Saturday, November 08, 2003

Marriage links for the Week  

Jeff Walters was my roommate for several years while I was just friends with Mrs. Happy. He is possibly the most technology-savvy person to have ever lived in, visited, or had any sort of affiliation with the town of Peachwater, Texas. You can read his stuff at

This is Jeff here... I've never lived in Peachwater, but it's a nice place to visit.

I am running a bit late today in getting my post up on Curt's site. I spent the day in San Antonio, Texas.

(If you are interested, I'll post pictures of the Alamo and such over at my site Peachwater, Tx. I'll have them up Sunday afternoon.)

Curt asked me to post the Marriage Links for the Week. I have to admit that I thought this would be a simple task. Each week Curt has great links to articles which celebrate marriage in some way or another. I am finding that those articles are not easy to locate.

In the easy-to-find category, a search of major news sites turns up a story about the Defense of Marriage Act (arguing its way through Congress at the moment), an article about a recently-married high school student expelled for being married (and possibly for the fact that her husband is a former teacher at the school), and news of a police search for a self-proclaimed preacher who married at least nine women and then stole their money.

And from the slightly more difficult to find category, here are my picks for this week's links:

Two key things every marriage should have: An abundance of patience and the ability to compromise. Especially during hunting season.

I don't recognize the name of singer Daniel O'Donnell, but he could learn a few things from the hunters above to improve his golf game.

There is always more than one solution to any situation. Another take on the marriage and deer hunting

A creative way to start a marriage. I wonder what they'll do for their first anniversary?

Long-term marriages to learn from:

50 Years of Marriage and a complicated family tree. (I have mixed feelings on this one.)

50 Years of Marriage and still living in Mooroopna. Not too far from Shepparton. I have no idea where that is, but their secret to long marriage: getting along.

66 Years of Marriage and the secret is love.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Married... with Pets  

Jamie, today's guest blogger, is Ron's wife (see yesterday's post), a vital part of our church's youth ministry, one of Mrs. Happy's best friends, and an all-around joy to know.

Before my husband and I were married, we talked about children. We discussed when, how many, whether I would stay home and so forth. We had it all figured out.  We decided that we wanted to wait about five years so that we could save some money with me working, get to know one another (we had a very short dating and engagement period) and just enjoy being a couple.

Well, for the first year of our marriage we were right on track with our five year plan.  That is until Dexter came along.  At three weeks of age and all of one pound, this little bundle of gray fur and bones won our hearts.  He was a tiny little kitten, and the first pet to enter our lives.  He had been abandoned on the side of the highway near where I work in Queens.  I brought him home and we immediately took our little treasure to the veterinarian.

The news was not good.  He was severely malnourished, full of worms, fleas and who knows what other feline diseases plagued his tiny body.  The doctor told us that he was not sure that Dexter would make it.  He instructed us to keep a close eye on him.  We worriedly watched and cared for him, and eventually he pulled through and is now a healthy, happy addition to our family. We are now cat people.  Whenever we see anything with cats on it, our attention is quickly drawn to it and we start our long list of Dexter comparisons and memories:

"Oh, doesn't that look like Dexter?"

"Dexter is so cute, we have the cutest kitty in the world!"

"Do you remember when Dexter....?"

Our lives are consumed with our precious baby, I mean kitty. Our family... my husband, Dexter and I.  We were all set.  Until one day when I was talking to Mrs. Happy.  She mentioned that she would love to get Curt a puppy.  They really wanted to have a dog but were not able to have one in their apartment.  She was sad, but I on the other hand had an idea.  It was my husband's birthday and I had been at a loss for weeks trying to pick out a gift.  A puppy!  That would be just perfect.  Dexter needed a playmate and we had already talked about getting a dog.  We were just waiting for the right timing because we figured that it would be an added responsibility.

So that very day, on a whim, I took my husband and surprised him with a trip to the animal shelter to adopt a puppy for his birthday.  We know absolutely nothing about dogs and our only consideration was that it was not going to get too big, that it was cute, and that it would get along with Dexter. After seeing all the dogs our hearts had softened to a black and white border collie/terrier mix. We named him Reggie and brought him home with us that night.

Those first few weeks were filled with nervousness, anxiety, amd excitement about our newest addition.  We had no idea what to do so we were often online, looking up something in a book or calling the vet.  Those first two months we took turns getting up every couple hours to take Reggie out to go potty.  I quickly learned that puppies can hold their bladder for about one hour for every month of age.  We were definitely not prepared for this responsibility.  It was like having a newborn baby.  We made a great team though, and my husband was wonderful.  He would always take care of Reggie early in the morning so that I could get ready for work, and the days that I would have to work long or get up really early, he was always doing more than his part to make my life easier.

