A Surprisingly Obvious Marriage “Secret”

As I sat at our candlelit table thinking about the love and work and tears and laughter that go into marriage, my mind drifted back to the very best piece of marriage advice I read last year.

It was something so simple that it seemed ridiculous I had to even be told it. But I did.

Sometimes I just need to be reminded of the most obvious truths. Sometimes a simple truth can make a profound difference.  "Always assume the best" is one of those truths.

A surprisingly obvious “secret” to a blissful marriage

“Always assume the best of your spouse.”

Of course, right?  That’s what I thought when I read it in Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages“Assuming the best” seems way too obvious to be dubbed a surprising secret. But the more I thought about it in real life, the more I began to see how much I struggled with it.

Most husbands and wives in healthy relationships don’t purposefully hurt or offend each other. But just like in any close relationship, it’s easy for miscommunications and hurt feelings crop up anyway.

Joshua loves me faithfully. He demonstrates it in a thousand ways. Still, sometimes it is easy to assume the worst.

It’s already 7:00 and Joshua still isn’t home yet. I thought he was supposed to be home early today. It is Friday night after all. He could at least have let me know! Clearly he’s just putting other things before the kids and me. 

Just like I want him to assume the best of me when a ten minute errand turns into an hour or when I drop off every single wearable suit at the dry cleaners and forget to pick them up before he has to fly out of town for business (true story– oh my!), I should think the best of him too:

Poor guy! Something must have come up at the last minute. He’s probably extra stressed and eager to be home. 

Instead of bundling up hurt feelings, when I choose to assume the best, my attitude toward him is one of love. The kind of love that “believes all things and hopes all things.” If the reason for the misunderstanding isn’t abundantly clear, I can ask about it without tears or anger magnifying the problem.

Guys and girls think differently. Process things differently. Communicate differently. This can cause all sorts of miscommunication. Or it can be a beautiful way to demonstrate God’s love by assuming the best. The beautiful thing is that 99% of the time, when I assume the best, my assumption is actually right.

Always assume the best of your spouse

I still make plenty of bad assumptions, but whenever I follow this advice and choose to assume the best, I am much happier, my marriage is much happier, and our home is much happier.

(As the author stressed, this advice is only for healthy relationships, where both husband and wife treat each other with love and honor. Marriages with abuse or unfaithfulness need strong outside help to protect the innocent.)

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When Being Quiet Would Have Saved $100s

Did you ever have a stuffed animal as a child that you loved dearly? One that you loved long after it lost its sleek new fur, its eyes fell out, and the seams started to pop open?

That same sort of attachment is what I felt toward our old van. My brother found it on Craigslist for an incredible deal while we were in law school. It may have been dented and scraped and have its seats torn apart, but after sharing a two-door Civic (and cramming two carseats into the back), I wouldn’t have traded our old beat-up Sienna for the coolest two-door car on the globe.

We travelled thousands of miles in that van and faced exciting adventures in it. It survived a terrifying tornado unscathed and just kept going and going and going.

The thought of parting with it made me sad. But there came a point when it simply wasn’t worth fixing anymore and we had to begin the search for a new-to-us van.

Be slow to speak

That proved to be more challenging that I thought. We’d set aside money for the purchase, but when it came time to look, most of the cars we found were either under $2,000 (and looked about ready to fall apart) or over $15,000. We spent hours one Saturday driving by dozens of used cars lots and found a grand total of two vans in our desired price range. I combed Craigslist for days with equally discouraging results.

Then Joshua called one day saying that he passed by a lot on his way to an appointment with a couple vans on it, one of which looked promising. The kids and I headed over to take a look and I instantly loved it. It was another Sienna, but newer and safety-inspection-passable (definitely a plus!)

Joshua came over to test drive it and we decided if we could trade-in our old van and get the price down a little, we would buy it.

Joshua told the salesman our desired price, the salesman took our van on a test drive, and came back.

When he countered with the trade-in amount for our van, I instantly blurted out, “Yes! That sounds great!” He offered us even more for the van than what we’d paid, the the total price was still several hundred more than what Joshua originally asked for.

“Can we come up with the extra money?” Joshua asked me, trying to make a little room to negotiate.

“Yes!” I answered obliviously.

He smiled at me and said, “Okay.”

