A Dream for Kitty (on her High School Graduation)

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Kitty,

I know you don’t like to be called Kitty any more. You have grown into a young woman who has the world in front of her. A sea of expectations, hopes, fears, and dreams. A commander of your destiny who will choose to battle the storms and find a new country for herself. Bold, curious, and determined, you have a bright future.

Such a person really shouldn’t be call Kitty.

But I don’t see you that way. To me, you will always be, to some degree, that little girl sitting in that van with a ridiculous number of pets in it. With brown hair and tender eyes, that little girl’s sweet disposition shined through. A tender soul who looked at life with curiosity and a healthy dose of caution.

That little girl visited us often. I remember when she visited us in our apartment in Knoxville. I remember when she lived in our basement, when she drove a car for the first time, when she pursued her first job. Soon, I will remember when she graduated High School and moved into a strange and exciting world.

Please permit and old man like me to see you as a little girl and, because I love the name, to call you Kitty.

What should I say to you? How do I encapsulate all of the hopes, fears, and joys I feel for you in a single letter? Even for an old man like me, this is too grand a task. Your life cannot be wrapped up in a few fumbling words, even if I wish it could. The tender affections I feel for you and the deep hopes I hold for you could fill volumes and yet would not fully describe them.

When God sat down to create the world, he had many things on his mind. The molding of atoms and galaxies. He hand-carved the Earth and threw it gently into its orbit. He formed the first seeds and scattered them over the whole Earth. He then worked on men and women. Even as he gathered the dust up to make Adam he pondered the people who would come from what he was doing. God has a nostalgic side.

He thought of you. Deep in his enormous heart a fountain of joys poured out as he considered the way you would walk and the funny things you would say. He cried quietly about your hurts and laughed with you at the joys you would have. He chose to love you deeply and to hold you close to his heart.

He also took a bit of that affection and was kind enough to give it to me. What a sweet gift!

From that tender place in my heart, I see a future for you. That future has not happened, but I pray for it. Allow an old man like me to show you what I hope for you.

Love Jesus (Choose your God Well)

Kitty, give your heart wholly to Jesus. My affection for you is a tiny spark that was flung from the inferno of his affection. He walked through a dark and painful world out of his love for you. He died for you. One of the stunning revelations we will experience on crossing into Heaven will be the deep and tender care he has for us. Love him!

Love Your Husband (Choose your Husband Well)

God knows I am very pro-marriage. There are few more beautiful things in the world than a sweet marriage. But there also few uglier things than terrible marriage. Most awful marriages could have been prevented while only a few of them can be fixed.

The fact is, most people don’t change. I mean the core of them. Sure some surface things are refined in life, but most of the deepest parts of us are fixed and we cannot change them, even when we want to. Most people do mean to be faithful when they marry, but they are then are unwilling to deeply and truly love when the challenge is put to them.

Kitty, one day soon a young man will walk into your life and will see you and see a glimpse of how precious you are. He will honestly and deeply desire you. This is a good thing! He will pour his creativity and heart into winning you. This too is good! He will be sincere and it will feel really good that he wants you that passionately. This is wonderful as well!

But his sincerity and desire are not good enough. It takes more than good intentions to be a good husband. Please be careful. Take your time. Bring in trusted adults with stable marriages to look him over and to see what substance there is to him. It will be so wonderful to see you happily in love. I want that to last a lifetime. Be careful.

Love Your Life

Soon you will have the wonderful privilege of making big decisions. As you stand at the crossroad you will realize that when you choose one path, you are choosing not to go down another. If you want to become a doctor you can’t simultaneously become an interior designer. God gave you a limited life in this world and you will have to let things go to fully embrace what is good.

Don’t be afraid. We have all faced this.

When you choose, throw your heart into that choice. None of the choices are wrong, but give yourself to your choice and pursue it with passion. Pray about it. God gives wisdom to those who ask.

Holiness and Joy are the Same Thing

You will be presented choices that will look like God is holding a joy away from you: that if you do the right thing you will be choosing misery.

That is a lie.

Certainly you will suffer for doing the right thing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung from a gallows naked for his choices. The Apostle Peter was crucified upside down for his choices. Were they fools?

No, they suffered because they believe that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Jesus commended us to not “store up treasure on Earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but to store up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.”

