Love in the Midst of Parenthood

Love in the Midst of Parenthood

Nine years and I still find myself, at times, sinking under the glorious weight of my adoration for him.

It is different than it used to be. I was so young and free, with nothing better to do than lie on my bed or curl up on the porch swing and daydream about him. My days were filled up with a yearning that he answered however he could, a love letter in the mail, a midnight e-mail, a two hour phone call, a stroll down our country road with hands intertwined…

he was my world and I was his.

From morning until night, my heart was gazing at him, feasting on the love that God had written for us.

The memory squeezes so hard, it hurts.

Today, however, there is little time for gazing and feasting. We are surrounded by a boisterous and spirited army of tiny noise-makers who are hungry, thirsty, dirty, tired, bored or have a desperate need to be tickled. When we whisper, they want to know what we’re talking about. When we have a conversation, they want to add to it. When we kiss, they giggle, and when we hug, they want to join in and make it a group affair.

They crawl into our bed at night.

They come downstairs during our evening free time.

And even when the world is dark and their voices are no longer heard, there is the baby across the room from us in his temporary crib. He may be sleeping, but he is present.

But you know what?

It’s okay.

Marital love is more resilient than I ever gave it credit for, bouncing back from interruptions and finding a way to grow through the cracks; our life may be more crowded, but our capacity for love has only multiplied with each new life that has joined our ranks.

There is no competition here for my affection.

This is no war for my heart.

We are a family.

And when I look at my children, I see their Papa.

When he treats them tenderly, I am wooed.

And though the love between us that was once a beam is now a zigzag, jumbled up in the four stairstep offspring who share our home, they all lead me back to him, anyway.

The romance comes in snatches now. When I am sweeping the crumbs into the dustpan and a random thought of him crosses my mind. When a sweet song plays over the radio. When I see a photo that captures who he is. When I am sitting in the living room and overhear his laughter from the upstairs nursery…

love washes over me just as surely as it did when our hands first met and when our lips first kissed.

I can see him, you know, over the tops of their heads.

And I don’t plan on ever taking my eyes off of him.

 

I love you.

I woke up in the middle of the night, and all of a sudden, the space between us was much too far…

The practical side of my brain was telling me to just shut my eyes and go back to sleep. We were running on just a few hours a night, and I had homeschool in the morning and a newborn beside me who would undoubtedly be waking me up in an hour anyway. We needed sleep.

But I needed him more.

I sat up, moved the co-sleeper that was safely cradling our infant boy to the side of the bed, and crawled beside him, curling up into the arms that have been faithfully holding me for seven beautiful years.

The months of pregnancy that had built a huge belly between us melted into a distant memory…

I was home.

Tears gathered in my eyes, and my heart sang a silent love song to my husband as I reveled in the security and comfort of his embrace.

I love you…

because I know I don’t deserve you.

because you make me think of God, just by looking at you. His grace is evident to me when you walk into the room.

because you have given me enough beautiful memories to last a lifetime.

because I know without a doubt that you love me back.

because you are mine.

because you are good and kind and gentle, and only grow more so with each passing day.

because when you smile at me and delight in who I am, I feel like I am safe. Cherished. Your dream come true.

because you know all my secrets and scars and you forgive me freely. You love me like I’m flawless, even though we both know that I am not.

because your heart is so tender and your eyes are so watchful. You treat me like I am a priceless treasure…

and being married to you has been the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

I never, ever get tired of you, and when you walk out the door, I already want you to come back. There will never be enough days, enough minutes, enough time to spend in your company.

The world lied to me. They told me that marriage would be stifling. That it would be boring. That the honeymoon would be over…

bunch of dummies. They were so wrong.

Life with you is an adventure that never stops, and the more I grow in my love for you, the closer I grow to the God who created that love. You lead me to Him, and so I rejoice in our marriage with every fiber of my being.

And I never, ever want it to stop. If God would be so good, I’d love to spend eternity with your hand in mine…

or at least a lifetime.

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I love you, Mr. Gore. Forever and ever.

Mr. and Mrs. Gore: The Blushing Years (Part 3)

Have you ever tried to get to know a man under the watchful eyes and filterless mouths of  sixty middle-schoolers and forty high-schoolers?

I have.

Hence “the blushing years”…

~

Well, we had made it through that painfully long summer.

And now that my time in the youth group was officially over, I found that, not only was a relationship with Mr. Gore allowed, it was encouraged.

I suppose I didn’t realize it at the time, but the chemistry we were just beginning to discover between us must have been more than palpable, for, all of a sudden, we had plenty of help finding our way to each other…

but why was Mr. Gore even there in the first place, you ask?

Didn’t he go back to school and leave you pining and lonesome?

Well…yes.

But then…not quite.

Oh, dear. I suppose I got a little ahead of myself in my last post and now have a lot of ‘splainin’ and backtracking to do…

About a month or two after he returned to college, after I had lost weight and slinked around my house like a gloom-worm (but before our “non-date date” in October), it was decided that Mr. Gore would continue on as a part-time staff member at at our church, driving in and staying with our youth minister and his family nearly every weekend. While our youth minister taught the high school group on Sunday nights, Mr. Gore took on the middle-schoolers.

And it didn’t take long for him to enlist a passel of eager “youth workers” to help him with the middle-schoolers.

I was the first in line.

Because I just loooooved middle schoolers.

Just like I “loved” SportsCenter. (I hate SportsCenter with all my heart).

And just like I loved anything that would bring me closer to you-know-who.

But as it turned out, I really didn’t need to resort to any shameless feminine wiles to catch the heart of this man, because apparently everyone and their dog in my small church and community had decided that they would help a sister out.

