Wisdom for Wives

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks …"

What I Know Now

Rooftop wedding at Seven-Degrees in Laguna Beach, CA

image credit: brides.com, taken by Laura Grier

One day my Prince will come.

It’s the dream of many a fairy-tale reading girl. Something that girls grow up hoping for, if not expecting. (Though apparently not as much as they used to, but I digress.) In junior high, we practice our signatures with the last name of our secret crush. I went so far as to pick out baby names for my over-a-decade-from-being-born children: Champagne and Chablis. (So embarrassing!!) We fantasize about the wedding day, the gorgeous dress, and the home we will share long before the identity of our knight in armor is even known.

As we mature, our longings go deeper than the perfect day and the perfect dress. We look forward to the companionship and intimacy that are supposed to characterize marriage. We may hope for someone to take care of us, to make us feel safe and secure. Or someone to make us feel needed, desired, and loved. For better or worse, our childhood experiences often impact our expectations of marriage. Some of us grew up in loving homes that we plan to duplicate with our own Prince Charmings. Others of us long to find the happy relationship that our parents didn’t have.

And that longing isn’t wrong, is it? After all, God created marriage. Throughout Scripture (including in Ephesians 5:22-32, Hosea, and Revelation), God’s relationship to his people is compared to covenant of marriage. An entire book of the Bible is devoted to the pleasures of marital love. Clearly, in the opinion that matters most (ie, God’s), marriage is a good thing.

So if you are a single woman you may be asking yourself, When will this good thing happen to me? Will it ever happen to me? I certainly asked. Even though I met my husband when I was 18, our ultimately getting married 7 years later was not always a certainty. So if it wasn’t going to be him, Who? I asked when we weren’t in a relationship. Where will I meet him? Maybe I should go on this missions trip because I’ll meet him¬†there! What if he was on that missions trip that I didn’t go on and I missed him?? Does God even want me to get married???

Well, to my great delight, I did get married. ūüôā In November it will be 15 years, and I’m grateful for every single day of those 15 years, even the days I would not like to repeat. But sometimes I think about the single me, with her hopes and expectations of what marriage would be. She thought she knew everything (except maybe who her future husband would be), so she probably wouldn’t listen if I went back in time and told her what I know now. (When I get married, … she would say with authority.) But as it turns out, the things I would say to the single Susan are the same things I need to say to myself every day as a married woman:

1. Find your wholeness and identity in God.
The Bible says that a husband and wife are no longer two, but one flesh (Matthew 19:4-6). And Ephesians 5:23 says that the husband is the head of the wife. But married or not, you—Susan of the past and Susan of the present—are God’s precious daughter. Your last name may change, but you will still be you! I won’t pretend to understand exactly how it works. But I do know, when you stand before before God’s judgment seat, you will not be judged for your husband’s life, nor he for yours (Romans 2:6, Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10). And if you are waiting for someone to complete you, define you, or make you feel significant, you will be disappointed. No man was made for that job. Jesus has already defined you, and He says that you are:

He says that you belong to Him (1 Peter 2:9), whatever your last name. You can be secure in the knowledge that your position in Christ is independent of your marital status or how anyone else feels about you.

2. Depend on God as your provider.
I have to admit, during my engagement, I was looking forward to having a husband take care of me. After we got married, even though I had a job (and had supported myself as a single adult for years), I felt proud that my husband was the primary and very successful breadwinner. To the point that I took little interest in our financial situation. But God is the one who was taking care of both of us, as He had when we were single. And we both had a responsibility for stewardship, whoever was making more money.

When you see your husband (or your boss, or your parents, or even yourself) as your source, all of the pressure is on that person to meet your physical needs. Relying completely on a human being who can’t possibly meet all of your needs can be stressful, disappointing, and even embittering for both of you. But even if your husband is the only one in your family who earns an income, God is your source! God is the one who provides the opportunity and ability to work. Between the two of us, my husband and I have several testimonies of miraculous employments. ūüėÄ In each of those stories, it’s so clear that God’s merciful hand, and not our strength¬†or our brilliant choices, brought the jobs along (and kept them for us) at just the right times.