The fact is, your God loves you and the rules he has placed are there because he loves you. The guard rails at the Grand Canyon are not limitations for you, they are guides to keep you safe. Remember, holiness and joy are the same thing.

In Closing

Well, I seem to be rambling a bit. Kitty, you have a bright future that is full of joys and sorrows that you cannot imagine. I don’t know what they will be but I promise you this: as long as I am able to, I will walk them with you. To the extent I am able to support you and care for you as you strike out in this world, I will do it.

In this way, I am acting like my Father. He too will walk with you. Unlike me, he knows what is coming and is already preparing you for it. Unlike me, he is never out of resources to help you. Unlike me, he will not die and cannot be stopped. He will never be sick and he will never sin against you. Trust me a little bit. Trust him a lot.

Kitty, I am so excited to see what this life has for you. Permit me to take part in your journey.

-Chip

The lovely image above is courtesy of Ephriam Ragasa and is used with permission

Gifts from My Father

dad

My Dad

As Father’s Day approaches, many of us are considering what to give our fathers. Amazon is convinced I should buy him a new Fire TV setup (I haven’t had the heart to tell them he wouldn’t want it). Personalization Mall really feels like he needs a personalized tie and Best Buy believes I don’t love him unless I get him a laptop.

As a father myself, I have come to the conviction that Father’s Day should be all the more about what we as fathers can do to serve our wives, our children, and our community. It is good to celebrate fatherhood and fathers. There are few more daunting tasks than to be a good father.

I did not buy my dad a Father’s Day present, as is my custom. It is not a sign of ingratitude, I’ve never been much on giving gifts (sorry Amazon). In many ways, this is not as much a celebration of what I can do for my father and more of a memorial for what he has done for me. This Father’s Day, let’s take a walk back and remember what I have been given by my father.

His Work Ethic

My dad did something truly amazing. Superman may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but my dad did something even better. He got up early every morning and trudged to a job he didn’t like because he loved us. Dad worked for years with difficult people and frustrating demands. He rarely complained to us, but I know the toll that took on him.

That sort of work ethic is commendable, even excellent. I strive to live up to that. Thank you dad for that gift.

His Love of Learning

One of dad’s better kept secrets is his deep intelligence. He reads more than anyone I know. One of the jokes from our childhood is how rich we would be if dad had just been willing to go on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (answer: we would have been millionaires). He introduced me to some of the greatest authors out there including C. S. Lewis, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur C. Clark, H. G. Wells, and many more. I am a little bitter that I had to find The Lord of the Rings on my own, but I have since forgiven him.

In addition, he was able to speak intelligently on most topics in science and in particular space. Dad always had a secret dream of being an astronaut. He even applied to be the teacher on the Challenger Mission in 1986. Being that it blew up on lift-off, I am glad he didn’t win.

To this day, I still call dad and we chat about science and history and whatever is on our minds. Thanks dad.

His Love of Family

The classic Easop’s Fable of The Tortoise and the Hare ends with the mantra, “Slow and steady wins the race.” In that case, dad won. You will never find my dad creating a viral video where he break-dances or sings some Sinatra to my mom. He is not a flashy guy. A little uncomfortable in crowds, I doubt many of you know him the way we do.

Dad’s unwavering, determined, firm, and emphatic dedication to my mom is legendary. He is truly in love with her. He extends that dedication to us kids. Daily I am challenged to love my family to be faithful to them like that.

Thank you dad.

His Love of God

Many mornings I would wake up and find my dad sitting and reading his Bible. He was always conversant about any biblical topic I could bring up. Far from being an intellectual snob, he never once treated a question of mine as stupid (though some of them were, in fact, stupid). Certainly I was overwhelming to him at times, but he was always respectful with me.

The patience and dedication of God showed through in his life. The challenge has been laid to me to give to my family in the same way.

Thank you dad.

For Being My Dad

This Father’s Day I don’t want to celebrate what I can give my dad but rather to celebrate what I have been given from my dad. The debt I owe is beyond repayment, but being my dad, he has always told me to pay it by caring for my own children well. For the rest of my life, the work he did for me will, by the goodness of God, echo for a thousand generations to come.

One day, my dad will stand in Heaven. There will be a crowd there but dad will be off to the side. He never really liked crowds. He will see 10,000 men and women walking by who will each and every one will owe him deeply for the sacrifices he made. Generation after generation of those who will now know that pains, trials, and joys he experienced to bring them to Heaven as well. They will know because dad’s Father in Heaven will have told them. You see, He promised to exalt the humble.