Especially the youth we were ministering to. Much to my chagrin, I quickly learned that middle-schoolers have absolutely no filter and no ability to discern another person’s discomfort in delicate situations. Or if they do, they just don’t care…

I’ll never forget one night at church as Mr. Gore and I were in the kitchen serving hot dogs to the youth group before their worship service. A middle-schooler named Ashlyn stepped up to the window to get her food, and as Mr. Gore handed me her plate , she said, as vocally as you please, “Lesley, do you like him?”

My eyes met hers, shocked, and I searched for a fitting reply to her bold and unexpected question, my mouth slightly dropping open and closing shut in indecision. She had completely stumped me! “Um…do you want some ketchup?” I asked.

Not surprisingly, she took my response as an affirmative one and, laughing her head off, loudly proclaimed “You DO like him! You do!!!”

Blinded by the veritable spotlight her booming voice was shining upon us, I bit back an involuntary smile and quickly squirted ketchup on her hot dog as a pesky blush stole across my face and my entire body broke into a hot sweat.

“Here you go, Ashlyn…” I said, shoving her plate into her hands while shooting her a threatening look, even as she continued to laugh and point at us. I couldn’t for the life of me bring myself to look at Mr. Gore, but the energy between us assured me that he hadn’t missed a bit of that painfully awkward exchange.

From that point on, Ashlyn took to calling me “Mrs. Gore” regardless of how many people were around us, regardless of whether Mr. Gore was absent or very much present…

And I started blushing and sweating every time.

But Ashlyn wasn’t alone in her teasing. Some of the male youth also took to making jokes, using the word “gore” as often as they could when they were in my vicinity.

“So, Lesley, who are you going to vote for in the election?…Bush or GORE?”

“Be careful today…don’t get ‘GORED’ by a bull!”

More blushing.

More sweating.

And don’t even get me started on the adults. They were the worst, mercilessly teasing me, pairing the two of us up for games (especially of the hand-holding or teamwork sort), encouraging those filterless middle-schoolers…

Plainly put, there was just a lot of scheming going on behind the scenes.

Which explains why I rode home with Mr. Gore that fateful night after the OU vs. Nebraska game in the first place, the night I told you about in my last post…

Like I said before, our time spent together that Saturday in October, though a huge step for us, was not officially categorized as a date, resulting in plenty of those awkward moments that are typical of such occasions. I’m sure Mr. Gore ended up paying for everyone’s food at Coach’s that day, because if he only bought mine, it would look like we were exclusive, and if he only bought his, it would make him look disinterested; to say we were testing the waters would be a huge understatment.

But the culmination of our awkwardness took place after the youth rally we attended later that night at Mr. Gore’s home church, where I sang and our youth minister, Mat, preached.

Many members of my own church were present at this event, including my Mom, and since it took place nearly 2 hours from our hometown, they had carpooled together in one of our church vans. I, on the other hand, had been spending the weekend with my brothers in Norman where I met up with Mr. Gore to watch the football game, and after the game, had hitched a ride with him to his church.

After the rally was over, we would all be making that long drive back to my home…

Complicated, I know.

Resulting in a major problem for me as I exited the church building and made my way into the dark parking lot. There were two vehicles going back to my hometown and they were parked very closely to each other…

1. The church van, where all of my best friends and my Mom were riding,

or…

2. Mr. Gore’s car.

“What’s the problem?” you ask?

Well, Mr. Gore had not invited me to ride back with him.

Thus, my mental monologue was of the more-than-panicked variety as I slowly approached both vehicles…

What do I do?

Did he not ask me because he just expects me to ride with him or did he not ask me because he has no interest in me whatsoever?

Was he just hanging out with me today because he likes me or because he wanted some people to watch the game with?

Oh, dear Lord, I want to ride with him!

I will DIE if I have to ride the church van and miss this time with him!!

Die, I tell you!

Somebody help me.

What to do, what to do?!…

But alas, regardless of how fiercely my head was talking, my feet won, and they led me straight to the church van.

I just hadn’t been able to muster up enough brazenness to slip into the passenger seat of Mr. Gore’s car, even though my heart was already in there, begging to be reunited with me. My insides deflated at my cowardice, and the day that had been so bright just hours earlier began to darken considerably.

However, just as I was about to climb into the van and join my Mom on the front row, someone stepped in front of me, obstructing my path.

It was my youth minister, Mat, and on his face he was wearing the grin of a cheshire cat, his prominent dimples shining with mischief in the moonlight.

“Hi, Lesley,” he smiled.

“Hi…” I replied, suspicious.

“There’s no room on the van,” he said, continuing to grin at me.

“Uhhh…yes there is…,” I confusedly said, gesturing to my Mom and the several other empty seats behind her.

“Nope. No room. You’re going to have to find another way home,” he said, barely-concealed laughter behind his voice.

Understanding finally dawned on me (I’m a little slow…) and I began to shake my head in denial, even as I fought to keep the embarrassed smile off of my face.

“Mat, let me on the van!” I demanded, trying to step around him.

“There’s really no room,” he insisted, blocking my way.

I started to nervously giggle as my face flamed red.

“Mat, move out of my way!” I begged. My eyes met my Mama’s, pleading and laughing at the same time, and she just shrugged and smiled in return. She was as helpless as I was, but it seemed like she was enjoying the show as much as everyone else on the van.

And just like that, before I knew it, the church van doors were being shut right there in my face and I was left standing alone in the parking lot, my stomach a twisted knot of anticipation and dread. I wanted to give my youth minister a giant hug of gratitude and pinch the fire out of him at the same time…

But I had more pressing matters in front of me, namely, my walk of shame to Mr. Gore’s car.

