healthy

Marriage as a Competition

If marriage is a competition, and we are keeping score, my team has been losing. This year, I’m stepping up my game.

Andy Stanley has a fantastic series on marriage, and in the final message he talks about how we all bring our own box into marriage. These boxes contain hopes, dreams, aspirations, preferences, expectations, and more. Stanley argues that a truly healthy marriage is formed when husband and wife fight hard to make sure the other person’s box gets full to the brim.

A competition of sorts.

If marriage is a competition, the rules are this:

  1. Identify the deepest longings of your spouse.

  2. Bring these longings to fruition.

  3. Earn bonus points by accomplishing these tasks bigger, better, and faster than your spouse.

The best part of any competition is when your team wins, and this game is no different. The goal is to win and to win big.

Eric has always done a much better job than me at this. For example, when I first disclosed to him that I wanted to start a blog, he helped me figure out a way to make it happen. In the last 5 years of writing, Eric has:

  • bought me a laptop

  • sent me out by myself so I could write

  • encouraged me to build my website

  • read through most of my posts before I published them

  • supported my request to join a writing community

  • recommended books that could be helpful

  • sent me to writing conferences 

I mean, he’s tough competition! And writing is merely one area of my life where he loves and serves me.

Y’all, the thing is, I’m actually pretty competitive. And I’ve been losing this whole competition for the last 12 years (give or take the ones I birthed and gave all that I had in caring for our babies). I’ve got some major catching up to do!

So, in the spirit of healthy competition, I’ve set out to win this year.

When I first heard Andy Stanley’s message a couple of years ago, I immediately knew I had to do better at filling my husband’s box, specifically in the area of racing. 

Did you know, that before deciding to go into ministry, Eric was originally going into engineering so he could build engines for NASCAR? He gave up the dream before I met him, laying it aside for the sake of the Kingdom. He has since spent the last 18 years serving at our church.

In the two years since I’ve decided to up my game in this competition, Eric has:

  • raced more frequently at a go-kart facility

  • purchased safety equipment like a helmet and gloves

  • had a ride-a-long at Talledega with his mentor and friend, Layne Schranz

  • purchased his very own go-kart

Did you catch that part? That last line is reason why I’m going to win the competition in 2019. I didn’t just allow him to buy a go-kart. I made him do it.

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Okay, yes, I’m patting myself on the back right now. Wife of the year right here.

In all seriousness though, can I just tell you how much fun it is to see my husband come alive when he is racing? This is a simple way I can support his lifelong dream. A simple way I can pour into his box and bring some of his longings into fruition. And bonus: the more I help his dream come true, the more he is inspired to pour back into mine.

Filling boxes requires sacrifice, but what could be better than knowing we are married to someone whose goal is to out-do our own efforts to encourage, love, and support? this sort of competitive love binds husband and wife together with unthinkable strength. 

Perhaps, in the future, my focus needs to shift away from myself and toward helping my favorite person become the healthiest version of himself. His health equals my health.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
— Romans 12:10

Interested in reading more about this concept? Check out a post written by my friend Amy on this very same topic! You can find her wisdom here.

The Opposite of Toxic

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How many of you have seen articles like the following?

  • "10 Signs You are Toxic Parent and Your Children Will End Up in Counseling Because of It"

  • "5 Phrases You Should Absolutely Never Say to Your Child Unless You Want to Singlehandedly Ruin Their Life"

  • "You are the Worst at Parenting and Here is an Article that Lays Out Exactly Why You are Failing"

I’ve clicked on them. I’ve said/done some of the things in them. The natural conclusion is that I am ruining my kids and they would be better off elsewhere.

Except NOT.

I am far from perfect at this parenting thing. But aren’t we all? I have yelled at my children and immediately regretted it. I’ve bribed, I’ve stomped around like I was the child, I’ve cried… I’ve had some bad moments y’all.

I have even gone to counseling because I was struggling so much with feeling angry most of the time.

I am convinced that no matter who we are, if we look hard enough, we will find an article that lists one of our behaviors as toxic. And then what happens? We leave that place feeling defeated and hopeless. Every time we repeat that behavior, we beat ourselves up for it, wallow in our awfulness, work really hard at never doing it again…JUST TO DO IT AGAIN.

What a way to live.

Can we agree not to do this to ourselves anymore?

Instead of running to the internet, let’s run to Jesus. His words are far, FAR different from the ones we see in those negatively titled articles. Jesus absolutely will not make a list of our failures and shove them in our face. Instead, He speaks life and truth to us while showing us a better way.

When I look to Jesus, I’m able to use my worst moments to lead me to be a healthy parent. I find strength to stand in prayer and hand my anxieties over to Him. I take the responsibility off of my own shoulders and place it on His. The more I do this, the less often I find myself yelling out of frustration. I am grounded in who God has created me to be!

I still have moments. Just this week, I got frustrated and yelled at my girls. I hate it. But instead of going into a dark, deep, negative spiral about what a failure I am, I use it as a teaching moment.

My girls know 100% of the time that my anger is NOT THEIR FAULT. Because I tell them this! I repeat to them why I love them and list off the reasons of why I am so grateful for them. I remind them that certain behaviors are not appropriate for them to do, but that is never an excuse for mommy to yell at them. I can say to my children, “I’m feeling frustrated, so I’m going to have a moment to myself and pray to Jesus.”

And THEN, when they have an outburst of anger or respond inappropriately, I can lead them in healthy alternatives of how to handle their emotions. I can tell them that I understand how they feel, but that we are still responsible for how we react. Because I am leaning on Jesus to show me a better way to live, I get to lead my girls in a better way to live. 

Talk about empowering!

If you fear that you are living in a negative cycle, get help. Pray to Jesus. Talk to a friend. Sign up with a counselor. But know that there is HOPE.

Jesus is in the work of transforming lives. You don’t have to stay in the darkness because He is the Light! Live in the freedom that is found in following Him.

And friend, I’m with you. I’ll be here to encourage you and pray with you. You are not alone!

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2

 

*Photo credit to Alexa Stutts Photography.