Why my husband isn’t coming with me to the other side of the world

Those of you who visit my Facebook page will know that Madelyn and I are going to England in July. I am so excited! We’re primarily going over to visit my dad, step mum and little sister, but will catch up with a few friends while we’re over there too.

Controversially, we’ve made the decision that my daughter and I will go to England for three and a half weeks alone, leaving my husband at home. He was able to get the time off work, we have enough money saved to buy his ticket, and we were all set to book the flights, when a last minute truce resulted in his ticket just not being booked. Many people have been confused as to why, it doesn’t seem to make sense that half of our family would go to the other side of the world without the other half, so here is our reasoning. This trip to England has been in the works for almost 10 years, since the last time I went to visit my family over there at 16. I’d always planned on going back, and when Angus and I got married, we discussed going there together. We have several very close friends in England as well as my family, and had actually planned to go in July of last year, but put those plans on hold when I fell pregnant with Madelyn. Angus actually has zero desire to travel, and was not keen on the idea of spending thousands of dollars to go to England when he was perfectly happy here in New Zealand. My dad offered to pay for one of us and Madelyn to go over, we just needed to pay for the other one of us. So we saved up enough for one adult return flight, found the cheapest flights we could, and were all ready to book the flights…

We argued every evening for 4 days. We were stressed out and impatient with each other, and every conversation turned into a disagreement. I’d found these cheap(er) flights, and wanted to book them, but because of a few larger purchases we’d made recently (two new cars and a motorbike), we were slightly short. I wanted to figure out what money to move around so that we could afford it, but every time I tried to get Angus to sit down to sort it out, it would end in an argument about money. He would lament how much I spend, and would get a piece of paper and work out exactly how much money we would lose going on this trip (despite two flights being paid for, it was going to cost us around $8,000 due to credit card interest). Worried that my opportunity to go back to England was slipping quickly out of my hands, I became more insistent that we just book the flights right now.

It came to the last day that the travel agent could hold the tickets for us. To help Angus not stress about spending so much money, I asked my dad if he could pay directly rather than having us pay now and forwarding us the money. That morning, before Angus left for work, we argued about money. He came home a couple of hours later, and we argued some more. He said that after this trip we would never travel overseas again, and that he was going to take complete control over the money situation so that we wouldn’t need to use so much on our credit card. It didn’t help that we were short on money at the time anyway. He told me that, if it were up to him, we wouldn’t go. I couldn’t not go.

I spent the morning worrying. I knew that to make him happy I needed to say we wouldn’t go. I knew that he would forever resent the amount of money spent, that it would delay us buying a house, and that the bitterness would build up inside him for years to come. But I also knew that I would forever resent not being able to go, that I would be similarly bitter for years to come. I had no idea what to do, there seemed to be no easy answer.

Then my dad called to let me know that he had paid for one adult and for Madelyn. It was done. Madelyn and I were going to England. Definitely. No going back, despite the money situation. It was happening.

The weight that had been on my shoulders all week evaporated. And as it did so, I realised that there was one other option. Not one I liked. Not one I would have chosen if it were up to me. But I knew it was the kindest thing to do. So I called Angus and asked him to come home for a minute, and I said to him,

“My dad called, he’s booked the flights for Madelyn and I…”

“Okay…” he replied, his face still twisted with worry, his shoulders still tense with stress.

“There is one option, and I don’t like it, but it’s there” I took a deep breath, “You don’t have to come.”

He visibly relaxed, and said that he’d been talking about the exact same idea with his boss. His boss thought he should go, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but they’d discussed the pros and cons of me going without him. Angus had only two concerns, 1) Would I be okay on the plane? and 2) A month (the length of time we’d planned on going) would be far too long for us to spend apart. I assured him that, while the flights would be hard, I’d cope. And we discussed shortening the trip to only two and a half weeks.

So it was decided. I called the travel agent, not to book Angus’s ticket, but to see about the possibility of moving our flight home to nearly two weeks earlier. It turned out that the only flight home around the date we wanted was right in the middle of a camp Angus would be involved in, so we pushed it out to three weeks. At 5pm, when the ticket would have stopped being held, it was official. Madelyn and I were travelling to the other side of the world without our husband and father.

