Friday, February 26, 2016

What My Wedding Vows Should Have Been...

We wrote our own vows.  It is a very modern thing to do... except now, maybe the new hipster thing is to do the old thing... I don't know anymore. I quit trying to be cool quite a while ago!  I am 32, and I have been married for almost 7 years.  Depending on your view and/or experience of marriage, you may see that as a short time or a long time.  But one of the things I have learned about marriage, is that it really shouldn't be measured in time - it should be measured by experiences.  I don't think our marriage was ever a challenge until we had a second child, which was about 2 years ago.  For us that was the straw that broke the camel's back... except, we are now still happily married, so I guess it just dislocated its hip or something... okay, that's a bad illustration, maybe.

So for those who think 5 years is too short of a time to feel disconnected from a spouse to the point where you ALMOST don't care anymore... I can say you are wrong.  For those who are wondering why it took us so long to get to that point, I want to say that I am truly sorry it happened earlier for you.  I am learning it is different for everyone when the honeymoon stage ends, but I have also learned that God can repair anything... ANYTHING.  And most of the time, marriage "falls apart" because we stop doing the things we did in the beginning.  And once you begin to do those things you did in the beginning - be intentional, spend quality time together, TALK and LISTEN, show enthusiasm, respect, be loving...

There we go - off to be disillusioned!!!

We found ourselves a little over a year ago in that "just cohabitating and getting by" phase... We had been through a second birth, newborn months of sleepless nights, I had stopped working to stay home with the kids, he had taken on a second job, and we had moved.  I think we both took for granted that the other person would be alright if we just gave in to how tired we were.  So when we just wanted to veg out, we turned to TV, social networks, and our kids' entertainment.  Neither of us were unfaithful or dishonest or mean (well, okay, I was a little mean...) or anything like that.  We just slowly drifted into an existence of being fine with things not being fine.  I'm sure there are millions of married people who know exactly what I am trying to describe.  It is an easy trap to fall into.  One night we had a very serious discussion... a crossroads... and I remember saying, "I don't even feel married anymore, and it doesn't even bother me... but that scares me to death!"  So we decided to do what it takes to get out of that kind of "don't care" hole... you dig yourself out!  We took a class with other couples in our church called "Marriage on the Rock", and we relearned so many things we already knew.  We just hadn't cared enough to practice what we would have told anyone else to practice!  In the past year we have chiseled through a lot of things that we had allowed to build up between us.  It has been difficult, but it is a difficulty that has a greater gain than easy ever gave!  We no longer believe "that won't happen to us", because isolation, selfishness, and indifference can happen to ANYONE - whether they have kids or not, whether they have a lot of money or not, whether they had great role models in marriage or not... because in every marriage there are 2 people who have to make their marriage thrive to survive.  Anyone who tells you that their marriage has always been easy, they are either lying to you or they are lying to themselves.

But if this is the universal reality, why don't weddings reflect this truth that is inevitable... that you won't always be head over heels?!  I mean, I know that's why we make vows... if marriage was easy forever, then promises wouldn't be necessary.  But we are really setting ourselves up for failure, aren't we?!  We promise to ALWAYS cherish, ALWAYS care, to ALWAYS love and respect.  I am so glad we promise these things at the beginning of a marriage, because being able to rely on one another and trust each other is so vital to keep that marriage alive!

But what about promising to say "I'm sorry"?  What about committing to "supporting you, even when you fail"?  What about vowing to forgive?  "To stay even if we have the same argument for the next 57 years"?! "To pursue you, even though I have already won you"?!

I mean, anyone who has been married for a few years or through a few trials of life can tell you that we marry flawed people... that's the only kind of people to marry!  So, that means they have married a flawed person too - yourself! Myself!

If I had known that I would be the kind of wife that hates to apologize, easily justifies using disrespectful tones often, to be defensive, to be easily embarrassed by failure... believe me, I would have written vows that included promises about these things.  I guess I knew these things about myself from how I had behaved in other relationships with friends and family, but I was so in love in the beginning that I really believed our love would eradicate all those tendencies within myself... WHAT A JOKE!

