Choosing What’s Most Important

It’s been a whole month since my last post about my reading through “What it Like to be Married to Me?” by Linda Dillow.  But I’m still reading it.  Still loving it.  Still working through a transformation that I so desperately need. 

Last time I ended with talking about needing to remember that Skyler is my number one priority after my relationship with Christ.  Not my kids, not my crafting or blogging, not my housekeeping or anything else – my husband, Skyler, is number one.  But was I showing him this through my actions?  No.  Am I showing him now that he’s number one?  Well… I’m doing better.  šŸ™‚

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I’m here to be transparent.  To be honest with you.  I can’t really be honest with myself if I’m not willing to be publicly honest as well.  It holds me more accountable to change.  It helps me to really think about what needs to be changed in me in order to really love and serve my husband better and to remember his importance in my life.  (I know, this post is a lot of words and no pictures… bear with me.  Here’s one for you:)

As Linda said (pg 24), when a husband is dying, a divorce is in the works, an affair surfaces or another similar pain happens to a woman who is in our close circles, we tend to go home and give our husband just a little bit of extra love that night, remembering that he is important to us.  But how do we make sure we do this in the everyday chaos of life, not just the days where we remember how easily he can be taken from us?

I’m a mental picture girl.  Give me a striking mental picture about a statement and it’s with me.  I can’t erase the image and the statement from my mind.  So, when Linda said this simple word picture, I couldn’t stop thinking of it:

“Jesus didn’t mince words about keeping first things first.  He said, love God first and love your neighbor as yourself  (Matt. 22:37-39).  Simple and clear.  So who is your closest neighbor?  The one who shares your bed and daily bread: your husband.”  (pg. 25)

Hmm.  Yeah, that makes sense.

In my women’s Bible study, about a month ago now, we were talking about how we would want to be remembered once we pass.  I told them all that I would love it if even one person likened me to my father;  how he seems like a busy man (in that he always seems to be working on something) but always always has time for people.  If someone asks for help and he can feasibly do it  (he IS the jack of all trades, after all) or if someone asks for some of his time to just sit and talk, he says yes.  Very very seldom have I heard him turn someone away who asks for help (and only because he had another commitment).  He is never selfish with his time but gives it willingly.  He always tells me, “Kayla, you can’t take things to heaven.  You can only take people.”  So he pours his time into relationships.  Into helping people and loving on people.

THAT is how I would love to be known and remembered.  That I always had time for people.  That I always made time for people.

And then I started thinking about who I wanted to be able to say that about me.  Easy.  Number one is Skyler.  If I die first, he will be the one to be speaking at my memorial service anyway, right?  The way I see it, if my closest neighbor, my HUSBAND, the one who sees me every day through thick and thin, can’t say those words about me, they must not be true. 

In the second chapter of this book (What’s Really Important to Me?), Linda gives us readers a challenge.  She asks us to live with the end in view.

“Living with the end in view means that I am aware of how I spend these hours, conscious that they are a gift, that there are only so many hours I have left, and that only God knows the number.  It may be five years or fifty years.  No matter how many years we have to grow in our intimate oneness, the time is short.  When we realize this, really realize it, it can change the way we look at time, at love, and at our lover.  Sadly, many wives discover too late the gift the gift they possessed.” (pg 27)

In such a time and society as we live in, we are taught to do whatever pleases us.  To look out for ourselves and do what we want to do.  To make ourselves happy and not depend on another persons happiness to do it.  I know you’ve heard it before. 

I know this is a lot of repeating what Linda says here, but I felt this was really important and hit the nail on the head:

Linda quotes the drama Our Town and the character Emily who was a young wife, killed at 26, but gets to come back to an ordinary day in her life.  She was warned “At least, choose an unimportant day in your life.  It will be important enough.”  She chooses her 12th birthday but cries that she can’t relive it because they don’t have time to look at one another; life was going on and they all never noticed.

Another character says, “Yes, that’s what it was to be alive.  To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those … about you.  To spend and waste time as though you had a million years.  To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another.”

Emily asks this: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”  The answer given to her is no.

Linda pinpoints a few scripture references that are to encourage us to not waste time as if we had a million years to live:

“Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are;
help us to spend them as we should.”  (Ps. 90:12)
“Live life then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as [women] who do not know 
the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do.
Make the best use of your time, despite all the evils of these days.
Don’t be vague but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of the Lord.” (Eph. 5:15-16)
So how do we live a life that is not wasted without a purpose or responsibility, or with just doing whatever self-centered act we want to do?  Linda said that she often thought that if we each knew the day we would die, that we would live our lives more carefully in how we choose to spend our time and be more aware of how important our choices that we make are.  Fortunately and unfortunately, we don’t get to know when we will die.  
So again, how do we live a life that’s not wasted then?
In the book, we get led through a visualization of arriving at a memorial service, viewing friends and family, viewing the casket, sitting in the pew and looking down at the program only to see our very own name on it.  We are at our own funeral service 30 years from now.  Your husband gets up to be the speaker and … we ask ourselves what we would want him to say about us.
  1. What would you like your husband to say about you after many years of marriage?
  2. What character qualities would you like him to have seen in you?
  3. What kind of love relationship would you want him to describe?
  4. What kind of love would you have wanted him to have received from you during all those years?  (pg. 29)

I sat down with these questions written in my journal and just stared at them on the page for a long time.  I didn’t want to have to think about what I would want him to say verses what he honestly would and could say about me.  But I needed to – it was important that I did.  If I couldn’t hold up the mirror and take a good look, then I wasn’t going to actually do any of the necessary changing.

