For Better or For Worse

Marriage

If I were your enemy, I’d seek to disintegrate your family and destroy every member of it.  I’d want to tear away at your trust and unity and turn everyone’s love inward on themselves.  I would make sure your family didn’t look anything like it’s supposed to.  Because then people would look at your Christian marriage , your Christian kids, and see you’re no different, no stronger than anybody else – that God, underneath it all, doesn’t change anything.

My husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage this April. Ten years. That used to seem like such a long time to me. Especially in a culture nowadays where marriages come and go quickly and we see all too many couples changing spouses like they change clothes. I won’t go into the sanctity of marriage right now (that’s another post for another day), but I will say that marriage just isn’t what it used to be. Commitment isn’t what it used to be.


Let me pause here just for a moment and throw out that disclosure that if you are in an abusive and/or dangerous situation, please do not continue to dwell within the confines of your marriage. There are times where other actions need to be taken. I’m not a pastor nor am I a professional counselor so please seek help from those who are qualified to offer you Godly advice and wisdom.


2015 will always go down as the year that almost ended my own marriage. After seven years of marriage and two children, my husband and I were just at our breaking point. We had spent the four previous years in complete isolation living in Kodiak, Alaska; had traveled across the country yet again to settle in a new town and were both spiritually not where we needed to be. We spent our days arguing and fighting. We spent most of our nights giving one another the silent treatment.

We used the others flaws against them in every single argument we had. Never leaving old wounds alone and consistently ripping those bandages off time and time again; tossing below-the-belt comments around like they were nothing. Rehashing the same mistakes over and over and over again. Never really addressing the issues we were having, but rather patching them over with halfhearted, “I’m sorry’s” and fleeting affection. We had spent the last seven years of our marriage doing that and slowly, but surely, all of that bitterness and resentment and poorly handled conflict was building below the surface of our marriage.

In January of that year, my husband got on a plane and flew to San Francisco for some military training. It was the first time in the years that we had been together that I did not shed a tear when he got on the plane and left; despite knowing that he was going to be gone for months. Quite honestly, I was relieved that I was not having to spend my days bickering with my husband for those months while he was away. I was looking forward to just having my kids to worry with and not having to overexert myself for my marriage (which, in and of itself should have been my clue that there was a lot wrong with our relationship).

When my husband got to California and we talked, I’ll never forget what he said to me. I don’t know how it came about or in which of our conversations it got brought up, but he made the comment that he didn’t know if he would have a wife when he got back home.

We were that far gone. I had begun to check around and look into apartments for myself and the kids. I’d started to look into what a divorce actually meant for me in terms of rights and legalities. I sought counsel from all of the wrong places; almost all of which told me time and time again that I needed to do what made me happy. Or that I didn’t deserve to be in a marriage that wasn’t making me happy. What was supposed to have been a few months of school for him ended up being only a few weeks.

If you were to ask my husband, he would tell you that he came home to save our marriage. We began to seek counseling together. We began to seek God together. We began to slowly heal the old wounds that we had allowed to fester within our lives. We started to love one another again. Most importantly, we started to love God again. 

I had been praying for my husband for many years, stopped whenever I would get angry with him, and believed the lie that it was my job to change my husband and not God’s. Then, when God didn’t “fix” him the way that I thought he should, I would become angry with God and began to believe that prayer didn’t work, God didn’t hear me and that God didn’t care enough to fix my marriage.

The problem was that my husband wasn’t the only problem.

It takes two people to make a marriage. It takes two people to break a marriage. I had become so wrapped up in my own hurts and pointing out my husbands flaws that I couldn’t see the mistakes I was making within my own life. I was spending more time trying to tell him what he needed to fix that I was not even remotely looking at the areas in my own messed up humanity that needed to be worked on.

The only effective way to fight for your marriage is to pray for your marriage.

It’s been an uphill battle and our marriage isn’t perfect, even now. We still have plenty of bad days. We still make plenty of mistakes. We still fight with each other more than we fight the enemy (if I’m being perfectly honest). We still let old wounds get ahold of us and we still try to throw around past mistakes to hurt one another. We are not perfect and we don’t do it right all the time.

But.

We know who our real enemy is. We know that when we fight with one another instead of for one another, we are doing exactly what he wants us to do and that he is working to dismantle our relationship. Now, we spend our time fighting our battles on our knees. That has made all of the difference.


FOR DISCUSSION

(feel free to answer in the comments or privately on your own)

  • How much time do you spend fighting for your spouse rather than with them?
  • Are you spending more time trying to fix HIM than you are letting God work on him?
  • In what areas of your own life does God need to infiltrate to make you a better, more God-centered wife?
  • Are there old wounds that you need to let go of and turn over to God that you may still be holding onto?
FOCUS VERSE

“Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established.”

Proverbs 4:25-26

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Worth It // Fervent Week Four (Part One)

Marriage

I have to admit, spiritual warfare and talk about “the enemy being at work” is not something that I remember hearing a whole lot about growing up. I think it is one of those things that 99% of churches tend to gloss over, maybe mentioning in passing, but never really taking it serious. Never really teaching people how to recognize his work or why it is important to know who your real enemy is.

Spiritual warfare scares people.

And it should. But for believers, it shouldn’t scare you to the point of running or shying away from life or your ambition or the dreams that God has placed in your heart.

