He would have left me by now…

… if our marriage was based on how well we keep our vows.

I was thinking the other day about some of the things we promised each other on our wedding day, so I went and looked them up:

I, Blake, before God, family and friends receive you, Jessica, as my wife.

I promise to faithfully love and cherish you, to nurture you spiritually and provide for you, for better or for worse, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, loving you sacrificially as Christ loves the Church.

I promise to be united with you in serving God, our family and others as long as we both shall live.

I will not depend on my own thoughts and emotions, but will ask for God’s help in fulfilling these promises each and every day.

 

I, Jessica, before God, family and friends receive you, Blake, as my husband.

I promise to faithfully love and respect you, to strengthen you spiritually and care for you, for better or for worse, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, submitting to you joyfully as the Church submits to Christ.

I promise to be united with you in serving God, our family and others as long as we both shall live.

I will not depend on my own thoughts and emotions, but will ask for God’s help in fulfilling these promises each and every day.

Yes, there’s no way either of us have kept those promises perfectly in our marriage.

I still remember when we wrote them together during our engagement –  sitting in that darkened Thai restaurant, hashing out exactly what we wanted our marriage to be about.

It’s hard, when you’re young and idealistic, to know all the twists and turns that you will encounter along the journey of marriage. But maybe that’s a good thing. Because if we knew, would we want to promise these things at all?

If we knew about chronic illnesses that can turn your beloved into a shell of a person for years on end, would we promise to stay with them in sickness and in health?

If we knew about the times when a husband’s requests seem impossible, would we promise to submit to them?

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Maybe someone more cynical would think – why even write vows if you aren’t going to stick to them?

And I wonder if that’s what the many young people who are shunning marriage these days are thinking – that they don’t want to make promises they will just break later. They don’t see the point of “committing”, when they know it is an empty commitment.

 

But there is a bigger story here. Because marriage is not primarily about our faithfulness to our vows or to each other. If that were it marriage would not be such a great story after all.

Humans mess up. We sin against each other, even those we love. We break our promises. We hurt each other.

Don’t misunderstand me here – there is so much great stuff about marriage! There is the friendship, the intimacy, creating a family together, the in-jokes, the warmth and service, and more.

But still… if that was all marriage was, why even write vows? Why commit at all? For the piece of paper? For the rings?

 

No, the bigger story here is about God’s faithfulness to the church He loves. It’s about the deep love of Jesus that lead him to the cross and his resurrection to take his rightful place as Head of the church. It’s about His bride – the Church – enjoying the warmth and protection of that Headship, and the restored relationship between the two.

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This is what drives our commitment to each other. This is what gets us through the rough patches. This is what keeps our eyes on the road – OUR road – instead of glancing at the greener pastures surrounding us. This is what keeps us from building a nice little idol out of our marriage.

The story of marriage is bigger than us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joys and Challenges of Being Married to a Visionary Man

The other day I looked out the kitchen window to see my husband and our two oldest kids huddled around some planks of wood outside. He’d just finished sawing them down to size, and was getting the kids to hold them in place so he could drill them together.

He was making a stand for our microwave, to raise it up off the bench and give me a bit of extra storage space in the kitchen. (If there’s any phrase that gets my blood pumping faster, it’s “storage space” – be still my beating heart!)

He had the idea when we went on holidays over Christmas, and the holiday house had this great wooden stand for the microwave.

“Huh – that’s pretty nifty!” he said, “I could probably make one of those.”

So the next week, off he went to Bunnings to buy a hand saw and an assortment of wood off-cuts for $5.

Then he measured it up, and wham, bam, thank you… man(?) We have a new stand for our microwave!

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Now I just have to figure out what to use the space for!

That’s just the kind of person he is.

He has an idea and runs with it, testing it’s viability along the way. He’s a dreamer and a doer. He’s a creative problem-solver. He’s not content to merely step around an obstacle when he could figure out a way to remove it altogether. He’s always trying to come up with new, more efficient ways of doing things.

He’s a true visionary.

I love this about him. And sometimes it drives me crazy.

I remember doing an interview with Colin Buchanan many years ago, before I was married. (It was possibly the highlight of my journalistic career, to date.)

He made a comment about how he was a very creative person, always getting caught up in the whirlwind of a new idea that he had to chase down. And he said that his wife was very patient to put up with him.

I laughed because I couldn’t imagine how it could be hard to live with a creative person, least of all someone as creative and funny as Colin Buchanan!

But now I totally get it. Living with a creative, visionary husband has it’s fun parts and it’s pull-your-hair-out hard parts.

And I feel like this is a side of my husband that I am just starting to have a real appreciation for.

