Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Part II of Loving our Husbands With a Heavenly Vision: Making Them First in the Order of Priority and Charity

Last night, after relaxing with my guy over a few cups of hot tea and a double episode of Shark Tank (why are we so hooked on that show??!) I was definitely ready to slip into a cozy slumber.

As soon as my head hit the pillow, I started thinking about this post, which isn't normal for me....I don't usually think about blogging at night...other things like grocery lists, lesson plans, appointment dates and sprinklings of worries here and there leave little room in my tired little mind for blogging.

Curled up next to Steve, admiring him as he slept, I couldn't help but think of today's topic: how we can keep our spouse first in the order of priority and charity in the midst of the natural demands of motherhood, work and activities outside the home.

Lately, this particular challenge has become even more real for me.  My heart has been called into a deeper devotion to my husband, since he has been suffering from a decline in his normally, very good health.  His troublesome and worrisome symptoms  have led us down an unfamiliar pathway of seeking out specialists, maintaining a schedule full of appointments, and consenting to a variety of tests in hopes that we might discover just what this "thing" is that is causing him to suffer so much.

Please remember him in your prayers. Perhaps I'll be able to share in greater detail about his situation at another time.
As I lay in the silence beside Steve, my heart began unraveling. I prayed like a child who is upset, but can only manage a spattering of words, a desperate rambling, hoping the One listening could make everything make sense. Those are the words that really, really must be said, even if spoken from the fear of being completely overwhelmed.

When the outpouring was over, and a sense of calm began to anchor my soul, my mind drifted into considering yesterday's post, and I regretted for a moment of how textbook marriage and love  must have sounded to so many of you. More like something off of a bookshelf and less like a friend chatting with you over coffee between piles of laundry and Legos.

That's not my intention, to communicate in such strict fashion....nor my desire.  Life has to translate as real here, and sometimes I fail at that. Sometimes this place can look too polished, I suppose, those smooth, clean images, the "posed and framed" type creating distance rather than unity in our mission to press on toward heaven as wives and mothers together.  I hope you'll read between the lines of all that I write, and find some love in there, drowning out the sounds of the soapbox that perhaps I sit upon all to often......

Yesterday's thoughts, and today's are rooted in faith.  I see that whenever I write posts from a faith-filled perspective, a few of my followers sometimes skeedaddle.  That's okay.  I don't know how else to write about our life, I cannot separate it from the Lord, from religion, from faith.  They are not categories of life, but rather, the very centralities of my being, so if you're here, faith will not be hidden for the sake of followers.

Anyway, I had a whole list of of points to cover with regards to keeping our husbands first in the order of priority and charity, but, again, out of fear of sounding too textbook, I'm just going to run with my thoughts, and I hope you'll run right beside me....

Okay?  So, here we go, how to place our husbands first in the order of priority and charity....

Nothing can truly prepare a woman for the life-altering changes that having a child bring to her, and to her marriage.  I spent the months before our first child was born anticipating all of the wonderful soft smelling sweetness of baby, and gave little thought to the demands that caring for a tiny human would bring. I wasn't prepared, either, for a schedule that demanded less time with my love and more time with our baby. Figuring out how to find the old "us" in the new "we" was difficult!

Now, 14 years and six babies later, as I wait with helpless anxiety to know my husband's prognosis, I can say in earnest to you, do not wait until your children are well taken care of to take care of your husband well.  

{Oooh. Uncomfortable?  Go ahead, squirm a bit. Now, hang in there with me.}

Between the words of that line I'm simply saying this: for many of us moms, our lives are about our children.  Understandably so.  Even if we share the child-rearing, soul nurturing, and intellectual formation duties with our spouses, we can't deny the fact that God has created the feminine genius with a great purpose - to be mothering, nurturing, supporting, guiding, sacrificing, enduring, loving, to be heart, to be home.  And, our most natural exercise of those gifts is with our children. As it should be.

So, what do I mean by "caring for our husbands?"  I DON'T mean waiting on them hand and foot or neglecting our children or ourselves in favor of doing every thing for him, or being every little thing for him.

