Category Archives: Marriage

True Love Doesn’t Count the Candles on Your Cake

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Today is my husband’s 40th birthday.  He’s been a little bummed about this number for the better part of a year now.  I just can’t believe that we’ve been together for so many years.  He’s my best friend.  There is no one I’d rather spend a free day with.  There is no one I’d rather travel the world with.  At the end of the day, he’s the one I want to talk to.  When he’s with me, everything feels better.

We have history together.  I don’t care to remember much about life before Josh came along.  All of our adult life has been spent together.  We have celebrated more than 20 birthdays together and almost that many anniversaries.  We’ve made plans and dreamed together.  We’ve become parents together.  We’ve bought and sold houses, started and quit jobs, gotten lost and found ourselves again, laughed and cried together.  We share our past.  Occasionally when I look at a newly wed couple and think how sweet it would be to be falling in love all over again- I stop myself and think of all that history that we would lose if we started over again.  I remind myself that I would never really want to go back and do it again- it’s too much work to recreate what we have.  I don’t envy those just starting out.  Our relationship just keeps getting richer and deeper and more fulfilling as the years roll by.

We also have chemistry with each other.  I remember one time when I was talking with my girlfriends about our husbands.  I said, “I love that Josh can still give me butterflies in my stomach with just one look across a crowded room.”  I wasn’t being sappy or gushy, I was just making a comment that we hadn’t lost that spark.  I was shocked and sad when several of my girlfriends commented that their spouses had NEVER given them butterflies in their stomaches.  I thought,  “Wow, we really have something special then.”  I quit taking that for granted and now I know that we have a rare thing.  We can read each other’s moods without saying anything.  We know each other better than anyone else knows us.  We are one.

It’s pretty stereotypical to say that men struggle with turing 40- I’ve known many women who struggle with that number too.  But I want my husband to know that in my eyes, he’s never been more handsome than he is right now.  In my heart, I’ve never loved him more than I do at this moment.  I love that we are growing older together and we still want to be together.  I don’t take that for granted.  I know that is the stuff that dreams are made of.

So happy 40th birthday to the love of my life and my best friend.  Our adventure is just getting exciting!  I love you, Babe!

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Where I learned something about myself

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A few weeks ago my husband and I went away for the weekend, just by ourselves.  I think I can count on one hand the number of times that we have left our children and had a weekend getaway.  We have been in full time ministry for the last 20 years and we’ve been parents for more than 17 of those years.  Weekend getaways have been few and far between.  But this year we started the year with putting two dates on the calendar before any others.  We blocked out a week vacation for a “stay-cation” at the end of summer and we blocked out a weekend away just for us.

22 Kilometers (just under an hour) of winding, climbing dirt road.

22 Kilometers (just under an hour) of winding, climbing dirt road.

We chose a new location to explore on our getaway.  We took the very, VERY bumpy and long road up to Monteverde Cloud Forest.  As we climbed up and up the mountainous dirt road separating the coastal highway from the high-altitude forest preserve, I enjoyed the scenery and the ever changing flora without the bickering of siblings and the tired, whining demands of children behind me.  We played the music WE wanted to hear.  We stopped and took pictures where WE wanted to stop.  We bought and ate the gas station snacks that WE wanted to eat.  It was lovely.

Up, up in the clouds it was cool and damp.  It was the most Fall-like weather I’ve ever experienced in the tropics.  This Minnesota girls who was starting to miss the seasonal changes got her “fall fix” and was happy.  Our hotel was at the very end of the road, just before the entrance to the National Park.  It was quiet up there.  I liked that… a lot!

The little town of Santa Elena which services the tourists coming to the cloud forest was a kitschy little collection of souvenir shops, typical Costa Rican restaurants, and “Extreme” tourism offices.  If Wisconsin Dells were transported to the Swiss Alps, that would describe Santa Elena and Monteverde.  It was cute.  After all, who doesn’t love “Reptile World” and souvenir magnets?  We ate at an amazing restaurant built into a tree.  We pretended that the Swiss Family Robinson had opened a restaurant in Costa Rica.  The food was so tasty that we went back for dinner the next night too!

Eating at the Tree House Restaurant... the original Rainforest Cafe, I suppose.

Eating at the Tree House Restaurant… the original Rainforest Cafe, I suppose.

