Beauty, from the best-ofs files, How to pick a guy, wife stuff

The Middle Way for Women

This was written on TC blog back in 2011 by CL. She gave me permission to use it in this best-of series. I borrowed it because I can’t think of anything much written by Christians on the subject of women and modesty that doesn’t make me wish there was someone, somewhere, with a modicum of sense. Someone not so open-minded that their brains have fallen out. The “bikinis are fine!” crowd spring to mind here. Someone not so prudish and wound up at the sexual nature of men and women that they make me recoil. The “revealing of curves or enhancement of any kind is evil” crowd springs to mind here. Then I remembered that there was once, someone who wrote on the topic in a way I could get on board with.

This is my first post here. My husband planted a seed and I have nurtured it – it was a fruitful union and this is what we have procreated.

Have you noticed that a single woman dresses to attract, then when she gets married, she dresses to minimize? A married woman dressing as if she were single, going on girls’ nights out, is not generally looked upon well, even if the stigma appears less than in times gone by, and most married women intuit this.

What are attracts men is simple but seems complex because it is counter-intuitive. Often a woman showing too much skin gives off a vibe of selfishness. Such intentional dress is often intimidating to men; the better quality betas often do not have the confidence to approach – or they simply don’t know how to approach such a woman except perhaps to ask, “How much?” Of course the alpha guys will approach her, but the good guys will think twice more often than not.

The women overly concerned with modesty often have a body language that is not attractive. Their posture often is such that they hide their curves. This is body insecurity, which is not an attractive trait. Often these women have the walking gait of a man. But even those seemingly unconcerned with modesty do this – I see women all the time dressed to the nines but walking like a man, slightly hunched even, with legs apart instead of one foot in front of the other. In this case, the woman who is modestly dressed yet carries herself well is going to attract more attention than the one showing a lot of skin but who doesn’t know how to carry herself in a feminine way.

This is the middle way. Wearing clothes that do not reveal too much but walking with confidence: shoulders back, breasts out, standing tall. Walking like a woman, one foot in front of the other, which causes her hips to sway even without heels. How many times do you see women hunched over with her arms pulled forward or crossed to disguise her breasts? This is not attractive. Rather, good posture, smiling, not wearing a lot of makeup, shorter finger nails without obnoxious bright colors will likely cause the good men to notice and the alphas to hesitate in ‘using up’ such beauty.

The peace and glow of a woman after prayer or a woman really striving toward God shows up in the way she carries herself. Cads often do have a code of conduct to not ruin such a woman. Furthermore, she is not easy and it would take a larger investment of his time than he typically is willing to give. So in this way, she can attract quality men without flaunting herself and still look good while at the same time protecting herself.

The middle way woman attracts a better quality man because that man sees all of her character, including her comfortable confidence in her sexuality, since she neither flaunts nor disguises. Sometimes this kind of woman will later change her style of dress to be like the woman concerned with modesty. That is disconcerting to her man. He wants to be proud of his wife and show her off a bit. If she does not want to be eye candy for him sometimes – and not just in private – this can lead to disinterest from him and insecurity in her, which causes their connection to become more distant and usually a woman reacts by holding on to him and pulling him back with her claws. Oh, if she would just draw him back with her wiles, by planting some irresistible private intimate images in his mind.

A better approach is for her to do the opposite of most women; when out with him, she can dress a bit more revealing; she can find out what he would like to see and do that for him. The attention of the world is on the two of them and the focus is more diffused. They will see her in context with him; he is there to protect her. When this is done right, she is noticed as a beautiful woman, and people look at him and think, “Lucky guy.” Men live for this feeling – it affirms his masculinity. The focus is no longer on her; it is redirected to him. She feels good, because he feels good and also because this makes her feel more attractive, thus increasing her confidence. She will pick up on the admiration others have for her man and delight that such a man is her man.

Emotions are contagious. In a relationship the two are often feeling the same things. It is good to remember this, because this is the way to fix things. Being willing to do things like this for your man encourages him to be open about what he wants from you, and the more you show yourself willing to please him, the more the positive emotions will overwhelm the negative ones. This isn’t to say you are a doormat, but that you show yourself willing to please. In the modern world, this will set you apart from the average woman, as will dressing nicely but not slutty and carrying yourself with poise and confidence.

Yes, I realize that this post was void of any Scriptural reference or mention of “shamefacedness”, that word in 1 Timothy that has been bastardized to within an inch of its poor life. I’ll get into that later. Trust me on that, because I have something to say about it.

