From the BlogSubscribe Now

The 5 Minute Marriage

The other day Jason and I had our first 5 minute Stand Up meeting. The day prior, I didn’t know what a “Stand Up” , or Scrum, meeting, was. He, on the other hand, has known about, held, and attended these types of meetings at his places of employment over the years. He also facilitates group conversations, conference calls, team retreats, and regularly communicates with his bosses and teammates regarding his schedule.

Baby, now that we have 7 of these under our belts, Stand Up meetings are going to be part of our lifestyle, but with our own little twists and personal touches, like laughter, “the circle of trust”, and a smooch to close it out.

If I may be so bold to say, the 5 minute Stand Up meeting may quite possibly be the very thing that eradicates, or at least decreases, the growing divorce rate in the world. Sound far-fetched? Don’t be so quick to judge…instead, try it and see what happens.

How can you know what the other is thinking unless you ask?

How can you know what the other is thinking unless you ask?

Let’s rewind and give you a bit of history so you are able to see the bigger picture…

Jason and I have been married over 21 years now, and prior to that we dated for 2.5 years. We did a joke-of-a-premarital counseling book via my church, cross-country, with only one face-to-face session with an associate pastor who didn’t really know us from Adam. As lovers and best friends, we said, “we do” and jumped in with both feet, at the ripe age of 21. Over the years we’ve been in co-leadership positions together, received the same training, learned our mojo as a couple, tag-teaming our leadership styles, and really have had a pretty good go of it. We’ve read books about marriage and communication, applied some of the principles, gone to a weekend marriage retreat, mentored younger couples, practiced the “10 Second Kiss”, gone on date nights, and continued to hold hands. We have also remained friends, been in couple Bible studies, prayer, and accountability groups, and fostered and been part of beautiful friendship circles where we have dug (and continue to dig) into the true grit of one another’s stories, leaving very little unexposed.

We have also hurt each other’s hearts fiercely, me with words, gripping tightly to offenses, erecting heart walls, and pridefully thinking I can do certain things without his help…him with few to no words…which, in my heart and mind, speaks millions of potential messages.

I will admit I am a verbal (or written) processor. Jason is an internal processor. I am passionate and animated. He faithful and stoic. For anyone who knows us, it’s a joke that he speaks very few words in a day, so when he does, baby, you better perk up and listen. The truth is, for his job he speaks lots and lots and lots of words, but I’m not that girl that’s going to buy the line about him using them all up with his colleagues and so when he’s off work, he has nothing left to talk to me about, but just relishing in the comfort of home, my unconditional love, and down time.

One of my best friends asked after a year of knowing me if Jason was mute. I’m NOT kidding. So when she learned he could indeed speak, she wondered if he liked her or not, given he hadn’t spoken any words to her.

He talks to me. But there’s that part of marriage where we don’t want to have to draw or drag or nag something out of someone…or that part where we expect or think they should just know what we are thinking or what it is we want from them…

Don’t get me wrong, he and I talk, and he talks to his colleagues and his friends and family. But on any given day when we’re juggling homeschool, a famously curious preschooler, a career from home, searching for time in a day for me to get in some writing, and all the ins and outs of life in general, many marriages lack intentional communication. Some are great at regular date nights. We are. Ask our babysitter, Bina. But 2 hours, once a week or every other week, don’t make a marriage go round, and certainly don’t allow it to run deep. That’s just maintenance.

In December as we were driving cross-country for the holidays, this happened in the car:

Jason: (out of the blue, nonchalantly…) Hey, next weekend when we get to Denver we’re having breakfast with Gary Bruegman (a marriage counselor).
Me: (cool with it, not in a paranoid voice…) Ok. Why?
Jason: (casually, matter-of-fact…) Because you said you wanted to do some marriage counseling.
Me: (uhhhh….) Yeah, I’ve been saying that for 21 years, but, sure, I’ll take it…

No. It was not up to Jason to make the phone call. I could have made a phone call years ago. The funny thing is, we’ve already told Emily that as a pre-wedding and post-honeymoon gift, we are giving her and her husband a couple years worth of marriage counseling…to start out with great resources and a neutral third-party advocate, basically to learn how to hear one another. Emotions and feelings and passion run deep, but a couples’ first year and first fight can throw up some pretty powerful walls, and we want to encourage the art of conversation and communication, as well as quick and true forgiveness, for our children and the important people in their lives before they are too shut down to call a counselor…because when you call a counselor as a last resort, often the walls aren’t just walls but fortresses.

Jason and I have learned through trial and error and tears how to fight fair, not to diminish the other person, holding them dear in our hearts, even as we disagree. This wasn’t always the case. When Jason and I were dating and we’d disagree, I had to “win” the disagreement, he had to agree with me, and I needed to be right. Period. I had never learned it was okay to disagree. My parents disagreed behind closed doors, and as one of 3 daughters of a very protective father, his word was law. Set free into college as a young woman, it was my turn to exercise my definitive opinions and decisiveness.

It rocked my world to have a mature, educated man (Jason) say to me, “It’s okay to disagree. We can have differing views and opinions and still be okay. It doesn’t mean I’m the boss of you.”

Huh. Novel concept…

And believe me, we don’t see eye to eye on some things, but we respect one another in the process, hear the other’s perspective, try to honor one another in it, and no matter what, at the end of the day, we choose love above all else. We pray together before bed, always kiss good night, and have tried diligently to practice forgiving quickly. 21 years makes a habit.

But I digress…

So, then, as we were driving to breakfast to meet the marriage counselor (a gem of a man, our dear friends’ dad, and a wise soul who also does weekend intensives…one in which we’ll be participating), this transpired:

Jason: (casually, but deep down, a little sassy…) So, what do you want to talk to Gary about?
Me: (looking sideways, bratty, with a “don’t make me smack you” kind of look…) I don’t know. You’re the one who called him…

Then we both smirked and probably talked about the unknown and adventure of our vagabond lives….

