Making the most of a date night in

date night candleAs a married couple with children, my husband and I know how important it is for us to be connected.  Date nights are a priority for us.  It was harder by far to find time together when our children were younger, but we still had date nights.  Unfortunately, the distractions in the house were so numerous that in order for me to relax, we needed to go out.  And since money was tight, we live far from extended family, and babysitting is expensive, our date nights were only once every month or two if we could swing it.

Now our youngest is five (when did that happen?) and we try to have a weekly date night in.  We still don’t like spending the money on babysitting if we can help it, but older kids can make themselves scarce, and we can order yummy take out and make a wonderful, connecting evening in our own home for half the cost.

5 Tips for a successful date night in:

  1. Plan ahead: some weeks we just look forward to the time chatting and catching up on what life has thrown at us.  Sometimes we plan a board game to play, a relaxing soak in the SmartlyHeated jacuzzi, or something else fun.  We rarely watch a movie.  Sitting on the couch next to each other doesn’t really count as connecting, now does it?
  2. Prepare the kids: honestly it took a while to get them to understand that our date nights in were not to be interrupted.  Little people standing at the top of the stairs asking for a drink of water or another bedtime song kind of kills the mood.  But after consistent attempts– really not letting them interrupt, even if it meant locking the door on the 3 year old until we went to bed {yup, we’re mean that way…}– eventually they understood.  And now they go to bed without grumbling when they know that it’s “date night”.
  3. Time it right: date nights in automatically cut the evening short since the date starts later than the times we get a sitter.  So we don’t plan a date night when we have to get up early the next morning, or when we’re exhausted from an especially long day. The kids go to bed early, and we get our take out by 8:15 or so.
  4. Set the mood: soft lighting, soft jazz, and a soft glow from the ethanol burning fireplace (on cold nights) make for a perfect evening.  We clean up the living room, set the coffee table, pour some wine and it’s almost like a fine restaurant.
  5. Splurge on the food: since we’re not spending extra money on babysitting or tip, we’ll spend a bit more on take out.  Our favorites are sushi, Indian, or gourmet Italian, though we’ve also had times when we have cooked something special.

Whatever parts of our lives we feed with loving intention and action will grow to be beautiful.  I want my marriage to be one of those things.

Do you have a regular date night?  In or out?

 

When you are the lesser half (or "Romance that really counts")

Marriage is 50/50, right?

Or is marriage 100/100?

Marriage should be give and take, yin and yang, for better or worse.  And in different seasons, it is all those things.

Even knowing this reality, we don’t often like to talk about the times when we are the takers, when we provide the worse, and when we can’t even begin to meet our spouse halfway.  We’d rather preach on the Proverbs 31 woman (the one who does her husband good and not harm all the days of his life), encourage others to serve without thought of self, and give examples of the times we get it right.

But we can’t always get it right.  And real romance happens when we least deserve it.  When we are the lesser half.

This is a lesson I am learning.  It is not an easy lesson.  Books and movies tell us romance is all flowers and starlit walks, served up with a glass of red wine and chocolate.  That it is mushy cards and frequent texts and emails to say “I’m thinking of you”, and passionate nights of lovemaking without concern for how we feel or how we look.  But twelve years into this marriage of mine to an amazing man who is (sometimes) not necessarily the textbook definition of “romantic”, I see that the romance that really counts has to do with simply accepting me at my worst, loving me when I’m completely unlovable, and giving grace when I don’t deserve it.  And there are times when the opposite is true, and I choose to romance him with acceptance, love and grace as well.

It often doesn’t look like romance.  Romance that counts isn’t always very romantic.

But that’s the kind of romance I want.  Don’t get me wrong, flowers and chocolate are nice.  Candlelit dinners and gazing into each other’s eyes make me happy, too.  But they don’t sustain a marriage.

The sustenance of marriage is real-life romance, offered (sometimes through gritted teeth) in the trenches of the daily mess of life, and that is what really counts.

Joining up with e-Mom today…

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Keeping the Faith through unemployment- (ebook review)

Rosann knows from experience.  It’s an experience no one wants, no one welcomes, and no one likes.  But it’s a matter of fact that in these trying economic times, many of our husbands will find themselves unemployed.

As wives, what are we to do?  How should we respond?  As Christian wives, how can we honor our husbands and our God while we too suffer with fear and worry, stigmas, embarrassment and feelings of despair?

In her newly published ebook, Unemployed Faith, Rosann lays her heart bare as she walks the reader through this challenging and heart-breaking time in her life.  Right in the thick of it, she shares her family’s struggles and pain, all while giving coping tips and structured action points to follow.  The book is laid out clearly and practically, and the reader finds true life moments written from the heart of someone mired in the trenches herself, amidst suggestions on how to support husbands in their darkest time as providers.

This is not a book on how to get your husband a job.  This is a book for wives.