It is no surprise that one of the most important chapters-in my opinion-of the book Fervent is the one in which life got so chaotic that I set the book down for a while and walked away from it. Upon doing that, upon ceasing to pray for my family like I should, upon losing sight of the real enemy at work in not only my life and the life of my family but the world as a whole-I saw tension and frustration and selfishness rear its head in our home.

If I were your enemy, I’d seek to disintegrate your family and destroy every member of it.  I’d want to tear away at your trust and unity and turn everyone’s love inward on themselves.  I would make sure your family didn’t look anything like it’s supposed to.  Because then people would look at your Christian marriage , your Christian kids, and see you’re no different, no stronger than anybody else – that God, underneath it all, doesn’t change anything. (src)

I have been here. I have been in that place where my family-my husband, my children, extended family, myself-all felt like we were the primary target in the enemy’s schemes.

2015 will go down in my personal history books as the year that God allowed me to be broken to the point that I knew that I couldn’t go on without surrendering completely to him once and for all.

I have watched families and marriages fall completely apart because of this notion of turning their love from outward toward those around them to themselves. We are a selfish, selfish society. Even as Christians and believers we are still-without very intentional awareness and focus on preventing it-all about ourselves. Even the most holy of people have to be aware of it because it’s just programed into our makeup as humans. My own marriage has undergone struggle and trial after trial revolving around the concept and act of selfishness. On both my account and my husbands. 

I am learning, slowly but surely, how to be aware of the enemy at hand. The section where Priscilla Shirer talks about the effects of being away from home while she was filming War Room  hit home for me in a big way. Even this part year when we went home to Alabama for Christmas, a few days of being outside of our element left us in the same predicament that she wrote about…

…being away from home, out of our element, out of our usual rhythms. But pretty soon the slightest things would set off a disagreement, a misunderstanding. Hot feelings. Short fuses…we were exhausted, not just physically but relationally (pg. 73).

Doing any kind of traveling like that always leaves us (universal us) feel spent and tired and worn. Throw in the stress of Christmas, the awareness of the enemy on that our vulnerability and you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen. And most of us, probably all of us, want nothing less than to feel separated and pulled apart at the core of our home dynamic. I have been there. I have been at the point of watching my marriage being ripped apart at the seams and wondering whether or not we would make it through just another day. That’s a scary, depressing feeling.

My husband and I function better as a team. And the enemy knows that. When he can turn me against my husband, my husband against me, us against our marriage…then he has done what he came to do. He has stolen our joy, killed our unity, and destroyed the bond between us. It leaves us at odds with one another. It leaves us thrashing about as we flounder and struggle to stay afloat in this pool of worldly marriage. God wants so badly for our marriages to reflect the covenant between Christ and the church. But we are letting the enemy inside our marriages, inside of our homes, and letting him destroy it.

The enemy knows what sets us off. For me, having worked from home striving not to be “lazy” or feeling like I don’t contribute to our home or our family financially-nothing in the world seems to set me off like feeling like the hours that I log and the time that I put in don’t matter. My husband has his own buttons as well. When we are in the throws of an argument, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly I will push those. Then, we both end up with our feelings hurt, frustration and anger raging between the two of us, and typically acting like small children when we give each other the silent treatment.

Learning how to step back for a moment, realize who the real enemy is and going after him instead has completely changed the way that we have disagreements.

We aren’t perfect, and we never will be on this side of eternity, but by learning how to attack the right person rather than turning our word slinging and come backs at each other, we are making progress. We are learning that we aren’t one another’s enemy. We are a team…on the same side…and turning our arrows inward at each other only brings the entire dynamic of our family down.

Lastly, I think the most important thing that I pulled from this section of Fervent was this…

I can not be the Holy Spirit to my husband.

It was never, ever my job to change him. It is my job, my responsibility to love him, encourage him, support him, push him (kindly) to be the man that God created him to be, and love him in spite of his flaws and mistakes. Because that’s how Christ loves me. Even when I make mistakes, and heaven knows I’ve made a ton of them and still make them day in and day out, Christ loves me. 

Marriage is hard. It is by far one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. Yet in spite of the really bad days that we have had, we have had really, really great days! We have had days where I wondered if we could bounce back, but every single day I am reminded of exactly why the Lord put us together. It may be hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it isn’t hard, you don’t fight for it. If it isn’t hard, you don’t work at it. And I want to work at it.

Because it is worth it.

Because this chapter was so deep and so full of great content, I’m going to discuss the second part on children and extended family on Thursday!

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Casting Stones: A Christian Woman’s Perspective on the Ashley Madison Scandal

Marriage

I said I wasn’t going to do it. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get caught up in it. I’d ignore it. Fight the temptation to join in. Think twice before doing something that I may regret down the road. I really had good intentions of just walking away. But that’s me, see? I’m the Queen of good intentions. Always have been.

But then I caved. And I did it anyway. And here I am. And there you are. And sitting between us is the Elephant in the room that people are either A) pointing at, laughing at, ridiculing and criticizing or B) crying over because it’s destroyed them and their families and possibly their entire lives.

Ashley Madison.

A Christian Woman's Perspective on the Ashley Madison Scandal

(Am I the only one who has thought anything about any of poor girls who exist out there who are actually named Ashley Madison? I would probably have to change my name just because of what that name is now associated with.)