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So here are some of the joys and challenges that I have found in being with my visionary man:

He Inspires Me to Get Stuff Done

My husband is always inspiring me with his “just do it” attitude. When I have an idea, I’ll sit down and do a brainstorm, make a 5 point risk assessment plan and then just take some time to think it over. Meanwhile, he’s over there having done his research, given it a go and moved onto phase 2 plans to iron out the kinks!

I love the way he just takes the opportunities as they arise to keep chipping away at projects, until they are done.

I have a lot to learn from him about not letting fear and perfectionism get in the way, but just having a try!

Time is Irrelevant

Being a very goal-oriented person means all clock-reading abilities go out the window when he is working towards a goal.

This is a regular conversation in our house:

“How long are you going to be, honey?”

“About 10 more minutes!”

“So, 30 minutes then?”

The challenging part of this is that I feel like I am constantly shifting around the other elements of our life to make the time available. This makes it hard to plan things in advance.

He’s a Fun Dad

He’s always thinking up fun and exciting things to do with the kids, whether it be climbing a new local hill, tying up a swing in the gumtree out back or building a billy-cart with spare wood off-cuts.

It gives me so much joy when I see the love bonds between the kids and their dad growing, and growing in a way that is different to my bond with them.

There are many things he does with them that I simply wouldn’t have thought of or I would have considered too risky. I’m glad they have a Dad who helps them to challenge themselves physically and learn new things about their world every day.

He’s a Man with a Plan

My husband works in IT at the moment. He’s really good at it (and he has mad google skills). But what amazes me is that he has already anticipated a time when his skill set will be redundant, likely replaced by super computers. And he is planning for this future by working NOW to make his hobby and passion into a viable business opportunity.

Wow!

Not only am I so impressed by this, I am so glad I get to witness someone making their dreams come true. And I get to help it happen.

He Makes Stuff

He has already created and launched an electronica music album. For the last several years he’s thrown himself into learning the emerging trade of building electric bikes. And most recently he has designed a bike part that didn’t exist, but was sorely needed by him and others, and is now ordering a (small) production run to sell and make a profit.

He Breaks Stuff

Take an object. What is it meant for? What are its limits? No, not what the box says… what are its real limits?

*sigh*

Yes, an inordinate amount of things get broken around our house because they have been pushed, poked and prodded to their limit. But this is something I have come to accept as the flip-side of his creativity. If he didn’t push things to their limit and figure out what the breaking point was, then he wouldn’t think of how that thing could be improved or made stronger.

I did have to laugh the other day when, as we were leaving to go on a date, he stopped to brief the babysitter on what to do if his work table spontaneously combusted. I think he might have scared her a little.

He’s a Problem Solver

There are many examples I could think of here, but the one that springs to mind is of last weekend when we were without power for 48 hours. Before it got dark on the first night, he ran around the house, rigging up bike batteries and LEDs and placing torches around the house so that we would have enough light later in the evening. The next day he boiled water on the BBQ so we could wash some dishes.

I love this about him, because these are the kinds of things I don’t even think about.

I know I can come to him with a problem, and he will probably have a good idea about how to fix it.

 

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What a blessing it is to live with and love this man each day, with all his perks and quirks!

 

In the Twilight of the Year

Twilight has long been my favourite time of day.

When my husband and I were dating, we used to go for long walks around the neighbourhood on warm summer evenings, after the sun had set but the light still lingered. We would just talk and hold hands and explore.

Now, twilight is often my time for gathering things back together. It might be when B has the kids in the bath and I’ve put the baby to bed. Or sometimes after all the kids have been tucked in for an early night.

I wander around the house picking up the toys, sweeping up the crumbs, wiping up the messes and scraping off the plates. The slow and steady work of bringing order to the chaos.

The next day always seems to start off more smoothly when I take this time to wrap up one day’s activities and prepare for the next.

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And so here we are now, in the twilight of the year.

The sun has set on 2016, but the light lingers for a few more weeks.

I look back on all that has happened this year – all the messes we made, and the fun that was had, and the moments I wasn’t sure how I would make it out alive – and I just want to spend some time now, carefully gathering my thoughts and putting everything back in order.

I want to take the time to properly reflect on 2016 so that I’m ready for 2017.

 

The Highlight:

Definitely the birth of our third child! It’s always amazing welcoming a new little person into the family, and watching everyone grow and shift and adjust until you suddenly can’t remember what the family was like without them.

A bit of family trivia for you – we’ve now had a baby in each house we’ve lived in since being married!
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The Lowlight:

For sure the hardest part of this year was those 3 or so winter months where at least one of us was sick at all times, and when baby T’s feeding issues had come to a head.

He was feeding every hour or so throughout the day and yet his weight gain was slowing. I started working with a lactation consultant who diagnosed him with tongue and upper lip tie. We had those cut, but things didn’t immediately improve. In fact, because of all the problems and a drop in hormones, my milk supply took a hit. So I had to go on medication for that and then I started him on solids when he was 4.5 months.