You see, marriage counseling isn’t bad and it isn’t only for times of crisis. In fact, it’s an excellent tool to utilize WHILE you are still friends, still in love, still speaking, still having sex…profound, huh?

Gary didn’t tell us about the Stand Up meeting…in fact, Jason did. He put into words what I suggested, which was simply, “Hey, outside of us praying together and reading the Bible, can we just meet for 5 minutes each morning and give each other a run down of our days?!” But Gary did talk to us about the simple act of connecting through intentional communication…that many marriages have the physical part down, and even the spiritual part, but the emotional parts need tweaking, not separately, but the three working together as a whole.

A “Stand Up” meeting is simply done standing up, hence the name. The idea is to stay focused, on point, and simply check in with your team.

This little tool and intentional 5 minutes of our morning, and sometimes before bed as well, has been quite a gift to me, at least. I’ll see if I can get Jason to write his version and take on it, so as maybe to convince some guys out there that communicating with their wife or girlfriend isn’t the worst thing in the world…and is highly beneficial all around.

Stay tuned…

“The Other Woman”

The other day I babysat 5 kids ages 5 and under. I know, it’s grounds for sainthood, but that’s not the point of this post. And, technically, I only “babysat” 4 since one of them was my kid. Details. Anyway, one of the sweeties came over to me and said that so and so had told them he didn’t want to be her friend anymore. I stopped tricycle traffic and we had an intervention. I asked him if his feelings were hurt by the little girl. He assured me they were. I said, “When our feelings are hurt, we want to protect our hearts. Unfortunately, the people we love the most, like our friends we love to play with, can be the ones who hurt our hearts. We don’t have the luxury of just saying, ‘You aren’t my friend anymore,’ but rather we need to go to that person, while it is still fresh, and talk to them, let them know they hurt our feelings, that it wasn’t ok, and forgive them. If we cut everyone out of our lives who hurts our feelings, we’ll live all alone.”

Yeah, I know the audience was 5, but you better believe he listened…they exchanged apologies and forgiveness and then went back to playing with dinosaurs and premature carrots from my garden…

One of my dearest friends in the world called me a couple of months ago to tell me her husband confessed to sleeping with someone else currently…how he was leaving her for the “other woman,” and that he wasn’t going to be her husband anymore.

As I listened, my heart sank. Tears welled up and I thought of the brokenness in it all. My heart ached for my friend because their marriage and friendship seemed to run deep, yet here they were, she faced with his waywardness, him, so very lost, not only in his heart and mind, but in the heat of his pants and thrill of it all…and we sobbed, together. Of course my foot had a mind of its own and wanted to kick places on her husband I had never even thought of before…but he is out-of-state, so I guess you could say he is lucky.

And my friend, wise beyond a 5-year-old, forgave him for this mental hemorrhage and let him know he could return to true love and the family they had built.

But we can’t force others not to build up walls and stomp away, saying, “We can’t be friends anymore…” or not.

I first prayed for my friend and talked to God, the One who knew her well, her heartache, disappointment, and every private plea and flowing tear. God saw the big picture and knew the whole situation, so going to Him has helped me not carry too much of a burden or desire to rescue, but to trust Him with how to walk through this alongside her, and to trust Him to do the disciplining and “enlightening” of her husband…as well as the true deep down healing from this train wreck.

Then I told my husband. “Yeah, he is leaving her for that girl…”

Jason said, “No, he isn’t. No one leaves the person they love ‘for another person’, they leave for other reasons.”

WOW.

Huh. He has a PhD in engineering and speaks no more that 64 words a day, yet I feel he may be onto something when it comes to relationships…as if he knows a thing or two about heart things. He is an observer, that man of mine…

Maybe this is a crummy example, but what my husband said has had a profound effect on my heart. You see, my dear friend who called to tell me her news was not the first dear friend to share such news with me…and though the Devil may try to discourage these incredible friends with lies that they aren’t as “whatever” as “the other person” so their spouse left them, the truth is, their spouses were broken and their choices to leave had nothing to do with my friends but everything to do with their spouses’ series of selfish choices and broken relationship with God.

I’m not pretending to have answers or even know what I’m talking about when it comes to an unfaithful spouse…I’m just profoundly struck by the reality that no one leaves their spouse for another person, as if that other person could actually fill a void or something.

What if, in all of our relationships, we ran toward one another instead of away? What if we functioned more like 5 year olds when it came to quick forgiveness?

Show Me Your Moves

20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

As we were driving home from Denver this evening, after a fun day where Jason and Em went climbing at REI and Ryan and I watched monster trucks in all their volume do their thing at the Pepsi Center, we were flipping through the channels looking for some good tunes to pass the time.

Em told me to stop it at a certain song. It had a pretty good dance beat. And it’s like it’s automatic, or something…but the ribcage just started going.

I turned to Jason, my ribs all over the place, and said, “Show me your moves, Graves.”

Jason has one move, and well, it looks like this: Stand up straight, bend your arms to a 90 degree angle, elbows at the waist, hands held in loose fists. K. Now, barely move your hips from side to side.

That’s it. That’s what he’s got. Though, if you must know, he did once have a mean moonwalk, but that was before I ever knew him, you know, way back when he and his best friends wore parachute pants.

I said, “Dude, we would have never hooked up if we had met at a club…”

He smiled and said, “I would have learned to dance to get you.”

And that’s the end of the story, folks.

Jason Graves is my lobster.

Lessons from Spain (and other European countries): Ministry Happens in a Bar

I have a new friend who is sassy.  She’s also brilliant, sensitive, wise, and discerning, humble and modest, and a fantastic listener.  She is British, 100%, as in, her parents are English, she was born in England, and so that makes her an Englishwoman.  Ryan kisses the back of her hand every time he sees her and addresses her as “Princess.”  And she’s a girl totally, madly, deeply in love with her Savior.  She is teaching me so very much.

