Tuesday, September 23, 2008

more things I've learned...posted on http://www.boundlessline.org/2008/09/another-look-at.html

I became a Christian at 20, was sexually active & sporadically engaged at the time, and struggled with the whole celibacy idea for years. Not a struggle of intellect or conviction; a struggle of awakened desires that would not go back to sleep once I chose to be chaste!

I kept putting my desires to be married on the altar, & there are lots of tears in that statement. I asked God not to allow me to be married until I could be a real "helpmeet" and He kept closing the door to marriage in my pleading face for 10 years.

Now, I have been married for 25 years and can share a couple of points--

Both states, married or single, are referred to as "gifts" by Jesus. All gifts are given for the benefit of the Body of Christ and are not necessarily for the rest of your stay on earth. People die all the time, and that will include you or a spouse and could happen today. (Excellent motivation, by the way, to appreciate what God gives you every moment.)

Both states, married or single, require being dead to self and alive to Christ. If you aren't struggling with something being put on the altar, you aren't sharing His suffering or growing in His grace. Your sin nature is not compatible with anyone else's and marriage does not mean constant fulfillment.

Both states, married or single, are actually temporary because there is only one marriage in Heaven, that of Christ & His Bride... which includes you if you choose.

Both states, married or single, are dim reflections of eternity and are going to be baffling with times of blindness. This means you walk by faith and not by sight.

Learning to be content in whatever state you are in requires knowing God & His Word, which is true theology. Only truth sets us free, and He is Truth.

Theology isn't an intellectual exercise, it is knowing God & interacting with Him--"God-Logic", that which makes sense (ology=the study of) because of God (theos=God). The hidden choices you make in response to Him every day are where you serve, married or single.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

leaky pipes & little foxes

A marriage in our church has just fallen apart...it probably was getting emptier and emptier for a long time and the masks just couldn't stay pasted anymore.

This is tragic, not just for the family but for our church. How can this amount of pain come together every Sunday and during the week without being addressed by someone? One answer; they are good fakers. (My thought on that; faking happiness is no substitute for the real thing and a dangerous game that brings agony.) Another answer; they thought that pretending things were ok would make them ok. That's like ignoring a malignant tumor, hoping it will go away. Sadly, a third reason would be that when people like me say, "how are you?" we are so programmed into hearing, "I'm fine" that we don't actually pay attention.

A common criticism of Christianity is the hypocrisy people see...but I see hypocrisy in all of us. I do not think it's a religious thing but a human thing. I think it bothers people more in "church" settings because each of us genuinely needs there to be a place where we are accepted & even loved despite who we really are....and each of us genuinely needs that sense of belonging in a bigger sphere than our homes. If we have it at home we usually don't appreciate it at all or even think of it any more than we think about plumbing.

A recurring problem in my own marriage is my feeling like I'm just "part of the plumbing" in Dave's life; that he takes me for granted & doesn't appreciate me. The problem comes, not from being taken for granted, but from my attitude about being taken for granted. If I am playing the wrong tape in my head, having conversations with Dave that only exist in my brain, I set us up for problems because he wasn't actually part of the conversation in my head...and I start reacting to the "head-Dave" instead of my real human husband.

Solomon (in his Song) has some good ideas on this: he talks about the little foxes that run through a vineyard taking bites off the grapes--a little here, a little there. If you don't catch the little foxes, you end up with a devastated vineyard after time from something that did not seem important at the time.

In another part of his Song, he paints a word-picture of a lover coming to his love, "open to me, open to me, my love" "I have just washed my feet, how can I get them dirty again? I have just put off my dress, how can I put it on again?" So the lover leaves, and the bride wakes up & starts looking for her lover & gets hurt.

A recent advice columnist asked for input from men in why they cheated on their wives. The main theme I saw in their answers was this..."my wife doesn't respond to me, she does". Not a physical response, an emotional one, in most letters. I'm not in any way excusing a cheating husband; I am pointing out a human trait we all share.

Forgiveness is a theological thing...I think of theology as God (theo) logic; that which only makes sense because of God. The more I understand His forgiveness for me, the more I am able to open to my mate when I am hurt by his human shortcomings. My ability to respond to anyone is based on my current selfishness. If I am focused on how I feel I am NOT being "dead to self and alive to Christ" and am blind to what He is asking me to do in His strength.

Real Christianity is lived moment by moment in the battlefield of my mind and revealed in the actions & words I choose. The victories I have over the little foxes and leaky pipes in my life don't seem important or worth the cost but looking back I can see the damage I have allowed by ignoring His prompting to deal with something I thought trivial.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

an old letter to my daughter....

Hi babe--I'm not sure I ever finished this & sent it to you! Sorry 'bout that....since I want to use it for the Famine study with the girls, I'm finishing it & sending it to you & sharing it with them, too.