We had our first all-out fight within an hour of returning from our honeymoon.  My husband said he didn't want us to go to a family thing, that I really wanted to go to.  We fought, I mean FOUGHT!  I cried, I felt things toward my husband I had never felt before.  My tone was disrespectful, my attitude was mean and selfish... and thankfully I was enough of a newlywed that I paid attention to his logic early enough to see that he was actually thinking about me, trying to help me.  I said I was sorry for being a baby and wanting my way.  He said he was sorry for... who knows... he is much nicer than me, and often apologizes for how he behaved, when it is really my fault.  The family thing was 2 1/2 hours away from home, we had literally just arrived home from being gone for a week, and we both had work in a day and a half... he was right - the last thing we needed to do was spend a full day on the road to go to a family thing when we had a week's worth of dirty laundry in our suitcases and a living room full of gifts we hadn't opened, a refrigerator full of leftover reception food, and planning for the work week ahead.  I married a smart man who is strong enough to handle me... and yes, sometimes I need to be told that I am being stubborn and unwise.

I am also a teacher by nature - it is in my blood!  I hate to see others fail, and I have this innate need within myself to help them succeed.  I can't help it!  And there have been a few moments in our marriage where I thought my husband was making a bad choice.  And sometimes not "bad" but just not "best".  I have learned that my counsel, while welcomed and listened to, he and I just don't always agree.  There have been a few times in our lives where I feel like we are taking steps backward from our goals... and since I am a planner, I always have the next 5 steps for going forward mapped out.  I am a control-freak, and it has taken several of these "regression" points in our marriage for me to see that I am often concerned with how things look to other people.  I have learned that it matters to me that others know my husband's failures are not mine.  That I did not support that unwise decision he made... that others might think less of me if they think less of him.  When Kyle and I have a future goal, and he decides to "wait it out" or "let's just see"... it drives me crazy, and I call this failing.  I'm learning that sometimes it is much wiser than bulldozing ahead to make things happen.  He is learning that sometimes, things have to be made to happen.

That is what marriage is - learning and using each other's strengths (and what sometimes appears as weaknesses) to our family's benefit, for everyone's benefit.

I have learned that it is impossible to consider myself and my husband "one flesh" when he is being his wonderful self, and then "his decisions aren't mine" when he makes a mistake... I can't have it both ways.  That is a lie that ruins marriage.  We must share and celebrate all victories while also sharing and learning from each other's defeat together, and that is what makes a marriage stronger.

My husband is preaching his first wedding ceremony tomorrow for a dear couple that graduated from our college ministry.  And while he has been studying, writing, practicing, and even asking me for my input, it really got me thinking about all of this... Why say vows if they do not assume and provide for the inevitable - we are going to mess up, hurt each other, and fail.  We need to promise that we will be faithful, love, respect, and cherish each other - yes!  These are essential, vital elements of marriage!  But we must also promise to say we are sorry when we screw it all up, even if for the first or the millionth time, and to forgive the other when they have failed.  We also need to promise to do whatever it takes to reconcile and dig yourself out of the "don't care" hole, if and when we come to that place... for as long as we both shall live!

So for those who have yet to say your vows - be sure to allow a section on how you promise to apologize and reconcile with your spouse when your sinfulness and flawed humanness starts to show.  And for those who already said your vows... maybe months or decades ago... decide today, just like I have to every day (and still should even when I don't feel like it), that we will say we are sorry to the person who should mean the most to us.  That we should love them no matter their weaknesses, fears, and inadequacies.  They are just people after all.

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Freedom from Junk 2016 - Day 14

So I didn't do as well this week as I had hoped.  I had 3 goal areas of our home to declutter, and I only got to 2 out of the 3... still, not bad, but not what I had hoped.  I will let myself off the hook a little, though, because this was the first week of uncluttering our home while I was working full-time!  I agreed to substitute for a former coworker and friend while she is on maternity leave!  She wasn't due until tomorrow, but she had her baby earlier this past week - so off to the classroom I went, while my kids went to all day childcare!  What a whirlwind week!  Each night I have been packing lunches and picking out clothes for the next day, and making sure my lesson plans are ready to go and papers graded.  My husband has pitched in like crazy, driving the kids to childcare in the mornings and making sure they have brushed their teeth and helping with breakfast and getting dressed... etc.

Somehow I still got the baking done for Wednesday night (Emersyn, my 4-year-old helped me make Valentine cookies that were pink with sprinkles), but mostly because we had a ton of leftovers from the Super Bowl party!  We also managed to see an NSU basketball game, get Emersyn and Keegan's Valentine cards done, and a family get-together in Joplin... All things work together, right?!

School went pretty well, considering I hadn't been in one in almost 2 years!  I even endured Valentine's parties - even though I burned popcorn in the microwave so badly it filled my classroom with smoke and I had a student vomit all over the floor of the bathroom.  But I received lots of chocolates, cute little notes, and had a great time overall!  I am even enjoying teaching Math - that's right, MATH!  I have always been a Language Arts person, but I am realizing that Math is much more straight forward.  There's one right answer and the explanation of why it is right.  Everything else is wrong.  Writing is much more fluid and abstract, and while I still enjoy it, I am seeing the benefits of being able to model something to many kids and that can be the way it is for all of them!  The grading has been much simpler too!  Woohoo!

