marriage

Why Your 20s Might Be the Hardest Decade of Your Life

Dear young women,

Have you had any of these thoughts recently?

  • My children will surely turn out to be hoodlums because they are completely immune to my parenting efforts. And they might never actually be potty trained.
  • My career is in the toilet. I went to school for six years, accumulated a mortgage-worthy amount of debt, and now I work in a gray cubicle answering the phone all week long.
  • I will never have enough money in the bank to cover these bills, let alone the vacation/house/car/other-terrific-thing I want to have.
  • My romantic life is doomed.

While these things might in fact be true right now, I have a word of encouragement for you.

What you’re experiencing right now is most likely due to your current age, not your destiny.

It’s just that you’re in your twenties and life sucks right now. You’re probably out from your parents’ protective wing, you’re trying to do all the grown up things you’ve been trained to expect, and you’re finding them hard and awful and terrible and very, very expensive.

Also exhausting. We can’t forget the soul-sucking exhaustion that clouds your mind.

You women in your twenties are currently working your adorable behinds off, but it’s still way too early to see any encouraging fruit. You’re changing diapers and getting re-pregnant (I swear that’s a thing), and you’re cooking dinners that small people throw across the room.

The money is tight, if there’s any money at all.

Your marriage is new and fresh and often really uncomfortable, like a pair of jeans just pulled out of six hours in the dryer.

The work is hard. The ability to see the reward is mostly absent and the harvest is a long way off.

The work you’re doing right now will pay off, but it might take a while to see the results.

“A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions,” he said (Matthew 7:17-20).

In this passage from Matthew, notice that Jesus mentions fruit on a tree, not cucumbers on a vine. Trees and fruit take a long time until harvest, which is sort of comforting when your two-year old is throwing a tantrum and you are thinking that perhaps you’re raising a future lunatic and not a responsible human being. Maybe what we see right now isn’t the final product.

Hopefully.

Good trees eventually produce good fruit. You are a good tree, if you’re faithfully seeking to obey God by living a Christ-honoring life. Are you reading the Bible? Are you focusing on who Christ is, what he means to your life, and then asking the Holy Spirit to change your heart? Then you’re a good tree. Your eventual fruit will be AMAZING.

But when you’re in an early season of planting, it’s almost impossible to remember the future good harvest. Especially if your planting season involves pregnancy AND a toddler AND a junky car AND an empty bank account.

Girls, you’re totally doing it.

Don’t lose hope. Just look for your very own resident forty-year old. Notice that she’s quietly drinking a latte while her children intelligently discuss North Korean politics text their friends about YouTube. Notice that she feels okay about life most days, or at least okayer about life than she did when she was your age.

Children eventually grow into fabulous human beings because you’re raising them with love and patience (usually).

Your marriage can stretch and grow over time. The more you invest in loving one another well, the more you’ll enjoy the whole experience as the years pass.

Eventually your finances should level off, as long as you’re sticking to some basic wisdom about saving and spending and living within your means. I know it seems hopeless right now, but I promise all the money sacrifices will be worth it one day.

The fruit will come. You’re doing what it takes to get there, and we’re cheering for you.

 

 

The day my husband suggested closing the door might be a viable alternative to a home renovation project

My laundry room causes me mild levels of despair. Here, see for yourself:


There’s nothing specifically wrong with it, unless you’re not into bare studs and exposed insulation.

And let’s not forget that one naked lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. Some people might NOT FIND THAT ALL TOO BEAUTIFUL, maybe.

For heaven’s sake…

But all things considered, it could be worse. It’s dry, it’s relatively warm, and has electric and water going to the important places. I can’t complain, but I also can’t escape the gloom that creeps up on me every time I go in there.

I made the fatal mistake of looking for laundry room ideas on Pinterest. WHY. Why do I do this to myself? Because of course I found examples like this one:

photo courtesy of Pinterest and homebunch.com

And this one:

photo courtesy of Pinterest and estestinc.com

Good grief, America. We’ve lost our minds. Who needs a chandelier in the laundry room?That’s just too far.

A few nights ago I went for a walk and could see  into my neighbors’ laundry rooms. Most of them are bare and functional like our house, but some of the owners have upgraded to actual walls and flooring. The wheels in my head started turning.

After stalking my neighbors’ choices in a very creepy fashion, I stood in the basement and tried to imagine it with drywall and more than one pitiful lightbulb– less fancy than the American Laundry Monstrosities pictured above, but better than the utilitarian setup we have. It was a nice little idea, I thought. I got a little excited and then dragged Eric into the room to enjoy my vision with me.

