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I could not have been happier to be the newly wed, trying to squeeze all our wedding gifts into our teeny tiny little one bedroom apartment. I was in total bliss, as I would have been anywhere, because we were finally TOGETHER!
Not only was I anxiously awaiting being married, I just wanted to be with my man! James and I had agonizingly endured six months in a long distance relationship, separated by a fourteen hour drive. Ahhhh! My body and my heart longed to have him with me!
When wedding bells finally rang and our honeymoon cruise ship had set sail and then returned home, we began our life together. James drove off to his first real job to support our family of two and I finished college (tail between my legs, I am that girl! but hey, I did finish in the end.) Part of my more flexible schedule included the responsibility of building our new home for us to enjoy together. OK, well home keeping is still my job and he can’t have it (I love it!)
So, I am going about new dishes stacked neatly in the cabinets, putting approximately eleven holes in the wall to hang one new picture, even enjoying doing laundry for two (that much has changed. More of it and I can’t say I enjoy that anymore.)….and then I pull out the new bathroom rugs, the very ones I had registered for, but umm, yikes. I had two rugs for this absolutely, ridiculously small master bathroom and neither one of them would fit without having to be folded completely in half!
So, let’s make a long story short: I returned them. For a new lamp.
Hey, I was liking my new exchange. The living room looked brighter and more decorated than when James left for work. And I thought he would be pleased with my exchange, my home cooked meal, and ME forever. And life would forever be bliss.
I do believe it was the first time he spoke to me that his voice wasn’t complete admiration and adoration, “Caaaaaroooooline…..” I hear him yelling from the bathroom later that evening, “Where is the bathroom rug?!!!”
I thought my explanation of the return for the lamp was quite enough but he stared at me dumbfounded, “Where am I supposed to stand when I brush my teeth?!”
And although a small incident, I learned that my marriage would not be perfect. We are two humans that think differently (oh how little did I know!), we act and shop and interact with family and spend money and joke and reason and even brush our teeth differently. Which, let me be honest, took a while to iron out…and we still ain’t perfect. Perhaps, it is just that knowledge that has been an aide to our marriage and a relief to my idealist mind.
So, wrap it all up, marriage taught me that life is not just about me. There is an us.
James and I were strolling about a happy marriage that we were starting to get figured out. I had, FINALLY, graduated from college and was working in an amazing school. We were happy DINKS. Double Income No Kids. And then our happy life got even better: Madison!
I had already grown in maturity through this marriage thing. I was raised in a family with eight children, I nannied a family for four years with four children ages five and under, I was an elementary teacher with a freakin degree in Kids, I WAS GOING TO ROCK THIS MOMMY THING!
And then something happened: MADISON!
She could care less what my background was! She was not impressed with our happy marriage. She didn’t care to be “polite” when there was company around. Madison was not concerned with the fact that I had not eaten all day or that it was the VERY MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, or that I was in public with spit up covering my shirt and pants and arms! Madison was concerned with one thing and one thing only: Madison!
But even though she was selfish (let’s face it, newborns are selfish) and even though I took great pains to bring her into this world (and she has yet to thank me) and even though she is the most expensive thing that James and I ever invested in and even though she required more out of me than anything, I LOVE THAT LITTLE GIRL MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF! There is absolutely nothing in this world that I would not do for her! There is absolutely nothing she could do to lose my love AND NOTHING SHE COULD DO TO EARN IT!
Wow! Is that how Jesus loves me?! NO! HE LOVES ME MORE THAN THAT!
So, if marriage taught me there is an “us.” Being a mom taught me there is something even bigger than us! James and I have a purpose that exceeds our great marriage. We have a baby to raise! We had to “grow up.” Less dates, less sleep, less money…there is someone else to think about FIRST.
And life went on. I wanted the best for Madison! She must have squeaky shoes to teach her to walk, she must have healthy food to nourish her body, and swim lessons for my little fish, and friends to teach her to share, and this and that and more.