I did learn that I am too much of a sap to get through the Friday morning assembly without crying, though!  Cute little Kindergarteners (or were they 1st graders?) leading us in the pledge and awards and singing the theme song from "The Golden Girls"... I was crying and wondering if I was going to cry every Friday for the next 6 weeks!

And at home... well... I have tried to get a load of laundry cleaned each day, but it wasn't enough to keep up with my family at all!  Kyle has done dishes a few times this week, and he is presently folding all the laundry we needed to get caught up on!

The two areas I managed to declutter were my children's closets!  I went through all their dresser drawers, hang up clothes, shoes, and old clothes tubs.  Then I spent this afternoon sorting out the stained, torn, snagged, etc pieces and divided by season.  The pristine articles of clothing will be prepped this week for the huge resale event in Tulsa I have consigned for several years now, Just Between Friends.  Just cleaning out their two closets boosted our sell/give away counts big time!  Kyle even went through his dresser and started weeding out some of the things he'd like to get rid of, even though he really keeps it all very organized!

We only have 111 items left to get rid of in our house, but several areas still to go through - and only 15 days left to get them done!  The area I didn't get to this week will be priority this next week, since it is much worse than the areas left on the list.  I would show a before picture, but I just don't have the guts at this time to show you what my bedroom truly looks like on a regular basis...  I'm working on my courage!

I also am hosting a church staff/elders dinner at our house this coming Friday... so I am super motivated to finish our bedroom so I can put everyone's purses and coats on my bed without feeling nervous they are going to see my cluttered junk... I would love to be able to say, "Go on in and put your things down!" without a rock in my stomach!  These ladies coming are domestic masters, and I'm glad I could call them friends before they ever saw how I live!

Half-time is over - back to work tomorrow, and time to fish out some extra time for continued decluttering!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Freedom from Junk 2016 Day 5

We find ourselves at the end of the first week of our February clean-out all our junk challenge, and it has been very successful!  Kyle and I worked together to clean out the first two trouble areas in our house that are always cluttered and junked out, because we are both guilty of junking those places out!  We had fun discussing which pile certain things belonged in, whether it be trash or a treasure... and it is amazing how different perspectives can be on that sort of thing!  So really it was a relationship-building exercise, because we learned some more about each other's preferences and ideas about what is junk and what is precious.

The third area was really all my responsibility, because my clothes are a major clutter issue in our bedroom and closet... but mostly the bedroom.  See, those stereotypes about how messy men are and how tidy women are... I don't find we are consistent with those ideas.  Kyle is usually more tidy than I am, and in the area of our clothes, he wins every time!  Now, the funny thing is, I actually put his clothes away for him sometimes and I usually am always the one who folds them for him.  He wants things folded or rolled a particular way, and while I think it is silly, I happily oblige him.  I mean, how mean would it be if he likes his boxers rolled for me just to throw them into the drawer the way I do my undergarments?!  I couldn't care less, but I know he really does care - A LOT!

These are obviously Kyle's clothes, and this is usually how his closet and drawers look.
One of our major problems is that we are both perfectionists; if you know a perfectionist, then you are probably confused by how imperfect many things are in his or her life.  The reason for this is probably that if a perfectionist knows they don't have time or energy to do something perfectly, then they won't even begin.  This becomes problematic in our home since we are both this way.  For example, yesterday I put a pile of Kyle's clean laundry on the bed near Kyle's dresser, when he saw it last night we were tired and ready to go to sleep... so he just picked up the pile and dropped it in the floor in front of his dresser.  While I was a little annoyed, I also understand.  This is also the reason I usually have a pile of hang-up clothes on top of my hope chest.  Another problem in our home, specific to putting our laundry away, is that I usually fold laundry during the kids' nap time... I also babysit a little girl a few hours each afternoon, and she sleeps in my bedroom.  I have tried to sneak in there before to put things away, and she has woken each time.  So usually it just ends up being a pile on top of the dresser or the bed.

Now, I know these are excuses, not even really good ones.  But in the midst of day-in and day-out living, these small excuses become real reasons that some things just don't get put away.  And then they pile up, and pile up... until I rifle through it to wear it.