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from the best-ofs files, wife stuff

“Should you be eating that?” pt. 2

I edited this 2011 post slightly because there was a link in the original (a review of Shaunti Feldhahn’s For Women Only) that is no longer any good. Here is another review of the book. Not as good as the original link, but…

The last post left me with a lot to think about, as I knew it would. And as usual, it’s the rabbit trails that make the conversation interesting. Before I move on to other new and exciting subjects, I want to share a little of what occurred to me as I read your comments  because I think there are valuable observations yet to be made about this subject.

My first thought concerns whether or not a husband’s expressed concern about his wife’s health and fitness is unfair criticism. This strikes me as odd, because wives frequently encourage one another to express their needs and desires to husbands, and to repeat the nag request until they “fall in line.” Surely it’s no coincidence that Proverbs repeatedly mentions the agony of living with a nagging wife.

However, it suddenly becomes “unfair criticism” when a husband expresses a desire for his wife to take better care of herself, particularly if this request means she needs to stop eating so much and hit the gym. His request is assumed to be based on something superficial, not worth making the effort required to honor it. Can you see the problem with this line of thinking? Why are wives’ needs viewed as more virtuous when weighed against the needs of husbands?

Of course, in keeping with a husband’s responsibility to dwell with his wife in an understanding way, any discussion of this subject in particular, should be encouraging and supportive. That said, I really don’t have a problem with a man who wants his wife to make an attempt to get in shape. There’s nothing cruel or superficial about it.

I was asked another question in the comments section that caught me by surpise: Is my husband in the same shape physically that he was when we married? The answer is no, but it’s not something I’ve given much thought to because those physical changes haven’t made him less attractive. If the small amount of weight he’s gained was a health issue, I’m sure I’d be much more concerned, but he has yearly physical and he’s all good on the health front.

I think it is worth noting at this point that men and women approach attractiveness in different ways. Men are much more visual than women are when it comes to sexual attractiveness. It’s an apples to oranges comparison in my opinion.

My goal here was to remind women that we are supposed to care. We spend so much time nurturing our needs, feelings, and insecurities that we forget that our husbands have needs and feelings, too. We are supposed to care about those feelings, not be offended by them. We fail to recognize how often we take our husbands for granted, and if they have the stones to call us on it, we get upset.

I read a book last year titled For Women Only. I highly recommend it because it offers a lot of insight into the way men think. Christian men and non-Christian men. Maybe reading what this author found in her interviews with over one thousand (mostly) married men will drive home the point I’m trying to make, however poorly I’m making it.

Several of the commenters asserted that most women are sincerely trying to look their best for themselves and their husbands, but it is very hard, and criticism does little to help. For the record, I know what that feels like. There were a few times when I was really making an effort and the lack of results caused my enthusiasm to wane. I get that. But just as often or even most of the time, I was making half-hearted attempts accompanied more by talking about getting fit than actually doing anything to get fit. It’s amazing how easily we can convince ourselves that we’re doing our best when we’re actually doing nothing.

Each woman has to decide for herself where she falls on that spectrum. If you’re doing more than talking then doing, don’t get mad at your husband for saying so. Perhaps an example from another angle would be less polarizing.

About 6 years ago we went through a brief period in our marriage when communication was difficult. Anyone who has been married for a while knows this is sometimes a reality of married life. Back then my husband said something to me that changed my perspective when it came to forgetting to consider his feelings. It was a good reminder that my tough, stoic man actually has feelings.

What he said was that I seemed more concerned with what other people needed than what he needed. I went out of my way to do things for others while a simple request from him went undone for days. It hurt me to hear that, but it was true. The PTA, The SAC, the ministry I was involved in at church, extended family members (who think “no job” means you have nothing but time to spare), you name it. It did seem that every thing else was a priority.

When I stopped to think about it, that was exactly what I’d done, and it was wrong. So I turned on a dime, dropped out of most of what  I was involved in (it was emotionally draining anyway),  and offended women, many married themselves, who didn’t get why everything and anything was moved to the back burner if my man needed something from me, period, and that was never going to change.

I want to be transparent enough to share the lessons I’ve learned. And yes, I’ m passionate about this because I believe the refusal to honor a perfectly reasonable -if challenging- request from your husband is inexcusable. I don’t think the issue is somehow different because it involves something as challenging as losing weight. Be willing to make sacrifices to be the wife your husband desires. You think I always enjoy drinking water when I’d prefer a Coke?