People think we’re crazy. They feel frustrated at Angus, because they think he should be coming too. It’s not proper for a family to be so far from each other. But, if I may be so very real, it was going to ruin our marriage if I forced him to come. It wasn’t fair of him to ask me not to go. But, at the same time, it wasn’t fair of me to pressure him into going. We will miss each other very much, and the flight will be horrendous, but it is the best decision for our marriage. We are both extremely happy about it. Straight away, Angus started talking about maybe going over to Australia to visit friends of ours, even a potentially international missions trip. I mentioned that I can save up the money I earn teaching dance to use as spending money, and he said “I’ll give you some spending money too.” That evening, we did not argue at all. In fact, we haven’t really argued since.

Marriage isn’t about “ought to”s, and it’s not black and white. It involves a lot of compromise. We each had something we absolutely could not move on, and we needed to work around that for the benefit of each of us.

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What’s For Dinner? Easy Pasta

Angus was working late last Thursday, so Madelyn and I just had a simple, lazy dinner.

I threw together some pasta, cooked capsicum and cooked cherry tomatoes with some tomato and roasted garlic tomato pasta sauce (the sauce was just from a jar). Madelyn had the pasta, raw cherry tomatoes and lightly cooked capsicum without any pasta sauce.

DSCF1611

She also had some cucumber and pear. Pears are a funny thing to have with pasta, I know, but we have fruit bowls on the dining table and I always eat heaps of it once I’ve finished dinner. If I pick up something she wants, she’ll reach out towards it, so I give it to her. She wanted some pear with her dinner.

DSCF1615I know it’s not much, but when you’re just cooking for one adult and a baby who will probably throw most of it on the floor (or stuff it under her legs, which is her new thing) anyway, you don’t tend to go to too much effort. Pasta with vegetables and half a jar of pasta sauce is a winner for dinner when the husband is away.

 

Deserving extravagant thanks (the Proverbs 31 Woman)

The husband half of a couple from our church is treating his wife to a trip to Melbourne with a friend (who he is also treating), to thank her for the way she has supported him and helped him with his farm for the past couple of years.

What extravagance. What thoughtfulness. What a guy.

And if I’m honest, my first thought was “Oh, how lucky she is. My husband would never do that.” I even thought about telling him, specifically to make him see how much sweeter he could be. But as I thought more about it, a horrible realisation dawned on me…

The reason my husband would never treat me to a shopping trip in Melbourne is because I don’t deserve it.

I don’t say that to put myself down, to get sympathy, or to be shocking. It’s simply the truth. My husband is a reasonable and kind man, and if I deserved such an extravagant gift as thanks, then I would get it.

I might look after Madelyn relatively well, but I don’t do all that much to improve life for Angus. I don’t really keep the house that tidy, I don’t cook him dinner, I spend all his money. And I expect thanks for every tiniest thing I do.

In the 31st chapter of Proverbs, King Lemuel recalls his mother’s advice about the ideal wife. She is hardworking, she rises early in the morning to feed and clothe her family. She is wise with money, and makes good decisions that result in prosperity. Her body is strong from the work that it has done, and even at night, she does not give up her duty. She is generous. She helps those in need. Her children and husband praise her, and her husband is respected because of her. She honours the Lord, and for this she deserves to be praised.

My husband needs a wife who is steadfast, loyal, and motivated. Who takes care of things at home with joyfulness and humility. I want to be that wife. I want to be “the Proverbs 31 woman.” I want to deserve extravagant thanks.

‘J’ is for “Just a stay-at-home mum”

My daughter is 6 months old now, so when I meet people. they often ask “So, what do you do?” When I reply “Well, I take care of Madelyn,” they look kind of put off by that, so I always find myself qualifying it by saying “I do teach 3 dance classes a week…”

Because it seems there is something wrong with spending your days caring for your family.

