Tag: husband

Be Still

MarriageParenting

We have made several posts so far that talk about or relating to the tragic birth experience with our twins. Today I want to turn to another unique and eventful birth. As with every birth, the Lord worked in a great and powerful way in our family. Truly, the arrival of every one of our four children was a unique and eventful experience, but this particular one is both a great memory and a great lesson. Those who know us personally have heard elements of this story before, and a version of the account given below was posted to the website of our previous church in San Antonio.

On a Wednesday morning, my wife woke me up at 4:20 AM with the words that every expectant father both fears and rejoices in: “My water broke!” Now, this was a bit early, as she was a few days shy of being full term (only 36.5 weeks) and we had already been sent home from the hospital a couple days prior with a false alarm. She yelled this delightfully frightening phrase while in the shower trying to ease her back pain and woke me out of a dead sleep. I had heard repeatedly that labor can go on for hours after the water breaks, but we lived about 45 minutes from the hospital, so I did my best Superman impression and got changed lightning fast. I helped her out of the shower after a contraction and she went to sit on the toilet.

At 4:22 I called our friend down the street to come watch our then-19-month-old son while we went to the hospital. Sara called me in and said to forget trying to get there on our own; she felt the baby would be there soon and said to call EMS unless I wanted to deliver our son in the car on the way there. I walked back into the bedroom to continue dressing and simultaneously call 911.  She then yelled at me again saying that we weren’t going to make until they arrived. This boy was coming NOW!

At this point, my calm and collected demeanor vanished like darkness after turning on a light and I instantly became the sitcom dad frantically running back and forth trying to call 911. Unfortunately, the operator could not understand my hysterical “THE BABY IS COMING!!!” Another contraction came and his head was now crowning. Now I’m really panicked…I threw the phone (forgot to hang up of course) and went into full panic mode. I just wasn’t prepared for this! I never expected anything like this to happen us! Truth be told, my panic was more about having to deliver the baby myself and messing up in a big way. Our first baby got stuck AND had the cord wrapped around his neck. What was I going to do if that happened again?!?

In another instant, it sank in that I was going to have to do this; there was just no way around it. I mentally zoned in (still terrified of course) and helped her to the floor and leaned her back. We were going to deliver this baby right there on our bathroom floor. A contraction came and his head popped out; all I could see below that was umbilical cord. As I said, our first baby had the cord wrapped around his neck and that was quite an ordeal at the hospital so I was panicking just a little bit more now. I was able to simply push it aside and off his shoulder. Whew! Two extremely short contractions later I was holding my son, Jonah, and the majority of the panic and anxiety was gone. Just eight short minutes after waking, we had gone through what felt like an entire day’s trial. My wife then picked up the phone and very calmly explained what had just happened to the 911 operator (who had apparently been listening to the whole thing) while I checked Jonah out and wrapped him up for Momma. The EMS got there about 20 minutes later and we went to the hospital to get everything checked out.

Almost four years later, Jonah is just fine. He is an incredibly sweet, and of course rambunctious, little boy that loves without reservation. There were no complications or serious ailments whatsoever. Of the million things that could have gone wrong with such a set of circumstances, not one of them did. God truly showed Himself and kept them both safe while guiding me to do what I needed to. Psalm 46 in particular came to mind after all the chaos had dissipated:

1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

God reminded me in this moment that there was no reason to panic in the first place. There was no reason to fear at all because He was still in control. We had been praying to have a safe, healthy, and normal pregnancy this time. I believe God answered that prayer, but not in the way we expected. He was telling us that it doesn’t matter how the pregnancy goes or ends; He’s still in control and holds us in His hands. “Calm down. I’ve got you my child,” He says. God will certainly not give you more than He will enable you to handle. You may not (or probably won’t) be able to handle life’s challenges on your own, but He will give you what you need to get through the trial. I had no false impressions on my lack of training and ability to deliver a baby (not to mention my weak stomach for blood and bodily fluids) and that’s why I went into panic mode. However, when you realize that God the Almighty who created heaven and earth, who moves seas and mountains by His Word, and loves you so much He died for you, is standing next to you; there’s no reason to fear at all. The greatest assurance we can have on this earth is knowing that those who love and trust the Lord can depend on His provision and that regardless of the outcome, He is in control and works all things for our benefit (Rom 8:28).

Thinking back to this day, I have come to believe that God’s closeness and watch care were instrumental in the way we handled ourselves in the OR when Luke and Asher were born. I was able to pray and sing in the midst of devastation, because I knew God was there taking care of everything. As I sit here and write this, it has become so clear why Jonah and Asher share such a special connection. When a challenge or trial bulldozes its way into your life and you have the urge to panic, I hope you’ll take the time to be still and recognize that God is right there with you.

