Happily Married?

You know that clichéd movie scene (that I can’t find any examples of on Youtube…), where there is a woman sitting at a bar. A man comes over and offers to buy her a drink.

She smiles and answers, “I’m married.”

He asks, “Happily?”

The implication being, that if someone is happily married, then you shouldn’t bother hitting on them. But if someone is unhappily married, then they are ripe for flirting and pursuing a sexual relationship with.

And this kind of scene (with it’s implication) has always irked me. Because being unhappily married shouldn’t give someone a free pass to hit on you, and it shouldn’t be used as a justification to cheat.

I have no idea if this kind of thing happens in real life – movie dialogue tends to be somewhat stilted and is there for it’s ability to further the plot, not for it’s accuracy.

But I have certainly heard of adulterous relationships starting because one spouse shares with a “friend” that things are difficult in their marriage. This then builds emotional intimacy and paves the way for sexual intimacy with someone who is not their spouse.

The Bible also tells us that spouses who are not sexually satisfied will be more tempted to go outside the marriage – “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5). And yet, this is by no means providing a justification for people to commit adultery if their needs are not met.

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What is important is not that we are happily married, but that we are faithfully married. That we keep our vows even through seasons of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

And on the flip side of that, if you feel unhappy in your marriage – or if you start to notice yourself being more receptive to attention from people outside the marriage – DO something about it!

Sure, one person cannot be responsible for the whole marriage on their own, but one person committed to doing good for their husband or wife (no matter what) can certainly make a big difference!

As the saying goes, the grass is greener where you water it.

Picking My Attitude Up Off The Floor

Picture this:

A cold, miserable Monday. It’s raining, possibly sleeting.

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I’m not too old to jump in puddles, right?

The kids are bouncing around after school, climbing all over each other as a substitute for the swing set that is too wet to climb on.

If the toddler isn’t whining, he is destroying something. (Seriously, if there were toddler Olympics and one of the sports was “who can cause the most destruction in 1 minute”, he would win it!)

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Whole jar of rosemary. All. Over. The. Floor.

I tried three times to start washing dishes, but I didn’t even get to the point of running the water.

What did I do next?

You have one life line left. Would you like to phone a friend?

Yeah, I called my husband, in a kind of panicked state (but without the energy) to ask when he would be home.

Sometimes I get to this point where I just don’t even bother trying any more. I feel defeated.

And at that point, I really just want the 2D version of my husband (the one who didn’t just spend a whole day at work, doesn’t have his own feelings and needs, and only exists when he is around me…) to walk in the door and rescue me. Just walk in the door, (metaphorically) whip the kids into line and magically make the mess disappear.

And I kind of just sit down, pop the TV on for the kids and scroll through the internet until he comes home and works the Daddy magic.

Today I started to do that – I had already plonked my butt on a kitchen stool – but then I thought to myself, I am a grown woman. I might not be able to turn the whole day around, but I certainly don’t need to sit on my butt doing nothing, waiting to be rescued…

So I got up off the stool and started picking things up. Yes, the house is still a mess. No, the dishes still didn’t get done. But I did something.

And as I walked around the house clearing up the small messes, putting the bin liners back in and wiping down the benches, I cleared away the mess in my heart.

I wiped away all the why is this house so messy and the why can’t the kids just play nicely for five minutes.

I cleaned up the stinking piles of no one appreciates what I do.

I scrubbed at the mysteriously sticky my husband has it so much easier than me.

And I had to get out the bleach to deal with the toxic heap of God, I deserve better than this.

 

And when my 3D husband walked in the front door, and our eyes locked across the work-in-progress living room, I smiled at him. (And he smiled back at me *blush*)

I’m not talking about plastering on some fake smile.

No, that smile was the real smile of a real woman who did the real heart-work of turning to God instead of wallowing in self-pity and despair. It was not the desperate, grasping glare of a damsel in distress, trapped in a tower of dirty dishes waiting for her 2D knight in a business shirt to rescue her.

