The one thing you should do for your husband

Don’t you just love date night?

Holding hands. Conversation without interruption. Being out and about together. Taking your time for everything – especially that glass of wine. Acting as if you normally dress like this and have makeup on and are showered (yea, right? That would be something huh, moms?)

How easy our married lives would be if we could always live in the glow of date nights. If laundry and work and cutting the grass and toddlers and making sandwiches and paying the bills didn’t remind us that we have actual responsibilities. 

It’s hard to maintain the afterglow of date nights when life happens. I always resolve myself at the end an evening out that I am going to keep these carefree feelings alive and show my husband how much I care for and love him EVERYDAY. Not just once a month, when we sneak out for an evening together.

Then my dreams face plant into reality.

In my usual frame of thinking, I am much too busy to put myself out there with my husband because the kids need a bath and their teeth brushed and to be put into bed. I have to clean the dishes. I have to feed the baby. I am much too busy to be expected to give anyone else anymore of myself.

Then by the time the kids are in bed, and there is any sliver of a chance of connecting with my husband, I am much too tired. It becomes one more chore on a checklist of things that require something of me. Doesn’t that just sound so romantic? 

I struggle with being needed. And because the children sometimes scream like banshees and are relatively hard to ignore, I go out of my way to meet their needs (because I want the voices to stop.) That means I’m less inclined to make myself available for my husband, because his needs, theoretically, can wait. Because I’m exhausted.

Day to-day life, especially with children involved, is hectic and certainly not always romantic. And you’ll swear that your children are purposefully blocking any and every attempt at romance that you and the husband can muster. 

I’m not talking about being a door mat for our husbands. I’m not talking about always putting them above ourselves. I’m speaking practically about the ways that we can love them, and put effort into our marriage, which is always a good thing. I’m talking about encouraging the romance and affection that you need, too, ladies.

It’s probably pretty difficult to get your mind into a “romantic” setting after you’ve cleaned up from a massive diaper blowout and you haven’t caught a shower. For me, sometimes the one thing I’d like most, connection with my husband, just doesn’t seem possible after a long day.

I need a slow build to get my mind in the right settings for romance. But, ladies, we need that connection with our husbands. And, to be frank, we need intimacy with one another. So often, we relegate it to the back burner when it should be a priority.

So, how do we live our married lives like we are in a state of perpetual “bliss”? How do we choose romance?

Show your husband that you care.

Simple as that. Right?

Not always.

Here are a few ways to pursue your husband:

1.) Be glad to see him when he gets home. 

I’m not talking about being June Cleaver. I’m not talking about the house being pristine and having a hot dinner on the table, which is already set. I’m not even talking about having real pants on, and not the sweats you live in for three days at a time.

I’m talking about stopping what you’re doing for two minutes, and welcoming your husband home. Ask him how his day was. Look him in the eye. Give him a peck on the cheek and a hug. Get close enough that he can smell your perfume (or your staleness, if it’s been a long few days since a shower.)

Don’t look at your husband like he is just an extra set of hands when he walks in the door, though I have been guilty of this on plenty of occasions. Look at him like he is your husband. Acknowledge that is there, acknowledge that you missed him. Then smack that booty.

Let him know you care. 

2.) Do that thing that he wants you to do

Get your minds out of the gutter. 

My husband loves it when I wake up early and keep him company while he gets ready for work. That sounds painful, doesn’t it? Parting with an extra 45 minutes of sleep is an effort for me. I don’t always succeed.

I’m not saying it’s this exact thing for the two of you, but there is probably something your husband would be bawled over if you did for him or with him. 

Watch the game with him. Play chess with him. Keep him company while he washes the car. Make him his favorite dinner. Watch the t.v. shows he wants to watch. The possibilities are endless.

Don’t know where to start? Ask him.

3.) Be romantic with him. 

Now your minds can be in the gutter. 

Ready?

Initiate. Initiate the romance. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for him to guess what you’re thinking. Don’t send subtle signals. Put the kids in bed, then wait a bit (probably more like an hour to be sure they’re really asleep, if you live in my house.) Then pounce. Or meander over. Or, you know, wink at him. 

Game on. 

4.) Give him a break. 

I know what you’re thinking. 

You’ve been cooped up with the kids all.week., mostly inside because it’s been raining or someone had a cold. And YOU want a break from children. 

Guess what?

Your husband just spend 50 hours at work this week, doing the same things over and over. He just had his bosses come over and tell him to do that report he spent two days on all over again. He just answered a telephone call from a less than pleased customer. 

Newsflash: your husband does stuff, too, while he is out of the house all day. 