Being from the other side of the Pond, she also likes Scotch, or Bourbon, or Gin, or one of those drinks men who are 60 or older sip in smoky wood paneled clubs with leaded glass windows where Englishmen meet amongst walls lined with leather bound books and trophy deer heads from plaid clad weekends on the hillsides of Europe.

This very statement made some readers wonder if my friend is really even a Christian…seriously, raise your hand if your remember Jesus’ first miracle.

Anyway, being a SAHCMFTBIA (Stay At Home Caucasian Mom From The Burbs In America), I’ve never really embraced my ethnicity one way or another.  Just this morning I had to fill out a form and check the vanilla boring nondescript box labeled, “Caucasian.”  Before I was married I at least told people how my maiden name means, “Bible” in German and then I’d break out into “Stille Nacht” or count to 10 in German just to show I still had a little in me.

Since meeting my new British friend, my eyes have been opened a tad more to faith in other parts of the world.  Oh, I’ve been on missions and studied missions and have traveled for both ministry and pleasure in several parts of the world.  And I know from both studying and travels about major world religions, as well as how Christianity differs from culture to culture, and how cultures differ due to religious influence.

But a few months ago while I sipped a glass of red and my British friend her drink of choice, pouring our hearts out to one another about everything under the sun, she told me how, from living in America for 30+ years, American Christianity and European Christianity vary greatly…

not in the Message of God’s love for mankind, but in the cultural message, which often muddles the Everlasting Message profanely.

In Europe, at least in Britain, she said the Pub on the corner is where people talk about love and life and ups and downs, you know, kind of like a “small group.”  It’s not demonized as a place to just get drunk, like “Spring Break ’89”, but rather a place to open up and share life.  It’s like, oh, could we say, church.

A forbidden fruit mentality has been fostered in this nation for 100’s of years, setting up bars and alcohol as something to be pursued in anything other than moderation, putting an age on it as if that makes a person mature and responsible, and slapping a party mentality on it.

The funny thing is, over the last year or so I’ve spent quite a bit of time with women who have reached out, seeking an ear, belly up to a bar.  Women who have been hit by their husband, others controlled “Sleeping With the Enemy” style, divorced, separated, suffocating in loveless marriages, some just crying out to be loved by their workaholic husbands, not the men they originally had fallen in love with…women pouring out their hearts over their dreams for their children, their fears, their own personal dreams and aspirations, and the brokenness of their realities.

And we cry, and stop, and pray, right there, belly up, holding hands, eyes closed, seeking God’s direction and healing in every situation.

My dad asked me why I couldn’t just go to Village Inn, instead…

…ummmm, gross, I just barfed a little typing “Village Inn”.  

I’m not trying to fit a conventional ideal of what a woman who loves God with her whole heart and also happens to be in ministry, looks like.  And, I’m also not trying to shock anyone just for shock value.

I’m actually quite tired of the banter and pleasing and grieved to my core of all the talk ABOUT so many other THINGS within Evangelical “Christianity” rather than THE ONE THING, the only true thing, which is:

God is totally and completely in love with you.  That’s all.

I don’t go to Village Inn because it’s gross.  I don’t even think I’ll choose VI when I’m 89.  If a woman asked me to meet there because she wanted to pour her heart into mine, to see if I’d be a listening ear, then of course I’d go to Village Inn…to listen to her heart.

But that’s not where these amazing women have asked me to meet them.  They have asked me to meet them at bars, for a drink, where we can just talk.  Can “talking” happen anywhere else?  Duh.

But if I am to embrace my heritage, then I’m guessing some of my Irish, Scotch, German, Swiss, French, and English ancestors likely had church in Pubs, way back when, across the Pond.  And I’d venture to guess their hard-working lives were more authentic and vulnerable than the facades of perfectionism Evangelical “Christianity” has set up here in the “New Country.”

And if I’m to truly embrace what it means to lay down my life and follow Christ, to allow my life to be a source of His love poured out, in spite of me, then I also need to embrace the beauty that sometimes women’s ministry happens in a bar.

Lessons from Spain: Life is a Celebration

One might think all the planning which may go into a two week, second honeymoon, 20th wedding anniversary vacation would solely entail where to eat, play, and relax.  And truly, one would be correct in such thinking.  Sure, “What should I wear?” directed some of the planning, a little more than necessary and looking back I would have taken the smaller suitcase, but, I didn’t, and thus had plenty to wear.  But as far as the eating, playing, and relaxing, Trip Advisor was our BFF, as well as just wandering the streets, figuring it out on our own.

But now that I’ve gone to Spain, played hard for 2 weeks, which I liken to the Israelites feasting and celebrating certain ceremonies, then needing to get back to life and reality, pulling in the belt a bit, there are many lessons I learned looking back on our time.  All this to say, I never really expected our time in Spain, our getaway, our escape from reality and celebration of friendship and true love, to teach me anything.

I was wrong.

Who knew it would be educational?

And it would be tragic if I did not share these lessons with you, whomever may care to read, especially because I had intended to blog from Spain but never did, though in my head I blogged quite a bit, and so, whether you read and learn and take away nuggets or not, I must write these here for myself to look at again and remind myself of what living a life of intention looks like, 8 hours east of here on another continent.

This lesson of freedom will likely turn into many posts as the Spaniards are a free-spirited people.  It’s a theme which carries into much of life, however, keep in mind, my perspective is only from a woman on vacation free from all responsibilities at home, so you must read through my rose-tinted glasses.

We arrived in Barcelona at 7:30 am after a stellar layover in Toronto where my husband introduced me to the schmancy United Club.  SAHM had never been in a United Club, eh-ver.

