Thursday, July 14, 2016

A New Perspective on Marriage and Anniversaries

Fourteen years. Fourteen moons have shown since we stood in front of God and everyone and said, “I do”….when we didn’t have a clue what we were really doing! But here we are, fourteen years later, and I can honestly say our love has grown into one that is steady, mature, and sweetly strong.

Yes, John and I celebrated our 14th anniversary this year(on May 25th), and my amazing husband completely pulled out all the stops and planned the sweetest, most thoughtful anniversary trip ever. This is the stuff of sappy chick flicks, y’all. ‘Cept it really happened, to us. It was perfect and absolutely the most relaxing and fun trip I’ve ever been on.  Of course, I chronicled our adventures on Instagram—how he planned our whole trip and kept all the details a secret. The only thing he let me in on was that we were going zip lining in the mountains of Gatlinburg, TN (so that I could acquire appropriate modest attire for such an activity). Other than that, I was completely clueless, up until the point that we actually pulled into our second destination—the Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, Ky. He also planned a surprise meeting for me and a friend I met through this blog, around ten years ago. We had grown to be great friends through texting, email and Instagram, but never met in person. I had no idea until she walked up to us while we were eating a picnic lunch (well, I had hoped, but was pretty sure it wasn’t going to happen). I almost choked on my chicken salad sandwich and had to stop and chew it up before I even said, “Hi”, but it was an awesome moment anyway!

I was not the only one blown away by John’s thoughtfulness. I can’t tell you how many women have asked, “Can he give my husband lessons?” or “Why can’t my husband do things like that for me?” I want to say, “If you only knew…it hasn’t always been like this.”  And I can hear myself asking the same question, even a year ago.  Rewind to last year’s anniversary, when John took 6 boys from our youth group on a camping trip on our anniversary weekend. I was NOT a happy camper (in a tent or otherwise). I moped and pouted and complained. I cried on a friend’s shoulder, “How could he be so thoughtless?” Well, this (very wise) friend looks at me and says, “Amy, John loves you and shows you all year long. He is faithful to you, provides for you, and loves you and your children with his whole heart. Why do you need him to perform one weekend out of the year to prove that he loves you?” Needless to say, I felt a little abashed and sheepish about my childish griping. She was right, and I knew it.

That little encounter got my attention and got me to thinking, why do we women put so much pressure and emphasis on our husbands to shower us with gifts, dinner, and attention on anniversaries and Valentine’s Day? Not that we don’t deserve it, but why do we deserve it any more than our husbands? Society has turned these events into elaborate displays of over spending and unrealistic expectations. Our husbands (in most cases—I am aware that many women hold jobs outside the home as well) carry the weight of responsibility for the leadership and financial well-being of their families, on a daily basis. A man like mine, who gets up every morning and goes to work, whether he feels like it or not, so his wife can enjoy the privilege of being at home with her children, certainly deserves to be honored and respected. Do we realize how much our men crave special attention and appreciation from us? Attention that goes beyond the basic, every day meals and honey-dos? How might our marriages grow and change for the better if we took the initiative to do special things for our husbands, instead of sitting and waiting for them to do it for us?  Ladies, I know for a fact you would be blown away by the change in your husband!

Believe me, I am fully aware that there is that ever-present issue of funds and finances. If you’re like me and have no source of income other than what your husband brings home, you may find an obstacle when it comes to finding the means to fund that special occasion. For me, it just doesn’t make sense to spend the money he earned on his own (even though I know it is our money) on a gift/event that is for him. Well, ladies, God made us to be creative creatures, and now is the perfect opportunity to blow your husband’s mind with how creative and fun you can be! Don’t have the money to go out to eat? Send the kids to their grandparents (or aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc) for the evening. Dress up your back porch with Christmas lights and a pretty table, whip up a yummy meal, and create an evening that he will never forget! A certain friend of mine built a romantic “fort” in her living room with blankets, Christmas lights, and a mattress. Her husband was blown away!  