And God’s provision is not limited to paychecks. The Creator of the Universe is the one who keeps those tires going a few miles longer, gives the kids’ sneakers a few more weeks of tread, leaves the providential bag of groceries at your door, and does abundantly more than¬†you can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). It is true when you are single. And it’s true after you say, “I do.” So instead of burdening your (future or current) husband with all of your needs, take¬†them to the Lord and trust Him to provide (Philippians 4:3-29, Hebrews 4:16)

3. Seek companionship in Him.
Marriage is not a cure for loneliness. Even if you marry your best friend, as I did. Even if, as I once bragged, you are his favorite person to spend time with. (Marriage has been a necessary and ongoing cure for my pride! ūüôā ) In the best relationship, you and your husband will probably be apart at times. For 8-10 hours every weekday, for an occasional overnight trip, or even for weeks or months at a time. Back in 2004, my husband’s job required him to travel cross-country as much as one week per month. We had a toddler and an infant, and I could hardly wait for Daddy’s Friday returns. I would wake up and cry, It’s only Tuesday!!

But very often, couples are separated by more than time zones. Your once intimate partner can come to feel more like a roommate; or worse, your enemy. Not feeling close to the person with whom you are supposed to be one flesh, can be harder to bear than being simply alone.

But God’s daughter is never really alone! Ever! Jesus is always with you (Matthew 28:20). You couldn’t get away from Him even if you wanted to (Psalm 139:7-12)!! Nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:38-39). Knowing this has been an incredible comfort during difficult times in my marriage. In fact, it’s during some of those trying times that I’ve felt the deepest awareness of and dependence on God’s presence. Of course, you don’t have to wait until you’re married or have marital problems to draw near to God (Psalm 73:28). Don’t wait. He longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18).

4. Never give up serving the Lord.
It is easier to serve when you feel appreciated. At least it is for me, someone who craves affirmation. And while I am grateful to have a very affirming husband, he can’t do it constantly. My children are old enough to say, Thank you, and they often do. But not when I mop the kitchen floor (which, granted doesn’t happen very often, but still). Not when I tell them to clean their rooms. Definitely not when I correct and discipline them. But I can’t live for anyone’s affirmation or thanks. Those are not enough to get me through yet another sink-full of dirty dishes. They will not give me the strength to keep praying the same prayers for my family. ¬†But when I do get tired, and wonder,¬†What’s the point?, God reminds me that I’m washing the dishes for Him. ¬†I’m praying for my family, not so that our lives will be the way I want them to be, but that our lives would please Him.

One of my absolute FAVORITE verses is in 1 Corinthians 15.  It is a reminder to focus on the One I am really serving.

~~Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). ~~

So if you¬†feel neglected, unnoticed, unappreciated in your service—whether it’s to your job, church, community, or family—remember that God sees all of your work and does not forget it (Hebrews 6:10).

My point in all this? Marriage can be sweet, satisfying, exhilarating, and comforting. It can also be exhausting and heart-breaking. For every problem that you think marriage will solve, there are challenges that are hard to imagine or understand until you actually get married yourself (as married people tried to tell me when I was single ūüôā ). So, rather than looking to marriage as a solution to (or cause of) your problems,¬†look to Jesus. Put your hope in Him. Beyond hoping that He will bring you a husband or change your marriage (which He can do, so ask!), you have hope because Christ’s life, death, and resurrection give us victory. ¬†So even though you¬†are going to have trouble, whether you’re¬†married or single, you can take heart. ¬†Because whether married or single, the greater One is in you. ¬†He is there before you walk down the aisle, and He will be there always.

Thanks for stopping by,

Married Susan ūüôā

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Oh, How He Loves Us

Pages of a Bible folded into a heart

image credit: honorbound

Yes, it is Valentine’s Day, but today my mind is on Christmas. That’s because, this past Christmas I felt so thoroughly loved through the gifts I received from my family members. Each gift was so special and well-suited to me, but also reflected something about the giver’s character or my relationship with him/her.¬†My husband is an extravagantly generous giver. ¬†He usually spends more on me than I would even consider spending on myself. Christmas 2014 was no different. When he asked what I wanted, I hesitated to tell him about the expensive camera I had been eying, because I knew he would probably buy it. But when he found out that it might be discontinued soon, he decided to purchase the next model up. No big surprise. ūüôā ¬†(He takes after his parents, who were also very generous with their gifts.) ¬†I’m so grateful for my mom,¬†who knows what clothes look good on me and seems to delight in shopping for me. ¬†And I delight in her selections! One of them, a very flattering sweater, is captured forever in the family photo we took the day after Christmas. I also think about the¬†gifts for which my children sacrificed their allowances and gift money, a gift card to a favorite home decorating store from my brother’s family, and gorgeous handmade gifts from my creative sister-in-law. ¬†My niece gave me an assortment of treats from Starbucks, indicating that she knows me very well indeed.