…and that’s good enough for me

Women are assured that they’re not “just” a mum, that what they do makes a difference, that they have an important role in society. But I don’t really think that society’s view of stay-at-home mums is always that they’re unworthy. Mothers are becoming more and more valued, and raising a child who becomes a successful adult is considered significant. No, I don’t think that people are put off by my doing “nothing” because of their view of me as being lazy or not making a difference.

It seems to come from the perspective that I could not possibly be fulfilled by staying at home with my child.

They don’t look at me with disdain. They look at me with pity. I am educated, and have a high earning potential. And it seems to be generally well-accepted that someone like me, who could do very well working outside of home, would be bored at home with my baby. So they really can’t understand it when I claim to be so happy. In fact, the answer I get when I qualify myself by mentioning the dance classes I teach is a relieved “Oh, it must be nice to get a break from Madelyn.”

I don’t know if I’m a member of the norm, or not, but having Madelyn in a different building to me stresses me out. A different room is bad enough. The longest I have been away from her, apart from the 2 hours of surgery the night she was born, is an hour. One hour which felt like an eternity, where an invisible hook in my stomach pulled me towards the door, compelling me to go and find her.

Time with adults is wonderful. Time to dance, to shop, to read a book, is fantastic. But time away from her is not what I need. On days where I feel like it’s all too much, what would be far more helpful than being away from her, would be to have someone come and spend time with us both. Play with her while I have a shower, take a nap, or just sit and do whatever I want. Come and do my dishes, vacuum the house, or fold the washing. Time away from her isn’t what rejuvenates me. Time away from the heavy responsibilities of my new life is what rejuvenates me.

There are a whole lot of things that I love doing, and could do as a job. But I love kissing the soft underside of her chin more. I do have days where I wish I could be more involved at the dance studio, but I remind myself that I’m never going to regret the time I spend with Madelyn. There is not one moment of her life that I have missed. I received her first smile. I made her giggle her first giggle. I saw her first clumsy attempts at crawling. I wouldn’t swap those moments for anything.

I am so, so thankful that my husband and I are in a position that allows me to stay at home for as long as I like. I know how rare that is these days, so I don’t take the privilege lightly.

I don’t need pity. I don’t need assurance that time without her is good for me. At home with my baby, I am more happy than I have ever been.

Submission in marriage, and my own experience

About my own marriage, I don’t want any family reading my last blog post to drive down to my house and try and smuggle me out because I’m being abused. I wouldn’t use a lot of the language I used in that blog post in everyday life to describe my marriage. I wouldn’t call myself submissive, because of the modern-day implications of that. We’ve all seen marriages where this idea has gone incredibly wrong. We associate the word “submissive” with wives who can’t decide what to wear, or what to eat, or what to do with their day. We think of wives who don’t have ideas, passions and preferences of their own. I am not one of those wives. Futher more, my husband would not want to be married to one of those wives.

If you asked him, my husband would not talk your head off about how much better it is to be in a marriage where the man controls everything the woman does. He would not even tell you that he is the head of the household, and that I am submissive to him.

What he would tell you (and I know because I ask him, and I’ve heard him tell others), is that I respect him. He would tell you that I allow him to make him own decisions in our marriage, and that he doesn’t feel restricted.. He would tell you that he appreciates the freedom in our marriage.

And, on any given day, I might be a little more honest about the wording if pushed, but I would tell you that my husband is very easy to respect. I would tell you that he has never, ever not allowed me to do something that I want to do. I would tell you that he paid for me to go to the South Island at a week’s notice (without him) because I’d never been. I would tell you that I used our money, several months after our wedding, to go to Melbourne. I would tell you that on the rare occasion that he’s said “No” to something, he’s been right.

Repsecting him, and more importantly, resolving to respect him for the rest of our lives, makes our marriage easier. It makes me see things from his point of view, and allows me to make decisions based on what he wants, not just on what I want. When we argue, my respect for him reminds me to back off when he says “That’s enough” because I know that he knows himself, and what he’s really saying is “I’m getting too angry, and am scared I won’t be able to control myself.” It reminds me, after an argument, to think about what he was really saying, and to go back later and discuss it calmly, having realised where he’s coming from.