(Goodness knows, we’ve been there before! But that season has passed…)

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File under “F” for “Feline Dictator”

This is just one day, but honestly there are many days that end like this. The chaos of tired little bodies, and a whole day’s worth of mess and a Mummy who is counting down until bedtime…
And although my growth as a Christian woman has not been linear, it’s certainly evident to me that God is working in my heart, making me quicker to renounce complaining and embrace rejoicing.

Sometimes we look at the Proverbs 31 woman and think about how unattainable and impossible that standard is. But the thing is, she didn’t get there overnight!

I hope that in 20 years’ time, when I face different but equally stressful and exhausting situations, I will be able to look back on days like this as God’s training ground, where he has been working with me to make me a better woman.

 

Scattered thoughts…

I’ve almost written a few blog posts recently, but have held off as my thoughts are not quite fully formed yet. (I’ll get there, lol.)

So here is an offering of some bits and pieces that I’ve been thinking about lately.

 

Simple Pleasures

In this season of life I have been enjoying the many simple pleasures throughout my day.

  • Playing with my kids and making them laugh heartily
  • The neighbour’s chicken that keeps getting into our yard.
  • Watching my daughter learn to read.
  • The warm sun that pierces through the cold winter air.
  • Waking up before sunrise and my children and just taking a minute to watch the light peaking over the hills.
  • My baby (toddler?) who has learnt how to cuddle.

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From Milk to Meat

When I had our third baby last year, I knew things would be crazy for a while. Not only was it hard to find time, but I also felt like my brain couldn’t quite cope with the in-depth Bible study I used to do on my own.
So, I made sure I was still listening to God in His word over that year, but it was mostly in the form of Bible verses stuck up around the house or specific passages memorised or a longer section read every once in a while.

I was sustaining myself on the “milk” version of God’s word – enough to keep me fed, but not forever.
Now, I have been enjoying getting back into the more “meaty” study of God’s word. Specifically, the book of Romans at the moment. There is just so much good stuff in there!

Reading Romans Like

I have printed out this bookmark from Women Living Well, which shows you which colours to highlight Bible verses according to their main theme. This has been really helpful for me, because it forces me to concentrate and really think about what the passage is saying.
I’m very much a pen and paper kind of girl – writing things down really helps me to take them in and absorb the concepts. I usually pull out my journal and do some kind of visual representation of what I’ve read.
Sometimes that looks like this:

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And other times it looks more like this:

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So I guess I would just like to offer a word of encouragement to my sisters in Christ – if you have been struggling to get into the Word or to really make time for in-depth study of the Bible, don’t neglect it any longer!

You can “not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Just like you take the time to feed yourself every day, don’t neglect feeding yourself spiritually.


Scared of the Dark

Our older two kids have been starting to say that they are afraid when it’s dark at night or they are scared that baddies are going to get them (they share a room).

I’m sure sometimes it’s just one tool in the toolbox of “ways to avoid bedtime”, but still, I think it’s important to listen to their heart and always use these opportunities to shepherd them towards Jesus.

So we’ve been working on memorising Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

Once we go over the verse a few times, we work through it’s meaning.

If you’re scared because it’s dark, remember that God is always with you and he will be your light.

What’s a stronghold? Well, it’s kind of like a big, tall tower that no baddies can get into. When you trust in God, he will keep you safe.

What does is mean that the Lord is your salvation? Well, the truly scary and dangerous thing in life is your own sin, because being a sinner means you deserve death. But the wonderful thing is that God sent Jesus to die on the cross and come back to life so that you can be saved from what you deserve. That’s why it’s great that the Lord is your salvation, because it means you don’t have to be afraid of anything!

 

I want our kids to know that no matter what is troubling them in life, God’s word is alive and relevant to them. They can turn to Him and find truth and clarity for whatever their situation.


 

So there you go – I’m over here enjoying the simple pleasures in life, carving up a big slab of Romans and teaching our kids how to apply the Bible to their lives.

What have you been up to?

