Four Things a Husband Should Do for His Wife

Today Dan and I are celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary. Dan took a few days off of work, and, as I mentioned in the last post, we have a lot of fun planned. So, I’m not making any promises about when the next update will come. In the meantime, I’d like to celebrate this fourth anniversary by sharing four things my husband does for me, four things every husband should do for his wife.

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He loves me.

I have a problem. We call it the “goldfish syndrome” and I’ve read enough marriage books to know I’m not the only wife who has it. No matter how creatively, lavishly, romantically, or frequently Dan tells me he loves me, I forget.

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It’s not always that I forget. The problem is really that I stop feeling loved and so I start to believe I’m not. Or sometimes I know that Dan loved me…at one time, but what if it changed? What if he stopped? So Dan has his work set out, but he is constantly, faithfully, patiently reminding me of his love for me.

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He leads me.

I really enjoy having Dan as a leader in our home. It has become my second nature to ask his opinion on everything. Picking out fabric for Abby’s quilt? I asked Dan’s opinion. (He picked out the backing) Trying to figure out a new schedule? Ask Dan. Feeling like I’m doing a bad job at keeping a home and raising the girls? Go to Dan and get some input.

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But it’s not just when I ask that Dan leads. He leads us in so many areas of our lives.

Spiritually – he reads the Bible to us after our meals and prays with me every night before we go to sleep
Financially – he earns us a living even on days when he would rather do anything but go to work
Emotionally – he holds it together when everything else seems to be falling apart
Decision Making – he always gets the final say, although he appreciates my input, he’s not afraid to make the call
As a Dad – Dan doesn’t just leave me to raise our kiddos. Even when they are less than four pounds and growing in an isolette in the NICU, Dan is a present and loving father (and a really good one too)

There are so many ways Dan is a leader in our home, I couldn’t list them all if I tried.

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He helps me.

Maybe if I was perfect I could do it all. Manage and keep a beautiful home (all the time). Teach and train the girls. Feed and diaper the baby. Clean and fold laundry. Plan and cook meals. Keep track of our budget and all our finances. Correspond with friends and relatives. Plan doctor visits, vacations, and dates. Exercise and get plenty of rest. Even while kids are sick, babies aren’t sleeping, and we live in transitional sorts of places.

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Since I’m not perfect, I can’t do it all by myself, and even when I seem to be accomplishing a lot, I’m known to have occasional break downs. But Dan doesn’t expect me to be perfect or self-sustaining. He helps me do my job as I help him do his. We’re spouses, but we’re also partners, teammates, and friends.

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He spurs me on.

Dan and I first started talking at a time when I was discouraged and far from home, but learning good things from God. He started emailing me once in a while to encourage me, pray for me, and ask what God was doing in my life. My God’s grace, Jesus has stayed the center of our relationship through all of the transitions and changes over the past four (plus!) years. Dan is the one I go to first with my Bible questions, thoughts, and troubles. We pray together and seek God together. He’s my husband, and he’s my leader. He’s my helper and my friend, but he’s also my brother in Christ and always will be.

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The Perfect Wedding Cake

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When Dan and I started planning our wedding, we had no idea what we wanted for a wedding cake. A friend of ours had experience at making cakes and was eager to help us with ours. So, we scheduled a meeting. The four of us all sat down together: my Mom, Dan, the cake-maker, and myself. As we began talking we realized we didn’t really have any idea what we wanted.

“It should be white.”

“Should there be some purple in it?”

“I like ribbons…”

“Flowers are nice”

After only a few minutes we decided to reschedule another meeting after we had come to a more concrete idea of what we actually wanted. Weeks passed and we put very little thought into the cake. Our meeting arrived and we sat down and essentially designed our cake on the spot.

“White. With swirls, I like swirls on the sides.”

“How about some roses?”

“What flavor? What filling?”

In a very half-hazard way, we designed our cake. It was three tiers, all white with swirls on the sides and roses lining the edges. They were small at the top and grew larger at the bottom. There would be a raspberry filling in the middle because that’s what sounded good at the time (and it was conveniently close to purple).

The only part of the cake I was sure about was the cake topper. I had picked it out myself early in our engagement and everyone gave their approval. Apart from the topper, I had almost no idea if the cake would even look decent…or wedding-y.

I remember the first time I saw the cake. It was morning, and sky was perfectly clear as I walked through the parking lot and into the gym where are reception was going to be. It must have been the day of the wedding, so all the decorations were in place. The gym was a sea of white with purple accents and delicate white roses were scattered everywhere. In the middle of the gym was a round table, and there on a small platform, was our wedding cake.

