Real Marriage: Man Up

This past week’s chapter of Real Marriage was titled, “Men and Marriage,” but I decided to go with “Man Up” as the title of this post. It is inspired by one my favorite rappers, Lecrae, who posted this picture on his Facebook the other day with the following caption:

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“A man should lift a boy out of flighty boyish immaturity and teach him to be a caring, loyal, faithful, committed, respecter of woman, and decisive leader. #manup”

How can a man teach a boy to be a man and put away “flighty boyish immaturity”? The man has to be a man and not a boy trapped in a man sized body. He has to have “put away childish things” in order to be able to help a boy grow into a man.

This topic is a soapbox for me because I have known many boys trapped in a man sized body and I have seen how this “man/boy” has effect on his family. There are many of these “men/boys” who fail to step up to the plate, fail to be the father his children needs, the husband his wife needs, and the leader that God has created him to be. When men fail to do these things, when men fail to be men as God created them, the family dynamic does not function properly. The boy under the “man/boy” also grows up to be a “man/boy” unless he chooses a different path for himself. He doesn’t know what it means to be a man. The girl under the “man/boy” grows up to question her worth, beauty, and security. She doesn’t know how she should be treated and loved. The wife under a “man/boy” lives emotionally disconnected from her husband and feels the weight of family responsibility on her shoulders because her “man/boy” doesn’t carry his own.

The “man/boy,” though his body has grown to maturity, still lives in an emotional or mental state of boyhood. There are many different reasons for why this is; many of which reach back into his childhood and the male figure(s) in his life. Typically the man has no control over what happened in his childhood or what kind of male figures he had. He didn’t choose the circumstances or the environment that produced his inability to emotionally or mentally grow to maturity. That is sad but what I think is even sadder is that once the “man/boy” got to the age where he could choose to be different, to get help, and to not let the events of his childhood define him, he chose not to. And he continues to choose not to. With that choice he negatively effects not only his life, but the lives of the people who love him and need him. He provides for his children the same or similar circumstances and environment that they too will one day have to choose whether or not to overcome.

A man, a real man, biblically leads his family. A real man “loves his wife like Christ loves the church” (Ephesians 5:25). A real man “do not provoke his children to anger” (Ephesians 6:4). A real man recognizes his submission under the Lord, his headship over his family, his call to lovingly father his children, his command to love and pursue his wife, and his purpose to live humbly and righteously for the Lord. A real man does not cower in the greatness of these responsibilities but goes after them with the heart of a warrior that has been carved by God’s hand. A real man confesses his sin, hurts his pride, and seeks forgiveness. A real man longs for the redemption of his soul and the souls of his family. A real man loves the Lord.

So man up, men. A real man is what your wife and children earnestly desire.

And if you are a real man, despite your past or maybe because of it, then I want to say thank you. Keep doing what you are doing. And don’t forget to teach your sons or the young boys in your life what it means to be a real man. Teach them to man up.

Real Marriage: Being Best Friends

My husband & I on our wedding day

My husband & I on our wedding day

This week’s chapter of Real Marriage was about being best friends. Going into this chapter I was pretty confident because one of the things that I love about my marriage is that my husband and I have a great friendship. We formed a solid friendship before we started dating and that friendship has only grown. We have a lot of fun together and we laugh with each other often. We tease and flirt and we love to be around each other. Every single day one of us will text the other saying, “I miss you.” I think it’s safe to say that we’re both most satisfied in the other’s presence.

However, when reading through the chapter, some things did stand out to me as areas that my husband and I could work on. Overall we have a great marriage but I think we could definitely work on being more emotionally connected and open. We should both feel safe to share our feelings with each other, without fear of being judged or rejected. I think my husband has a problem in this area only because he’s of the male gender and men don’t typically talk about feelings. His innate reaction to emotions is to fix the problem and then the emotions will go away. It’s very different for women though. We need to express the emotions we are feeling and then we’ll be ready to address the problem. Or, in most instances for me, expressing the emotion, being heard, understood, and validated will fix the problem. Typically the emotion that women express isn’t about the problem that may have caused the emotion but is about releasing that emotion and having the person they most love hear them out.

For instance, I am currently working on a project with 13 other bloggers. The director of the project asked me to shorten a work that I submitted for my part of the project. I was very upset by this because I felt very satisfied with my work and did not wish to make any changes. I had written about something very close to my heart and I was very emotionally attached to it. The thought of shortening something I had worked hard on and had poured my heart into made me cry. My husband’s initial response was not very encouraging but as we talked about it later I was impressed by how well he heard me and responded to my emotion. I knew what he really wanted was to fix the problem but what I really needed was for him to understand how I felt. I still don’t like the idea of having to shorten my work but I feel better knowing my husband understands how I feel and is here for me as I work on making the changes.