We decided to skip the zip lining adventure since we’ve done that a million times.  And we didn’t pay to go into the National Park.  It’s been our experience that animals pay no attention to the boundary lines of parks.  They go where the food is, hence, where the people are.  So we skipped that.  We took a very disappointing night hike with an Israeli family who talked incessantly and loudly, successfully warning any animals of our presence.  The best part about the night-hike was the gigantic tarantula we found in a dead tree stump.  Note to self:  if you’re ever lost in the jungle in the night, do NOT place your back against a dead tree unless you want to be instantly covered in prehistoric sized insects of all varieties.

After the successful ATV tour through the cloud forest.

After the successful ATV tour through the cloud forest.

But the absolute best part of the weekend was that I drove an ATV (4 wheeler) for the first time!  Josh had gone before a few times, but it was my first time.  I mainly agreed to do it for my husband’s sake.  I was the only girl in the group.  I was super nervous and cautious at first.  But once I got the hang of it, I could keep up with the men no problem.  And guess what.  It was a BLAST!  I was so proud of myself for learning to drive it and for being brave.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely be doing that again!

We also spent plenty of time just reading quietly, examining birds through binoculars while sitting in our front window, and just being together… without kids!  It was a wonderful weekend getaway.  We came home feeling refreshed and ready for the next challenges that life and ministry would bring our way.  We decided we need to do that more often.  It was lovely.

Date Night

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After having 3 straight weeks of hosting teams and not seeing my husband night after night, we have a date night this week.  We are going to the movies, and I don’t even care which one we are seeing.  I just want to talk.  I might “need” a coffee afterwards if I haven’t spent all my words yet.

I’m a pretty typical woman.  I’m wired for words.  I write in my blog AND a private journal AND a prayer journal AND I keep a notebook of quotes I like.  On top of all that, I fill up with words by reading a lot.  I don’t talk as much as most women, but I definitely talk more than my husband.  When he’s not around much, I’m overrun by children in my life (both my own and my school kids) who all talk my ear off while my own words just bottle up inside.  The pressure builds.

A few of the kids in my class are super random.  They will raise their hands in the middle of a math lesson and tell me that they once lost a tooth at their grandparent’s house or that they really like swimming.  “OK, back to planet earth,”  I think.  I can tell when I’ve had too many kid conversations when I no longer have patience for these random chatty moments.  I know when my eyes glaze over and I can’t even humor the child that I am in desperate need of “adult conversation.”  Date night is just the thing I need.

My poor husband, he feels like he has it so hard in life.  I don’t ask for much, just a well placed grunt every few sentences to show me that he’s listening.  But often times even that is too much to ask.  I accuse him of not listening to me, and he repeats the last sentence I said just to prove that he was listening.  I say that’s not listening, that’s repeating.

I no longer ask for him to tell me what he’s thinking.  I consider that an amateur question that young, inexperienced wives ask their baffled husbands.  I have found that I can continue a stream of thought without his verbal prompting or participating.  I only want the grunt to feel like I’m talking to a human.  My standards are low, I know.

So tonight I will unload the congestion of my thought life, empty 3 weeks worth of thoughts onto my husband.  Pray for him.

Digging Deep

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Once upon a time we were in Youth Ministry at a church.  A young couple that worked with us as youth leaders got pregnant and had a baby.  A few months after wards, it became apparent that something was not right with the little girl’s health.  After months of medical tests, they discovered that their baby was suffering with profound genetic defects and there was no hope for a cure.  She was given just a few months to live.  They signed a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) medical order and took their daughter home to enjoy the last few months of her life.

We prayed like crazy during those couple of months.  We prayed for a miracle.  It did not happen.  When their smiley little baby died, we were stunned and hurt.  We all said the awkward, unhelpful things that people say when friends experience such a tragedy.  None of us knew how to help them grieve.  We were all in our early 20’s, and none of us had the wisdom nor the life experience to know how to handle this kind of sadness.  They retreated into their grief and we stood ineffectively on the sidelines wanting to do something, but doing nothing more than providing a few meals and pitiful sympathies.

At the funeral for their baby girl, the grandfather gave the eulogy for this young life taken far too soon.  I wondered how he found the strength to do it.  But he said some of the most beautiful and life impacting words that I have ever heard.  I’ve never forgotten them.  He talked about foundations.

On his morning commute through downtown, he would drive past an entire city block fenced off with barricades indicating that construction would soon take place there.  As the weeks passed, the buildings that were on the site were demolished.  Heaps of rubble were hauled off the site.  Then the digging machines were brought in.  For MONTHS they dug the hole deeper and deeper, preparing to lay the foundation for the future building.  As the hole got bigger and bigger he wondered what kind of massive building would be built there.