How can you lift up your husband while feeling the stress yourself?  How do you release your own stress without overburdening your husband?  How do you tap into the divine power and strength available to you as you climb the mountain out of the valley?  Is it even possible to remain optimistic?  Is there anything to learn in this struggle?

Maybe you will see yourself in Rosann’s scenario.  Maybe you have handled this time in your family’s life with grace, or maybe you feel as if you have no grace left to give.  Either way, you will benefit from her experience and come away with a sense of hope, and active ideas to keep you on the road of unity and growth in your marriage and family life.

It’s your turn to figure out where God wants you in this challenging time.  That place is right by His side, and by your husband’s.  Rosann’s book beautifully and gently hands you the tools to do just that.

Also check out Rosann’s partner blog to her book, which you can find here.

Harmony

I think that might have been the moment I knew he wasn’t for me.

We were driving, though I don’t remember where to or from, and I was at the wheel of my little wild-strawberry-metallic Ford Escort.  Sitting beside me was a handsome blue-eyed man, my new-ish college boyfriend, still an enigma to me, a few years older and seemingly so much wiser.  He had graduated, had a real job, and it all felt unbelievable to this girl who never dated very much to begin with- that he would want to be with me.  My heart flipped and flopped from the excitement of the idea that this relationship could mean something.

On the radio, Simon and Garfunkel, or maybe America or Crosby, Stills and Nash (I can’t really remember), sang in their 70’s acoustic way: tight chords, words that spoke to what was blooming in me as a young adult, simple guitar under it all.  And, as I always did, I took up singing at the top of my lungs with the harmony part.

“Why do you always sing the harmony?” he asked, with a hint of annoyance.

I laughed, and took it as a challenge to sing louder.

But the moment stuck.  And soon after, my boyfriend and I didn’t anymore.

Could I ever really be with someone who wanted me to always be the melody?  Isn’t the joy of relationship, and eventually of marriage, the blend of the inherently different but undeniably complementary?  I didn’t want a boyfriend who wanted me to sing melody.  I found it boring, and a bit offensive then, but now I see how it’s much more than that.  It’s contrary to our design.

When we both, husband and wife, try to carry the melody, the music is shallow and we are more likely to find dissonance.  When one chooses instead to join with a harmony part, the music becomes a partnership, and creates depth, romances the ear.  I can’t begin to describe, as a musician, what it feels like to join an existing melody part with my own voice, singing notes that aren’t the same, but fit as snug pieces of a puzzle, creating a richer aural picture.  And in my marriage, I thrill to add to my husband’s voice, finding ways to make him better, and myself better, by choosing something other than unison.

The music we make together is so much more beautiful when I do.

Looking back I wish I would have chosen to answer that boyfriend differently.  I wish I would have had the wisdom of two more decades of life lived and lessons learned.

I would have said, “Yes.  I’m a harmony girl.  And I always will be.”

How do you complement your husband?  Looking at your marriage as music, what part do you usually like to play?

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A tropical hiatus

I’ve been rather quiet here, and on Twitter and Facebook.  For good reason.

I’ve been enjoying my hubby on a small island off of Venezuela called Aruba.

It’s been rough, I tell you.

Kids had tons of fun with grandparents, aunt and uncle and cousins.  Getting spoiled rotten, I assume.  And we sat on sunny beaches, wind whipping our hair, tiki hut and 50 spf keeping us from sunburn.  We read a lot, dozed, snorkled, and spent time reconnecting with each other and God.

For someone who experiences God’s voice through images, I had no lack of ways to sense His presence.  He rewarded me with clear guidance and conviction, words of wisdom and words of correction.  He is ever faithful.  Even on an arid, tropical island.

I have so much to learn and pray I’ll be faithful in my responses.  With my marriage, my children, our homeschool, our service…

But I need to remember that dependence is the key to growth, not white-knuckle control over my own moments, my own goals.  It’s time to turn back.

What are you learning anew this week?  How does the Lord teach you?
  
(I have a post up at Heart of the Matter called “Fishies and Encouragement”, a little story from my daily life.  Check it out!)


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Investment

We have these awesome white towels, in two different textures, which were given to us as a wedding gift.  At the time, I kind of thought, “Towels?  Seriously?”, but they soon settled comfortably into neatly stacked piles on a shelf in our master bath.  We use them day in and day out, wash them weekly, bleach them occasionally, and still they do the job.  They are the absolute best towels in the house.

They are beginning to fray ever so slightly at the edges, and I’m actually a bit sad about that.

Twelve years they have served us, as towels in the other bathrooms have come and gone.  Those towels have seen plenty from their perch- some good, some not so good, and some downright ugly.  They’ve lasted through rushed moments, loving moments, fights, and cold shoulders.  They’ve heard choice words and sweet nothings, children’s whines (including plenty of my own, if I’m honest) and family giggles.

I have to admit that I’m am often more about convenience than investment.  I’ll often buy the thing that will get me through to the weekend, rather than next year.  I don’t always have the foresight and patience to put in the effort required to meet a future goal.  My eyes are usually clouded to the realization that better quality and more money in the short term translates to longevity and savings in the long term.