He was already in the driver’s seat of his shiny, black Pontiac Firebird, the tinted windows barely allowing me to see his outline from my vantage point as I made my dreaded approach.

Can he see me? I thought. Does he think I’m a huge, pathetic idiot?…

Taking a deep breath, I knocked tentatively on the passenger door window before slowly opening the heavy door.

“Hi…” I said timidly, wishing I could die on the spot.

“Um, can I ride back with you?…they said there’s no room on the church van…”

“Of course you’re riding home with me!” he exclaimed, completely unaware that I hadn’t realized that and had consequently just walked through the most excruciatingly embarrassing five minutes of my life.

“I don’t know…” I muttered, sliding into my seat and quickly shutting the door so I could hide my flaming red cheeks from his view. I was sweating like a packmule.

It was humiliating, to be sure, but I was where I wanted to be, thank God! And, like I said before, that drive home turned out to be quite important in our history…

For in the course of a two-hour conversation on those darkened highways followed by winding country roads, something tangibly clicked between us, and although we were in no way “official” yet, our hearts had finally made exclusive contact and our eyes seemed to be fixed on each other for the long-haul. And the best part? There were no middle-schoolers in the car with us!

I no longer wanted to pinch my youth minister, and I am eternally grateful for his interference on that awful/beautiful October night.

It certainly wasn’t the last of the awkwardness, and in the weeks and months to come, Mr. Gore and I couldn’t be seen together in my hometown without receiving teasing comments, and the middle-schoolers, precious as they were, continued to haunt us with their boldness and naivety week in and week out. Thus, that short period in my life as Mr. Gore and I were trying to fumble our way into a relationship is one marked by unceasing squirming, embarrassment, blushing, and lots of sweating…

Our church family was our audience and we had unwittingly become the stars of their latest love story. As sweet as the memories have become in my heart, if I’m being honest, I still find myself fidgeting a little in my chair as I revisit them; I wouldn’t change a thing, but I sure am glad they’re over!

In fact, I didn’t know that we’d ever make it to the comfortable “courtin’” stage, but make it we did.

And I suppose I’ll tell you all about that…

I don’t know. Maybe in July? Stay tuned!

Mr. and Mrs. Gore: The Blushing Years (Part 2)

continued from Part 1:

“I was painfully aware of him, each moment spent near him adding to my interest and my desire to know him better. Which, praise be to God, eventually came just a few months later…”

~

Mr. Gore came to our small town that May to take on a summer internship at our church.

A high school graduate now, I was nearly on an equal playing field with this young college boy, even though I still had the summer left before I would officially graduate from the youth group.

Thankfully, in the confines of our tiny town, he was forced to finally take notice of me, and before too long, he even knew my name.

And oh, how he could set my heart to beating!

It was difficult, being under his authority and tutelage, unable to even think about pursuing a relationship, yet wanting so badly to be noticed by him. Our youth group was full of attractive and wholesome young ladies, and at the time, though they would laugh at the idea now, many of my friends were also interested in this new boy; his presence that summer definitely sent a jolt of energy through the fairer members of our small town’s youth group. In fact, I would say the matchmaking mothers were even more atwitter than I was…

But it wasn’t too long before I noticed that, although a summer romance was strictly forbidden, there was an electricity between the two of us that surely I wasn’t the only one feeling. He was admittedly a bit of a flirt…what young, single man would not have enjoyed all that attention?…but when our eyes would meet, we would both begin that tell-tale fidgeting, and although he had to leave me guessing that entire summer what he really thought of me, I could sometimes read in his eyes that he admired what he saw. (And well he should have, the little toot!)

Thankfully, I had a little help in my pursuit of this romance. My bosom friend, Misty, and I concocted a game that summer to gauge Mr. Gore’s interest in me; both of us were back-up singers in our youth group’s praise band, and when we were on the stage during church services and he was in the congregation, I would yawn while Misty kept her eyes peeled to see if he yawned, too. Because, you know, yawns are contagious. Neither of us were very good at math, but that game was genius, if you ask me!…

and I’m sure it didn’t interfere with our worship. Not at all. We were super gifted at multi-tasking.

Anyhow, by summer’s end, after a week-long mission trip to Seattle that pushed us closer and closer together, I would say that I had very much fallen in love with…my gosh, there is a lump growing in my throat!…this most amazing man. I don’t think I could ever make a universal statement on the subject of soulmates and being “made for each other,” but I do know this…my heart, before we ever even went on our first date, was his. Forever.

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And so I was absolutely bereft when he returned to college that Fall without ever declaring any kind of love, or even interest in me. We were now very good friends, to be sure, but nothing else. We had even gone to dinner and a movie with a dating couple in our church…not that we actually sat by each other in the theater (and believe me, the awkwardness was palpable when we chose seats on either side of the couple rather than next to one another…how were we supposed to brush hands in the popcorn bag when we were 3 seats away from each other?!).

And for the first time in my life, I truly pined for a man. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I became a bit listless, and even lost weight in his absence. Church became dim, no longer the place where I knew I would see him, but the place where he had been…

And so I can’t tell you how touching and sweet is the memory of the day when I sat at the kitchen table, feeling so forlorn and lonesome, not even aware of my sad countenance or that anyone was watching me, when my Daddy spoke up from his place at the table’s head. “Don’t worry, Lester…he’ll be callin’.”

My head snapped up, his words pulling me out of a fog. I had no idea my Daddy even knew of my secret love; I had hardly discussed it with anyone. “You think so?” I asked, kind of breathless and embarrassed at the same time. “You betcha.” he said, bolstering my spirit considerably, for my Daddy is the best judge of character that I know; if he thought Mr. Gore would call, well then, he would call.

