Oh Give My Husband a Brand New Wife

AmberOBrien"

My friend’s sobs echoed over the phone as she shared that her husband didn’t value the “new her,” but instead wanted to keep her back from growing into the vivacious woman I knew her to be. How sad that he couldn’t value growth and put in the effort and grow to love the “new Kelly.”  I sat down and wrote this poem after our phone conversation.

A Brand New Marriage

Oh give my husband a brand new wife
One that will serve him lovingly
Give him the helpmate he deserves
And may that “new wife” always be me

Oh give my husband a hot mistress
One that will surprise him lovingly
Give her energy and fresh ideas
And may that “mistress” always be me

Oh give my husband a new best friend
One that will listen lovingly
Give her wisdom to find the good
And may that “best friend” always be me   

So how does one protect one’s marriage as we grow individually and through the seasons of Life?

Here are some tidbits of advice that my husband and I have gleamed through the years.

IMG_8034
Happy 27th Wedding Anniversary to my husband!

Keep dating.
Our priest from Gettysburg College, Father Phil gave us the advice to “keep dating” when he met with us before our marriage. With each season of our marriage, life has changed, and so have our dates. A neighbor babysitter coming over for two hours a week so Dave and I could go out when our children were small, intimate lunches when we started our business, family members who watched the children so we could take a long weekend. Be creative, be proactive, and just do it.

“The best thing you can do for your children is to have a good marriage.”
This was the advice we received when we went to a day-long marriage encounter. This quote helped take away all my guilt about leaving my children to “date” their father or travel with him.  The children will grow up and share their own relationships and putting our spouse first is a way to model for them what a thriving marriage looks like.

A successful marriage is the union of two forgivers.
– Ruth Graham Bell.

Yes, your partner is not perfect. Yes, they are irritating at times. Yes, they keep hurting you.
This is what Love is about. Forgiving and seeing the overall good in your spouse. May they see the overall good in us. For we are imperfect people, who make mistakes and we can be so irritating to others. Love is a covering. Love does not “keep a record of wrongs,” so when you are angry or hurt or lonely, write down 10 good things about your husband and see if your perspective changes. Keep a record of Rights. What is right about your hubby.

This weekend seek out a way to date your spouse. What are some creative ways that you like to spend with your spouse? Please share them in the comments below.

Birthday Reflections: 5 Ways to Help Ensure That the Best is Yet to Be

AmberOBrien"

Dear Sweet Sister:

Are you looking forward to your next birthday? Do you see aging as positive or negative? As we live in a culture that worships youth, we often tend to view aging as something to be dreaded. Some see a birthday as a reminder of lifetime milestones that have not been realized… marriage, children, or a life dream.  Others grieve the loss of their beauty, health and strength.  Anxiety concerning the future can choke the joy out of the best birthday plans.

3669896149_88b220e5d8_oIs this moon waxing or waning? Answer at the end!

Indeed, as my 40th birthday grew closer, the poet in me began to ask the “Almighty poet and creator” some probing questions. On a serene summer evening, I remember looking up at the half-moon hanging in the velvet sky and teasingly asking, “Lord, am I now waxing or waning?” Of course, I knew my physical body was waning.  However, I yearned to hear that my soul would keep waxing (growing).  Somehow, we all need confirmation at times that, like a mature apple tree that bears more fruit than a “sapling,” our lives will continue to be productive and bear more lasting  fruit with each passing year.  

I invited a few sweet sisters to come join me for a beach birthday retreat and this stanza from the poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra” penned by Robert Browning graced the invitation:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand who Saith
A Whole I planned, youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

Just as Jesus saved the best wine for the “middle to end ” of the Cana Wedding Feast, I believe the Lord desires to give us increasingly new gifts and opportunities to grow and bless those around us. I asked my sisters to bring instead of a store bought gift, a positive verse or quote concerning the topic of aging.  Amazingly, these Five nuggets together form a treasure chest of wisdom on how we all can help ensure God’s promise that our time left on earth can be our very best.

IMG_1950

#1 Don’t Look Back
My friend Cindy shared a story concerning the importance of not holding on to the past. The character Norma Desmond in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Sunset Boulevard kept longing for her glory days as a film star. As a former silent film star she did not adapt when moving pictures began to include sound and her life ended in tragedy as she clung to her past. This example from a “Daily Bread” devotional reminds us to see our lives like a book, and thus we need to live each chapter at a time.  If we are looking back, we can’t be creating the next chapter of our lives. Yes sweet sister, you and I need to be careful not to let our past heartaches or negative people keep us from living in the next chapter of our lives. In contrast, during the wedding of Cana, confident Mary expected Jesus to perform a miracle and save the reception. This first miracle would change her family forever as Jesus was thrust out into His public ministry. Mary was ready and willing for a new season in both their lives to begin. Do you look forward to God’s new season in your life with each birthday, confident and excited for His perfect gifts and plans ready to be opened?