I am, however, asking you (and me) to consider the amount of time and effort we put into every aspect of life outside of our marriages.  If we are taking the perfect treats to our kids' school functions, you know those ones that keep us up 'till 2 a.m., or investing all of our "extra" energy into committees and councils that there is little left of us to take genuine interest in our spouse, perhaps we need to reconsider our priorities.


Easier said than done, no? Especially if your spouse's first loves seem to be work, golf and volunteering for anything that involves work and golf.  They can be as ambitious as we are, or we as ambitious as they, both of us focused outward, neither of gazing inward upon each other.

When I recited vows at the alter to Steve, I promised to love, honor, and cherish....cherish, him all
the days of my life.  

All the days.  Not some of the days.  Not later after the children's days, the PTO's days, the church committee days, the accomplishing my own personal goals, these present days, and all those to come.

You guys, I am NOT suggesting that this pathway of love is easy. 
Two rocks in the box, remember?

The pressures that we feel from the world, and those that we impose upon ourselves to be everything to everyone - to look, act, talk, live, and to just to "be" a certain way, a way of endless energetic perfection is just nonsense.

And, maybe our husbands have sipped a wee bit of the kool-aid too.  They are okay with chasing their own goals, meeting demands and only meeting up with you at soccer games and spelling bees, because that's the 21st century portrait of a successful family, right? Uugh. They let us do our thing, and we accept that they will do theirs. We go on a few dates here and there, take a couple of trips every few years, and all is well in the honor, cherish and love department.

It's taken me a long time to really embrace those vows with all my heart and to strive to live them every day, believing that my vocation depends upon it. It's taken time and courage to let go of so many things that I enjoy or think are important, including centering my life completely around our children, and all of my own personal preferences and goals just to ensure that I have some amount of time, almost every day, to be attentive in a particular way to my husband.....and thankfully, he does the same for me.

And, even though the vows are embraced, my devotion can waver. I fail. Often I fail.

It's hard to say no gracefully when you're asked to be a part of great opportunities that take place at school, church or work, those that require extra time and energy, but still give us satisfaction in life. It's hard to resist the "Pinteresting" images of crafts, treats or teacher gifts that lead us on a goose chase around a variety of stores to find everything we need to stay up all night making the things that might garner a little goodness for our kids....maybe even for ourselves?? 

Praise and admiration for the mom who works at work or works at home, or both, and never hears thank you for folded laundry and lunches packed and life organized so everyone can find it is precious. Yes. it. is.  Selecting simple over sensational when it comes to our kids and commitment to their activities isn't exactly going to earn you any attention....but it might secure you an extra hour or two with the one who chose YOU, who loves YOU, who wants and needs to be with YOU.
It's time to get really real.

Little ones, those you must soothe, feed, diaper, comfort, entertain and hold through all the hours of crying until you swear your arms will break can drain our well of love-feelings dry. Who can feel like giving one more ounce when you've already freely given more than you knew you ever had?

Motherhood is, at times, so frustratingly wearisome. I have experienced very personal moments of pleading interiorly for my husband to have one, just one moment, a glimmer of how hard it is to say yes a thousand times to those precious people who need me so very much.  I want them to need him more than they need me for a while, so that I can have just a minute alone, to regroup, to find myself again.  

Have you been there???

Honestly, how can mom feel affectionate, interesting or interested in daddy in any.way.shape.or form. when the thought of having a bag of gnats unleashed on your head sounds more pleasant than one more person needing you...touching you....saying "mom??"

Deep breaths.  

Our husbands may not understand how we feel, but they do love us, and they will love us through our struggles, if we are open and honest with them about these places in our lives that often feel all-consuming and completely overwhelming.

Even though the commitment to love, honor and cherish our spouse is hard....and often the journey of fulfilling our vows joyfully may feel impossible, that doesn't mean we aren't called to try, to aspire toward loving our husbands as our primary goal (after our relationship with the Lord) every day.

Whenever I'm out and about, I find myself truly drawn to older couples who seem to be so happy together.  They visit enthusiastically when eating out, rather than sitting in silence.  They take walks together, travel, enjoy their grandchildren and are salt and light to younger couples in their community, in their church. They emulate a very specific sort of joy, one that has not come from an easy life, but a joy that has come from a generous one.