Eric’s logical mind took one good hard look around the room. He pointed out the obvious things I was overlooking, like ducts and pipes and electrical outlets. “How do you even get around those things?” he dared to ask out loud. Even though he could tell his wife was unhinged with visions of laundry room glory.

I don’t even know what this is. Maybe the water connection to the hose?

Obviously the room was plumbed and wired by people who cared not a whit about the poor fools who would need to finish the walls after them. “Not my problem, Kemosabe,” seemed a likely phrase bandied about by tradesman as they installed permanent objects one inch out from the wall studs.

Good grief, guys. Could we let up on the foamy insulation stuff just a wee bit?

Since paying a professional to drywall the utility room this year clearly isn’t in the budget, we’re stuck. Eric looked at me calmly and suggested, “Why don’t you just close the door? Then you can’t see in here.”

I blinked at him, searching for a response I wouldn’t regret later. And on my way out of the room, I shut the door behind us. The very aggravating thing is that the man’s right– if the door’s closed, the problem goes mostly away.

I mean, yes, the despair and gloom reappear as soon as I step foot in there, but it’s not like laundry is my 24/7 job. I get to go to other places in the house, too. All places far less gloomy than this basement, I might add.
But for now, shutting the door just saved us about $53,292,765 in renovation costs, by my rough estimate. I guess I’ll have to be okay with it.

See? The problem disappears.

 

Let me explain how this marriage works.

A casual observer into my marriage would assume, because I’m the noisy one, that I run the show. They’d see me flapping my lips and my arms and hopping from room to room, coming up with all manner of ideas for our family and also shouting my opinion rather ceaselessly.

They’d see Eric calmly watching the circus that is his wife, and might incorrectly assume that he’s passively letting me do whatever I want.

No.

Not even a little bit.

The man is a ROCK. He is IMMOVABLE. I could pick up my van with my bare hands and heft it to the next city before I could get Eric to do something he doesn’t want to do.

That’s how this marriage works, dear reader. It’s my job to come up with a terrible, ridiculous idea (or two) literally every single day.

It’s his job to deflect that terrible idea every single day. On a weekend when we’re both together and I have more free time, he might literally have to tell me no or stare me down from sunrise to sunset, which is when he finally hands me a glass of wine to quiet me down.

For example, I tried to move our family of four into a tiny house. This assault lasted over a year.

Seriously. Now I want one all over again! (Photo courtesy of hgtv.com)

For example, I tried to talk him into moving to Dubai last month.

Come on, honey! We could get a camel! (Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.com)

For also example, I also tried to talk him into buying a $400,000 lake house when he refused the Dubai idea.

I present my ideas and flutter my eyelashes and wait for him to acknowledge that I’m a genius. He waits a moment, phrasing his answer just so, and then gently points out the logic that renders my plan unworkable. “Your logic is ruining my day!” I shout in his direction. He smirks.

I’m sure the man must be exhausted. But I also think he’s amused and finds this circus endlessly entertaining, so he lets it roll onward.


And here’s the thing– I don’t actually feel bad about this dynamic in our marriage. If I didn’t come up with a hundred terrible ideas, I probably wouldn’t get around to the sparkling, amazing, stupendous ideas, either. One of us needs to be dragging us forward, and the other one needs to be the brakes so we don’t run straight off the cliff into a tiny lake house in Dubai.

I know that from outward appearances, my attempts at being a wife probably fail every litmus test for submission, quietness, gentleness, or self control. But deep on the inside, I know my husband. I know when I’ve crossed the line from fun-wife to poopy-head-wife. Out of respect for him, I try to stay on the fun side of that line.

And out of love for me, he does occasionally concede that an idea might be a good one, and we move forward. Cautiously. Oh, so cautiously.

I firmly believe there’s no one perfect kind of marriage. Just like with good parenting, there are lots of ways to have a great relationship. And really, outward appearances count for little. What goes on during the quiet afternoons, the early mornings, and the long car rides– when it’s just the two of you working it all out together– counts more than failing to live up to standards that have nothing to do with you two as people.

“You be you,” as our thirteen year-old says. Your marriage is what you make of it, good and bad, just like we individual humans are what we make of ourselves. Even if what we make of ourselves is kind of crazy, with really terrible ideas.

This is how a marriage works. May our relationships flourish and grow as we care for one another in our deeply individual ways.