So, sometimes, he wants to get out of the house and feel like a human being that isn’t running the endless rat race of the 9-5 (or shift work) work-force. Sometimes, he wants the house to himself for an hour so he can watch wrestling and wear the sleeveless shirts he doesn’t want anybody else to know that he has. 

Sometimes, he wants to be Al Bundy, sit with his hand in his pants on the couch, drinking a cold one, watching the television. 

He’s a peacock, you gotta let him fly. 

5. ) Treat him like a person

Don’t nag him. Cus he’s grown. 

Ask. Request. Suggest. Encourage. Talk to him like an adult.

Don’t nag him like he’s an extra child. Don’t harp on him. Don’t expect him to do things the EXACT way that you would do them.

Especially when it comes to how he interacts with the kids.

Let him learn to navigate the art of fatherhood all on his own. The kids may be wearing mismatched clothing and still be awake at 10:14 when you get home from a night out with the girls. He may not have touched the dishes you asked him to do. He may forget to take out the trash.

Whatever it is. Calm down.

Don’t treat him like a paycheck. Don’t act like your staying home with your children is a favor you’re doing for him. Don’t act like he owes you for everything (except for when you clean up profuse amounts of dog poop or puke.) Don’t act like he couldn’t get by without you. 

Just be grateful when he’s there. The way you want someone to be grateful that you’re there, catching vomit at 1 a.m. or cleaning the goldfish crumbs out of the back of the van when it’s 90 degrees out. 

Forgo the martyr act, and treat him like a flesh and blood person.  

 

There you have it, ladies. Go and have some fun with your man…just Maybe shower first, if you can? It’s funner for both of you that way.

Christ Enters In

It’s officially Christmas time.

How do I know this? Because I bought a box of Christmas Crunch by Cap’n Crunch. You know, with those little Christmas tree shaped crunch-berries in it? And let me tell you, it was gone within 48 hours. And I am not ashamed of it.

I never appreciated the story of Mary and Martha until recently…

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.

And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 

39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 

40 But Martha was distracted with much serving.

And she went up to him and said,

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

 41 But the Lord answered her,“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,

42 but one thing is necessary. 

Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

In my own pride I always thought that I had deciphered all that that text of the Bible had to offer. Jesus is the most important thing. Right, got it. Let’s move on.

It wasn’t until recently, at the start of Advent, that this story began to take on a whole new life for me, as only the Bible can do, even when you have read a passage dozens of times.

I’ve been struggling lately. I’m in the trenches of having three babies now. It sort of feels like that grace period that moms seem to get when they first bring a new baby home is over. And while I am actually enjoying very much that I have a newborn, I have been hating something else.

The current situation of my house. It looks like a bomb went off. All. The. Time.

Let me be honest in saying that it isn’t like my house has it all together the rest of the year. Even when there wasn’t a pregnant belly to lug around or a newborn to tend to, my house could still look like war torn streets of the apocalypse by the end of the day.

I am all about being real. I am all about welcoming anyone into my home, perhaps with the qualifying statement of, “you’re welcome to come in, buuut just so you know my house is messy,” at first but I ultimately have no shame. Because it is what it is.

Lately though I have crossed over from being confident in my home to being ashamed of it. I feel like no matter what I do, no matter how much time during my day gets committed to doing SOME sort of cleaning, it simply doesn’t matter. It will still look roughly the same tomorrow.

If I get the bathrooms get scrubbed, I can only see that the wood floors in the living room need desperately to be mopped because there are dried splatters of juice everywhere. If I get three loads of laundry washed, dried and folded, I can only see that the dishes in my kitchen sink are piled like a mountain.

It’s taken over my life. Which is especially sad considering that something I worry and fret over so much never seems to get any better no matter what I do. It’s a perpetual cycle.

Nothing feels good enough. 

Does it ever, really?

And it always seems to ramp up around Christmas, right? When you have the most stuff to do, when you have things you want to sit back and enjoy, that’s when ish hits the proverbial fan. Or maybe we just don’t notice it as often until the calendar page flips to December. Maybe the pressure doesn’t get to us any other time like it does during the holiday season.

That’s when our eyes pop out of our heads over the angst of believing nothing is the way that it should be. This is supposed to be a special time of year. Somehow we think that means that our kids are going to magically remember to always put their shoes away and not make a mess of the dining room table by littering it with strips of cut paper and macaroni noodles from lunch.

Christmas is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to be “just so.”

Enter Christ. 

Does Christ really care about our messy homes? Does Christ really care that the calendar says that it’s December?

