What Else, Mama?

So, it’s Valentines Day. I’m aware of this solely mostly because at 11 PM last night I was frantically putting together 26 gifts for my 3-year-old and a dozen more for my little babe to give their friends at school. (I mean, seriously…what do you get babies for Valentines Day?? I was pretty proud of myself here…)

We also got a couple of small things for the girls, and as we sat at the counter for breakfast my oldest asked, “What did you get for Valentines, mama?” I immediately felt unsure of how to answer, because my husband and I had decided not to spend the money on gifts this year when we didn’t really need to.

“Well…I got some flowers from Papa, baby…” (hands-down my favorite Valentines tradition…)

“What else, mama? What else did you get?”

“Well…I got you and sissy and daddy, so that’s pretty awesome…”

“But WHAT ELSE, mama?!”

I couldn’t help second guessing our decision to “skip” Valentines. The doubt crept in…

Should we have exchanged gifts so the girls would see that we got each other something?

Do they think this means we don’t love each other?

I mean, what kind of couple doesn’t celebrate Valentines Day?!

Maybe we should both pick something up today to exchange tonight?

But I stopped myself mid-thought.

…NO.

Because what an incredible opportunity to teach my daughter that we don’t have to BUY each other things to prove our love; to show her that love can be expressed in ordinary, every day actions just as much as expensive, extravagant gifts. Maybe even more so?

So I started thinking…what did my husband get me for Valentines this year? Or, put another way…how did he show me love today?

He got the coffee set-up late last night so this morning when I woke up (before the sun) it would be waiting for me…because he knows my day doesn’t really start until after the first cup.

He fixed a bowl of oatmeal for me to shovel in my mouth on the way out the door…because he knows if he didn’t I would have skipped breakfast all together. And probably lunch, too. Because who has the time?

He got our toddler out of bed, got her dressed and fought her through every bite of a sausage biscuit sandwich…because he knows my mornings with the little involve a lot and if we divide and conquer we all get out the door a little less frazzled.

He made time for the school Valentines Day party in the middle of the afternoon, even though he had a million other things to do…because he knows if he didn’t our oldest would have been heartbroken. And he loves me well by loving our girls well.

He responded to our daughter’s cries from bed that she was a little hungry…then a little thirsty…then that her foot itched…because he knows that by bedtime there’s not a whole lot of me left.

He didn’t say a word when I sat down after dinner…without cleaning up…to have a little time to myself. To eat cheesecake, drink my latte and write…because he knows that sometimes that’s exactly what I need.

He loved me this Valentines Day by showing up.

Correction: He loves me every day by showing up.

So baby girl, when you ask “what else” …that list could go on forever.

 

The First Cup

The past few weeks (or months) have been particularly…challenging. We’ve entered into a very vulnerable season in our marriage…and in our family as a whole. We’ve chosen to face issues that would have been easier to ignore. We’ve wrestled with old demons and new guilt. We’ve had to choose – daily – between our selfish desires and sacrificial love. And sacrificial love, when you are already running on empty, is a difficult thing to choose.

I say all of this as a preface to “the thing” I really want to talk about. The thing that, I believe, has transformed not just our marriage but who we are and how we’re living our lives as a whole. We’ve started giving our first to God.

For me – it’s my first cup of coffee. When my feet hit the floor each morning, I head out to our back porch with my cup. As it is emptied, I am filled. Whether it’s listening to songs of worship, praying intentionally, or just allowing myself to be with God – He gets me before I let any of life’s chaos in for the day. This seemingly minor shift in my daily routine has been truly transformative. When I start my day being filled by Him, there is more of me to give to others – including my husband. I’ve heard many times over “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and I am seeing this daily in the most powerful ways.

My husband, who graciously preps the coffee and sets the alarm for us each night, has chosen a different route. He spends the first half hour or so of his day on a walk with our dogs and his thoughts – giving God his first mile. He sets off before the sun comes up on a path behind our house we call the dirt road. It is one of our family’s most sacred places to be together, and for him, it now holds even greater meaning and purpose. It’s where he has the space to just be before giving to everyone else who needs a piece of him throughout the day.

