Last week I stepped out of life for 6 days with my bride and friend Kasey Monaghan. The more years I have spent with this woman the more I have come to appreciate her laughter, her heart for adventure, her loyalty, and her compassion for me body and soul. I love that she respects me but does not take me too seriously. I love that she calls me on my junk and loves me in my weakness. I love that she looks cute in a pony tail and plays soccer tenaciously. I love that she can cut our grocery bill in half by diligent efforts and coupon craziness. I love that she likes Sci Fi and Fantasy flicks and will even stay up late with me knowing a tired morning cometh. I love other things as well, but that ain’t your business.
Times away like we had feel too short and I know we are both longing for another week some time ahead where we will be able to dance, laugh, rest and not have the life draining (and life glorious) role of being parents. I am perhaps procrastinating some sermon writing mid day here, but this has been on my heart all week and it has to come out. I wanted to share with you some of the things that have made our almost 13 years of marriage. (Yeah, I don’t care about the number 13…our 7-8 years of marriage were actually our hardest - so no stupidstitioius stuff from me). Some thoughts on being and staying married.
So much of life is demanding of our time. This week I realized that I don’t go on vacations for the sake of vacations…I go so that I can rest and then come back and do my work. I love my job, I love my weird hobbies and I love my kids. It can be easy to become utilitarian in marriage. You connect on fixing the crawl space, shopping for dinner, managing household schedules, dealing with problems and taking out the recycling bins. One thing I have enjoyed in the midst of life is cultivating time with Kasey. Time we just spend together. It is tough sometimes because after you get 3 little kids in bed you have no life left in you; but Kase and I have used evenings to dial in together if for only small respites watching BSG on Hulu. I am not perfect, I work hard, I probably do not sign off and turn off enough from my work. But I try to pull away in small ways with my friend - because I love her.
Empower her passions
I love seeing Kasey come alive in various venues. She is a great soccer coach and still a feisty competitor. So I actually love it on Saturday mornings when I can help get her to the fields as a player and a coach. I like to juggle kids for her and take them to practice and game fields to play and be with Mom. My wife is also a very intelligent person giving so much time to shape the next generation of the Monaghan home team. I am anticipating a day when the kids are all in school each day and Kasey can develop whatever talents she desires. She may want to engage a career, she may not. She may want to go back to school, she may not. She may want to spend more time resting. Whatever it may be, I want to be there to help empower.
Listen when she protects you
My wife expresses care for me by telling me when I am tired, asking me many times “should you go to the doctor?” and saying “you need time off.” I don’t resent it; I don’t always listen though. It is a dance we have developed together over the years. If she was not persistent I would be burned out long ago or in a fetal position sucking my thumb from being stressed out. I do listen more than she thinks. I sleep in, or get away, or go to the doctor because of my wife’s protective love. If it were not for her I would have bigger bags under the eyes and probably never see a dentist. My wife can “see me” in ways that I simply cannot see myself…so I listen to her more than anyone because she knows me. To be honest, it is being known that is a true sign of deepening love and friendship. Kasey drives me mad at times, but she knows me; I trust her. Men, listen to your women.
Experience and Live Grace
Our marriage was shaped in the early days by the gracious gift of some friends (thanks Mike and Kim) to send us to a Family Life Marriage Conference. At that gig, I heard a verse that has been in the heart ever since. Ephesians 4:32 reads: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
The second part of this Scripture encourages us to forgive one another; but any head shrink can tell you he discovered “forgiveness therapy” and put you through some weird exercises. The teaching we have here takes a step further in forgiveness. We are to forgive one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. If you understand you are a jerk, sinner, selfish human being…who needs grace and forgiveness…you will have much more grace for others. If you are “a great person” who everyone else is always screwing over…well, you will have problems loving and being loved. I know God forgives me in Jesus - I also know I need that - so I know I ought forgive others, particularly those who sin close by. Marriage cannot live on the air of self righteousness and accusation, it breathes deeply on grace. Don’t be stupid; say you are sorry, forgive them…then make up. That part is fun you know.
Seek Kindness in Your Hands
The first part of Ephesians 4:32 exhorts us to kindness. If I could give a word to men it is to exhibity kindness towards your wife and children. Men are at times harsh, cutting, attacking creatures - like a bull in a china shop we can tend to wreck things and ask others to pick up the mess. Kindness does not mean weakness, it means your strong hands and shoulders should be full of love not anger and pain. I fail here; I am not always kind. Yet if anything sticks with me more than anything, it is when my wife tells me I am a kind man towards her and my children (particularly my daughters). OK, now I am teary eyed at my freakin keyboard.
Love Her Children
Wednesday night my little girls, Kayla (7) and Ky (5), took baths early, dressed up in sharp little outfits complete with clip on earrings. Ky had braided pig tails and Kayla a stylin little purple hat. I put a sport coat over a wrestling t-shirt and we headed out on a Daddy date. I fully open doors and giggle with the girls. We went to TGIFs ate chicken fingers, carrots, fries and grilled cheese. Then we hammered three spoons down on something called Browny Obsession. I can’t tell you how much fun we had and how much we laughed. We even discussed how animation is done…flipping napkins with stick figures drawn on them…then on to frame rates, computers and Pixar. That night Kasey gave me a big hug and told me how much she loves the way I love our kids. Look men, I am not patting my own back, I get much joy from being with my kids and family. But by stopping work, throwing down the laptop and putting on the sport coat - a mother lit up. Love her kids men.
Make Love not War
OK, POCBlog is a PG affair but do pursue one another and make time for one another. Ladies, the men feel really loved when you initiate and come hunting for them. Even if he is tired, he’ll make time. And as I said above, if you have been at war, make up…it is fun. Young couples - don’t wait ten years to try to pay attention to each other. Don’t let this part of your relationship get lost in life’s shuffle. Talk to other couples about this if you are struggling and don’t buy into this culture that says everything has to be some 4th of July fireworks show. Pay attention to one another don’t be selfish.
Laugh, Plan, Get Away
A friend and his wife from one of our stops along life roller bladed by Kasey and me one morning when we were out for a jog in Colorado. He said “a family that plays together stays together.” (Thanks Dusty) Of course, we knew he didn’t mean “pray” though that is certainly a good little rhyme as well. Kasey and I made the decision a while ago that we would try as we could to do vacations with just the two of us. Many, many thanks to our families who have helped make this happen since the kids have come. We have never lived too close to our parents as our mission has moved us out to different places, but they have been wonderful to come to us so we could get out together. Most of the cool stuff we do is Kasey’s idea - I need to initiate more I confess. But I am glad we took swing and waltzing lessons a few years back at a rec center. I was able to swing, dip, two step and fling Kasey around a dance floor last week; I got skillz and Kasey was beautiful - and happy. If you never hear your wife laugh any more, you need to repent and pursue her guys.
Look, I present no utopian marriage. One morning on vacation I was very frustrated because my wife makes silent plans that at times she doesn’t tell me about. Then it encroaches on my plans (which I think I speak about??) and we get frothy. But we listen, we forgive and then we do what she wants - just kidding. I lead our family, but my dance partner is the most important person in my life. I just regret I don’t show her enough, tell her enough, have actions that demonstrate it enough - but I also don’t just have a rookie card in the marriage game. We have some laps now but are still launching out as well. Pray for Kasey and me; and pray for marriage in our culture. It is really dumped on too much. I pray this little bit of ascii text may spit in the wind of a culture that divorces quickly, mocks married life and misses some of life’s deepest blessings along the way.
Kasey, if you read this, thank you for knowing me…all of it.