What the heck…National Spouse Day?

View More: http://bradcole.pass.us/carpentercircusYesterday was National Spouse Day. And I missed it. But, I guess it’s a pretty accurate picture of the reality of marriage-at least, it is with ours! Maybe your’s is a little more “put together” and perfect. Lucky ducks! But I must admit I am one blessed lady. My husband loves me, despite my flaws. I tend to be a bit of a scatterbrain- just ask my sisters. I am not the best at keeping up with all the National Days, unrecognized holidays, birthdays, etc. I think I’m doing well if I get things done on time. Instead of posting cutesy pics of us together, I posted about needing caffeine, dry shampoo and concealer! Real life, people! Some wives sent sweet texts to their husbands of I Love Yous and kissy face emojis. My sweet love got a text that I finally shaved my legs!

But I must admit I am one blessed lady. My husband loves me, despite my flaws. Some days, he walks in to an immaculately clean house, content kids and a dolled-up wife that has conquered the world! Some days, he comes home from work to a hot mess of a wife, a house that seems to have had an internal tornado ravage it, and kids that are bickering. Some days are harder than others. And like the best husband ever, he greets me with a kiss and asks, “Do you need a trip to Target?”

But I must admit I am one blessed lady. My husband loves me, despite my flaws. We don’t always agree on everything. At times, I am ridiculously unreasonable. Yet, he is so patient with me even when he is giving me “the look.” You know, “the look.” The one that conveys all the thoughts going on inside his head- “What is she talking about? Where did this come from? Does she realize that is not even reality? Pretty sure she just invented those statistics. We’re going to have a good laugh over this when she realizes what she has been saying.”

But I must admit I am one blessed lady. My husband loves me, despite my flaws. I am a starter, but I struggle to finish things. I get on all kinds of whims. I take up new interests all the time. Instead of eye-rolls and “not another crazy idea,” I get words of encouragement. It’s amazing what encouragement does for a person’s soul and for a marriage! He has every right to remind me of all my failed attempts, unfinished projects, or self-inflicted stress to do things perfectly. But he lovingly tells me that I can do it, he is proud of me, he will support me however. And my favorite, “How can I help you?” Some people know exactly what they want to do in life, what their passions are, and every little thing that they are called to do (or at least it seems they do!). But I am convinced God knows exactly what he is doing in this little adventurous spirit when He slowly reveals new ideas, new passions, new things that excite me. You see, I would be too overwhelmed to just know it all and do it all at once. I enjoy the process of discovering the little things that excite me and light up my soul! It’s like a puzzle- tons of random pieces that begin to find their place and reveal the Big Picture of Me.

But I must admit I am one blessed lady. My husband loves me, despite my flaws. We have committed to doing whatever it takes to make our marriage successful. For us, that means it is not just surviving but thriving. It means we are growing together. It means we love each other more as we learn more about each other over the years. Why do I love him more now that I did when we first got married? Because I have learned so much more about the amazing man he is. He has had many years of proving to me that he is trustworthy, loyal, a man of his word, generous, selfless and, most of all, desires to love me no matter what. This may surprise you, but I’m not always lovable. I’m not always sweet. Sometimes I can be spicy. Sometimes I’m a little tart. Sometimes I might be sour. But we are committed to our marriage and to each other.

There is no such thing as a perfect marriage or perfect spouse. In fact, every marriage is doomed to fail UNLESS you are committed to do the work necessary to make it a success. {Please note, NO condemnation for anyone who has been divorced! The past is the past; learn, grow and plan for a successful future} There are many important factors that contribute to a successful marriage. I find myself always thanking God for a spouse that is committed and loves me, despite my flaws!

But Do I HAVE To?

I really admire those disciplined people who have their Jesus time first thing in the morning. You know, the ones who don’t do anything until they’ve spent time with Him? They wake up, read their Bible, pray THEN they go about their day. I understand the idea behind this routine. It even makes sense to me. Unfortunately, I just can’t seem to make myself do it. Some would argue that I lack the discipline to create the habit. Or maybe I just can’t get my act together enough to make it work! Or maybe it’s that my body is naturally attuned to Island Time.

By nature, I am a morning person. I wake up and instantly my brain kicks in. Full conversations start the moment I become awake. Others need an hour to get the process started, 3 cups of coffee and a small jolt of electric shock!

Don’t get me wrong. I believe it’s important to get in some one-on-one time with God. It’s impossible to cultivate a relationship (of any type) without communication. But I will no longer be guilted by well-meaning Christians that early morning routines are “God’s way.” [Those poor, unfortunate, non-morning souls!]

