Marriage Tips From the Book of Haggai

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We find allegory tucked throughout the Old Testament. Though every story, every event, plays out in real time, an allegorical look often brings home a new meaning. So, whenever I read the Old Testament I ask the Lord to show me what He is saying to me, particularly me, for my issues. And He answers.

In this second smallest book of the Old Testament I learned a new way of thinking about my marriage. The idea came from that convicting verse, Proverbs 14:1: “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” (ESV) Continue reading Marriage Tips From the Book of Haggai

Five Ways Your Marriage Can Change the World

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Genesis 12:3b …in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

(God to Abraham)  ESV

Many years ago our family participated in a Pro-life rally and march in downtown Charlotte. Our ten year-old daughter, boldly marching with her sign, suddenly found a microphone from the local TV station thrust in front of her face.

“What are you doing here today?”

Without hesitation, our Johnny on the Spot leaned into the mic and said, “I’m changing the world!” Later, while watching this micro-interview on the 6:00 news, I thought her answer a little over the top. My jaded attitude said, Isn’t it a bit arrogant to think my actions matter that much?

In the years since, I’ve tried to hear my daughter’s statement through her young mind. The world needs help. The world needs changing. So if not to change the world, why go up against anything big?

My daughter’s comment on TV got me thinking…

What about marriage? When God said Abraham and Sarah would change the world, did He mean just through their offspring, Isaac? If so, why did He make them wait until they were almost one hundred years old to produce that child? I believe one possible reason for the epic wait was that something big would happen along the way to Isaac.

Their marriage.

The Abraham/Sarah marriage included decades of trusting and not trusting God, of disappointing each other, of misunderstandings and near-death decisions. Bless the world? God emphasized His statement again in I Peter 3:6. Sarah serves as the model for us wives.

“…And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

But she had issues! Yes. Most of our biblical heroes stumbled big. As with their lapses in judgement and obedience, God still uses cracked pots to hold and distribute his message. That includes us. Sarah called her husband Lord because in the Eastern nations this title served as a model for proper respect. We wouldn’t call our husband Lord, but the respect without fear part sure challenges me! Respect without fear is no small order. It will take a lifetime to learn what that kind of respect, the world changing kind, looks like.

Your marriage, too, though imperfect, is meant to change the world. Here are five ways.

1. A good, working marriage increases the productivity and creativity of each partner. Couples who resolve conflict, avoid resentment and misunderstanding, cause energy to flow into the workplace. When times of crises and desert come, both at work and in the home, the habits of kindness and forgiveness help get them through. These relational habits spill out at work, along with new ideas and fresh ways to solve problems. The world does change when energy flows from loving relationships.

2. A good, working marriage marriage makes a peaceful home. Children thrive at school and play when Mom and Dad like each other as well as love each other. They feel secure when they see their parents apologize, hug, and kiss. This sense of well-being and security changes the atmosphere wherever those happy people are. All the other kids want to be at that house. Peace, fun, and contentment change the world.

3. A good, working marriage gets noticed out in public. Everyone loves to see couples who make eye contact and laugh together. Onlookers smile. We get the message. We wish we had that- and we think we know what “that” is. Parks, tour buses, hiking trails, museums, resort lobbies, and restaurants attract more users, at the very least, and may even be transformed, when loving couples fill the spaces with their enjoyment.

4. A good, working marriage reproduces itself. True, children from happy homes sometimes divorce. Marriage is complicated at best, miserable at worst. However, many studies show that homes where kindness and passion live produce children more likely to stay married, just by their good modeling. Don’t we all pick up relational habits from the home in which we grew up? Commitment and love are caught as much as taught.

5. A good, working marriage spreads the Gospel. God designed marriage to be a reflection of His great love. He’s the One Who drew the blueprint and planned to change the world through our marriages. Since the gospel is the greatest love story ever told, we spread it knowingly or not, as we love each other in the most intimate of relationships.

Our marriage is meant to change the world. Doesn’t knowing that put all its difficulties in a different light?  For, although it can be the most hurtful, the most demanding, and the most complicated of relationships, something really, really big must be in all the hard work.

