Before we talk about those 5 little words that have become my latest revelation, let me say this: I haven’t published a post in quite a while. It seems like all of a sudden life turned into a whirlwind. Well, maybe I should say, more of a whirlwind than usual. I haven’t been able to write about it. I’ve only had time to live it. Nothing monumental has really happened and so I was a little taken aback by it all.
These last 7 months…
have included much study about putting websites together, publishing posts, usually 3 times a week, photographing many things we do in our house and that on top of raising and schooling 4 children, running a big, old house and hopefully being a decent wife, daughter, sister and friend. I’ve enjoyed this blog thing and also felt compelled to do it. I will return to it, on a regular basis, soon, but for the moment…well, read on.
As for the onset of summer…
part of the change I forgot about was that these months increase jobs for the family. A vegetable garden
and outside house maintenance just to name a few.
Add to that a few overnight trips
In Wichita on the bridge overlooking the river downtown.
and some other odds and ends
like painting our entire kitchen including the cabinets
Just starting to paint. You can see the new white on the right (looks like it’s still wet) and the old beige on the left.
After. Ahhh. Much better.
and there you have it. Slowly I surrendered to no more school and eased into plain ‘ole summer life.
That’s it for the pictures on this post. We are now getting down to some serious business, ladies. Hang with me here. I hope this will bless someone.
This summer there has been one thing in particular…
that I have experienced lately and I want to tell you about it. I believe it is shifting my husband and me to the next level of life together. Of marriage.
I’m Created To Do What?
Probably about 4-5 years ago, I read the most profound book for women that I have ever read about ‘being married.’ Some of you are going to gag at the title and others of you will understand. Some of you will throw it across the room while reading it, but you will be compelled to pick it up again. I was a little put off when I first saw it too, but also felt an urgency to buy it and read it as soon as possible. It is called “Created To Be His Helpmeet.” As a friend of mine said recently when I mentioned it to her, “Where the heck is MY helpmeet.”
“Well,” I responded tentatively, “You actually don’t get one.”
Then, later, another friend said “Our helpmeet is the Holy Spirit.” OK, yes. I like that. And maybe it is our girlfriends and children. Maybe that is why God made women to have the need to talk to and process through every detail of life with our girlfriends.
And Now: The 5 Words
Anyway, a bit before I read that book, some girlfriends and I came up with the idea of very specifically asking our husbands ‘How Can I Help You.’ We sort of challenged each other to do it with the idea that we were going to have to do specific things to make our marriages better and not wait or expect our husbands to do things we wanted, just because they should! Sure they should, but it will have to be up to them to decide when that will be. Right? Do we want to nag it out of them or happily receive it because they wanted to give it from their hearts?
I had 3 children aged 5, 2 and newborn at that time…
and the last thing I could conceive of was asking my husband how I could help him while he was skipping (in my mind) off to work as I stayed home, sleep deprived, nursing, changing 2 babies diapers, feeding people, doing laundry, and otherwise completely dulling the mind I had worked so hard all my life to better. You know the drill, ladies.
So finally, one day…
as my husband was about to go to work, scared that he would present a laundry list of things he needed help with, I asked him if there was anything I could do to help him today. He quickly said, “No thanks, see you tonight.” Whew!!! Got out of that one!!! Ok, I said it. I did the right and good thing here and I didn’t die in the process. Yeah me!
I proceeded to do this off and on over the next few years. Not very well, I might add. It was infrequent and I was still scared of what the answer would be those few times that I did it. Ultimately, my greatest fear of being loaded with extra chores and short-circuiting out, while being already overwhelmed with my own self-assigned jobs, was never realized.
Looking back, I think God was having me practice those 5 little words without dumping on me what I would not have been able to handle at that time.
My husband has a very busy law practice.
It is a stressful job. There is a statistic that says lawyers are more prone to depression and suicide than any other profession. I believe it. My husband is not depressed or suicidal at all. But seeing the kinds of things he deals with every day, all day, I can understand how a person could fall into those horrible states of being. Many times lawyers are dealing with the very emotionally charged details of a person’s very personal life.
The Initial Attraction
My husband is a very smart guy. That was one of the main things that attracted me to him in the first place. His job requires that brain power all day, every day. I don’t know how he does it, but he does it and he does it well. He loves wrapping his brain around complicated issues and he loves serving the people. After getting his law degree he then got a Master’s in Public Administration. So it is just “in him” to help “the people.” Maintaining the relationship with his clients is his utmost priority. Well, because of that, the financial side of things was starting to take a back seat. Just keeping up with it is a job in itself.