I remember when Ashley Madison came out in 2001-ish. I remember the huge news discussions about it. I remember being in college and thinking to myself, “Ugh. That’s so disgusting. Shame on sick people like that. They don’t deserve happiness. I bet there are a bunch of hypocrites out there who will get caught. Liars. Cheats. I would never do anything like that.”

That was back before I had any idea what life was about. What marriage was about.

What Jesus was about.

I don’t watch the news very often. Namely because there’s never anything on worth watching. Someone got shot/stabbed. Someone is rioting somewhere. ISIS. Terrorism. One of the Kardashians is pregnant or divorced or has an eating disorder or something of the like. It’s all just depressing. The way I figure it, if it’s important enough for me to know about it, I’ll see the link within the confines of my Facebook account. That’s where I get my news from.

So, when I started seeing all of this mess and garbage about Ashley Madison and the leaks that were coming, I brushed it aside. I knew what the site was. I knew what it was for. In truth, I’m pretty sure I probably know someone, somewhere on that list.

What bothered me most about this list and the fact that it is being leaked is the destruction that it’s going to cause.

I didn’t feel excitement because this website is (hopefully) about to be closed down. I didn’t download the however many gigabyte file that’s out there with the names on it to try to crucify the men and women who are on that list. I didn’t sit there gawking behind my computer screen saying, “Haha you bunch of jerks. That’s what you deserve. How dare you make a mistake like that.”

Because I’ve made the same one. And so has my husband. And so have you. And so has your spouse.

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman (or a man) with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her (him) in his heart. (Matthew 5:28 ESV Emphasis and italic type mine.)

You see it’s real easy to sit over hear protected by our screens from the storm that brews when things like this happen. My husband came from a divorced family. One that was a result of adultery. I’ve been in the midst of my husband’s own personal struggles. I’ve had my own struggles with pornography and lust. And considering that books like 50 Shades of Grey and movies like Magic Mike do so well within their respected audiences, I’m going to venture a guess that every single woman reading this blog has struggled with it to. I’m also willing to bet that whether that woman wants to admit it to herself, her husband has struggled with pornography or lust as well.

But you see, those are the kinds of sins that the church and the “Christians” want to cover up. That hidden sin that “isn’t that big of a deal” or “isn’t as big of a deal as the other sin” that lingers within our homes, our hearts, and our lives. The same hidden sin that is destroying us from the inside out.

I haven’t written about it much, but not too long ago, my husband and I were on the brink of a separation. My idea, not his. My unwillingness to work through things and address things that needed addressing and needed dealing with. Anger, bitterness, attitude, unresolved issues in our pasts (both together and separately), lust, pornography, anxiety, temptation, greed, pride…just a few of the things that were ripping our marriage apart. I was ready to call it quits.

I had had enough. My husband wasn’t doing the things that I wanted him to do. He wasn’t acting like I thought he needed to act. He wasn’t living by the rules that I had set or the standards that I felt we had to live up to.

I was disappointed in an idealistic marriage that I had created for myself that God had never ordained…one that God didn’t have any hand in at ALL.

I thought of having an affair. I looked at other women’s husbands and single men and just knew within my heart that someone else could make me happier. That I deserved much better than what I had. That I was being treated so unfairly. That my life was miserable and that I shouldn’t wake up every day feeling like I did about my marriage. I reached out to a dear friend to guide me through this very, very dark point in my life. I turned to her and she in turn, turned me back to God.

When I gave up trying to fix my marriage and my husband, something amazing happened…

He healed us.
He fixed what was broken in us.
He put us back together.

Oh that’s great, Courtney. I’m so happy your marriage is back together! What does that have to do with Ashley Madison and the disgusting lifestyle that it supports and encourages?

I’m glad you asked.

I’ve prayed over this post. In fact, as I write this our youngest son is napping in our bedroom while my husband and our oldest boy are at football practice. I’ve got mounds of papers and notes surrounding me and a to-do list half a mile long that I still need to work through before bed tonight.

But, it was the comments and the remarks that flooded my Facebook feed earlier today that prompted this post. It was the judgement and the condemnation and the ridicule and the hatred and the disgust pouring from the mouths of women all over internet about “those men” on that list. It was the despair that I know that many, many wives are dealing with right now over seeing that their husband’s name is on that list. It is the pastor(s) who have fallen into temptation who will now face expulsion from the pulpit and the church. It is the Military men who are on that list who will face dishonorable discharge and possibly even incarceration for their involvement in this site. It is the children who won’t understand who Ashley Madison is, but who will always associate her with the reason that their family dynamic dissolved. It is the man who adores his wife more than anything but had one moment of temptation that will now cost him his entire life.

These are REAL people. These are REAL lives.

And rather than being disgusted by it, I’m made acutely aware that whether YOU want to admit it or not, that something like this could have happened to ANY of us.

I’m very aware that while millions of women had their entire world come crashing down around them with the leak of this information, there were probably millions more who were confused by the feelings of both relief and disappointment that their husband’s names weren’t on that list so that they would stop questioning and second guessing the gut feeling that they’ve been carrying around that their husband is up to something.

When all of this first broke…when this news first came out…all I could think of was the Adulterous Woman that Jesus encounters in John Chapter 8. Now…this woman was taken from her home in the middle of the very act of committing adultery. Now, I’m assuming all of you are over the age of 10, so you surely know what that means. The Pharisees wanted to put Jesus to the test here…wanted to see what He would say about this “disgrace” of a woman. Surely this man [Jesus] would follow through with the Law of Moses, which commanded that this woman be stoned to death.