We persisted and our family eventually got healthy again and here we are, with a happy little 8 month old boy who brings immense joy to our family! (But if I never go through another period like that, I will be glad! And yet… )

 

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Where did I grow the most?

Through everything that has happened this year, my faith in God has grown so much.

And I really resonate with this verse:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

I know without a doubt that the faith I have (and had this year) in God – the way that I was able to trust Him even when things were hard – was totally not from myself. It was truly a gift from God that I was able to keep believing in Him through all the pain and stress.

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Where do I need to improve?

I really need to grow in patience. I find myself getting frustrated with the kids (and even my husband) rather easily lately.

This is one area in my heart that the Lord really needs to take the pruning shears to.

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If you’ve read my blog for long, you’ll know I’m pretty big on planning and lists and the like.

So the interesting thing to me, as I look back on this year is that none of the “big things” were things I had planned or foreseen.

I’m not going to stop planning, but for me it is a helpful reminder that I am not in control, and that God has a plan for my life beyond what I can see.

 

How about you – do you like to reflect on the year that has been? What thoughts and events are you gathering back together in the twilight of this year?

 

Don’t Take on Someone Else’s Priorities

Do you ever feel like there’s this huge list of things you “should be” doing that you are constantly failing at? Do you feel slightly resentful when you notice that someone else seems to be coping better than you?

Over the last few years, I have really been honing in on what is important to me and what is not. More specifically, what is important to other people, but not to me.

I’m convinced that one of the great causes of stress in our lives is because we take on the expectations or priorities of other people, thereby loading up our plates with much more than we can handle.

I used to see things that other women did, and think “If she’s doing that, then I should too!” or “Hmm, I don’t really care about that, but maybe I should?”

It has been incredibly freeing to realise that, while there definitely things that are good and bad for everyone, there are also plenty of things out there that come down to preference!

I need to decide on my own priorities in my life (in this season!), rather than taking them from people whose lives are completely different to mine.

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Planting veggie seeds – not a priority for me this year!

Here are some examples of things I have come to realise:

  • Making all the baby food from scratch is not important to me. Feeding the baby nutritious food is important to me.
  • It’s not important to me to have all the dishes washed at the end of the night, but it is important to me that the kitchen bench is clear and clean.
  • I don’t need to wear make-up every day, but I won’t leave the house unless I smell nice.
  • At this stage, I can manage to vacuum about once a week (even though it probably needs doing more!), but I try to pick up all the toys daily.
  • And on it goes…

As you read through that list, you probably reflected on your own priorities in those areas. Do you think it’s gross that I don’t wash the dishes every night? Does it seem excessive that I would vacuum more than once a week if I could?

Good! It’s great to be aware of where your priorities differ from other people. The key is not to let it bother you. Don’t let yourself feel either superior or inferior to someone else because different things are important to you.

As I have spent the time (not really dedicated time – more just evaluating my thoughts as these things come up naturally) to really decide on what my priorities are, it frees me from the burden of doing things just because they matter to other people.

The exception here is when it comes to our husbands. They are the one person for whom we should take on another person’s priorities, even if it’s not that important to us.

For example, this term our kids have been doing swimming lessons. Now, objectively, I can see why it’s important for them to learn water safety. But it wasn’t really something that I felt compelled to do (in fact, I think all the logistics of getting ready, getting there and then getting back really put me off). But it’s something I am now doing with them because it’s important to my husband (and – just quietly – I’m kind of enjoying it).

And there are plenty of things like that – things I do because they matter to him, but not to me.

The funny thing is, where taking on the priorities of others is burdensome, taking on the priorities of my husband is freeing. When I complete a task he asked me to do (or when I anticipate a need and meet it before he asks), I feel such a rush of joy and a strong sense of accomplishment. And I think this is because, in doing so, I am fulfilling my God-given role as his helper. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

And I guess that’s the difference – we weren’t made to be helpers for all people (or even all men!), only for our own husbands.

 

So if you feel like this resonates with you, let me encourage you to stop taking on the priorities of other people. Think hard about what is important to you, ask what is important to your husband. And then be free to let things go.

What’s Your Default?

I’m a huge fan of learning from other women, particularly when it comes to practical stuff like child-rearing and home-making. I’m sure most of the good ideas I use daily came from watching and learning!

So I was delighted to read this blog post by Jess Connell recently, called Here’s What I Learned Watching my Friend be ‘Busy at Home’. She talks about several tips she picked up by observing her friend.