Later, as I continued to think about it, I was reminded of 1 Peter 4:10. With our different spiritual gifts, we are able to demonstrate God’s manifold (layered, mulit-faceted, varied, diverse) grace. Then I thought, it’s as if each one of those Christmas gifts demonstrates, in a small¬†way, one of the infinite facets of¬†God’s love for me. Which makes them even more precious.

God loves lavishly.
~~ See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1) ~~

He loves intimately.
~~ You have searched me, Lord, and you know me … For you created my inmost being. (Psalm 139) ~~

He loves sacrificially.
~~ And walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:2) ~~

He loves faithfully.
~~ Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. ¬†They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23) ~~

He loves patiently.
~~ But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15) ~~

He loves unconditionally.
~~ But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) ~~

He loves eternally.
~~ For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:5) ~~

God’s Word has so much more to say about the ways that He loves us. ¬†I pray that, whether or not you are sharing this day with loved-ones, you will know and believe how much God loves you.

Thanks for stopping by,
Susan

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Worth More Than Money (Re-post)

[Since a blogiversary month is a great time for reminiscing, today is a re-post! And it’s about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means!]
Judge Judy

When one spouse bears all of the financial concern alone, money can be a source of great marital strain. ¬†I learned this firsthand during the first few years of my own marriage. ¬†These days, my husband and I discuss the bills on a regular basis, and he’s expressed more than once how grateful he is for this change. But ever since I began to understand how important it is for spouses to be partners in money, I’ve had it on my heart to encourage other wives to become more involved in their families’ finances. ¬†Not only would I like to share¬†why¬†it is important to understand financial issues, I plan to give some practical suggestions for¬†how¬†to go about that. ¬†Taking those steps¬†will probably lead to some conversations with your husband about money, so before I get to the helpful hints, now is probably a good time to address that most famous of demands: ¬†Respect.

~~However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, NIV)~~

My husband and I are probably like most couples in that we do not always agree on how much money to spend.  For example, he is usually more willing than I am to make a bigger investment in quality up front, which has sometimes saved us money on repairs or replacement later.  But some of those purchases were initially met by snark, a stinky face, or seething silence.  None of these responses is particularly helpful, or respectful.

One of the blessings of being informed about our financial situation is that I can offer input, support, and encouragement on money issues. ¬†We can make decisions together. ¬†But I know that it’s not just what I say; it’s how I say it. ¬†My husband deserves my respect—not judgment, criticism, or stinky face—even when we do not agree. ¬† Instead, I should “speak the truth in love,” and pray for us to be wise and united in our financial decisions.

Besides, nagging and scowling just don’t work, at least not with my husband! When he sees those “wheels of judgment” turning in my head (that’s our cute little name for it), I can see our communication shutting down. ¬†Besides, I have found that the Holy Spirit is much more effective at changing hearts and minds than I am. It also turns out that sometimes I am the one whose heart and mind need to be changed, when I was sure that my husband was “wrong.”

As I said before, I’ve had it on my heart for years to encourage women in this area. ¬†One reason for my hesitation all this time (ten years, give or take): ¬†I often do not get it right myself. ¬†That includes the Respect department. ¬†But lately I have been reminded, and will likely have to keep remembering, that I don’t have to be perfect to share what God has been teaching me (sometimes over, and over, and over again). ¬†I’m excited to finally open up about what He’s shown me so far, and to keep growing because the learning never stops!

Thank you for stopping by,

Susan
[P.S. Are we called to love our husbands, too? Of course! And aren’t husbands called to honor us? Absolutely! ¬†God’s word has a lot to say about how husbands and wives should relate to one another. ¬†By His grace and power, we can do it.]

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How Do I Look?