Like a Child

Today we were driving to the shops, and my daughter said, “Oh no! Someone left their Old McDonald’s wrapper ON THE GROUND!”

“That’s not good, is it, honey? People should pick up their rubbish,” I said.

“I know!” she said immediately. “We could have a garbage hunt!”

And so – when the weather improves – we plan on having a garbage hunt. Walking around our neighbourhood with a garbage bag, picking up all the rubbish we find.

I don’t know if this is something they’ve done at school before, but I’m fairly certain her teacher has talked to her class about the environmental impacts of leaving your rubbish lying around. She has come home from school before talking to me about how rubbish that washes into the water ways can cause fish to choke and die.

And just the other day we were walking back to the car and she stopped to pick up someone’s empty juice popper “so we can put it in the bin at home”.

For her, it is so simple… Rubbish pollutes the world, so we should pick up rubbish and put it in the bin.

Belief = action.

We call this integrity, when a persons actions match their beliefs.

But I don’t think it’s so simple for adults.

We know that littering is bad for the environment, yet most of us would quite happily walk past someone else’s rubbish because we don’t want to touch it or be seen touching it or it’s not our fault.

Our actions don’t match our beliefs.


 

The other day, while I was having an internal ultrasound, I had the opportunity to explain the gospel to a stranger – the ultrasound technician (now, don’t tell me you find it uncomfortable to talk about your faith…).

He asked what the difference between Catholics and Protestants was, and I proceeded to explain that the main difference is that Protestants believe that the only way to be saved is by having faith in God, not your own good works.

This is the good news of the gospel – that salvation is a gift, from start to finish, and there is nothing we can do to contribute to that.

It’s very good news, but it does cause problems with our human nature.

Because some of us hear that and think, Great! I will just trust in Jesus and then get on with my life, doing whatever I please, because I am saved anyway!

This is why James needed to write in the Bible:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Yes, faith in God is all we need to be saved. James is not arguing that our good deeds somehow contribute to our salvation, like an add-on to faith. Rather, he is saying that deeds are the evidence of faith.
We can’t say that we have real faith – a living faith – if we don’t act on it.

 

If we say we believe that Jesus is the Lord and the only way to God, but we don’t worship him, our faith is dead.

If we say we believe that only those who trust in Jesus will go to heaven and everyone else will go to hell, but we don’t tell people about Him, our faith is dead.

If we say we believe that living life God’s way is best, but we don’t obey him, our faith is dead.

Faith without action is nothing.

In fact, it’s worse than nothing – it’s hypocrisy.

 

Maybe we have something to learn from children here.

They have no gap between their beliefs and their actions.

Let’s have a real, live faith.

A child-like faith.

A faith that cannot help but act.

 

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When You Don’t Want to Change

 

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Every morning when I dropped my daughter to school, I saw this beautiful tree in the car park.

I was drawn to it’s bright red leaves. I loved the way it was still clinging to them despite all the other trees having dropped their leaves weeks ago.

I guess it was a picture of resilience to me – a lone tree clinging to beauty in the face of bitter frost and fog.

But the other morning I saw something different.

I saw defiance and rebellion. I saw one little tree recklessly holding onto “same” when it was time for “change”.

 

It made me reflect on life’s seasons, and how sometimes I can stubbornly cling to one season, even long after the fog and frost has arrived. Refusing to let go of the warmth and colour of autumn, even when the time for winter is here.

You see, I really hate change.

I’m like, okay, so this is the season we’re in? Great, let me make up a schedule. Let me find what works. Let me finesse our routine.

See? I can totally do this. Everything is running smoothly. Life is just gre…

What? A new season already? But I just… *sigh*

 

So I really relate to that little tree with it’s brilliant red leaves. It’s just got the hang of autumn. It’s rocking autumn. And it just isn’t ready to deal with a new season yet.

The Bible says that just like the seasons in nature, there are seasons in life.

Ecclesiastes 3 puts it like this:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

And just as there is a season for everything, it is God who directs the seasons and determines when it is time for each activity.