I want Steve and I to be that way.  But, I know, deep down, that you don't just wake up one day and find yourselves there - you must devote yourself to literally becoming that kind of love over the entire course of your matter how challenging it may be.
If you don't mind, I'd like to share a few practical things that I've learned form others, or been graced to realize on my own, that truly help me to "take care of" my husband in the midst of life's demands:

::  Let some things go. I used to stay up late doing laundry, picking up everything (stop doing that!!! You're kids can and should do it!) prepping for school the next day etc., while Steve had some down time in the evening or went to bed alone.  Since I have let those managerial tasks go at night, I have to say our marriage has really benefited.  We spend a little bit of time together, one-on-one every evening.  No chores, no last minute prepping or perfecting, and no blogging.  Do I get behind? Sometimes, but then, I realize that I can ask the kids to help more, or I figure out ways to be more efficient during the day, or I accept that life can be a bit unraveled yet still function just fine.  Then, I'm at peace, because I'm free to look forward to being with Steve and night, and don't want to miss our time together.

Even though we're expecting our 6th child, I can honestly say that Steve and I spend more quality time together now than when we just had one baby.  Of course, it's grace, but it's also about prioritizing, and I'm so very thankful that we are on the same page when it comes to serving our marriage.

::  If you love to volunteer and enjoy being active outside of the home/work (which is awesome!) try to be reasonable about it. Choose one or two things that you would love to be involved in and talk about it with your spouse first, so that he has the opportunity to be supportive.  We all work better when we know those we love are behind us, right?  The less divided we are in time, attention and energy, the more focused and efficient we can be on the things we're devoted to.

::  Perhaps you may feel neglected by your spouse, so the idea of "caring for him" or reaching out to him seems unfair or upsetting to you.  Truly, I understand.  Yet, in order to nurture your marriage, someone has to reach out first.  Just be honest with your husband, tell him you don't feel like he wants to spend time with you, tell him you NEED him, that you MISS him.  Ask him how you can spend more time together....ask HIM to help you make specific plans to spend more time together.

Then, do the little things for him....pour him a beer and go sit beside him while he watches football, call him at work and ask him if he'll help you get the kids to bed early so you can watch a movie or have a glass of wine by the fire.  Pray for the courage to reach out to him...then pray for your spouse, that he will come along side of you in this priority.

::  If you're kids' activities are running your life and your marriage, it's time to reassess.  They don't have to be involved in everything, and they don't have to know everything to be happy, healthy, wholesome, smart and well-rounded kids!!Guitar? Karate? Basketball? Knitting? Chess? AND Japanese???????  We obsess over so many things sometimes, don't we? If neither you, nor your spouse have time for one another because all of your time is spent fostering opportunities for your kiddos, perhaps it's time for a change.

And, you know what? Our children need to see us together as parents, loving, laughing, working side-by-side, and dancing in the kitchen over dirty dishes MORE than they need karate lessons.  They need to see us putting each other first.  Our children's response to us when we show them our love in this way is precious.  I always seem to underestimate the amount of security and confidence that outward expressions of love between parents can give to their children.

::  Believe in your love.  To believe in it, means we must ponder it, in our minds and in our hearts with intention.  I find this to be most helpful in those moments when I don't feel loving. Think about the things you love most about your spouse.  Try to recall you most romantic moments together, his greatest acts of charity, his simplest, yet most consistent acts of devotion.  Give thanks to the Lord for your husband's proposal to you, that he found you and had the courage to ask you to be his bride.  As simplistic as it sounds, keeping the fire you felt at the alter kindled is one way to motivate our hearts toward living our vows with greater ferver.

A fire doesn't burn on bursts of fuel being thrown at it (get-away trips, big gifts), it can only sustain a strong, steady warmth with the continual donation of even the smallest kindlings, in our marriage, those are the offerings of time, intention, sincerity, sacrifice, anticipation, hope, joy and devotion.

“As you create a home, don't get distracted with a lot of things that have no meaning for you or your family. Don't dwell on your failures, but think of your successes. Have joy in your home. Have joy in your children. Have joy in your husband. Be grateful for the journey.” 