Sometimes I Wish I Were A Prodigal

Okay there it is. I am the “Older Brother.”

I see the kid dragging toward the house,

Dad running out to meet him.

I smell steak cooking on the grill,

See the wallet dump a wad of money for the party.

What? Excuse me...I stayed home, worked my tail off.

Why can’t I be the one who messed up, learned huge lessons in a short time,

Got his head screwed on right, and lived happily ever after?

Sometimes I wish I were a prodigal.



You know, some of the sharpest people were once prodigals.

Moses, Saul of Tarsus, Henry V, Samson.

(Well, I guess Sam doesn’t count because he died without his steak dinner)

I see former divas and stock broker escorts,

Women prodigals, now writing the motherhood and marriage books,

Lavishing the wealth of all their lessons in the conferences.

They make us “Older Brothers” howl at their stories - until I inwardly scream,

What happened to me? Why couldn’t that happen to me?

I wish I were a prodigal.



Now mind you, I have little interest in being famous, infamous, or doing bad things.

My sins, though undramatic, are real enough--

You know, zeal for God while holding tight (like glue) to my money,

Occasional grumbling, some jealousy.

Maybe the rare gossip fest, and a few moments of indiscretion.

If you throw in judgemental pride

And….well, more than a little unforgiveness,

I hang my head and wonder, is there any hope for “Older Brother?”

I wish I were a prodigal, too.



Can I grasp the reality of what Christ did for me

Without experiencing the prodigal’s public... Shame?  

I sure hope so, for I don’t want THAT!

Surely bigger and badder in-your-face wastefulness isn’t

The only way to humility...

...To admitting that I may be worse on the inside than he ever was.

That I hate him being the new good guy,

That he makes me see how nasty I am.

Sometimes I wish I were a Prodigal.

Thirty Seconds to Laugh Out Loud…Go!

Thirty Seconds To Laugh

Sometimes I can laugh at myself. Once, in the dark aisle of the Majestic Theatre, I stumbled trying to get to my seat. Thankfully I didn’t land in someone’s lap, but the thought of it struck me as very funny. A few months ago I ungracefully sailed from someone’s foyer into their living room. And several years ago I fell backwards into a bed of cactus (written in detail here).  In these moments I couldn’t help myself. I laughed like a lunatic. Maybe a nervous tick? (no pun intended.).

But sometimes laughing is no laughing matter. It’s just plain work.

Recently, someone passed me off like the proverbial “chopped liver.”  Someone I believed cared for me. When after several days the “special person” didn’t hear me out, I felt trapped in a junior high-ish inner drama. I thought I would burst with codependent frustration.

A few days later, while walking into the grocery store, I felt embarrassed about it all. Your pity party has gone on way too long. It’s left spoiling chip dip and stinky, moldy dixie cups all over the place. It’s time to get a grip.

Time to get a grip. Not time to pretend it never happened. Not necessarily time to fix it. (Heaven knows, I’d tried that..) Not even time to confront. (I’d actually done that, too.) But time to see something else through my progressive bifocals. I hadn’t felt like laughing in days, and I hadn’t. Nothing seemed funny. The acute pain, no longer cute, now reduced to a dull ache, left behind a sadness that began to feel like– sin.

Sheepish, ashamed, I got my cart and entered the produce end of the store.

By the time I passed the flower department I knew my answer: to laugh. I must laugh in thirty seconds or fade away like the Witch of the West (or East? when doused with water). I could almost picture a pool of blue jean and orange t-shirt mush. There I’d lie, or not lie, gone, except for the clothes. The tabloids would read, “Texas Woman Melts in Produce Aisle.” Or “Agitated Texas Woman Disappears While Shopping.” How silly. Surely, agitation could never cause such an extreme reaction. Ah, but we know it can. Disney has perfected witches who get mad and swirl around and round until they swirl out of existence.

So I sort of laughed at that thought.

Then I tried to snicker a bit at the green peppers. Not even a bit funny, I realized the pretend “ha” wasn’t working. Somehow I had to sell this thing. I glanced around, made sure no bored produce man or inquisitive shopper saw me.

