Archive for Marriage

A few ways that mid-life is better than being 20-something.

We live in a culture that worships youth and all that goes with it. Advertisers daily remind me that I need anti-aging creams and miracle fixes to make my middle age wrinkles re-wind the clock and bring me back to a better time and look.

And although I do have a few aches and pains that I didn’t have five years ago, there are aspects of mid-life that have given me perspective that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Mid-life has been surprising, I’ll admit. We took in a 2 year old foster boy the same year our oldest daughter got engaged to be married. That’s something I never would have predicted.

Still, there are aspects of mid-life that are better than when we were young, and I thought it would be fun to share that today.

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Personally & Spiritually::

When you are 40 something, you know who you are. You know your limitations and quirks. You know what you believe and why. Experience is your friend and time has been your teacher. This gives you wisdom to know what is worth pursuing and what is a waste of your time. You know when to walk away from a toxic relationship and you feel freedom to do it and you know when a toxic relationship is redeemable. You value time and relationships and realize that life is short and people are where you should invest. Money, fame, health, power all fade. Love stands forever. You know and appreciate that people come from all different places and that we respect other people not because they deserve it or not, but because we are respectable. You understand the love of God more each year and it causes you to grow in humility and compassion, thankfulness, and dependence.

Motherhood::

Mid-life motherhood means raising teens and adults and there’s a fundamental shift in the relationship. It’s easy to think of toddlers as your babies, but teens are full-fledged people with likes and dislikes and hearts that struggle with fear, people pleasing, idolatry, and sin in general just like their mother and father. Mid-life mothering is more friendship/discipleship based and it’s wonderful. My adult kids are truly such wonderful friends. And as much as I can guide and encourage them to follow hard after God, I have to remember that God wants this more than I do and He is able to shape them, convict them, teach them, correct them and love them when they go the wrong way or love the wrong things too much.

You sleep less because you’re up watching late night movies, or waiting for them to get home for curfew. And sleep evades you because teen problems are bigger than potty training and tantrums. Late night thoughts remind you that you were not the perfect parent and that all of your sincerest attempts were woefully short and your motives were often askew at best and sinful at worst and you beg God to be the Father and Mother that you wish you could have been and you learn to pray for your children like never before.

Friendships::

Mid-life friendships are the sweetest. You’re mature enough to appreciate other people’s gifts and talents without being threatened by them. You are realistic in your expectations and you have grown up enough to know that life is not all about you and you stop taking everything personally. You know that anything someone does or says is a reflection on them alone, not you, and you just worry about yourself.

You aren’t as needy as you were in your 20’s so you don’t expect your friends to fulfill you, be there all the time for you, or never let you down. You’re not jealous when friends get together without you {GASP} because you know that life happens and time is precious and you want good things for your friends by this point. You believe they want good things for you, too. You know that even the best people will fail you and that this is why grace in your interactions is the only way for relationships to thrive.  We don’t have time for drama, and we don’t mind walking away from it. We know who we are, we have nothing to prove, and it makes us much more comfortable to be with. We prioritize our time to be with women who make walking with God a priority as well.

Hospitality::

Mid-life hospitality is more comfortable and focused. It’s less about entertaining than ever, although I love sharing a great cheese platter or simple appetizer.  Life is busy, so any chance to minister “in house” is always welcome. Come by. If my hair is a mess, I’ll let you in and pour you some tea. If I’m making dinner, I’ll hand you a knife and you can peel my cucumbers with me. I’ll listen as you talk about life and struggles and I’ll pray with you over store-bought cookies. I’ll offer advice when I’m asked, but my goal is to encourage you, not fix you. We can both admit our faults and thank God that He’s patient with both of us and in control of our lives and have a wonderful time resting in that knowledge.

Ministry::

Mid-life ministry is easier because there’s less trying to do everything and more listening to what God wants you to do in the first place. You value your time in the Word like never before and you read to know God, not simply to know the facts or to be a wealth of information. You value the amazing and forgotten ministry of prayer because you realize that God does answer and that intercession is one of the kindest gifts you can give another person.