Turns out, Daddy was wrong. He didn’t call.

But he did e-mail me…

And I e-mailed him back.

And he e-mailed me again.

And I e-mailed him back.

And on October 28th, 2000, we met up with my now sister-in-law Amy and one of her friends at a Coach’s restaurant in Norman to watch the OU vs. Nebraska football game. It was one of those “non-date” kind of outings that we actually claim as our anniversary now, because somewhere between our appetizer at the restaurant, the football game, the 30-minute drive to a youth rally where I was singing and our youth minister was preaching, and the 2-hour drive back to my home, we became an item. Love still had not been declared, nor had he even asked me to be his, but believe me, the feelin’ was mutual, and we both somehow knew it…

and “the blushing” had just begun!

~

Part 3, coming up soon…

Mr. and Mrs. Gore: The Blushing Years (Part 1)

dedicated to my husband

~

How does  one sum up the most important moments and events in their memory?

How can I possibly convey the beauty of a story that is really commonplace…people fall in love every day…but paramount in my own life? An event that set my feet on a path that I never could have dreamed of?

The task of retelling my love story is daunting, as it includes a hundred glances, thousands of moments blurring into days blurring into years, a depth of feeling that is unfathomable, and yet it is the billionth verse of the same song that people have been singing since the beginning of time…

We met, we fell in love, we married.

Nothing new.

But so very new to me…

I distinctly remember the first time I laid eyes on him. I was a cheerleader, standing in my usual spot on the football field, doing what I remember doing most of my high school years, constantly moving, and laughing. How I miss that energy…when I think about the girl I was just twelve short years ago, I see a girl who hardly sat still and who thought everything was throw-my-head-back-and-laugh hilarious.

I had one friend who inspired most of that laughter, who on game nights disappeared into a mascot uniform and took her place next to me on the field, persistently slaying me with her slapstick body language and witty comments. We were caricatures of a cheerleader and mascot, making fun by throwing ourselves into our respective roles with major gusto and exaggeration. Spirit fingers were our favorite.

Anyway, it was just a typical gamenight, Danielle and I cutting up and making those spirit fingers…until I looked up and saw a “new boy” following my youth minister up the ramp to our elevated bleachers. His shirt was namebrand, Tommy Hilfiger to be exact, his hair was red and curly (my Mom’s favorite) and I was immediately smitten.

Now before you melt into the floor at my love-at-first-sight retelling of our story, let me fess up and tell you that, at the time, I was smitten with anyone of the opposite sex, especially at first sight. I was not the brightest bulb in the something (see, I can’t even get cliches right), nor was I the most discerning. I. loved. boys.

Especially this one.

“Danielle,” I exhaled, grasping her arm with my slender and well-groomed teenager fingers. “Who is that?!”

I watched his ascent up the ramp as if a spotlight had landed upon him, illuminating his newness, his spectacular hair and the chiseled structure of his ruddy face, and the royal blue-and-white checkered-print on his shirt.

And for the remainder of the football game, my eyes involuntarily flitted to where he sat at least every five seconds. I couldn’t help it; I was dyin’ to know who this stranger was and what he was doing in my neck of the woods.

Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to find out…

For just hours later, in our church’s youth building, I sat on the floor alongside my youth group and many young people from the town, listening to this young man preach at our post-game Bible Study.

Any interest that had been piqued at the football game was now a full-fledged crush, for not only was he cute as a button, he was Southern Baptist, and even better, he was a preacher, conveniently meeting every major characteristic on my list of standards.

And if you think I’m talking about a proverbial list, then you don’t know Southern Baptist girls. We ALL had a list, a real one, tucked away in some special hidden place, with the must-have characteristics of our future husbands written out, in order of priority.

We’ll ogle over and flirt with anybody (I’m looking at you, Justin Timberlake), but when it comes to marriage, that list is law.

And so my heart was officially atwitter.

Sadly, I didn’t see the young Mr. Gore again until many months later at our church’s Spring Break retreat in Oklahoma City, where we were joined by another church…

but not just any another church.

Mr. Gore’s home church.

By this time I had solved the mystery of why he had come to our small town in the first place: my youth minister, Mat, was previously his youth minister and mentor, and the two were very close friends. And even though Mr. Gore was now a college freshman at Oklahoma Baptist University and no longer in his church’s youth group, I had my fingers crossed that he would make an appearance at some point during the week.

And oh, did he.

He was just as precious and funny and breathtaking as he had been in the Fall, causing those initial feelings of admiration I experienced when I first saw him to clench themselves into my heart and dig a little deeper.

In that half-week retreat, he went from being someone I had seen once and found attractive to being the boy who dominated my daydreams and made my heart pound in my chest. I was as smitten as ever, but for real this time, and almost exclusively. (What? A girl needs more than a week to be cured of boy craziness…).

Therefore, I am loathe to admit that Mr. Gore still did not know I existed. He has no memory of my being at that retreat or ever meeting me (even though we had a riveting one-minute discussion on why Honey Nut Cheerios trumped all other cereals!) which really just eats my lunch, for two reasons:

1. I was in no way used to not being noticed, and

2. I was painfully aware of him, each moment spent near him adding to my interest and my desire to know him better.

Which, praise be to God, eventually came just  a few months later…

~

Part Two, coming soon to Mrs. Gore’s Diary

The June Bride Rejoices

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I didn’t realize it until this past week, but it sometimes causes me great trepidation that what I share here at Mrs. Gore’s Diary will cause a reader, perhaps walking through suffering or experiencing a life very different than mine, to experience discontentment or frustration with their own life…

And my trepidation is so great that I often hold back for fear of wounding a soul in distress who happens upon my words.