It was perfect. I couldn’t have designed a better cake for our wedding and for us if I had actually known what I was doing. The cake was simple, beautiful, elegant, and it even tasted delicious.

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Sometimes our marriage feels a lot like our wedding cake. Dan and I each came into it with our own ideas of what it should look like. We had plans that failed, expectations that have never been fulfilled. There were probably only two major things I was sure of when we got married:

1) Dan was the man I wanted to marry.

2) Jesus was the center of our relationship and we wanted Him to stay there.

I guess Jesus is a bit like our cake topper. He stays, but anything else can change (and most other things have changed). Marriage has held so much that we never expected. School changes. Job changes. Babies…early babies! Those crazy newborn months. And housing changes (and more and more housing changes). Sometimes our whole lives feel a bit disorganized. Sometimes they feel chaotic or downright out of control. But ultimately, Jesus is at the center of our marriage, and God is the one creating and perfecting our story. God is our marriage “cake-maker”.

Often we just see the messy cake-making process. But sometimes we get a little glimpse into the beauty that God is perfecting. This Thursday Dan and I will celebrate four years of marriage. Four years of chaos and four years of trusting Jesus.

We’re going to celebrate by having an extended weekend packed full of fun and friends and a nice, long date. So there will be updates and pictures and lots of sharing up ahead, but for now I’m just reflecting on the goodness of our God and the sweet results a marriage receives when Jesus is at the center.

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10 Things I’ve Learned in 3 Years of Marriage

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Today Dan and I are celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary. So, in celebration mode, I thought I’d share 10 things I’ve learned in 3 years of marriage. (photo credit: Dan Carlson)

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1. Respect is love

During our first months of marriage, Dan and I read a book together called Love and Respect. Through that book and our premarital counseling, I learned that the best way I can love Dan is by respecting him. What does that look like for us? (I’m all about the practical application) Well, Dan’s a visionary sort of fellow. So that means when he comes home and tells me his latest brilliant idea (that I may or may not think is brilliant), I don’t squash him like a bug! I listen and support his ideas, because I know I have a trustworthy husband who won’t put us into bankruptcy following some crazy idea he had during his lunch hour.

I can’t imagine any feeling better than the feeling of being loved, but for Dan, it’s the feeling of being respected. So, I can’t say I completely understand, but it really does work.

2. Physical exercise is to Dan what sleep is to a pregnant Justine

This is one I just figured out in recent months. For most of my pregnancy I’ve required a nap-a-day. Ok, so I can go one day without a nap and be alright. But give me two days in a row and I turn into a basket case. I just need the rest.

I used to get annoyed at how much Dan enjoyed exercise. Every single day he wanted to go lift weights or run or play a sport. When he started working full time, I realized that he starts to go crazy if he doesn’t get his exercise. So, I finally figured out that it’s not something to resent. I need my sleep and Dan graciously guards my naptimes. In turn, I’m learning to guard his exercise time.

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3. Efficiency makes us a happy couple

Because Dan and I have one car, we usually do all of our grocery shopping on the weekends. For one semester, we had an arrangement where Dan was able to work out while Lydia and I did the shopping. In fact, Dan was so busy that semester that we had to do it that way. When the semester was over, I was thrilled to be able to have that shopping time with Dan once again. However, much to my disappointment, we seemed to get frustrated with each other during every single shopping trip. I figured out that Dan just felt like shopping was taking way longer than it should (even though it always took me that long). So, I decided to change things.

I started organizing my list in the order of the store aisles. We have a very particular route we take through each store now, every single time. On top of that, I planned far enough ahead so that we weren’t shopping at three stores in one weekend. I rotated every other week for two of the stores and bought things ahead of time.

Then Dan developed Super Shopper. It’s a simple, yet wonderful invention. I have an excel sheet where I keep a database of everything we’ve bought from three different stores. In the excel file, I list the items in order of our in-store route. When I make my grocery list (in totally random order), I run the program, and it automatically sorts my list by store and puts the items in the correct order for each store. This ingenious program took my grocery planning from over an hour to just minutes a week.

Efficiency saves me time during the week doing a chore I don’t enjoy much, it saves us time on the weekends so we can get in and out of stores crazy-fast, and it saves unnecessary tension and frustration between the two of us.