But then something happened, Jesus took my firm grip on my daughter and loosened one little finger. Madison wanted to do things that were mean. She didn’t want to speak kindly to her cousin when she was upset. Shocker to me! My daughter is a sinner! And then even good things, “Mom, I want to swim in one of those cages with sharks in the water!”
“NO! NO! NO!” That was not the plan that I had! She wanted geckos for pets and to wear Nike shorts when I wanted her to wear a dress, and her plan for the day was not exactly my plan. And Jesus loosened one more finger!
And bit by bit by little bit, I learned something: It is not about me, it is not about my husband, and it is not EVEN about my daughter! I love them both so much, so very much! But it is not good for me and not good for them for me to make them an idol and give them the responsibility of being my god!
IT IS ABOUT JESUS!
So, my darling husband, I long so very much to be a wife after God’s own heart. I desire to be a 1 Corinthians 13 wife, whose love is full of patience, kindness, humility, and all the qualities that can only be from God and not myself. My baby girl, I want God’s plan for you, not my own! He made you so absolutely amazing and he has a plan for you that is so much greater than my plan! IF HE makes you a marine biologist that swims with sharks, I want to support that! (OUCH!)
My family, I surrender you to God. Lord, never let me be a stumbling block to those that I love the most! I want to be a servant that seeks ways to be helpful, not demanding my own way. I want to be wisdom that is godly advice. I want to be an example to my daughter of God’s grace, forgiveness, and power that can come from no one other than him!
Lord, be a miracle in me so that those that know my weaknesses more than anyone would look at me and claim, “Wow! That is God himself at work, because Caroline could never do that!”
Allow me to say something extremely controversial, men and women are completely different. Not going into that debate right now, but because this is my article and I get to, I’m just going to state that as a fact. They are.
Pre-marriage, James and I were having this conversation and trying to help each other out. We were trying our best to understand the planet that the other came from.
James, a grown man still appreciated monster trucks. I found that just embarrassing. He understood economics, knew how to clean guns and change the oil in the car, and laughed at farting jokes that I thought were highly inappropriate.
I, his extreme opposite, could gain control of a group of children and teach them something educational, could cut a pomegranate the right way, could change a diaper, and could write all day long on any topic.
(I know we fall into extremely traditional gender roles. I’m not saying this is the way it has to be. (It is just who we are.)
But as we sat discussing each other, oblivious in young love that it would ever be possible for us to ever get mad at the other person, I said something to James that was perhaps my best premarital advice, “When I get mad at you and say ‘Go away’ what I really mean is ‘Come here and give me a hug and make this better.'”
I can hear the married women shouting at me now, “Not me! That’s not what I mean!”
Sometimes, yes, we need space. But here is what I do disagree with.
I once heard a middle aged man bragging that he and his wife of several years had never ever gotten into an argument. Meant to be a bragging point, I immediately thought, “They must have a horrible marriage!”
Ya see, when two people blend their lives, someone is bound at some point to disagree with the other person. Did they not know how to face conflict? Was one of them afraid of the other’s controlling temper? Or maybe he was just lying?
I admit, I can get more upset with James than with anyone else in this whole world but during those times I still want to know that he loves me. I might be really really pissed about something but I want to hear, “I still want you. I still chose you. I still think you are beautiful. And we will work this out.”
So, discussing differences, James is logical and I am emotional. So, in the beginning when I was discussing gender roles. The responsibility of remembering this falls on my man.
When things get heated and I start yelling, what I really want to hear is, “Honey, I love you.”
Not fair, I know. Give me a hug.
Love sweet love, where are you love? Our culture is one chubby toddler standing in their crib crying out to Mommy. We demand one thing: LOVE.