The passage goes on to say that “He has made everything beautiful in its time.

When I cling to the last season, unwilling to let it go and move into the new season of life, what I’m saying is that I believe my fears more than I believe God.

I’m saying that my own worries about what the new season might bring are bigger than the God who guides the seasons.

Which is ridiculous!

I think of Jesus walking on the water, calling Peter to walk out of the boat, across the water to Him. All Peter could see was his fears (and to be honest, logic!). Logic and experience says that if you step on water, you will fall in.

But Peter forgot Who was calling him.

The very One who made the water with all of it’s natural laws! He had no reason to fear, because Jesus was the one who made and controlled the whole realm of nature.

When God calls me into a new season – when He says “it’s time for something else” – there’s no reason for me to fear because He holds the seasons in His hands.

He is the just as much the Lord of autumn’s brilliant hues as he is the Lord of winter’s frost and fog.

And whatever season my life is in, I can trust Him.

 

 

 

Sexiness, Modesty and Daughters

I’ve written about modesty before, way back when I started this blog. And I’ve written about modesty as it relates to breastfeeding.

But as my daughter gets older, it makes me think about these things in a different light. Specifically, what do I want to teach her? What do I want her to learn by watching me?

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Sometimes we wear matching outfits (by accident, lol).

So here are some of the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head:

  1. Modesty and Shame
    I’ve read several things lately saying that when we teach young girls to “dress modestly”, we are teaching them to feel shame about their bodies.
    This article being the most recent one I have read on the topic (and there are actually some good thoughts in that article too!).
    The Mum in the article says, “Focusing on what is or isn’t OK for other people to see of our bodies, in my opinion, leads to shame. ”
    Is that true? Does talking about how we dress affecting others really lead to shame?
    I saw another story pop up on Facebook the other day about a woman who claimed to have been “body shamed” because she was asked to leave the apartment complex pool because her swimsuit might “excite the young boys”. Now, I have no comment to make about the story or the swimsuit, but what caught my attention was a comment left on Facebook where a woman said something like, “This is ridiculous. Even if she was naked, she should have been allowed to stay at the pool and it would be the responsibility of the young men to control their own thoughts.”
    And I just thought, really? You really think people should be able to walk around naked if they want, and no one else is allowed to have a problem with that?
    But that is the logical end point of the “everyone can wear what they want” argument!
    I’m always skeptical of these “modesty standards lead to body shame” arguments because I was raised with certain standards of modesty and yet I can’t remember ever feeling like my body was shameful.
    (Actually, that’s not entirely true – I remember one time when a cool boy sat next to me on the bus and I felt very ashamed of the fact that I hadn’t shaved my legs. I spent the whole (30 minute!) bus ride self-consciously hoping he wouldn’t look down at them!)
    The clear message that came from my parents (in spoken and unspoken ways) was that our bodies were beautiful and good, but certain parts of them were private. There was never any teaching about our bodies being inherently dirty or shameful. And there definitely was teaching about how certain parts should be covered appropriately.
    Feeling ashamed because someone sees your private parts is appropriate shame and is not the same thing as feeling ashamed of your private parts.
  2. Modesty for little girls
    If we make modesty all about the effect on others (not leading men to stumble in their thoughts, etc.), then it makes no sense to have any standards of modesty at all for little girls. Most men are not sexually attracted to little girls, so there would be no risk of exposed flesh or even genitals “causing someone to stumble”.
    Which then leads you to a situation where little girls can wear whatever they like, and it’s only when their body becomes more “womanly” that you start telling them to cover up. I can see how that would lead to shame. I can see how that change in standards would lead a girl to think that something bad or dirty was happening to her body.
    You can see this in cultures where they do have different standards of modesty for pre-pubescent and post-pubescent girls. The emphasis is entirely on how they appear to men, so they arrive at: little girls’ bodies are not arousing, so they don’t need to be covered but women’s bodies are arousing so they do need to be covered.
    Whereas, if we pull the focus back to questions of “what is private and needs to be covered?” and “what is appropriate to have uncovered?”, then there is no need for different standards of modesty between little girls and grown women.
    (Of course, there are some practically different standards regarding the fit and shape of clothes. But theses differences also apply between women of different shapes and sizes, so it’s not a girl body vs. woman body thing. For example, certain tops may be appropriate on someone with small breasts, but not someone with large breasts.)
    This is why we teach our daughter to dress in a way that is modest even at this young age. (Since we choose her clothes, at this point it is mostly behavioural things like “be careful not to show your undies when you sit in a skirt.”) Not because we’re worried someone will be aroused by her, but because we want her to learn how to dress appropriately in a way that respects the privacy of her body.
  3. The Desire to be Sexy
    Wanting to be sexy and have our bodies look appealing is a very natural and normal thing. I also think it is the cause of many “modesty problems”.
    I remember growing up it sometimes felt unfair that I had to wear slightly different things to my friends. A couple of times I remember being teased for always wearing t-shirt underneath single strap dresses.
    As I grew into the teenage years and girls in my school started to wear more overtly sexualised clothing, the difference between us became even more apparent. I mean, there were a few outfits I had that I would not wear if I could go back and change things, because they were pretty revealing (does anyone remember my purple slinky pants?? Mum?). But mostly, my clothes were a lot more conservative.
    Now, by the time I was a teenager – especially the late teens – Mum and Dad did much less controlling of what I could wear, and my modesty standards became my own.
    But even though I dressed according to my own convictions, it was still really hard sometimes.
    I remember wishing that I could look sexy and get as much attention (even some attention!) from the guys as other girls did. Sure, I didn’t want attention from all the guys, but I definitely wanted to look good and have others notice that I looked good.
    One thought that helped me to cope with this sense of “missing out”, was that I used to tell myself that one day I would be married and I could be as sexy as I liked and wear all the revealing clothes I wanted to for my husband. After I turned 18 and my husband and I began dating, I even began (secretly) collecting lingerie items and saving them for marriage.
    Now, as a married woman, I do get to be as sexy as I want – in the bedroom – but I still keep to my personal convictions of modesty in public.
    If I’m wearing something in public because it makes me feel sexy, then that is the wrong motivation and I probably shouldn’t wear that thing. This is where I (we) need to be really honest about our motivation.
    The desire to be sexy is natural, but it is for a certain time and a certain place – the time is after marriage and the place is anywhere private.