 

When the alarm goes off (much earlier than it used to) we say our “good mornings” and head our separate ways. We both know – for the sake of ourselves and one another – that we need to be filled up before we can pour out. So before I get him or he gets me, God gets us both.

This small step has been the catalyst for us changing the trajectory of our marriage. We are all soooo busy, right? It’s society’s badge of honor. But it’s bogus. Yes – our lives are full. We both have full-time jobs, we have the show barn full of pigs, families that count on us (ahem, Kade) to help feed/prep for shows that now go on year-round, the daily grind to upkeep a farm, a toddler we’re constantly trying to keep up with…oh yes, and I am 38+ weeks pregnant so there’s the physical and emotional prep for a new baby as well. So then, when are we supposed to find the time for our relationship with each other and with God?! Unfortunately, for far too long, we were letting the latter two slip. Because there just wasn’t time. We bought into the lie that we were too busy. There were too many things that needed done. Too many people we still hadn’t gotten to that day. What we didn’t realize was the two things getting the least effort and attention were the fundamentals….the foundation for everything else in our lives. Our foundation was cracking…and the rest was starting to crumble with it.

So we tried something new. And it is changing everything.

The first cup, the first mile, or the first five as you drive – what this time “looks like” is far less important than how It feels and what it does for your soul. Maybe you do something like this already – I’d love to hear about it! Maybe you’re reading this desperate for a solution to your own struggles – I hope you give this a try. Wherever you are, I pray for you the gift of Romans 15:13:

”May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

With Grace,

Jen

A Love Like That

Today, two very special people in my life are celebrating 33 YEARS of love, sacrifice and commitment to one another. I was thinking this morning about their marriage…about what it has taught me. And I realized…my parents have a 1 Corinthians kind of love. They are patient with one another in their differences. They are kind not only to each other, but to everyone they encounter in life. They are not envious of others, as they have found contentment in the life God has given them. They are not boastful or proud, but rather humble in their hapiness. They always, always, always honor one another and seek to put each other (and others) before themselves. They are slow to anger and quick to forgive. They protect their hearts, minds and marriage. They fully trust in each other and the Lord. They have great hope for a love that will continue to deepen through the years. And, they have persevered through the trials of life side by side.

My incredible parents at our wedding two years and two months ago. I couldn't have asked for a better example of what a loving marriage should be.

My incredible parents at our wedding two years and two months ago. I couldn’t have asked for a better example of what a loving marriage should be.

After being married for just over two years, I have more respect for their relationship now than I ever have…because marriage is hard, but they make it look easy. I am sure they have faced just as many challenges as all married couples face…but it’s how they have handled those challenges that, to me, sets them apart. They are a true reflection of the love God teaches us to have for one another. After more than three decades, they are as much in love as they have ever been. Who doesn’t want a love like that?

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! Thank you for being a steadfast example of a Christ-based marriage.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

With Grace,

Jen

Excuse the Sappiness…

2 years, 2 beautiful daughters and a whole lot of stuff in between. A one sentence summation of our marriage to date. When I pictured my life with my soon-to-be husband on this day 730 days ago…I never imagined we’d be where we are today. Neither of us had any idea the path that was planed for us…the challenges, the changes, the heartaches, and the joy. The old adage if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans has certainly rung true for us. But His plan is perfect…and through it all I know that He chose the perfect partner for me. My husband has truly stood by my side during my darkest days, and celebrated me for everything that makes me who I am. I am far from a perfect wife, but he makes me want to be better every day.

The most special day surrounded by our family & friends. So much has happened since that day. So glad it's been  him by my side.

So much has happened since that beautiful day we committed ourselves to this union. I am so glad it’s been you by my side. And like the words of our first dance promise, I’ll be right where I belong – I’ll be here for you.

 

Happy Anniversary, Husband. Thank you for asking me to be your bride.

All my love,

Your Wife