But we have lost our innocence. Pop culture has become one raging hormone. Two fifteen year old kids sneaking out of the house together. They met in Math class. In an abandoned parking lot, he holds her hand for the first time, kisses her strawberry lipstick, and he can’t stop. She doesn’t want to, but this is the first time anyone has ever wanted her. Is this love? She wonders. She gives and gives. She gives it all. It doesn’t take long to realize she is pregnant. He is only fifteen. He is not ready to be a father. And the pop culture that lured us in, abandons us. What do we do now?
MTV, Victoria’s Secret, pop music, the majority of anything on the screen, it is the fifteen year old boy luring us into the parking lot. And we just want to be loved.
How dare I tell anyone premarital sex is wrong! How dare I set standards! How dare I even use the words right and wrong! Who am I to judge the contents of music and TV?
Yeah, you are right. I have a new term to describe myself, raging sinner. It is true. The only good news in my phrase is that I know it. I know I have messed up and I know I continue to struggle and I know the one who forgives and washes me clean and I know the one who is, who he himself is love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13, 4-7
Look at the stark contrast! This is the love the world needs!
The 6:15 alarm is painful. I am NOT a morning person. Hair sticking up, eyes still closed, and promising myself that “Tonight, I WILL get to bed early!” I drag myself into the bathroom. A few minutes later, my husband arrives with a hot mug of coffee. I’ve been waiting on it. I expect it.
Rick Johnson writes to dads in his book, “That’s My Girl,” telling them to teach their daughters how to expect to be treated. He tells a story of his then high school daughter stopping at the door outside of her high school waiting, waiting…most of the boys not knowing what was happening. Eventually, one of them would get a clue and open the door for her.
I recently wrote a post about James taking Madison to a Father – Daughter Dance. It included car doors opened for her, it included flowers, being guided through the dance floor and showing her that she is loved and protected.
I am one of the extremely small minority that has the immense blessing of being a stay at home mom. I have been supported in spending my days taking care of our family and teaching our daughter, while James works hard to financially provide for our family. This has allowed me the immense pleasure of pursuing my dream of writing. When my GPS acts up, I call my husband expecting him to guide me through directions, and he does. If the TV is turned on, I am getting a back massage. I expect to be protected, provided for, and just plain pampered.
“Oh, that is just you. You have no idea what most other women have to endure!” Yes. You are right.
“Women should be allowed to pursue a career.” Yes. I agree with you.
“You think women are weak.” No. I do not believe that at all. I do believe men and women, boys and girls, are different. But they are both strong in their own way.
Women’s Rights. Yeah, I believe in them! But sometimes I am just not sure what the Feminist Movement is fighting for. Those women look at someone like me and say, “You don’t need a man. Stand up for yourself.” So, my response: NEED? No. I could do this life on my own, but why in the hell would I want to when THIS is an option?!
So, you have decided you want this also? But there are not many men out there like James? Trust me, I know. There are a lot, a LOT, of jerks out there that think that women are only good for one thing. Do not accept that! Do not accept all men are like that, because they are NOT! Be a feminist and demand a man that respects you. Demand a man that will love, protect, provide, and pamper you. Women, realize just how strong you are. If this is what women demanded of men, trust me, they would change. Because, after all, we are women.
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A boy. Had a mom and a dad. Went to school. Got a job. Lived a life.
A girl. Played a game. Drove a car. Ate a dinner. Lived a life.
Blowing wildly in the wind, her finger stroked back her hair, constraining it behind her ear, exposing her blushing cheeks. Beating wildly, his heart was focused on her. Her white smile, her wondering eyes, legs crossed, and perfect teeth biting her bottom lip. Flowers bathed in the sun, green grass welcomed bare feet, and the bench they sat upon was utopia overlooking the flowing river. The people passing by in the park were not there to them. The dogs running freely did not steal their attention. Fixed and enchanted in this perfect minute of eternity. The four inches between them began to close as he inched his arm around her and she lay her head on his shoulder. For the first time. The cherished first time that would begin to bond them in the first moments of love.
Together is the sun shining and the birds singing. Love makes everything much more interesting.