Day 182: Loving Others #2

March 30, 2012

One of our friends feeds the homeless every Wednesday at a park in Santa Barbara. We joined him this week, putting feet to my vision that we’d work together to help others.

We brought cookies, but there was also pizza, mandarins, carrots, and water. Maybe 30 people lined up to receive food and we enjoyed serving them.

Our five-year-old daughter was excited about feeding the homeless until we got there. Then she was nervous. Still, we told her to hand out cookies. Once things got going and everyone politely thanked her for the cookies, she began enjoying herself. At one point, she even leaned over to me and whispered, “Things are really turning out well!”

The evening did turn out well: we met some kind people that we were able to help. I hope we do it again.


Day 181: Casablanca

March 30, 2012

On March 21st, Casablanca was re-released in theaters in celebration of the 70th anniversary of its 1942 release. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see it. So on Tuesday, we ate popcorn and watched Casablanca on DVD for an in-home date. The movie was amazing, of course. You didn’t finish it though, but fell asleep while snuggling me on the couch.


Day 180: Stalker Alert!

March 29, 2012

On Monday, I graded tests at home all day. At some point, you took the girls to Costco. When you did, I wrote out this note for you, biked to Costco, found our van, placed it on our windshield, then biked home:

What?! I just noticed I put "You're" instead of "Your." How embarrassing.

When you came home, I helped you with the girls and the groceries, all the while waiting for you to say something about the note. You told me about Costco and how good the kids were, but the note never came up. After a while, I thought, “She’s toying with me. Well, I’m not going to say anything about it either. I can wait as long as her.”

I started grading tests again, when finally you said something. “I found this weird note on our windshield when I came out of Costco.” “Oh, yeah?” “Yeah, I think someone followed me around just so they could put it there.” “I guess you’re never going out  by yourself again!” I couldn’t help but laugh, which made you laugh. You asked how I was able to pull that off and told me you couldn’t stop smiling after you read it. When I finished grading the test I was on, I flipped it over and this note was under it:

hey good looking,

thanks for the note. I tried the #, but it didn’t work. glad I found you. xoxo

your not so secret admirer


Day 179: Desktop Background

March 28, 2012

On Sunday before I went to bed, I thought and thought about what to do for my act of love, but came up dry. So I started browsing the internet and saw an ad for desktop backgrounds. “That’s it!” I thought. After a little searching, I found this, which I set as our background:

When we woke up in the morning, I asked you if you wanted to check your email. You said no. A little while later I suggested that you go on Facebook. You still said no. After a while more, I asked you if we should we play some music from our laptop. “Nah,” you said. Finally, I abandoned the subtleties and handed you the laptop: “Here, look at the background I put on the computer for you.”


Day 178: Household Project #4

March 28, 2012

For a while now, you’ve wanted me to put our shed for sale on craigslist. On Saturday, I did. That’s one more thing checked off of the list I asked you to make.


Day 177: Coffee Surprise

March 26, 2012

On Friday, I graded tests at the Starbucks near your parents’ house. Before I left, I talked to Rose, one of the employees, to see if it would be okay for me to buy you a drink that you could pick up later. She thought that would be fine, so I paid for a Mocha Frappuccino and left a note that said, “just because I love you.” While you were out with your mom, I called you and told you to stop by Starbucks on your way back to your parents’ house and ask for Rose. When you did, Rose made you your drink and gave you your note. I saw you a few minutes later and you were giddier than ever. Looking back, I’m not so sure it was a good idea to excite you with a surprise, then pump you full of caffeine and sugar.


Day 176: Praying with You

March 24, 2012

Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with and inadequate for the demands of being a good husband and father. The truth is, on my own I am inadequate for these demands.

So, for my act of love, I lead us in prayer for our marriage and family. We prayed that God would make us people of integrity who do his will over our own. That we would love God more than ourselves or each other and that this, in turn, would increase our love for each other. We prayed that because of our love for each other, we would put each other’s needs over our own and that we would sacrifice for each other. We prayed for strength to raise our kids in a way that honors God and for patience with and love for them. Finally, we prayed that God would bring glory to his name through all of this. May these things be so, dear Lord.


Busted!

March 23, 2012

On Wednesday night, you found some information about 365 Acts of Love on our computer. “What’s this?” you asked. I didn’t know what to say. My heart started pounding, my hands started sweating, and my face felt hot. I wasn’t about to lie and I didn’t think you’d be satisfied if I told you that you needed to wait to see. Then, your eyes started tearing up because you were confused about what was happening. So, I told you about the blog, though I was short on details. When I finished, you said that you didn’t want to know anything else and that you didn’t want to see the blog until it was finished because you wanted to be surprised. For the rest of the night, I was shaking slightly and sick to my stomach, even while feeling a sense of relief. At this point, I’m planning on not speaking with you about the blog until I present it to you six months from now.


Day 175: Endurance Hugging

March 23, 2012

On Wednesday, I decided to give you a long hug for my act of love. So while you were making dinner, I brought up the idea with an opening line that really swept you off your feet:

“Let’s hug for some predetermined length of time.”

