Don’t Make Your Spouse Feel Like an Outsider

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I don’t usually offer unsolicited parenting advice, because a lot of moms are sensitive to it. I am not sure what brought this to mind today, but as I found myself thinking about it, I decided to try to write those thoughts down – perhaps they may be of help to someone.

It’s natural when Mom is home with little kids that certain routines arise. It’s good to involve your child in your day, and they enjoy the togetherness as much as the “helping.” Maybe Little One always closes the dishwasher door for you after you’ve loaded the dishes, or always puts the canned goods in the pantry after coming home from the grocery store, or always cuddles with a drink and a blanket and book before nap time, or whatever. Then when Dad is home during the evenings or on weekends, he has no idea about such routines and can’t understand why Little One is crying while he’s putting the canned goods away or why shutting the dishwasher door caused a major meltdown.

If Mom scolds impatiently because Dad has done it “wrong,” Little One is going to pick up on the resentment, and Dad is going to feel like an outsider in his own family.

In the immediate moment, a gentle explanation is in order, and maybe Baby can be given a can to put away or the door can be opened so he/ she can shut it. I’m not for a little one calling the shots or ruling the roost, but I don’t think this is a case of “giving in” to his or her wants. I think this is not so much a case of selfishness or wilfulness as it is just disappointment. At some point Baby needs to learn not to melt down over every disappointment, but that is easier to deal with when you can talk and reason more later on. Perhaps early training can begin that way by saying, “It’s ok. As soon as you stop crying, you can put this can away,” etc.

In the bigger picture, Mom can welcome Dad into their routines. Perhaps Mom can talk about their routines in the ordinary course of life. “It’s so cute that she likes to help me put the cans away.” That way Dad is familiar with them. Or let him know ahead of time, while bringing the groceries in, that you usually let Baby put away the cans.

In addition, let Dad and Baby establish their own routines. Maybe Dad can do bath time or bed time, at least some times. Once when I walked by as my husband was helping one of our little guys with a bath, I heard him say, “It’s pancake time!” And I thought, “Pancake time? In the bath tub?” I backtracked and peeked in. What he was referring to was pouring the shampoo on the little one’s head like syrup on a pancake. My first thought was, “You know, it uses less shampoo if you pour a little bit in your hands and rub them together.” But I didn’t say it. I figured in the long run the amount of shampoo wasn’t that big a deal, and it was cute that that was a part of their ritual. And they never asked me for “pancake time” during baths, accepting that that was a dad thing. One of their other routines, when the boys were older, involved going to an indoor swimming pool on certain evenings (Tuesdays, I think) and getting donuts afterward. Not only was that a fun routine for them, it gave me a little bit of solitude, and they brought me a donut afterward. 🙂

Dads can help by understanding that a certain amount of this is going to be inevitable when Mom and the kids spend all day together and avoid getting feelings hurt over it. Participate, ask to help, let Mom know if you’re feeling left out.

Something else we have to watch out for is that we can get so wrapped up in our kids and their needs that we neglect our husband and his. That need weighs on us with our children because they’re so helpless, and we feel our husbands can take care of themselves. But that’s not how we felt when we married them! It can be difficult, especially with young babies, but this is another way in which it’s important to let dads in, to let him handle the baby’s care sometimes – both so you’re not overloaded, and so he can increase his time and interaction with the baby. He may not do everything just like you would, but that’s okay.

And, of course, this can involve other scenarios than little ones’ routines: a spouse can feel left out if one is on top of the family schedule and the other misses a memo, or if mom and the kids always get ice cream on Mondays after school (one of our routines the last several years of school), and dad didn’t know or forgot when he picked them up. As kids get older, they can be taught to be gracious, to respect others’ feelings, not to whine when something doesn’t go their way, to ask respectfully rather than throw a tantrum or sulk, etc. Not making someone feel left out of the loop becomes a family issue and not just a marital issue.

And, also, it’s not only dads who sometimes feel left out. Sometimes he is the one who is at home more, or who has fun routines with the kids, or who has regular activities with them that don’t include mom (hunting, sports, etc.).

The point is to remember that you’re a family unit. That doesn’t mean everyone has to do everything together all the time. We used to go camping as a family, but when I got transverse myelitis, that became more difficult for me. So sometimes my husband and sons went either by themselves or with a men-and-boys church activity. Once they were close enough that I drove over to eat the dinner that my husband prepared at the campsite, and we sat around the campfire and roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. Then before it got dark I drove to my climate-controlled home and comfortable bed while they enjoyed the rest of their camping experience. 🙂 And I still felt included because I heard all about the rest of the adventures when they got home. When my husband traveled a lot, we looked for ways to keep him from feeling out of the loop.