So, here are a few of my thoughts:

1.  Quality, not quantity. There is no point wasting my morning pretending to read my Bible or pray. Is it better to wake up early with the intention of spending time with God, only to fall asleep while praying? Or to get in the daily reading but have no idea what you just read? My husband and I could sit in the same room for hours yet have no connection. However, life is much fuller when we are present and enjoy each other’s company! The point should be to spend time with God, to commune with Him, to get to know Him more.

2. Relationship, not religion. Religion says I have to do certain things in order to be a proper Christian. Relationship makes me want to do things differently. When my heart is connected to God’s heart, amazing things happen! The entire theme of the Bible is to bring mankind back into relationship with a loving Heavenly Father. Religion may know tons of scriptures and all the “rules” we are suppose to follow. And, let’s be honest. Our flesh so badly wants to break rules once we know them! I don’t understand it. There is just something enticing about the forbidden. But out of relationship, I want to make right choices. I want to live up to a higher standard. I want to follow after things of God.

3. Love, not fear. If my relationship with God is founded in love, there is freedom. I make mistakes. Sometimes, they are small and easily remedied. But sometimes they are bigger. What do I do then? I find myself running TO God, not AWAY from Him. Our relationship is founded in His love. I am not afraid of correction because I know He wants what is best for me even more than I do! But if fear controlled my response to God, I would be filled with anxiety. I would want to hide every time I messed up because I am sure He is about to unleash the wrath of God. I would be burdened with guilt any time I fell short of perfection (which is often).

4. Self-awareness. Even though I am a morning person, I am aware of my attention first thing in the morning. If I woke up and immediately went into deep prayer and Bible study, my thoughts would be competing for attention. The To-Do list starts kicking in right away. The random reminders that only seem to pop up when I first wake (seriously, why can’t I remember these things later in the day when I can actually get to them?!?!?!). I am aware that the ONLY way I can give my full attention to God is AFTER I have unloaded aaaaaallllllllllll these thoughts. I love to get up, head into my office and begin a To-Do list. I just unload the random thoughts. I’ve heard it called a Brain Dump and that is exactly what I need to do. Dump all the thoughts, the lists, the things fighting for my attention onto a piece of paper or into my planner. Now I have cleared space in my head. I can give God my undivided attention, which is what He deserves. And, I can sit and BE STILL! There is no restlessness- just peace. I can’t be still on the inside if my mind is racing a million miles an hour. I doubt you can, either.

5. Be intentional. My life phrase this year has been LIVE INTENTIONALLY. It is so easy to go on autopilot through life. We make decisions without much thought. We create a routine that is comfortable, but it doesn’t help us to grow. Last year, God began showing me that I was on a path to just drift through life. It wasn’t a bad path, but it wasn’t His best for me. It felt safe, but it wasn’t exciting. After some soul-searching and many exercises, I realized I was losing one of my core desires- adventure! Saying YES to God will take you on the best adventures in life! The places you see, the people you meet, the lives you impact- it makes an adventurous heart happy! In order to do great things for God, you have to hear Him when He whispers to you. It is the daily, consistent acts of obedience that leads to great adventures. It isn’t a one-time, larger-than-life experience. And, yes, sometimes those acts of obedience mean being woken up at 4am with the urgency to pray. Trust me, it’s worth it!

Maybe I’m doing this all wrong. Maybe I’m not. What I do know is this: I love to spend time in His presence. We talk throughout the day. My spirit yearns to be connect to Him. I love Him, because He first loved me. I trust Him, because I know Him.

Build the relationship. Connect your heart to God’s heart. Learn to say YES!,

Wife Class 101: Shhh… (the conversation no one wants to have)

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Welcome to the conclusion of our Wife Class 101 series! This post comes later than I planned, but husband has been out of town, things come up and sometimes priorities don’t always line up with my to-do list.  If you have missed the previous “classes” you can go back here.

What better way to end the series than with the #1 requested topic. That’s right, Ladies, we’re going to discuss SEX! There are lots of areas we could address but there seems to be a theme among the questions/requests. So, let’s talk about it. Here are some of the topics/questions asked: What if I’m not in the mood? I feel used, not loved. Why isn’t it more like the movies? I don’t feel spiritually connected during sex. There are more, but I will soon run out of space.