Now, we are dog and cat people.  When we get together and people are sharing stories about their children, my husband and I smile at one another knowing that we are both thinking about our two little ones at home.  Reggie is almost a year old.  He gets along with Dexter pretty well.  They love wrestling, although sometimes Reggie gets a little rough. We love playing and cuddling with Reggie and Dexter.  We love getting them treats and toys when we go to the grocery store.  We love taking pictures of them and talking about them and finding greeting cards and calendars with pictures that look like them.  All in all, we are crazy about our animals.  We love caring for them and it really brings my husband and me closer together. These little guys depend on us and together we bring enjoyment to each others lives.

This experience has definitely strengthened our relationship and if having children is anything like having pets, then I think that although it will be rough at times, it will be a great journey.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Individually Dependent  

Today's guest blogger is Ron. Ron is the youth pastor at my church and one of my closest friends in New York.

What advice can a guy that has been married only a year and a half give on marriage? I will preface the rest of these thoughts by saying that most of what you are about to hear are lessons that I have learned by watching others and that I am still working on myself. I've had three models of married couples that have helped shape what I want to be in a husband. The first and obvious is my parents. The second is Mr. and Mrs. Severance. These were parents of one of my best friends growing up. The last is Ron and Marylin Sears. This was my pastor and his wife while I was in high school. I consider him to be a second father to me.

As I've watched these couples, I have tried to observe and ask questions as to what makes a healthy marriage and how to have effective communication. One thing that they all had in common was what I would call being "individually dependent". What I mean by that phrase is that within each couple, there were two individuals. When those individuals were by themselves they were great people to be around. They were their own person and could function well and had their own personality as an individual. Then when they had their spouse around they were even better. If they were funny, they became funnier. If they were smart, they became smarter. If they were kind, they became even more kind. I think you get the picture.

You see, as married couples we are to complement each other, not paralyze each other. I've seen the negative side work in many instances. I've seen where one individual was bright, funny, happy, and a delight to be around. When their spouse came around, however, they became quiet, subdued, serious, not fun, and well, not themselves. I've also seen where the couple themselves became so isolated with each other that after awhile, they couldn't function without each other. Come on, we've all seen it happen. It's scary.

As a husband, I want to encourage my wife to be the woman that God created her to be. That means that if there is something lacking in her life that might be one of my strengths, I can help her develop that in her life. Also, if she has a strength in her life that is a weakness of mine, she will help me. In her helping me in that area that she is strong already it is actually encouraging her to become even stronger in that area because she is getting a chance to "work it out" just like you would a muscle.

You see, I want to be the man that God wants me to be, and I know that God has brought me a godly woman to encourage me in that. One of the greatest compliments I ever heard was one given to my Pastor. He was out at our college visiting us and his wife was back home. Someone that was with us said to him, "Pastor, I love being around you, but I wish that your wife was here. You're like funny and stuff on your own, but when your wife's around you get hilarious and mischevious and just more fun." To that comment, my Pastor smiled greatly and said, "Thank you so much." You see, we were having a great time with our Pastor and he was his own person when he was on his own, but he was just...better when his wife was around. I want to make my wife better by being around her. Are you working at helping your spouse be better? Start today.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Surrounded by love  

I wrote about Todd last week. If you didn't read that post, read it now before you go any further.

Todd here. Curt has asked me to be a "guest blogger" for today. I'm a little stuck... What in the world should I talk about? There's a lot on my mind, and a lot in my life that I could share.

As my wife and I were talking about Curt's post, we realized that he left out a really important part of the story, something that would give you a little more insight into the reality that she and I find ourselves in. Yes, I struggle with homosexuality. Yes, I would consider myself a sex addict, and I have continued to battle pornography and masturbation. But even more devastating to my marriage is the hard reality that I had a sexual encounter with another man several years ago, its damage has been incalculable. That might help you to understand why this whole thing has been so hard on my wife. It's not only that I have homosexual desires, but also that I have broken the bonds of sexual fidelity with another man.

From a very early age, I knew I was somehow "different" from other boys. Around the age of ten, I realized that my "different" feelings had a name: homosexuality. I was in an evangelical Christian environment, which was certainly not a safe place to struggle with feelings like this... I always prayed that God would change me, and, well, He never did.

For many years, deep down, I knew what I had to do. I can't tell you the number of times I sensed God telling me to just tell someone! I consciously told Him no. I promised Him that I would do anything, go anywhere He asked... Missionary to Mozambique? No problem. Where do I sign up? But I swore I'd never tell this. I'd go to my grave with this.