Here’s the one that stood out to me:

#7- CHOOSE TO HAVE A DEFAULT POSTURE OF BUSYNESS, NOT IDLENESS

I noticed throughout the week that her default “position” was at the kitchen sink. This may be the most important of all… not that we all stand around in our kitchens all day… but that her position was one that put her in a ready position to field meals, cleaning, and the family calendar. Did you ever play baseball or softball? “Get into position!” meant to hustle to the spot where you would be most advantageously used for the position you were playing. THAT is what I saw in my friend Kelly. She was “in position” for much of the day, doing dishes, preparing treats for her gluten-free son, checking out the calendar to be ready for what was coming, browsing a cookbook for something tasty that night, etc. Her default position was one of busyness, not idleness.

I found it particularly challenging because if I think about it, my default “position” throughout the day is probably sitting at my laptop, reading news or current affairs sites. Sure, I do plenty of other things, but that’s where I bounce back to in between activities. And it’s a default position of idleness, for sure.

Since I read this last week, I’ve been actively trying to change my default to one of busyness. Like the mum mentioned in Jess’s article, the kitchen is probably a good central place for me to default to. It’s where my planner lives, and there is always something I can do there – dishes to wash, food to prepare, floor to sweep. So I’ve been making more of an effort to head back to the kitchen when I seem to have a spare moment, or when I’m not sure what to do next. There, I either just start doing something or check in with my planner to find out what I should do next (I usually mentally divide tasks into things that can be done with “kids awake” or “kids asleep”).

The results are that I’m getting a lot more done! (Surprise!) And I don’t have as much of the restless “I should be doing something, but I don’t know what” feeling.

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My kitchen doesn’t always look like this, but when it does, I take a picture!

But I’ve been thinking about this concept of our “default”, and I think it applies beyond just busyness/idleness.

Here are some other questions I’ve been thinking through:

  • Is my default demeanour one of cheerfulness and laughter, or sombreness and sighs? (Remember, we’re talking about what our default mindset is, not our constant mindset!) I remember once I sighed and my daughter asked me, “Mummy, why did you say *sigh*?” I hadn’t done so consciously, so it was a good reminder that my children are watching how I carry myself, and that they pick up so much from the unspoken things. Sometimes I remind myself to put the smile back on my face as I finish something more serious, like disciplining a child or concentrating on a physical task. I’m not talking about fake-smiling (plastering on a smile to mask real feelings of despair) – but I often find that when I consciously put a smile on my face, I feel more happy (or maybe I remember that I am happy). Another method I use to reset the mood is bursting out in song or making a loud, silly noise (I have preschoolers – they think I’m hilarious).

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

  • When I face hard circumstances, do I default to worrying and fretting, or do I take my concerns to God in prayer? This is one the Lord has really been impressing upon my heart lately – just how much worry is a waste of time. Sometimes I will spend half a day worrying about something, going over scenarios in my head, trying to think of ways to fix it but coming up short, which leads to more worry. Then I remember to pray. And I put my concerns in God’s hands and walk away from it. And I breathe easy. And I wonder why it took me so long to do, realising that I just wasted a whole morning’s worth of thoughts. God wants us to bring our concerns to him – he has the power to take away our anxiety and also to fix what is troubling us (even if that doesn’t always look how we imagined). If we truly believe this, we should work to make our default response one of prayer.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:27

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

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I’d love to hear your thoughts – what do you default to?

Idleness or busyness?

Cheerfulness or sombreness?

Worry or prayer?

 

 

 

Life Outside the Garden

It’s no secret I’ve been having a hard time of motherhood lately.

There’s the normal busyness of having three kids, compounded by baby T’s feeding difficulties, longer than usual work hours for my husband and a continuous string of illnesses in the family for the last two months.

Anyway, I recently started reading to the kids from the Big Picture Story Bible before bed, and tonight I read a couple of chapters with them.

We were reading about life after Adam and Eve had to leave the garden, and this page just struck me:

 

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Wow, I just relate to everything about this picture and the words!

(Let me be really candid…)

The crying, inconsolable baby. Being needed constantly.

The physical separation from my husband for long, long hours of the day while he’s at work. The feelings of envy, even knowing that he is working hard – surely it would be easier than this!

Ailing, aging bodies. The constant illness as a reminder of how fragile these bodies are – that we are indeed heading towards death.

 

But the wonderful thing is it doesn’t stop there.

Yes, there are moments (sometimes, really long – like months long – moments) that remind us this world is cursed.

But life in Christ is so good.

With Christ, there is always a God who understands and to whom I can pour out my heart. I’m not separated from Him like Adam and Eve were.

With Christ, I know that although my back aches from holding these little ones and every inch of me is tired, one day I will enter His perfect rest.

With Christ, I am filled up so that I can pour out – both literally (breast milk) and figuratively (love). I don’t have to give and give without receiving. In fact, I can’t give unless I first receive.

With Christ, I can forgive and be forgiven. My husband and I might have conflict, but there is great beauty in showing each other the grace that was shown to us by God.

With Christ, there is new mercy each morning, because He is faithful!

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