Two Gifts to Give Before Valentine’s Day

IMG_0547It was summertime. The car was suffocating, but it wasn’t because of the heat. It was because neither of us were talking. If we hadn’t had 3 kids in the car making their own racket, the silence would have been deafening.

The day had started out as a lovely idea—a late afternoon trip to Harper’s Ferry. We’d show the kids where William & Clark laid in supplies for their famous journey; we’d sit out on a patio somewhere and enjoy dinner in the late summer air; and later, we’d walk down to where the rivers meet. But like so many lovely ideas that begin so well in our imaginations, it had ended with us grumpy, irritated, hurt, and frustrated.

It was a series of little things: whiny children, overpriced food, a closed museum, pet peeves, unmet expectations and it culminated in a moment where we both felt the other had woefully missed the mark. It was a narrow sidewalk with cars passing. There was a couple kissing in the sidewalk and a lady taking pictures, apparently an engagement photo shoot. I was trying to keep the kids from stepping out into the road. He thought I was being rude to the couple in their special moment. I thought the smooching couple (who had been there for at least 30 minutes trying to capture the perfect on camera smooch) was being inconsiderate of a pregnant woman trying to keep two kids from oncoming traffic (albeit very slow traffic) and a dad with a baby in a stroller. My husband called my name in an exasperated and embarrassed voice. And I felt like crawling under a rock and dying right there I was so embarrassed. He felt frustrated and embarrassed by how inconsiderate I was being. At that moment, I thought he considered someone else’s bride more important than his own.

Petty. Small stuff. Stuff that looms enormously large at the moment, in the raw emotion of the moment, but which even a few days or months later just seems insufferably inconsequential.

But it’s what we do with this kind of thing that makes marriages either crumble or grow stronger. Do we stuff it down? Do we put on a civil face but inside fume and fester? Do we burrow down in our own little bitterness hideout? Do we bring it up? Snap it in one another’s faces at the most inappropriate times? Do we add it to a list, a list which will come out to hurt and haunt the other at just the worst time or a list which we mull over again and again in a growing pleasure of discontent? Do you see?

What do you do with this kind of stuff?

Before I got married, I took a trip to the tiny country of Rwanda. In a country, hardly bigger than Maryland, in 100 days, close to 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutu were killed. I went to interview these brave survivors, to hear their stories and to hear how people who had lost children, parents, a husband or a wife were now radically forgiving those who had hurt them. I heard how former enemies were now caring for one another, helping one another, rebuilding their lives.

Now fast-forward 8 summers later. And there you’ll find me—uncomfortably silent, seriously having trouble forgiving my husband for wanting me to move a few inches over out of consideration for someone else on such a special day. Um hello? Yes, I am this petty. I get caught up in my own self, in my own thoughts, in my own agenda.

But I’m glad that I began my marriage with writing a book about radical forgiveness. Even though it doesn’t keep me from stupid misunderstandings and hurt feelings and unkind words I wish I hadn’t said. It does often harken me back to reality. It makes me say:

“Can we talk about what just happened back there? I want to tell you how it made me feel…”

It’s tough sometimes to swallow your hurt and anger and frustration enough to open up this kind of conversation. But if you can, and if you can really listen, often you’ll discover you didn’t have the whole picture. Often you’ll discover a way to have compassion for each other, a way to have empathy for one another. And perhaps, you’ll find it in your heart for what comes next.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t seeing things from that angle.”

“I’m sorry. I would never, ever want to make you feel that way.”

It leads to me taking the time to get my heart to a place of true forgiveness because I know just how much it matters. It leads to words of forgiveness. It leads to burying the matter in the past and moving ahead together.

Because here’s the thing, when we keep that list—the one where we keep track of the wrongs against us—pretty soon we only see our loved one through the hazy lens of that list. Pretty soon, no matter how hard your spouse is trying or what good things are also happening, every moment is seen through the tainted focus of the list of disappointments and wrongs. And when we stuff it down and can’t talk about the hard stuff, we don’t get to enjoy the intimacy of knowing another better, of loving another with a more intricate knowledge, of discovering empathy.

So, before you get to this Valentine’s Day. Could you do yourself and your spouse a favor? If you’ve been keeping a list, or keeping score, or burrowing with the hurt, could you deal with it?

Here are two gifts I recommend that we all could give:

In every relationship—be it marriage or friendship or parent-child, we will all play both the part of the offended and the offender. Two little words—“I’m sorry”– wrapped ever so carefully, ever so sincerely, these words can begin a trajectory of restoration. They can begin a conversation of healing.

Three words can be given as a gift even before they are spoken. “I forgive you.” True forgiveness—sincere forgiveness–not only is the key to unlock our own prisons of bitterness, but it is also a gift that can change someone else’s heart. It can start to work its miracle before a cold heart has even acknowledged a wrong. Forgiveness thaws. And once that thaw begins… winter’s grip is never again so strong.

So, I’ve taken a moment to be vulnerable with you. Would you take a moment to be vulnerable before God? Would you be honest with the ways you’ve been petty? Would you be honest with the things you aren’t forgiving? Would you be honest with the ways you’ve wronged the one you love?