But what does Jesus do? He leaned down and wrote in the sand. What did he write? I have no clue. Some people speculate that he wrote her name. Some say he wrote their names. Some say that he simply doodled in the sand there while he was ignoring the commands and expectations of the religious anticipating that they would get to witness this “Messiah” stone this woman for her sins. I have no idea what he wrote, but I know what he said.

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. (src)

And when no one threw their stone, they were forced to walk away. He told that woman then to go and sin no more. Is the Ashley Madison scandal (or any form of adultery) right? No. Am I diminishing it? No. Am I saying that I am not glad that the site is (hopefully) permanently being shut down? No.

What I’m saying is simply that I’m opting instead of pointing my finger at these men and women, I’m offering grace. I’m just simply aware that my name is on a list somewhere, too. Maybe not a worldly list, but on God’s list…and that’s the one that matters.

Idolater.
Adulteress.
Murderer.
Liar.
Hypocrite.

Chosen.
Free.
Wanted.
Child of the Most High.
Held & Treasured.
Daughter of the King.

FORGIVEN.


If you’re looking for more articles on this subject, I found this one really good as well. And I always, always love what Sheila Gregory has to say about topics like sex, marriage and temptation. This is good stuff, right here. 

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I let Megan Fox Ruin my Birthday

Personal

I’ve always struggled with my self-esteem.

This is no secret to anyone who reads this blog. I’ve talked about it openly, admitted that I’m my own worst enemy, and have slowly come to a point where I’ve learned to love myself, accept myself, and embrace the person I was created to be.

But that didn’t come easily.

Or without a breakdown.

I owe my snap back to reality, to Megan Fox.

One of the harshest realities that I had to come to terms with when my son was born, was the fact that I would never have my exact pre-baby body back. Sure, I could get back to my pre-pregnancy weight with a lot of hard work and determination. But, as most of your with children know, your body changes shape entirely after having a kid. Things just don’t sit the way that they used to.

It was my first birthday celebration after the birth of my son…

The husband arranged several weeks in advance for our friend and neighbor, Lisa, to watch our baby boy (who was almost 9 months old). He took my shopping for a new dress, new shoes, mani/pedi and a fresh haircut.

I took two hours getting dressed than night. We were living in Florida, so my skin had a sin-kissed tint to it, my naturally brown hair was streaked with blonde from days out by the pool.

I was feeling pretty fabulous. I was back in my favorite pair of pre-pregnancy jeans (a size 5 from Express). I had picked out a coral and cream sundress that had thin halter straps and a cute pair of matching sandals for the occasion.

My husband told me countless times how beautiful I looked that night. When we dropped the baby off at the neighbors house, she even made the comment that Noah might be a big brother sooner than we had imagined if I wore that dress very often. I was beaming.

Proud of myself for losing the weight and getting back in shape. Confident in my appearance.

It was sure to be a good night.

And then the movie started.

We went to see Transformers 2 (which was my choice…I’m a total action/comic book/superhero movie kind of person).

I don’t know if you guys have seen it, but the directors made sure to include lots of screenshots of Megan Fox in all of her size 2, overly tanned, partially fake glory. Shots from below, behind, and, well you get the point.

Within the first 20 minutes of the film, my confidence was shot. My sweet husband, who had done nothing but tell me how great I looked, became the target of my bad mood. I held his hand lifelessly throughout the film, and spent 99% of the movie comparing myself to her. Everything about her screamed “gorgeous” and I felt like a lump sitting in that theater chair.

When the movie was over we went to Chili’s. My mood had turned so foul that I didn’t even want to eat. My husband ordered my favorite appetizer (those fabulous Bacon & Cheddar Fries…yum) and we sipped mixed drinks. He tried to make conversation, tried to be nice and enjoy our night together…

And there, sitting in a little corner booth, I totally lost it.

Cried into my plate (and all over those perfectly good fries). Totally and completely ruining the evening.

My poor husband didn’t know what was going on; what he had done (or hadn’t done) and didn’t know how to control my meltdown.

I knew I had change.

I had to get a grip.

That this was no way to live my life…hanging my head and comparing myself to everyone that walked by.

Especially someone as Photoshopped as Megan Fox.

I made a deliberate decision that night to learn to love myself in spite of, and because of, my “flaws” and imperfections.

A decision I haven’t strayed from since.

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Should I Forget…

Personal

How many of you know someone who has battled Alzheimer’s?

Back in the early 2000’s (can’t remember which year specifically), my grandmother, the one I referred to dearly as “Maw” was diagnosed with the disease. It started slowly, but progressed faster and faster until eventually there was nothing left of the person that she once was. She was a beautiful soul and so full of life. When the disease took over, she spent many of her last days not even remembering who some of her children were.

It was awful to watch her fall apart that way. Every time I went to visit her, it broke my heart just a little bit more to see the person that she once was slipping further and further away.

Alzheimer’s is hereditary. And the fear that some day (though I pray in the very, very, very distant future…if at all) I may find myself falling victim to this disease. I hope that soon we’ll find a cure for it and rid the world of its heartbreak. But if we don’t, I love knowing that I’ll have my blog to look back on and remember my life. Though not as poetic as the works of Allie Hamilton in The Notebook, this little corner of my existence could certainly bring a few memories to mind.