From what I’m hearing, it appears the common theme is dissatisfaction or disappointment. I want to address our part first. I would dare to say every one of us has watched chick flicks at some point in our life. We love the feel-good emotions we walk away with at the end of the movie. We want the love, passion, and crazy desire that we see on the screen. Hollywood has done an excellent job of ruining the sexual relationship for many couples. You see, the problem is not that our husbands are incapable of romancing us, but that we have set our expectations at an impossible level. The bar is so high when it is set to a fictional, scripted, unrealistic romance that we guarantee our husband’s failure. Unlike the movies, most men do not intuitively just know exactly what you need when you need it. Nor can they read your mind. It is unfair for us to expect that our husbands should just know us so well that they “just know.” How will they know if you’ve never told them? And, yes, sometimes you have to keep telling them. Are you capable of remembering every little detail ever told to you just once over the entirety of your life? Remember, movies are fictional and not real life! Let’s stop comparing our lives to those we see on the big screens. Much of our frustration and disappointment (in life, as well) are due to unmet expectations. When our expectations are not realistic, it’s no wonder we feel frustrated with our husbands.

I am a believer in the Five Love Languages. If you haven’t taken the test or read the book, I highly recommend that you do. It would also be great if your husband was willing to take it, as well. We all have different ways that we give and receive love. If you find yourself complaining that you don’t feel loved, yet your husband is frustrated because he’s trying, chances are you both have different love languages.

So… what about when “you’re not in the mood?” Two things here. First, sex is an important part of your relationship. It is very important to your husband. Men are more physical while we are more emotional. That doesn’t mean they do not have emotions. But sex and love go hand in hand for them. Men and women are just created differently. First Corinthians 7 talks about the husband/wife relationship. Wives, when you vowed to give yourself self entirely to your husband and your marriage, that included sex. You didn’t just vow to give 100% in other areas but 75% to your sexual relationship. Second, while it’s true you might not be in the mood, it’s also true that you could get in the mood. This is another reason that good communication is so important in your relationship. What do you need from your husband? What do you need to be in the mood? A little time alone? Help with some of the house chores? Being taken out to dinner instead of cooking? A LOOOOONNNNG hot bath? The daily chores of life can be exhausting. Caring for children all day can be exhausting. A stressful job can be exhausting. But putting your husband and your sexual relationship last is exhausting on your marriage.

This is the best analogy I have heard on this topic. Think about holidays and parties. We have great feasts. It’s exciting because it’s not food you eat every day. Sometimes it’s so good you stuff yourself like crazy. But it’s unrealistic to expect to eat like that every meal. The majority of your meals are satisfying, filling and nutritious. And sometimes you just need a snack. Sex is the same way. Sometimes it’s mind-blowing, over-the-top, crazy, circus-style sex! It’s been planned out, thoughtfully put together, romance has built up anticipation all day or over days. It leaves you thinking, “Wow! That was amazing, I can’t believe we just did that!” However, the majority of your relationship will be satisfying and fulfilling. There is a connection. You are satisfied and loved. And sometimes, you or your husband just needs a snack. You know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t require bells and whistles (or feathers and pasties). It’s just a “snack.”

Let’s focus on how we can best serve, love and fulfill our husbands’ needs. When both the husband and wife focus on fulfilling the needs of their spouse, both the husband’s and wife’s needs are met. But if we only focus on our own needs, everyone loses. Ladies, I have confidence in  you. I believe that you can be the best wife for your husband. I believe you can be the Godly wife he desires. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been married 5 years or 50 years- great marriages require effort.

I hope you have enjoyed this series. If you have other questions or topics  you would like to read about, please contact me! You can leave a comment, find me on Facebook here, on Instagram, Twitter and Periscope @morgencarpenter.

I am not a marriage expert or therapist, just a woman on a journey to finding God’s best for my marriage. In doing so, I am learning how to be the best wife for my husband. If your marriage is in crisis, please consult a professional. 

Wife Class 101: We All Need Help Sometimes

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Welcome back to class! I have loved the feedback I’ve received so far. This has been a fun little series and I am so excited for the relationship series Jeremy and I start teaching next week! If this if your first time here, I would encourage you to go back and read previous posts for our Wife Class 101. You can find them here.

WARNING: This post gets extremely personal! But this blog is about real women with real lives. And this is my real life story. It’s a little heavier than usual, but the next post is lighter- I PROMISE!