The Stress Started To Increase
I guess it’s been the last 8-9 months; the stress level had been climbing a bit higher. He was coming home completely maxed out from his day – meeting with clients, massive document production needing great attention to detail, trials, hearings, traveling to lots of other towns and cities, emotions flying high, etc, etc. And on top of the legal side of things, keeping up with accounts receivable. Things were starting to not be fun and we were both thinking somethins’ gotta change. There has to be a break here. A new idea.
The Shift Began
So….once again as we sat in the den and talked about our day, after the children were in bed (like we do many times.) I said, (with a little more boldness now since I had some practice) “How Can I Help You?” And this time something different happened. There was a shift that we both felt. A new idea began to emerge that seemed kind of crazy at first, but started to look like a real possibility to both of us. We got excited about it and neither of us seemed to feel it was a burden.
God’s Plan For Families
Over the last year or two, I have started to believe that God intended our families (He put us all on earth to be HIS family) to, in the ultimate perfect world, be parented by both mother and father. Equal time from both. 50-50. And, also, for the trade that brings in the resources for this family to survive, e.g. pay for a house, buy food, etc, to be worked at by both parents working as a team. Working together. I’m not talking about 2 separate jobs. I’m talking about “together” on 1 job. Partnership.
Hey, this is the way it was done ONLY 150 years ago and on back by most people! Our modern culture has made us believe that dad has to leave the home to make money and mom has to stay at home somewhat acting like a single mom handling the majority of sowing seeds of wisdom and work ethic into the children. And as any single mom will tell you, that is an almost impossible job. I know this might sound a little radical, but hey, I’m kind of a radical girl, so what can I say : )
I believe we were put together with our husbands because we have strengths where they have weaknesses and vice versa. If we can possibly bring these gifts together to ultimately exhibit what God intended, WOW! Would that not be our greatest joy? And then to teach that to our children?
I know some of you are thinking…
there is no way my husband and I could work together. Or there is no way my husband and I could work out a job or career where we could work together. That is probably getting the cart before the horse. If this idea tugs at you in your gut, but you can’t imagine how it would ever happen, I can tell you there will probably need to be a whole lot of prayer and evolution of the relationship before it becomes a reality. We’ve been married 14 years and I’m just now starting to see the possibility of this in our lives. And everyone is different. It could be months for one couple and a lifetime for another couple.
A New Way To Live
And so ladies, as we start to approach this possible new way of living (anyone still with me?) … Here is the hard part. We have to let him lead the way. Argh. As much as we think he doesn’t deserve to or that we could do a much better job at it: That will never work. And no he doesn’t necessarily deserve this from us because he is, like we are, very imperfect. As a matter of fact, no one deserves the blessings God gives us. It is God’s gift to us. It is His love for us. And we are to love and serve others in that same way, in spite of what they deserve or don’t deserve.
Regarding these husbands, our greatest trial here on earth, ladies…
is to surrender to the order that God designed which is that the husband is in charge. And yes, take heart, God says we are to be partners too. This is not license for him to be abusive, rude or harsh. No, the Bible specifically says to him, “Do not be harsh toward your wife. Love her.” If he has a little smarts, he will realize that being nice to you and loving you is how he can get the best from you. And if he has no smarts, pray that he gets some! Don’t fight this, ladies. You will just end up being miserable. I promise that when you accept this order of things and your marriage pieces fall into the right places, you will find your greatest joy.
One day we will stand before God to attest…
to how good a job we did on earth. We won’t be up there saying “Well he did such-and-such AND SO I could only do such-and-such because he was such a jerk!” No. We will only account for OUR behavior and we desperately want to hear God say to us “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Back to our conversation that night in the den.
So we came up with the idea that I would come to his office a few afternoons a week and work the financial side of the business.
Oh my. I’ve never done that before. My background is in TV production and more on the creative side. Could I do this? What do I say to people? Can I organize things at home to make this happen? But I am motivated, because my husband needs some relief, he will be much more pleasant to live with, he will be parenting the children more while I do a few hours of this work, I will get a break, the business will operate how it should be operating, etc etc. These are all good things.