Back up a sec.  As I entered the plane to Barceleona, I was SO excited, likely from sleep deprivation since we left Denver at the crack of dawn before Jesus and the sun rose…so, as I entered, I couldn’t contain myself and I squealed to the flight attendant, “WE’RE GOING TO SPAIN!!!!  It’s our 20th wedding anniversary and we’re going to Spain!  I can’t believe it!”  (Clearly at this moment I didn’t care if she thought I was a freak!  Remember, I’m a SAHM and don’t get to Spain often…)  3 minutes later after finding our seats (thankfully in a 2-3-2 plane, we were in a 2 situation…), two glasses of champagne showed up.

Ka-chow!

Back to the United Club:  for those of you who do not know, it’s all you can eat hummus and veggies and all the Bailey’s your coffee can hold…all. day. long.  Plus free wi-fi and free, FREE, totally gratis magazines.  Like, good ones.  Some were in French so I didn’t read those, and one said something on the cover about watching for 5 up and coming Canadian writers, so I flipped through the pages fully expecting to see Sarah Bessey and Emily Wierenga’s names, but they were referencing five other Canadians 😉  All I know is, as I chowed on tons of veggies, hummus, and pesto, all the while Facetiming my kids, I wasn’t sure how our trip could get better.  *Wink, wink…hello, let’s not forget the destination…

And we’re off!

Hi Emily Wierenga, Sarah Bessey, and, of course, let us not forget, David and Hilary!
(*None of these people endorse me or “know” me, really, but I’d totally want to hang with any of them, and who wouldn’t want Hilary to redo their house, hello?!)

My new creation:  pesto ON TOP of hummus.  Yeah, I’m a SAHM who thinks outside the box.  You’re welcome…(yes, I like to line veggies on my plate so they look pretty, and that’s okay.)

SAHM needs to get out more, is all I gotta say

The short train trip from the airport into the heart of Barcelona was lined with purple Morning Glories. Seriously?  Just growing, wild and free, as if they were weeds or something?  I purposefully bought Morning Glory seeds and planted them in my yard and smile their way as they greet me each morning, and here they are, just growing, literally everywhere.  Good start, Barcelona, you’re beautiful!

This one is in our backyard, but just so you have a visual of what is growing all over in Barcelona, vine after vine after vine.  And, yes, the centers “glow” like that…

A two-block walk from the train stop and we walked into the lobby of our hotel where we were greeted by 2 of the nicest guys in Espana.  Jason asked if they had a room with a king-sized bed.  I could see the guys squirm a little, exchanging side glances as they told us they had already upgraded us to a certain room.  I gave him a little knowing look and toe kick and we received the keys and headed upstairs…

to the nicest room in the hotel.  They learned it was our 20th and gave us the only room in the place with a rooftop terrace, plus a bottle of Cava and uh. maze. ing. dark chocolate truffles, to boot!

We were about a 1/2 mile away from La Sagrada Familia, which we could see from the terrace.  Of course, along with the spires were cranes which are almost always a part of the landscape.  (*One of two times my hair was straight in Spain…the rest of the trip I embraced the way God made me…lessons on that in another post…)

Dark truffles for my first breakfast in Espana?  Si, gracias!  

(*We didn’t drink the Cava for breakfast, hello…so when we got back from hours of exploring they had left a note which said it was a free gift from them and “Happy Anniversary”, thinking we didn’t think it was free, though we did…anyway, along with another row of chocolates!  Love these guys!  Viva Barcelona!)

SAHM just upgraded from the Toronto airport United Club, BIG TIME, you know what I’m sayin’!?

So, anyway, since this is long, and since you couldn’t see it all on the screen at once, you have already moved on.  In that case, the lesson here is:  Don’t be afraid to tell people why you are celebrating life, not because you may get a free upgrade, but because…

…life is a celebration and other people enjoy celebrating with you!

More lessons to come.  Heck, this post only lets off at 10:30 on the first morning…

Fear Has No Future

Jason and I celebrated 20 years of marriage in June, but since January, we’ve been dreaming and planning out the details for a trip to Spain, just the two of us.  We have spent hours and hours looking through books, reading reviews, mapping out our adventures, talking about it on date nights, road trips, in bed at night.

The destination and trip itself will be awesome, no doubt, but dreaming and anticipating have been part of the fun, as well.

Picture from AskFranciso

Except for the part where we realized it was about time to write out a Will and Trustthat part took the spark out of the trip, at least for me, for a good week.  My sinuses were clogged and swollen from crying, imagining not being the ones to raise our children, these gifts God loves more, but has graciously entrusted to us to love, nurture, and fan to flame the awesomeness God placed within each of them…

…and I almost cancelled.

“Sweetheart, we can just get a hotel downtown for the weekend…”  Forget the part that I’ve dreamed of going to Spain ever since I was in college when Profesora Calderon first sparked my romance with the language and country.  Forget about how we were going to do this trip for our 15th but then Jason lost his job and we knew it probably wasn’t financially wise to travel on “credit.”

I have come to terms, as I have for years, but clearly needed a reminder, that God knows the number of our days.  It doesn’t do me or anyone else any good to live in fear of the “what if’s?”

There is no freedom in fear, nor is there a future.  I knew a 90-something year old who harbored many fears…sure, in years, she lived a long life, but she was crippled by her fears, not experiencing what freedom in God’s love has to offer in a full life.

I have spent many hours praying and pleading, asking God to be gracious to our family and reunite us again to continue to live out the purpose He has for us on this earth…and I trust Him and have peace this will be the case…

So, do I hope to relax, sleep a little longer, go on 24-hour dates for two weeks straight with my husband, in a beautiful country, surrounded by people God created, all rich with stories, experience the smells, sights, make new memories, and see pretty much the whole countryside of Spain?  Yeah.  I do. And I’ll miss my kids like crazy, wondering what they are doing at such and such a time.