  • Action:  Look up Jeremiah 29 :11-14.  Write out verse 12.

 

#2  Family First
A thought provoking quote from Thomas Jefferson was offered by my dear friend Beth.  Jefferson stated, “I find as I grow older that I love those most whom I loved first.” She went on to explain this could mean a better appreciation for all our parents did for us when we were children or an increased love and patience for our own children and loved ones.  Shouldn’t our inner circle of our family receive our best energy?  An apple tree that is strong enough to produce strong healthy limbs and fruit must first have strong roots.  So focus first on your family roots.  Do you, sister, see each passing year as a new opportunity to heal past rifts between family members? Let us ask God to give us mercy and understanding for those who have disappointed us and the grace to reconcile broken relationships. Peace can be the greatest gift you give yourself and your family.

  • Action: Call your parents on your birthday and wish them “Happy anniversary!” Or invite a sibling  or child out to lunch – if you are still alive there is still hope for stronger relationship.

 

#3  Remain in Him
Next, my cousin Laura reminded us that God’s grace is like the rhythmic waves of the ocean. Just as the waves continue to ebb and flow, God’s mercy is new every morning. She  encouraged us to spend time with God each day. Without water the apple tree will wither up and die;  just as we need to stay watered and regularly drink from the Word of God. So, to expand one of my favorite sayings, “The best is yet to be,”  we must add a preface to be accurate: “As you stay close to the Lord, the best is yet to be.” We have the responsibility to continue to make good choices every day. The most important choice is to seek out our creator and have fellowship with Him daily. I often imagine the Lord faithfully waiting to chat with me each morning. If I sleep in or miss our “morning date,” then I try to find a quiet moment later in the day.

  • Action: Find a special spot to place your bible and a journal, and pick a time that you plan to sneak away for time just with Jesus. Don’t stand Him up, He’ll be there waiting.

applephoto

#4  Fellowship with God’s Family
My friend Suzie attends daily mass most mornings and shared how beautiful the more mature members are that come to worship each day. Despite their physical ailments (waning), they joyfully come to be with God and with each other. Suzie exclaimed, “A woman in Love is beautiful!” So if we want to be beautiful in the Lord, my sister, we need to fellowship with other believers and receive God’s love and grace. Then, just as the moon reflects the sun’s light, we can in the same way reflect God’s love and beauty to those around us.

  • Action: Have you found a good place of fellowship? A small group bible study? We are to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). There were times in my life that I had just one prayer partner and we used the phone to chat and pray. If you can’t find a small group of sisters, pray and seek out one sister.

 

#5  Make a List
Lastly, my sister Liese shared a list of gifts the Lord has already blessed me with in my first 40 years of life. Making a gratitude list has been a tool I have used often in my past.  Usually to gain perspective when I felt down, I would list 10 good things about my life in my journal. If a person in my life had angered or disappointed me, I would write down 10 good things about that person. Grateful people are positive people.  So instead of counting the candles, count your blessings my sister. For every year that you have had the privilege of existing on this earth, write down a gift that is in you or your life.  

  • Action: Tape your list to your mirror or steering wheel. Keep reminding yourself of all your many blessings. Tell the ones who made the cut on your list about your list.

Whether you are 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70,80, 90 or 100, my sister, the Lord has new plans to unfold and fresh gifts to be opened.

In short, in order for “the best is yet to be,” we need to not look back, but be ready to write a new chapter in the book of our lives. We should spend time and energy on our families, our relationships with God and within our Christian communities. When we physically write down our list of items to be thankful for, we maintain perspective and a joyful attitude.

happybirthdaytoyou

Moon answer: If you guessed waxing, you are correct. Hopefully your soul is waxing, too!

 

 

Confessions of a Survivor Application Addict

AmberOBrien"

 

Locked in our small powder room, I cling to the phone as my three children knock on the door.
“Mom, she hit me!”  They whine.
“Jacob won’t let me use the computer.”
My husband chimes in with “Amber, have you seen my shoes?”
Ignoring the interruptions I ask my friend on the line, “Have you ever wanted to go to an island and just get away?”  