As the months passed and the sky scraper began to take form, the grandfather pondered these things in the light of the impending and certain death of his first granddaughter.  At the funeral he said, “When God lays a foundation, he has to dig deep.  We wonder what kind of structure he will build here.  The deeper he digs, the bigger the building will be.  In order to build something massively ‘upward’, you need to take the time to prepare the ‘downward’ part first.  The deeper God excavates our lives, we can be sure that He plans to build something very big on the surface, but he has to dig first.”

I have no idea if the family even remembers this eulogy spoken through the haze of their pain, but it has stuck with me for all these years.  I think about it when I feel like God is tearing down and digging out too much stuff in my life.  I thought about it when we let go of our life and possessions and family to move to the mission field.  I cried for the pain of the deep digging, but I wanted the results of God’s construction in my life even more than I wanted the rubble I gave up.  The bigger the blue print for the building, the deeper the hole for the foundation.

If God is digging really deep in your life, hauling out a ton of dirt and making a really big hole, then he plans to build a really big structure with your life.  We are the temple of God.  Does our foundation go deep?

When someone loves you…

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Once upon a time, I found this cute list of things little kids said about Love.  I think their simplicity is so precious… and sometimes humorous.  We could benefit from some of these reminders about how to really love someone.  I want to grow old with my husband, and at the end, to feel that I have loved really well.  I don’t believe in keeping regrets.  I leave the past alone.  But taken as a whole, I want to feel that I’ve loved with all my heart and been loved in return.

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.  You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.  Billy age 4

Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.  Karl- age 5

Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French Fries without making them give you any of theirs.  Chrissie- age 6

Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.  Terri- age 4

Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is right.  Danny- age 7

Love is when you kiss all the time.  Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.  Emily- age 8

Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.  Bobby- age 7

If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend you hate.  Nikko- age 6

Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.  Noelle- age 7

Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.  Tommy- age 6

Mommy loves me more than anybody.  You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.  Clare- age 6

Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.  Elaine- age 5

Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt.  Chris- age 7 (This one made me laugh.)

Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.  Marianne- age 4

I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.  Lauren- age 4

When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.  Karen- age 6

You really shouldn’t say “I love you” unless you mean it.  But if you mean it, you should say it a lot.  People forget.  Jessica- age 8

This weekend, make a concerted, focused effort to tell someone you love them.  You might think that they should already know, but tell them anyways.  Say it first, don’t wait for them to say it to you.  And while you’re at it Guys, here’s a tip for you:  She wants hear WHY you love her too.  It makes the “I love you” special instead of generic.  Make an effort to love well.

The Spider Killer

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I posted this short story on Facebook a week ago, but I wanted to share it with my non-fb friends too.  If the title didn’t act as enough of a Spoiler Alert, I should warn you, if you have heart issues related to the fear of bugs you might not want to read this.

Last night right before bed, my 11-year old Emma came rushing into my room gasping, “Spider! Spider!” as her body convulsed in a cumulative case of the heebie-jeebies.  I went into her room to kill it, but I was unprepared for the size of that monster.

“Holy Shnike!” I exclaimed.  No exaggeration, with its legs splayed out the thing was the diameter of a BAGEL.  I grabbed a can of roach spray, stood on a stool, and fired.  It fell to the ground and didn’t die!

As it scurried under the closet door I thought, “Crap! Now I have to hunt for it among the stuffed animals.  It’s going to jump out at me.”  I wildly started throwing stuffed animals out of the closet.

I found it again on the closet floor and doused it in bug spray, but the thing would not die!  Finally I grabbed a cheer-leading baton and started beating it.  Still the beast would not die! (and not because I have bad aim.) I finally knocked off a leg, and then it curled up into a slow death position.

When I flushed it down the toilet, I slammed the lid down just to punctuate my victory. That was by far the largest spider I have ever seen inside the house.  I won.

Some of you have asked where my husband was on this fateful night.  Well, he was out of the house picking up our son at Youth Group.  God was merciful to him.  He really hates spiders.  For me, spiders hold a kind of terror laced fascination, but it’s the cockroaches that make me scream.  I was raised in a family where, just for kicks, my father regularly chased my sister and I around the house with a Kleenex full of bug guts.  I have tried that on my husband and it usually ends with me collapsed in a hysterical heap of laughter, gasping for breath.  I’m giggling just thinking about it…

A Downton Abbey Super Bowl Party

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**Spoiler alert for Downton Fans, I’m starting season 3 tonight… If you aren’t that far yet, you might not want to read the second to the last paragraph of this blog.**

This is a very rare Sunday blog post because, as many of you know, today is a very special day.  Today is Super Bowl Sunday, the most important day in my husband’s year.  To say that my husband is an avid sports fan would be an understatement.  I have actually caught him watching tennis on TV when there were no other sports on, and he doesn’t even PLAY tennis.  He plays softball and watches football and seems to find a sport to watch on TV for every season.  He has even taken up watching soccer since we moved to Latin America.  Everyone knows that soccer is called football outside of the United States, in contrast to American Football.  Now he enjoys them both, though American football is still the clear favorite.  Every year he participates in no less than 5 fantasy football leagues.  And Super Bowl Sunday is the High Holy Day of AMERICAN football fans.