Will the single woman be saddened by my glowing endorsement of marriage?

Will the childless woman feel pain when I describe the more glorious aspects of motherhood?

Will someone mistake my blessings as luck, or worse, God being nicer to me than He is to them?

It pains me to even think of it.

And as a result, I sometimes filter my happiest moments, for fear of adding to the potential hardships of my sisters in the faith.

But the thought came upon me this past week that, while my heart is pure in those thoughts, I might be doing a disservice to the path God has set my feet upon and that, in a world that is ever attacking the family, and marriage, and motherhood, and femininity, I should speak more honestly and comprehensively about my life, even on my very best days. As much as I strive to remain transparent in my struggles as a wife and mother, so I should strive to remain transparent in my joys and triumphs.

If I am going to consider honesty one of the most important aspects of my writing, then…I must be honest through and through, yes?

It was good – or more likely, supernatural – timing, for my heart is extremely full tonight, and for good reason…

Mr. Gore.

Our days with little ones are hectic. Distracting. Busy.

During our courtship, we had little more to do than see every movie that was released and work really hard at not fornicating. But these days…well, we’re wiping kids and looking for missing shoes and strapping babies and toddlers into carseats and peeling and slicing apples and running up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs and breaking up fights and, basically, working around the clock, not only to keep our 3 little ones alive and healthy, but to train them in the fear and knowledge of God and to lead them in the ways of Christ.

Exhausting.

Bringing up children is without a doubt the hardest work I have ever done, and Mr. Gore is right there alongside me, working as hard as I am.

Therefore, on most nights, after finally tucking our ragamuffins into bed, we quite literally collapse into two separate heaps in the living room, me on our old antique settee (with springs that poke me in the bottom), him in our favorite leather chair, and, aided by our favorite sitcom of the moment, we allow ourselves to just relax and melt into the deliciously quiet evening.

And it just happens. The days are so full and the nights become so habitual that…sometimes I forget to think about him.

Oh, I kiss him goodbye and I welcome him home and I laugh at his jokes and I work by his side and I cuddle up next to him at night, but somehow, in the midst of living, I can fail to ponder and relish the gift of…him.

But the other night, I had this dream. I was contractually bound to another man in an old-fashioned betrothal, but I was madly in love with Mr. Gore. And he was in love with me. Separated from him in my dream, and intent on being with him forever, my heart – the real one, not the dream one – must have quickened within me, and as I continued to sleep and eventually view our happy and triumphant ending, my eyes were miraculously pulled out of the fog of our daily routine, and I woke up with an incredibly happy heart, one that was focused and fixated on this man who has stood faithfully beside me through nearly 8 years of marriage.

I woke up in love.

And my, it felt so good to go about my regular duties with a lovesong in my heart, one that saw beyond the work I was doing and was intentionally and singularly focused on one of the greatest gifts God has given me.

My husband.

My partner.

My best friend.

He knows more about the ugliest parts of my heart than anyone else on the planet, and he loves me anyway. He has seen me at my most raw and vulnerable and he doesn’t scorn me the next day. He has heard my grittiest confessions, and he freely forgives, every time.

And, though human and as prone to failure as the rest of us, he strives to love me as Christ loves the church.

And that is my favorite part of our love story, and one that I am now committed to proclaiming, not that we’ve stumbled into some kind of Disney-prince-and-princess-happily-ever-after, but that our faithfulness to one another and our enjoyment of our married state points to something far more beautiful than the fleeting and emotional love that this world seeks so doggedly after and always fails to find…

it points to something higher. Something truer. And something very, very lovely.

Redemption.

Salvation.

Sanctification.

Grace.

Because, without the grace of God, and built on anything other than the truth of Scripture, our marriage would be nothing more than a roll of the dice, hinging on how we woke up feeling that day and whether or not we had a good dream during the night.

It is that great grace, undeservedly given, that enables us to choose to love each other. For life.

I don’t know about you, but I think that makes the story of Aladdin and Jasmine seem kind of lame in comparison. Magic carpet ride…meh.

That lovesong in my heart only continues to increase as our 8th wedding anniversary draws nigh.

A couple of days ago, I watched my favorite movie with my kids, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and the “June Bride” song that our entire wedding was built around brought back so many cherished memories that I was practically a puddle of sentimentality by the time the movie was over.

And so if you don’t mind, I’d like to revisit some of those memories here in the weeks to come.

Not to make you gag.

Not to make you pine.

Not to make it seem like my life is all sunshine and flowers and roses…

but to recount how faithful God has been to two people who were conceived in sin and came into this world hating the Light.

Let us all start cherishing and celebrating our marriages, not because we are “lucky in love”, but because they can be one of the most beautiful tools used to point a dying world to a very living Savior.

Especially those of us who married in June…

I Want to Grow Old With You

One of my fondest wishes and most frequent prayers is that Mr. Gore and I might enjoy the blessing of a long and happy marriage…

I want to wake up next to him every morning for the rest of my life.

I want to continue watching God work in his life.

I want to see him walk our daughters down the aisle.

I want to grow in godly submission, love and servanthood by submitting to, loving and serving him.

I want to see how much he loves his grandkids.

I want to wear out the road to Cracker Barrel to get to our favorite daily specials.

I want to gaze upon him and feel my heart flip in gratitude today and the next day and the next day and the next day…

I want to grow old – very old – with him.

Magic Mike Who?

Perusing Pinterest today, I came across this photograph…

Do you know who this is?

Look again…

Know now?

Okay, I’ll tell you.

John Wayne.

1930.