These are the gifts from my father.

-Chip

A Family Lunch at God’s House

feastArriving at Father’s house is always a bit of a challenge. Many times it is difficult to get the kids ready and get out the door and there is always that nagging feeling that I should have a better attitude before going. Either way, we finally arrive and the kids go to play and my wife drifts off to talk with some friends.

As I wander around and look around at God’s family, my family, I am struck by their…well…their strangeness. Uncle Joe is sitting in the corner quietly watching the mulling mass of family. He clearly doesn’t like crowds, but Father was here so he was will to tolerate them to visit Father again.

Aunt Linda is a gossip and I never really liked her even before I knew that. She reminds me of the witch in Tangled. All of her words are filled with half-truths and double meanings. I carefully navigate the crowd to avoid drawing her attention.

Little Billy found a way to spill koolaid on Father’s couch AGAIN! Seriously, where are his parents? That couch now has more red and blue spots on it than its original color. Father is a really rich guy, why hasn’t he replaced that eye-sore of a couch? Looks like Billy’s mom just saw what he did. She is so mortified that it happened again. Now I feel sorry for her. It looks like I am not the only one who gave a dirty look.

Cousin Norman is cantankerous as ever. That man does not know when to shut up. He very much has a speak first and think later philosophy. I see a number of faces giving him a wide berth. No one wants to be caught in his cross-hairs. Personally, I’ve made some peace with it. He is a jerk, but I can tolerate that most of the time.

Ah, finally someone I want to talk to. Cousin Jeremy (he’s actually my second cousin) is by the fish tank. He is a bit of a dweeb and while gregarious, he gets overwhelmed in crowds (I wonder if he and Uncle Joe would get along). Jeremy and I shake hands and discuss the latest tech gadget or website or something.

Both of us have a history of porn addiction of which we are both on the better side of recovering. It kind of bonds us though we both feel a little uneasy knowing how poorly the family would respond if they knew our history. We may be a family, but we can sure be a judgemental group sometimes. Most of the family would simply not understand.

Hearing the bell in the kitchen (which is the signal that it is time to eat) we call file in and sit at the very long table. The rough-cut wood always felt good to lay my hands on and none of us minded the long wood benches on both sides of the table (except Grandpa Randal, but he was never quite happy with anything).

At the head of the table was Father. A tall and strong man who had a well-trimmed white beard and a flannel shirt, we all respected him. He is hard-working, determined, direct, and hard yet carried a very sweet demeanor all the same. He was the sort that if you woke him up in the middle of the night, he used all of the hardness for you. He never complained about helping. He actually only really got on your case when you didn’t ask for his help.

Far on the other end of the table was our oldest brother Joshua. He was so much like Father but yet seemed to present the sweetness of Father’s disposition first and is less intimidating. He had done some amazing work for the family and had worked with Father to rescue us all a family from great danger! He still was scarred from his work, but he never complained. We all felt a deep debt to him.

But he was the sort who never called in debts. One quality they both possessed was endless generosity. No one seems to know where they made all of their wealth from. The food and help and joy seemed truly boundless. Even though the people sitting at this table were sometimes very difficult to get along with, we all agreed that as long as Father and Joshua were going to serve lunch, then we were going to keep coming. It seemed the Air between them was so crackling with happiness, calm, and peace that we just wanted to breathe it all day long.

Being the very messed up family that we are, it was not unheard of for a fist-fight to break out at the table and for Father to walk over and pick the combatants up and bring them out of the room for one of his legendary “talks”. Most such fights happened only once.

Father spread out his great big hands out and blessed the food. That is not to say he prayed. He just made the food a little more wonderful because he could!

In an instant He and Joshua were in action. Flashing in and out of the he kitchen door with plates of steaming food. It was more of a dance with fluid motions complementing the other’s actions. The serving of the food itself was a delight to behold.

And the steak. Yes, that’s right, steak. Steaming with a simply intoxicating smell. You barely needed your knife it was so tender. Each delightful mouthful seemed a tad better than the last. Combined with a wonderful grape juice and a lovely baked potato, Father had outdone himself.

Some of us fancied ourselves to be good with a grill, but Father put us all to shame. It remains wonderful to me how much he loves to serve us good things. Really good things. It is such a deep part of Him that I can’t imagine Him not being so giving. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Him not taking care of us one way or the other.