Keep the lines of communication open, keep each other informed, be gracious when a slip-up happens, find ways to include each other, share conversation and possibly photos about experiences even if the experiences themselves can’t be shared.

What ways have you found to help your spouse feel included in your day to day rituals and activities?

(Silhouettes courtesy of clipartfest.com)

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

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31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Enjoying the 80%

Elisabeth Elliot2I’ve always thought this was quite poignant for marriage, and in many ways applicable in other relationships as well. How we need to build up rather than tear down.

My second husband once said that a wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy ( From Love Has a Price Tag).

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. Romans 14:19

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Ephesians 4:29

See all the posts in this series here.

Quotes about love beyond Valentine’s Day

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In the past I have written about how much I love Valentine’s Day, how we celebrate it, foods we use, favorite love songs, quotes, etc., and I plan to enjoy some of those things to the hilt today (I hope you can, too!) This year I wanted to do something different. All of those other things are fun, but real love (not just romantic love, but loving our families, our neighbors, and even our enemies) involves more and is often difficult, especially when our different wills, desires, or habits clash. These quotes help me in the everyday life, rubber meeting the road kind of challenges of loving other people. Maybe they’ll be a help to you, too.

The springs of love are in God, not in us. It is absurd to look for the love of God in our hearts naturally; it is only there when it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

— Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 30

Love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all.

– G K Chesterton

To love those whom we do not like means that we treat them as if we did like them — to choose to act kindly toward them even though we do not like them….The Bible does not ask us to like the brethren, it asks us to love them, and that means, therefore, something like this: we may not like certain Christians. I mean by that, there is none of this instinctive, elemental attraction; they are not the people whom we naturally like; yet what we are told is that to love them means that we treat them exactly as if we did like them. Now, the men and women of the world do not do that; if they do not like people, they treat them accordingly and have nothing to do with them. But Christian love means that we look beyond that. We see the Christian in them, the brother or sister, and we even go beyond what we do not like, and we help that person. Love your brethren — that is the exhortation with which we are concerned.

— Martyn Lloyd-Jones on I John 3:16-18 in his book Children of God

How many of you will join me in reading this chapter (I Corinthians 13) once a week for the next three months? A man did that once and it changed his whole life. Will you do it? It is for the greatest thing in the world. You might begin by reading it every day, especially the verses which describe the perfect character. “Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself.” Get these ingredients into your life. Then everything that you do is eternal. It is worth doing. It is worth giving time to. No man can become a saint in his sleep; and to fulfill the condition required demands a certain amount of prayer and meditation and time, just as improvement in any direction, bodily or mental, requites preparation and care. Address yourselves to that one thing; at any cost have this transcendent character exchanged for yours.

– Henry Drummond, The Greatest Thing in the World

Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also many things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean “They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,” then it says what probably was never was or ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal, how can you hope to find inward peace? – A.W. Tozer

As we remember the lovingkindness of the Lord, we see how good it was to find our own strength fail us, since it drove us to the strong for strength. – Spurgeon

Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1b-3.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV.

 

Our 35th Anniversary!

35 years ago I was blessed to marry a wise, wonderful, kind and caring man. I thank God for a wonderful marriage and a great family!

Yesterday we went to my son and daughter-in-law’s house, thinking we were just there to visit, have lunch, and see her mom, who was visiting for a few days. But the kids surprised us with an anniversary celebration!

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They got us a couple of special ornaments made by the Photo Barn.

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And one of our most special gifts ever – they had this special book made with photos and memories.

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Then we came home and took a nap. 🙂 And then we had someone come in to watch Great-Grandma and we went out on a rare date to Outback and then came home and watched a movie. 🙂

Since today is busy with church activities, we did most of our celebrating yesterday, and overall it was a lovely day!

On our 30th anniversary I posted 30 things I love about my husband.All of those things are still true. 🙂

A few years ago Jim made this video for me, and I think I have posted it every year since. 🙂 The song is “The Voyage,” sung by John McDermott, one of the original Irish Tenors.

31 Days of Inspirational Biographies: Rosalind Goforth Learns Submission

I mentioned in yesterday’s post a little book by missionary Rosalind Goforth called Climbing, one of my all-time favorites. She and her husband were missionaries to China from1888-1936. She had written his biography, and then by request wrote Climbing about missionary life and furlough from her perspective. I think one thing missionaries would want us to know is that they are not “super-Christians,” but rather people “of like passions” as we are, and this humorous incident in Rosalind’s life illustrates not only that but also the importance of being consistently in God’s Word so it can speak to you.