I was shocked. I mean, I love The Duke as much as the next classic film lover, but I had NO idea that The Duke used to look like this. No wonder he went to Hollywood.

Sharing the photograph on Facebook, I wrote ‘”Magic Mike” needs to take a cue from this guy. Handsome speaks for itself, and dignity never goes out of style!!’

That, coupled with this article I read today, got me to thinking…

Aside from the basic moral wrongs of the hit film “Magic Mike”, and regardless of the glaringly obvious double standard found in its popularity (can you imagine Christian men on Facebook making enthusiastic status updates about seeing “Striptease” with all their married Christian buddies at the local theater?! God, forbid! The claws would come OUT), I’ve got a beef with this recent “harmless” avenue of entertainment.

I’m sure on a base level, Channing Tatum’s gyrating hips could get a woman riled up, as could the vulgar dance moves of Matthew McConaughey, especially if that woman is with a group of hooting and hollering female friends who make her feel like what she is viewing is harmless. I get it.

But make no mistake…

“Magic Mike” is no harmless film.

Entertainment like this cheapens true masculinity, and paints a deceptive picture of what women should get excited about in men.

So if you’ll indulge me, I would love to help remind my female sisters what “sexy” and “manly” really looks like…

A man who communes with his Creator daily and strives to live a life that glorifies God.

A man who works long hours and spends his hard-earned wages to care for his family and occasionally treat them to fun things like Cherry Limeades and Redbox rentals.

A man who reaches down to pick up his little girl when she trips and falls and holds her close until her tears are gone.

A man who gathers his children around him at night to tell them a story, no matter how late he got in from work.

A man who would never go see a movie about a group of female strippers, no matter how many people were saying it was okay.

A man who researches recipes on the internet and makes a huge and messy meal in the kitchen so his beloved doesn’t have to make supper one night.

A man who treats the elderly with respect and dignity by patiently listening to them tell stories about their glory days.

A man who tends to the azalea bushes by the front porch, clipping them down when they need it and watering them morning after morning after morning.

A man who hops up from his reading when he hears you doing the dishes and gives you a hand.

A man who thoughtfully answers every question his little boy has about “why?” and “how?” the world and everything in it works.

A man who leaves whatever he is doing to help you when your car breaks down.

A man who monitors his free time and plans his schedule wisely and fairly. If he gets a night out with his friends, you get one, too.

A man who gets up at night to fix the baby a bottle while you lay drooling on your pillow.

A man who gives up an unneeded PhD so he can spend more time with his family.

A man who comes home with the new book you’ve been wanting, and its not even your birthday.

A man who has trained his eyes to look away from other women, even when they look better than you do.

A man who is humble enough to grow, long after he has become an adult.

A man who wants you and finds his satisfaction in you, and you alone, after many years of marriage and fidelity.

A man with happy wrinkles around his eyes that prove how many times he has smiled at you.

A man who sets up controls on his computer to avoid even the temptation to look at pornography.

A man who has dignity and modesty and self-control.

A man who refuses to speak profanity and hushes others when they use it in your vicinity.

A man who would give his life for you and the children, in a heartbeat.

A man who says “I do”…for better or for worse…for richer or poorer…in sickness and in health…forever.

Men like this don’t exist, you say?

Oh yes, they do.

My husband and little girl, before their first Daddy Daughter Date Night.

My Daddy, napping with my daughter on the back porch after a long, hot day at work.

My father-in-law, Mike, one of the most kind and gentle men I’ve ever known, who loves his family likes he loves his life.

My brother, Jerry, investing in his daughter by coaching her softball team for the 3rd year in a row.

Our friend, Zac, walking and having a deep and intentional talk with our son, Gideon.

Our friend, Ben, who moved across the country to marry the love of his life.

My brother, Pete, playing on the floor in a cardboard box with his son, Brett.

My friend, Kenneth, a World War II vet who has been married to his lovely wife for 65 years this month.

my brother-in-law, Todd, with his wife and baby girl. He might be the baby of the family, but he has grown into a fine man, husband and father.

My husband and our friend, Joe, cooking a Chinese supper for me and Joe’s wife, Kara. Both of them had been working all day long.

Our friend, Brian, moved his family to our tiny town so they could be a part of our church. His job is nearly an hour away.

Our friend, Bird, pushing his daughter, Izzy, on the swing on his day off. When this man isn’t working for his family, he is LIVING for them.

Our friend, Frank, loves the Lord and the ones God has entrusted to him with unwavering faithfulness.

My oldest brother, Matt (the one in the middle – who always hides from my camera!) is an amazing husband and son, and a true man of God.

And seriously, that’s just off the top of my head, and easily accessible in my last 6 months of pictures. My church and my family are full of men who work hard, who love deeply, and who serve God faithfully. They define masculinity and dignity…

and they make Magic Mike and all his buddies look like total dweebs.

“But I don’t know any men like this!” you say?

Well that’s what this guy is for.

He reportedly made 250 movies…

and not a one of them is about a male stripper named Mike.

~

If you are wondering why new comments are not going through, PLEASE take a moment to read my follow-up post to this article. Thank you so very much!

It has been a Weird Week, Part Two: The Night Fight

So like I said yesterday, I’ve set my feet on a journey toward being more responsible, more hard-working, more glorifying to God in the seemingly mundane tasks of housewifery, and while I am enjoying this process immensely, I am going to sleep at night gallons more exhausted than usual.

Especially on Monday.

I woke up at 6:00, I showered, I dressed, I groomed, I coffee’d, I baked, I did laundry, I swept, I Bibled, I cleaned, I organized and I played with my kids. All before 10:00 a.m.

Then I fought that small house fire I told you about.