It's also been a challenge to organize my thoughts on what God has taught me about the lust/sex thing...the hunger for satisfaction. But if I ever actually write my book about Happy Wife/Human Husband, I need to have this chapter in it. So you are giving me incentive to do what God & your dad have been suggesting I do.

As you know, I was sexually molested by a cousin while growing up. One of the confusing things for the "victim" is the awakening of desire...it does feel good & you have a lot of conflict about guilt and shame at the same time you are experiencing a strong pull to satisfy a physical hunger you never had before. It is a real trap, and part of the victimization in the sense that your body seems to be working against you. I found out later that he had been molested by another cousin and started to molest others when that cousin moved away...HIS physical urges being too powerful for him to deal with alone. So I wonder where the line between victim-molester really is...but it doesn't negate our responsibility for our actions.

In the Song of Solomon, we are repeatedly warned not to "awaken my love before she pleases". I believe this is a reference to the passions....we are not to be sexually active in thought & heart until it is appropriate to be sexually active physically. This is why modesty is an issue...not just clothing, but thought & behavior. You can be incredibly immodest and completely covered up...it is easy to entice with glances & smiles. It is why we are told to guard our hearts....the books we read, the things we watch, the friendships we cultivate. At the end of the book, Solomon talks of a little sister...and the need to be a wall rather than a door. If you want an intensely satisfying sexual life with your future husband, YOU MUST BE A WALLED GARDEN with only one way in--marriage.

The result of my being a "door" was like having a broken cistern in my heart. I had all kinds of hunger & thirst for attention & affection but no way to keep my bucket full. I was like that verse in Proverbs 27:7, "A sated man loathes honey, but to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet." In the margin below that verse I wrote this years ago--"If I am not content in His love, I'll be tempted to "be content" filling the gap with food, attention, fantasy--and if He has not already filled me, those comparatively bitter things are sweet. But if I'm content in Him I will not idolize."

(I love having a Bible that has stuff written in it from years past--it reminds me of what He has brought me through & of His faithfulness to us. I need those reminders so often! Don't be afraid to write in your Bible.)

Being sexually active in fantasy & action seemed to be satisfying a hunger that I had for my daddy's attention. You never knew your grandfather, but he was quite a character. He had some real handicaps--one was the belief that you don't face problems, you walk away from them. He'd be very affectionate at times, then turn his back & say "I don't love you anymore, I'm mad at you" & go to sleep on the couch. He wasn't around much.

You know how you need to feel connected to your dad, and how you hunger for his love. Being "just a man" and living in the fallen world, he can't meet all your longings for his love. I think the reason we have that "Daddy Hunger" is that we really hunger for God the Father's love & He planned that we'd be able to understand His love by being first loved by a daddy. Our sinfulness messed up God's plan generations ago and we all have problems because of it.

Right now there are a growing number of teens having plastic surgery because they feel so ugly the way God made them. The size of their breasts or nose has ruined their perceived potential for being happy...they hunger for a satisfaction that they think will come in being attractive in a narrowly described way. It is a tragedy because satisfaction doesn't work like that...one of my roommates had a sister who owned a top modeling agency & Sheree said that the people in the top modeling circles are the unhappiest, most insecure people she'd ever seen. All "beautiful", all unhappy.

No matter what you are in life, you will have "hunger pangs"--unfulfilled desires. It is easy to think that something you don't have will satisfy you, but what actually happens is more like a meal; it fills you up for a short time. If you're eating junk then you will be full for a short time but not get any benefit from it...it will cause harm. It really is like that verse in Proverbs: if you learn to be content with God, your life is full even when you have nothing. If you are starving for God, you eat & eat & eat all the world has to offer & keep getting hungry again because nothing the world has satisfies forever even though it tastes sweet at the time.

You'd wanted to know what verses God has used in my life as a single woman. The most helpful passage for me has been Isaiah 54. The word-picture in the beginning of the chapter is that of a solitary woman making her tent more secure by stretching it out & hammering in the pegs. She's making a TEMPORARY dwelling more secure by digging in deeper where she's at. Here's my take on this--

1. Get a larger perspective on your life--we live in a tent; our mansion is in heaven.
2. Make your tent secure by putting energy into what you have to do today...
--what are your responsibilities?--do them well. (Matthew 24:45)
--who do you live with?--learn how to connect with them. (Isaiah 58:7)
--what is God teaching you today?--write it down! (Psalm 19:7-11)

The last thing I want to share with you in this letter is another part of Isaiah 54. There are times when you are SO desparately starved for love that you see the world through a blur of tears. After the tent thing, God talks of a wife rejected, forsaken and grieved in spirit. In verse 11, He says this--

"O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,
Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.
Moreover, I will make your balltlements of rubies,
And your gates of crystal,
And your entire wall of precious stones.
And all your sons will be taught of the Lord;
And the well-being of your sons will be great."