So begins one of the many videos I have submitted to the reality show, Survivor. If you think I am crazy for wanting to go to a remote location for thirty-nine days and live off the land, eat bugs, wear no makeup (yikes!) and put myself in a situation of possible ridicule and failure, I don’t blame you. I have wondered the same thing time and time again.

The producers must have thought the same thing after seeing the second part of the video we submitted.  My ‘director’ husband created a scene in which I suddenly emerge out of blue sparkling water similar to the scene with Bo Derek in the movie 10. After my exaggerated surprise at being in a beautiful tropical scene, I start to walk toward the shore complete with beaded hair. Boom! My three children run into me and try to knock me down.  As I seek to upright myself I laughingly state, “Make that without children” correcting my fantasy wish.

After some reflection, I realize that the contrast between Bo Derek and me was probably too much for the judges to handle.  I still wonder if they laughed out loud or simply moved their fingers like I was crazy.

Yes, I confess to submitting videos and applications to be on the show. The poor video judges must have held their ears as I sang the Gilligan’s Island theme song complete with new words, “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, the tale of a homeschool mom…” While the words might have been clever, my singing voice has never been one of my assets.  Nevertheless, creating the videos was always great family fun.

In contrast to the light-hearted videos, the application process forced me to dig deep. One question in particular made me stop and ponder more than the others:

“Who is your hero and why?”

Quickly, I realized that my hero was not a former winner of their show or a famous actor on television.  Instead, I thought of all the unrecognized people serving and caring for God’s people.  My heroes included: parents who care for a terminally ill child or parent, an abused woman who allows her anger and hurt to dissolve into forgiveness, a husband who turns away from temptation, a woman who regrets a past decision and now helps others from making the same mistake, a family who says yes to one more child, a couple who seeks counseling to reconcile a dying marriage, an addict who throws away his addiction because it is destroying his family, the single parent who must play the part of both mom and dad…  the list goes on and on. These people give and forgive when no camera crews are watching. These true survivors endure hardship and heartache often lasting much more thirty-nine days. No odds of winning a million dollars or being a guest on The David Letterman Show. They are not ‘models’ but they model for me who I hope to become.

Despite our family’s best efforts, I never received a call to come and audition. As time went on though, my desire to try again continued. I tried to rationalize and justify my desires. Since the sociology of putting such diverse people in this situation appealed to me, I reasoned they needed a Christian homeschooling mom on the show. I mean, how many homeschooling moms have been on Survivor?  Zero! Of Course, it’s questionable how many have actually applied. I also desired justice, and hated to see someone who lied and cheated win.  I thought perhaps I could show them that the best strategy is to be trustworthy. Perhaps my mission field would consist of millions of viewers.

It was then that I recalled Mother Teresa’s famous saying, “Do small things with great love.”  I was grounded once again as I thought of all the unsung heroes listed above.

I would pray “Lord, take this desire away if it is not of you.”  I would also ask, “Is this just me?”  No, this drive seemed not to be a push from within but a pull from beyond.

Then it happened. My desire to get away became a reality when I went on a silent women’s retreat with a friend. During the 48 hours I began to refocus.  

“What is reality?” The priest asked.  

“Reality is the love of Christ.”  

We were reminded that we are on this earth such a short time in relation to eternity, and we are all called to make the most of the time we have to know, love, and serve Him. My silent retreat was away from the busyness of the day, and far from any Hollywood cameras. What a wonderful and refreshing weekend! I felt spoiled as I enjoyed the delicious food (no bugs) and listened in the peace and quiet. I will never forget how the priest began the first meditation.

“You think that you worked hard to scheme and put together this weekend, but Jesus for all of eternity has been planning this time to be with you.”  

Yes, He had been planning this weekend all along and in it I found once again the reality of His love for me.    

A Love to Last the Ages
Amber O’Brien, July 2006

Jesus and me have a date today
Gonna be half past nine
He’ll tell me I’m beautiful
I’ll tell Him Forever He’s mine

Jesus and me have a date today
He’s gonna whisper in my ear
I’ll tell Him all my worries
He’ll tell me, “Girl never fear”

For I am His
and He is mine
a Love to Last the Ages
I’ll share with Him my inner thoughts
He’ll whisper through The Pages

Jesus and me have a date today
I know he’ll be on time
He’s always been faithful
Lord help me to be ‘in kind’

For He’s waiting by the seashore
My coffee table, too
Every red light is sacred
Lord, help me to be as true

For I am His
and He is mine
A Love to Last the Ages
I’ll share with Him my inner thoughts
He’ll whisper through The Pages