Should I forget…there are a few things that I always want to remember…

……The simple joys of what it felt like to hold my husband’s hand for the very first time that November night. The way the music of Jeff Bates was playing in the background; the air was frigid and cold as we huddled together, sharing the pockets of my North Face jacket. The smell of boiled peanuts and carnival food lingering in the air around us. I want to remember that moment…that second in time, because that’s essentially the very instant that I knew I had met the one I’d been waiting for my entire life.

……The pure excitement and fear that overwhelmed me that second those two pink lines appeared for the first time. Joy, happiness, and gut-wrenching terror at the realization that I was going to be a mom.

……What it feels like to love, and be loved, unconditionally and eternally by someone. Especially when it is the only someone you were ever meant to be with. I waited a long time to meet Josh; worrying and doubting that we would ever find one another. But we did. And despite all of the little moments that work to drive us apart, we’ve grown closer and continue to thrive as a team, day after day.

……What it felt like to hold my precious baby boy in my arms for the very first time. The baby kicks and wiggles that were felt while he was still inside my womb, didn’t even do justice to what that very first instant of skin-on-skin bonding was like. I felt every emotion known to man that second. And I’ve never felt more love flow through my body, heart, soul and mind. Both for my son and for my husband—the wonderful, amazing man who helped bring me my son.

……How Josh and I curl up together, the same way, every single night. Both on our left sides, with my arm wrapped around his chest; his hand placed on top of mine. Every night, without fail, we fall asleep together, our breaths syncing with one another until we both drift off.

……The gentle and natural way that Noah’s little head finds a place on my shoulder whenever I scoop him up. First thing in the morning, with the sleep still in his eyes, he walks to me and says sweetly, “Good Morning, Mommy” before finding my arms and snuggling up for a few more minutes of rest.  His goofy smile, he silly laugh…the way he absolutely and totally completes the life that I’ve been given.

……The softness and smoothness of Noah’s tiny little cheek against mine. Whether we’re cuddling on the couch or wrestling in the floor, he always pauses for a few seconds to love on his mommy. The way his tiny little hand wraps around my finger and his big blue eyes light up whenever the two of us are together. We share a unique bond, my son and me. One that will not never be broken.

Should my memory fail me, in one way or another, I hope that if nothing else I’m able to look back and realize that I was given and blessed with a beautiful life, a happy and healthy family, and all of the love that I could imagine. Things are far from perfect, but the good heavily outweighs the bad. And if this is the outcome of those “hard” times we battle, I’ll take it. Because I can’t imagine life getting any better.

If you knew you were going to lose your memory, what things would you include a letter to yourself?

This post was inspired by Nicole @ In These Small Moments from her post: A Letter to Myself…Things that I Hold Most Dear.

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Why women love “Twilight”

Writing

Unless you were born yesterday, you know what Twilight is. The series of Vampire novels written by Stephenie Meyer that have taken this entire country by storm. Teenage girls swoon at the thought of kissing a vampire and grown women {myself included} stand outside of theatres at midnight to watch the new film release; all while leaving the men in their lives baffled. What is it about this story that has women everywhere so transfixed?

For the teenage girls, it may be nothing more than the wide array of attractive guys that play the lead roles [Robert Pattinson as Vampire  Edward Cullen and Taylor Lautner as Werewolf Jacob Black].  But for a story to effect grown women the way that this one has, there must be something else that gets to them. Something that tugs at our heartstrings and sucks us into Meyer’s world. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and I’ve drawn two conclusions. What keeps us coming back for more and transfixed with this story is the desire for someone to fight for us the way that Edward and Jacob fight for Bella and the desire to be desired.

These two things seem simple. But for anyone who has been in a relationship for an extended amount of time-especially those of us who are married and have added children to the mix-you know that it is easy for romance to dwindle and passion to fade. And I think that these books, these story’s fill that void we feel within our own relationships. First and foremost let me say this: I strongly believe that these voids or whatever you may call them should be identified and discussed with your husband/fiancé/boyfriend. Maintaining the “spark” in a relationship is hard work…but it’s something that each couple should work on within the walls of their own relationship. But I do believe that there are things that all women desire that are found in these books. And, as with any good and well written book, we are able to see our passions and desire played out in other characters in these stories. That being said…ahem.

First, I feel that it’s the desire to be fought for that reels us in. Twilight is not the first book that has used this plot. William Shakespeare beat Stephenie Meyer to the bunch ages ago when he wrote Romeo & Juliet. It’s the same concept. A forbidden love, star crossed lovers who seem heck-bent on fighting fate to be with one another…and that speaks to women as much now as Shakespeare did back then. Women aren’t complicated. Okay…let me rephrase that. Women aren’t as complicated as men make us out to be. We long for someone to love us. Period. We want to be cherished. To be appreciated for all that we are and all that we do. We want someone to be on our side…to pull for us when no one else will, to fight for us when no one else will. And that’s the method Meyer used to capture her older generation. This ordinary girl, Bella, has found this passionate sexy vampire who spends every ounce of his time fighting for her in some way. Fighting against himself not to kill her, fighting against others who are trying to harm her, fighting against his own desires to be with her in order to give her a chance at a normal existence, fighting to get her to marry him. It’s a never ending thing for Edward Cullen. And to many of us, it is beyond grasp. Beyond recognition.