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4. Love is doing what Dan loves

When we were first married, I would always try to make Thursday nights (our “date nights”) special by cooking some elaborate meal. Finally I figured out that Dan wasn’t big on elaborate meals. He much rather would have tacos or meat and potatoes than anything gourmet, and those things were easier for me to cook! Likewise, for my birthday a couple years ago I planned an elaborate surprise date night where we dressed up and ate a fancy meal in our apartment which I had decorated to look like a fancy private restaurant. It was fun, but afterwards I talked to Dan and found out his dream date with me would be to go to a Tigers game.

So I have learned and am learning, to love Dan by doing what he loves, not just what I love.

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5. Love is loving what Dan loves

Like my last point, I have learned to love what Dan loves, even if it’s not necessarily my “cup of tea”. This is another recent lesson that I remember journaling about last anniversary. Dan was on a kick where he read the news every day and would come home and talk to me about it. I thought it was boring. Finally I realized we would both enjoy our dinners together much more if I actually made an effort to care about what he was telling me. Later the conversations switched from news to business ideas and more recently it’s been a lot of talk about Dan’s career. It’s not annoying anymore. I’m thankful that I have a husband who trusts me enough to tell me what’s on his mind, and I don’t ever want to risk shutting that out because the topic isn’t one I would have chosen on my own.

6. Research is in the job description

After Dan and I were married, I had one semester of college left. Once that semester ended, I became a full-time homemaker. Through some well suggested reading from ladies at church, I learned that being a homemaker is a real job and should be treated like one. Dan and I always joke that stay-at-home-moms sit at home all day eating bon bons. Then Dan tells me that I’m the best stay-at-home-mom because I don’t just eat the bon bons, I make them!

Joking aside, there is plenty to do around the home to stay busy and part of that job (a big part in my case) has been research: nutrition, pregnancy, parenting, budgeting, cleaning…the list could go on! Since I am a steward of my home, I want to make sure I’m doing my job well, not just going with the flow.

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7. It’s ok to take a nap

That last point being said, I was a pretty driven homemaker and new mommy after Lydia was born. I felt like it would be lazy for me to take a break. After all, Dan doesn’t take a nap in the middle his work day. However, Dan also isn’t on call 24/7!

I’ve learned to take time out of the day to nap, rest, or at least relax. It makes for a happy wife when Dan gets home, which makes him a happier husband.

8. Having a preemie is more stressful than taking 19 credits at UofM any day

Dan and I don’t really fight. Our “fights” involve my being super sad and Dan being kind of distant until we can reconcile. But we had never had any of even these fights until Lydia was born. Through friendship, dating, engagement, wedding planning, and being married and in school full time we didn’t fight. When we got married, I had to take a bus every day to get to campus and stay until evening. We were super busy, super poor, and super happy.

The most stressful period of my life was my 19 credit semester at the University of Michigan, in engineering mind you! I would go home in tears regularly because I was so overworked and sleep-deprived.

But none of that comes even close to comparing with Lydia’s birth. For six weeks we dealt with postpartum emotions, going home every night without our baby, not getting enough food or rest, and to top it off, we had moved the weekend Lydia was born and hadn’t had a chance to unpack. That is when we had our first “fights”. (The best gift anyone ever gave me was when Dan’s parents and grandparents came home and completely moved us in about a week after Lydia was born)

Ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t handle stress well, I would advise you to never have a preemie. That being said, God helped us through that hard time and we made it and are stronger for it. And, I’m extra grateful to have a wonderful husband who did go through all of that with me, and who stayed with me and even tells me that he still likes me in spite of it all!

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9. I will always love to hold his hand

When we were dating, Dan and I decided not to touch each other at all until we were engaged. Sure enough, when Dan proposed, I said yes, and he asked if he could put the ring on my hand. Many nights just before we fall asleep, Dan reaches over for my hand. Or while we are riding in the car, he’ll put his hand out to hold mine. Maybe I’m just a hand-holding sort of person, or maybe because of our history, it still always makes me grin.

10. It’s just better together

Each year I sit back and think to myself, “What is my favorite part of being married?” The answer has always been, “No more goodbyes!”. I just love being together every single day. Three years in and I still tell Dan I’ll miss him when he goes away to work, I still want to sit and watch when he plays sports, and I still look forward to Friday nights when Dan comes home and I get him for the whole weekend. Things just go better when we can be together.

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Happy Anniversary, Love!  It’s been three wonderful years, and I’m looking forward to many, many more.