We have been married for 18 years, happily married.  The irony is that I don’t care one iota about sports of any kind.  They do say that opposites attract, and for us, that must be true.  When we were dating I tried to go to as many of his softball games as I could.  I honestly tried to pay attention and learn the sport, but I just couldn’t manage.  I even tried PLAYING on a women’s team one summer.  I would stand in the outfield making mental lists of all the ways I could be better spending this hour than playing a sport.  I had to admit that I just don’t care about sports.  When the babies started coming to our family, it was a good excuse not to go to games anymore and I gradually bowed out of that obligation.

But we HAVE made this marriage work, because I support his need to play.  I do not just tolerate it.  I find ways to help him get that sports fix, because he’s a much happier person when he has a sports outlet in his life.  I have always told him that he can invite his guy friends over to watch games, and I’ll even make snacks for them and keep the children out of the way while the men watch a game.  I figure it’s a better option than him going to some sports bar or wings joint to watch the game.  At least I know where he is.  So in the spirit of supporting my sports addict, I help him host a Super Bowl party every year.

This year I got smart.  A friend of mine bought and iTunes subscription to Downton Abbey season 3, which we can’t get on TV here in Costa Rica (It’s blocked for some reason, international copy right laws, they say.  They don’t follow ANY other laws here, but they drag this one out when my favorite show is an issue!)  So my friend suggested that we set up a projector in another room and show the first few episodes of Downton while the Super Bowl is going on down on the big screen.  Suddenly I was excited about the Super Bowl!  Now instead of hovering around the guacamole all night long, as I previously planned, I’m going to be in all my girly-glory agonizing over whether Edith will ever get married or if Lord Grantham can accept Sybil’s marriage to the chauffeur or if Anna will manage to get Mr. Bates acquitted of murdering his wife.  Agh!  I’m excited!  It’s going to be a Jolly good time, I’m sure.

So in the spirit of my Downton Abbey Super Bowl party, a friend of mine sent me this Youtube link.  Apparently I’m not the first one to have this idea.  Here’s the Downton Abbey Super Bowl Mash-up.  Just hearing the theme music makes my heart flutter with excitement!

What?!? No Christmas?

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snow globeI handed my friend Marcela the pretty little package wrapped in simple Christmas paper.  Inside was a snow globe.  As she tipped the globe, the figurine of a snowman clad in a red scarf smiled out at her through a curtain of glittery snow.

“Oooooh, I love it!  Just LOVE IT!”  She squealed with delight.  I was glad she liked the Christmas present.  We stood beside my tall Christmas tree that she had been eyeing with pleasure all evening.  “You know, when I was a child my parents were pastors.  The Christian church used to be very conservative back then.”  She commented as she fingered an ornament on the tree.  “And we never, ever decorated for Christmas because we were always concerned about what people would say.”

I must have had a confused look on my face because she expounded further on her parents’ conservative views.  Marcela’s family never had a Christmas tree.  They never mentioned the Nativity story.  And they never gave each other presents.  Apparently here in Costa Rica many Christians still view Christmas as a Catholic or pagan holiday, depending on their own prejudices.  Many families that have converted from Catholicism to Protestantism have completely rejected anything that even appears in the Catholic tradition.

While my friend talked, I remember a missionary from several years ago telling me that she collected Nativity sets.  But she always had to put them away whenever a Costa Rican family came over to her house because the Nativity was considered part of the Catholic symbolism.  My own Nativity set was sitting on a side table in plain sight.

Marcela continued her story.  She said she would always go over to her friends’ houses and lovingly admire their trees and lights, but her parent’s wouldn’t budge in their decision not to decorate.  So when she got married, she decided, “I am an adult now.  I’m going to make my own decisions, and I don’t care what people think!  I love Christmas, and I’m going to decorate.”

She and her husband married in October.  Her first major purchase was to buy a Christmas tree!  The first year they decorated together, and it was a novelty for both of them.  The second year he said, “You’re going to put that up AGAIN?” and he lost interest in helping her decorate.

