I subscribe to a daily writing challenge and this is the first I have accepted.
The challenge started with a quote.
Franz Kafka said, “we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” What’s the last thing you read that bit and stung you? http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/daily-prompt-stings/
I am a fan of books that take me away from reality. Books with the “happily ever after”….But….
Every now and again, I am recommended a book that will slam me against a wall and force me to face my life, my choices and my path. This post is about one such book.
My life and marriage changed about 6 years ago. But I am going to start back a bit farther than that, back when my mom was becoming an adult.
My mom met and married my dad in college in the mid to late 60s. My dad joined the Air Force and this began a life that taught my mom how to pack, unpack, repack, organize, and assemble a home in just days. Over the years as my dad was called away to serve, my mom was left at home to run the home and raise us 3 kids alone. Now all this is perfectly normal and happens all the time then and now but what it taught my mom was something she didn’t realize she passed down to her daughters.
Self reliance is a good thing and a necessary thing for a military wife. But the message my mom gave my sister and I was that we were not to rely on a man for anything. The expectation for our lives was that we would go to college, that we would make a career that could support ourselves, that we would learn anything and everything that we need to be self reliant.
Now, I make no condemnations against my mom. She was pretty awesome and knew how to do it all. She could run a home, raise the kids, pay the bills, fix a flat, install a garbage disposal, all while cooking nutritious meals in a home we just moved into the day before. =) She seems like SuperWoman to me now. =) But when my parents divorced after my high school graduation, she began to stress the message that I needed to make every guarentee that I could take care of myself alone and provide for any children I was to have someday.
Now fastforward to the mid to late 90s and I am a woman about to graduate from college walking down the aisle to promise my life to my husband. I look back now and realize how I consciously let him know that he was not going to be my master. He was not going to tell me what to do. He was not going to decide anything for my life. I purposefully wrote my vows and excluded the whole part about “obeying” him. In my mind we weren’t one unit, we were two people living together hoping we would last forever but preparing for the time he might leave. I always knew that if he left, I would be prepared to take care of myself.
Now I know what many of you are thinking. “What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with being prepared?” The problem with being prepared is that I had allowed the thought of divorce to enter my heart and after you let thoughts fester and grow, they can easily become plans and actions if they are not squashed in the thought stage. I became an arrogant woman, who let her husband know at every turn that I would not ask his permission or advice to spend money or make decisions. I was slowly cutting him out of that permanant place in my heart. I was taking away the reason for him being a man and me being his woman. I wouldn’t allow him to protect me and comfort me and care for me. I wouldn’t allow him to be the leader in our home. I was so full of myself that I couldn’t see that our marriage was slowly slipping through my fingers by my actions and words that let him know loud and clear that he wasn’t needed. That I had him around because I wanted him there but not because I needed him there.
About 6 years ago, my sister and I were talking on the phone and she was sharing a book that she and many of her friends were reading. Created to be his Help Meet by Debi Pearl had travelled around her group of friends and they were talking nonstop about it. My curiosity was peaked and a few days later, a copy came to me in the mail from her. Before I began reading, Dawn asked me to do one thing. She asked that I pray before reading each chapter. To pray that God would show me anything that I needed to hear. You see my sister knew who I had become. She knew that any book that tried to deliver me a message that tried to break down the walls I had erected around myself, I would squash. She knew that the message in this book could change me and she knew I didn’t want to be changed. I told her I would take it one chapter at a time and pray before each chapter and try and allow God to show me where I could make my marriage better.
Because I believe that the Bible is the inspired book of God, I therefore believe what is said in it. Before this time, I just would ignore some of the things he said and skip to the ones that suited my purposes. Created to be his Help Meet is a book that takes a wife back to the beginning of the world. Back to the creation of man and then woman and from there guides her through what God expects of her. Debi Pearl poked me and pinched me and made me so uncomfortable that I was looking at the life and marriage that I had created and I was ashamed at who I had become. I was sad at the havoc that I was wreaking between my husband and myself. I had pushed him aside so often that he just stayed to the side instead of connected to me. I saw what my future would be if I continued doing my own thing. And I did not like what I saw.