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So these are the things I’ve been thinking through lately regarding modesty and our daughter. I honestly think with many of these things, a lot of the teaching is subconscious and comes about by what our kids observe.
Sure, direct teaching and training is important, but ultimately what they see in our homes and marriages will form the basis of what they think is normal.
I hope our daughter learns from living in our home that God made our bodies beautiful (in all the different ways they come). I hope she will learn that some parts of our bodies are private, just for sharing with our spouse. I hope she will learn that a wife carries herself differently around her husband compared to in public.
I hope she will learn that whether she marries or not, her body was made in God’s image and for His glory, and that everything the Christian does with their body should be in pursuit of that goal.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

How I Learnt to Love Exercise

Here is my latest post on the MOPS blog…


The burn and how I learnt to love it.

26 June 2017

What had sounded like a fun date together during our blossoming romance ended in tears (mine) and bewilderment (his).
“I never want to do that again!” I said, with more drama than a room full of five-year-olds in Elsa costumes.
I sat there, my chest heaving with each breath and pain shooting through my lungs. My (then) boyfriend sat there next to me, looking at me like I was dancing the Macarena while speaking Klingon.
What was this terrible date we went on? A bike ride. To the end of the street.
But I was so unfit at that point that I (quite literally) felt like I was dying. Exercise was torture. And people who enjoyed it were very, very strange.

Fast forward 10 years, and we are now married (I guess he overlooked the crazy) and I thoroughly enjoy getting my heart rate up and getting a bit sweaty.
So what changed?

 

Continue reading here: http://mops.org.au/archives/7750