The following is the most notable incident connected with this habit of memorizing Scripture. I give it, for, judging by the effect it has had upon men and women to whom I have told this story, it touches a vital point in the relation of husband and wife. It certainly brought to my husband and myself a lesson never forgotten.

Our children were all away at school. We were together carrying on aggressive evangelism at a distant out-station. The room given to us was dark and damp, with the usual mud floor. The weather, had turned cold, and there was no place where one could get warm. I caught a cold. It was not a severe one, but enough to make me rather miserable. The third or fourth day, when the meetings were in full swing and my organ was taking an attracting part, I became possessed by a great longing to visit my dearly loved friend, Miss H., living at the Weihuifu Station, some hours run south on the railway. But when I told my husband what I had in mind, he strongly objected and urged against my going. I would not listen, even when he said my going would break up at least the women’s work. But I was determined to go and ordered the cart for the trip to the railway. As the cart started and I saw my husband’s sad, disappointed, white face, I would have stopped, but I wanted to show him I must have my way sometimes!

Oh, what a miserable time I had till my friend’s home in Weihuifu was reached! Miss H. gave one glance at my face and exclaimed: “Whatever is the matter, Mrs. Goforth! Are you ill?”

My only answer was to break down sobbing. Of course I could not tell her WHY. Miss H. insisted on putting me to bed, saying I was ill! She made me promise to remain there until after breakfast.

The following morning, while waiting for breakfast, I opened my Testament and started to memorize, as usual, my three verses. Now it happened I was at that time memorizing the Epistle to the Ephesians and had reached the fifth chapter down to the twenty-first verse. The twenty-second, the first of the three to be memorized that morning, read: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord.” I was, to say at the least, startled! Somehow I managed to get this bravely memorized. Then going on to the twenty-third verse, these words faced me: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.”

For a moment a feeling of resentment, even anger, arose. I could not treat this word as a woman once did, putting it aside with the remark: “That is where Paul and I differ.” I believed the Epistle to the Ephesians was inspired, if any portion of Scripture was. How could I dare cut out this one part to which I was unwilling to submit? How I managed to memorize that twenty-third verse I do not know, for all the while a desperate mental struggle was on. Then came the twenty-fourth verse: “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

I could not memorize further: my mind was too agitated. “It just comes to this,” I thought, “Am I willing, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, to submit my will (in all but matters of conscience) to my husband?” The struggle was short but intense. At last I cried, “For CHRIST’s sake, I yield!” Throwing a dressing gown about me, I ran to the top of the stairs and called to my friend, “When does the next train go?”

“In about half an hour,” she replied, “but you couldn’t catch it and have your breakfast.”

“Never mind; I’m going to get that train!”

My friend insisted on accompanying me to the station; we ate as we almost ran. With what joy I at last found myself traveling northward!

On reaching my destination, imagine my surprise to find my husband, with a happy twinkle in his eye, standing on the platform!

“Why, Jonathan,” I cried, “how did you know I was coming?”

His reply was simply a happy, “Oh, I knew you would come.”

Later I told my husband frankly all I had passed through. What was the result? From that time, he gave me my way as never before, for does not verse 25 of the chapter quoted go on to say: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” A new realization of the need of yieldedness came to us both, which brought blessed results in our home life.

I don’t think she is saying at the end that her little adventure “paid off,” but rather that God used the incident and their conversation together to open both their eyes to each other’s needs.

Though I am sure it wasn’t funny at the time, I always find this story humorous and I am glad she “told on” herself in her book. But beyond the incident itself, it shows how the Lord can guide and correct us when we are regularly in His Word.

(You can find this book on sale at Amazon and various places, but the text is also online here.)

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: The “Uncommon Union” of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards

Marriage to a Difficult Man by Elisabeth D. Dodds is a story of what Jonathan Edwards called on his deathbed his “uncommon union” with his wife, Sarah. The author does not mean Edwards was “difficult” in a negative sense, but rather that his lack of social skills combined with what she calls his “genius” made him perhaps a little hard to adapt to.