There’s more humility which means fewer people problems. You realize that all ministry is God’s work and He doesn’t care so much what I do but how I do it.  He cares about how you treat His sheep.  My main job in ministry is to be an example of a woman who fears the Lord, and this will open up more opportunities to serve than I could ever handle. There’s a sense that every ministry trial is a test of my obedience and humility before God and really, nothing else matters.

Mid-life has also afforded me more opportunities to write and speak, but I can take them or leave them. I don’t look to them for validation and I don’t need people to look to me, answer to me, or respect me at all.

Ministry life is about service and loving one another. When problem people arise, I try to understand what makes them tick and help them get busy doing something that makes them feel valued. When people fail you in the church, you realize that no matter who they are, they are responsible for their sin and it’s not a reflection on you even if they are antagonistic, accusatory, odd, unkind, or territorial with you. They own their sin–you own your responses. When you are satisfied in Christ, it doesn’t matter what your job is. You’re working for Him and you’ll always have Him. You have everything you need for your happiness and holiness.

 

I’d love to hear what you’ve learned as you’ve aged. Feel free to tell me in the comments or on FB.

Thanks for coming by, friends. I appreciate you.

 

A Little Encouragement For When Life Isn’t What You Expected

Some people like surprises and some don’t. I like good surprises like flowers or a card, but I don’t generally like surprises, especially when it comes to “life.” I like to know the ground rules. I like to know what I can expect, and of course, life isn’t like that at all. We don’t have a crystal ball and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

So when life unfolds differently than we expected, we can be thrown for a loop. We can begin to fear and become discontent.

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Over the years I’ve learned that being in control is NOT something we get to be. God is in control. So, the secret to being content is to know your God and to really believe His Word.

I know this sounds simple, like Christianity Lite 101, but as I’ve talked to women and have experienced my own fears and reactions to life, I see that this is often hard stuff. Knowing words and head knowledge does not always translate into actual belief. And we see this by our expectations and our reactions.

Oh, those expectations! We hold on to them don’t we? And they can really do a number on us if we don’t let them go!

We expect things to go smoothly. We don’t expect trials. We hate suffering. We get mad when we’re treated like a servant.

Our expectations are deflated when real life sets in.

  • We want a perfectly understanding husband.
  • We want kids who have the wisdom of parents so that we don’t have to spend so much time and energy parenting.
  • We want a home that is self-cleaning.
  • We expect people to be kind and considerate and get mad or even when they aren’t.

We get frustrated with the bumps and set-backs that come with inefficiency, sinful interaction, messes, and timetables that don’t run smoothly.

It’s in these times that we have to ask, “What is the truth about my God right now?” and “Do I really believe the Scripture?”

If you are an idealist like I am, you are easily annoyed by the seeming contradictions of this life. You know how things should be, and you’re irritated when they’re not that way. This can be good, when it leads to helping those who are unjustly treated, but it can also be a curse, when you have ideals about what your own life should look like and be, and you disappoint yourself.

These are the grounding truths you need to meditate on when life is disappointing:

I am a most beloved daughter of the God of Heaven.

I’ve signed up to be His servant and to do His will because I believe He is God of the Universe and in control, and I trust Him.

Did you skip over the servant part when you read that sentence? If so, let me encourage you to let that sink in and take root in your spirit. Those who follow Jesus Christ are here to do His will. Servants.

So, yeah…

A few questions about servant hood.

  • Do I get really upset and mad when I’m treated like a servant?
  • When my husband leaves his socks on the ground, do I have the mindset of a servant?
  • When my toddler presses play doh into the rug, do I see myself as a servant?
  • When I am in ministry, “serving others” do I get ruffled when I am treated as a servant?
  • When God brings the “needy” to me, do I get exasperated that there are always people who need my help?

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I’m thinking that our irritability and impatience show that we don’t really have a servant’s mindset but a master’s mindset.

A master wants his will obeyed. He expects things to be his way. He wants others to respect him and honor him. He doesn’t want to be crossed EVER.

So, recognizing our servant status and thinking in terms of picking up a towel and basin for the sake of others will help us accept the will of our Master.

Because, isn’t that what a servant does–the the will of his master? He expects things to be the master’s way. He expects that people will see him as little and sends all “respect” and “glory” to his master. He doesn’t expect anything but to serve.

We’d all verbally affirm that we’d like to be like Jesus, so let’s look at Philippians 2, to see our example:

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

If we want to live as Jesus lived, it involves extreme humility.