But this is good for my marriage, a celebration of friendship and love and thankfulness, and it will be good.

If this were my last post, on this blog, ever, not just my last post prior to leaving for our trip to Spain, I’d want to leave the world with this:

God is totally, completely, 100% in love with you.  Don’t try to understand it, just accept it.  Please stop looking around at all that is wrong in the world, in yourself, and everyone else.  Instead, find the good and as you do, allow your eyes to be turned upward to look at The One who made you, to see it as an expression of His love to a broken world.  He knows you intimately, has good in store, like deep down heart-good, and He sees a bigger picture which your head and heart are now allowed to contain at this time.  He loves you.  Love begets love…not war, back-biting, gossip, slander, politics, isolationism, competition, or elitism, nor pride or self-seeking. Love begets love, and God. Is. Love. He is love and is in love with you, totally, completely, 100%.

That’s all…

(*We may blog from Spain, but the #loneviajera won’t be alone…watch for it, and for a super fun blog by this girl, one of our date nights in Barcelona…)

History in Pictures

Happy 20th Anniversary, Sweetheart!  20 years.  I wrote a “Husband List” before we even met and started dating.  It was 6 pages long.  No pressure, right?!  I think it was the “thing” to do in Christendom way back when, now hidden in a journal somewhere in the basement.   On it were things about integrity, wisdom, a sense of humor, someone who was a good financial steward.  Truth be told, I don’t recall all the things I thought a husband should be, or at least things I wanted in one, but I remember the first item and it read like this:

  1. My husband has to love God more than he loves me.  If this isn’t in order, nothing else will be.

In my immaturity as a 21 year old girl marrying the love of her life, somewhere in my heart I’m sure I thought you would be all those things when we walked down the aisle.

Time and maturity and many moments on our knees before God have shown me how very short the list could have been in the first place.  The rest has been icing on the cake.  After I self-righteously scribed “The Husband” list years ago, the person leading us in the exercise said, “Okay, now, before you can expect those tings from another person, you have to be willing to let God instruct YOU in them, as well.”

It’s safe to say, this has been a journey of learning, the best and hardest lessons of my life, but I can’t imagine not learning to love and live without you by my side. 

For a man of few words, you sure married a wordy girl.  I could just write, “I love you,” but there’s just so much more to it with 20+ years of inside jokes, memories shared, world travels, losing loved ones, having kids, remodeling 2 houses, job losses and gains.  All I know is, you could write a post entitled, “What Every Husband, and Guy Whoever Wants to be One, Needs to Know to Have a Happy and Healthy Marriage.”  Sweetheart, you are an expert in this field, and I think it boils down to you doing these three things very, very, very well:

You love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind…and you love your neighbor as you love yourself.

And by neighbor, that would be me. *wink, wink

Marriages are crumbling and dying all around us.  This isn’t to say we haven’t walked through gray areas, dry zones, and faced what seemed insurmountable obstacles.  We have.

But I love God more than I love you, too, and so it’s worked.  We work.

I told you “I love you” first.
A note your mom gave to me before our wedding.  This is a letter every mom should write to their future child-in-law.
June 26th, 1993
Our first self-portrait as Mr. and Mrs. Jason Graves, ready to set out on the first of many adventures.
10 nights in paradise
Your leg was shaking as you braced yourself over the waterfalls.  Thanks for splurging on our student income…Maui was a fantastic memory!
Remember the storm that morning?  So much has changed since the time this picture was taken.  I was so blessed to know your dad, Sweetheart!  And my heart is full to call your mom a dear friend and to walk and do life with my parents in the day to day.  We are so rich!
Your first Weber at Foxfire, Tulsa, OK
I love that besides Mexico, every country I’ve ever traveled to, it’s been with you!  Here’s a sweet little Siberian fan of yours.
I believe this anniversary consisted of strange tasting pizza in St. Petersburg, followed up with 60 teenagers asking us how our date went…
I know we moved to MN for your PhD, but I just want to thank you for putting up with me and my love of student ministry and mentoring girls.  Those 5 years I worked at NWC were a highlight of my 20’s, even as rough as some of them were.  I can’t believe I got paid to hang out with hundreds of young women year after year!  Thank YOU for being secure in who you are and never being jealous of the time I spent with the girls!   I loved that job and every girl I met there.  My life is richer for knowing each one, and though you were quiet and working on your thesis most of that time, I felt your constant support, so thank you! You seriously are the best!
Here you are on a bro-mance getaway to Alaska…because that is something we both shared openly up front:  friendship and time with our guys or girlfriends is important.  I appreciate so much your healthy, balanced approach to knowing you can’t fill my every need, nor can I fill yours.  I’m so grateful you have had man getaways and I just want to say, “Thank you!” for the times you’ve encouraged me to be with my Bevies!

More bro-mance happening over turkey carcasses…
On top of the world…or at least the Andes.  I always wanted to travel the world…I didn’t figure we’d always have teenagers with us, but hey, leading trips meant they were paid for, hey hey!!!
Thanks for allowing me this one semi-crush.  Bono is too short for me, and married and all, but I never wanted to marry him…you have always been the only man I ever wanted to marry.  Thanks for all the concerts over the years.
Our first house in White Bear Lake.  We sure did make that thing cute!  I remember being in the basement, barely pregnant with Emily, watching airplanes fly into the Twin Towers.  Better memories, however, were living only a few blocks away from Ryan and Shannon, walking over to that burger place or Einstein’s, and playing pranks on our friends.
Ahh, Gramma Pat’s house.  Thank you for your patience with me as the daughter of a builder who saw no reasons why we couldn’t just knock down that wall and that wall and that wall, all while pregnant with our firstborn!  Were we crazy?  All I know, I was large and in charge!  You did a beautiful job on that place, Sweetheart!  Thanks for making 803 Poplar our home!
I always knew you’d be a great dad!  You were pretty in awe of Emily making her sweet entrance into the world!  Thanks for holding my hand, helping me breathe, and pushing my hair out of my face.  It still blows my mind that God would say, the very moment she was born, “I love her more!” 
Our Peanut, Firstborn, Daddy’s Girl. circa 2004