Flowers, dinners out, chocolates, or cards mean little if there is an unhealthy relationship just below the surface. Why not give some better gifts this Valentine’s Day? Before you speak a word to your spouse, talk to God about these gifts. Ask God to show you how you’ve wronged the one you love and ask God to give you the grace to forgive the ways in which you’ve been wronged. Ask Him to help you to turn conflict into opportunities for growth and intimacy. And then ask Him what next. Chances are this gift won’t be quite as easy as flowers and candy, but there’s a guarantee that it will be sweeter.

 

(By the way, just in case you were wondering, my husband was in 100% agreement with me sharing this post. He’s awesome like that. ) 

And if you’re new here, I’d love for you to find a friend here in this little corner of cyberspace. I’m reaching out trying to encourage myself and others to live a deep and fearless faith. Hard things like forgiveness are part of it. Radical things like joy are too. Sign up to have these posts delivered to your inbox or follow me on Facebook. I’d love to walk this journey with you.

A Valentine’s Gift for Him: 14 Ways to Pray for Your Husband this Valentine’s Day

What to get him this Valentine’s Day? Give him the gift he needs most: be an intimate ally.

My Valentine
When I first said, “I love you,” I had no idea that those would be fighting words. But they are. When I said, “I love you,” I took a soldier’s oath to fight for him, to fight alongside him, to be his most intimate ally. When I said, “I do,” I was saying I will volley the doors of heaven for you with my prayers; I will use my every ounce of creativity and reason to strengthen and persuade you to see the light when the valley is thickest with darkness; I will always have your back; I will never go AWOL on you when life looks bleakest; your battles will be my battles, and together our victories will be sweeter.

If love is an action word for you too, would you give your husband what he needs most this Valentine’s Day. Would you be his intimate ally by praying these 14 things for him in the year ahead?

To my Valentine:
1. Mind- Where you believes lies about yourself, I pray that those would be uprooted. Where your thoughts are plagued with worry, I pray peace. Where you are filled with self-doubt, I pray confidence in Christ.
2. Soul-Where you feel dry, I pray for refreshment. Where you feel lost, I pray you would be found. Where you sense longing, I pray you would find wholeness.
3. Body-Where you hurt, I pray you would find healing. Where you hunger, I pray you would find satisfaction. Where you feel weak, I pray you would know strength.
4. Gifts-Where you are gifted, I pray you would find work for your hands to do. Where you find joy, I pray you might find purpose. Where you have been given much, I pray you would be found faithful.
5. Favor-Where you need doors to open, I pray you would see them swing. Where you need the support of others, I pray you would receive bolstering. Where you put your energy to the things that please God, I pray your work prospers.
6. Family-Where others look to you for guidance, I pray you would be a good role model. Where there is discord, I pray you may be a conduit of peace. Where you are called to lead, I pray you exalt Christ.
7. Marriage-Where there is love, I pray you fan the flame. Where there is wrong, I pray you would be quick to forgive and ask forgiveness. Where there is misunderstanding, I pray there may be communication, grace and revival.
8. Work-Where there is drudgery, I pray you work as unto the Lord. Where there is frustration, I pray you find God’s strength and peace. Where you lack wisdom, I pray you seek Him and find it.
9. Community-Where you encounter the hurting, I pray you respond with compassion. Where you gather for worship, I pray you also find a meaningful place of service. Where you dwell, I pray you enrich the lives of those who live near you.
10. Finances-Where you invest wisely, I pray you see a bountiful return. Where God directs you, I pray you would be unafraid to exercise generosity. Where you need guidance, I pray God would grant you wisdom.
11. Friendship- Where you need brotherhood, I pray you would be unafraid to seek it. Where you find spiritual kinship, I pray those bonds would strengthen your soul. Where good friendships languish, I pray you renew them.
12. Joy- Where there are days of hardship, I pray you find joy even in the midst of them. Where you feel heavy-hearted, I pray laughter spur you out of sadness. Where days sweetly satisfy, I pray your joy leads you to thanksgiving.
13. Dreams- Where your heart still hungers, I pray God may guide you. Where your dreams are not in line with God’s plans, I pray you relinquish them. Where you need courage to take godly risks, I pray you would be brave.
14. Rest- Where work inches its way too far, I pray you place boundaries. Where your mind feels preoccupied, I pray God supersedes and give you peace. Where the days seem too short, I pray you trust in boundaries God has given you and rest.

Will you join me in giving our husbands this gift this Valentine’s Day? Perhaps there is no better way to love him than to earnestly seek his good through prayer. Print two copies of this. Tuck one in a card for him and a second in a place where you’ll be sure to see it and pray for him daily.
Let him know he does not walk alone. Let him know you always have his back.

14 ways, side 1

14 ways, side 2

 

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When All I Have to Give Seems So Small, Part I

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Early motherhood is an especially intense season of life. Often professional degrees seem to sit idle as we wipe bottoms and noses, count piggy toes, and muddle through sleep-deprived nights on caffeine and a prayer. And yet there’s so often both internal and external pressure that we should do more, give more, and be more.