But when it comes to my marriage, 
I remind myself to make the investment.  
More than anything else in my life on this earth, 
my relationship with my husband is worth it.

What can I do today, this hour, this minute, to invest in next year, ten years from now, or when we’re old and gray?  How can I learn to always recognize the “best towels” for my marriage, and not just make quick, impulse choices out of convenience or ease?
And, of course, I ask you the same question.
What choices are you making today?
Are you investing in the best for your marriage?

Polish and shine

I promised I would keep it clean and sparkly.

My engagement ring- a beautiful princess-cut diamond in a simple gold setting- sat perched on my finger after that chilly December day.  That day I followed rose petals through the woods to find my love, my friend of many years, waiting on one knee with a little velvet box.

And as I gazed at the mini-lightning bursts coming out of my beautiful ring, I knew I would never let it go dull, that I would never let it fade.

But the years go by…

Apartments are rented, houses are bought, taxes are due, children are born.  Work is tough, bosses are cranky, nights are long when babies don’t sleep, and pain cuts deep when we betray each other in the little and not-so-little.

And so.  I forgot.

The little bottle of jewelry cleaner sat under the sink, pushed back farther and farther into the shadows, eclipsed by toilet paper and hair dryers.  It wasn’t really a symbol of us, the years-older, less-than-sparkly ring on my finger, now accompanied by its committed counterpart.  Not really.  We hadn’t become dull and lifeless.

Had we?

I decided one day to polish it again.  I looked at my husband- the new lines around his eyes, the slightly receding hairline, the Daddy Love all over him- and saw the mini-lightning bursts.  Still there.

So I polished.  I wanted the ring to match what we feel, to mirror the love that has grown more, not less, with the passing of days and months and years.

And again it sparkles.  We sparkle.

So what are you doing to polish and shine?  (And I’m not talking about your ring…)

Joining up with E-mom today!

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Five-Minute Friday Tired

This is not something I do very often, this writing with abandon for five guided minutes.  I usually work off of my own inspiration only and a prompt is not an easy thing for me.  But today, I felt bold!  I need the practice, and what better way to get it than among community.

I know he does it for us.

Sometimes he comes home so late that I’m already asleep, no matter how hard I tried to stay up, and he sneaks around the bedroom as if he’s not welcome there, doesn’t belong there.  I wish my tired eyes could have made it.

If I was able, I would have so many thank yous to say, so many kisses to give, so many sighs to relieve him of, and knots to rub out of his back.  He is our hero on white horse, putting out fires all day so he can finish with the warm kindling of home.  He bears the weight of a million details and burdens, and he does it gladly, without complaining.

His is the tiredness of work well done, of love well-expressed.

And of all things, he would say that I have the harder job. That being home caring for children, running the home, teaching and learning, cooking and sometimes cleaning, is the truly important job.

But I see. I see all the love that makes his work truly something important and life-giving.

STOP



Visit Lisa-Jo to see what others have cooked up in 5 minutes!

Marriage Monday- Children

I am not going to talk about our children.

We have them, four of them, and they saturate our lives with joy and frustration and giggles and sometimes tears.

But although so much of our lives revolve around them, we do not.

When I think about what my children need from us, I think of the times my husband and I spend on the porch, hands linked together.  I think about little faces peering through the window from within, when they should be in bed.  I think of waving my hand at them, communicating that this is my turn with Daddy.  Time to be in bed.

I picture their happy little faces when we say it’s date night in for  us and put them to bed early.

No one fusses.  No one pouts.  They feel secure in that tradition.  And so do I.

It’s our time to build our family stronger, to go back to the brief time it was just us, to become friends and lovers and partners, and not just mom and dad.  We talk of the kids (of course) and of bad moments and good moments in our day.  We dream and promise and laugh and snuggle and watch the neighborhood go to sleep.

It’s our time.  And at the same time, it’s a gift to our children.  For they go to sleep knowing how important we are to each other, how our marriage has center stage, how the foundation of our family is secure.

That’s what our children need from us.

Join us for Marriage Monday over at E-Mom’s and Marriage Mondays at Come Have a Peace.


Do’s and Don’ts

The Fruit-Pickers (Cezanne)



What you don’t have to do:
  

~in motherhood- love being with your children every minute


~in marriage- feel the same way about your husband in each season


~in friendship- hide behind what you think they want to see at the expense of who you are


~in faith- be certain you know the answers



What you do have to do:



~in motherhood- accept and offer grace incessantly, even when it’s hard


~in marriage- choose to show love, even when you don’t feel it


~in friendship- pursue authenticity, even if it scares you
~in faith- be sure to know the Yes, even if you don’t know all of the answers



In this life, don’t work so hard to reach 
the perfect fruit at the top, 
that you miss the ripe, beautiful fruit 
that hangs within your reach.