In fact, when Edwards “first showed an interest in Sarah, he scared her.” “Already it was clear that this glowering young man was touched by the fatal ingredient of greatness.” He had “entered college at the age of thirteen,” had been the “valedictory orator, and was “collecting a reputation as a formidable intellect.” “Often people who turn out to be the most interesting adults are the ones least acceptable to their adolescent peers.” “But it is remarkable that these two survived their courtship. Moody, socially bumbling, barricaded behind the stateliness of the very shy, Edwards was totally unlike the girl who fatefully caught his eye. She was a vibrant brunette, with erect posture and burnished manners. She was skillful at small talk — he had no talent for it at all. She was blithe — he was given to black patches of introspection.” Over four years, as Edwards had opportunity to participate in various ministries, he learned and grew. He and Sarah discovered mutual interests in books and nature (she was educated beyond the norm for the times). They married when she was seventeen and he was twenty-four (it was customary in those days for girls to be married before they were sixteen).

This book is full of details of everyday life in this period of history. This was the age of the Puritans, and modern-day conceptions of them are often wrong. What would have been involved for Sarah in housekeeping and the hospitality she was known for exercising are detailed as are also the customs of church life.

Jonathan and Sarah had eleven children, and their lineage is outlined (for example, a study made in 1900 revealed 13 college presidents, 66 physicians, 100 lawyers, 65 professors, 30 judges, and 80 holders of public office from the Edwards line). With just a handful of exceptions, their descendents were productive citizens.

Some of the most enjoyable passages in the book provide glimpses into Jonathan and Sarah’s relationship. The author writes, “The town saw Edwards’ composed dignity. Only his wife and closest friends knew what storms slammed about in the controlled exterior of him. What was driving him? [His sermons] were models of reason and rhetorical power, but they were more. Though the people in Northampton did not realize it, they were witnessing a great mind pushing out the frontiers of thought almost as drastically as other men in that day were pushing back forests.” A longtime houseguest and family friend, Samuel Hopkins, writes,

It was a happy circumstance that he could trust everything…to the care of Mrs. Edwards with entire safety and with undoubting confidence. She was a most judicious and faithful mistress of a family, habitually industrious, a sound economist, managing her household affairs with diligence and discretion. While she uniformly paid a becoming deference to her husband and treated him with entire respect, she spared no pains in conforming to his inclination and rendering everything in the family agreeable and pleasant; accounting it her greatest glory and there wherein she could best serve God and her generation, to be the means in this way of promoting his usefulness and happiness.

Jonathan “treated her as a fully mature being — as a person whose conversation entertained him, whose spirit nourished his own religious life, whose presence gave him repose.” Many days at about 4:00 in the afternoon, Jonathan would come out of his study and Sarah would “join him for a horseback ride… She often visited him in his study, and at night they had prayers together after everyone else…had gone to bed. As their days began with thanks to God for the return of the miracle of morning, so they ended with the consecration of their sleeping selves to the Lord of both their lives.”

After they began having children, Jonathan saved an hour of each day to focus just on his family, “entering freely into the concerns of his children and relaxing into cheerful and animate conversation accompanied frequently with sprightly remarks and sallies of wit and humor…then he went back to his study for more work before dinner.” Edwards also believed in educating his girls, which was unusual for the times, so he tutored them at home while the boys went to school in town. He took turns taking one child at a time with him on his travels.

Edwards pastored in Northampton, Massachusetts for about 24 years until an increasing difference of many opinions caused him to sadly resign. (Interestingly, his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” did not yield much response in his own church: it was when he preached it elsewhere that it caused such a stir.) He then ministered in Stockbridge for about six years to a small English congregation and a great number of Indian families. This at first may have seemed a strange assignment, but it offered a time of recuperation for the family from the stresses of Northampton and afforded Edwards opportunity to write some of his greatest works.

Edwards had just accepted the presidency of Princeton when he received a smallpox inoculation, which was new and controversial and proved deadly for him. Sarah died a few months later at he age of 49.

I’m not sure of the author’s spiritual state due to some of her comments and conclusions, but still the truth of what Edwards preached and what he and Sarah lived comes though clearly and reveals two hearts dependent on God and cherishing one another.

Unfortunately the book is out of print, but used copies are available from $1.78 and up through Amazon and other booksellers online.

For more about Sarah Edwards as a mother, see this post.

 

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

31 Days of Missionary Stories: Whom God Has Joined

kuhn.jpgI mentioned Isobel Kuhn yesterday. her books By Searching and In the Arena are primarily autobiographical and contain some details about her marriage, but Whom God Has Joined focuses entirely on her relationship with her husband. It was originally titled One Vision Only, and the main part of it was Isobel’s own writings sandwiched in-between biographical remarks by Carolyn Canfield. It has been long out of print and was just reprinted not too long ago without Canfield’s part.

