Pay no attention to the cowpies behind the curtain.

1 Sep

I feel like I am finally at a point in life/maturity/Christian growth that I can focus on my marriage because I want to and not because “I probably should.” That never lasts as I’ve found. I mean, it’s not hard to find marriage advice. Marriage is hard and everyone has their own theory as to what works. Well, newsflash. It isn’t cut and dry. There is no black and white, cookie cutter “This is what you do for a good marriage.” There are principles, yes. But the nitty gritty details specific to your marriage take a bit longer to hash out.

That’s where Travis and I are.

While our first year of marriage was extremely rough, things have gotten progressively better over the last 3 years. I personally have made grand strides just since March of 2010, when Travis and I were going to be apart for 3 weeks and I was like, So? Travis said it was unacceptable. That incident made me realize that I was kind of a cold-hearted bitch when it came to my husband. Through much prayer and grace from God, I have made it to where I am now – still a work in progress but trying more and more each day to make sure my husband knows that I love and appreciate him.

As I’ve been reading the Bible and some marriage books, I have felt God leading me to focus on a few specific things. The first is my speech. I am horrible at not only guarding my mouth from saying stupid, hurtful things in the heat of the  moment but also at affirming Travis or wording things in a way that he would receive well.

But I have two amazing examples of grace from just last week! The first was during the week when Travis was out in Utah. He called to ask if it would be ok if he stayed out there another week because he still didn’t have anything to do back in Denver. My normal response would’ve been either, “Yeah, sure whatever.” or “Ugh, that means I have to keep watering the yard!” My response last week was, “Sure, that’s fine. I mean, I’ll definitely miss you but I understand that it’s important for your job that you’re billable.” What a difference, both in my words and in my heart!

The second example is from Saturday when I was talking to Travis on the phone about the Focus crapping out on the way to Steamboat. I wanted to complain and exaggerate the situation by saying, “Freaking A – this is why I just want to get rid of the Focus and get a different car. We should’ve at least taken the Check Engine light seriously instead of just waiting for it to go off by itself.” Somehow in that moment, I had the clarity and foresight to know that saying that would have made Travis feel horrible, like he had failed me. He has said numerous times that he would feel better knowing that I had a reliable car, a bigger car with 4-wheel drive, etc. So instead, I simply said, “I’m very frustrated right now.” I was still honest, but in a way that didn’t aggravate the situation by pinning the blame on Travis.

Both of those advancements were inspired by reading the book For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. If you’re married and haven’t read it, I recommend you do so. As you can see, it’s been an eye-opener for me!

The second thing I’ve felt God leading me to focus on is making Travis a priority. I have had a tendency to just let Travis fit in wherever in my life, instead of molding my life around him. While I’ve been mildly majorly obsessed with thinking about my life, what I want to accomplish, and what I’m doing to do, I have spent hardly any time thinking about how I can be a better wife, create a warming and inviting home, and support my husband’s ambitions. How can I help Travis succeed? had never been a conscious thought in my head. 

Both Travis and I have also been guilty of letting chores, obligations and hobbies rob us of intentional time with one another. On weekends, we’ve started asking one another, “What are you planning to do today?” instead of “What should we do today?” While Travis and I are independent people, and I’m glad that we have different hobbies and responsibilities within our family, I think it would do us good to be intentional about spending time together, just the 2 of us, doing something fun and out of the ordinary – like taking a walk, going on a picnic, doing something new, visiting a new restaurant, etc.

Another aspect of making Travis a priority and focusing on our marriage is making time for romance and sex. The biggest source of conflict in our marriage has been different styles of physical affection. That got a lot better after the first year but I think one unfortunate side effect of that has been we just aren’t physically affectionate anymore. God is slowly revealing to me that I have some unresolved issues with my sexual past. I hesitate or refuse to do certain things because I associate them with the promiscuous lifestyle I had before I became a Christian. Therefore, I haven’t felt complete freedom with Travis. Even just knowing this has brought about healing.

The more I learn about marriage and my husband, the more I’m convinced that the biggest thing that I’ve learned in marriage is that I can’t do anything right without God. Marriage has shown me what an incredibly mean, selfish, crabby, stubborn, pig-headed, messed up person I am apart from His work in my life and it is only by God’s grace that our marriage is what it is today. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I have no idea how people make it through marriage without Christ. No idea whatsoever. I don’t think I would have. If I had not believed in something bigger than our marriage, if I had not believed that the Author of the universe had been in control of bringing Travis and I together, I think the first year of our marriage would have done us in.

But praise be to Christ, we weren’t done in. And He has brought me from wondering if I even still loved Travis to this place of being so incredibly, authentically thankful to have my wonderful, amazing husband in my life and growing to appreciate him more and more each day. It’s felt like a long journey (I know those who have been married 20+ years would say we’re still newlyweds!) but it’s been worth it.

If any of you readers are in a place where marriage is rough and you’re wondering who the heck this person is that you married, I just wanted to offer these words from John Piper, Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church. They really encouraged when I first heard them when Travis and I were engaged and I have thought back to them often throughout our marriage. Even if you’re not struggling, they’re still true! The truth of them is even more evident to me today than it was then.

Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent. These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.

But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. I think the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. And here you begin to shovel the cow pies. You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then, we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of field that is sweet.

Our hands may be dirty. And our backs make ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is the gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved. {source}

Such a good reminder to focus on all the good things. Even if the only good thing you can think of is that he brushes his teeth in the morning, or goes to work and earns a paycheck. Start appreciating the small things and God will grow your affections. My life and heart – and ultimately, my marriage – is living proof of this.

2 Responses to “Pay no attention to the cowpies behind the curtain.”

  1. Debbie September 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this! I love your honesty and vulnerability. I love the way you are willing to learn a new way of relating, even though it means sacrifice and hard work on your part. Bless you.


  1. By grace this love springs forth. « - February 24, 2012

    […] my last post about marriage, I talked about how Travis and I had taken up going our own ways on weekends. We asked each other, […]

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