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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Husband Can Beat Up Your Honor Student

I have to confess something. It might sound bad (well...since when has that stopped me?), but I always hate when people brag about their loved ones in an over-the-top way. Like the little honor-roll decals plastered on the back window of the SUV that really only serve to make the parent feel like less of a failure in comparison to the parents of degenerates, or the name-and-title dropping that occurs when women talk about their husbands' prestigious careers and exotic travel, or even what universities have sent acceptance letters to so-and-so's little pookie-pie genius. It's always such a shame, dahhhling, to have to turn down Yale, isn't it?

All that being said, I am now going to do the very thing I hate. And it's going to be obnoxious, so get ready.

Eleven years, eight months, and twenty-seven days ago, the most amazing thing occurred. 4288 days ago, my life changed for the best. 6,174,720 minutes ago, I said "I DO" to the kindest, gentlest, most servant-hearted man that I have ever known. I became the wife of Brandon Watts, and I count it among the best decisions I have ever made.

You see, he is, quite simply put, the best husband there is. And, for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure he can beat up your honor student.

I loved him more than words can say the day I became his wife, but I found an even deeper level of love and respect for him on October 9, 2007. That's the day our daughter, our first-born, arrived, and that's the day my husband became a father.

For anyone who knows Brandon, you know that he is the quintessential daddy. He loves his children well. He plays well. He disciplines well. He prays for them well. He cleans up after them well. (well, you can't win 'em all, can you?)

I will never forget the times I found him, shirtless, laying on the sofa with our newborn baby girl, giving her the desperately-needed skin-to-skin contact while they both dozed. The times he rushed home from work to help me when our son was so ill as a young baby. The countless instances when he rushed home from a full day at work to take over for me so I could go and sing, stepping seamlessly from the role of businessman and provider to father and caretaker.

His patience is astounding. Many times when I'd want to give up and throw in the towel in a hard parenting situation, he'd tough it out, stand his ground, and dig in his heels for the long-haul, determined to be consistent and determined to win. Because we, as parents, have to win. And win, he does. 

He is a creative disciplinarian...from picking up acorns and pinecones in the pitch dark and scrubbing the already-clean kitchen floor, to standing with noses on the wall and arms extended for minutes on end, he knows just what to do to speak to our children's misbehavior. And he loves them all the while.

The time he pours into shaping and molding our children's hearts moves me, makes me want to be better. He plops down next to them on the floor, and instead of a simple, "you did ____, don't do it again, and here's your punishment," he gets on their level, lays in their beds with them, and talks. And listens. He gets to the heart of the matter and doesn't just address the symptoms. He is interested in the root cause.

He demands his children's respect, and he in turn he has earned it. They love him. They adore him. And they fear him, in a very healthy way.

He demands that his children respect ME. This speaks volumes about his love for me. He will not tolerate hearing our kids back-talk me or lie to me. He requires my sons to stand at the dinner table until I'm seated.

He loves me.

And what's more, he loves his God. He wakes at 5:00am every day, goes to his office early, finds a quiet place, and prays. Prays for his family, prays for his wife, prays for himself. He prays for others, for wisdom, for direction. He is a praying husband, and often I wake up to find an email from him telling me the things he's brought before the Lord on my behalf that particular day.

My husband makes me want to be better. He has already made me better. He is the clearest, most consistent example of Jesus in my life, and truly fulfills the directive in Ephesians 5:25:
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her..."
He is the kind of father you read about in Ephesians 6:4:
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
He lives out daily the examples of love outlined in 1 Corinthians 13: 
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
Thank you, LORD, for my sweet husband's tireless example of love. What a beautiful picture of You he has painted for me to see every single day!

And, because he is so wonderful, I won't mention that time when this ever-attentive father left the ladder up on the back deck (which he had used to clean the gutters) and didn't realize that our 3-year-old and 1-year-old had both escaped to the backyard during nap time. He soon discovered them, to his great horror, walking the peak of our roof like a tightrope, waving down at him on the ground yelling "hi, Daddy" in sheer delight. Mommy wasn't home for this little event. Naturally.

Feel free to laugh!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Hula-Hoop Space

So....newsflash: moms have no personal space.

The end.

I know this is shocking, and right now you’re reeling as you begin to comprehend the undiscovered truth of this statement.

Kidding. Right now, as you read this, your kids are probably hanging on your leg, lifting your dress over their heads, and touching your butt.

Or maybe that’s just what my kids are doing as I write.

My four-year-old perverted son has been enjoying his newest pastime, which I affectionately refer to as “pillow punching.” He loves to come at me when I least expect it, fooling me into letting my guard down by wanting to give me a “hug.” Then, when I spread my arms wide to lovingly embrace my little cherub, he sticks out his pointer fingers and pokes me full on in the breasts. Hard.

