concept that I introduced into the conversation and kind of “talked it through” with hubby.  It boils down to this – I’m afraid.

Direct and succinct with a little bit of force will convey that I’m serious, that what I want from him is important to me and should be taken seriously, right?  Nothing wrong with asserting myself!  But the truth is, I’m afraid.  I’m afraid that, if I approach him gently, I will not be taken seriously.  I fear that he will minimize my desires/my needs and that I will end up feeling discarded.  Ignored.

That’s crazy.  I know it is.  I’ve seen the proof that he WON’T treat me that way.  The most recent event was today.

I have a bone spur in my right shoulder that needs to come out.  Due to a screaming fear of the MRI (I’m more than a little bit claustrophobic) and a busy schedule playing piano for numerous performances/organizations, I have put the surgery off.  The pain is running pretty high today – it’s humid so my arthritis is flaring and the bone spur is letting me know that it is still very much there – and hubby had to leave to move daughter number 2 into the dorm at UNI (go Panthers!!).  I looked at him about 15 minutes before he was due to leave, reminded myself to be gentle, and said very simply, “I’m not trying to be lazy and don’t want to ask too much, but would it be possible for you to empty the dishwasher before you leave?”

He looked at me and said, “Your shoulder?”


“Been pretty bad lately, huh?”

“Nausea inducing.”

“Anything to help, baby.” Kiss and smile and he was out the door.

As if that wasn’t enough, he spoke to my youngest daughter (child #3 who moves into HER dorm at Luther – Go Norse! – at the end of the month!) and said, “I need you to help your mom out by loading the dishwasher.  Her shoulder is really bad right now.”  I made one simple request of him – made it GENTLY – and he sought to not only meet the request but exceed it!

What was I so afraid of again?

Nothing to Win

I’m stubborn.  No surprise there to those that know me.  And I am more than willing to argue the absolute dumbest things to death.  In my house, this has become known as a “light bulb” moment.  That name came from one of my kids who was courageous enough to point out the stupidity of a verbal battle hubby and I were engaged in.

But I’ve taken a good long – and not necessarily pleasant – look at some habits I need to change.  I will tell you that you need to pick your battles because only some are worth fighting.  My behavior tells a very different story.

My most common opponent is, unfortunately, my hubby.  But I’m learning a lesson – slowly, but I’m learning it!!  I don’t win ANYTHING when I compete with him over stupid things.  As a matter of fact, I lose.  I lose big.  

I lose closeness, peace of mind, happiness, time I could be spending enjoying him . . .  you get the idea.

So I’m turning in my uniform.  Quitting whatever team it was that I am on.  I will take a deep breath, think about whether or not I really want to fight over whatever particular issue we are facing and choose to work towards a solution WITHOUT trying to win anything.

It’s simple – the minute I start the battle, I’ve already lost. 

Biting My Tongue

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth!  I’ve been caught in this weird state of contradiction where I have all kinds of things I want to say and cannot figure out how to articulate ANY of it in a way that others would understand.

But I have landed on one thing that I think needs to be shared.  Be patient with me as I slip on my kid gloves and try to make sure that I don’t tread on the toes of others too harshly.

In a perfect world, the fact that I am a pastor’s wife wouldn’t have any effect on my ability to speak up in settings where the church family have gathered.  The fact is, however, that every thing I say undergoes extra scrutiny.  Other women in the church can speak their mind with impunity – often being downright rude – but if I speak up, I risk subjecting my husband to a chewing out!  Nevertheless, I’m going to risk it and say exactly what is on my heart.

In the not too distant past, I made a comment about having four kids and a woman in my church said, “Honey, you’re married. You have five kids.”  This is a woman who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ and she has no problem bashing a fellow follower simply because of his gender.  I wish she was the exception but, sadly, male-bashing is far too prevalent in the church today.  As a woman – and a wife who desperately wants to be respectful and loving to the man in my life – it makes me angry when a woman in the church bashes on men simply because they are men.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:35

How is it loving to bash on men?!  (Disclaimer – there are probably men out there who bash on women but I am not a man so I do not feel called to address that issue!)  Can you imagine what would have happened if there had been a couple visiting our church on the day that the woman I mentioned above made her statement?!  What kind of an impression would that have made?

My husband is not perfect.  Neither is yours.  Guess what – you and I aren’t perfect either!!!  So why don’t we stop taking shots at those we profess to love and start building them up!  We might be pleasantly surprised by the results!

So if we ever spend time in one another’s presence, consider this your fair warning – I will not participate in male bashing activities.  If you and I are chatting and you start trashing husbands, I will walk away and I cannot promise to excuse myself politely before I do so.  I may just walk away while you are talking and offer no apology.  I’m not trying to be rude, I just don’t trust myself to open my mouth!

Look Before You Leap

“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 5:31-33

Imagine this scenario – a husband calls his wife shortly after arriving at work to let her know how much he loves her and cherishes their relationship.  She is pleasantly surprised by the unexpected loving gesture and thanks him for his kind words.  This behavior continues throughout the day with text messages, phone calls, tags in his tweets, etc.  She feels fully enveloped in his love before lunch!  When he arrives home, he has a bouquet of her favorite flowers with a note saying “Just because I’m grateful you are mine.”  He insists on taking the family out to dinner so mom doesn’t have to cook or clean up after the meal.  When they arrive home after dinner, he makes her a cup of her favorite tea, sits down next to her and proceeds to engage her in conversation for the majority of the evening.  Suffice it to say, this man has connected significantly, showing love to his wife in numerous ways over the course of a day.