― Marjorie Pay Hinckley


  1. I love this series (or 2 posts - either way) of posts that you are doing. Even though I feel like Chris and I are in a good place I know that I can (and should) do more.
    I didn't feel like the first post was textbook in any way - I felt like you wrote it from your heart to mine!!!
    And, I will be praying for Steve (and you!!) and the Drs to figure out what is going on - I'm sorry that you are going through this!!!

  2. I really enjoyed both of these posts and really needed this good reminder. Thanks so much for writing this!

  3. Susan, these posts are fantastic. You describe what marriage should be. What we should all strive for. No textbook sounding in either post.
    I am praying for Steve, you, the boys, and the doctors.

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  6. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! So true--the most important thing you can do for your kids is to let them see, day in and day out, how much their parents love each other, how devoted to each other they are. Not because they give each other amazing gifts, but because they perform little acts of self-sacrifice and love on a regular basis, and they put each other first.

    Although I miss my husband so much when he's away on trips (he's an airline pilot, gone for a couple of days at a time--and early in our marriage, he was a Naval officer and aviator), I think that helped me to see very early on that if I tried to stretch myself too far outside our home and be a supermom and super-volunteer, I would have nothing left over for him when he had his precious days at home. Sometimes I looked at other moms who seemed to be "doing it all," and I thought I was a bit of a slacker, but I still tended to say "no" to most activities that would involved meetings or would take time away from my husband. I'm glad now that I didn't let myself worry about keeping up with everyone else, because in our case, being home most of the time and keeping the fires burning there was the very best thing I could do for our marriage.

    We always set aside time for each other. When the boys were little, it usually wasn't some great date; sometimes it was as simple as getting them all down by 8:00 and eating our ice cream sandwiches (which we'd hidden from our kids--weren't we bad?) in front of a movie or a show together, or just talking. The tough thing was when they got to be teens and college-aged, because they stayed up so late. But you know what we did? We stayed up later, just so we could still have our time.

    I feel sorry for young moms these days, because I think the pressure to be so perfect is even greater than it was when I was a young mom. (Sometimes I think Pinterest has the devil behind it, because it's upped the ante on how much time and effort people think they need to put into every little detail of life!)

    Anyway, this is an absolutely wonderful essay on what it takes to make a beautiful marriage, and you write so eloquently, Susan.

    I will keep your husband in my prayers. God bless you both!

  7. Thanks for pouring your heart out to build us up! Great post. We will be praying for Steve and your family! I'm sorry you're going through this tough time!

  8. praying for your husband. lovely post.

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  10. I am really enjoying this series, thank you for sharing with us. I will keep your husband (and the rest of your family) in my prayers.

  11. This was a beautiful post! I enjoyed reading it and whole-heartedly agree! Parts of it reminded me very much of a post written by Ann Voskamp that really touched me as well. She talks about "pruning back trees that can bear really good fruit"…meaning that sometimes we are over worked and underwhelmed about the things that really matter b/c we are trying so very hard to give our kids every opportunity…opportunities that are great in and of themselves. Speaking Japanese??? Awesome! Knowing how to knit…so very handy! But when these activities take us away from each other…perhaps it is time to prune them out of our lives (at least for a season) even if they bear good fruit! Again, really beautiful post! Blessings from a fellow Kansan!

  12. This is beautiful, Susan. So beautiful! Thank you for the genuine advice - so much of it I need to take to heart.

    More importantly, you're in my prayers.

  13. First of all, I want to say that no matter what style you write in, you always seem real. Keep doing your thing and feel free to just ignore any naysayers.

    Secondly, I am so sorry to hear your husband is struggling with health issues. Between worry for your mom and your husband, a recent move, being pregnant, and of course all the day to day responsibilities of a wife and mother, you must be EXHAUSTED! You and your family will continue to be in my prayers. Hang in there... you're doing awesome!

  14. Hey Susan, I love your blog. It is one of the few, few "mother" blogs that I find truly helpful and encouraging for mind, spirit, soul. Thanks for writing! -lily


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