As our bellies become full and a hearts happy, I noticed how much easier it was to care for my family. Sure they are a mess, but Father loves them very much. He is just as irritated by their stupidity as I am, but the well of His love for them is immensely deeper than mine.

We are a family because of him. If he hadn’t adopted all of us, we would never have gotten to sit at that table together and enjoy His wonderful food, wonderful demeanor, wonderful Self! As we move along as a family and slowly become more like Father, I think I could grow to even like most of them. One day, even love them.

It’s hard to hear Father criticized because of His adoptive family. We don’t represent Him very well. He knew that He would be criticized for adopting us and He did it anyway. Yet another way He is a great Father.

So, we left. Full from a meal at our Father’s table, we left to face another week of life in a challenging world with a messed up family. Father handed each of us an invitation to be back next Sunday for lunch. I waved to Jeremy on my way out.

I guess I’ll see him next week at our Father’s house.

-Chip

The great family photo above is courtesy of Andrew Lance and is used with permission.

Being a Passive Husband

husband signI get it. An author sits down and writes a book about marriage. He takes a moment to pray and consider how he will assist couples through the difficult waters of marriage. He wants to encourage men to be leaders in their homes who are worth following, but he has to be careful. He doesn’t want to encourage an abusive husband to be even more abusive. It would break this author’s heart get a letter from a wife who was beaten by her husband after reading his marraige book.

So he writes his book and it is a best seller. It really breaths life into many a marriage and shows many pushy jerks of husbands how to be compassionate and thoughtful husband who hears his wife. Many marriages are helped by his timely and thoughtful words.

Except mine.

You see, in my marriage, I am the wimp. Many of you who know me are scratching your heads, “What, no way! Chip is pushy if he is anything.” You’re right to say that, but this is true in almost every relationship except with my wife. The way I have learned to work with her is under the very reliable code of “Don’t Do Evil.”

This plan looks really good on paper. The author mentioned above can rest assured that I will never beat my wife or abuse her. In fact, many societal ills would be helped if more guys were passive like me. Much of the crime and violence in the world would be much reduced. Sounds great, right?

It’s fine unless you are my wife. She was hoping to get a husband who was assertive enough to lead in our home. She didn’t ask for a passive husband who simply didn’t make waves. God will not judge me simply on the evils I failed to do, but on the good I did.

So, ever ready with the marriage book, I can hear the real answer, Leadership!

That is a fine answer, I just don’t really know what leadership is. If I were fundamentally more capable at most of life than my wife, it would be easier, but I married the lady who is really good at life and family and just about everything else. She is driven and capable and were she to enter the corporate world, I would soon be working for her.

I am very grateful she has taken all of that superior talent and drive and is an amazing mother and wife. Not every guy is so blessed, but it does leave me in a bit of a lurch. I am not confident in my own abilities and judgement compared to hers. Sure I am competent, but in most of life, she is excellent.

Is the competent guy really going to forcefully challenge the excellent lady?It is easy to just let it ride. Really, peace is much better than being right. Whatever it takes for peace. I may not know what it is to be a leader, but I know that this is not it. So I am back to where I started, trying not to fail. Wouldn’t it be great to be trying to succeed and not simply avoiding failure? Maybe I should read a marriage book.

But every author is so concerned with not setting off Mr. Abuse that many of them don’t have much for me. Where is the marriage book for the wimp? There aren’t any. In addition, many Christian Marriage books seem like manuals for suffocating my wifes wonderful talents and gifts. That can’t be the way marriage was meant to be: the place where my dear wife goes to be less than she can be.

So, to all the wimps out there, I don’t have all the answers for you. I know you are out there because I know many of you. We have bought into the lie that avoiding failure is the most important thing. So here are the few answers I have found in my few years of marriage. I hope that they are helpful to you.

You are Loved by Your Daddy in Heaven

This may feel like a non-sequitor, but I think the most important thing we need to do is be willing to take a risk of failing. It is easy to say, “take a risk” and it is hard to do it. What has helped me? It is knowing that my God will honestly, tenderly, kindly, and sweetly love me if and when I fail. He will not be angry with me even if my wife is. If God is for me, who can be against me.

This has been a source of immense courage. Jesus went to God when he was afraid and asked for the pain to end or the courage to face it. This should be a common prayer for us wimps.