While our husbands spend countless hours pursuing us and fighting for us when they are dating us, trying to reel us in and persuade us to marry them, more often than not once the vows are said and the rings are on, the fighting stops. The passion dies. The desire we feel from our husbands fade. We feel as though we’ve lost the interest of the man that we love. I don’t know about all of you, but I am a hopeless romantic. I always have been. I watched Dirty Dancing at least ten thousand times growing up just so I could hear Patrick Swazey [RIP] say “No one puts Baby in the corner…” Most of us can’t help it. It’s the way God created us. We have an uncontrollable desire to feel and experience passion in our lives. And the storyline of Twilight resonates that within us.

Bella gets not only one man but TWO  who spend days and weeks fighting for the chance to be with her. And for most of us in the “real world” we would just like to see one put in half of the effort that these guys do. And generally that “one” is the guy who’s last name we share…our husbands. Let’s just face it ladies…men can be pretty dense and for most of them, romance just isn’t in their genes. We drop hints about how much we love fresh flowers, we leave magazines open with pictures of jewelry, and unless it’s an anniversary or a birthday, we rarely-if ever-receive a note or a card with anything as simple as I love you written on it. And the undeniable passion shared between Bella and Edward [both physically and emotionally] is enough to send me, and probably most of you, swirling. Many of us haven’t seen that kind of passion in years. That uncontrollable desire to just be with someone. To be near them, to talk to them, to kiss them…that kind of passion dies quickly once marriage commences and our guys feel that they’ve got us hooked.

It’s through stories like Twilight that we are able to experience those things again. I think that is why so many grown and married women enjoy the series. I know that I tend to over-analyze and while it is quite possible that some just enjoy the book [I myself enjoy it as much from a literary perspective as I do anything else], I think most of us, whether we admit it or not, find ourselves enthralled by the storyline and by our own desire to be desired the way that Bella is. Two gorgeous men fighting over her love, each of them battling for her soul…it’s intoxicating. And in a society where four out of five marriages end in divorce and of those four, two of them end due to infidelity; it’s hard to find something exemplifying true and meaningful love to hold onto.

Most of us grew up without marital role models. Many, like my husband, grew up in split families. The sanctity of marriage isn’t there any more and we fear that we will become another statistic. And even if only for just a few minutes a day or a few hours at a time, getting lost in a world where one girl is experiencing a love so deep and so passionate that most of us can’t identify with it, is just the break that we need. The chance to realize that we deserve marriages/relationships like that, and that if we choose to fight for one, it can be within our grasp.

So…there ya’ have it. The reason why women love Twilight. Passion, desire, romance. Simple stuff. Take notes gentlemen. Go to the RedBox and pick up a copy of these films. Your wife…..errr, you will be glad you did. 
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Don’t forget to add your link if you are joining me for No Mom Talk Monday today!! There will not be a No Mom Talk meme next week!

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Acclimating…again

Military Life

I’m really not sure why, but all of my thoughts and creative juices seem to start flowing around 9:00 pm every single night. I would love to be able to lay down and just go to sleep like semi-normal people do. But I can’t. Instead, my mind waits until I can’t hold my eyes open any longer to decide it wants to unwind. Like now…I’m writing this post at 10:50 pm on Monday evening. Why couldn’t my writing mentality and want-to have kicked in about six hours ago? Or even three?

I am a mere days away from reuniting with my husband in California. And despite how unbelievably excited I am to have him home and for our little family to be back together again, I’m secretly [okay, well I guess it isn’t really a secret anymore, is it?] terrified of what’s to come. We have been apart for eight months now. In that eight months, the two of us have changed. We’ve remained faithful and trusting of one another, but I know that I am not the same person that I was when my husband left. And I know that my husband isn’t the same person he was either. And that scares me to death.

Not that I am worried that my marriage is doomed to failure or anything. But, it’s almost a feeling like we are going to be meeting for the first time again or something. Despite having talked on the phone and webcam with one another every single day since he left {something that I am beyond thankful to have been able to do}, it’s not the same as being with someone in person. Hubby and I have led two separate lives for the past several months; lives that were still intertwined, but separate nonetheless. I’ve been here, learning more and more about who I am, what drives me, and what I want to do. I’ve been raising our child pretty much on my own; making choices and decisions using nothing more than my own judgment. I’ve been in charge of all teaching and disciplining aspects of our sons life. I know every move he’s going to make before he makes it. I know what he is saying when he starts talking. I understand his toddler jargon. I’m used to be alone at this point.

Eight months is a long time to spend by yourself. I’ve accustomed to doing everything single handed. I know how much time it takes to get myself and Little Man dressed and out the door. We have patterns and routines that are set for just the two of us. I have grown accustomed to sleeping in the middle of the bed and taking ridiculously long showers because no one else needs to use the hot water. I hog the bathroom. I hog the covers. I don’t make the bed most mornings, because no one is around to fuss about it looking sloppy; and no one is coming home to care. These are all things that I’m going to have to readjust to when Hubby gets home next week.

I admit that I’m scared. Scared that I’ve become somewhat too independent for my own good and won’t know how to let my husband back in. I’m scared that he’ll have experienced things, seen things, done things that I will be completely out of the loop on. I’m scared we’ll feel totally disconnected. I’ll be out there for only two short days before we have to come back home to the “real world” so it isn’t like we are going to have a lot of catch up time. I just wonder if that short amount of time will be enough to regain some sort of connection.