We signed papers, wrote a check, and traded keys. Not until we were leaving did he say with a grin, “You know Babe, usually people negotiate when buying a car.”

Oh, right!

In the excitement of the moment I had totally forgotten. Thankfully, Joshua wasn’t the least bit upset, but I was upset with myself. What if we could have saved $100, $500, or even more if I had just been quiet for a whole two seconds?

I love the van and am so grateful we found it, but it was a good lesson for me to think before I speak. [And leave any negotiating in the future in Joshua’s much more capable hands!]

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” James 1:19

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

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A Tribute to Faithful Love

Thirty years ago, my parents joined their hands in marriage. This thank you tribute is for them…  (and also for all those who are redeeming marriage for future generations.) 

Thank you for rejecting the shallow commitment that passes for love and choosing the love that lives to each other and dies to self daily. For decades.

In a world that urges “do what feels good”, thank you for choosing faithfulness even when it doesn’t feel good.

Thank you for rejoicing through the good times and praying through the hard times. Together.

A tribute to faithful love, the love that carries out its vows to love and cherish, even when the first  feelings of being "in love" fade and you have to get down to the actual work of loving.

Thank you for facing the challenges that come with an inter-cultural marriage, and seeking the unity found in Christ. (photo credit)

In a culture that claims a booming career and lots of money make life meaningful, thank you for choosing to raise a large family, even though it cost you a lot.

Thank you for working through the mess and plodding through the challenges that we fallen couples face.

In a world obsessed with cheap romance, thank you for treating the marriage bed as sacred and secret.

Thank you for resting in Christ’s love, when your own was all dried up.

In a world obsessed with "romance", this is a tribute to my parents and countless others who have chosen the beautiful, difficult, totally worthwhile road of faithful love.

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In a world where the words “till death do us part” have lost their meaning, thank you for standing by each other through better and worse, through sickness and health.

Thanks for showing that love is much more than a fancy date or passionate kiss, though dates and kisses are important.

Thank you for committing to finish well the journey you have started.

Thank you for mirroring, though imperfectly, the perfect love of Christ and His church.

Thank you for the legacy you are leaving for each of your children.

I am so grateful for you, Papa and Mama, and pray that the next thirty years finds you even more deeply in love than the day you first said your vows.  

The Surprises of Marriage

“What’s for dinner, darling?” Joshua asked a few months after we got married.

“Well,” I answered, “I was going to make lasagna but we don’t have any lettuce.”

He looked at me puzzled. “What do you need lettuce for?”

“For salad,” I answered, surprised at his puzzled expression. “We can’t have lasagna without salad!”

In the twenty-one years leading up to that day, I don’t recall ever having lasagna without salad. They go together so well and the thought of eating one without the other was like trying to imagine a PB&J without the jelly. Apparently, lasagna and salad are not generally considered as inseparable as peanut butter and jelly and we had a good laugh about it.

Marriage is full of surprises ranging from comical to devastating. Each surprise has lessons to teach.

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“How did you transition between singleness and marriage? Was it difficult? Were there some things about marriage that surprised you?” These were the questions that prompted this post.

Joshua and I had a wonderful courtship (read our story here) that helped make the transition from single life to married surprisingly easy.

Still marriage, like life, is full of surprises. Surprises about your husband, about yourself, and about the road you are now traveling together.

Many of the surprises were humorous ones that arise whenever two backgrounds or cultures meld into one: like learning that you can eat lasagna without salad.

Some of the surprises weren’t so funny.

We got pregnant less than a month after our wedding, and though thrilled about the pregnancy, my hormones had never been on a more exhausting roller-coaster. I probably cried more those first three months of pregnancy than I had in my entire life up to that point… and generally didn’t have the faintest rational reason for the tears.

Joshua was so patient and loving, but I’m sure he occasionally wondered what on earth he’d gotten himself into. I was alarmed at myself and worried that I might never again make it through an entire day without randomly bursting into tears. (Don’t worry, I have.)

Marriage is a new adventure in the journey of life. Surprises are part of any good adventure and help us learn and grow to become more Christ-like, if we let them.

In another twenty or thirty years I might be ready to start giving solid marriage advice, but looking back on the almost seven years of marriage we’ve enjoyed so far, there are a few lessons I’ve learned (or am learning) from the surprises of marriage.

Marriage brings many surprises. Many of them funny, some not so funny. But each surprise has a lesson to teach us.