But deep down, we know there’s not any more of us to give. We know that this is a season of life where our worlds seem shrunken in, and supporting those in our immediate care is not only our high and holy calling, but often all we can do.

As I was meditating on this, God brought to mind several historic examples of people who gave what little they had and how God multiplied it. These examples remind me how Jesus takes the two fish and the five loaves and feeds the multitudes, and how he will take my “all I have to give” and bless it.

When all I have to give is love for the man God gave me:
Katharina Von Bora was the infamous nun who ran away (or rolled away rather in a barrel of herring) and ended up marrying reformer Martin Luther. The former celibate priest wrote, “There is no bond on earth so sweet, nor any separation so bitter, as that which occurs in a good marriage.” Katie desired to free Luther up so that he could serve as God had called him. So in addition to caring for their 6 children and the 4 orphans who came under their roof, she did all she could to manage the affairs of the house. Luther called her “the morning star of Wittenberg” since she rose before dawn to care for the livestock, garden, and children.

But while running the affairs of the house was certainly a heavy load, Katie also stood by her man in another important way, as a strong spiritual ally. When Luther was facing a particularly deep period of depression, she greeted him at the door one evening wearing the traditional all-black of mourning attire. Confused, Luther asked her, “Who is dead?” She responded, “Don’t you know, God is dead?” Like the prophets of old, Katie paraded a visual message before her husband and showed him the practical atheism at the root of his current despair. Luther got the message loud and clear and saw the ludicrousness of his own attitude. Katie had been a good theologian to the theologian.

God took Katie’s desire to serve her husband and home—the “all she had to give”—and multiplied many times over. Only in eternity will we know the true weight of her impact on Luther and the generations which followed.

When all I have to give is love for the children under my care:
While Charles and John Wesley are in the Who’s Who of modern Christianity, many of us have never even heard of Susanna Wesley, their mother. And yet, it was this woman who had such a profound influence shaping the great revivalist preachers and fathers of modern Methodism.

Home-life wasn’t easy for Susanna. After a minor dispute, her husband disappeared for over a year. And his poor management of the family’s finances also landed him in jail twice. During one of these separations, Susanna wrote to her husband about how God had led her to spend individual time loving their children well. She writes:

“I am a woman, but I am also the mistress of a large family. And though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you, yet in your long absence I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my charge as a talent committed to me under a trust. I am not a man nor a minister, and yet as a mother … I felt I ought to do more than I had yet done. I resolved to begin with my own children; in which I observe the following method: I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart. On Monday I talk with Molly, on Tuesday with Hetty, Wednesday with Nancy, Thursday with Jacky, Friday with Patty, Saturday with Charles.”

It was during these special one-on-one times where Susanna instilled the spiritual habit of self-examination, by asking thoughtful questions regarding the state of each child’s soul, and his or her goals and progress toward them. Susanna went to great lengths to shepherd the hearts of the children God had given her and the repercussions of her priorities are still felt today.

When all I have to give are my prayers:
Before St. Augustine ever wrote The Confessions or City of God, his loving mother, Monica, prayed, fasted and wept bitterly over the waywardness of her son. In a well-known episode, a priest reportedly comforted the distraught mother with the words, “the child of such tears shall never perish.” After nearly two decades of her faithfulness, St. Augustine turned to God.

 

Encouraged by this post? Read: When All I Have to Give Seems So Small, Part II. In it, we look at how God used friendship and a mom’s need to put bread on the table to change the world. And if you haven’t yet subscribed to get these posts to your inbox, you can right here

Waiting in Wonder Book Launch Excerpt #5 and a $300 Bedandbreakfast.com Giveaway

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One of the themes I tried to hit frequently in Waiting in Wonder is strengthening one’s marriage.  While I realize that not everyone who reads the book will be married, I do believe that a healthy God-centered marriage is the best place for a little one to thrive. Yet, in the midst of buying baby gear, baby-proofing the home, painting the nursery, picking out the perfect name, attending birth classes, and figuring out how to correctly install a car-seat, I wonder how many couples truly take time to strengthen their marriages as they await the arrival of their little one. After all, while baby likely won’t remember the color of his or her nursery or whether the stroller collapsed with a quick push of a button, that child will remember the health of his or her parents’ marriage for life. It will impact not only how that child sees God, but also that child’s view of how a man and woman should relate.

This entry from the second trimester is but one of many entries in the book that focuses on marriage. Take a look:

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And tying right into today’s entry is your chance to win a $300 bedandbreakfast.com gift card to make that getaway a little easier to make happen. So show your spouse your love and enter today’s giveaway. (And if you’re single, think about entering to win the giveaway and use this gift certificate as a way of taking a personal spiritual retreat.)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Finally, we’re getting close to the end of these giveaways. Haven’t they been amazing? Time runs out at midnight on April 25th. If you haven’t yet entered to win the iPad mini, the $200 Spafinder gift card, the Nikon Coolpix L810 camera, or the iRobot 560 Roomba vacuum, enter today and please help me spread the word about Waiting in Wonder. (Winners will be announced on this blog on Monday, April 29th.)

And if you still haven’t ordered a copy of Waiting in Wonder for yourself or as a gift, get a few copies today.

 

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