In our wedding vows, I promised to love and respect him, while he promised to love and cherish me. That’s how I would word it, rather then submission and headship. I respect him, he cherishes me.

(For the record, he respects me and I cherish him too, but that’s the easy part – we give what we want).

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Ephesians 5:33

Everything I know about submission in marriage, I learnt from ballroom dancing

It seems I’m going through a bit of a stage of attacking the big topics.

One thing we don’t really like to talk about is the part in the Bible where it says that the man is the head of the household, and that the wife should submit to the man.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands  in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of His body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:22-33

We like to come up with all sorts of ways to explain how that passage is not really saying that wives must submit to their husbands. How it’s actually saying that wives should submit to their husbands, and husbands to their wives. Or we like to say “Yes, but look at what it says to husbands!” as if to draw the attention away from ourselves.

Now, I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I think that passage is pretty clear. Wives, submit to your husbands.

The problem with this is when it is misused. I have heard of husbands using this verse to abuse their wives, often without ever having read the passage, or it’s surrounding context, themselves. So, I must make it very clear that this passage does not say “Husbands, control your wives.” This passage is not giving husbands permission to treat their wives as doormats.

As a young wife, I can only comment on my own marriage, and my own role as a wife. I must admit to having had trouble with this passage as well. It seemed so archaic and wrong. And then I began taking ballroom dancing lessons.

My husband is a dancer, too, and a very good one at that. So it was really powerful for me to see how we interacted when dancing, and to draw the parallels between dancing and marriage.

Here is what I have learnt:

1) When I chose to marry my husband, I chose him to be the head of our household
In ballroom dancing, when a man wants to dance with a lady, he holds out his hand to her. If she takes it, she wants to dance with him. If she doesn’t take it, she doesn’t want to dance with him. Now, because marriage is a far bigger decision then who to dance with, you’re going to consider who to marry a lot more seriously. But when my husband proposed, he was asking me to dance. When I said yes, I was taking his hand. I could have said “no.” I could have said “no” right up until “I do.” If a man asks me to dance, who I dont want to dance with for whatever reason (maybe he’s creepy, or he smells bad, or he just can’t keep time), I don’t dance with them. When deciding to marry my husband, I considered several important things. Is this a man I can respect? Does he make wise decisions? Will he be able to provide for me and my children? The answer to all those questions had to be yes, for me to say “Yes.” It was his decision to ask me, but it was my choice to say yes. I chose my husband as the leader of our household.

2) His leadership is instigation, my submission is response
When dancing, the man takes a step, and the woman takes a step in response. If she doesn’t want to take that step, she doesn’t. If she doesn’t take that step, the dance doesn’t work. If she does, the dance does work. He instigates a step, a respond by either stepping or not stepping. If I choose to just do my own thing, and not worry about what he’s doing, we’re not going to dance well together. It will be disjointed, and we won’t reach our end goal.

3) He needs to wait for my response before moving on
My husband is an extremely good dancer. He has been dancing, on and off competitively, since he was a small child. There have been a few times, especially while waltzing, where he has taken steps that are far too long for me. I was still getting my mind caught up on the movement, and my feet caught up on dancing in heels, and he was ready to charge off and be strong while I was beautiful. Usually this ended in one of us standing on the other, and me reminding him that he needs to stay at my pace. If my husband makes an instigation that I am uncertain about, he needs to wait for me to be certain, or it wrecks the dance.

4) I can see behind his back
In ballroom dancing, the partners often dance facing each other, meaning they can see what is happening behind the other person. If we are dancing, I may see that we are about to crash in to someone or something. If I stop dancing and pull him out of the way, we have an argument. If I tell him that I can see the obstacle ahead, he adjusts his steps so that we do not crash. Now of course, there may be times where he ignores my warning. I don’t have enough life experience to really know what to do about that, I’ll come back to it in 30-odd years. But I have learnt already that sometimes you just need to let men make their mistakes. I’ve heard it said, “If I let him lead, he’ll just lead us in to ruin.” I don’t know about big stuff, about ruin, but I do know about the little stuff, and I don’t think it’s healthy to micromanage everything because you’re worried that he won’t do it right. Let him learn from his mistakes with the little stuff, and he might have learnt his lesson when it comes around to the big stuff. In dancing, couples tend to only go crashing to the ground once or twice, before figuring out how not to do that again.