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Lessons learned from the surprises of marriage

  • If you wait for your very first kiss until your wedding day, with an audience of over five hundred, and it isn’t all you’d dreamed, don’t despair. Your second kiss will be much better and your second thousandth kiss even better.
  • Be honest. Honesty requires vulnerability. Sometimes it’s much easier to say “Oh, nothing’s the matter” than to choose honesty. Choose honesty anyway. (Something I’m still working on!)
  • Honesty is great, but it’s possible to be honest and rude or whiny at the same time. That isn’t so great. Temper honesty with respectfulness and humility.
  • Rejoice in your differences. God uses our differences to help us grow.

But if there were only one thing I could encourage young brides, it would be this: make sure your expectations and trust are grounded first in Christ, not your husband.

Joshua is faithful, thoughtful, smart, and one who beautifully lives out Christ’s love toward me. I am incredibly grateful that I get to be his wife. But Joshua, like all men, is still human. So is your husband.

Our ultimate hope and trust and fulfillment don’t belong on the shoulders of a man. They belong at the foot of the cross.

Are you married? What are some lessons you’ve learned from the surprises along the way? 

My Life Is Not About My Happiness

Life is not fair.

The Bible is full of hard commands. Things like “submit” and “rejoice always” (like, even when your baby refuses to go to sleep at 3:00 a.m.)

Sometimes Often I’d much rather sulk and hold a pity party than rejoice.

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A dear friend, who was going through marital difficulties, once told me, “marriage is not for happiness, it’s for holiness.

Ideally, marriage should be bursting with happiness since it is a glorious picture of Christ and His church. (I am very blessed to be in a marriage that is wonderfully happy!)

However, her words have stuck with me because they carry a truth that is so foreign in modern America: happiness is not a right.

God did not put us on this earth so that we could do whatever we wanted to please ourselves. No matter how loudly my selfish nature screams the contrary, my life is ultimately not about my happiness.

There is an even greater good than happiness, holiness.

Often times, God says “no” to our earnest prayers because He is more concerned about our holiness than we are and because He wants us to find our happiness in Him, not all the things we think we need to be happy.

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking Redeemed, Our Simple Country Life, & Proverbs 31

We Don’t Have a Budget (and Why I’m Okay with That!)

“Have a written budget, and stick to it.”

You have probably read this advice at least a hundred times. I have. It is good financial advice. If you have a budget, that’s wonderful. Stick to it and enjoy it!

We do not budget and never have.

That used to really bug me.

I’ve always been the nerdy-type when it comes to money. I love excel spreadsheets and knowing exactly how much money we have in the bank, down to the last penny.

Joshua is not a money-nerd. If we have money to tithe faithfully, save for our goals, and take care of our needs (and many wants!), it doesn’t bother him if we have $3.58 less left over this month than last month.

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve come to realize that my guilt over not having a budget is misplaced. You can obey the Bible, have a happy marriage, and be a faithful steward without a written budget.

We don't have a budget. That used to really bother me. But I've learned you can be a faithful steward (and happy wife) without one.

You can obey the Bible without a budget.

The Bible has a lot to say about money. Proverbs is full of warnings against the pitfalls of greed, about the dangers of wantonness, about the need to cheerfully give and diligently provide. Not a single verse anywhere says that faithful Christians must have a written budget.

Budgets are never once commanded (or even mentioned) in Scripture.

You can have a solid marriage, financially, without a budget.

An author I admire once wrote (I paraphrase), “If you don’t have a budget, and your spouse refuses to make one with you, you have serious marital problems.”

I’ve thought about this statement a lot, but think she’s wrong (at least about many marriages.)

Budgeting is not a requirement of a good husband or wife. If I were to insist on having a written budget, I would almost certainly be the one writing it and policing it. I would basically be telling my husband when and how he could spend the money he earns.

In my opinion, that would be detrimental to our marriage and contrary to my wedding vows. After all, when we married I promised to trust him (even with our money), and he’s never once proved unfaithful.

You can faithfully use money, without having a budget.

Money has three main purposes. Each of the purposes of money can be fulfilled without a budget. When you get a paycheck, you can set aside money for tithe/giving, pay your bills and put money into savings for future needs, and enjoy the leftovers with a grateful heart.

All without having a budget.