But allow me to tell you about the first night of our new plan.
We got a babysitter on a Monday night. We ate dinner with the children and then headed to the office at 6:30 pm. For several years I had already been balancing our books at the office once a week for about 2 hours. The first thing that happened when we sat down in his office was that we got into an argument. It was a very worthy argument about whether he was going to put the monthly bank statement envelope into an in-box for me to then reconcile OR whether he was actually going to open the envelope and put it in a 3 ring binder for me to later reconcile. UGH! Is that not a ridiculous thing to argue about? Anyway, he was changing my system, and hey, I want it done my way.
Well, that lead him into a 10 minute monologue…
about why he was apprehensive about me coming down there and helping him with the financial side of HIS business. He was apprehensive that I would try to take over and give him all my “good ideas.” (If you have read any of my other posts, you know I definitely have my ideas!) He continued about how he has been doing this business for 14 years and has in his mind exactly what needs to be done. I’m not here to save the day. I am here to help him. And, yes, he even used the word ‘helpmeet.’ Oh, why the heck did I ever mention that word to him!
So while he is going off on his apprehensiveness…
about me helping him, to my credit, I CHOSE to do the thing I did NOT want to do. I didn’t say a word. Yes, I was seething inside. I was mad and really just wanted to give him a piece of my mind and walk out saying “do this thing yourself if you’re going to be such a jerk!” But I didn’t. I sat there and didn’t say a word. I’m sure my arms were folded and the look on my face was not a happy look. Intellectually, I knew zipping the lips could be the right thing to do. I had heard that it was. Yes, I had even experienced it a few times, but darn, darn, darn, I did NOT want to. But I did. It was almost like I was doing an experiment to see if all the older, wiser women were right and this was really true. Surely not.
He began to come to a close on his tirade.
Funny how when there is no one sitting there arguing back, the argument kind of dies down. I still sat silent. And so…he didn’t seem to have more to say on the apprehensiveness thing, and I didn’t either apparently. He does need me. He needs something right now, and who better to tend to our personal business than his wife, so he transitioned this rant-monologue into talking about the business at hand.
Change The World? Yes!
He started to tell me the things he thought I could do, the people I could talk to, how if we did this and that and that and this, we could really do well, make a difference, make some money and ultimately be able to give it away to things that mattered to us and do great things in the world. It had turned into a pep talk and all of a sudden he started looking, well, dare I say it, really sexy. LOL! (That is “Laugh Out Loud” for those of you not into social media or texting) What the heck??? But truly, I was seeing that smart, leader kind of guy that I fell in love with and he was talking about how great it could be if we did this thing together. Isn’t that what I wanted to begin with? 14 years ago? Four children later, sometimes it is so easy to forget why we got married in the first place.
We were now back on track
Would we have gotten back on track had I been offering all my good ideas at that moment. No. Can there be 2 chefs in the kitchen. No. Can there be 2 presidents of the company? No. Can there be 2 husbands. No. It doesn’t work. Ever. And yes, you can offer your ideas, but ladies, it is all about mastering the art of timing! (We will talk about that later.)
By the way, if you think I’m some kind of sado-masochistic weirdo that gets off on being yelled at, I can assure you more than anything – I AM NOT! Just ask anyone who knows me.
I sure like the word “surrender” much better than “submit!”
If we ladies will just surrender to these things, I believe, miraculously, we will eventually find our greatest joy. That is the paradox in this entire thing. We think we must just follow our instinct, our gut feelings, to control a situation. But our instinct, in this case, is our flesh speaking. We must crucify that hard-wired self to find the joy. How hard a task that is. But the truth is, nothing worth having comes easy. Marriage. Productive, well-behaved children. Love. Joy. Peace. We have to move beyond our fleshly desires to ever achieve these things.
So, back to that Monday evening.
We spent an hour or so going over cases and me taking notes. It was fun. We were actually becoming quite a team I thought. Finally we had a little glass of liqueur to end the evening and sat on the couch talking about lots of fun things – the children, the world, our dreams, etc. I think we will both remember that night as one of our favorites.
After a month of this we are talking alot about our new joint venture. Honing our teamwork. He is coming up with new ideas to do it better. I want to let him do that. I want to offer ideas when he wants to hear them. (I have to remember that no one really wants unsolicited advice, especially husbands.) I will attest that there have been some more hard moments, but that is forcing us to treat each other better, to apologize quicker when necessary so we can get back on track, because we are both highly motivated to make our business productive and to make a difference in the world.