Ties in kind of cool with the walled garden thing out of Song of Solomon, huh? I have clung to that promise over the years, seeing the words run together as I wept. There are times when you will be storm-tossed & find no comfort. We live in a fallen world, one that has pain in every direction. We cannot escape the reality of sin & it's effect on us. That's why Jesus came.

Last year, I wrote on the margin of Isaiah 54:11--"God keeps His promise made in these verses to me as a single woman-now married w/4 kids who are dedicated to Him 4/15/04"

My point is not that you may someday be a happily married mother of children. There have been times in my married life that I have felt storm-tossed and afflicted...other times when I have been so deep in the pit of despair I could not see any light. But through all that time, God has been faithful, like the sun that shines all the time even when you cannot see it because of where you are on earth.

If you are reading His Word & thinking about it, praying for wisdom and writing your thoughts, you will feed your spirit.
If you are obeying His command & laying down your life to follow Jesus in meeting other people's needs, you will feed your soul.

Like your tag line says, "you don't HAVE a soul, you ARE a soul--you HAVE a body." God knows you have physical needs, He made your body. He commands us to feed the hungry, to satisfy our spouses & be exhilarated in marriage. It's just temporary, though, to help us understand eternal things. When you are hungry for something, attention from a guy, for instance, ask yourself what the big picture is & what God is teaching you.

Well, I'm out of time. I hope this helps a little--

love you much--Mom

Thursday, July 17, 2008

sex, sex, & sex!

Before he died, Stanley was a faithful fixture at our church. Stella, his wife, drove him every week to work on the bulletins, and he worked inches from the computer screen because he was legally blind from years of diabetes. His glasses were thick, his hair white, his decrepitude increased daily.

One day, at a "Family Seminar" in the church gym, the speaker asked, "What are the top three needs of a husband?"

Stanley loudly declared, "Sex, sex, & sex!"

Why is it funny to think that an old man still wants sex? Why do we think that sex is something only the young & attractive do when they are somehow being bad? Why is "sex" the additive that sells everything from cars to toothpaste? And why, if you are a married woman, is sex so easily turned into a chore?

It was a revelation to me to read the Bible & find all those references to sex. I had no idea that God was the one who came up with it...I'd been indoctrinated by my culture (late 60's) to think that the further you divorced the physical act from the emotions the freer your spirit would be. What a lie!

Recently I watched an interview with two couples who have published books on their experiences committing to have sex every day for a year or something similar. It was interesting. The comment that really caught my attention was one wife saying that there was a difference between "romantic sex with candles & everything" and "real sex with bad breath & sweaty bodies".

I have never regretted our marriage bed or been sorry I responded to my husband. Even if I "didn't feel like it" in the beginning, sex was a bond between us. I am blessed by my husband's purity in the past, his virginity at marriage & years of saying "no" to pornography although he struggled. I regret that I can't say I had the same past, but forgiveness is real. I had way more baggage in bed with us than he did.

The tragedy is that for so many, the baggage we bring to bed with us poisons our lives.

Friday, July 11, 2008

at the kitchen table recently....

I was sitting in my kitchen with my husband (25 year veteran of marriage) and a couple of young men--one newly married & one who's been going to talk to the father of the girl he's been liking a lot about making "dating" official.

I ask the wannabe if he's talked to her dad yet since he's only up here for the weekend...he says the girl told him it's ok if he waits.

I say, "Are you sure she's ok? Because she told me that she was introducing you as a 'friend who'd be something more if he ever got around to asking my dad' and she might be feeling like you aren't really interested in talking to him & she doesn't want to push you."

Veteran of 25 years starts laughing & asks the newbie if his wife ever plays that game with him.

Newbie says, "I'm not sure which game you're talking about."

Vet says, "If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you."

Newbie & Vet start laughing and Newbie says, "Yeah".

Wannabe says, "What?"

I say, "Early in our marriage, I thought if he cared enough about me, he'd know what was going on because he'd be paying attention...so if he didn't read past the words it meant he didn't care. Then I found out that he really was clueless."

Veteran says, "I still am"

Newbie agrees.

I say, "It's like living with the blind"....but we all are handicapped in various ways. And I don't play that game anymore. Wannabe asked the dad that night & is now officially dating his sweetie (I have no idea what that means. The definition of "dating" is different each time I ask someone else.)

The problem goes both ways....I usually have to check to make sure I understand what he's thinking, too.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Being single is a gift...being married is also a gift. When the pharisees challenged Jesus about marriage in heaven, he used the same word referring to the gift of singleness as Paul used in referring to gifts of the Spirit. When I was single...and I married at age 30...I struggled with appreciating the gift He had given me.