Satan’s Darts – Wednesday Edition

Bible/TheologyMatt's Musings

Do you ever have those days where one thing after another seems to chip away at your ability to have a nice, relaxing, joy-filled day? It’s like there’s something trying to get you to stumble or give up on trying to have that picture-perfect family and church life. Well…there is and they call him the Adversary, aka Satan. 1 Peter 5:8 informs us of his M.O. (that’s modus operandi for those of you who like Latin; i.e. how he operates):

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”

Now, 1 Peter is specifically written to Christians (see 1 Pet 1:1-2), so that tells me he’s more ragingly interested in attacking believers than he is non-believers. As many good preachers remark, if he can’t keep you out of heaven he’ll do everything he can to get you to ruin your testimony so you can’t help other people in. His best tool in keeping people out of heaven is an ineffective Christian with a poor testimony.

I’ve come to understand that the stronger your faith is and the harder you try to live for God and do His will, the harder Satan works to ruin you. Ephesians 6:16 gives us his preferred method for taking down earnest Christians:

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”

He’s like a petulant child lobbing rocks at you from a distance just to get you to react! He wants to break your spirit and make you lash out in anger and frustration. I don’t know about you, but this usually happens to me on Sundays and Wednesdays…when I’m supposed to be in church ministering and being an encouragement to others. Try teaching about biblical parenting with patience after you’ve given your kids a thorough tongue-lashing. It feels like you’re holding up a giant “I’m a hypocrite!” sign.

I recently had such a Wednesday where Satan was lobbing fiery dart after fiery dart:

– My workday was filled with people not doing their jobs or constantly asking me how.

– I was stewing (maybe obsessing) over the potential of getting some bad news from a medical test the day prior.

– Our 8-month-old preemie was being super cranky and feverish. We suspected teething, but he was just generally not a happy camper.

– Our 2-year-old suddenly developed a 102 fever – there went church for the night.

– Our 3- and 5-year olds were being rambunctious (as small boys tend to be) and incredibly loud trying to talk over the other two who were crying.

– The dog was scratching at the door constantly wanting out (unless she wanted in, of course).

– Dinner was chaotic and all the kids wanted something different.

– Sara dealing with a very rude billing department over the mountain of medical bills we’ve accrued over the last year. I was trying to keep the chaos down for her but it wasn’t going so well.

Man…it was just one thing after another and I was on the verge of having a rather loud and animated meltdown. I sat at the top of the stairs watching the chaos below and listening to the chaos in the bedroom where my wife had retreated so she could hear someone being rude to her over the phone. I just sat there…wondering how an evening could go so sour when I was trying so hard to do the right things for everyone and get to church.

Then Ephesians 6:16 hit me and it all made sense. I was being pelted with fiery darts and I had to either decide to rage out over it or make some lemonade. The cool thing about Ephesians 6:16 is in the first part of the verse where Paul tells us exactly what to do about the darts: “Above all, [take up] the shield of faith.”

Above all…more important than the belt of truth…more important than the breastplate of righteousness…more important than the gospel of peace and helmet of salvation…that shield of faith is the most important piece of armor because it’s what helps you withstand the fiery darts that are meant to make you ineffective in your Christian walk. Hallelujah! I had the perfect lemonade maker and all I had to do was pick it up (why I wasn’t holding it already is the subject of another post on spiritual readiness…)! Here’s how I used it…

First, I picked up each of my kids one-by-one and loved on them and a peaceful calm settled in. Maybe they figured out they didn’t need to yell and whine to get my attention or maybe I was just more calm because I recognized they weren’t being bad…they were being kids. I didn’t need to explode on them and provoke them to wrath; I needed to nurture them (Eph 6:4).

Next, I decided to be more intentional with them the rest of the night. Ellie got a couple more bedtime songs. The boys got an extra book and Bible story. By the time the bedtime routines were done, everyone was full of smiles and “I love you’s.”

As is normal, Sara was still getting the baby down when I was finished with the other kids, so I cleaned up the kitchen for her and got my breakfast ready for the morning while I watched some Star Trek (hey…don’t judge me…everyone is geeky about something).

I didn’t get to go to church, but I got to enjoy the family that God blessed me with. Here’s the thing, though; it didn’t happen by deciding that I wasn’t going to let the chaos and disappointments bother me. It happened by choosing to love everyone else instead of loving myself (i.e. selfishly concentrating what was not going right for me). It happened by putting God back in the center of everything where He belongs. That is essentially the core of how God wants us to go about life while here on this earth (Matt 22:35-40).

If you’re a Christian, rest assured that Satan is coming after you and doing whatever he can to trip you up. He’s lobbing those fiery darts your way. If you’re not carrying your shield of faith and prioritizing God in your life, your guard will be down and those darts will be free to hit you right in the face. Without centering your life on your faith in God, your priorities and desires will be off the mark and it will be easier for the Adversary to throw you off balance and get you to sin.

Next time you’re having a dart-filled day, remember to pick up your shield and resist the Devil; and I promise that he will flee from you (James 4:7).

Love Banking

Marriage

As part of my reading habits, I try to go through a variety of different kinds of books over the course of a year. One of the kinds of books I try to read at least one of during the year is on marriage and relationships. I know that I am far from the perfect husband, but it is the bar that I have set for myself because it is the standard that Christ as set for us (Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 3:7). I’ve adopted somewhat of an NFL mindset for marriage:  it’s a physically and emotionally exhausting game of strategic combat where you have to match your opponent’s tactics to exploit their weakness so you can score and do an obnoxious dance in their face. NO! Not at all! It’s something you have to strive to get better at continually.