Last night was date night.
He’d had another very long, intense day. He picked me up at home and we drove to our favorite little hole-in-the-wall mexican restaurant. On the way, I just let him talk. I’m finding it is best to let him vent first when we get together at the end of the day, before I say anything about my day. He was really just calming down from the day.
He stopped at a stop sign, a few feet before…
you would normally stop and took a deep breath. I said, “what can I do to help you?” He said, “you know, just a wife saying that to a husband means everything. It says to me, ‘I have someone to help me even if I don’t really need anything specific. It means I don’t have to come home and then deal with whatever it is you need from me after I have given all day to everyone else. If every wife would do that, their husbands would be much better husbands. A husband instinctively wants to indulge his wife, and saying that ultimately gives me the brain space to want to do that.”
So. All of that to say, ask your husband how you can help him. Even if it scares you. I do believe you will ultimately be blessed by it, if you persevere.
*The Husband Paraphrase*
I was hungry for breakfast, dinner, and sometimes even lunch, snacks, a kind word, a warm hug, to talk to you, to be loved by you… You gave me something to eat.
I was thirsty to feel accepted by you, to take the leadership role in our home, to be admired by you, to be respected by you. I mowed the lawn and needed refreshing and… You gave me something to drink.
I was a stranger; my mood was bad. I had been unreasonable. I had been mean, thoughtless, forgetful, unhelpful, self-centered… You invited me in.
I was naked; you did all my wash even when I dropped it on the floor. You sewed on my missing buttons. You ironed my wrinkled shirts. You let me bare my soul to you. You saw the real me that others never see- with all my quirks and uncovered ugliness, and you never exposed me before our children, family, or friends… You clothed me.
I was sick– you know my colds are worse than anyone else’s. Sometimes I said things to you I didn’t mean. I got depressed and… You cared for me.
I was in prison: my job got to me some days and I withdrew from you. When I was lonely you were there for me. You prayed for me.
When I was consumed with a problem, when I was unforgiving, when I didn’t deserve anything because of the way I’ve treated you and I was so ashamed… You came to me.
… Jesus would say to you, “When you did these things for (your husband) you did them for me.”
Wow Allison! I laughed AND I cried! I am so thankful for your willingness to share your life and your heart with others. You have ministered in HUGE way to me today!!
Thank you Corie! Your comment is a big encouragement to ME! God Bless You in your biggest ministry!
Tears, laughter, smiles, etc. Thank you. Wives and mommas have the biggest ministry on earth! You really drove that home. We have the real power, if we will only use it watchfully, led by a humble heart and help from God’s Word. Everyone is tired of half-happy, pitiful relationships that can’t make one bit of headway in the earth. Not to mention the sadness of cheating our heritage (children) out of a joyful mom and dad team. Go for it, wives, we are in this race together for healthy families, changing the world one family at a time!!! :)
Glad you are back – I have missed you with my morning coffee. I also was hesitant to read this book – we did for our insp. bookclub – right?. But……….it did and does make sense. Brett gives me the strangest look when I say those 5 simple words!!
Again……….thanks for your insight!!
Allison, you did it AGAIN! This is awesome beyond words!
John and I sat and read it together…I think we have much food for thought!
It still amazes me that you write about things that I am struggling with, husband and all, as if you are right here with me…seems God is using you to bless and encourage those of us who don’t have the gift for words you do. THANK YOU!! Hope we have updates of this ongoing thing known as Life with you and yours!
Beautifully put. You’ve given me a lot to ponder.
BTW, the kitchen is gorgeous!
Jen – Thanks for a great comment. So true about just being sick of half-happy! And this will all only work with our encouragement to each other. These comments are my encouragement!
Ebby – Yes, that’s the book we did. And you, with the most years of marriage, were a great inspiration to the rest of us!
Catherine – Thank you for such a compliment. God probably makes people friends that are dealing with similar things : )
Kristen – Thank you too! It is a *whole* lot to ponder and I am continuing to do it. And honestly, failing at it, (heavy sigh) and starting over. What a daily task it is!
I love the reminder. I always try to remember to be more helpfull especially when he works 10 days on four days off and the phone rings all hours of the night. I am going to re read this post when Matt starts his next ten days.