And since you or I had never been a parent before, all I can say is, I’m glad we’ve gotten to “wing it” together!  We haven’t done it all right, but I think she’s turning out alright…and that because you place God first.
I think this was our first official nugget of time away from Em.  Thanks for playing in the Big Apple with me!  We’ve been in some pretty fun places together!  Can’t wait for some more!
Pretty sure this is our 12th anniversary when we first discovered Vesta Dipping Grill.
Perks of you working for a company out of England…Thanks for letting us tag along for a couple of weeks.  Thanks for being sweet and enduring my love of Lady Di and having lunch at that one place plastered with her pictures, too.
Oh man, this was a fun trip!  Remember the little Japanese ladies who came to our hotel room and walked on our backs?  How was that naked business meeting of yours?  Awkward?  #japanesebathhouse #nikkojapan #tallestpeopleinjapanthatweek

Our firstborn son.  Oh man, I was so happy to give you a boy, and selfishly to soak him up myself.  Thanks for being a champ and going along with inviting all my Bevies into the delivery room!  Thanks, too, for choosing Noah’s name.  It was beautiful…he was beautiful!
Mt. Evans hike with your man cub, June or July 2006.
August 2nd, 2006.  God was my Solid Rock, you were my hand to hold and shoulder to lean on.  Your faithfulness was unmatched.

We celebrated his 1st birthday surrounded by friends and rainbows in the sky.  He was the only one not in attendance.

Years later, on this anniversary, I think we had found our smile again…
On this one, I know we did, because the following picture is a result…wakka, wakka

Brave, protective big sister…scared mama, trying to treasure the life of the one growing in me.  Thanks for taking a risk with me, Sweetheart!  Trying this whole “having a kid again” thing was a rollercoaster, but one I’m glad I got on.  Thanks for holding my hair back as I puked my way through the fear.  You’re kind of awesome!

I know you were tired, physically and emotionally.  By this picture, you and I had already celebrated 17 anniversaries!  Honored to welcome into our lives this son named after your friend. 

#deepcontentmentandthankfulness #utterexhaustion #ilovemyguys

20 years, Sweetheart.  20 years.  You are the most generous man I’ve ever known.  You are wise, in fact, those scriptures in Proverbs about wise guys with few words, well, I know God wrote some of those specifically about you. 

This is from our 19th wedding anniversary last year having Spanish tapas in downtown Denver.  This year we’ll be having tapas in Spain.  I can’t wait for more adventures, though I do not take for granted all we’ve already shared.
Jason Aaron Graves, you are my very best friend and I’d say “I do” all over again if you asked me.  But this time I would skip the poofy dress…

I sure love you, Sweetheart!
xoxox 

"Food Fight!!!!!"

A couple weeks ago Jason was rude.  And I mean, weird rude.  

To me it seemed totally irrational and out of nowhere, and in 20+ years of knowing him, I should know…because Jason’s not rude.  It’s not his nature or in his character to be rude.  He’s the most thoughtful man I know.


I mean, I had bought extra hot dogs and sausages.  For most guys, I’d be wearing a “Bonus Wife” crown and sash, maybe even holding a bouquet of flowers.  Any woman who bears extra hot dogs and sausages is automatically enrolled in the “Wife of the Year” club.  Clearly everyone knows this…except, apparently Jason?


I pulled into the garage from running to the grocery store.  Our dear friends were coming over to celebrate birthdays and Jason had decided we’d have burgers and brats…they’d bring a big salad.  I’d make yummy cupcakes.


By JC Harrington on July 4, 2012 at Full 500 × 333 pixels


Since starting Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” I am almost exclusively our grocery getter.  I’m the one with the cash for food purchases, where Jason’s cash is allocated for lunches during the work week.  Emily had gone with me to the store, and as we assessed who would be having dinner, I asked Em if she wanted burgers or brats for dinner.  She said, “Can the kids have hot dogs, instead?  I said, “Sure, no problem.”  She shouted an emphatic “NICE,” gave me the “gag me with a spoon” face she always gives me when the word “brats” is mentioned, and then said, “ As long as the hot dogs were all natural without additives, nitrates, or nitrites.”  You know, no lips and asses.  We laughed and gave each other that, “I don’t even WANT to know what is in those other hot dogs!” look.  

Anyway, back to the story…


So, it was a Sunday afternoon.  Ryan was down for his nap while Em and I were at the store and Jason was hanging out, watching a little football.  He came out to the garage to help carry in bags once he heard the door open.  As he grabbed for several bags in the trunk he quietly said, “Why did you buy hot dogs?  Why do you alwayssecond guess me?”


I was all, “Whoa…are you okay?  Why are you being passive aggressive?”


Jason, “I’m not being passive aggressive!  I decided we were having burgers and brats and you second guessed my plan and bought hot dogs.”


I said, thinking to myself what on earth is going on with Jason, “Emily asked if she could have hot dogs.  We only had a pound of ground beef and 3 brats, so with 4 adults and three kids, 3 of which don’t eat brats, I decided to get some hot dogs, and a little extra ground beef, too, just in case.  But what’s really going on, why on earth are you so upset about hot dogs?”


Jason, “I’m not upset.  I just don’t like how you always second guess me.”


Me, “Sweetheart, I am really, really sorry.  I’m really sad that you feel I second guess you!  I totally trust you.  As the one who usually does the hosting, I just wanted to make sure we had enough food.  Have you felt like this a long time?  I’m really sorry.  I had no idea you felt so strongly about this or that you’ve been feeling this way for so long…you did use the word, “always.”  If this is how you’ve felt all along why haven’t you told me?”