I read and watch a fair amount of pro football news and there is one phrase (or version of it) that is almost guaranteed to show up in most player or coach interviews:  “get better and better each and every day.” Grammar aside…they are undoubtedly committed to their craft and even though they are at the elite level of what they do, they know that there is always room for improvement in even the smallest and seemingly insignificant areas.

For some reason, when it comes to marriage, we often get comfortable with the status quo when things are going well. For some reason, we think that the lack of complaints or corrections from our spouse means we’ve got this marriage thing figured out. “Hey, she’s not yelling at me so I must be doing it right!” Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. We will never reach perfection as long as we are living in these sin-cursed bodies; so there will always be room for improvement. You may not be as analytically driven as me, but I encourage everyone to adapt some type of purposeful effort to continuously improve for your spouse.

As I said, in my effort to be a better husband, I try to read a marriage- or relationship-oriented book at least once a year. There are a couple of excellent books I have come across that share a common thread:  His Needs, Her Needs by William F. Hartley and The 5 Love Languages for Men: Tools for Making a Good Relationship Great by Gary D. Chapman (any of his 5 Love Languages books will probably share this idea). That common thread is the idea of love banking. They each have somewhat of a different take on how to fill it up, but the general concept is the same. Essentially, our relationships are built and sustained by making deposits into your spouse’s love account. William Hartley talks about making deposits by meeting your spouse’s needs whether they are physical, mental, or emotional while Gary Chapman discusses it in terms of showing your spouse love in ways that they understand and makes them feel loved. The approaches are very similar and have some significant overlap. Both, in my opinion, are greatly helpful in understanding how to keep your spouse’s love bank full.

Over seven years of marriage, this is something I have had to make an intentional effort to get better at, and I’m still working on. If your needs or love languages are different from your spouse’s (and chances are high that they are), it will take extra effort on your part to make these deposits and make them consistently. We all have this natural tendency to show love in the ways that we want to be loved rather than how our spouse wants to be loved. When you do that, though, it actually works against you and drains the love bank you’re trying so hard to fill. Your spouse gets frustrated because what you are doing is not resonating with them and no love deposits are being made. In turn, you get confused and frustrated because all of your efforts seem to count for nothing.

Learning to love your spouse in the way(s) that they want to be loved can be difficult and feel really unnatural and forced at first, but the effort is well worth it.  I have discovered that Sara and I have very little in common in terms of needs and love languages. For example, she has a strong need for compliments and verbal encouragement. Gary Chapman calls this the “words of affirmation” love language. Unfortunately, I grew up with a single father who was generally non-verbal in that category, and so it rarely crossed my mind that such things would have to be spoken. When we began to work through these differences and I started to understand her need, it felt so awkward trying to compliment or comment on things like how clean the kitchen is or how great her new eye shadow looks. In my mind, I was thinking, “She knows I’m only saying something because that’s what she wants me to do to make her feel good.” One day it hit me…well, yeah that’s the whole point! There are a lot of people that like to have their feet rubbed but there aren’t many that actually like to rub feet! Yet, a foot rub usually gets described as an act of love and devotion because it is born out of a selfless desire to do something that will make the other person feel good. So what if whatever makes her feel good and loved feels awkward to me?

If my goal is to make deposits into her love bank, then how gleeful I am when writing the check is largely irrelevant. Every time I spend large amounts of money on something, I cringe and get an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I go ahead and spend the money anyway because I know I will enjoy whatever it is I’m buying. It doesn’t matter if I feel awkward about commenting on clean floors or telling Sara how awesome she is for being more considerate and thoughtful than me. I know that I will enjoy her smile and uplifted spirit even more.

Whatever it is, I promise that normalizing the habit of loving your spouse in the way they want is worth every effort. If you haven’t had a sit-down conversation with your spouse about needs or love languages, it is something I highly recommend. Both of the books I mentioned above have resources (included and/or available) to help you get those discussions started and to work through them.

Beyond that, here is one final word of eternal truth…you can only control your own determination to love the right way. You can’t do anything about your spouse’s decision to reciprocate. The natural question that usually comes up is, “What if my spouse won’t meet my needs or speak my love language?” More often than not, your efforts will not go unreturned. If it does, that shouldn’t deter you from continuing to give it your best effort. Despite what the secular world will tell you, marriage is not a 50/50 endeavor.

At my grandparents’ 50th anniversary celebration, we asked them what they believed was the biggest factor in the success and longevity of their relationship. Without hesitation, my grandfather said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “It’s not about meeting each other halfway, it’s about going all the way for each other.” That is a grand bit of wisdom born out of the biblical truth that we are supposed to love and be wholly devoted to our spouse regardless of how they behave. No, marriage is not a 50/50 endeavor, it is a 100/100, all-in, all the time adventure. Take care of your 100% and leave the rest up to God. Strive to fill your spouse’s love bank, and you will be greatly rewarded with a rich and lasting relationship.

-Ματτ

 

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