Humility means dying to self.

Moms, do we really have the mind of Christ? Would your kids say that you are humble? Are we putting others first for the sake of the gospel instead of acting like our kids are distractions and hindrances from the grander duties of life?

Wives, do we have a “mind of our own” or the mind of Christ? Do our interactions with our husband show humility? Do we consider his needs? Help him? Pride ends (and contention) where humility begins, doesn’t it?

Ministry wives, do we get our knickers in a knot when people exclude us, talk badly about us, expect the unreasonable from us, and use us? Do our reactions reveal a servant’s mindset or a master’s mindset? Would the last congregant who hurt you say you reacted with humility?

Another way we can be like Jesus is to value God’s will over our own:

““Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

Jesus, the man, was submissive to God’s laws. He treasured the law. He never crossed God’s law. We also need to value, treasure, and obey God’s Word. This is not legalism, or bondage. God’s Words and ways bring freedom and life. They’re our guidebook for living.

When you are disappointed in your situation,

or you feel that you’re not getting your fair share,

I’d encourage you to take another look into Scripture.

It’s clarifying. It’s hopeful. It reorients your expectations. It fills you with gratitude and hope and most importantly,

it points you to the Savior and shows you once again what it means to live a Christian life. You’ll see the suffering Christ. You’ll see the merciful Lord. You’ll see the Sovereign One. You’ll see the satisfaction He offers to those who are destitute and thirsty. You’ll see that the suffering is only temporary, and that God is good eternally.

You are loved, dear friend. What verse encourages you to think God’s way during times of trials? What do you to put those things in the forefront of your mind? I’d love for you to share in the comments or on FB.

Have a great weekend, friends!

 

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The One Thing I Want My Dating Kids to Know.

I have three adult children who are either dating or of dating age and after 25 years of marriage and lots of exposure to teenagers who are in the “throws” of dating, I’ve learned one thing that I want my teens to know about dating:

Dating, done right, is a an outgrowth of worship done right.

In other words, God has to be your First Love before you can date with wisdom.

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It takes two people to date and get married, but only one to walk away. (Or to check out, which is the same as separating emotionally.) Divorce statistics are pretty staggering in the Christian community, don’t you think? Over 50%?

I know careful dating doesn’t guarantee that a marriage will last, but knowing that you are on the same page “worship-wise” from the get-go is so important because worship determines direction.

I’m sure you’ve seen newly dating couples who can’t seem to function without one another. At first it just seems cute, like “young love” and all dreamy-filtered-Instagram-my, but at it’s core, this obsession can be really unhealthy.

If one person has become an idol, that’s not love at all. It’s co-dependence–like a wood tick on a cat—a parasite on a host. Not a sustainable relationship because you suck the life out of each other.

I’m the kind of mom who points to the prison almost every time we pass by and tell my kids, “That’s where people who disobey the law end up.” I’m kind of a harper like that.

So when it comes to love and marriage, I’ve told me kids that love is doing the best for people when they are at their worst. Go into the relationship planning for the poorer, the sicker, the hard and unlovely and being thankful for the good.

Maybe our wedding vows should be more honest. (My wheels are turning, but I’ll spare you my sarcastic side.)

Suffice it to say, you are promising to love in the HARD. If an accident leaves him a quadriplegic or if the girl you were so attracted to ends up bed ridden and can do nothing for you, this is the “forever” mindset you are signing up for and pledging before God and these witnesses. *

THIS IS LOVE.

old dating

Love is my grandfather caring for my grandmother in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and never wanting to leave her side.

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Anything that resembles “for richer”, good health, and mountaintop moments are all just the gravy on top.

When your desires are first met in God alone, this changes your focus completely. Dating is no longer about what I need from you but becomes what can we do together to serve this amazing God we have. This changes and informs and puts limits on our earthly interactions with each other.

Dating (and eventually marriage) is about you and me on mission to worship God properly, as equals, side by side, joint heirs of Jesus Christ. This overarching world view keeps Christ focal and my wants and whims and whining at bay.

Everything I do for my spouse, every interaction, every kind word when I don’t feel like being kind, every respectful answer when I feel like snapping back, is because my FIRST LOVE has commanded it to be so.