Jason, “No.  Nothing’s bothering me…it’s fine…it’s not what I meant, it came out wrong.”


I froze, really sad in my heart, like grieved-ish, that I did something to cause my non-reactive husband to be so distraught over bratwurst.  I started to throw up my walls.  Jason was dressed in his mountain biking gear, so I told him to leave and think about what was going on and we could talk about it when he got home, but we both needed space…over an 8-pack of nitrate-free hotdogs…and a little extra ground beef.


After about an hour and a half Jason came home from his bike ride.


He said, “I’m sorry I overreacted about the brats.  When you got home you opened the garage door and Lady started barking, Ryan wasn’t going down for his nap, and the Redskins had just lost.”


OH.  MY.  FRIGGING.  WORD.


Me, “Are you kidding me?!  This was all because the Redskins suck?  Sweetheart, the Redskins haven’t been good ever since you liked them in the ‘80’s.  I’m just glad it wasn’t something more serious!  You are lucky I love you and realize you had a moment of sheer stupidity to treat me like that because of the lack of athletic performance from a football team.”



“Stupid” Stuff Skins Fans Say or Do



Oh yeah…AND, guess what EVERYONE but Emily wanted for dinner? 


Burgers.  

It’s a good thing the grass-fed ground beef was on sale, thankyouverymuch, Dave Ramsey!

Sweet Chorus of Chaos!

Setting:  Suburbia, one of the best towns to live in USA, kitchen/nook/great room, 36 animal flash cards strewn about, 37 large Lego’s also strewn, 2 baskets of clean unfolded laundry, one counter top covered with after school paraphernalia, another counter top covered in veggies for food prep, cup stacking mat and florescent green cups in center of kitchen table, the other 14 animal flash cards stuck upright in long crack of old schoolhouse kitchen table, 3 squashed grapes on floor, 4 pieces of paper with crayon sketched nay nays and moo moos on floor under table, left side of sink filled with clean dishes, right side stacked up to Jesus with dirty ones.

Characters:  One 10 year old 5th grade girl who rides the fence of wanting to be a little kid and a young lady; one 2 year old boy who knows the sound of every animal on the planet (or at least his 50 flash cards) who also, incidentally, had a temp of 102.5 earlier today which broke during his nap which woke him up early which plays a key role in his behavior in this particular setting; one 40 year old mom just trying to make dinner; one beautiful 30 year old friend who was gracious enough to endure the setting, characters, plot, conflict, and lack of resolution, who also brought fabulous fresh berries for dessert; one 4 pound black and brown full grown Maltipoo with a quarter pound bark collar on her neck who still yips and yaps regardless of said collar.  (Character NOT in play: suburban dad/hubby…)

Plot/Exposition:  40 year old mom who has had one shower this week would love to enjoy adult interaction with 30 year old friend (since suburban husband can’t hang out on phone while overseas on work trip) while making a yummy dinner for all characters involved, then to tuck animal loving 2 year old into bed early since his fever from the night before had kept him and said 40 year old mom awake until 1:30 am, and tuck in 10 year old daughter because those moments are so great for old mom’s heart, and finally to finish up chatting with young, beautiful, energetic 30 year old girlfriend who has no wrinkles.

Conflict:  Little boy wants his dinner now, not when hazelnut and herb crusted salmon, sauteed squash, mushrooms, and broccoli are finished, but EN. OH. DOUBLE YOU.  NOW!  Exhausted but not completely worn thin 40 year old mom who did get in a 1 1/2 hour yoga routine today gets mushrooms done first, then zucchini, then finally broccoli…Bubbly awesome young friend cuts peels off apple slices for little boy who is yelling, “Opples!  Opples!  Moose!  Moose!  Nay Nays!  Nay Nays!  Moy!  Moy!”  5th grade girl is on front porch reading because it’s part of her homework, however, could be helping saute SOMETHING!  Little boy without a fever but with lots of energy dumps plate of leftovers on his freshly cleaned hair and shouts, “DONE!  DONE!  DONE!  MOOSE!  MOO MOO!  CAMEL!”  Needy, but sweet, 4 lb dog sitting by front door where her 10 year old master sits just inches on the other side.

Ongoing Internal Conflict:  Smelly shower-less 40 year old mom keeps eye-balling the half bottle of red wine in the refrigerator, all the while thinking if she just drank it, it would calm the chaos, or at least take the edge off…but said mom knows better than to drink alone since gorgeous helpful 30 year old is on a cleanse so red and white and tequila and all other indulgences are off limits.  And then 40 year old mom snaps to and remembers she’s detoxing, too, so that’s the end of that internal conflict.

Continued Conflict:  Truly, truly, an inability for either grown-up to complete any given thought or sentence or story or…

  • In the MIDDLE of dinner, “Hey, can I show you guys a hand stand?”
  • “Moo moo!  Nay Nay!  Done!”
  • “I’m so sorry you had to go to a funeral…”
  • “Do I have to eat all of this lettuce?”
  • “Ooooh, Mommy!  Juice!”
  • “Can I have chocolate when I am done?”
  • “So were you able to spend time with family or see…?”
  • “Um, before it gets too dark will you guys come out in the backyard and watch me do a hand stand?”
  • “Moy!  Moy!  Moy!  Moy num nums!”
  • “Done!  Done!  Moose!  Done!”
  • “Can you send chocolate in my lunch tomorrow?”

Climax:  While piecing together the scene and series of events, 30 year old amazing helper friend with great hair and arms says to mom whose head has collapsed onto old schoolhouse table in an attempt for a solo retreat, “I think I’m starting to piece together why you asked me earlier to pray for you and God’s purpose in your life…I will definitely be praying for that, friend.”