“Ha, Ha, Ha!” I ventured out loud.

Maybe the green peppers weren’t funny. But the apples might be.

I don’t know why the stickers grabbed me. Every single apple – a sticker?  Who did that? Probably a machine nabbed them as they tumbled all helter skelter down some padded conveyor belt. This gave me pause, but my thirty seconds still weren’t up.

Why did each one need identification? Sure, there were many varieties. Could that be the reason? And who would make sure every apple had a sticker? This struck me as a funny job. I thought of an old “I Love Lucy” chocolate conveyor belt episode. I have to find that episode.

Then the smile took over my face and I chuckled. How much more important than apples (or chocolates) are we? Does our pain have some purpose? Does someone care? Am I stickered?

Yup. And you are too. I realized that taking control of my mood had to become more important than cuddling a cold, empty latte cup. I can control my mood when I realize how little control I have over my circumstances. I can control my mood when I see my needs and desires in a more realistic perspective.

Have you perfected the Laugh on Command? I am working on it. I need to keep a rolodex of funny, yet true things about myself and the world, and how cosmically absurd this fact is: I am loved. I am loved by the One who has stickered me for a purpose. I’m created and identified for a purpose.

Hanging around happy people helps. Do you know someone you hear before you see? Our family laughs just thinking about Jarrod. We don’t even have to be around him. He doesn’t live a charmed life any more than anyone does. He just chooses to see everything in it’s funniest light. So at almost forty-nine he’s perfected the skill of controlling his mood.

You hear Jarrod before you see him. It’s the laugh.

Can you laugh, if you had to, in thirty seconds? Now, go!

Five Ways Autumn Beauty Enriches the World

How Autumn Beauty Enriches The World

As I tweezed my almost invisible eyebrows the other day, I actually drew blood. Ouch! Why do I submit to magnifying mirrors? It’s only in their larger-than-life perspective those wild hairs even appear. I wondered, why does Vanity still hold me hostage?

On this day, suffering this “injury” brought back the memory of tweezing my mom’s eyebrows in her fifties and sixties. As a teen, I’d stand behind her chair with her head tilted back on my rib cage, and gingerly pluck microscopic hairs from her translucent skin. Every once in a while I’d grab a bit of flesh and her little squeal would bring me back to concentration. I would think, “Will my skin ever be this loose? This un-elastic, this wafery thin…? Yet she asks for this torture!

Smiling today, I know. Youth slips away slowly. The thick, dark hairs (which once made tweezing almost a matter of forest control) become pale by years, decades, not months. Gradually they turn in all helter skelter directions, and we continue to pluck in spite of both blindness and pain. We don’t succumb easily to any of it- the lines, the loss of muscle tone, the changing complexion. We push against it with the same stiff demeanor of those very hairs, and with all the seriousness a magnifying mirror can muster!

However, I strongly believe that beauty with aging enriches the world.

We should (and I use that word carefully) stand tall, pull back those shoulders, and go out the door knowing we own the wisdom of, well, years of experience. Not just years, decades of it. Decades of perseverance, mess-ups, successes and failures.

So today I offer my top five reasons why autumn women who keep working on beauty make the world a better place.

  1. Our Husbands Appreciate It.

Whether we dress up or wear yoga pants and a t-shirt, the amazing fact remains, husbands see us as the young girl he married… a lovely face, a wonderful body (even with ten extra pounds), a winning smile, charm and wit. What miracle keeps us looking very much the same to him over the years? No one can explain it– it remains a mystery. Now, though they appreciate us most when we’re naked, all the original qualities thrill him year after year after year…and when he’s proud of us, he’s a happier, better man.

  1.  The Young Who Fear Aging Need It.

If we work on replacing youthful color and see ourselves vibrant and alive in the mirror, our health improves overall. It’s an attitude. All the makeup and jewelry in the world can’t overcome a negative attitude, but those things help produce a positive outlook. If you never wore makeup, it’s okay. But if you decide at 50 or 60 to begin, you will likely take off a few of those last ten years, and look perkier.