Mayme – Great idea! Sounds like you are a great wife!
I loved your post and I’m going to try and put it into action.
Thanks Christy! Go for it!
I knew when I was prompted to check your website that God had something for me there. After moving to a foreign country, living among people I cannot speak to, and juggling homeschooling, I felt completely overwhelmed. Nights of restless sleep added up to lots of worries about children and their adjustment issues, finding friends for all of us, and greatly missing all of my girlfriends in Oklahoma. I cannot tell you how much this post has blessed me. With every new beginning there is apprehension and adjustment, and I felt completely “sucked dry” from trying to figure it all out. And then it hit me as I was reading your post. The helpmeet thing. Oh yeah. Forgot about that. I’ve been way too wrapped up in all the other issues to ask. Yikes. I am blessed by your candor…and look forward to hearing about the blessings of Matt being “home”. Thanks for your heart, Allison. Love you.
It is sooooo good to hear from you. God Bless you in your adventure across the other side of this world and your helpmeeting your husband and raising those precious children. Just relax, chill out, have fun with your children, and FORGET about school for awhile. My goodness, just living in that country is school enough girl!!! I think I would just go on lots of outings to neat places, parks, museums, restaurants, etc etc, talk about math in an everyday kind of way (cooking, kilometers, distance,) listen to foreign language tapes in the car, read books about the history of this country and THAT’S IT! Keep in touch. Love you lots!
What a treat it is for me to read your posts- every time! This one really spoke to me since Brian just retired this summer and is “home.” He’s been a great help, especially with the homeschool -thing and getting maintenance jobs done around the house. But this retirement-at-44 was not a realistic option in my eyes! I’ve questioned it (in my outside voice) and fought it (interenally) for a couple of years now! Your post gives me new perspective! I think I need to read it daily, just to remind myself of the “new” way of thinking. Thank you!
Wow! What a story you are living. You are blessed to have your husband around you so much now. This kind of thinking is such a paradigm shift for all of us. Me too! I can totally see God’s hand working in your lives. All I can say is embrace it. I think once we quit fighting things, God says, ‘Ok, now you are ready to move on.’ Fun, huh! God Bless you Jenny. Hang in there!
Apparently God had something special in store for me today as I lay in bed trying to recover from the flu! I opened up your website and got caught up and I’m so blessed for it. I think YOU missed your calling as a marriage therapist. As I read your words, it sounded just like the words I use with couples in my office. I love that you sat and listened! If only wives could get that one single act…..just listen. We do have so many more words than men (in most cases) but we don’t have to use them all:). In fact, our husbands usually only tune into the first 50 and then we can lose them. I also love that you are helping Matt at work. Our lives are on such a parallel path as I have been asking Ray for weeks (as I too see him drowing in his remodeling business), “What can I do to help????” He hasn’t found a place for me yet but it was convicting as I read your story, that I will just keep asking (when I feel better…). I just wanted to tell you God is using you to encourage Matt and your friends’ marriages. I believe that other than parenting, there is no higher calling than to have a God honoring marriage which means to yield in those moments we’d rather yell. Our husbands REALLY don’t NEED to know all those thoughts in our head. God bless your marriage and God bless you. Love, Brooke
Brooke, Wow, what encouraging words! And it is so great to hear from you. For my other friends, Brooke was one of my best friends in college (was that really over 25 years ago? Ouch!) I love hearing from a marriage therapist. Im sure you clients (and your husband) are hugely blessed by you! Thanks for your take on this subject. The more people that chime in, the more it registers just a bit deeper for each of us. And that is a good thing!!!
Well said, and dare I say, I knew there was something very special about you when I first met you. I am a gleaner, a people watcher. God in his infinite kindness and mercy toward me has given me opportunity to glean as Ruth and Naomi from the edges of other people’s fields. Whether in books or from observing someone’s words or conduct, He continually shows Himself and allows me to glimpse into how life can be, if we will but “surrender” it all to Him.
I think if we truely have a heart to obey Him and to hear His direction, we will always have a testimoney to offer to others. I know God works in people’s lives to the extent they let Him, trust Him, and much to the extent they know His word as His ways always lead to life.
Thank you for allowing me to glean from your field.
In His service, blessings to you all.
What kind words! Thank you so much! And I have so enjoyed the wisdom I hear from you too! God Bless you.
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