This past Valentine’s Day was a special one for us. We had came through a tough trial in our marriage, one that we fought and won together, through lots of prayer and dedication. This situation brought us closer together than ever before, and I wanted to really shower John with a special Valentine’s Day, to celebrate that we had made it to through the valley, to the top of the mountain. So I got my husband’s permission to spend a certain amount of money on a special weekend. Surprisingly, he was thrilled with the idea and told me to go for it (I about fainted!). I can’t tell you how much fun I had sneaking around and planning things. I ordered an Edible Arrangements bouquet and had it delivered to his office, picked him up from work and took him to a high-end steakhouse in our area (that required reservations), bought him a personal gift, and finished the night off with a stay at our favorite local hotel. So if you have the means to fund such a weekend, go for it. He deserves it! He might be so pleased that he turns around and takes you on the anniversary trip of your dreams ;).

Let’s not take our marriages for granted, ladies. Let’s not forget that a good marriage takes a lot of hard work, on both our parts. But we can’t just sit around and wait for our husbands to be the one doing all the work. A little spontaneity every now and then can turn a good marriage into an extraordinary marriage. You never know what God has in store. Go for it!

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Great Critter Conundrum

Our little country homestead is swiftly growing in critter population. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I know that the memories I have of the pets of my childhood are some of the best memories of my childhood. I remember coming home from school in the afternoon and running out to the shed or the barn to play with my new kitten or puppy. There are so many such sweet moments that I treasure. Pets help teach children compassion and responsibility. There's so much to be said about a child and their pet. So, how can I, as a Mom, rob my children of these experiences by denying them ownership of a pet?

On the other hand, pets bring lots of irritating baggage along with them. Yes, they are cute and funny and entertaining (at least while they are babies), buy soon grow into smelly, loud, jumping-on-you, pooping-in-the-wrong-places annoyances. I have to constantly nag remind the kids about feeding them and cleaning up after them. And I find myself silently screaming, "Never again!" Does anyone else out there feel me?

Our pets are usually pretty run of the mill, but at the moment, we have some very interesting, full-of-personality critters calling our farmstead home. Meet Georgia (as in "Curious George-ia").

Georgia is not your typical chicken. She thinks she is a human and that she should live, eat, and sleep with humans. Not that she has ever stepped a claw into the house (Don't thinks he hasn't tried. She has.) We let our chickens free range during the day, and leave the coop door open so at night, they can all gather back in and roost safely in their enclosed home. Not so for Georgia. She refuses to participate in such chicken-y behavior, but insists rather on remaining up at the house instead of joining her chicken comrades. During the day, she perches on the back of the front porch rocking chair, and cranes her neck to peer into the kitchen window to watch the goings-on. It's a little unsettling to be stared down by beady chicken eyes while one is washing the breakfast dishes. But I've kinda gotten used to it. She descends from her perch only to squeeze herself as close to the carport door as she can (which is a full-length window type door). Maybe she doesn't want to miss out on the morning's Bible reading time or the afternoon Language lesson?

Here is Midnight, our newest kitty. He was snuck in unawares by a certain mischievous great-grandparent. I came out of church one night to find him in my van, much to the delight of my  children.

 (I didn't have a photo of Skittles and he wasn't available for a photo shoot--off courting perhaps?--so I borrowed one of his likeness from Wiki)

Skittles (adult cat) has been with us for about 3 years now. Against my adamant protests, Skittles manages to stay in the house about 80% of the time. This started because any food that is put outside for him is eaten by possums, coons, or chickens (one in particular--can you guess?). So in order to keep the poor thing from starving, we started bringing him inside to feed him. The children started sneaking him off to their rooms, where he promptly falls asleep in a corner and sleeps there most of the day, while I forget he is even in the house in the first place. If he is not let in in the morning (I put him outside at night), he goes to the kids' windows and howls until someone comes to get him. Being that I like my children to sleep past 6:00 a.m. if at all possible, I will usually bring him in myself just to shut him up! He then promptly makes a beeline for Elijah's room and settles in for a good nap. He also goes to the door and cries when he needs to go out to use the bathroom. Pretty smart cat!