In my heart I know that it will be. And as I sit here and re-read all that I’ve just written, I find myself laughing because I know that it most likely won’t be a huge, major adjustment to acclimate to living with my husband again. It’ll be great to have someone here to share the parenting duties for a change. To have someone other than myself around to take Little Man to the potty or give him a bath or get up with him in the morning so I can sleep late for a change. It is going to be extremely nice to have someone to snuggle up next to in bed for a change. I hate rolling over to that cold spot in the sheets every single night. It’ll be nice to have someone to laugh at the silly things our son does; to share the jokes and the humor with. Those are the tiny things I miss most. To have someone else to help me drag all of our stuff out the door when we decide to spend the day out rambling and shopping. To have someone else around to DRIVE for a change. I’ve driven everywhere for the last eight months and I want a break! Hahaha!

It’ll be nice to have my husband here to hug and kiss and hold hands with. To be able to walk through the mall hand in hand; or to stop and give a kiss just because. Or to be able to tell him something right when I think of it without having to wait for a break in his schedule and class time to tell him…that tends to take the excitement out of something when you have to wait six hours to share it.

Just a few more days…I’m growing more and more impatient by the minute. And of course, this week, this final week before I get to go see him and drag him home, is the first week in five that I don’t have something going on every single day. Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon are the only days booked on my agenda. The rest of the time, it’s just me and the little guy…home with nothing to do but stay warm in this cold weather we’ve gotten.

And wait…

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Marital Strife & Support

Marriage

Still 049 It’s been a while since I wrote a post about marriage. Possibly because for  the last {almost} 8 months, the depth of my marriage has been carried out through a series of phone calls throughout the day, occasional cards and letters, lots of trust & faith, and a countdown widget on my cell phone. No matter, I have pretty strong feelings about relationships and marriage. Maybe because I remember the times in my childhood when my parents fought in front of my sister and I (because they are human and it happens). Maybe it’s because I know what kind of marriages my husband has witnessed…first between his mom and dad, then later between his mom and pathetic excuse for a stepdad.

I was determined when I grew up to not have a marriage of convenience or complacency. And I intend to stick to my guns. Hubby feels the same way. We work hard to keep the romance and the “spark” alive in our relationship. And even though there are times when we drive one another crazy, I wouldn’t trade what we have for anything.

There are times, however, when I really and truly realize how blessed I am.

Blessed to have a husband who supports me; who listens to me; who {usually} pays attention to me when I talk to him; and who supports my dreams and my ambitions. He rarely ever…scratch that…he’s never called me crazy when I told him I wanted to do something. Never doubted me when I shared a dream or a passion with him. He’s always been right there by my side…pushing me, encouraging me, helping me make plans and pursue my goals.

And it breaks my heart to hear about women who aren’t as fortunate.

I grew up during the pop music era-the days before Brittany was bald, Christina was “dirty”, and N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys were the equivalent of present day Justin Bieber. And during that era I {along with about 85 billion other ‘tween’ girls in the country} dreamed of being a Pop Diva. I remember riding down the road one day with my mom and sister. That crazy Wannabe song by the Spice Girls came on and I told my mom that I wanted to be a singer. I remember her looking at me and laughing and asking if I really thought I had the voice to do that.

Now, she was 150% correct because I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. And while, as a parent, I identify with her resounding ideas of helping me shoot for realistic goals, I was hurt. Not that I in any way believe that I would have ever been a singer…but I remember feeling like someone had let all of the air out of my balloon. I didn’t sing out-loud along with the radio for years [which is, unfortunately not a good thing for all of the other ears in my car while riding].

I distinctly remember when Hubby and I met how excited I was and how happy I felt because I had found someone that truly supported and believed in my dreams. Not only that, he pushed me to be better; to be more; to do more. He longs to see my successful and doing what I love, just as I long for those things for him. When I told him I wanted to do photography professionally, he sat down at the computer with me and looked at photography equipment and we started checking out business licenses and talking about marketing. When I talk about wanting to write, he pushes me-sometimes even forces me-to sit down and just DO it.

Even though he’s gone, he reads my blog every day…and when I miss a day or two he asks why I haven’t posted. Even lectures me if I don’t make time to post because he knows how much I love it.

Despite our differences and the fact that we tend to butt heads on occasion, I really am blessed. I’m fortunate to be married to a man like my husband. I’m the kind of person who needs pushing. I need the encouragement. I need the occasional praise to keep me going in productive direction. And my husband gives me that.

Marriage is a partnership…it’s a union, a joint relationship. It’s supposed to be GIVE and TAKE. Not all take…and certainly not all give.

There are certainly times where I feel that I give more and hubby takes more; or he gives more and I take more. Those times are inevitable. But, usually they are during particular periods in life. Periods we anticipate and are willing to sacrifice for, because we care for and love one another.

Like this season we are in now…Hubby is in school pursuing a career and a dream that will better our family and will get him closer to his long-term ambition. And there are sacrifices and things that we have both given up to allow him to get there. There are things that I would most definitely like to be different about the situation I’m in, but I’m dealing with it because I love him, support him and want to see him succeed. And when my time comes to start back to school, he’ll be right there pushing me.

Not really sure what the point to this post was [aside from bragging and praising my husband…which I sometimes feel I don’t do enough on my blog]. But I think it was meant to say that you…me…we all deserve that. We deserve someone who listens. Someone who supports us. Someone who is a cheerleader on our behalf. Not someone who shrugs his {or her…if any men read this} shoulders and just lets us do what we want. To me that isn’t a real marriage. It’s one of convenience. It’s one out of desperation to not be lonely. I’m better than that. You are better than that. No one deserves to feel like what they want doesn’t matter.