Oh, and if I start gaining weight back, I solemnly swear to confess right here.

(I regained some -but not all- of the weight. And lost and gained  it nearly evwry two years, like clockwork. Here I go again. It’s only 22 pounds, right?)

 

family life, wife stuff

How to Stay Happily Married (most of the time)

This is the first of the best-ofs, from 2013.  I recently linked it somewhere, but it is no longer visible at the original link, so I’m putting it here. I left it unedited so all pertinent imperfections remain. If I left out something important, leave it the comments.

We have a young family friend who married very recently. She’s a lovely girl and I recognize many of her characteristics as I was similar at her age.  If I could give a young newlywed  bride advice this is what I’d say. In fact,  I’m already planning  to print this and give it to her.

  • As a Christian committed to Christian marriage, resolve to set aside your ambitions in favor of your husband’s. Yes, you’re smart, and yes, you could do great things, and yes, I know you had a plan for your life. However, you are a wife now. This means you are no longer leading the dance of your life; your husband is.
  • Part of submitting to your husband is not bad mouthing him to your family. The worst thing you can do when you’re angry with your husband is talk to your mother about it. Unless there is a very serious marital breach to address, your family should know nothing about your internal squabbles, as most of disagreements aren’t worth the drama of letting outside observers know about them.
  • His family is your family now. Be respectful, always. Learn and love his family as your own no matter how difficult it may sometimes be.
  • Keep your eyes on your own paper. One of the main reasons wives have so much to nag and complain to our husbands about is because we labor under the deep delusion that we are perfect. That everything we do is the right or best way. There are two problems with this way of thinking. The first is that we are not perfect. Imagine that! And the second is that even if we were, it doesn’t change the command from God that we respect and submit to the authority of our husbands.
  • Don’t be afraid of the word submission. A wise husband appreciates his wife’s intelligence, gifts and talents and wouldn’t consider refusal of such a valuable resource. A loving husband knows that his wife needs this from him as much as he needs her strengths and talents. It doesn’t diminish you in the least to trust God with control of your life and marriage. Submission is a signals to your husband that you trust him. The more you demonstrate faith in him, the more he will demonstrate faith in you.
  • Most of your girlfriends and female family members have no idea what a happy marriage looks like. At your age, most of your friends are still single. They can not offer you relevant marital advice. Be careful who you listen to.
  • Never use sex as a weapon against your husband. Not only is it sinful,  it’s unloving, disrespectful, and indicates that you care very little about the state of your marriage. Don’t do it. Ever. Contrary to popular modern opinion, it is good and right for you to do it even when you don’t feel like it at first. You’re married. You don’t set the terms of intimacy as you will.
  • Do not let yourself go. When you’re young and beautiful, this hardly registers on your radar screen. However, marriage is a long haul. Babies come, you get tired, you eat junk, and you get lazy. Develop healthy habits now. The bloom of youth keeps at bay what it will not a few years from now without some work on your part. Your husband will appreciate the effort.
  • For the unequally yoked: Your outward expressions of faith don’t make you any better than your husband.  I realized that mine actually made me look worse. The church girl who marries the heathen is hardly in a position to judge him, is she? Always have a measured and honest appreciation for who you really are, faults and all.
  • This is your husband until death parts you. Do not entertain divorce fantasies of your own, and don’t listen to anyone who tries to plant seeds of doubt. The grass is not greener on the other side. If your grass is brown, oh well. God expects you to tend to it, water it, and green it up. You’re not allowed to hop back over the fence. You will be utterly shocked at how much you’re willing to concede and overlook when you accept that this is your life. For better or worse were not just words you uttered. God expects you to keep them.
  • Laugh a lot. Be willing to laugh at yourself. Marriage is not the vocation for a woman overly obsessed with her dignity. Self-actualization? Forget that. It’s feminist speak for “put your husband and kids on the back burner and charge forward in search of your own happiness.” Selfishness will never make you happy.
  • The kids are his too. The fact that you were the incubator doesn’t make them anymore yours. Don’t ever forget that.
  • Laugh a lot. Yes, I know I already said that.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, I know I already said that too.
  • Sex… Yes, I am repeating myself again, but I should add that it’s fine, preferable even, to enjoy sex with your husband.
  • Don’t be a martyr. Have some fun, and be fun to be around.
  • You’re not done growing or changing. Enjoy knowing that this is not the end of your journey. Keep learning, keep your mind and heart and hands busy. Learn something new.
  • Enjoy being in love, and don’t be afraid to show how head-over-heels you are with your husband. There is nothing wrong with a woman who loves her man. Let him see it, let others see it. Praise him in front of others, show your respect for him in front of others. Have his back, and bless him with your loyalty.