Why look ten years younger? To feel ten years younger! During my trip to Canada I had the pleasure of meeting a 106 year-old lady in the nursing home. She walks with a walker, wears pearls, pink lipstick, and a stylish outfit. You can find her chatting with those who stop at the coffee shop. She’s proud of being a woman, and causes those who meet her to fear growing old a little bit less.

  1. Our Children and Grandchildren Appreciate It.

Aging parents remind children of their own mortality. They desperately need a model up close and personal. Should we shield them from our aches and pains? Not necessarily. But a smiling, warm, and positive mom or grandmother makes them proud. If we took a reasonable amount of time to be beautiful, they’d love showing us off more. They may even want to be first to run up and introduce us to their friends.

  1. Workplaces Are Transformed by It.

One of my friends worked in an extremely stressful care-giving job. A key requirement for the job was to wear make-up and keep a stylish haircut. These habits didn’t transform the employees into more productive workers, but somehow showed others they felt more up to the pressure. And thus they became more effective.

In any setting, skill, not hair, gets the job done. But beauty helps make the workplace a more pleasant place. Proverbs author Solomon says,  “…beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.” Can she be both at the same time? Of course. One just lasts longer. Even while she fears the Lord and honors Him, her radiant appearance puts the icing on the cake. It shows she is aware of her femininity to His glory. She reflects His beauty in her own. What a way to show the world your faith!

  1. Society Sees God’s Design for Sex in It.

Nothing reflects the sexual dynamic of marriage like a couple in love. So what in the world would this have to do with beauty? A few years back, my hubby and I were touring in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. We saw an older couple, each with white hair, zoom by in a red Chevrolet open convertible. Her scarf blowing in the wind and their smiles gave me a picture I kept in my head. “That’s us in ten years, Honey!” I said. They drove past quickly, so their actions had nothing to do with my impression. It was her beauty sitting beside him.

What does this mean? Whether with her husband or alone, shopping, working, an autumn woman’s countenance can show the world the dynamic I admired in the couple above. Of course  women who wear makeup and dress beautifully might be single. Or have no love life. But a woman who cherishes her role as her husband’s lover, (or acts as though available for that), and gives off a pleasant aroma wherever she goes, inadvertently broadcasts the purpose of marriage – to reflect the relationship between Christ and the believer, his Bride. That’s a sermon the world craves. Do you know you preach a sermon about aging?

So I’m not just talking about physical beauty. If a woman’s outward beauty becomes her highest priority, she appears shallow and both “deceitful” and “fleeting.” As John Piper reminds us, “He is most pleased when we find our desires filled in Him.”

“I Want a Love Like Mom and Dad Have”

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Good, they’re both home.

He parked the pickup behind his parents sedans already in the driveway. I’ll remember the code when I get to the door. With only a two-day break before second semester started, it seemed right to surprise them. Climbing out of the truck, moist grass welcomed his feet. One easy hop took him up the three steps to the door.

Yes! 9158. Music, ever so faint, leaked from inside, hurrying him in. In the quiet front hall, a familiar warmness flowed over him. So good to be home. He hung his coat on the stair rail and headed in the direction his nose usually pointed him. Mom’s famous soup! The almost intoxicating aroma intensified the closer he got to the kitchen. And the music swelled too. They’re home alright.

You’re just too good to be true….Can’t take my eyes off of you.

You feel like heaven to touch, I want to hold you so much,

You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you.”

The moment seemed sacred, them not knowing he stood watching. His dad swayed his mom to the song as if nothing else existed. She smiled up at him, totally engrossed in his embrace, until he twirled her around and she caught sight of her youngest son in the doorway.

“Uh, hi, Dad, Mom… sorry to barge in, but it is only five, and I didn’t think I’d be… but, dang it, you told me last year to start knocking… I’m sorry… I forgot.”

“Hey, hey, Bud, no problem!” John hugged his boy and then dropped into the closest chair, grinning. “We’re decent, aren’t we? Good to see you, Son! Come on in, sit down…what brings you all the way from Virginia?”