And then I baked cookies, I cleaned the house again, I made supper, I did the dishes again, I did laundry again, I sifted through junk again, I bathed the kids and I had Bible Study with a friend. All before 10:00 p.m.

Needless to say, when my head finally hit the pillow at 11:30, I was beat. Happy? Yes. Beat? Double-yes.

And now I have to interrupt this story to give you some context:

1. My favorite thing about my husband is that he always encourages me to do difficult things, to pursue sanctification, to meet trials head-on. He never coddles me and indulges my emotional rants or hurt feelings; rather, he prays for me, he points me to Biblical truth, he calls my bluff, he lets me know when I’m wrong or misguided, he keeps me accountable. And when I say I want to do better at something, he holds me to it and does his best to help me in it. I truly cherish this about him. Most of the time…

2. I am almost literally a rock when I am sleeping. For instance, Gideon has reportedly suffered from 2 bloody noses this week, squawling like a banshee until the blood stopped, and I never heard a thing, only noticing that he was in our bed when I woke up the next morning. Mr. Gore graciously handles all emergencies and feedings that take place from 12:30 to 7:00, and you’ll soon see why.

3. When I am awakened from sleep, I am the world’s biggest brat and nincompoop. I whine, I cry, I make accusations, I shuffle around like a maniac. It is perhaps the ugliest display of humanity that has ever set foot on the face of the earth. Thank God, only my Mother and my husband have had to witness the atrocity, and they often commiserate together about their plight, she dealing with me for 25 years, he for 7. They are their own support group and I don’t blame them a bit. I am 100% unreasonable and unreal in the middle of the night.

4. When awakened at night, Mr. Gore can usually lay right back down, close his eyes, and be snoozing in seconds. On the contrary, if I put my glasses on or if light hits my eyes, it’s all over for me, and once fully awake, I toss and turn for at least an hour until sleep returns to me. On my list of least favorite things in the world, this one falls right behind the devil and his minions. And this is why we’ve come to the agreement of Mr. Gore handling the children at nighttime.

5. Mr. Gore and I simply don’t fight. We communicate quite well and even in our disagreements, have rarely lost our tempers or our patience.

Did you get all that? Good. Keep it in mind, especially #2 and #3.

SO. Like I said, I was absolutely beat Monday night. But I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and I had trouble going to sleep. Don’t you hate it when your body is dead tired but your mind is in post-coffee morning mode? Yeah, me too. But finally, I went under, and I was sleeping so hard. I just know it felt wonderful, even though I was unconscious.

The next thing I knew, though, Mr. Gore was shaking my shoulder and saying my name, Betsie’s wails echoing through our bedroom. “Hey,” he whispered, nudging me. “Hey, do you want to fix Betsie a bottle?”

Confusion filled my mind and a flash of anger burst from my sinful soul. Why, in heaven’s name, was he waking me up?

I made a whiny huff of a noise and cuddled back down into my pillow.

“Sweetie,” he continued. “What do you want to do? Do you want to fix Betsie a bottle?”

I hopped up with my eyes closed (can’t let the light in!) and clumsily handed her the last few ounces of her bedtime bottle, but she turned away from it and continued to cry. Nonplussed, I collapsed back into bed, my anger and confusion at Mr. Gore’s persistence growing. Why, of all days, was he waking me up on this day? The one where I had been on my feet for 17 hours?…

“What are you doing?” he asked. “Are you going to fix her a bottle?”

“She doesn’t want one!” I slurred/hissed, never explaining the part about her turning away from her unfinished bottle. I was too sleepy to talk. I burrowed back down to fall back asleep, willing my mind not to kick in and wake me up all the way. I was desperate to return to sleep.

And then he did it.

“BOOOP!” Mr. Gore’s voice sliced loudly through the room, mimicking a fire alarm that is losing its battery.

My eyes snapped open and so did I. I snapped.

Sitting up, I began to cry – nay, sob – my words slurring together like a saloon-frequenter: “Why’dyoudothat?”

“I’m trying to wake you up!” he explained.

“But whyyyyy?!” I mournfully moaned.

“Betsie is crying!” he said.

“But you always take care of her at night!” I cried, still slurring my sentence into one long and whiny word.

“But you said you wanted to start taking care of this stuff….” he defended.

“Whatareyoutalkingabout?” I sobbed.

I shoved on my glasses, grabbed my pillow and shuffled out of the room like a lunatic, wailing at the top of my lungs, Betsie’s impressively loud cries paling in comparison to her Mother’s.

Before leaving the room I wailed out one last incoherent zinger: “Why are you so mean?!” (Mr. Gore is the nicest man on the planet).

But once in the kitchen, even my comatose sleepy mind could recognize that I had nowhere to go and that my baby was crying. And that Mr. Gore had apparently lost his mind and expected me to take care of her.

I shuffled back into our room, my favorite pillow still in my right arm, my brow furrowed in frustration and stupification.

“I don’t understand what you’re doing!” I dramatically sobbed at my husband, who was still lying in bed looking confused. “I never said I wanted to wake up and feed the baby!”

“I thought you did…’ he responded.

“I didn’t!” I slurred through my tears and sleep-haze. “Why would you think that??”

“I thought you said you wanted to start handling this stuff, waking up and stuff and taking care of the kids during the night…I was trying to help you…”

“I never said that! I said I wanted to wake up. In the morning!” I exclaimed, before bringing forth a fresh crop of tears.

Walking over to Betsie’s bed, I scooped her up and plopped down onto my side of the bed with her in my lap, both of us wailing.

“What are you doing?!” he hissed. “You’re going to wake her up all the way. Just. give. her. a. bottle!