As of today, he is still a living, breathing member of our family. I cannot guarantee that this will be the case if the pillow punching continues.

My two-year-old constantly wants to “sit you lap.” I love, love, love to cuddle with my little fuzzy-headed munchkin, and enjoy nothing more than curling up with him in the rocking chair and tickling his arm as he chills in my lap. However, most of the time what he means by “sit” in my lap means, climb up in order to slide back down my legs and climb up again. And slide down again. And again. And again. I have a constant line of bruises on my shins from his “sit-you-lap.” My only defense against this fun activity is to not shave my legs for days on end, therefore leaving them too spikey to slide on. However, this is also punishment for me as my porcupine-quill leg hair wakes me at night when my legs rub together and stab each other to shreds.

My daughter, who is almost six, is in a rough-and-rowdy phase, and she just loves to come up behind me and jump on my back or grab me around the neck when I’m doing fun things like changing a poopy diaper or cleaning up spilled juice on the kitchen floor. If I’m crouched down, trying to pick up one of the million toys or Legos off of our living room floor, she does what any sane person would do and runs full-speed into me, knocking me over like a bowling pin.

Some days I am covered in snot and poop and germs and slobber. And it’s gross.

Some days I can laugh through the pain, the touching, and the poking, the drool.

Other days, I need my hula-hoop space.

My question, therefore, is: how do I continue to love on and engage my children using one of the most important of the physical senses (touch) when I am completely depleted in the area of personal space?

How do I push through my occasional aversion to being touched at all, by anyone, anywhere, so that I can engage with my husband on an intimate level?

How do I extend grace and operate with a heart of patience toward my children and my husband when all I want is to lash out verbally and physically and to defend my “right” to my alone time and my hula-hoop space?

Only by the grace, power, and strength of a Holy God who gives me endurance and stamina to keep on keepin’ on when I feel like I have nothing left to give.

Only by allowing the Holy Spirit to infiltrate the most selfish, hard parts of my heart, which requires confession of my selfishness and hardness, and subsequent breaking of those strongholds in my life.

Only by remembering that Jesus Himself died to His rights (and His rights were actual rights, not perceived rights like mine) in order to elevate His Father’s cause, giving up His personal space to the ultimate end, the cross.

There’s no better example to follow than that of Jesus. He left His rightful place, His heavenly throne, to come and touch, both spiritually and physically, the lowest of the low, the dirtiest of the dirty, the roughest of the rough, in order to love and lead them to Jesus. He humbled Himself, died to His rights, and fully engaged.

I can imagine sometimes He felt like His personal space was invaded. I can imagine that sometimes, in the crowds and throngs of followers, believers, mockers, and gawkers, He wished He could escape. I bet He tired of people tugging at His robe. I am sure He felt depleted and like He had nothing left to give as people poured into towns and cities to see this “Jesus,” to ask Him for miracles and for favors and for advice. I bet He felt claustrophobic and wanted to run and curl up in fetal position in a dark room where no one was touching Him or asking Him for things.

But He kept on. He sacrificed His own desires, His own will, for the will and ultimate purposes of His Father. He counted the salvation and redemption of others as more important than His preferences.

Philippians 2 describes Christ’s heart of sacrifice more beautifully than I ever could:

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Will I sacrifice my desire for hula-hoop space in order to love and lead my little ones to the cross? Will I push through my exhaustion and my aversion to giving one single ounce more of myself in order to love my husband well and intimately, as a reflection of how the bride of Christ loves her groom?

I can’t do this alone. Neither can you. We can’t run on empty. We must, absolutely must, be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. My flesh is sinful and selfish. In my own power I can only desire sinful and selfish things. But by the power of the Spirit of God in me, I can desire Spirit things, Godly things.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

I want to be the person, the mother, the wife, the Christ-follower, who gives of herself past the point of hurting. I want to trust my God to fill my tank and then give some more. I want to lay my hula-hoop down for hugs. I want to hold those around me close, not at an arm’s length. This is my prayer for myself, and for you. That God would raise up an army of selfless, broken mothers to love our children, our husbands, and our communities to Jesus.

Who’s with me?

And, to be completely honest, I am terrible at hula-hooping anyway. I always tried as a kid and never succeeded in doing much of anything other than looking a fool. The only thing I was super-good at was swinging the hula-hoop around my neck. You know what I mean, cuz you did it do. I could swing that hoop with the best of them. I am also 98% sure I looked like a chicken. That’s all.

Feel free to laugh!