And that’s the end of my time on the soapbox. Smile

**{wedding band image credit}

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It’s a Love Story…Part Two

Personal

{If you didn’t read the first part of mine and my husband’s love story, you can find it here!}

I don’t think anyone really and truly believes that life after the “I do” is going to be a fairy tale. I think that we like to try to convince ourselves of that, but who really ever believes that it is possible?

Josh and I honeymooned in Saint Augustine, Florida. We spent hours walking through the little historic town, lounging by the pool, and eating by candlelight. It still feels like yesterday; and I can remember vividly waking in the mornings and eating Toaster Strudel while we sat on our balcony. We were in love. Still are. But, I can honestly say that the love I feel for him now compared to then, is completely different and much, much deeper.

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We knew when we decided to get married that our lives together-especially the initial years-were going to be a test. His re-enlistment in the military meant moving…and definite separation, though how long was unknown. We knew he would be gone for at least 30 days for his Prior Service Training in New Jersey, but the rest was still a mystery. We also never anticipated that I would find out I was pregnant during week number three of our marriage. We didn’t realize that when we found out that I was pregnant, that I was already almost 4 months along [that in itself is an entirely different story…]. We didn’t realize that when Josh returned from New Jersey that he wouldn’t be coming home to a slim, toned young wife. Instead, he’d be returning to a pregnant wife who was showing early.

preggopic

The first six months of our marriage went by in a blur. We moved 400 miles away from our families; he started his new job; we found out we were having a little boy; and in October we became parents. We also quickly went from the anticipated newlywed romance to a day-to-day, barely getting by, and stale marriage. Things were dull. The romance dwindled, and I quickly became more wrapped up in my new duties as a mom than I did in being my husband’s wife. I lost sight of the idea that it was thanks to him (and God, of course) that I even had this beautiful new blessing. I was now mother to his child, but I was putting him last.

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We started to argue a lot, over everything. I went through bouts of serious post-partum depression that went untreated because I thought I could handle it on my own. I became bitter to the fact that he worked and wasn’t at home all day taking care of our child. I was angry with myself for giving up my dreams of becoming a writer and dropping out of college 3 years in so that I could get married and move away. I had a lot of built up tension and frustration that was taking its root in our marriage and causing more problems than I ever imagined. It was my bitterness that pushed my husband away, causing him to become bitter as well. We both picked up bad habits- habits that slowly drained the pureness and simple love that we had shared in the initial months of our relationship.

I remember vividly when God broke my heart and showed me that I needed to mend my marriage. I was watching some chick flick on TV during my sons nap time. I was broken-hearted and crying because I didn’t have that type of ‘love’ that they were so proudly showing in the movie. I began to feel Christ tugging at my heart…whispering softly that I had more than that. I was married to a real man with real love for me. Someone that God himself had chosen to be my soul-mate, my partner, my best friend. But it was my own selfishness and stubborn nature that was causing the pain that I was feeling. I was the one pushing against what God had intended for my husband and I to share.

I picked up my bible and was directed to 1 Corinthians 13. For the first time in a really, really long time, I read and digested what those verses meant. God reminded me right there on the couch that love and marriage were not intended to be easy. It wasn’t created for the faint hearted or for those who didn’t want to work daily at building a relationship; at building trust; and at simultaneously building Faith. I realized that not only were Josh and I drifting from one another, but we were drifting from God as well. And that was the root of our marital downfall.

Over the course of the next several months, we got back in church and began forcing ourselves to make time for one another. We started going on dates (as much as we could with a newborn). And when time didn’t quite allow for dates away from home, RedBox became our best friend. I learned to revamp my idea of marriage and romance, realizing that while flowers, candy and handwritten poetry were fabulous ideas and nice touches for Valentine’s Day, they didn’t exactly coincide with a daily life. I started learning to appreciate the simple things my husband did do-letting me leave for a few hours in the afternoons to go sit at Barnes & Noble and drink coffee; treating me to a mani/pedi after a long week; and allowing me to choose the movie on our movie nights.

When I decided to step back from my idea of what a “perfect” marriage was and embrace God’s idea of a marriage, I saw a huge turn-around in how we loved one another. This same turn-around and mindset is what is getting us through the trial period we are in now. Josh has been in California since April attending HS School through the Coast Guard. He won’t be back with us until the weekend before Christmas. It’s been hard. We’ve had to learn to balance his classes, my being back in Alabama living with family (rather than in a home of my own…which has been a HUGE adjustment), my growing Photography Business, being parents to a two year old, and remain as in love as we can. Again I say that it’s been hard. Our Faith in our marriage, our God, and each other has been stretched and re-stretched. But we persevere. We continue on. Because we’ve learned that the best kind of love and the strongest kind of love is one that was created and placed in our lives by God. And it’s one that is worked at daily.

You see, our love story is one that is continuing to be written. It’s nowhere near complete. I am living with this idea daily when I wake up, hear his voice and am reminded of what a lucky woman I am. And we all know he’s a lucky man. 😉 The love story we choose for our lives, is one that is written by the Master Author himself. And I would not have that any other way.

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© 2019 • Courtney Kirkland • Writer, Designer, Creative

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courtney kirkland

live life known.