James 5:16 says "Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." For me, it wasn't until I opened up and let someone else in on my secrets that I began the journey of healing. It was utterly terrifying. I had been hiding for 20 years! I'm married and I have kids. I knew that if I opened up and told the truth about my struggle... the adultery, the porn, the masturbation, not to mention the homosexual angle, I'd lose everything: my family, my reputation.... But God gave me the strength to finally do it, and within about 6 weeks' time, I had told my wife and five other trusted friends, including two church leaders. It was wretched and glorious, all at the same time. (Those simple sentences can't begin to describe what it's like when you're on the edge of the cliff, trying to work up the nerve to jump. I knew that God was with me, and that no matter what I had to lose, I would always have Him, but "knowing" that information didn't make it feel any easier.)

When I did finally jump, I found amazing grace, love, and support. It was like God himself was loving me through my amazingly grace-filled wife and my precious friends. What a miracle that He put me here where I could heal and be restored in safety, surrounded by love. With the help of my friends, with some intense Christian counseling, and through the ministry of an awesome organization called Desert Stream, I am learning God's plan for gender and sexuality. I am learning to stand up in the truth of who God created me to be. I am learning to be a man! And I know that as a result of my struggle, I will be a better husband and father... certainly better able to handle difficult things. I know that spiritual chains were broken off somehow in heavenly realms and that my children and my grandchildren don't have to struggle like I did because I've (finally) been obedient.

My wife and I still have really hard times, especially when I screw up and look at things I shouldn't... I've gotten a little bit of "Geez, man... Stop it! Look what you're doing to yourself and your wife!" and I know, believe me. But like Curt said, sexual addiction is as strong as an addiction to cocaine! I've been in the process of laying this sin down for a year and a half now, but it's still really hard sometimes. I've come a LONG way, but there's still so far to go. I have become acutely aware of my own sinfulness. For so long I was a Jeckyl/Hyde character: Good church boy on the outside, raging gay sex addict on the inside. Now at least I'm one person instead of two. I may be broken, sometimes so badly I feel like giving up, but at least I'm myself. No one can claim I'm living a lie.

Well, enough rambling. Why am I even bothering talk about this in a public forum? Because I know I'm not the only one in this situation. I know I'm not the only one who has damaged his marriage. And I want everyone to know that broken relationships can be fixed. If ever there was a hopeless situation, it's mine. But God is bigger than our fears. Bigger than our biggest problems. Bigger than our sickest secrets. He is able to heal and change and forgive and restore. And, let me tell you, it's a heck of a ride.

If you want to talk, I'd love to hear from you. Write me at todd-at-atimelikethis-dot-net. I'd be happy to pray for you or just read what's on your mind. If I can be of any encouragement to you, it would be a privilege.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Favorite Cereal  

Today's guest blogger is Shelley. Shelley is my pastor's wife, the mother of three beautiful children, a frequent speaker at Christian women's conferences, and quite an energetic and wise woman.

"We're going to win. We're going to win." I wasn't saying it out loud but in my heart I was chanting. "We're going to win." We were at a young married activity where we were playing the Newly Wed Game. We were on the bonus question and Steve and I were in the lead. The question was to the wives: "What will your husband say is his favorite cereal?" It was so simple I couldn't believe it. I listened as the other wives gave their answers. Fruit Loops, Trix, Lucky Charms, then it was my turn. I smiled with confidence. "My husband doesn't eat cereal," I replied. I knew I was right.

Are you sure the announcer asked. "Come on," I said, "we have been married longer then all these couples combined. For 10 years I have bought every kind of cereal imaginable and Steve never eats them." I rolled my eyes and sighed just to emphasize my point. "OK," the man said. "If you are sure?"

"I'm POSITIVE," I practically shouted.

In a few minutes the men came out to answer the bonus question. All Steve had to do was say what I knew to be true and the certificate for a free dinner was ours. The man cleared his throat and said, "Steve if you get this question right you and Shelley are the champions. If not, this other couple wins." The tension was high. "Steve what is your favorite cereal?"

Almost instantly Steve smiled and said, "That's easy." This was it. The moment I had been waiting for. My heart was pounding. I was thinking how I could look happy and not be too arrogant about our win.

Then, the man that I knew and loved for 10 years, looked right at the announcer and said, "I love Captain Crunch."

"What?" I gasped. Now I can feel my face turning red. I had been so sure. "How can anyone LOVE Captain Crunch?" I asked in utter disgust. "It rubs the roof of your mouth and leaves little stringy things." He just shrugged his shoulders.

"Hey, I've never seen you eat Captain Crunch!" I said in a very accusing tone. Then he looked at me and said "You've never bought them for me." Ouch!

Steve and I learned two very important lessons that night. He learned, You have not because you ask not. I learned that just because you have been married to someone 10 years, doesn't mean you know everything about them.