Without going into detail about what the book says, let me just tell you what happened to me as I read through this book. From the first chapter, my heart was broken. I realized that my focus had, from the beginning, been on me and my wants and my needs. I would think of his wants and needs but only after mine. I began looking for ways and opportunities to do things for him just because it would please him. I was challenged to make a list of those changes that I could make each day that would cause him to see my love for him. She challenged me to pay attention to him and see those things that made him feel special and loved and cared for. I wanted to focus on those things that would let him know I felt blessed to be with him and that my new focus would be him.
Here is what I learned about my husband.
- He thrives on organization and he was not comfortable in chaos. So from that I felt that whatever I could do around our home to keep it organized and chaos free would be well received.
- He loves to eat. That would be a given but one that I didn’t take care of enough. I began preparing dinner and having it cooking when he walked through the door so that his first thought as he inhaled was that a meal was about to be prepared for him.
- He likes my smiles and laughter. I had a “pitiful me” attitude that wasn’t working quite like I wanted it to. At the time I was a stay-at-home mom of 4 children all under the age of 5 and so when he came home I would put on the most pathetic face. And when he would ask how my day went, I would be so down and launch into how hard my day had been and how tired I was. Not something that will endear any woman to her man. I began from that moment on to make sure that the moment he walked in the door, a smile was on my face and anything out of my mouth was focused on the positive blessings of that day. On bad days, the only positive I could think of was that he walked in the door and I wasn’t alone anymore taking care of 4 kids. But it was still a blessing and my smile would let him know that I was happy to see him.
- He thought I was good-looking. Being an at-home wife, can do a lot of things to your self confidence which in turn leads to not doing much to make yourself look your best. Sweats and tees were my norm. I decided to shower, dress and doll up first thing in the morning so that my confidence stayed up for him when he got home.
- He likes sex. I know that is a given but when you are so focused on yourself for so long, a woman can forget that her man needs her a lot more than she thinks. So being the intelligent woman that I am, I consciously chose to not have an excuse anymore. My dad gave me some advice years earlier that came to my head at this time. He told me that a man will ask but if he hears “no” enough, he will stop asking and then you are in for a world of heartache.
- He needed my support. Being a coach can be a very lonely profession sometimes. There is no one at the games to cheer the coach on. When anything goes wrong, the coach is the one blasted by the parents and fans and head coach. I make sure I am available to hear his frustations as well as be there at his games. I want him to know that there is someone in the stands there ONLY for him. I even had shirts made so that everyone knew who we were there for.
The book challenged me to be a better wife to him. I began the book wanting to change who I had become. I didn’t want to plan for divorce as an eventuality in my marriage. I wanted to fight for a good marriage.
What I had not planned on when I started this book were the changes that would occur in my husband. When I began to think of him before myself and do those extra things during my days that would let him know that he was on my mind and in my heart, I didn’t realize that he would be changed too. That he would be more affectionate, more helpful, more considerate, more fun and more confident. Our marriage, my life, was changed because I put aside my pride and decided that I wanted a great marriage with my husband.
A month or so back, I was having lunch with a good friend of mine, LuLu. LuLu asked me if I had ever considered mentoring a young wife and if I would consider it now. After letting her know that I would be honored to meet with her each week I knew the book that I wanted us to read together. I had wondered over the past few years what parts of the book would stick out to me now. I also knew that even back then, with an attitude for change, that I still ignored some things that were too hard for me to consider. I wondered if now as I have matured and taken on a less selfish attitude that I wouldn’t get more out of the book on a second reading.
The answer is yes, I have found more gems of wisdom and more understanding of how much my marriage and life can be blessed by thinking much less of myself and much more of him. Each week that LuLu and I get together, she tells me that this book is challenging her and already after only a few weeks into it, she is already seeing changes in her husband and marriage because of a change in her focus and attitude.
This book is not for the faint of heart. This book is for the wife who wants more out of each day with her husband. Who wants to protect her marriage so that it will last through the happily ever after. I can attest that after 17 years with my husband, we have the best marriage today than we have ever had. He is my closest friend, my biggest support and greatest admirer. I know it can still get better and I know that we are on the path to help it be just that.