Finally, I came up with this:

  1. That I was kind-hearted.  Joyful and a servant without complaint.  That I loved my Lord and loved him fiercely.  That I loved my husband well, because I loved my God.  That I was a joyful and compassionate mother, full of patience and slow to anger.
  2. Joyful.  Loving.  Truly loving.  Selfless.  Honoring of God and my husband.  Patient.  Kind.  Gentle-spirited.  Speaking affirming and encouraging words.
  3. That I made Skyler a priority.  That I loved him well.  That I made time for us.
  4. I would want him to receive a caring love from a woman that he earnestly called gentle spirited.  A kind, respectful love, but the love of a lover too.  A romantic love, a friendship love, a nurturing love, an encouraging love.

Did you make a list too?  You should.  It’s good.  It hurts to write down things that you don’t believe to be true (yet!) but that you want to be true.  But it’s good.  If you don’t take time to think and decide what you want to be true of yourself and you don’t make them a goal for your life, it’s not going to ‘just happen’.

“How I wish someone had asked me to visualize my funeral at the beginning of my marriage.
This thought process helps put all we hope and desire into perspective.” (pg 30) 

The last thing in this section that Linda challenges us to do is to spend time thinking of and coming up with a Marriage Purpose Statement, which is “your conscious creation of who you want to become.  It outlines your goals as a wife – the things you can do to become the wife you want to be… Your personal Marriage Purpose Statement can be a letter you write to yourself, a prayer, a poem, a verse, or a passage of scripture.  It can be anything that declares your goals for your marriage.  It is a statement about what is really important to you as a wife.” (pg 34)

She shares some examples of a Marriage Purpose Statement from a few women, as well as sharing her own which she wrote as an acrostic of the word Faithful.  I loved her Marriage Purpose Statement so much that I wrote it down in my journal as well… šŸ™‚  Here’s Linda’s:

My marriage matters to God and to me, so I choose to be:
Lasting marriage
I choose to Focus.
I choose a positive Attitude.
I choose deep Intimacy.
I choose to be Thankful.
I choose to be a Helper.
I choose to be Forgiving.
I choose to be Unwavering.
I choose a Lasting marriage.
I spent a couple mornings thinking about what I would want my own personal Marriage Purpose Statement to be.  I thought about what I had written down about what I wanted Skyler to be able to say about me at my funeral.  About what characteristics I wanted to be true of me, what kind of love I wanted to be known for and what kind of relationship I wanted to have with Skyler.
Linda suggests your Marriage Purpose Statement could be a resolution or declaration, a prayer, scripture, a poem or song, a letter you write to yourself, acrostic, a list or paragraph.  It could be anything, really.  So long as it means something to you.
Mrs. Mental Image girl over here had a sudden vision.  Do you get visions very often?  I know that the Lord has spoken to me many many times through visions over my years.  It’s probably the best way that He communicates with me.  The way that best pierces my heart and soul in the most tender and loving way possible.
This was the vision I saw (and wrote down immediately after), which has become my own Marriage Purpose Statement:
I peered into the window and saw her:
She was lovely.  She boasted a genuine smile and laughter escaped her lips.
She was playing with her children and she delighted in them.
I saw her house: it was tidy and well kept and dinner was being prepared.
But it wasn’t her first love and her obsession – her family was.
The front door swung open and the man of the house entered.
Her man.
Her children were joyful and greeted their daddy.
She followed them to the door; she was excited to greet her lover.
She held back a bit and let her children love on her husband.
They met each others’ gaze with smiles and winked.
They’ll have their time later.
He was pleased.
His wife was lovely.
She was gentle and tenderhearted.
She served him and loved him well.
She made him a priority and she respected him.
She was his Crown.
She was me.
A simple, quick blip of a seemingly unimportant day in her life.  But she took the time to look at everyone’s faces and treasure what was more important – her family, her husband.  Unlike Our Town, she realized LIFE while she lived it.  And she was me.  
This little vision has not quickly left my mind, but is something I am reminded of nearly daily.  When life gets hectic and busy and we are still juggling it all, we as mom’s sometimes get credit as being the woman who can do it all.  I’m not so sure I want to say that about my life.  I want to fully realize life and enjoy the life that I’m blessed to have in mine: my dear husband’s, my sweet kids’, my family, my friends.  You’re right dad – I can’t take material things, busy activities and a clean house to heaven with me.  I can only take people.  So people is where I’m going to invest in – my number one being my husband.
I’ll leave you with this last bit from Linda.  It was hard to read.  Hard to accept.  But I believe it to be true.
“One woman said it well: ‘I don’t always get it straight.  I get caught up in the thick of thin things.  What matters most – my walk with God and love affair with my husband – gets buried under layers of pressing problems and immediate concerns.’ 
Are you on a treadmill?  When was the last time you stopped long enough to think deeply about your marriage?  I want you to do something for me.  STOP!
Step off your treadmill, and find a quiet place to read the new few pages.  I know, you’re laughing because there isn’t a quiet place.  Then go in the bathroom, lock the door, put the lid down, and sit there.
When life is hectic, we don’t stop to think about our priorities.  We don’t think about what is really important.  We avoid looking within and reflecting.  We neglect looking at God’s Word and praying, Search my heart, O God.  We mistakenly think that it’s easier to stay busy.  
And truth be told, we like the way others see us when we’re balancing five things at once.  Friends say, ‘Cara is amazing.  I just don’t see how she does it all.’  That feels good – better than stepping off the treadmill and asking heart-wrenching Dangerous Questions.
Perhaps you’re braver than that.
(pg 27)
Perhaps you’re braver than that.
I’m trying to be.  I’m trying to be less busy with life and more enjoying and serving the lives that are in and enriching my own.
Here’s to not getting caught up in the thick of thin things.
If any of you wants to come up with your own Marriage Purpose Statement and share it with me, I’d love to hear it.  šŸ™‚

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