“Okay, how about a minute.”

“A minute? Are you joking? That’s weak.”

“Fine. How about five.”

“We don’t have all day. What about two?”

“Sure. Should I set the timer on the microwave?”

“Yeah. Wait . . . the two button doesn’t work.”

“Okay, let’s set it for one minute, 59 seconds.”

“Or, we could set it for one minute, 60 seconds. That way we could get our two minutes in.”

“Let’s just stick with 1:59.”

“Okay.”

I set the timer and we started hugging. At first, it felt stilted, which prompted some sarcastic remarks from each of us. But soon, you sank into my arms and laid your head on my shoulders. It was nice. After a while, though, my mind wandered and I began wondering when the timer would go off. So, I gently rocked and turned us at the same time so I could see the mircrowave. There were 30 seconds left. “You’re trying to look at the timer, aren’t you?” you asked. “Two minutes is a long time!” I replied. “I know, right?” For the rest of the time, we jokingly worked on dinner while continuing to hug. I’m thinking we need to work on our hugs.


Day 174: Interview on Marriage

March 21, 2012

For “my” 174th act of love for you, I interviewed Tom and Debi Walter from The Romantic Vineyard about marriage. The thoughtfulness, sincerity, and downright usefulness of their answers really amazed me. Thanks, Tom and Debi! You’ve given my wife and me a tremendous gift. And keep up the great work on your blog.

(1)   How important to your marriage is your relationship with God?

Our relationship with God is primary. He is the only reason our marriage works, because we are only able to love because He first loved us.

(2)   What do you do to grow in God together?

We talk about our church’s sermons each week. We have our personal devotions each morning separately, but we’re reading the same Bible-reading plan. We’ve done this for the past few years, and what a difference it has made in our spiritual intimacy. We can talk about what we’re currently reading and we’re working to apply it to our life.

(3)   What does commitment look like in your marriage?

Commitment is doing what you know you ought to do whether you feel like it or not. Commitment is loving your spouse when they aren’t so lovable. Commitment is outdoing one another in showing acts of kindness to each other. Commitment is living your marriage vows with no option of divorce. Tom told me when we first were married that divorce would never be an option for us. We would have to work on any problems we faced—that’s commitment!

(4)   What’s the key to a happy marriage? A loving marriage? A lifelong marriage?

A happy marriage comes and goes. Happiness is measured by our feelings. Joy is something we have regardless of how we feel. A marriage is loving when it is walking in light of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. As far as the lifelong marriage goes . . . we’re not there yet, but we’re on our way. We celebrated our 33rd anniversary on Feb. 24th. We’ve had our trials and conflicts, but the commitment we made “for better or for worse,” always kept us moving forward, even if it was an inch at a time.

(5)    What marriage resources (e.g., books, conferences, blogs, etc.) do you recommend?

Our favorite marriage book right now is by Paul David Tripp, and it’s titled, What Did You Expect? As far as conferences go, we love CCEF and all the conferences and materials they provide. CCEF stands for Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. They use the Bible as their primary counseling book, and the effects are quite successful. There are many great marriage blogs available as well. We would recommend going to the newly formed Christian Marriage Bloggers Association in order to see the list of other like-minded marriage ministries who host blogs for the upbuilding of strong and lasting marriages.

(6)   Do you recommend that we find another married couple who can mentor us?

Yes, yes, and YES! Tom has led us from day one to find other couples who you admire for their marriage and pursue them. Ask them questions. Seek their advice on difficulties or decisions you’re considering. Invite them into your lives for their support and help.

(7)   What advice can you give me for 365 Acts of Love?

It has been a joy to watch you grow in your sincere love for your wife. When you first began it was obvious this was something way out of your comfort zone. But you stayed the course, and in the process the Lord is changing you to love your wife more like Christ loves the church. We would encourage you to pray more for God to be glorified in how you love your wife. This isn’t just about you, but it’s about the glory God receives as you learn to love your wife the way He demonstrated for us. We believe God is pleased with your efforts. Keep it up. There is a saying that goes something like this: it’s not about the destination but about who we become in the process. Your goal for 365 Acts of Love is changing you and the way you love your wife. May there be more than 365 . . . an entire lifetime.

(8)   What are some ways that you show love for each other?

We pay attention to little requests and seek to do them. Something we’ve practiced for years. We also have a weekly date night, one night a week where we have each other’s undivided attention. It doesn’t have to be out on the town either. Some of our best dates have been sitting on our back porch talking and listening.

(9)   What sorts of loving acts do you think are most effective in showing your spouse you love him or her? Least effective?

It’s best to show your spouse you love them based on things that bless them. For instance, Tom loves a clean and neat bedroom. So I purpose to keep our room this way as often as possible. If he’s had a rough day, I’ll even make him a before-dinner snack, walk him from the garage to our room, sit him down with soft music playing, and close the door. This gives him time to relax before dinner. He loves it when I do that! He has cleaned the entire kitchen for me when I was exhausted, or discouraged. He will often clean our shower too, because he knows I don’t like to. Little things tend to mean the most as the years pass. Don’t neglect the little, everyday moments. The least effective ways to show your love would be doing things that really aren’t important to your spouse. If your spouse isn’t one to like gifts, then don’t buy gifts for them for they won’t be as meaningful as you hoped. The 5 Love Languages is a great resource for determining how your spouse likes to be loved.