Why does God give gifts? Partly for our pleasure, partly for the ministry He has for us. You could even think of His gifts as tools to be used and the goal of the gift is the work done with the tool--we get the satisfaction of work well done. The permanent part is the work done--not the tool used. Marriage is temporary: there is no marriage in heaven other than being the Bride of Christ.

What do we have then, on earth?
"...different distributions of spiritual gifts, these gifts being diverse from one another, but there is the same Spirit. And there are different distributions of various kinds of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different distributions of divine energy motivating these gifts in their operation, but the same God who by His divine energy operates them all in their sphere. But to each one there is constantly being given clearly seen operations of the Spirit with a view to the profit of all." (1 Cor 12)

There's a big-picture thing going on here, and when I am frustrated by my little part of it I am missing the fact that it isn't my show. You could change the image, and call it a ginormous quilt........

.....I deeply appreciate quilts. My mother would love to have me be a quilter and I think they are amazingly beautiful works of craftsmanship and maybe someday I will be but right now, I just have all manner of quilting books & supplies from Mom and a few quilts I've picked up over the years that somebody else used their gifts on. One of these is an Irish Chain postage stamp quilt that has squares maybe 1 inch big...on a double bed size. The pattern and color of patchwork comes from every piece being different, yet all sewn skillfully together to make a beautiful whole. This is like the Body of Christ, and this is like marriage, and this is like life in general.

So many times I am reminded of quilts, and the many colors and fabrics that go in to creating them. Some of my days are bright and cheerful, some are loud and crazy, some somber and quiet. A few are the deepest dark. If I could somehow take the darkest patches off of my postage stamp quilt, it wouldn't look right. You need the contrast to make it look best. I suspect that my life needed those dark times. If I ripped off the patches I don't like on the quilt on my bed I'll get a cold breeze blowing into my slumbers! It's the union of all those patches into a whole that makes the bed warm, and Jesus is the master quilter who puts it all together to keep my life warm.

I'll elaborate later--Dave just got up. We are, once again, doing the night shift at the Gettysburg Reenactment and that means we spend from 7pm to 7am together awake doing security this year, outside on a hill looking over tents and battlefield under the stars. Imagine the possibilities....

Sunday, June 29, 2008

communication again

It is a source of wonder to me...the things that bothered me in Dave when we were dating & engaged STILL bother me. He has not changed all that much, and I haven't...we just have learned how to communicate our needs a little better. Just the other day, he wasn't listening to me blather on about a grill I was looking at in the local Walmart because he thought he heard a groundhog in the garden. This is not a problem if he says, "I wasn't listening to you because I thought I heard a groundhog in the garden."

It is a problem if he acts like I didn't say anything in the first place.

In the past, I've tried to ignore my hurt feelers...doesn't work, the tape in my head keeps playing reruns & it escalates from there. I've tried to let him know non-verbally that something is wrong...doesn't work, he picks up that something's wrong but generally guesses wrong, too. And it escalates from there. I've talked to him under my breath...not a communication skill at all. And it escalates from there. I've tried praying about it...works on my end in terms of learning more about forgiveness (a whole chapter at least by itself) but that is only a good first step on how to deal with the hurt of being ignored.

I've learned to say, "did you hear me?" because maybe he didn't.
I've learned to say, "it makes me feel ignored when you don't respond to my talking to you"
I've learned to listen to what he says when I say that.
I'm learning how to handle his exaggerated "I'm listening to you" "I heard what you said" schtick for the first week after an incident.

Maybe a pillow fight would help.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

the irony of it all

So, finally I have done what I've been pressured to do--put my opinions on some sort of permanent basis. The threat used to be that I'd write a book of marriage advice called "How to be the Happy Wife of a Human Husband"; this usually said after listening to a friend bemoan her spouse's shortcomings. I have lots of opinions--lots and lots. The trick is to get them written!

Just like joining Curves & not going because I don't feel like it, reading magazines to get ideas about how to organize my junk & not moving a paper, or making a "to-do" list & doing something else; beginning a blog creates a feeling of accomplishment that is illusionary yet somehow satisfying--temporarily. Why are humans like that?

Probably because we ARE human, frail pots of clay with value because of the price paid for us out of love.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

the why's answered

This blog is being created because writing a book titled "How to Be the Happy Wife of a Human Husband" is a consistent threat of mine. And I keep being told to write it....so a blog is a more realistic choice at the moment.

Since I am new at the whole blog thing, it will be a process....but marriage is a long, slow process that cycles so I imagine this will be, too.

My credentials...I've been married to Dave for 25 years, we have 4 kids that recently all grew up (graduated the last homeschooler in June 2008) but 3 are still living with us and I am not perfect. No one is--but often in our "pursuit of happiness" we forget to cut everybody some slack.

The foundation that I am building my life on is Jesus Christ and because truth doesn't change I have a solid rock to build on, but anyone can take my observations and compare them to your own. Truth applies to everyone, just like gravity.