If I’m forgetting any important pieces of advice, I trust someone here will remind me.

cultural absurdity, family life, healthy living, Homemaking stuff, wife stuff

What is the point of our work?

Has God indeed said that we are to “work hard”?

I read this and it pierced me, because I can be so possessed with efficiency and fulfilling lists that I regularly find myself out of steam.

I set ambitious goals for all the *stuff* I want to accomplish, frustrating myself when I inevitably fail to get it all done. This striving continues for several days, and then crash and revert to doing the bare minimum. Usually on Mondays. I just need to try harder, I tell myself. Be more organized. Eat better and get more sleep so I will have more energy. Pray for more focus and concentration so I can get more done. The Protestant work ethic gone sour. Joshua Gibbs questions these notions for homeschoolers, but his ideas are easily transferable to the life of the home in general:

The idea of finishing a certain task in “a more timely fashion” was meaningless, for Adam and Eve had no expectation they would ever run out of time. Efficiency places value on time as a limited commodity, but for deathless beings, time is endless. Adam replies to his wife that man was made delight, for the love of God and the service of God’s friends, and that work exists that man might love God in his work. Work has no value in and of itself.

Granted, we do not live in such a world anymore. We do not have unlimited resources of time at our disposal, and it is possible for a man to run out of time without accomplishing all he needs to do. However, the imposition of time on our lives does not change the fact we were made for delight in God, not for work. Work is not the point of work. When a man obscures the love of God with his commitment to work, he becomes a slave. A slave lives in fear, as St. Paul suggests in Romans, for the slave is commanded from above with coercive threats. If a man neglects the knowledge of God in his work, he has been reduced to a chattel, for he regards himself as purely physical object.

My husband, ironically, is always encouraging me that I am doing fine, that I don’t need to be stressing this stuff all the time even as I insist that I am just trying to be a good wife to him. He says I am already a good wife; excellent even.

This begs the question: If God doesn’t want me to work purely for the sake of working, and my husband is happy and more concerned with his family’s overall quality of life than a perfectly executed checklist, where does this pressure I put on myself come from?

 

el's rabbit trails, How to pick a guy, wife stuff

Relationship compatibility, redux.

I’ve mentioned this before, but was reminded of it again after walking in on the tail end of a lengthy phone counseling session between SAM and a protégé. It occurred to me how much of the counsel being offered was -or should have been- garden variety. A culture which prize feelings above all would undoubtedly find his advice to this young man offensive:

  • When you’re wrong and you know it, apologize sincerely, but stop the groveling. You’re sending the wrong message.
  • If she says she wants or doesn’t want something and doesn’t mean it, call her bluff. Every time. Don’t help her perfect the habit of lying.
  • The pattern you  now is a precedent set when you marry. Is this how you want to start your life together? [my husband is BIG on precedents and patterns]
  • Stop allowing her to use your actions to justify her wrong behavior, and don’t ever use her actions to justify any of  your wrong behavior.
  • Women play on your emotions and hit you where it hurts when everything else is failing. Don’t get sucked in to that. You’re getting distracted from the real issue.

None of this offends me even when I am on the receiving end of it. I suspect it’s because I don’t come from a family dynamic where love was treated as synonymous with coddling. Love was patient and love was kind, but it also insisted on truth. This is also a bedrock principle in our home. Tell the truth- to yourself and to each other. It underscores every piece of advice I have ever heard my husband dispense.

I was reminded -again- of why it is important when couples marry, that they do so with a clear understanding of the commitment they’re entering, and in touch enough with themselves to know that the person with whom they are joining is someone they are equipped to adapt and adjust to.

There are general truisms about male and female nature which hold up in aggregate. However, within those are various personality types, family histories, strengths and weaknesses which affect individual relationships in unique ways. Generalities are not absolutes.

For example, among our adult daughters, there is one with whom a gentler man who wishes to please his wife would meet an equal sensitivity and eagerness to please. It wouldn’t occur to her to view him as weak, but loving. Being a loving soul herself, his nature would be rewarded so long as it is balanced with confidence and protectiveness.