Philippians 2:4 says, "Let each of you look out not only for his interests, but also for the interests of others." I realized I had never taken time to ask Steve if he liked cereal. I bought what I liked and since he didn't eat it I assumed he didn't like cereal. I looked out for my interest and assumed his interest were mine.

When was the last time you and your spouse sat down and asked each other what they liked and didn't like? Maybe you did at the beginning of your marriage, but have gotten into a rut of taking each others interests for granted. Are you the same person that you were when you got married? Neither is your spouse. Interest change. God is such an awesome and creative God. Do you think He would say marriage is to last a life time and not keep it interesting? God is constantly doing a work in us. Why would we think the things our spouse liked or didn't like 10 years ago are the same? In fact they probably change from year to year; or if they are like me month to month. Take time each day to enjoy the changes in your spouse and get to know them all over again.

In fact, that gives me a great idea. I need to talk to Steve. Maybe that's why there is an unopened box of Captain Crunch in my cabinet!

Monday, November 03, 2003

Looking for Sue  

Today's guest blogger is Russ. Russ and I are both happily married men and deacons at my church. Despite the fact that he's as old as my parents, we're good friends who have more interests and personality traits in common than any two people from separate generations have ever had.

The other day Mr. Happy mentioned that one of the things he looked for in a wife was someone who would allow him to warm his feet on her legs in the winter. This got me to thinking about what kind of qualities I was looking for in a wife before I got married. I couldn't remember any. This makes sense to me because (1) I have been married for over thirty years and my memory isn't worth two cents and (2) I met my future wife, Sue, when we were fourteen and immediately fell in love with her. Although we didn't start dating until 3 years later she was never out of my mind. I compared every girl I dated to her, and I am sure that if I ever thought about marriage during that time I thought about marrying a girl just like Sue. I wasn't looking for qualities; I was looking for Sue. But looking at our marriage now I realize that I cherish qualities about her I never could have dreamed of looking for. The qualities that emerge through regular daily living, the kind of qualities I tend to take for granted unless I make the effort to look for and recognize them. So I decided it was a good time to look for them, and I'm finding lots of them. Lots of them. And I thought it might be nice to share a few, at random:

  1. Sue does not cook fish. This is a good thing, because while I don't like the taste of fish I absolutely loathe the smell of fish cooking, particularly in my own house. Sue does like to eat fish, but in deference to me she only partakes of it in restaurants.

    When we were first married Sue did make fish for dinner a few times, and one other thing I appreciate was that she never said to me "the way I cook fish, it tastes like chicken." Everyone else who has ever cooked fish for me has told me they make it taste like chicken, and they all lied. Nothing tastes like chicken except chicken, with the exception of the hydrolyzed vegetable protein at the Zen Palate restaurant. I love my wife for never saying that.

    I am still waiting for someone to claim that the way they cook chicken, it tastes like fish. That would probably be a lie too.

  2. Sue knows how to bargain with salesmen. I hate to shop for a new car. Left to my own devices, I would pay full sticker price for the first car the salesman showed me, and I would throw in a tip. Sue not only knows the specs on every new car that comes on the market, she somehow brings the salesman to his knees on the sale price, and she doesn't even break a sweat. I am the only man I know who will not go car shopping without his wife. Thank God for her.

  3. Sue has nice feet. Dainty. Her toes are nice and straight, each one just the right size. I don't know why this is important to me but it is. I read a poll recently that named Catherine Zeta-Jones the most beautiful woman in the world, and that may be true, but I'm telling you, if I found out Catherine had ugly feet she would suddenly look like Ernest Borgnine to me. Well, back to Sue. She was standing in the kitchen barefoot the other day, and I was in one of those moods where I just felt like thanking God for some of the little things he has done in my life, and two of those little things are Sue's feet. Thanks, Lord.

    And she almost never tries to warm them on my legs. Thanks again, Lord.

  4. Sue not only indulges my secret desires, she participates in them. No, not those kinds of desires. Wholesome stuff. One illustration: Last February Sue actually shared in the fulfillment of my lifetime dream of going to Punxsutawney, PA for Groundhog Day. This may not sound like much, but believe me, the real experience is nothing like the movie. Groundhog Day in Punxie (we insiders call it that) involves standing in a crowd of 30,000 people on top of a mountain from 3am until daybreak in the dead of winter, waiting for the moment when a group of men in tuxedoes and tophats marches up the mountain to help Phil the groundhog emerge from his (heated) tree stump and predict the coming of spring. Not exactly a night at the Plaza Hotel. But Sue knew it was important to me, so she not only came with me, she actually enjoyed it. In fact, she bought more souvenirs than I did.

So I never had the opportunity to come up with a list of qualities I was going to look for in a wife. God let me fall in love before I had the chance. But I've had all this time to discover the qualities that make up the woman he planned for me to marry.