Resolution:  10 year old clears dishes from the table after asking politely if she may be excused, then proceeds to do a fabulous hand stand in back yard.  2 year old escapes out the back door into backyard and does somersault while saying hi to the neighboring woof woofs.  Faithful and selfless 30 year old friend cleans the kitchen, the way her 40 year old friend would clean it.  Amazingly strong yoga momma climbs stairs with 27 pound 2 year old in her arms and has success on 2nd attempt to tuck in said toddler, albeit 2.5 hours after first attempt.  5th grade girl gets ready for bed, including feeding/watering/pottying of furry friend, without being asked by Super Mom who is still dressed in all black from working as a secret agent with the CIA, uh, doing yoga 8 hours earlier and smelling like it.

I love my best friend of 22 years, 19 of them married…

I love my nose-picking toddler..

I love backyard nudity…

I love being shot with water guns by my 10 year old…

*Note water drips from being shot…

I love that, thankfully, colored hair extensions and feather earrings aren’t moral issues…

I love Gary the Cowboy who let me shoot off a little steam recently..

I love that my toddler can say words like:  “Done!  Moose!  Nay Nay!”

I love the beautiful gracious gift of God who has taught me so much over the last 10 years…

I love that even though she is growing up, she still wanted to have a tea party at American Girl…

I love being a mom.  I really do.  I mean it.

And I love being a wife.  I really do.  I mean it.

These are two hats I wear and two roles I’d like to think I play decently, at least in my family.

However, what if I had never gotten married or what if I’d never had kids.

Who would I be?  

Not like, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t!” or “What am I missing out on?” This isn’t a mid-life crisis question or anything like that.

BUT:  Before I was a mom I was a wife.  And before I was a wife, I was a young woman…one with dreams and passions and ideas, some of which have really and truly come true…namely: Jason, Em, Noah, and Ryan.  Others that seem they are so covered in dust and cobweb perhaps on their way to fossilization. 

The other night before my husband was leaving for a week-long trip to the Dominican Republic for his job with Compassion International, which incidentally is my dream job since I was in college of traveling the world, working with nationals in country to reach their countrymen, and help women and children…we were just laying in bed talking for a few minutes after the house was finally quiet.

I said, “You know, buying a sports car, getting a tattoo, or having an affair are obvious mid-life crisis symptoms.  I don’t want any of those things, but I can’t even begin to tell you how out of my element I feel lately.  Your job is literally my dream job, I’m not coveting it, but it’s crazy that you are living out my passion for missions.  And then I love to write but haven’t written anything in forever and haven’t felt inspired to write, or even read anything, either.  I mean, I love my Bible and have been reading that tons and actually, the only writing I’ve been doing is with pen and paper, writing scriptures, but it’s like for the first time in years, I have nothing to say or convey.  And, I feel like I’m supposed to encourage other women but don’t even know where to begin, and the truth is, I really MISS encouraging women and being used in that way.  I know I am supposed to be a wife and mom, and I love those things very much, I am not sure if I remember what I love or am good at in addition to that anymore…I just want to be faithful with the gifts and strengths God has given me, however I don’t really know what they are at this given moment.”

This isn’t discontent or dissatisfaction with my life.  I love my life.  I am so very grateful to God for each person and every blessing.  Believe me, we talk about our thousands and thousands of gifts, and write lists of gratitude…

Presently I simply feel purposeless.  Do you ever feel that way?  And if so, do you have encouragement of how to become un-purposeless?

Yer purdy…

Last night as we were winding down, Jason on the couch, me tidying up a few things in the kitchen, getting my glass of water for bed, I asked Jason a simple question.

Me: “Did you think I looked pretty today?”

Jason: “Of course!”

Me: “Well, why didn’t you say so?”

Jason: “You look beautiful everyday…”

Now, of course that is the right answer, but really?!

Me, snarkly-like: “Oh, then I guess you don’t have to tell me ever again…”

Yes, we both just smiled.

I know it sounds like I was fishing, but PEOPLE, I had taken a shower! I mean, it’s not that rare, but as a busy mom, let’s all just be honest here…showers may happen every day or every other day, but actually washing and blowing dry my hair, well, that happens maybe twice a week, if I’m lucky!

Husbands, take notice!

I already felt pretty yesterday and didn’t need Jason to say so. I had spent a lot of time reading God’s word and felt very refreshed, beautiful on the inside because God had said so…I also just happened to have a skirt on, which never happens, so, you’d think your hubby might notice…wink, wink.

Anyway, from my post yesterday or the day before about the Proverbs 31 woman, I’m inspired to try an experiment. First of all, let me just say I don’t ask Jason if he thinks I’m pretty all the time. Remember, he said I’m beautiful everyday. Ahem.

But, my experiment is this: I’m not going to shower or wash my hair ever again. And let me tell you, it’s gonna get stinky! I’m going to have me some very hairy legs and my hair, well, it’ll look like I stuck my head in a deep fryer. So, add to the lack of hygiene more time reading God’s word, praying and sitting at His feet, and I suspect Jason will be simply overcome by my appearance.

Okay, so, I’m totally kidding! Ewwwwww!

The point is this, ladies, our beauty is on the inside when our hearts are before the Lord. Here’s a quote from my jewelry blog:



“We truly believe that every woman’s heart was designed to be beautiful. What we wear on the inside will always be seen by the discerning eye. What we wear on the outside is simply a reflection of our tastes and who we are…it will never take the place of our inner beauty…beauty that will last us a lifetime.”

And all you guys out there, even if you think your lady is beautiful every day, tell her what you think…she’s not a mind reader.

And, if she’s not pretty, if her heart is dark and broken, sad, distraught and in despair, if she’s angry and unkind, well, start filling her heart with Truth. Fill it a little bit at a time. Encourage her in God’s word…it may be a slow process but God is bigger. He works miracles all the time.

And one day, when she walks in the door, you won’t be overcome by her appearance, you’ll be taken aback by her beauty.