 

 

 

Of grace, and minivans, and marriage

We had a bone of contention in our marriage for about a decade.

I wanted a minivan and I wanted one with all my heart and soul and mind.

My husband felt like a minivan would be the stamp of death upon his heart and soul and mind.

And so it went for years and years.

Two years ago I started a new job and said, “I’m getting a van, good sir.” My good sir saw the fire in my eyes and the actual money from my paycheck and finally gave in. Also, it helped that our car at the time was a pitiful wreck, full of melted crayons and smashed goldfish crackers and a transmission that was about to die.

We found the perfect van for our family and budget and I gloried in it for two years. I put the seats down and hauled home furniture. I put the seats up and hauled around people. We took it on vacation and stuffed it full of all manner of junk.

grace-minivan-marriage

 

But after some time, I had more trouble than I cared to admit. I was afraid to back it out of the garage because the dang van is a bit too wide and I knew I was running the real risk of ripping off a mirror. One day, while carefully monitoring the mirror, I got too close to the lawn mower and ran that over instead.

It’s almost fine. Barely crushed at all.

We will not discuss how I now park waaaaay far out in the store parking lots, simply because I’m not skilled enough to fit it into narrow spaces next to other cars.

And lately I find myself alone in a huge, room sized vehicle. The kids are in school and are far too old for car seats and strollers and all the other things that make minivans delightful. I mean, I guess I could have a few more kids and then fill the minivan back up, but I don’t think that’s the real solution I’m looking for, here.

And so, I looked my husband in the eye and said, “It’s time to sell this thing.”

To his everlasting credit, he didn’t laugh at me. He didn’t smirk, or giggle, or even say I told you so.

He did, however, immediately pull up the car listings on the internet and start looking for a new vehicle.

This whole example feels a little silly, but it’s a beautiful thing to offer grace to a spouse. To give in and let her have the thing she’s wanted for a long time, no matter how much you hate it.

To humbly admit to him that the thing you wanted for so long isn’t as glorious as you thought it would be.

To not mock her when she says she’s actually like to drive the ancient Corolla instead of the roomy van.

To not say a single word about the wobbly wheel on the crushed lawnmower, even.

Grace, minivans, marriage.

Amen.

 

Excitement and Panic

Things are exciting around this joint, I tell you. The new walls are finally getting some paint, and the kids are back in school with a full social schedule, and my book’s publication date is finally growing near. It has been so far off, forever, that it seemed probable that it would never actually arrive.

But just like any huge event that lurks in the distance, the date eventually arrives. There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in my Purse will be published in the beginning of March. Just this week I got an email from the publicity department asking me for all sorts of details that they will use to publicize the book far and wide. This caused me some mixed emotions. On one hand I feel excitement from the top of my little red-head to the tips of my tiny little toes. (All the parts in the middle are much larger, I’m afraid. I just have a little head and little toes. Genetics are such a beast.)

Here I present my tiny little toes. Just for you. Because I love you all.
Here I present my tiny little toes. Just for you. Because I love you all.

On the other hand, sheer panic stung right through me when I sat down to fully comprehend what is about to happen. You know that feeling when someone drags you on a roller coaster, and you finally reach the top of the first hill? You look down and you think, “Oh, dear. Dearie, dearie, dear.” You aren’t sure you’re ready, but you know you’re strapped in to a moving cart someplace near the clouds. Getting out is not an option. So you sit tight and hope that no one dies.

No one is going to die, here. I’m quite certain. But I am wrestling with a similar sort of panic. And to top it off, I’ve started a new book proposal. Since the first book is about parenting, I thought it might be a nice complement for the second book to be about marriage. I have an outline, and Scripture chosen, and a few good reference books waiting. But the more I write, the less this book is about marriage. So far I have 4,500 words written on how not to be a selfish idiot. Anyone who has ever been married or in any other human relationship knows that this is a good place to start a book, but still. The more I write the more confused I become.

I take comfort in knowing this has happened before, and it will happen again. Life is confusing. We struggle. We wrestle. And by and large, if we do not give up, that struggling and wrestling works some sort of magic and the process moves along. Things become clear again. We see the end result.

We aren’t the only ones who wrestle, either. Jacob wrestled with God. John the Baptist struggled with doubt. Jesus struggled in prayer before He died. If these godly men had to work out their faith and get through a difficult process, I can do the same.

But what do you all think—should I go for the marriage book, or the do-not-be-a-selfish-idiot book?

This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

“What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” (Genesis 32:24-28, NLT)