(10)   What should someone do when he or she doesn’t feel like loving his or her spouse?

Love them anyway and pray. Love is not a feeling . . . feelings are fickle and can’t be trusted. All relationships go through dry seasons. What you become on the other side of staying committed through the dryness is worth it all. The feelings will return. Just keep doing what you know you should do, whether you feel it or not. This is only possible by the power God supplies. He is the only One who can sustain this kind of love. Without His help, we would be powerless to love in this way. But with God all things are possible.

(11)   How important is romance for a marriage? What do you do to keep the romance going in your relationship?

As we mentioned before, we have a regular date night. We also celebrate every anniversary, i.e., our first date, the day he proposed, and our wedding date. I, Debi, also like to plan special surprises for Tom when he least expects it. Our blog, The Romantic Vineyard, is full of some of the ideas I’ve come up with.

(12)   What do you do to foster closeness in your relationship?

We are best friends. There is no one else we would rather spend time with. We each have guys friends and girl friends, but when we do things with them we’re usually together. There are times when Tom plays golf with the guys and I go shopping with the girls. But I’m an avid golfer too, and Tom enjoys shopping with me. We take an interest in what the other loves to do. In fact, I had to take golf lessons for 3 years in order to get good enough to play with Tom. I didn’t want him to think I was no fun to play golf with. As it turns out, he loves taking me on the course with him.

(13)   How important is sexual intimacy in marriage?

Tom has always said that sex is a barometer of how healthy our marriage is. Now we realize there are some issues one spouse may have to overcome that has nothing to do with the other spouse, i.e., previous abusive relationships, poor self-image, etc. But we’re talking about a couple who is doing well in most areas, their sex life will be healthy as well. The sexual relationship is the closest the two of you can become in this life. It is more than a physical act; there is a spiritual oneness which glorifies God. We are celebrating the one flesh aspect of our marriage, which we do with no one else. It is special and it should be treated as such. It should never be withheld as a means of punishment.

(14)   How do you deal with conflict in your marriage?

A lot differently than we did when we first got married. We used to give each other the silent treatment . . . for days. It was so immature and not helpful at all. Now, we usually communicate our need to talk about something. Then, when we do we say it not assuming we know the motive behind the action. Rather than say, “you always . . . or you never!” we say, “it seems that lately you’ve been distant to me. Is there something wrong?” See the difference? It’s not coming to them as a judge ready to catch them in their error. No, it’s coming alongside your spouse to love them enough to talk over the reason you feel the way you do. We have found this way to be the absolute best way to love your spouse through conflict. A picture came to me one time of two oxen who were yoked together. Imagine one sitting down and refusing to take another step? Or what if one wanted to go one way and one another? That wouldn’t work. The oxen would go nowhere. In marriage we are yoked together. We are on the same team. And we have a common enemy. Together we face our enemy and stand strong together against his attacks. And when we’re in disagreement, we stop, talk, and then continue forward.

(15)   Have you ever had a crisis point in your marriage? How did you get through it?

Oh, yes. Many! We got through them by Godly counsel and God’s grace. It takes a willingness to  humble yourself, confess your sin, and repent. Only then is growth possible. Remember God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud. If I am digging my heels in, demanding my way, I’m not only resisting my spouse, but God is resisting me. That’s a scary place to be. Being a humble spouse is key to having a healthy marriage.

(16)   Do you have any advice for communicating well in marriage?

The best advice is to become a good listener. You’ve heard it said we have one mouth and two ears, which means we should listen twice as much as we speak. When our spouse says something and we’re tempted to react, it’s always good to make sure you’ve heard them correctly. We use this question often: Now, what did you hear me say? Asking this simple question has averted many conflicts.

(17)   What one piece of advice has had the biggest impact on your marriage?

Be completely honest with your spouse and hold no secrets. This one piece of advice changed our marriage in a powerful way. It was hard telling each other things we never thought we would, but this is what is needed in a healthy marriage–vulnerability. And it must go both ways. If there is anything you would never want your spouse to know about you, then you most likely need to tell them. Our spouse should know us better than anyone else. And when they love us still, there is a deep intimacy which takes place. I believe following this advice took our marriage from a superficial love to a deep, God-honoring type of love. It was sacrificial because it cost us something to keep on loving even when we were hurt.

(18)   Do you have any other advice for my wife or me?

Enjoy the process. Celebrate the good times. Extend forgiveness for the bad. And pursue God as individuals. As you grow closer to Him you will inevitably grow closer to each other. Look out for your spouse’s interests over your own, and you will succeed. Learn to ask good questions, hard questions, fun questions. Questions open up new possibilities and help clarify the right direction when change is needed. Never stop dreaming together.

Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions. It’s seems fitting our last piece of advice was about asking good questions, because you’re doing this well. Thank you for your humility in asking us our thoughts. We pray they’ve been helpful.