Woman looking into a Photoropter

image credit: wikipedia.org

Has a friend ever been telling¬†you about a heated disagreement¬†she had with someone else—perhaps her husband, mom, or a co-worker—and then presented the other person’s side of the story? ¬†Expounded on¬†the valid points on both sides? ¬†Explained the other person’s perspective? ¬†Yeah, it hasn’t happened to me either. ¬†Come to think of it, I never tell a story that way myself. ¬†The way¬†I¬†usually tell the story,¬†I¬†was perfectly reasonable, rational, and justified, and the other person … wasn’t. ¬†Of course if you heard that other person’s side, I¬†was probably the unreasonable one. Because we¬†would each be assuming the worst of the others’ intentions,¬†while viewing ourselves in terms of our best¬†intentions. However, it’s supposed to be the other way around. ¬†We are supposed to take a more critical view of our own motivations while being more generous in our assessment of others.

~~Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother‚Äôs eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?¬†Or how can you say to your brother, ‚ÄėLet me take the speck out of your eye,‚Äô and behold, the log is in your own eye?¬†You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother‚Äôs eye. ¬†(Matthew 7:3-5)~~

As I discussed in a previous post,¬†it is important to examine ourselves to discover those deep motivations. ¬†How we handle money is often a reflection of unresolved issues in our own hearts. ¬†Those issues can also unfairly color how we view our spouse’s financial behavior. ¬†You may consider¬†your husband’s spending irresponsible, when really he just¬†isn’t worried about money and is confident that God will provide. ¬†Or, it might feel like your budget-conscious husband is trying to control you, while he is¬†trying to be a faithful steward and avoid unnecessary financial grief. ¬†Sure, there are wasteful¬†spenders and stingy hoarders. ¬†If you truly believe that one¬†of these applies to your husband, humbly pray for him¬†instead of judging him. ¬†But if your husband is neither miserly nor reckless, and you’re just at different points on the saving-spending spectrum (still pray without judgment), here are two things that may help alleviate some of the financial tension in your relationship:

    1. Give the benefit of the doubt.
      When we examine ourselves, we may discover some fear at the root of our intense budgeting, or some discontent behind our liberal spending. ¬†But we are not in the place to assume someone else’s—even a spouse’s—motivations. ¬†So don’t always assume that your frugal husband doesn’t trust you or is trying to control you. ¬†Or if you are the more frugal one, don’t assume that your spouse doesn’t care about your family’s financial future when he’s willing to spend more money than you are. ¬†Give your spouse as much grace as you would like to receive after going slightly over budget at the store. ¬†Look for good motives behind your husband’s careful eye on the finances, instead of sinister ones.
    2. Seek the blessing in the difference.
      I have confessed to making¬†a stinky face or two about my husband’s purchases. ¬†But there are many blessings in being married to someone who does not pinch pennies. ¬†Just three days ago, I discovered that I had ordered the wrong homeschool tests and essentially wasted $75. ¬†I was upset about it, but my husband was gracious. ¬†Without hesitation, he told me to go ahead and order another set of tests. ¬†In fact, he never makes me feel badly when I make a mistake that costs us money. ¬†And whenever we discuss a donation or financial gift, his number is always higher than mine, often¬†significantly. ¬†It S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-S me, let me tell you! ¬†But God always works it out!! ¬†Furthermore, my husband trusts me to make decisions without him when necessary. ¬†(Sometimes he even gives me a c’mon-you-know-you-don’t-need-to-check-with-me face when I check with him.) ¬†We are both involved in the finances, he just doesn’t delight in the details the way I do. ¬† So¬†even though poring over a spreadsheet together is not his idea of a good time (It is mine!), there is no way that I would trade my generous, trusting husband for a spreadsheet-porer. ¬†(Of course, if¬†you¬†are married¬†a spreadsheet-porer,¬†¬†you should thank God for what you have!)

So, great news! God did not make a mistake in giving you a husband who spends or saves more than you. In fact, we can learn about¬†God’s grace through our differences with our husbands, if we are willing to open our eyes.

Thanks for stopping by,
Susan

10 Comments »

Hide-the-Word Wednesday: True Love

Many of my posts focus on stewardship as it concerns our immediate families, especially our relationships with our husbands. But God also calls us—calls me—to reach beyond these four walls and show real, practical love to others.

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.  1 John 3:17

image credit: wikipedia.org

Where is God calling your heart today?

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