Another daughter, however, probably won’t do as well with anyone less than a man who meets her father’s strength of personality. She is very aware of that reality. A man she could lead around by the nose is one whom she would make miserable. She would be miserable with him as well.

The third is mature, analytical, and highly adaptable. A highly sensitive man would be turned off by her reserved nature (and she by a heart on his sleeve), but she doesn’t need a man as dominant as her father in order to follow his lead. She could handle that kind of dominance and even enjoy it, but would have no problem submitting to a man who leads from a more laid back position.  He would, however, have to be an unapologetic leader.

None would be able to tolerate micromanagement because that’s not what they have grown up around, and it’s the antithesis of confident leadership. They need to be able to breathe freely.

Each of those examples serve to illustrate how our individual makeups matter in our relationships. Marriage and family are a delicate balancing act; an intricate microcosm of emotions, personalities, and traits which meld together beautifully when done well. They can be equally difficult without honesty, spiritual growth  and character development. Character growth is often uncomfortable, and we need someone who will help us persevere righteously through those periods of growth.

Attraction, shared faith, and shared values are important things, but they are not the only things. Intangibles are also important.

 

 

How to pick a guy, wife stuff

In Which I Condemn Metrosexuality

I am -again- reheating up a leftover post from a time when I wrote from better-formed thoughts. This one is from 5 years ago as well, with a couple of edits to reflect the time lapse. I was reminded of it by something our 22-year-old daughter showed me.

I have never liked the trend of metrosexuality that exploded a few years ago, complete with male body washes, skin care, and lotions. It bugged me for so many reasons I can’t list them all here.  I can fully appreciate that men today want to look their best and smell good while doing it. There’s nothing wrong with that. The more I think about it however, the more I realize that there is more to this than that. This is different. This is more blurring of the sexes.

My dad wore his Old Spice and dressed as if he took pride in how he looked, but without that metrosexual vibe. He wasn’t obsessive about it. His shoes had a purpose, and it was largely utilitarian: black and brown dress shoes, work boots, slippers, sneakers. That was it. He didn’t see a need for a man to have a closet full of shoes. Shoes were something that women went gaga over, not men. There are times and places where you can still find a preponderance of men who are at home in their masculine element.

I have come to enjoy the atmosphere in Home Depot early on Saturday mornings. It has to be early, because that’s when the men who wake up with a sense of purpose and a plan are in there in old t-shirts, work jeans, with slightly dirty hands because they hit the ground running at the crack of dawn. It’s not uncommon for my husband and I to get out of bed early before the kids wake up if we have a project we’re working on, and head to Home Depot before the rush of DIY amateurs crowd the aisles.

I have always appreciated a man in a hardware store, with residue on his hands, picking up a tool or a box of screws. That guy who doesn’t automatically think to call someone when something in his house breaks because he can fix it himself. I get that same feeling at an auto parts store, but amplified because in my experience there are few men today who will dare tackle a repair on a newer car like my husband does. It takes confidence to do that, and he likes the challenge of it even though he can afford to pay someone to do it, and does when he doesn’t have the time to do it.

Yes, I realize that the men up under the hoods of their cars in the auto parts parking lot are most likely to be working class men, the dreaded “proles” who are oh-so-maligned in the dominant culture. And yes, I recognize that I reveal my lack of social status by saying this, but I have no problem with hard working, blue-collar men. They’re often manly in a real and visceral way.

We’ve forgotten that the pampered lives we’ve grown accustomed to would be much less pleasant without garbage men, HVAC guys or plumbers. As much as I love my husband in his Dockers, tailored shirts and white collar get up, there’s something different about him when he’s working hard, building, fixing, creating. Besides, I can actually understand the language of his hands-on work much better than I can his technological jargon, though I’ve gotten better over the years at deciphering that also. A tape measure and level, I can handle. Servers and switches? Not so much.

I’ve encountered fewer and fewer men in recent years who know anything at all about how to tackle an involved project and see it through to completion, doing a quality job. I know a few, but they are increasingly rare. I am tempted to chalk it up to limited time, but I can remember when no man I knew, regardless of how many hours he worked,  took his car in to have the oil or the brake pads changed. Now, I know more who don’t.metrosexual-man

There is something off about heterosexual men with keen fashion sense but no clue how to properly hammer a nail, change a tire, or use a mitre box. I’ve considered the fact that things are different now, that we live in the digital age and men don’t need to know how to use their hands the way they did when my father was a young man. It sounds plausible until I consider that my own husband is 44, with a STEM career. Nevertheless, there is a drive in him to work with his hands. To fix. To create. To build. I don’t see that in many men today.