5) He can see behind my back
On the flipside, he can also see what is going on behind me. That’s why I need to trust him.

6) It takes practise to get it right
There was once a man who was having trouble dancing, and this was being made worse by other beginners who hadn’t quite got following down yet. My teacher sent a competitive ballroom dancer in her 50s over to him and said “She’s like a well-oiled machine. She’ll follow you.” The couples who have been dancing together for years do this leading and following thing so seamlessly, that it looks like they’re doing choreographed moves even when they aren’t. It takes practise to learn how to follow. I am not going to submit to my husband perfectly, and he is not going to lead me perfectly.  It doesn’t really come naturally. But over time, as we get more and more practise, I think it will become a lot easier.

7) An interesting point: In a ballroom dancing hold, the man is under the woman
I always just thought this was interesting, as I was drawing comparisons between dancing and marriage back when I was engaged. The man holds the woman from underneath – her hand is on top of his, his other hand is under her armpit. I don’t have a big spiriutal application for this one, but I can see how my husband supporting me has enabled me to become so much more of who I am.

Once upon a time…

My husband and I met when I was fifteen and he was sixteen while leading at a Christian children’s camp. It was at this camp that I’d become a Christian when I was 9 years old, and I’d been to almost every Kids Camp since then. My husband used to go to Family Camp with his family, and it was there that the person running Kids Camp at the time suggested he come and lead.

He wasn’t anything like the boys I usually hung out with. He was innocent, but not in a childish way. More in a purposeful way, as if he’d guarded his heart against the things of this world. He carried himself with the maturity of someone years older. The boys in his cabin always adored him. We both used to go to the “Chat Room” after devotions – a place where the kids could go to ask questions – and we’d smile at each other across the room, both of us thriving off talking to children about God. One time, I got to sit next to him on the bus on the way home, and my heart was beating so loud I was sure he could hear it.  My journal from this time is filled with the hope of marrying someone like him – it never occured to me that I would actually get to marry him.

Several years later, when we first started courting, I found out that he liked me too, all that time. In fact, the time we sat next to each other on the bus? It was no accident.

He finished school and got a job working on a dairy farm, and so stopped coming to Kids Camp and we lost touch. Two months after I finished school, just before I started university, I got a new cell phone and so sent out a group text letting everyone know my new cell phone number. He replied, and from there we started talking again. His birthday was coming up, and he was having a barbeque, which he invited me to go to. I desperately wanted to go, but I lived two hours away and couldn’t drive. No problem. He called his ex-girlfriend and asked if she would take me to the barbeque. I stayed the night (not like that!) and he drove me back up in the morning, because he was having lunch with his grandparents (his family live in the same area as I did at the time). He was meant to just drop me off at church, but stayed, and then asked me if I wanted to go to his grandparents’ house with him.

Now, when I go to my grandparents’ house for lunch, it’s usually just my grandparents and maybe my parents. Apparently not so with his family. My husband is the oldest of six siblings. His mum is the oldest of six siblings. All but one of her siblings have four children, the youngest one has two toddlers. Everyone in his extended family was there for lunch, apart from the youngest aunty and her husband and children. We turned up at his grandparents’ house, and all 20-odd grandchildren were at the door, waiting to meet the girl with Angus. I’m extremely shy and very introverted. It was a bit awkward, to say the least.

That evening, we went to the church he’d gone to when he was still living at home. Everyone wanted to talk to him, because he hadn’t been in ages. But thankfully I knew several people there, including his sister, who I was friends with seperately to him (we’d met at youth group a few years before).  After church, we went and sat on the beach and talked for ages. Eventually, I asked him what was up between us, and he said “I don’t know, I was just about to ask the same thing… Do you want a boyfriend?” I replied “Yeah, I guess so. Do you want a girlfriend?” to which he said “Yeah”

And then he kissed me.