This is their third year of marriage.  They are currently sharing a very tiny apartment above the church with her in-laws who are also the pastors now.  When she decorated their tiny apartment with a little tree and lights around the window, her in-laws were less than thrilled.  “Hmm,” her father-in-law sniffed, “I feel like I’m living in a department store.”

So now I understood her great joy in receiving a pretty little ornament that she probably never would have bought for herself.  Their family still does not celebrate Christmas… no gifts, no traditions, no decorations.  But my friend is doing her best to keep up her Christmas cheer.

The whole thing is so sad to me because Christmas is meant to be for everyone!  No denomination owns Christmas.  The angel who announced the birth of Jesus our Lord said, “I bring you good news of great joy that is to be for all men!”  Christmas is meant to be for everyone, because salvation is meant to be for everyone as well.  The birth of our Savior is the true reason for Christmas.

Honorary Auntie

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Missionary families often say that the hardest part of our job is being far away from family.  Especially when you have a close and loving extended family, you miss them a lot.  When we were preparing to become missionaries, the “experienced ones” all told us that the other missionaries on your field become like the aunties and uncles and grandmas and grandpas for your children.  I was offended by this idea.  My kids already HAVE aunties and uncles and grandparents.  I didn’t want them forgetting their real family, and I didn’t want them replacing those roles in their hearts.  And I wasn’t really keen on the idea of someone else’s kids calling me Auntie.  I wasn’t impressed with this substitute idea of family.

But time has passed and my attitude has softened.  My kids have NOT forgotten their real family and thanks to Skype and Face Time, we can talk to them face to face whenever we want to!  They know who their real family is and they love them like no other.  But it can get kind of lonely and sad out here.  There are no relatives to babysit for you when you need a date with your spouse.  There are no proud grandparents taking pictures at your school plays or sporting events.  And don’t even get me started on all the birthday parties that my family has missed and we have missed in our turn!

So here is where the missionary family comes in handy.  We KNOW we aren’t really related, but we ACT like we are.  I have taken care of children who are not mine– overnight, while their parents were out of the country.  I have pulled loose teeth, tucked them into bed, bandaged owies, and packed school lunches for kids who are not mine.  I have driven kids to school, picked them up again and taken them to youth group.  I have watched school plays and cheered at sports games.  I’ve taken kids to the movies and McDonalds and go carts.  I’ve attended every birthday party we’ve been invited to.  I’ve earned my Auntie status in a million ways.

It in no way diminishes my love and connection to my real family, but we all need a “Jesus with skin on” so to speak.  We all need the Village to raise a child (we just hope and pray that our village isn’t full of idiots!).  And we try to be that kind of community for others that we are missing ourselves.  It’s about living in harmony with people that you don’t get to choose… just like a family.

Doing the Birthday Party Rounds!

Doing the Birthday Party Rounds!

She will be worth it…

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Ashley and Sean, look at that ROCK on her hand! I think those smiles say that yes, it was worth the wait.

I’m on a theme this week.  What do you feel is “worth it”?

A friend of mine got engaged this last August while she was home.  Now that she’s back in San Jose we finally went out to lunch so I could hear the story in all it’s girly detail.

My friend is 30 years old… and a virgin.  Way back in her late teens, she made a promise to the Lord.  She said, “Lord, I give you my 20’s.  Do whatever you want with my life.  This decade is dedicated to you.”  And the Lord took her 20’s.

For 10 years she served God faithfully.  She poured her life into mentoring young girls.  She went on missions trips.  She served in her church.  She lived 100% for God.  This was by faith.

God made her no promises that someday she would meet “the one”, Mr. Right, the man of her dreams.  She had no assurance that she would not be single for life.  She had no “deal” with God.  She just walked through that decade by faith.  The only thing she held on to was the belief that “God is worth it”.

She believed that God had a plan.  She had faith that someday, it would be worth it all.  She sometimes cried at night.  She sometimes doubted that God knew the depth of her loneliness.  She sometimes doubted that there was a husband out there for her.  She sometimes “took back” her promise to God in her heart, but she still walked it out every day.   She believed that it would be worth it all.

Then, less than a year ago.  God brought a man into her life.  This man had made a promise to God too.  This man had given God his 20’s as well.  This man was 30 years old… and still a virgin.

When he proposed to my friend he said, “you are not the girl of my dreams… you are better than I could have ever dreamed!”  I am sure he will feel that waiting for her was so worth it.  It was not easy, but it was worth it.