It begins with their first notices of each other at Moody Bible Institute and the attraction they felt despite their determination not to get “sidetracked” by the opposite sex.

As they got to know one another and grew in affection, John graduated from college first and went to China. At first they were interested in different areas of China, but the China Inland Mission assigned him to the area she was interested in. When he wrote to propose, she knew what her answer would be, yet she spread the “letter out before the Lord” with a problem. She wrote, “John and I are of very opposite dispositions, each rather strong minded. Science has never discovered what happens when the irresistible force collides with the immovable object. Whatever would happen if they married one another? ‘Lord, it must occur sooner or later. Are You sufficient even for that?’” The verse the Lord gave her was Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Isobel was assigned and sent to China where they were to be married. One of the first problems they faced was that there were two ladies with very different personalities who each took charge of “helping” the young couple with their wedding plans — and neither plan was what the young couple wanted. God enabled them to very graciously navigate that situation without offending either party.

Isobel wrote in a very engaging way that lets us know missionaries are “of like passions” as we are. We feel like we are right there with her feeling what she is feeling. She not only had the adjustments of marriage but the adjustments of a new culture. Though she was ready and willing for both, sometimes it still threw her for a short while. One example was in her natural “nesting” as a new wife. The CIM way was to live directly with the people as they did, and Isobel was willing for that. She did have a few things to pretty up her home a little bit — nothing extravagant. She was excited to receive her first women guests, and as she began to talk with them, one blew her nose and wiped the stuff on a rug; the other’s baby was allowed to wet all over another rug. Isobel knew that they were not being deliberately offensive: those were just the customs of the country people in that time and place. Yet, naturally, resentment welled up and she had a battle in her heart. She wrote, “If possessions would in any way interfere with our hospitality, it would be better to consign them to the river. In other words, if your finery hinders your testimony, throw it out. In our Lord’s own words, if thine hand offend thee, cut it off. He was not against our possessing hands, but against our using them to holds on to sinful or hindering things.”

In their early marriage they had disagreements over the couple who were their servants (in primitive cultures it was not unusual for missionaries to employ helpers for the many tasks that would have taken up so much time). They were not only lazy, but helped themselves to some of the Kuhn’s own things. John was slower to see it because he had always gotten along fine with them before he was married. At one point when Isobel brought up something the man had not done, hoping for John to correct him, John instead sided with him against her. Angry and resentful, Isobel walked out of the house, not caring where she went, just to get away from it all. Gradually she came to herself and realized she was in a little village as darkness was nearing. In that time and culture that was not done: “good women were in their homes at such an hour.” She felt as if the Lord were saying to her, “You have not considered Me and My honor in all this, have you?” and then convicting her that she had not even invited Him into the situation. She confessed that was true, asked Him to work it out, and went home. And He did.

Isobel was more artistic and exuberant by nature, and once when she was telling a story she mentioned that it was “pouring rain.” John corrected her, saying it was “merely raining.” She was indignant that her story was being interrupted by such a minor detail and said, “I didn’t stop to count the raindrops.” He replied that that was just what she should do. He felt she exaggerated and wanted to break her of it. He began “correcting” her prayer letters and stories and began to use the catch-phrase, “Did you count the raindrops?” It was discouraging and distressing to her and she felt it had a stilted effect on her writing. She tells how over time the Lord used this to help her husband appreciate his wife’s gift of imagination and expression and helped her to be more accurate. She comments,

Similar situations are not uncommon among all young couples. If we will just be patient with one another, God will work for us…Until the Lord is able to work out in us a perfect adjustment to one another, we must bear with one another, in love…With novels and movies which teach false ideals of marriage, young people are not prepared to ‘bear and forbear.’ They are not taught to forgive. They are not taught to endure. Divorce is too quickly seized upon as the only way out. It is the worst way out! To pray to God to awaken the other person to where he or she is hurting us, to endure patiently until God does it: this is God’s way out. And it molds the two opposite natures into one invincible whole. The passion for accuracy plus a sympathetic imagination which relives another’s joys and sorrows—that is double effectiveness. Either quality working unrestrained by itself would never have been so effective. But it cost mutual forgiveness and endurance to weld these two opposites into one! Let’s be willing for the cost.

With humor and poignancy Isobel tells of further challenges and adjustments in the midst of ministry and growing love for each other and growth in the Lord.

(You can see a list of other posts in the 31 Days of Missionary Stories here.)

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Book Review: Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story

Joni and KenAt 36, Joni Eareckson felt that marriage was probably not in God’s plan for her, not only because of her age, but because of her paralysis resulting from a diving accident in her teens. Who would be willing to take on all that would be involved?