This is Cottontail. He is probably my favorite pet because he is content to live in his little cage, doesn't make any noise, and is  low maintenance. He's also pretty cute and cuddly. Josie loves to hold and snuggle him and he seems happy to oblige.


Now these two gals (Sugar Baby and Stacy), I like to pretend are not here. They live on the hinder side of our barn/shop and so I cannot see, hear, or smell them unless I walk around the barn/shop to see them, which I rarely do. My dear husband has been mildly obsessed with owning a pair of "large blacks" for quite some years now. I made a bargain with him that if I got a new couch, he could get his hogs. And so here we are (the couch is very comfortable, by the way).

We also have two broods of chickens--an adult brood that we've had for about 3 years, and a new, young brood that Elijah and Grace are raising for the 4-H Chicken Chain Project.  Here's hoping that something positive comes out of this project. And that the chickens live through it (we've already had two fatalities).

We started out with three lab/golden retriever puppies last spring, but they got so big and began to eat so much dog food that we got rid of two of them. The third one that we decided to keep, Bess, had a uteran prolapse and had to be put down last fall.  We've had really bad luck with dogs so far, losing about five different dogs (either died or ran away) since we moved here three years ago.

If it were up to the children, we would add a horse, cows, and goats to the count. Their Daddy is already putting up fences for the goats he hopes to get this summer. I'm admittedly nervous about goats because of their tendency to get out of their fence. I keep having visions of a an overweight white girl chasing goats through the pasture.

So I guess animals have their place, and at least make things more interesting from day to day. As much as a I sigh with exasperation, deep down I get attached to them (despite my best intentions). When one of them gets sick or hurt, I'm the first to gather them up and bring them in the house (the utility room of course) and nurse them back to health.  Just don't tell anyone! They are all a part of our family. That being said, if one of the kids were to ask for a new pet today I would most likely answer, "No more pets!"

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Power of Encouragement

To encourage, is to inspire, to stimulate, to promote, says Webster. I have often asked, in prayer, for the Lord to make me an encourager. But I don't think I really grasped what it meant, until now. Not until someone showed me--inspired me, stimulated me, promoted me. They looked for the good in me, the positive potential for greatness, that I did not, nor have I ever seen before. They brought it to light and promoted me to strive for more. They showed me a goal and inspired me to reach for it. They shared stories with me of great and mighty deeds God has done through them in their own personal prayer life and stimulated me to deepen the intensity of my communication with God. They promoted me by pointing out how God wanted to use me in ways I never dreamed, and nudged me when he actually did--saying, "See, what did I tell you?"

Let me take a moment, if I may, to inspire you. God is waiting, in suspense, for you to discover the potential that He has put in you. He knows it is there, because He put it there. It may be buried underneath feelings of inferiority and self-doubt, but it's there. If you could see what He sees when He looks at you, and what you could be--you'd spread your wings and soar. It takes faith to push past the layers of self-degradation. Faith in God first, then faith in yourself.

Let me promote you to prepare yourself for God to have His way with you. What are your spiritual goals? Sit down and write out a list of areas where you would like to see progress in--is it your prayer life? Is it a greater faith? Is it for power and anointing of the Holy Ghost to sing or testify?  Teach, lead, or step out in a brand new area of ministry? Seek God's face for His direction, soak it in prayer, then stand back and give Him a chance to work.

Let me stimulate you: when He sees a heart and a life that is open, yielded, and truly desiring to break out of its ordinary condition, He will be delighted. He will fill it to overflowing with purpose, passion, and fruitfulness.

Look around--do you see anyone who could use a little encouragement? Go ahead--inspire, promote, stimulate!