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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Get-Away

Giddy. Excited. Butterflies. Primping. I remember those feelings as a teenager getting ready for a big date. Friday afternoon as I was showering, I was thankful to realize that I still feel all of those things when I am getting ready for a date with my husband of nearly 17 years. I still get excited about going away with him. I am still giddy, even knowing that I got the guy.

Our evening began with a less than stellar event. We were about two blocks from the house when we heard a very loud, "Kerthump," and the car stalled out. I have been through this twice before, both times alone in a mini van full of children on a major highway in Fort Worth. So I say, "Transmission. Crap." My husband throws it into reverse, the only way the suburban would still drive. We returned home by backing down the street, circling the cul-de-sac, and backing into the driveway. I couldn't help laughing about driving in reverse. It struck me as funny. I didn't see Shawn laughing.

We grabbed the keys to the other car and headed out again, determined not to be side tracked from our amazing evening. As we neared Dallas, Shawn let me choose where to eat. I debated about Olive Garden, but finally suggested The Magic Time Machine. We had heard such good things about it from friends. My bad!

1. They seated us in a narrow walkway so that people couldn't get past Shawn, so we had to ask for a different table. Hello- don't seat large people in tiny thorough-fares. It's embarrassing to have to say, "I'm too big to sit here."
2. Our waiter, Prince Charming, was less than charming. He repeatedly told us he was paid crap, his job was crap, and he didn't bother refilling our drinks.
3. The food sucked. My chicken parmesan was rubbery - you know how chicken is when it's been microwaved too long. I had a better chicken parmesan last week in a Lean Cuisine meal. For less than $3. Shawn's shrimp was tough and slightly freezer burnt. The food was bad enough that we could not even manage to finish our food.
4. Shawn mentioned the bad food to our waiter. He rolled his eyes and said, "I get that alot." REALLY!

To fully understand this experience, you have to know that Shawn loves good food. As in, he absolutely adores it. When he eats really good food, he makes rather loud happy noises. (Think "When Harry Met Sally") When he eats bad food, well, it's not pretty. His evening was pretty much ruined at that point. His favorite part of Valentine's Day, by far, is the good food. There was no redemption of the evening for him.

We spent the night at The Westin, a really nice hotel in Dallas. I was excited that it was an improvement over last year's microtel. They were even playing Norah over the speakers in the lobby. I enjoyed staying in the nice hotel, and we had a great breakfast from Panera on the way home this morning. Over all, it was not one of our best getaways (transmission and bad food kind of sucked it up). However, it was still better than last year's WinStar and Microtel. It was good to spend time alone with my husband.

Maybe next year we should just send the kids away and eat our own really good food cooked in our own kitchen and sleep in our own bed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Week

"What? You wanted a card? Why didn't you say so? You could have picked one up at the store. I would have signed it for you." Meet my husband - about 7 years ago on Valentine's Day. He was not romantic. He wasn't necessarily unloving, he just didn't "get it" about how to love a woman. He assumed that I knew he loved me just because he had married me many years ago. For example, on our 10th anniversary he offered to swing by the drive-through at Taco Bell.

Expectations can destroy a relationship. I had huge expectations about getting swept off my feet. I believed the Hollywood and Disney version of marriage. I absolutely expected "Happily Ever After." When I married, I expected to get blown away by romance. I thought my husband would always gaze at me with goo goo eyes. I thought he would wow me daily with romantic gestures. Then real life hit pretty hard. We were swamped with ministry, we had kids, and life was busy.

My husband had huge expectations as well. He expected "Leave it to Beaver." He thought that a loving wife always had supper on the table. She kept a perfect house, handled the children patiently, and allowed her hard-working husband to come home at night to his castle, prop his feet up in his favorite chair and watch T.V. in silence. Was he in for a shock! I stunk at all those things. I am well known for kitchen fires when I cook, I hate to clean, and I was not cool with my husband disengaging in the evening and ignoring me and the kids.

For many years we were both extremely dissatisfied with our relationship. I will say that my husband was the first to make an effort to change. My husband has learned in recent years how to love me. The way that I understand love is not necessarily the way that he naturally expresses love. It takes hard work on his part. That's what makes it so beautiful. For example, he now does Valentine's week instead of just Valentine's Day. I look forward to this holiday all year.