I have a few close friends that are more meaningful than just “friends I can share anything with.” These are the types of friends that will also tell me what I need to hear, not just what I want to hear. They are willing to call me out, set me straight, and love me through my stupid moments. I respect these women so much because of their boldness, compassion, wisdom, and love.  Hopefully, you have a friend, or friends, that do this for you. It was because of one of these friends that I learned I needed help, real help. Girlfriends are great and they can often help us work through average problems. But if we were all honest, there are situations that come up when we need real help. Help that goes beyond even the wisest of friends.

Several years ago, Jeremy and I hit a rough spot in our marriage. Marriage has its ups and downs, but this was a different kind of “down.” This was a make or break point for us. Things that we should have dealt with, or didn’t know how to properly deal with, got swept under the rug for years. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Unfortunately, with time these insignificant issues snowballed into massive conflict between us. On the outside, we were a happily married couple with adorable children. We were on the pastoral staff at our church, helping people in our church and community. We were experts at putting on a happy face. On the outside, everything appeared to be great. But on the inside, our marriage was another story. Little parts of our relationship had been neglected, which became the foundation for the resentment, animosity and hatred that crept into our marriage.

I felt I had no one to turn to. I was convinced that even my close friends wouldn’t understand. I couldn’t turn to the pastoral staff because I was sure I already know what they would say and how they would respond. I had seen how it was handled with other couples. So I kept it to myself. The darkness grew and grew. Before I knew it, I had slipped into a depression I’ve never experienced before. Well, I didn’t really slip, I walked willingly into it! I allowed my thoughts to be consumed with how much Jeremy didn’t love me, didn’t care and how much I disliked him. I cried myself to sleep on a regular basis. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. I spent a lot of time imagining my life if I left him. I even entertained the idea of suicide just so he would hurt as much as I did. I knew I needed help.

I went to one woman that I felt I could really trust. She listened with such sweet composure. She didn’t freak out on me. She didn’t tell me I was going crazy. She simply told me I needed help- the kind of help that goes beyond the advice of even good friends. This was not something I could do alone, obviously. Then she explained to me why it was important to have people in our lives for situations like this. She helped me to see the value of getting outside help. Too many people view counseling or therapy in a negative light- as if it is only for the mentally ill. Sometimes we just need that outside person, who has no connections to either party. Before all of this, and now long after, I readily turn to God to help me through life’s bumps in the road. But at that time, I was even mad at God. I was mad that Jeremy’s calling to help people was more of a priority in his life than me. I was mad at God for all kinds of things.

So, long story short, I listened to this wise woman. I got the help I needed. Through that process, I learned a lot about myself, about how to work through this situation, how to get to the place in our marriage I wanted us to be, how to forgive and how to restore trust. Jeremy and I had a series of healing conversations. It didn’t happen overnight; it took time. But we chose to work the process to get us to a healthy place. Now, we are strong. We are the dynamic duo! I love him and he is my best friend! We’ve come a long way, baby!

Jeremy and I choose to live very transparent lives. We have found that there are many people experiencing life situations that we have gone through and overcome. We understand that some things are hard to admit or seek help. But more importantly, we have found that people want real solutions without being judged. That was what I had wanted.

Luke 8:17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.

Eventually, what is going on inside your heart finds its way out. Wives, you are the only one that can nurture and protect the condition of your heart. It is important that you take the care necessary to guard your heart. The things in your heart WILL show up in your marriage.

What things have you hidden in your heart that are toxic? Toxic to you, to your relationships? Counseling is not often talked about. Or if it is, it is usually portrayed in a negative light. Sometimes people think it is a last resort. As I talk with women of all ages and all walks of life, I have learned that many of us do not enter marriage with all the life skills we will need for the entirety of our marriage. Many we learn along the way. And other times, we just need someone to help us learn. Our first response is usually to enlist the aid of our current friends. But chances are, they are in the same boat we are in. Do you have women in your life that you can learn from? Do you know women that have more life experience? These women are valuable assets, hold them dear! We can learn so much about being Godly wives from those who are successfully navigating the marriage maze.

The greatest couples I’ve know have all said at some point they needed outside help. For some, they went to mature, trustworthy friends. For others, they sought professional help. (And these are all couples that were living Godly lives and seemed to have it all together). There should be no guilt or shame for taking any measures necessary to keep our marriage successful. We all need help sometimes! Instead of flaunting how bad our lives seem all over social media, let’s be proactive in making our marriages amazing!

HOMEWORK: If you or your marriage needs help, it’s time to set aside pride. It’s time to utilize the resources available. Find women that you can learn from. The end goal is to make your marriage successful!

Up next: Shhh…(the conversation others are afraid to have)- This next post is going to be lots of FUN!!!!!