After Ken and Joni met at church, then got to know one another, then started dating, Ken felt he could. He knew he loved her and he felt their marriage could work.

Joni was afraid he idealized her. He had read about her before meeting her, accompanied her on mission trips, heard her speak, and even though she tried to be realistic about herself and her humanness (when the leg bag collecting her urine broke in public while on a tour behind the Iron Curtain, she quipped that that was God’s way of not letting the attention and acclaim go to her head), she was afraid some people thought of her more highly than they ought to.

But after much time together and discussion, they married, And though they loved each other dearly, after some years the relentless details involved in Joni’s care began to wear on Ken. He began to pull away, to need time to himself to get away from it all. Soon their lives were on nearly parallel tracks, rarely intersecting. She had had a ministry and association before he came on the scene, and he felt unneeded in her world: he had his teaching and coaching and fishing trips.

Then unexplained and excruciating pain descended on Joni, not only requiring more care, but causing frustration because nothing seemed to help. And then came a cancer diagnosis…

Marriage has its rough spots anyway, but add all these to the mix, and any of them could break a marriage. In Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story, with Larry Libby, they want to make clear that what pulled them through was not their own strength, but God’s grace when they came to the end of their own strength. They don’t want to come across as super-saints, but as real people who found God’s grace sufficient in the most trying of times “to attain a new level of love rather than simply surviving or grimly hanging on” (p. 15).

I loved Larry Libby’s preface, talking about fairy tales and sad love songs, then musing:

We all dream dreams and know very well that they don’t always work out. Life is particularly hard on high expectations. Things hardly ever fall together the way we would have scripted them. The fact is, if we put our hope in a certain set of circumstances working out a certain way at certain times, we’re bound to be disappointed, because nothing in this life is certain.

So what’s the solution? To give up on dreams?

No, it is to realize that if we belong to God, there are even bigger dreams for our lives than our own. But in order to walk in those bigger dreams, we may face greater obstacles than we ever imagined and find ourselves compelled to rely on a much more powerful and magnificent God than we ever knew before (p. 15).

I know it’s the style these days to have a book jump back and forth in the time line, but it is somewhat confusing and choppy, and I think would have flowed much better maybe by opening with one incident and then flashing back to the beginning and progressing from there to the current time.

There is one kind of odd spot in the book when Joni had a horrible night suffering from pneumonia and prayed that Jesus would manifest Himself to her in a special way. As Ken ministered to her, suddenly she said.”You’re Jesus!” She went on to say that she could feel His touch through Ken’s, could see Him in Ken’s smile. That I can understand, but manifesting Jesus, being a conduit through which He can work, isn’t the same thing a being Jesus. And I think that’s what she ultimately meant.

I scanned some of the reviews on Amazon and was surprised to find some criticism that the book didn’t contain enough or reveal enough. I thought it was quite gracious of the Tadas to reveal as much as they did in order to show God’s grace and to encourage others: the rest really is none of our business.

Overall I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone.

I linked to this speech of Joni’s before, but it shares a condensed version of some of what is in the book.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Submission in Christian Marriage

Since e-Mom announced last Friday that the topic for her Marriage Monday this week was “Submission in Christian Marriage,” it’s been in the back of my mind, but I haven’t had the kind of time needed to write that kind of post til this morning.

The concept (command, really) that Christian wives are supposed to be submissive to their husbands comes primarily from a couple of passages, both sections involving instruction to the family. Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” and Colossians 3:18 says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.”

This command has been challenged in recent years by the thought that the Bible teaches a mutual submission in the preceding verse in the Ephesians passage, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” But the following verses 22-24 go on to say, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing,” so wives submitting to their husbands is a step beyond the mutual submission in verse 21. That mutual submission is part of the outflow of being filled with the Spirit in verse 18 (more on that in a moment) and applies to the whole church, but that principle of mutual submission certainly applies in marriage as well. Yet it doesn’t nullify the particular submission a wife is to show to her husband in verses 22-24. The next part of the passage instructs a husband to love his wife as himself as Christ loved the church (v. 25) and as himself (v. 33). I think a couple of ways that mutual submission applies in marriage is that neither partner is an independent agent, and neither is to be tyrannical or selfish. All of the Biblical instruction about how Christians are to love and treat each other in general applies to each partner within marriage as well.

The Greek word for “submit” in all the passages mentioned here is from a Greek word transliterated as “hupotasso” and is defined by this site as:

to arrange under, to subordinate
to subject, put in subjection
to subject one’s self, obey
to submit to one’s control
to yield to one’s admonition or advice
to obey, be subject

A Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use,it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.