Leadership is the Same Thing as Initiative

Leadership is a painfully vague word that makes me imagine a general commanding an army with confidence and boldness. This is totally unattainable for me. I can’t be that guy, particularly at home.

Fortunately, I don’t think God is asking me to do that. What he is asking is for me to bring my thoughts and concerns forward? To be the first to say something. In fact, I think he is asking me to bring up things when I am not sure I am right and where my motives are clouded. One of the most paralyzing forces in my life is my introspection of my motives. Sometimes, I need to just say how I think and feel and take the risk of being completely wrong.

Leaders Apologize

One of the mantras of leadership is that it takes responsibility for the situation. I’m not sure what the means. I’m responsible enough. I mow my lawn and hug my kids and wash the dishes. I show up to work and come home.

Certainly part of taking responsiblity is to go press on through the requirements of life to care for my family, but taking responsibility is more than that. It is the feeling that the problem is my problem. It is the urge to correct the problem and maintain the solution. It is the drive in my heart to make Earth just a little more like Heaven.

In a real sense, taking responsibility is the same thing as the urge to apologize for the failure and weaknesses of my life, my home, and my community. It is the sense of ownership of the problem that does what is necessary to fix (or at least try). My natural bent is to avoid problems because I can then be blamed for the failure to solve them. If my fingerprints aren’t on it, then when it goes wrong, no one can blame me.

This is yet another variety of avoiding failure and not seeking success.

Recognize the Strengths of Being more Passive

There is a myth that I have believed that passivity is all weakness. Many Fruits of the Spirit give the appearance of weakness: gentleness, kindness, patience, and self-control. Many passive men and women excel in these virtues and far from being weak, they are a serious strength. My family is well-served if I am steady and reliable, gentle and affectionate.

Recognize the Weaknesses of Being more Passive

As with every character quality, passivity has a dark side. Much of maturity is to capitalize on your strengths while blunting your weaknesses. To effectively blunt the harms of my passivity I must know what they are!

I need to face the fact that many times my family needs me to resist my overly cautious nature and do what I think is right. Some men are too quick to act, I am too slow to act. Maturity for them is to slow down and think. Maturity for me is to consider and move forward even when I am uncertain.

Look for Contexts in Life Where You are More Confident

While I am more passive at home, I am much more confident and assertive in certain church contexts and at work. What’s the difference between them?

In exploring why I am more comfortable in some settings has been quite fruitful. It is good to see places where my natural leadership strengths show themselves. It is confidence building to just know that those places exist.

A Few Final Thoughts

I fear that someone will read this article and conclude that my wife is a battle-axe of a woman. She has her sins, but I feel immensely blessed to have her in my life. No, the main problems lay with me. She has been a thoughtful, gracious, forgiving, and wise friend for our marriage.

My hope is that you, the passive man or woman, will be given hope and encouragement. God loves you as you are and he made you to be a gentler soul. He also calls you to be more than just your natural self. He is refining you into something much more than you are today. Jesus didn’t come to make you mediocre. He came to make you a precious and fully redeemed bride for himself. He really loves you. He will continue to work with you and love you.

You may be passive, but he is actively pursuing you. We are so blessed to have him.

-Chip

The image above is courtesy of Keoni Cabral and is used with permission

The Sixth Love Language (for kids)

child laughingIn the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, he makes the compelling argument for five major ways that we give and receive love. They are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Gifts
  4. Physical Touch
  5. Quality Time

This list is, of course, not exhaustive for the ways that people can give and receive love. I should probably keep working at my job despite the fact “Working at a Job” is not a listed love language. It is loving for my family even if it does not fit comfortably on the list.

As I have had children, I have been amazed at how much they just drink in physical touch and words of affirmation. They are just sponges for love in those ways. I can watch my daughter just brim with excitement when I tell her that I think that dress looks beautiful on her. She will then dance and twirl around the living room to make sure I have noticed every last pink frill.

But there is a strange way that kids accept love that I had not anticipated. Far from the more glamorized and acceptable ways of giving love listed above, this one is different. It is the sixth love language (for kids).

6.  Acts of Silliness

Kids just flourish when parents are ridiculous and silly around them. I think God is like this. We will be amazed in Heaven by how much God is speaking in baby-talk just to speak with us at all. I think we will also be amazed at how very funny God will be. He is not simply the judge of the Universe, he also knows all the best jokes.