The problem with the modern metrosexual man is the lack of discernible depth. It’s not as if there haven’t always been men who dressed well and appreciated beauty. It was that it was one part of their overall personas, and it certainly wasn’t the main thing. When all was said and done, they were men first: fathers and protectors, builders of civilizations. They certainly weren’t inclined to compete with their woman for the title of who looked the best. it was a given who should put the most effort into that. This is a new thing, these men hogging the mirror.

I don’t blame young men for this, and I don’t blame their fathers either, at least not entirely. I think a culture and society that has made fathers expendable and branded traditional masculinity toxic helped to create a generation of young men who lack the confidence that working with one’s hands instills. Having been raised mostly by women, they gravitate toward the things that interest women: fashion, grooming, and aesthetics rather than accomplishments.

For the record, I appreciate a well groomed man, and my own man takes care of his appearance: goatee trimmed, nails clean. matching belt with shoes, etc. This is not a promotion of slovenly manhood. Heaven forbid I recommend that. It’s one thing to not be vainly pretentious, but that’s no excuse for failing to put your best foot forward.  The point here, and I hope I making it well, is that there is a difference between being well groomed and preening in a feminine manner.

Unfortunately, as we have reduced male and female traits to nothing more than differences in plumbing, male and female psychology have been deemed social constructs. The result is metrosexuality on speed, indistinguishable in any meaningful way from the way women assert their femininity. Personally, I don’t care for it.

In the meantime, there’s always Saturday mornings at the Home Depot. Or better yet, Auto Zone.

wife stuff

The value of keeping score.

This is a rehash of an ancient – in Internet years-  post, but worth a repeat sharing.

Anyone who has been married more than a decade can appreciate that even the worst marriages have good years and the best marriages have crap years. Life is far less linear and far more messy than we often care to admit. I don’t mean the euphemistic “beautiful mess” which excuses things that need to be addressed. Just real life stuff.

Our marriage has been in what I would easily characterize as a golden age over the past few years. That’s saying something since we’ve always gotten on fairly well. That isn’t to say that there are never disagreements. They happen. The difference is one of keeping score. I learned several years ago the value of keeping score in my marriage, and it has made all the difference. I encourage other wives to keep a score card as well.

1 Corinthians 13 admonishes us that love keeps no record of wrongs, so we tend to view keeping score in a relationship an inherently negative. I challenge you to reconsider that idea. If you can keep a record of wrongs, does it not follow that you can keep a record of what is right?

Conventional wisdom dictates that over time the spark of a new relationship must give way to the mundane existence that comes with being very familiar with one another. I don’t deny the truth of this. A long term marriage does not have the same level of excitement and infatuation which accompanies the discovery characterized by a new relationship.

However, that shift is not what causes marriages to die. It’s our ingrained tendency to take for granted those things and people closest to us. We are perpetual malcontents and the only way to avoid allowing this evil trait to infect our relationships is to actively fight against it. This conscious action will revolutionize almost any marriage. Living intentionally is work however, so commit to vanquishing the comfort of mental and physical laziness.

The great thing about this exercise is that it’s easy once you get the hang of it. You already love your husband, you married him, and you can easily think of several of his most complimentary features; physically, relationally, and practically. The problem isn’t that he has no great qualities*. The problem is that one of being mentally and emotionally lazy, not to mention selfish.

Lazy, self-centered minds find faultfinding easy to do. It’s the path of least resistance, which almost always takes us where we do not need to go. In this case, it leads to a stale marriage. In the most extreme case, it cause wives to assume a perfectly good marriage is broken because they’ve spent years rehearsing their husband’s faults to the exclusion of all else. As Christians, we are called to a higher standard:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8

Unequivocally: It is sinful to rehearse as a matter of habit, those things that are untrue, ignoble, unjust, impure, ugly, or of bad report. To meditate solely on that which is sinful or unworthy of praise, particularly with regard to the man we have vowed to help, submit and do good all the days of our life is a violation of Scripture.