That is what being emotionally connected as best friends looks like. The story I just shared is one of our few success stories because this is something we are still working on. I struggle with emotionally opening myself up to my husband because in my past most of the men in my life didn’t care about what I felt. I fear to open up because I’m afraid of what he’ll think of me and how he’ll respond. My husband isn’t a cruel man but I have brought this fear into my marriage from my past. It is difficult to overcome but is something that I wish to continue working on. My husband is my best friend and I don’t want to hide any part of myself from him.

What about you? How can you be a better friend to your spouse? What areas of friendship do you need to work on?

A Peace that Surpasses all Understanding

If you read my post, When the Unexpected Happens, then you know that as a result of my second miscarriage my doctor was performing blood work to see if there was a medical reason for the recurring miscarriages. I received the results of the blood work today and all the tests came back normal. My doctor said that according to the blood work there is no medical reason for my miscarriages.

A part of me was hoping that something would come back abnormal so that I had a reason, an answer, to why I’ve had two miscarriages in a row. If there was a problem then it could be addressed. But there isn’t a problem and I have no answers. I’m not disheartened though. The Lord has given me peace that surpasses all understanding and has strengthen my faith and trust in Him. Thinking about His sovereignty and goodness brings tears to my eyes. I surely could not survive this heartache without Him. Because even though I am at peace the pain is still real and it is still felt. I still grieve.

There is evidence of that everywhere. The evidence hangs around my neck in three little charms that remind me of my babies.

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The evidence is in my home where I put up a memorial of sorts. It’s like having them at home with us. It shows that they, at some point, no matter how small or how short, existed and were a part of our family.

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The evidence is in the graphics that I have made as a way to express my grief. When I make these things it helps me feel close to them and it brings healing.

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Even though I grieve, I am at peace and I have faith. I am able to have joy through the pain because I know without a doubt that God is sovereign and that His will is infinitely better than my own. Though there is pain and sorrow in this life there is also hope for those whose lives belong to the Lord. This is not all there is and this is not the end. Me and my family are in God’s hands and that is the best place to be. Whether I get pregnant again and whether I carry to full term is completely and totally up to the Lord. My hope is not found in medical science (though the Lord can certainly work through that) but rather my hope is found in the One who created me, who understands all mysteries, and who forms with His hands the children He gives me.

“Our God is in the heavens and He does whatever He pleases.” Psalm 115:3

Real Marriage Series

freeimage-325779My husband and I have begun a study series on Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage. I thought it would be interesting to blog through the study about what we’re learning and what is being taught as it pertains to marriage in general.

This first week, chapter one of Real Marriage, was about the expectations and assumptions that we bring into marriage. What happens in our past and how marriage is modeled for us effects what kind of expectations we have. For instance, I grew up in a home where my dad worked and my mom stayed home with the kids. So I went into my marriage with the expectation that my husband would work and I would stay home with the kids. I also expected to spend a lot of time with my husband. In fact, I think that was one of my biggest assumptions/expectations about marriage; that our focus would be on spending as much quality time together as possible. I guess when I pictured being married I pictured all the fun stuff and not so much of the hard stuff. Or even the life stuff.

Thinking back it’s actually pretty funny. No one goes running through a field of flowers, holding hands, and laughing unless it’s in a movie. Not that I wanted to go running through flowers with my husband (that’s just not something we would do) but it was about what that scene portrayed; happiness, freedom, contentment. But the reality of life and marriage isn’t always happiness, freedom, or contentment. There are times of unhappiness, times of feeling trapped, and times of being discontent. Our spouses are not our God. Marriage is not our savior. But I think, whether we realize it or not, we tend to go into marriage with that mindset. “If I were married then I would be happy.” “If I just had someone who loved me then I would be content.” That’s a problem because we are conditioning our happiness on marriage and our contentment on love and not on Christ. And then we bring that mindset into marriage. “If my husband would just clean up after himself then I would be happy!” “If my wife would have sex with me every night then I would be happy!” Not only are we not finding our identity in Christ but we are being self-focused. How can we wives respect our husbands when we’re focused on our wants and needs? And how can husbands love their wives like Christ loves the church when they’re focused on their own wants and needs? The key here is being selfless. And the key to being selfless is to find our identity, our happiness, our freedom, our contentment, and true love in Jesus Christ. When our life is so wrapped up in Jesus then our life only matters as far as Jesus is concerned. It’s not about us. It’s not about what makes us happy. It’s about Jesus’s will and purpose for us. It’s about living a biblical life that glorifies God and that includes our marriages.

After thinking through our expectations, my husband and I both realized that we had more expectations of the other than we did of ourselves. This revealed a selfishness on both our parts. It’s easy to look at our spouse and be discontent. But it’s hard to look at ourselves and evaluate where we are wrong. But I believe that being selfless in marriage (in anything really) is huge and so key to a strong and healthy marriage. Instead of focusing on the shortcomings of our spouse and how they could make our life better we need to be focusing on how we can make our spouse’s life better. How can we love our spouse better? How can we serve them? How have we hurt them and do we need to apologize? The only person we can really work on and change is ourselves. We need to focus on making ourselves the spouse our husband/wife needs, on loving our spouse, and on doing it all out of a heart that loves and serves the Lord.