So this goes far beyond the idea that submission just means that when push comes to shove, the husband has the final say (there shouldn’t be any pushing or shoving physically or verbally). We’re to “arrange ourselves under” our husband’s leadership just as the church should arrange itself under Christ’s leadership.

This doesn’t mean that the husband is a tyrant — his leadership should be as loving as Christ’s. Nor does it mean that the wife is a doormat, because the church certainly isn’t portrayed that way under Christ.

It also doesn’t mean the wife never shares her opinion, though of course she should do so in a kindly way. The Bible says that the two different people in a marriage become one. Neither eclipses the other: they somehow meld into a new unit.

But it does mean that the husband is the leader, the head. That can rankle modern, independent women. But Chrysalis portrayed the beauty of ice skating couples, the man leading, the woman following, both submitting to each other. The same is true in dance as well as business and even Star Trek. 🙂 I remember noticing during episode one episode the many times a captain had to ask or tell someone to do something. If each of those people challenged his authority, they’d have been defeated by the enemy within the first few episodes. When authority and submission work together like they are supposed to, it’s a beautiful thing.

I think many women have a few particular fears about submission.

One is that they might lose their own voice. But even Christ values the prayers of His bride. That’s a little different — we don’t (or shouldn’t) give Him suggestions about how to run the universe. 🙂 But He does welcome our requests and communication.

But the second fear is that, since our husbands aren’t Christ, they might fail, they might lead the wrong way. And indeed they might. They’re only human, and we need to be as loving and forgiving as we want them to be when we fail. It takes great faith to be truly submissive. When we are concerned about the direction our husband’s leadership is taking the family, we can express our concerns (though we shouldn’t nag or demean or berate), but ultimately we should ask the Lord to guide our husbands in the way they should go. I’ve relied heavily on Psalm 37:23a (“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD”) and Jeremiah 10:23 (“O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps”) through many of the major decisions we have faced through the years and prayed for the Lord to guide and direct my husband in the way He wanted him to go.

The third fear is that it is somehow demeaning to be in submission to someone else. But Jesus was not demeaned by being under the headship of His Father. They are co-equal. That word hupotasso is even used when Jesus went home from the temple with Mary and Joseph and “was subject unto them” (Luke 2:51). He was the Son of the Highest, yet He subjected Himself while on earth to his earthly parents.

Sometimes wives feel that if they don’t think their husbands are loving them as Christ loved the church, as the husbands are commanded to do, then the wife isn’t under obligation to submit to her husband. Some years ago when I was a new Christian chafing under the things going on in my unsaved home as I was growing up, I came across the instruction later in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 to children to obey their parents. It struck me then that there were no qualifications on that instruction. The Bible didn’t say I was to obey my parents only if they were Christians or if they were doing everything right. It just said “obey.” The example of Jesus as a boy obeying His earthly parents, even though I am sure they didn’t always do everything right, was a help. So it is in the marriage relationship. Ideally these things are to work together: when a husband lovingly leads and loves his wife, it’s easier for her to submit to him; when she is lovingly submitting rather than fighting against him, it’s easier for him to lovingly lead. But we’re each responsible before God to do our part whether the other does or not. I Peter 3: 1-2 says, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection [hupotasso again]to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;  While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”

Such a command seems beyond us. I mentioned earlier that the Ephesians 5-6 instruction flows out of the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5:18; similarly, the verses about family relationships in Colossians 3 come after instruction to “seek those things which are above (verse 1), to put on certain characteristics (verses 12-15), to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (verse 16), and to “whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (verse 17). It’s only as we’re rightly related to God, spending time in His Word, being filled with His Spirit, doing everything as unto Him and by His grace that we can be what we need to be in our marriages and homes.

This post will be also linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find an abundance of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.

Communication in Marriage

E-Mom at Chrysalis hosts an occasional Marriage Monday, inviting bloggers to write on a certain topic related to marriage. When she announced the topic this month was communication, I didn’t think I’d have anything to say besides, “Yes, do it.” 🙂 But throughout the morning thoughts have been coming to mind about communication, so I thought I’d share a few gleaned from 30+ years of marriage. Forgive me for not having this as carefully crafted and polished as it would have been if I’d started when the topic was first announced. 🙂

1. Do communicate. Sometimes life gets so busy it seems you just pass each other on the way to getting other things done, but make time to talk. I wouldn’t necessarily schedule a set weekly time to talk: that might work for some, but for us that would be awkward and stifling. But lingering to chat a bit after dinner instead of dashing off to clean up the kitchen, etc., allows some time to touch base.