So how do you do it? Easy. Pay attention. I was surprised at how much attention I wasn’t paying to certain things about my husband several years ago. I took for granted his good looks because I’d grown accustomed to looking at his face. It was actually a cashier at a grocery store who reminded me once as I left the store after my husband, who had walked ahead. “Is that your husband? He’s really handsome”, she said. Had I forgotten that?

I think I forgot it the same way I’d forgotten how rare it is  today to meet a man like mine, who can fix just about anything he puts his hand to. I have a real appreciation for men who build engines, tackle their own plumbing jobs, and know the difference between a monkey wrench, a box wrench, and a pipe wrench. You’d be surprised at the numbers of men who don’t. So when my husband put a new transmission in his car, I helped however I could and took care to note how manly it is that he can do all that. Manliness is alluring.

I have even learned to appreciate the blessing it is to be told “no”, when I’d rather hear “yes”. To be thankful that my husband cares enough about me and our family to stop me from doing foolish things. That one doesn’t usually kick in immediately. Like anyone, I want to have my way, but after I get my bearings and think it through, I am always grateful rather than angry.

Everywhere we turn, we are being bombarded with the message that something is missing. If our feelings are in anyway restless or discomforted, we’re told we need to blame something or someone. If we’re married, 9 times out of 10 we’re encouraged subtly and not so subtly to blame our husbands. Blame them for not giving us what we need. Blame them for not giving us what we want. Blame them because we are simply ungrateful and even that must be their fault. Our “friends” and family members perpetuate the nonsense.

Misery lives company. Also, there’s no money to be made from contentment, so consider the source when you seek advice diagnosing “problems” in your relationship. Better yet, consult Scripture and practice keeping score using Philippians 4:8 as your scorecard. It’s the best prescription for reinvigorating a marriage that I could ever recommend.

As a (wo)man thinketh…

Living with other believers, wife stuff

The Only Way to Truly Live Titus 2

I ran across this commentary while catching up on the writings at a woman’s teaching blog. It is written by a theologian born in the late 19th century, Charles Elliot:

“So here this special work was left for the elder women among the faithful to carry out. Such a reformation, not only in the discipline of the Church, but also in the individual life and conversation, as St. Paul desired to see in Crete, would never be brought about by a sermon, or even by many sermons, however eloquent and earnest, from Titus. It would be a matter requiring long time and patience, and would, as observed above, rather follow as the result of patient individual effort and holy example.” [emphasis added by me]

I don’t often agree 100% with the old commentaries written to wives, namely because I don’t think any man, regardless of title, is qualified to offer detailed prescriptions to another man’s wife on how she should walk out her day to day duties. I am of course, not referring to spiritual truths, but so many of these commentaries go well beyond those boundaries that I ignore a lot of them. I choose instead to follow the lead of my own head.

This commentary however, is spot on; one of the best I have read on the subject to date. It’s ironic that I found it where I did, but the Internet is full of ironies. No sermons, blog posts, or emails can ever offer the kind of mentoring Paul commands in Titus 2. That is why I refrain from offering specific instruction to wives as a rule, offering only general advice and admonishing them to pray fervently for someone they can converse with regularly and in person to help them walk out their roles as wife and mother.

I am -for reasons I cannot fathom since I feel like such a mess- not only the mentor of my own young adult daughters, but have occasion to teach by example other young and not so young women.

They humble me with their insistence that I have something of worth to offer because I am a just a traveler on the journey, same as they are. Nevertheless, they ask questions, seek advice and counsel from me, and with that I feel an even greater burden to be oh-so-careful not to espouse my opinions and judgments as if they are an oracle from on high.

Whether it’s through conversations over a meal or just spending time with others in our home and among our family, I try to live a life that preaches far better than any lecture I could give or post I could write. I don’t believe the Bible means for us to be formal teachers of people who are unable to verify that our walk matches our talk. So when I offer words of wisdom (I use the term loosely), I have an example and the track record to back it up.

And that is what Titus 2 is all about.

 

 

wife stuff

Of oak trees and broad shoulders

When hurricane Irma roared through a few weeks ago, one of my biggest concerns was the old oak tree in our front yard; whether the strong winds would pull it up from the roots as it does so many trees when these storms come through. A lot of trees were uprooted when the storm came through, but with the exception of a few of its smaller branches, our tree stayed put; firmly rooted.