Hope for those without budgets

If you have a budget or are thinking about making a budget (and your husband likes the idea!) that’s wonderful. Budgeting often makes it easier to faithfully use money.

But I’ve talked to moms who are discouraged because they don’t have a budget. Sometimes, budgets get pushed so hard these days that it’s easy to get the idea that “budgeting is next to godliness.”

It isn’t.

Budgeting may be a good and wise thing for your marriage. It might not. And that’s perfectly okay.

You can obey Biblical commands about money, have a strong marriage, and spend your money faithfully, all without a budget.

What about you? Do you have a budget? 

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Redefining Date Nights

In the past week, I have heard the importance of regular date nights stressed multiple times.

Relationships take time and, if married, marriage is the most important earthly relationship. We should spend time on our marriage! Dates are one way to do that.

However, if you have small children and live far from family, getting a babysitter can quickly make dates into an expensive event.

A few weeks ago, a dear friend watched the kiddos while Joshua and I went on a date. On our way home, we realized that it was our first “real” date in over six months. We laughed. Despite the lack of dates, we certainly didn’t feel like we’d lacked quality time together.

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I think the definition of a “date” should be expanded from “going out together” to “spending meaningful, quality time together.” Spending meaningful time together doesn’t require a restaurant tab.

Someday, when our children grow and stay up past 8:00, dinner dates will be more important. For now, these are a few of my favorite “date nights.”

  • Make dinner (or dessert) together: About once a week, Joshua grills while I make side dishes. Personally, I think making dinner together is as fun as eating it together, especially if it’s as yummy as this Grilled Tilapia! [Did you know Aldi sells wild-caught tilapia for about $3 a pound?!]
  • Read a book together. Whether it’s poetry, comics, fiction, instructional, or memoirs, reading together is not only fun, but opens up so much to talk about.
  • Star-gaze or go on a midnight walk: There’s something about enjoying the beauty of God’s incredible creation that is so romantic! Of course, midnight walks require a babysitter, but it’s one of my favorite things to do when we’re visiting family.
  • Pop popcorn and watch a movie together: It’s way easier to cuddle (or get up during scary parts) when you’re sitting on the couch together instead of in a crowded movie theater. Plus, the popcorn is way better!
  • Work on a project together: working toward a common goal, whether it’s planting a garden or painting a room, is a wonderful way to spend time together!
  • Just talk. Good conversations can happen anywhere: in the car, while bouncing a baby to sleep, or snuggled up close. A nice cold (or hot) drink doesn’t hurt.

What about you? Do you go on regular dates? What’s your favorite thing to do together? 

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Feminine Adventures

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And now, Jenn (from The Purposeful Mom) and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop!

Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.

We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here)

Linked up at  Encourage One AnotherHomemaking LinkupWomen Living WellHearts 4 Home ThursdaysProverbs 31 Thursday, Consider the Lilies and Finer Things Friday

When $5 Almost Ruined a Perfect Weekend

How I almost let a silly five dollar miscommunication ruin a perfect weekend.

I am a penny-pincher. I like saving.

When I was little and was given candy, I ate a few pieces and stashed the rest away for later. Years later my Omma told me she found bags of candy hidden in “secret places” … that I had forgotten about.

The dentist may approve of my approach to candy, but I failed to realize that sometimes being too much of a saver can keep you from enjoying and sharing what you do have.

When I grew older and money started to replace candy, I kept to my saving ways (though found forgotten stashes much less frequently!) Joshua is also frugal, but has helped me put frugality into its proper place. Thriftiness should be a tool, not an idol.

Now, for the story…

Sometimes the grandest weekends get ruined by the silliest things. I almost ruined our perfect weekend by getting angry over a $5 purchase. Almost.... photo credit

How I Almost Let $5 Ruin a Perfect Weekend

Last week was a busy one for Joshua. He put in long hours at work, leaving home early and getting back late. About halfway through the week he showed me a picture and asked, “Do you want to make these St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes together on Saturday?”

The kids overheard and couldn’t have been more enthusiastic in their response. Every day they asked, “Is it Saturday yet?”

Saturday finally arrived. Joshua had to work a few hours that morning and then it was cupcake-time. Before he left work, Joshua messaged me asking if we needed anything for the recipe.

“We don’t have any sour cream,” I said, “but we can substitue yogurt for it. And we have semi-sweet instead of bitter chocolate.”