2. It’s okay to be comfortable with silence sometimes. Women in general tend to talk more than men. One statistic I saw said women use approximately three times more words a day than men. And I heard one speaker say that many men have used up all their words by the time they get home from work. A wise husband will reserve some for his wife, but a wise wife will understand that when a husband sits quietly it may not mean anything is wrong. He may just be resting his brain. Over time as you get to know each other’s personalities more, you’ll probably be able to sense when silence might indicate something is wrong.

3. Try not to communicate in anger. That’s usually when harsher and more hurtful words are used. If possible, wait until emotions are under control. On the other hand, if it is really important, don’t let it fester: try to find a time to talk about it calmly (pray beforehand for wisdom and self-control. “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer” Proverbs 15:28).

4. Avoid “never” and “always.” “You never pick up your socks!” “You always interrupt me!” Statements like that are probably not completely true, and they engender defensiveness. Just calmly state whatever the problem is and request the change you want.

5. Don’t try to talk to him when he is distracted. Whether he is paying the bills or watching a football game, those are probably not the times to ask him a question or tell him something important. My husband doesn’t watch football, but when he is involved in a project he is very focused until it’s done or at least until he gets to a stopping place. I’ve spoken to him during those times and even gotten an answer, but later he doesn’t remember any of it. Instead of getting frustrated over it, just try to make sure you have his attention and he’s not distracted before saying something important. (After all, aren’t we the same way? We can multitask talking with some things, but other times we’d really like to finish what we’re doing first.)

6. Don’t assume. We can cause so many problems when we do that. Once during our early marriage, I was taking items to donate somewhere, and my husband asked me to get a statement from the place so we could deduct the donation on our income taxes. It’s not a problem now, but at the time I felt extremely awkward asking for it, and I felt like we were supposed to give “not letting our left hand know what the right is doing,” and this would be a violation of that. I stewed over it until we finally did talk about it, and my husband explained that he didn’t want to the statement as a means to take credit for what we had given: he just didn’t want to pay a penny more in taxes than necessary. Similarly, once my son and daughter-in-law joked about digging coins out of the couch for a date (Don’t we all remember early married days like that?), and so my husband saved his pocket change for several weeks and then gave it to them for a date night. At first my daughter-in-law thought the change was a subtle hint that they should be using the laundromat instead of washing laundry at our house. We laughed about it, but some misunderstandings based on assumptions can cause serious problems, especially if we stew over it rather than saying anything.

7. Speak to him with respect. This should probably be #1.  Especially if you’re dealing with a perceived problem, don’t lash out. Don’t talk to him like he is one of the children. Think of how you carefully you would word things if you were talking to your boss, your pastor, or someone you highly respected. You know what? You’re supposed to respect your husband like that. Even more than that. (Ephesians 5:33).

8. You don’t have to say everything in your head. I’m not talking about keeping secrets, but there are two aspects of this. First, I tend to want to tell every little detail of a story or situation (maybe it’s part of having three times more words that need an outlet, I don’t know), but it can be incredibly boring to listen to (or read. I am striving for conciseness, but it is not my natural bent.)  I know because I feel that way when people are telling  a very long story with a lot of detail that isn’t really needed. When I see eyes starting to glaze over, it’s a reminder to get to the point and leave out extraneous detail.

Secondly, you don’t have to point out every little fault or flaw. How would you feel if he did that to you? Love covers a “multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8). We all have our “besetting sins” that make us not the easiest person to live with.

9. Be careful about teasing. This is subjective and varies from person to person, but I’ve heard some couples say things to each other “in fun” that would have devasted me. You should never make fun of him, to him or to anyone else (that goes back to the respect issue), but be careful about little teasing barbs and sarcasm as well.

10. Attack the problem, not the person.

11. Remember every Scriptural instruction about the use of our words applies to marriage, too. It’s easiest to drop our guard with those closest to us when those are the ones with whom are words should be most carefully guarded. There are too many verses to list here, but a good topical study would be to look up “words,” “speak,” “tongue,” and related words in a concordance or Bible search program. If it seems too much to look through the whole Bible, just look through Proverbs: there is enough there for us to work on for a long time. But here are just a few:

There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health. Proverbs 12:18.

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt. Colossians 4:5b

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.  And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:29-30.

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. Proverbs 16:24.

The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. Proverbs 15:2.

I’m sure I am forgetting some great principles in communication in marriage. Can you think of any others?

This post will be also linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.