“Can’t you see you’re hurting my feelings?!” I rattled off as he looked at me aghast.

“Sweetie, you’re not making sense. We will talk about this in the morning. You’re not in your right mind. You’ve only been asleep for 20 minutes!” he explained calmly, obviously forgetting #3 of my list, that I cannot be reasoned with in the night.

You’re not making sense!” I wailed, still out of my mind. “I never said I wanted to feed the baby. I woke up at 6:00 this morning and I worked ALL. DAY. LONG…”

And this is where Mr. Gore snapped. He had heard his fill. He had had all he could stand and he couldn’t stand no more. With gusto, he threw back the covers and the sheets and quickly sat up…

and I, completely acting on my reflexes, launched Betsie’s bottle straight at his face where it hit him right square on his finely-chiseled cheekbone.

Did you hear what I said?

I hit my husband in the face with a half-full bottle of formula.

The room erupted and shrank at the same time as disbelief washed over his countenance and regret over mine.

What was that?!” he exclaimed, throwing his hands up in frustration. “Did you just hit me in the face?!”

“Idon’tknow!!!!!” I cried, shocked and sad and sorry, but mostly…really, really sleepy and addlebrained. I sat there and sobbed while he took a little walk to the kitchen to cool down (literally – he had to switch out his ice pack).

Oh my…it was a 3-ring circus if I’ve ever seen one. Which I don’t think I have…

Anyhow, the worst part, aside from abusing my beloved husband, is that I finally woke up and then could not return to sleep and, after finally fixing Betsie that bottle and getting her back to bed, I spent the next hour shuffling around the house or tossing and turning in my bed.

Mr. Gore, of course, was lightly snoring in minutes, infuriating me even more.

But even in the drama of it all, and even though my heart was so sad that we had had a kind-of (but not really) real fight and had even gone to bed a teensy bit mad, everytime I pictured that bottle hitting him in the face, I was overcome with horror…and giggles. Terrified to further offend my husband, I held them in, my body shaking the bed, my conscience berating my sense of humor for being such a terrible wife.

But I can’t help it. Even in my sleepy stupors, I can recognize a funny story.

And I suppose if you’re going to have a fight…it might as well be a good one, right?

I assure you, we made up and were laughing about it the next morning. And Mr. Gore has had a grand time recounting the story to all of our friends and to my parents (although my Daddy gave me a good and deserved scolding)…

Told you, though. This has been an exceptionally weird week.

The New Mr. and Mrs. Sprat

Mr. Gore fancies himself a cook.

He butts his way into the kitchen, asking annoying questions about “why?” my Mom and I cook the way we do even though he knows full well the answer is going to be “because that is the way Granny did it.”

Why do we put a smidgen of baking soda in our sweet tea? Granny did. No questions, no comments.

I mean, sure, his baked tilapia is, as my beloved Paula Deen says, “so good it’ll make your tongue want to slap your brains out.” And his chicken alfredo beats any restaurant version I’ve had…

Okay, so, he’s great. And he doesn’t really fancy himself a cook; rather he has been blessed with a mind that wants to know who, what, where, when, why and how about everything. And I love cooking with him. And perhaps the only reason his questions are annoying is because they illuminate my ignorance. I will go a full lifetime doing what my Mama did without knowing why; he will google his question and botta-bing, botta-boom, crush or validate our cooking theories in milliseconds. He has taught us all a thing or two in the kitchen. And he truly loves to learn from us, in return.

Ya gotta love inquisitive minds.

But he does, at times, over season the vittles in my humble yet oft-given opinion. Spicy, salty, seasony, HOT…he’s always crouching over his unprepared food with various vials of spices as I tap on his shoulder saying, “Hey, Mister! Salt, pepper, garlic powder.” That is Paula Deen’s house seasoning, you know…

We made a dish together a few weeks ago for honored military guests, an old friend of Chris’s who is now a Marine, accompanied by his lovely wife and mother-in-law. The name of the recipe was “Farmer’s Pork Chops”. The author was, you guessed it, Paula Deen. It is this delicious dish that is basically a baked concoction of white gravy and sliced potatoes and onions topped with pan-seared meat. As noted, the recipe called for pork chops, but we used steak instead; the browned steak drips down into the potato and gravy mixture as it bakes in the oven, and the result is larapin.

I handled the potatoes, onions and gravy, seasoning them generously, while Mr. Gore prepared the steak, seasoning it very generously…

Which, when we put them all together, resulted in one salt-tay supper.

Our deepest apologies, honored military guests.

But marriage is all about compromise, is it not? Thus, we’re learning to please both of our palettes when we are cooking for just our little family. For instance, quesadillas. Mine is always the gentler version, prepared and cooked first (along with the children’s), and his is loaded with heat – chili powder, red pepper flakes, jalepenos – and is cooked last, as it completely taints the skillet with all kinds of fire and brimstone.

That famous tilapia of his is cooked in two separate pie pans – one for him, one for me.

Likewise, when Mr. Gore makes fried rice, he scoops mine out into a bowl and then adds the “flavor” to the rest.

Which left me in a bit of a pickle tonight. After consuming my little bowl of fried rice, I wanted more, but the easy-does-it version was all gone, leaving me with two choices: 1. Stop eating. (Ha!) or 2. Have a bowl of his so-hot-you-can’t-properly-taste-the-rice version.

I reluctantly chose the latter, but on my way to the kitchen, I called him Mr. Season-all.

Without missing a beat, he called me Mrs. Blandings.

But the good thing is, regardless of our obvious differing tastes in taste, like Jack Sprat and his wife, betwixt the two of us we will eventually lick the platter…the bowl…the pie plate…clean.

Till death do us part.