“Want me to pick some up?”

“I don’t think we need it. What we have should work great,” I answered. “Up to you though.” [What I really meant was, I don’t want you to get any.]

“I’ll pick some up,” he said.

While I waited for him to get home, I started to stew. Stopping by the store was delaying our afternoon. I’d already spent the grocery money for this week and these cupcakes were turning out to be much more expensive than I’d planned! Did Joshua not trust me that the substitutes would work? 

Then Reason (“God’s viceroy”) slammed me in the head. “After Joshua put in long hours all week long to provide for you, are you really going to let a sour cream purchase make you upset? Are you going to ruin the fun family time by having a bad attitude over $5? If you really didn’t want him to pick it up, you should have said so! Is this the proper attitude of a godly wife?”

[Are you laughing? Me too!]

Thankfully, by the time Joshua arrived home, I’d realized the answer to all those questions was a resounding “NO!”

Instead of starting off our weekend together with a sulky wife, bewildered husband, and disappointed children, we had a lovely time making cupcakes.* Then we spent the rest of the weekend together, reading, watching a movie, playing outside, worshipping and going horseback riding at a friend’s farm.

Maybe throwing a fit over $5 wouldn’t have ruined the entire weekend. I’m glad we didn’t have to find out.

While wisely stewarding your resources is wonderful, sometimes we can take thriftiness too far. God has “given us all things richly to enjoy.” Even a tub of sour cream.

*Joshua even told me “Just wanted to let you know that I was given unexpected cash. The money for this purchase isn’t coming out of your grocery budget.” Isn’t he wonderful? He knows his wife well! 

 

The Fruit of Her Hands: Review & Giveaway

The Fruit of Her Hands is such an encouraging book! Nancy speaks from her heart as an older woman in Christ and encourages women to love and respect their husbands and nurture their home.

 

Nancy begins her excellent book by talking about the proper perspective of a godly woman.

Looking out your front window, what do you see?

Some of us view of a carefully manicured yard, others a dirty parking garage. The physical view has little to do with our perspective though. The woman with the lovely garden can choose to see all the weeds that need to get pulled. The woman looking out on a parking garage can choose to look up at the beautiful sky above.

We must choose to have the right perspective of where God has placed us.

My favorite chapter of the book deals with principles and  methods. Running a household requires making thousands of decisions: What should I feed my family? What kind of diapers should we use?   Are we doing enough outside activities?

The lists runs on and on.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. But we need to distinguish between the principles that God lays out in His word (like honor your husband or love your kiddos) and the millions of methods of following them. We should all strive to obey God’s principles, but how they are practically played out in each home will vary widely!

The truths aren’t earth-shattering, but ones that I need to be reminded of again and again. Every page of The Fruit of Her Hands encouraged me to grow in my relationship with God as I build my home.

Canon Press sells both a paperback and audio version of The Fruit of Her Hands. Nancy also made a full preview of The Fruit of Her Hands available on Google Books!

Would you like to win a copy? Canon Press graciously sponsored a giveaway. Just enter the form below for your chance to win. 

Giveaway closes at midnight EST on Monday. Winners will be announced Tuesday morning.

Don’t forget to join the rest of the No More Student Loan Giveaways!

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Choose to Remember Joy

photo by Kai-jens Meyer

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” Romans 12:15 ESV

Bitterness is like a weed that seeks to entwine itself around our soul and squeeze out our joy.

A child’s worldview is shaped by millions of moments, most of which he will forget. Even as adults, our minds can only retain so much. One memory crowds out the next.

We must choose our memories.

Each heart “knows its own bitterness.” We all face trials and challenges in our Christian walk. Sometimes they are big, sometimes small, but they are always present. Present to refine us, humble us, mold us and show us God’s mercy.

Looking back on the past though, we have a choice. The trials may be emblazoned on our memory. We must choose to not let their pain make us bitter, but to remind us of God’s mercy as He led us through it.

We must deal with the past. Repent of the sin. Work through the wrongs. But we cannot let the past poison the present.

We must choose to think on the ways that God showered us with His love in the past. To focus on the good times spent with our parents, rather than the few bad memories most children have. To treasure the many blissful moments as a wife, rather than stew over the few rough times. To treasure the hugs and giggles of toddlerhood, rather than begrudge the lost sleep and the drama and tears.

We must choose to remember joy.