“Remember tonight… for it is the beginning of always”
– Dante Alighieri

To be known

One thing I absolutely love to do is feed off of the knowledge of other Christians. I especially love it when they’ve been doing this Christian thing a lot longer then me, or are more knowledgeable of the Bible then I am, or have amazing stories. I can’t get enough of knowing about God, and real people and their experiences of Him reveal so much.

One woman whose wisdom and passion I adore is Dannah Gresh. Yesterday I watched a few parts of one of her sermons, which was based on her new book “What Are You Waiting For?” In this book, she shows how the word for sex (or, rather, “lay with”) is actually different in different parts of the Bible. For instance, when Lot’s daughters “lay with” their father, the word used was referring to the exchange of bodily fluids. When Adam “lay with” Eve, however, the word used was yada which means, essentially, to know deeply.

I remember this from Primary school, sniggering at “sex” in the dictionary, laughing when someone said “Do it,” and discovering that in the Bible that one of my friends had, it said that Adam “knew” Eve and she had a baby. Oh, how we laughed, because wasn’t it funny that the Bible thought that you could make a baby just by knowing someone? (At this stage, I have to qualify, I was a brand new 9 year old Christian from a non-Christian family, and my only Bible was a New Testament).

It makes me smile to think that the translation of the Bible we were reading knew better then we ever could have imagined. I am fascinated, and inspired to do my own tracing of the word.

I love that this is not a physical thing. There is a physical act of sex, an exchanging of bodily fluids, but we can choose to have so much more then that. We can choose to be known. And, oh, how much more amazing that is.

I’d never thought about it before, but I am known by my husband. Not just in terms of sex, but with everything, he knows me. It reminds me of an amazing contemporary take of the Woman at the Well that I saw (and will post later), where she says “To be known is to be loved, and to be loved is to be known, otherwise what’s the point in doing either one of those in the first place?” We long to be known, don’t we? We long to have someone to look into the deepest part of us, to take the time to really see us. When we watch romantic movies, we sigh and say “Oh, he loves her!” and it is always because he has done something that will speak to the deepest part of her, and to know it would work, he must love her – he must know her.

My husband knows me. He knows I don’t like cooking and I love fast food. So when he went grocery shopping the other night while I stayed home to tidy up and then prepare dinner, he called and said “Don’t worry about starting dinner, I’ll get us something on the way home.” When he asked what I wanted, I said I didn’t mind, but then after we hung up I honestly worried that he was going to get me something I don’t like. Specifically, I worried that he was going to get me pork from the roast shop (I love meals from the roast shop, but only beef, and he likes pork and lamb). I even called him back to check what he was getting and he said “Dont worry, it’s a suprise.” When he got home and I realised what he’d bought me, I couldn’t stop smiling. I’d been so silly to worry. He got me an American hot dog – with no onions, I might add – and enough hot chips that I wouldn’t have to worry about him eating them all. He knows me.

There was also the time we went out to the movies with friends, and when he realised that the movie they were wanting to watch had a lot of violence (I don’t handle violence at all), he said to me “You won’t like this movie. We’ll go and watch another movie while they watch that one,” without me even saying anything. Or the countless times I’ve almost lost the plot while he’s just quietly made some food and handed it to me, knowing that all I really need is something to eat. He’s not one for big, romantic gestures, but discovering the word yada has made me appreciate this little everyday stuff even more then I would ever appreciate a big, romantic gesture. Because it means that he knows me, he has made my life a part of his and his a part of mine. He has taken the time to really look at me. And it translates into all parts of our marriage.

I know too many young girls who have accepted a counterfiet of this love. I think, as girls especially, we have this idea in our head that just because we’re having sex, that means we’re having love. I don’t know too much about sex that isn’t yada, but it begs to be asked, is that boy you’ve just given your body to going to bring home the exact right meal every time? Could you trust him to know what to do when you just aren’t coping? Is his love present in the little things, or just the once in a while big gestures? Does he respect you enough to have promised, legally and publically, to spend the rest of his life with you? Because if not, you’ve swapped being truly known for simply exchanging bodily fluids.

Keep waiting. It is worth it.

I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams to have what I do with my husband.