This year Shawn has written me a love letter every day. He has spent each day writing to me about why he finds me beautiful. The letters have addressed physical traits, personality traits, and spiritual traits. As with most women, I struggle with my self worth. It is refreshing and touching to know that my husband dwells on my beauty and thinks about me during the day. (Read - I cried a lot when I read the letters)

There have been gifts and special meals and candy, but I think the most touching gift was a music download. After I was asleep the other night, Shawn stole my phone and added new music. Some was just fun, but he added a song that he thinks describes who I have become. I didn't know what to expect when I listened, but I was honored beyond words. You see, he downloaded Leeland's "Tears of the Saints". It's a song about doing whatever it takes to reach the hurting and the damaged and the lost.

Tonight we celebrate Valentine's Day. He has arranged the baby sitter, made the reservations, and all I have to do is pack my suitcase and show up. This is a man who is living proof that you can learn how to be romantic. It can be an acquired skill if you are willing to work hard to love your wife.

I work much harder now as well at loving my husband. It is still true that I rarely cook, but I do try a little harder to clean the house. But I have also learned to build my husband up with my words. I have learned that he needs me to be impressed with him and to express that openly. I have learned about unconditionally respecting him in public, and also when we are alone. I have learned to speak to him in ways that communicate my needs and desires, without yelling, or being accusatory.

I firmly believe that with a lot of hard work and a lot of God's grace, we have discovered a love that is much better, deeper, and stronger than the "happily ever after" I was looking for.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Morning Update 2.8.10

God was certainly present at The Crossroads yesterday. I am blown away every week as more and more people pour in. Families continue to come who have never been to church, or who were burned badly years ago, or who have simply fallen out of the habit of attending since they have moved to Anna. This week we hit another record attendance. We had 66 people just in children's! That number has doubled since September.

Shawn did a great job with a sermon on tithing. I love how he focuses on how tithing is an opportunity to be a part of God's plan. He doesn't discuss budget shortfalls, or try to guilt people into giving. I liked that he met people where they were on giving. Many people that we are reaching have maxed out their credit cards, bought a home they cannot afford, drive vehicles out of their price range, and are drowning in debt. Shawn told people that he thinks they can give 10 percent, but if they just absolutely can't do that to begin with a smaller number. If you think you can give 1 percent, then stretch yourself and give 2. Then at the end of the year, raise that number. Don't not give just because you can't give 10 percent.

Of course, I bawled like a baby. Shawn shared one of the many amazing stories of God's provision from our early marriage. We were in school full time, paying our own way. He was on staff at a church that was paying a very small part time salary. One week we ran out of food. I'm sure there were a few staples in the cabinet, but we did not have anything left to cook for a meal. We could not go to the store until payday, but we thought "people fast for 3 days all the time, we are not going to starve." We went to a meeting at church that night and Butch Sorters, a man that was not a close friend at the time, approached us at the end of the meeting and invited us home for supper. His wife was furious with him when we showed up. Her house wasn't clean, and they were just eating hamburger helper, or something similar. She enjoyed visiting with us, but she was bothered by not having prepared for company.

After we ate, Butch offered us some food from their freezer. We saw God very literally meet our need. Butch had no idea that we had run out of money and had no food left to eat. He had never invited us over and actually never invited us again. But on that night, he was obedient when God told him to invite us to eat. Even though he knew the house wasn't clean. Because he obeyed, we were not hungry. It makes me wonder how often I miss out on meeting other people's needs when I refuse to be hospitable because my house is messy. That night, we did not care that their house wasn't perfect. We were grateful beyond words that God was feeding his hungry children.

Worship was beautiful this week. God spoke volumes to me as we worshiped. It is beyond my comprehension that the God who created the oceans, the mountains, and the stars, wants and values a very intimate and personal relationship with me.

As you read this, spend a few minutes in prayer for The Crossroads. We have several families who have been hit hard this week. Spiritual warfare is a very real thing. I am burdened heavily this morning for a family in a major crisis. Pray that God will protect them from evil, and that He will bring peace and protection to their household.