Christ is the True North in the dating then marriage commitment. We go off course when our “love” for this person becomes twisted and all about my needs being met. Self centered love exposes worship disorder.

In dating, worship disorder says:

  • “You’ll finally complete me!”
  • “He understands me better than anyone else I know.”
  • “I can’t live without him.”
  • “I’d do anything for him.”
  • “With him, I’ll finally be happy.”

In marriage, worship disorder says:

  • my husband needs to meet all of my need
  • my husband needs to make sure I feel loved
  • my husband needs to learn to communicate more
  • my husband needs to appreciate me more

Like a tick on a cat. You do for me. You perform for me. You live to make me happy.

What if we returned to true worship, even in our relationships? What if we expected more of God and less of our spouse? What if we found our fulfillment in God alone? If we relied more on the unfailing promises of God and gave our spouse grace to be human?

Gary Thomson in A Lifelong Love says it this way:

“Isn’t it true that many marital arguments result from disappointment with our spouses? We want them to be something of do something or catch something and they aren’t or they don’t, and we feel sorry for ourselves. We really do want them to love us like God loves us…

Do you recognize that’s an impossible burden for a human spouse, right?

But what if I sought a “monk’s marriage”? What if I decided that I would depend on God alone, expecting nothing from my spouse but depending entirely on God for all my needs, including my emotional and relational needs.” pg.99

When God calls us into a dating or marriage relationship, there are certainly perks and blessings, but it’s not ultimately about our happiness. As Christians, our marriage is a picture, a metaphor, of Christ’s irresistible love for the church. Our love for our spouse shows the world a Kingdom picture.

This can only be done with the Lord’s help, through daily “dying” to our flesh, and by putting others first as an act of worship to the Lord.

In marriage, the way upward is downward. The way to unity is via humility, supernatural humility, in response to all we have and owe to our First Love.

I want my kids to know that a lasting marriage is not because two people just clicked while 50% of others didn’t. Marriage is hard work because the flesh is strong and sin is always with us. Pride and misplaced worship drives us to demand that my needs be met or else. That you praise me, appreciate me, notice me, etc… or else all bets are off.

I have one of the easiest husbands to get along with on the planet. Peter is really just the nicest guy ever. We were high school sweet hearts. I’ve always been crazy about him and I can honestly say that he has kissed me and told me he loves me every morning before work for the last 25 years. He is thoughtful and generous and makes sacrifices so that I will not only have what I “need” but anything he thinks will make me happy. (Hello, he’s taking me to LONDON for our 25th Wedding Anniversary!! Such a great surprise!)

This doesn’t mean that our marriage has been trial-free. No, we are both lively, driven, and selfish. (Him especially! JK) And to my shame, there have been many times when I’ve been argumentative, selfish, and disrespectful in marriage.  I’ve insisted on my own way, pouted when disagreements arose, expected Peter to read my mind and meet needs that only God can meet. Every time I acted this way, I can tell you with 100% certainty that I was in the midst of a worship-disorder.

If I had known this truth earlier on, that my marriage is an outpouring of my worship, I might not have struggled as much as I did.

A passion for God will keep your own passions in check. You’ll not so easily desire anything outside of His will. “If you love me, keep my word.”

Christ has an undeniable claim on your life AND on the life of your spouse/fiancee/boyfriend/girlfriend because God is their father and cares about how they are treated. It’s a crazy thought that God is my “father-in-law” because I married His redeemed and loved child, Peter. And God cares about every interaction I have with Peter and vice versa.

PURITY in dating becomes easier: “I’m dealing with God’s child and He cares and knows if I violate His will.” “I am not going to ask him/her to sin for my “benefit” when my First Love is CENTRAL in my heart and mind.

And Purity is not just a dating issue. The misplaced worship of self in dating only multiplies the struggle in marriage. This is why it’s mandatory that our heart’s affection is firmly attached to the God who claims our first love, allegiance, our life, and our all.

Why not focus on this first love and find your fulfillment in Him? He’s is THE SOURCE of all happiness. This frees you to love others well.

*NOT talking about enduring abuse here. If you are being abused, separate and get help. Be safe for you and your kids. It’s not Christian to be someone’s punching bag, verbally or physically.

*Post contains affiliate links.