As the three chatted about “the latest” in the tiny den by the kitchen, Jay soaked in his surroundings. This was the life he left behind almost four years ago. Why would he just now see it? They’d always shown love for each other. So why the lump in his throat just now? Could it be the non-breakup, break up he’d just been texted last week? Could it be the series of divorces he’d heard about lately? Or maybe he’d talked to enough girls now- dated enough- to find only a few who said their parents truly liked each other.

“Mom, Dad, I hope I have a marriage like yours. You guys make it look easy to be happy…”

Can there be a higher compliment than this? One of my sixty-something friends shared this story while we chatted over coffee. Her son had toasted a similar version at their 40th wedding anniversary party. Then she said this:

“Our kids are jealous of us. They see us kiss in the kitchen, dance in every room, and laugh wherever we are. They wonder out loud when will it be their turn!”

Growing older isn’t on anyone’s bucket list. But it happens to most of us. And it presents a double challenge. Is my purpose in life bigger than my age, and am I in love with my mate?

Do you have that marriage? Did your parents have that marriage? Who do you know with that marriage? I can’t wait to hear about it!

Don’t Mess Up My Picture!

jessicas painting     What quirky traits have you inherited from your mother? And what about your girl from you? I bet you can think of quite a few. As for me, take school art.

In my elementary grades we had an easel or two at the back of the classroom. When we finished our work, fresh white paper and nice mixed paints awaited. Maybe if I had worked faster or smarter, getting back there more often, I would have had a different experience…

But each and every time, without exception, I drew the same thing. A big tree on the side, a house in the middle, and a swing set beside the house. It never occurred to me to put a car beside the house, or children playing on the swing set. That level of drawing, totally out of my reach.

I remember more than once, standing in front of blank paper in the 3rd grade, having this conversation with myself.

Me: You dummy, why can’t you paint something different this time? You’ve been waiting for this chance all day. Be brave, be creative!

Me: But I can’t be brave or creative. If I draw something other than my tree, swing set, and house, it will look horrible. I’ll hate myself for making a mess of the paper. No, I have to do what comes out of my brush.

Now, fast forward twenty-five years to my daughter’s kindergarten class. The teacher sent home special paper and issued a challenge for all the students to enter a painting into the state fair. The rules, however, required all the paintings to begin with crayon drawings, then washed with broad stripes of watercolor in varying hues over the top.

So on a Saturday morning Wee One and I assembled our supplies on the kitchen floor, so she’d have plenty of room. Then I informed my budding artist she could draw anything she wished with the crayons. Without hesitation, you guessed it– a tree. Then a house. Finally, the swing set.  My smock-clad five-year-old’s brain worked just like mine!

But when the rules added a twist, the twist quickly became a tornado. The conversation went something like this:

Wee one: Mother, Mom! Not paint on top! Maybe stripes on the top and bottom. That might be nice.

Me: But that doesn’t finish the piece, Dearest.

Wee one: No! I will mess up my paper!

Me: But we have started a project, and the paint won’t mess up your art at all. It will make your crayon picture look different and lovely.

Wee One: (sobbing) But… but, I know I will mess up my paper!

 

Looking back at that moment, I think of how many times since then I’ve gotten stuck thinking I know what lovely looks like.

“This was to be our special weekend to do the river together. Now a major back ache, really?”

And we read an awesome book together– and we learned important stuff…

“I’m settled and happy here! Don’t make me make this huge move!”

And the move turned out to be so wise- especially for the children.

“No, Father! You know I just finished menopause; things look much better now. Do I have to go through breast cancer?”

And cancer unearthed, for healing, important realities in a stuck heart…

On and on it goes. Loveliness so often doesn’t fit our picture of it. God has to wash over our routines, schedules, and goals. Kicking and screaming, I follow his rules. For I am not really my own. I am His.

My Wee One won second place in her division. Her stripes of color must have impressed some judge. For there it hangs now on her wall. As a mother of five, soon to be seven, she lives with a constant reminder that His version of loveliness trumps ours- if we let it.