I was taking a walk through our neighborhood this morning and all around me, lining sidewalks and curbs, causing me to take shortcuts and walk arounds, were the remnants of trees broken by the weight of the wind of Irma. In a few cases, there were whole trees, cut up and stacked on the verges of the roads, even though Irma came and went a month ago.

I couldn’t help but notice the metaphor unfolding before me as I walked along, thinking about the meme I’ve heard over and over again. You might know it: that a man is to be a woman’s oak tree during her emotional storms; the steady thing she holds on to, to keep  steady. I always appreciated that metaphor, and still do. However, because I had more than a dozen years of marriage under my belt before ever hearing of it, I understood its limitations.

Nuances, curve balls and hard realities are never acknowledged where ideology reigns. There is never a discussion of what happens when a different type of storm rolls in. The kind which is not a feminine emotional anomaly, but a real, concrete, permanent one battering the tree itself. Those cases lay bare the utter foolishness of teaching women that they have no strength to offer a man, and that all the need -except for physical- is on her side and all the provision -which is satisfied practically- is on his side.

I have no experience with weak, immature, easily uprooted trees, but I gather the companions of those types of oaks find it considerably easy to know what to do when the storms come. My experience -as a daughter and a wife- has only been with mighty oaks who offer shade to large gardens of flowers, plants, and shrubbery. Whose strong branches and broad shoulders cause others climb up, adding their issues, needs and energy, both positive and negative. The kind who need a partner that can climb down, make room, and help hold his arms up as he bears his own burden along with the burdens of others.

In a culture where the focus is heavily turned toward the crises of masculinity, whether of the wounded or so-called toxic variety, the women who love and support men whose masculinity is not only healthy, but firmly intact, might need to know that there are things we can do on those rare occasions when life causes a temporary reeling.

  • Reactions to deep pain are intensely personal. We don’t really know how someone else feels (even when we’ve experienced something similar or identical). Understand that what another person needs to experience solace or relieve stress will not be the same as what you need.
  • Whatever he needs, just give it, with an open heart and no reservations.
  • Listen.
  • Pray.
  • Some of the men in his life can fill in spaces you can’t, and that’s okay.
  • Accept that there will be times when there is -quite literally- nothing that you can do other than be there. Do that, don’t underestimate the power of it,
  • And pray.

I tend to be a Martha. Particularly during times of distress, I need to do something. I am so often the one taking refuge under the branches of my tree, that the opportunity to offer support in a profound way can send me into overdrive. Some wives need to do that.

But start by being Mary, listening carefully to be sure you offer the right kind of support for the need at hand.

 

 

 

 

healthy living, Humility is important, spirit led living, wife stuff

Damaging my self-esteem.

I often write about Grace, how important it is to be properly aware of it, and how it should influence the way we see ourselves. Namely, that if we believe the Bible as it describes our God-less state, and what we deserve as a result of that state, then we know that every good thing in our lives is a gracious gift. It is not something that we deserve, no matter how wonderful we appear from a temporal perspective.

As a result of my steadfast adherence to this principle when I write, it occurred to me recently that I must sound like a person devoid of all self-esteem, whatever that is supposed to be worth anyway. The truth is exactly the opposite, and it’s because of that I remind myself daily to be grateful; for my most excellent husband, for wonderful kids, good friends, and yes, a fair number of worldly admirable qualities.

It is not an unusual thing for me to hear something along the lines of, “I like the way your mind works”, or “Tell me how you do this or that”, “Your family is so great”, “But you’re so young [ROFL]!”, etc. etc. That’s not even counting the wonderful things I think about myself when I slip and indulge in that nonsense.

Nothing about me is more worthy of the amount of love in my life than many other women, some of whom suffer greatly in their relationships. Yet in my marriage, I am loved well, my opinions respected, my efforts acknowledged, and  there is appreciation for whatever bit of beauty I may possess. Expressions of gratitude, or even statements of “unworthiness” are not about my worth compared to my man. We are perfectly matched. The point is to view the thing in light of eternity.

The last thing I need is healthier self-esteem. There is plenty to sate my pride and feed the beast of vanity lurking inside every minute of every day. On the contrary, what is needed is to look into the mirror of the Word, to hold this flesh up to the light of Holiness. Heaping doses of humility is what I need, so that I don’t fall victim to believing my own press over God’s Truth.

It seems this little ditty would be best rounded out by a Scripture quote but for some reason, I keep hearing Dave Ramsey’s voice when callers query him about his well being:

“I’m doing better than I deserve”.