Evening comes and they adjourn to the bedroom.  As they are preparing for bed, a piece of paper falls out of hubby’s pocket, unnoticed by him.  He heads to the bathroom to get a glass of water and she picks it up. When she unfolds it and reads it, she is heartbroken.  At the top of the page is the title “To Make Sure The Wife is ‘In the Mood’ Tonight”.  What follows is a step by step agenda of the day she has just experienced.  She’s devastated.  His declarations of love, his thoughtful gestures, his tender words . . . they were all just a means to an end.

I know many females – myself included – who would be extremely hurt by such an experience (and yes, it’s completely fictional!). But if we set out to show respect to our husbands so that they will behave more lovingly towards us we are doing the exact same thing.

Let’s face it – the Beatles were not quite accurate where marriage is concerned when they sang “All You Need is Love”.  I am very aware that my greatest need in my marriage is love.  But my hubby’s greatest need is respect.  In fact, he can’t feel loved by me if he feels disrespected!  And he doesn’t want to be manipulated by my use of respectful behavior any more than I would want to be manipulated by his use of loving behavior.

Choosing to respect my husband – or trying to get better at it since I am still a work in progress! – is not a decision to make lightly.  I won’t lie – I have attempted such a behavior change in the past because I wanted to get something out of it.  So many books encourage women to be more respectful and hint that this behavior change will, almost without fail, get their hubby to behave more lovingly in return.  In fact, some books stop just shy of offering you an iron clad guarantee!

I’ve learned that there is no such guarantee and it’s wrong to look for one.  I am choosing to work on this respect “thing” because I want to be obedient.  Look at the Ephesians passage again.  “A wife must respect her husband.” Oh, how I wish there was a clause there – “so that her husband will be more loving.”  Or maybe “and then she gets to demand that her husband behave more lovingly”.  Nope.  It just tells me to respect my husband.  No clauses, no exceptions, no guarantees.

He may not respond lovingly.  In fact, if you’ve done well with the respect thing for a few days, your first slip up might earn you an explosive display of temper from your dear hubby.  But that doesn’t give you an out.

I am learning SOOOOO much from Nina Roesner’s book, The Respect Dare.  And the toughest lesson is this – hubby may not respond more lovingly just because I behave more respectfully and it’s not my job to make sure that he does.  I can offer him respect out of a desire to obey God’s plan for marriage but it ends there.  I don’t get to have any expectations of him or the overall tone of my marriage based on my conduct.

This post is not about my relationship specifically.  It’s about a very tough truth that wives need deal with if they are serious about living in a way that is obedient to the passage of scripture quoted at the beginning of this post.

Side note – lest you think this is all one-sided, husbands who choose to behave more lovingly to their spouses in obedience to this verse don’t get to make any demands of her either.  I’m just focusing on wives because . . . well, . . .  I am a wife!

I would highly recommend wives read “The Respect Dare”.  But only if you are serious about changing YOU and not looking for ways to use respect to change your husband.  All that does is make you manipulative and him resentful.

A Strange Place to Live

No, it’s not an exotic location or a bizarrely shaped house.  The strangest place I’ve lived is in a Pastor’s Home.  I was a Pastor’s daughter for most of my teen years and am now a Pastor’s wife.  Believe me, it’s different.  DISCLAIMER – the church hubby is currently Pastoring is a great bunch of people!  We have been very loved on and truly feel at home.  These statements are generalizations that come from being a Pastor’s kid in two different churches and a Pastor’s wife in four and not our current church!

I am expected to show up weekly – or sometimes multiple times a week – to my husband’s work.  When hubby worked at UPS, I used FedEx, the Postal Service . . . whatever shipping option worked best for me!

In many congregations, there is the expectation that the Pastor’s wife will serve on certain committees (whether those committees fit her gifts and interests or not!).  Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with that!

Occasionally, the Pastor’s kids are held to a higher standard than the other kids in the church.  (My amazing hubby usually responds with “If you want to have expectations of my family, put them on the payroll.)

With hubby Pastoring a church in a small town, we can’t go out a date night in without running in to someone hubby knows which means he “goes to work”.  I’ve just come to expect those moments.

Kiss Christmas Eve goodbye!  And that occasional year when Christmas is on Sunday?!  Mom has to get creative so the kids still get their Christmas traditions!

But when you are blessed with a congregation who values their Pastor, there is some “upside” to the weirdness!

There are those in every congregation that understand the sacrifice of having a family member who is on call LITERALLY 24 hours a day seven days a week and they are sometimes more protective of the families vacation time and the Pastor’s day off than his wife!

Members of the church family tend to be generous with left-over produce in the summer and have been known to drop off Christmas gifts.

Those members of the church that are of the right age, have been known to step in as surrogate grandparents when the Pastor and his family are living far away from the biological grandparents.

I get to see my husband do something he is really good at every single church service.  I LOVE his passion for preaching and his preaching style!

Yes, it’s weird to be married to a man whose job is simply a part of his life, not something he leaves behind when he comes home each day.  But my hubby is really good at what he does and I respect the heart he has for the congregation, his desire to see God work in the life of each individual in the church, and his skill for teaching the Word.

The Pastor’s home is a strange – sometimes stressful – place to live but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!