When the Unexpected Happens

Back in January of this year I had a miscarriage. It was a devastating experience. But then in May, on my son’s birthday, we found out that we were expecting again! I was overjoyed! I was certain that this was God restoring what we had lost. I was so full of hope. 316312_10151434920735897_188035758_n

But then I started spotting. I was crushed. I cried in fear of facing another loss. Then the spotting went away and I thought that it was nothing. Some bleeding can be normal during early pregnancy so I didn’t throw out all hope yet. But then on Tuesday I started bleeding and this time it didn’t stop. I went to the doctor and a sonogram showed a gestational sac measuring 5 weeks when I was suppose to be 7 weeks. It was playing out just like last time. They took my blood and had me return two days later to draw more blood and compare my hormone levels. Since Monday was Memorial Day I had to wait a long weekend before getting the results. I never had any cramping and the bleeding was never as heavy as it was last time. I was very hopeful that everything would turn out okay. I was even more convinced of this when the bleeding became very light on Monday and by Tuesday it was completely gone. I thought for sure that it was some random bleeding caused by something other than a miscarriage. I was certain that when I got the results from my blood work on Tuesday that I would receive good news.

I was laying in bed playing with Grayson when I got the call. The words I heard on the other end of the phone made my heart drop into my stomach and all my hope came crashing down. My hormone levels had decreased. The doctor would follow up with me at my appointment next Monday.

I didn’t know what to say. The nurse was so matter of fact, no remorse or sympathy in her voice, and I thought, “Is that all?” But what could she say? My levels had gone down which meant a miscarriage had taken place. A second baby gone.

I was so sure this baby was our restoration. I had so much hope. I don’t know how to communicate just how hopeful I was. Having this second miscarriage was unthinkable and, in my mind, not probable.

I had my follow up appointment today and during the sono I was told that everything had passed but when I saw my doctor she said there was a small area of what could be tissue or the sac (though she said it didn’t look like a sac) that is still in the uterus. She wasn’t concerned and didn’t feel that I needed to rush for a D & C or anything. She said that we’d just watch it and see if it will pass on it’s own. She explained that she wanted to run blood work and tests to see if there is a reason for these two miscarriages. She used a lot of big and weird sounding words that I have no clue how to spell but basically there could be some antibodies that could be interfering with healthy implantation. So they took a bunch of blood (ouch!) and are running tests to see what comes up. If I have an abnormal result she said that the minute I get a positive pregnancy test they will provide me with shots to give myself everyday throughout my pregnancy. I can’t remember what they are called (they are not progesterone shots) but she said they are tiny shots you inject into the skin of your stomach and they have proven to help keep pregnancy viable. She said even if all the tests came back normal she would still recommend that I do the shots because they can only help. So as sad and as heartbreaking as this is there is hope, by God’s grace and the help of medical guidance, that my next pregnancy will last.

Kyle and I have named this baby Rylan. I’m going to get two charms this time to add to my necklace. One will say “Rylie” and the other will say “Rylan.” I am thankful for them both and praise God that He is loving, faithful, and sovereign over my life and the lives of my children. In circumstances like these we ask “why?” Why would God allow this to happen? I have wondered the same thing. I don’t have any answers but I do know that my God is not cruel. I believe that with my whole being.

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My last miscarriage challenged my faith but this time my faith has only become more solid. God can give and He can take away but I will never curse His name. If it were not for Him I could not endure this heartache. I fully and completely trust Him and His sovereign will. I can rest in Him. I can find peace in Him. I can find healing in Him. He is my everything and I could not live without Him. He is so good. Despite whatever physical issue there may be that has caused these miscarriages God worked beyond them and gave me a son! I’m beginning to believe that Grayson is a miracle. Kyle and I both have been feeling increasingly blessed to have him. I lost Rylie and Rylan but Grayson is here, smiling at me, cuddling with me, and letting me kiss his face. I am so thankful for him.

My hope and prayer is that my next pregnancy will be healthy and that it will result in a healthy baby. My heart longs for that. But more than anything my heart longs for the Lord and His will. That I would know Him more, serve Him better, and be used by Him in whatever way pleases Him most. He is such a faithful God. He is so good.

Reader, I pray that as you take in my story that you would be encouraged and challenged. I don’t know what the Lord is doing in your life right now or what you are going through. But I pray that you would praise Him through the storm and the sunshine; that your soul would find contentment in Him. He may allow hard times to come but He doesn’t leave us in our sorrow. There is hope in our sovereign God.

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