One such joke that is common in my house is that a child will walk into a room and I will intensely point and smile at them. I won’t say anything, just point. The child stops, considers for a moment, then they smile. “You’re so silly dada.”

My pointer fingers on both hands are called my “Poking Fingers.” The kids know that if I walk up to them with my poking fingers out, they are about to get gentle pokes in their bellies. They twist up and giggle and have a good time even if I don’t poke them. A favorite thing they do is try to prevent my poking finger from poking them. When they succeed in stopping a poke, they are quite proud of themselves and give me five year old smack talk.

The point is that we men should not be too serious in our home. Our kids need us to be representative of the Sovereign God who commands infinite respect AND the God who is funny and delightful. Yahweh is both.

Gentlemen, we need to love our kids using Acts of Silliness. Tickle them, tell them a nonsensical joke, make funny sounds, pretend you are a giant pink panda bear. Be very, very silly because you love them so much that you don’t care if your neighbor’s laugh at you as long as your kids know you love them.

Ironically, Acts of Silliness make you most respectable.

-Chip

The delightful image above was use with permission from Cheriejoyful.

Make Her Glad You’re Home

3473338897_889e375ae0_oI sit in the car after a hard day’s work. The engine turns off and the interior light blinks on. Looking into the passenger seat, I pull up the mental energy to head into the house.

I’ve read the books. I know what to expect. My wife is just now pulling a delicious home-cooked meal from the oven. The children are playing thoughtfully and respectfully in the living room. My wife comes over to me and, with glowing affection, gives me a kiss and asks about my day. She looks radiant having just taken some time to freshen up.

Then cold, hard reality sets in. My real wife in my real house caring for my real children. She has made the hard decision to stay at home and home-school our kids. She doesn’t work outside the home even though she excels in the working world. She uses her tremendous gifts to care for and raise our children well. I am very grateful.

But with that gratitude, I better mix in some understanding. She has been working since the kids got up at 7 AM. No real breaks and always on call. With my four kids, she is essentially running a day-care (except she doesn’t get off at 5 PM). In addition, she has managerial functions of acquiring and delivering food for this hoard of little mouths. She is handling deliveries of mail and supplies and paying the bills. She then also coordinates the frequent home maintenance and repairmen who come and go.

And she often packs my lunch in the morning.

Far from the books that have so many recommendations for her about how she should take care of me when I go through the door, maybe I should consider how I should care for her.

Many men, including this man, feel like once we’ve worked hard all day, we are entitled to a little rest and relaxation at the end of the day. For that matter, I’m entitled to some good sex as well. I’ve worked hard. I deserve it.

But this attitude is not biblical at all. The oft-quote sections of scripture speaking to men never explain what I can expect from her. Far from it, every time the Bible talks to me, it reminds me of what I should be doing for her.

It’s called servanthood.

Loving my wife as I love myself means that as I sit in the quiet of my still car, I need to be aware that she is tired too. She has been working harder than I have in a poorly defined job without the accolades of employment. The hard-working employee gets a pat on the back from his boss. The hard-working homemaker gets the occasional dirty look at the grocery store and the periodic blog post reminding her that she is a second-class woman.

Her job is harder than mine.

Despite the books reminding me that my wife should greet me at the door with a smile, a warm hug, an understanding ear, and a hot meal, I am the chief servant. The question I should ask is what can I do for her. Far from demanding that she act glad to see me, maybe I should care so well for her that she will be glad to see me. I don’t need to see how much I can take from my family, but how much I can give.

As the daddy of four little people, it is completely unrealistic that my wife will be refreshed and thrilled to see me at dinner time. She will be at her most harried. But, rather than think of how terrible it is that God made things this way, what if this is an opportunity? You see, I can be the hero. What if I told her she could take a break and I cooked dinner? What if this is a chance to haul the kids all into a bath? What if I could help her and not drain her?

So, when I step out of that car, I will walk through that door not asking what she can do for me. No, I will walk into that house and help where I can. If I do this right, maybe she will actually be really glad to see me.

And sex, hopefully nice sex afterwards.

-Chip

Photo by Tiffany Terry and used with permission

Valentine’s Day: An Opportunity to Fail

dreamstimefree_163036Guys, you know what I’m talking about.