We bought our Christmas tree last weekend. It was a great time for all of us. Although I would have chosen a tree about a foot taller and three feet wider, we ultimately made a more sensible choice. Having a Christmas tree that looks like it ate other Christmas trees sounds fun and even seems that way at first. Until about December 26th.

After a month of having a giant Christmas tree occupying a vast space in my living room, about when the needles start turning brown, that’s when I start losing my mind. Normally I crack first and start taking the tree down because I just can’t take it anymore.

We brought our tree home. Our beautiful tree. Such a picturesque scene, a family in their mini van driving down the road with the perfect tree strapped to the roof. Kids piling out of the car and into the house where we could enjoy hot chocolate together.

All of those lovely images marred by how we promptly had to spend about 30 minutes cleaning up/rearranging everything to even get the tree into our living room.

Because our house is simply that chaotic right now. The tree isn’t decorated yet because we have had holiday activities and obligations pretty much every evening since then. So it sits (stands?) naked in my living room.

It’ll get decorated when we find the urge to ruffle through the attic to find the decorations. How is that the box with Christmas decorations always seems to be in the furthest corner of the attic and buried under the most stuff? Even though it was only put away in, like, July?

It didn’t seem like a page for the memory books. Beleaguered parents who are tired. Who are tired of feeling like they are at the bottom of the heap with day to day life. Just trying to keep it together. Our beautiful tree, surrounded by a sea of clutter.

Isn’t this our Christ?

Who comes to shine the light in our cluttered hearts and declare that it matters not? That those who would receive Him still are all that He desires.

This is advent, people. 

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The beautiful tree, shining in a house cluttered with a sea of funk. This is where the tree belongs. A savior, born to a world full of broken, helpless people.  This is where the savior belongs. Born to humble parents, in a small, unassuming town in a shabby barn. From tiny, unlikely niches, He would light the way.

I cannot stress the following statement enough: Christ did not come for the people who “have it all together.”

If you told me right now that Christ would be standing at my door in 30 minutes, I would guffaw and then promptly melt down because I’m not showered, the kids aren’t dressed, the house is filthy and I would be wondering why He would want to even come to a place like this anyway?

My old farm house with a rusty tin roof and worn siding? I would be a Martha, I would be worried that my home wasn’t ready. And I would be wondering what, if anything, He would want with me? I would fret, I’m sad to say. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I would.

Christ came for me. For all people. For the people who were willing to fling open their doors and the door to their heart and receive Him. And especially for those who make precursory statements such as, “welcome. It’s very messy in here, but you’re welcome to all that I have.” 

He delights when you admit that it’s messy, and still yield to Him so that He can show you a better way. To show us that His promises will long outlast the clutter in our home, the pain in our hearts. He delights when instead of busying ourselves with things that don’t matter, we find time to sit at His feet.

This is why, even though this is a special time of year from a celebratory standpoint, we should not be caught up in making everything just so. Put that Advent Wreath in your messy home. Hang those lights on the front of your old, rickety house. Put that tree in the one corner of your living room that isn’t cluttered. Turn off all of the lights and stare at it. Don’t look around, look only at it.

In much the same way, welcome Christ into your messy heart. Every. Day. Fling open its doors and announce that its messy in here, and acknowledge that it’s not much but that He is most welcome here. Receive Him.

Turn off all of the lights to everything else, and sit at the feet at the one who lights the way.

I’ve seen you do both

I heard the alarm. Felt the bed move as you sat up and swung your feet over the edge. You were sitting there in the dark, eyes foggy, head cloudy. Probably wondering why 3 a.m. even exists, anyway.

I listened as you dressed in the dark. Felt you lean over to my side of the bed while you whispered to me to have a good day and felt a kiss on my face. I watched you leave the room and begin to descend the stairs in your uniform. Heard the hum from your car as it started.

It may have seemed like I just went back to bed at this time every day, but in truth, I never could until I was assured that you were completely gone. I always laid there and listened to the engine of your car fade. I always waited. I had to hear it. And I couldn’t wait to hear it again nine hours later.

You returned later that day smelling of oil and grease and sweat. Cover off of your head, finally free from your blouse. Boots still on your feet. Smiling.

Somehow, I feel like I remember you always smiling. 

I’m sure it wasn’t always that way while you were in the service. I actually know now that it wasn’t. And that a lot of those times that you were smiling you were actually heavy-hearted and carrying so much on the inside.

I remember your fledgling days when you first separated from the service. Flung back out into a world that didn’t exactly understand, full of people with different priorities than you, who felt the weight of responsibility differently than you. Appreciated all that they had a bit less than you.