Kyle and I are both "OCD" (not like the real diagnosed kind though), but about different things.  I need colors to match, pictures to hang straight on the wall, and decor to be appropriate to the season we are in.  Kyle cares more about things that are in storage, usually.  He will go to put something up in the garage and be gone for an hour, because he needs everything to have a correct storage container, and it all has to be packed into the container to maximize the space.  To me, if it doesn't show, then shoving is an acceptable method... I KNOW this drives him crazy.  Just like it drives me crazy that he disappears anytime he goes to put one thing away.

Isn't marriage hilarious?!  I mean, really.  The fact that we still think the other is awesome and attractive after all the little things that bug us, is really a miracle!

So I knew I needed to go through my clothes sometime this week.  Once we de-cluttered the first two problem areas, we realized that getting rid of 500 things was going to be WAY too easy.  So a friend commented on Facebook that I should just make the areas the weekly goal.  So, 12 areas in 4 weeks = 3 areas per week, right?  Yay, I can do simple division!

So we had already cleaned off our kitchen counter and our entryway closet.  To read that post, go to

Tuesday night we wanted to take the day off since we had done so well on Monday.  Then Wednesday is already crazy, because I work in the morning, spend all afternoon baking, and then we go to church.  Then Thursday was Bible study night, and Kyle had a meeting that evening out of town anyway.  Then I was up sick all night Thursday night, so I spent all morning on Friday sleeping.

So Friday afternoon, after the little girl I babysit went home, I knew I had to get started on cleaning out my clothes.  I had clothes on my dresser, on my hope chest, every dresser drawer was full, and there were a lot of empty hangers on my side of the closet!  Ugh...

This was BEFORE I had put away the huge pile on top of the hope chest or the smaller pile on top of the dresser... and I have more clothes in the laundry downstairs... so it is good I got rid of some of this to make room for what I actually wear!  I also don't fold things in my dresser.  Shoving is my method!

It didn't take as long as I thought it would, and by dinner time I had finished throwing out things with holes or snags, put the give away/sell items in that box, and hung or put into the appropriate drawer for all other items I was keeping!

I'd like to say it will stay this way... but I just know myself.  I hate hanging clothes up, and I hate folding things.  Maybe it is from working retail at American Eagle all those years in college?  I don't know.  I do know that it was annoying that we closed at 9, but were often still there at 11pm, folding clothes in certain mandated ways that made the clothes "look alive".  I'm not even joking... we had to fold pants in a way that made them look like they were climbing or hiking... sheesh.  But the idea of being able to find certain clothing items in a short amount of time because it would be in its place, instead of looking through 3 piles, does sound convenient and calming!  Sometimes it just stinks that my mom doesn't live here... because I know she'd yell at me to put it all away!  Why doesn't my husband ever yell at me?!  What a considerate jerk, hahaha!

I also bought a scarf organizer!  I kind of love scarves, and I didn't realize how many I had collected!  I think I should probably buy a second organizer, because this one seems a little crowded!

Yeah, the shape of the scarf-organizer is a flower... but I have so many hanging on it, you can't even tell!  You can only see a little of the pink flower frame in the upper left "corner" of the organizer... definitely more functional than shoving them in a drawer or just piling them on top of my dresser, but it isn't as pretty as I had hoped!

So one week and 3 cluttered areas down, 3 weeks and 9 areas to go!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Freedom from Junk 2016 Day 1

Today was NOT a bust at all!  We actually met our goal of cleaning out the clutter from off our kitchen counter and out of our entryway closet!  I learned that I am a paper hoarder.  I mean, like there was A LOT of paper in these two areas... I am now very much afraid to see how much more paper I am going to encounter as we clean out other areas on the "trouble area list".  I found a check that I had printed by the register at Walmart in August of 2010... just sitting in a bag of papers in the entryway closet.  Why?!  Why do I keep these things?!  I found old shopping lists, a ton of bobby pins, safety pins, ink pens, pocket packets of tissues, at least 25 magazines (several of them still in the plastic wrapping)... perhaps I am saving myself from ending up on the TV show HOARDERS.

As Kyle and I went through the stuff on the kitchen counter, we sorted the items into either a trash barrel for the trash, a hamper for things that just need to be put away in the right place in our house, and a tub for the give away/sell/return to owner pile (sadly, I am finding quite a few things that don't even belong to us)... I am finding I like myself less and less!  I guess that is why on that show they always make the hoarder clean up their own junk, because by the end (or the beginning in my case) you are so disgusted by your own habits that you will never keep random piles of paper ever again!

So 2 trouble spots are clutter-free with 10 more to go!  If you decide to join us on our quest, feel free to post photos or comment about your progress!

So, we are getting rid of 210 items from our home in just the first day!  After a while, I started counting every 10 pieces of paper as 1 item, because there was so much!  Yikes!