She has this all planned out. She has been planning her Valentine’s days since she was a little girl. The day begins with a full breakfast cooked to perfection. You leave for work with a look of gentle sadness in your eyes, knowing that you are leaving the gems of your life behind. She is pleasantly surprised to find a little love note in her purse from you. Yes, you did it again, a poem hand written by you that is perfectly in tune with her every heartbeat. She sighs gently to herself that she is the luckiest girl in the world.

You send her thoughtful texts from work reminding her that you know she is the most beautiful thing that God ever created. You instruct her to dress in something formal because there is a surprise date this evening to somewhere special. Right as she is finding the right dress, the doorbell rings. She answers it to find a delivery of the largest bouquet of roses she has ever seen. You sent a dozen for every year you’ve been married.

You arrive home looking fresh and relaxed after another day of killing it professionally. She is wholly secure in her financial future because of your great work ethic and careful planning just in case the worst happens. She looks radiant in her dress. You take one of the roses from the bouquet and with a deft hand you make a beautiful corsage on the spot that goes perfectly with her dress. You walk to the car holding hands as you drive to her favorite restaurant.

She is so surprised when the waiter beings you to a private table. You order for yourself and then show how carefully you have been studying her all these years by ordering what she would like as well. You check with her to be sure, but you were exactly right. As you sip champagne together you reminisce over all the great times you have had over the years. You tell her that when God made the world, he made her just right to be the perfect match for you.

You drive home holding hands in the car. When you arrive, you hurry over and open her door. When you go inside, you dim the lights and turn on her favorite romantic music. As you take her in your arms, she breaths a gentle prayer thanking God for such a wonderful husband. As the evening progresses, well, let’s just say it went well from there.

Not intimidating at all, right?

The real you wakes up on February 14th, nearly forgets to shave, hurries to work. Yells at the dog on the way out. Has a very stressful day at work. Rushes home and decides to fix that leaky faucet in the basement. After a long and exhausting day your head hits the pillow and you look into your dear wife’s eyes. Those hurt, angry eyes.

Crap, you forgot again. At least you weren’t away fishing this year.

None of us guys can live up to the Hallmark commercial. She won’t smile as big in real life as the girl in the Kay Jewelers commercial did. The fact is that only one word describes Valentines Day.

Intimidation!

We aren’t up to this. If she just liked sports more this would be easy. But no, she has dreams of romance and kindness. Less beer and more wine. What is a guy to do?

You have a couple of options. The worst one is to ignore the day. Sure it’s scary, but I promise she knows it’s coming. If you forget/ignore the day, she won’t. Minimal effort really is worth more than no effort at all.

Nearly as bad is a passing mention. “Happy Valentine’s Day honey” with a kiss on the cheek. She has dreams of being romanced and a simple well-wish will not cut it. You need to do more.

Some men fall into the trap of thinking this is about money. If you spend sufficient funds on flowers, chocolate, and a cute night gown (let’s face it, the night gown is a gift for you). To be sure, money helps. Particularly if you are a tight-wad or gifts are her thing. But let’s not pretend that money is honoring and showing her that you prize her. Money spent is only as good as it shows her that she is precious to you.

So let me show you the most excellent way. Demonstrate she is precious to you the other 364 days of the year.

I was recently discussing with my wife an idea I read in the book Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree. Every day, he writes a note on the 3×5 card to his wife affirming her in some way. She loves these notes so much that she has shoe boxes full of them from many years of notes. Even when he travels, he leaves prewritten notes for her.

My wifes’ response was priceless. “I can’t imagine a woman who wouldn’t love that.”

Hint taken.

As of last week, I have written a 3×5 card every day I work. My friends, this works. It is good for her to read these notes but it is also very good for me to write them. It is good to be reminded about the things I love about her. It is not that we don’t fight, but it created a very affirming atmosphere for us to fight in. It has been so good that I will be writing one to each of my children once a week.

Gentlemen, the best way to love your wives is not to show her you care one day a year with a glorious and romantic evening. She would much rather you did a few little things the other 364 days. If we have done well, Valentines day will be the culmination of a previous year’s work. It doesn’t help me much if God loves me on Sunday but has no help for Monday. Your wife needs you to love her well the rest of the year so that you can give her a single rose on Valentine’s Day, but she knows that rose is from a man who deeply loves and affirms her.

Will this solve all your problem, not by a long shot. Loving is hard. But if all loving has this kind of payoff, then loving her well is wonderful indeed.

Now go tell that woman specifically what you love about her.

-Chip