I remember what it was like to watch cable news with someone who took its content seriously and even personally as events unraveled and transpired in the middle east. Your frustration at a nation who was slowly forgetting herself and that what makes her great is what makes her distinct. And her choice to always genuinely strive to be the best. Something that you have done time and time again.

You probably never told anybody how in the pit of your stomach you worried just a bit if you could do this. If you could find a nitch in the world again that felt right. If you’d find friends who could understand you, that you could understand in return.

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It’s been almost eight years since we drove home. Since we said goodbye to the golden state. And you jumped in with both feet. If you were scared, I never really noticed at the time.

People always seem to think that women are the only ones who are an ocean of complexities, secrets and hopes unseen. How wrong they are.

I see you.

And as the years pass, I see you in ways that I have never seen you before. Even the you from eight years ago. The me of now appreciates and understands and sees just a bit more of the you from then. How I sometimes mourn the fact that I could have been smarter, more intuitive, better equipped to help you, to appreciate you at the time.

Now that you’re the father of my children, I see it all so much more. I have seen you be man and Marine.

I’ve seen you be strong. I’ve seen you be brave. I’ve been comforted by you when you were the one about to deploy into God knows what for who knows how long. How you reassured me. How you assured me that it would one day be in our rear view mirror and we’d be passed it and be all the better for it. I remember that I didn’t want to admit that I believed you, because admitting it meant I had to accept that you were going to go away.

I’ve seen you be vulnerable. When you’d tell me stories about those who didn’t make it back, when you’d wonder if things could have turned out different if you had done something different. The things that you saw and heard and how at times they wrenched your insides, and how they steeled your resolve at others. How the smoke and the destruction and the crawling through the mud and the calloused, tired feet and the obstacles made you remember time and time again that you made the right choice.

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I’ve seen you be gritty. I’ve smelled grease in your hair and the sweat on your neck. When you worked long days, mastering a skill set that you now don’t get to use but at the time was a matter of life and death, efficiency and necessity. You spent your days working with foul-mouthed Marines and, let’s be honest, you yourself were foul-mouthed, too. But you all understood one another. There was affection and brotherhood amongst you grisly, brazen men. 

I’ve seen you be gentle. With our baby girl. With our son when you showed him how to plant green beans in the backyard. With our daughter when you run a comb gently through her cascade of golden knots, and braid it before bed time.

I’ve seen you lead. I’ve seen that fire in you. The kind that looks calamity and danger in the face and says, “not today. Not on my watch.” I’ve seen what made you a Marine, even in the ho-hum of everyday life. I have seen the type of person that would leave everything behind for a passion and cause that he believes in, like those men in the history books who decided that they would give up their lives if that mean securing safe passage for the mantle of freedom to the next generation. I have seen that men like that are still alive today.

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I’ve seen you submit yourself to education and instruction and the leadership of others. Showing that true men know when to lead, but also most assuredly know when to follow. Because sometimes, following, and learning and seeking wisdom make you better. I have seen you give credit where credit is due.

I’ve seen you in a uniform. Dress blues or cami’s. For a Marine Ball or a dining out banquet. Spending time and using the discipline it takes to ready yourself, full of admiration, respect and care for the uniform and for what it means.

I’ve seen you in casual clothes. Where one would only know that you were a Marine if they had a trained, astute eye for such things.

I’ve seen you laugh. This is probably my favorite. How someone who has walked through so much, seen so much, done so much can still love so much. Can still live life in such a way that he still smiles and takes joy in all he sees whenever he can. At his child who just learned how to wiggle his bottom. At his daughter and her affinity for standing with her hands on her hips, barking orders. At your wife, who puts butter in the cabinet by mistake because she is clueless.

You’ve never given that up. You have never given up on us. And I hope that you never do.

As the years pass, and we move further and further away from your dates of service, my understanding of it changes. When we were in the thick of it, it felt so different. It was something that slipped on like a glove. It was what it was. It was our way of life. Because we were around people of the same mind. There wasn’t the need to make a fuss.

Now that it isn’t our daily way of life anymore, and the uniforms are tucked into the back of the closet, the plaques sitting on the shelf in the study, the way that things go when they are sometimes quietly forgotten about I just feel the urge to tell you every day that I remember. Remnants of a season that has passed. Though the dust of time may settle, though you have gone back to quietly living your life without much fuss and have even made a new life for yourself, I remember what you did. I feel the urge to revisit it. 

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To tell you that you really were right. That time is now in our rearview mirror.

And we really are all the better for it.