More Than Serving Tea


20 Things I Learned Through 20 Years of Marriage

Trust me. The math actually works out. Peter and I have been married for 20 years. Some lessons were easier than others. Some are still in process. Some require a lifetime. I’m grateful beyond words, but this is a blog so words are required.

Here are some lessons about myself and about life through marriage learned in no particular order.

  1. I can be a selfish, whiny brat. Ask Peter.
  2. Planning a wedding is easier than loving and honoring your spouse in sickness and till death. (And I had one heck of a wedding.)
  3. Seek out marriage counseling early and often.
  4. Make new friends as a couple.
  5. Make new friends as individuals.
  6. Fall bowling leagues actually last through spring.
  7. I am far too practical to enjoy romance but apparently not so practical that I can’t enjoy sparkly things.
  8. Subwoofer/laser disc/DVD/Blu Ray is a love language for some people.
  9. I thought I married a mind reader. He did, too.
  10. Love is a verb. It is a choice. Everyday.
  11. I do not like “traditional” gender roles when it comes to cooking, cleaning and child rearing.
  12. I like “traditional” gender roles when it comes to shoveling, mowing or cutting down large trees.
  13. I do not like my husband associating with men who refer to parenting their own children as “babysitting”.
  14. I do not like associating with women who call what the fathers of their children do as “babysitting” .
  15. Sometimes you have to go to bed angry with each other because it’s better to go to bed with the understanding you will talk later than to argue when tired.
  16. Men aren’t the only ones who enjoy sex, think about sex or initiate sex.
  17. You really are marrying into a family, not marrying the individual.
  18. Children should not be the center of your marriage.
  19. The Church needs to talk more about healthy friendships and marriages because the world around me is still shouting louder and more effectively.
  20. It never hurts to say, “Thank you” and “I love you” for no other reason than you mean it.

Happy 20th anniversary to me and Peter. I am so glad I laughed through “Wayne’s World.” I am sorry it took me so long to stay awake (and then thoroughly enjoy “The Holy Grail”). I don’t think I will ever stay awake through “The Purple Rose of Cairo.”

 

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Speaking From and In the Gap

I agreed to lead a seminar on parent-child relationships because for a moment I thought I knew enough about being a parent or a child to have 90-minutes of material. As the parent of a teenager and two tweens and as the child of two living parents I find myself more in the middle than ever before trying to speak to one “audience” and then another. I spend hours talking to students about how Jesus transforms our lives while I long to see that transformation happen faster and clearer in my own life as well as in the lives of my own children. And I’m certain my parents have moments when they are still waiting for some sign of change on my part, too. Forever the stubborn, strong-willed child even when I am now also parent.

Just last week I was teaching out of the book of Esther at the Asian American InterVarsity chapter at Northwestern University (hold your snickering, folks), and a student was asking me about my days as a Wildcat since we were in the building that was home to my area of study. He ended the conversation with a great line: “I was born the year you graduated.”

Thanks, kid.

So I’ve been sitting on this parent-child relationships seminar for about two weeks now and the one thing that keeps coming to my mind and heart is to give words of blessing and love because what keeps coming to me during my prep and prayer time is this overwhelming sense of displacement and missed messages. It’s hard enough as a parent who speaks literally the same language as a child. The biggest gap I often have to bridge with my daughter is a generational one. I don’t particularly like low-rise skinny jeans but I don’t have to wear them to understand them. In my day it was sweatshirts hanging off of one shoulder or really BIG HAIR. For my parents and for the parents of the students I often encounter, the gaps are language, generation, culture and values. I know God’s love always wins, but human love often misses with the best of intentions.

I’m not really sure where, if anywhere, I am going with all of this, but it’s been ringing in my heart for days now. In a culture that nurtures a sense of entitlement in a generation wrestling with delayed adulthood, these young adults aren’t as adult as another generation might have been and unable to find the help in the areas where they really are still young.

What do you wish you knew about your parents that would help inform you about where they are coming from? What do you wish your parents knew about you that you think would help them understand you? I spend a lot of emotional energy trying to figure out ways to connect with each of my kids, to tell them they are loved by me and their dad and by God in ways they can hear and understand it. But as the parent I am deeply moved when my kids figure out ways to connect with me and speak those same words of love into my life.

Children, you are deeply loved by flawed parents and by a perfect God. That’s what I hear when I’m quietly sitting in the middle of the gap.

 

 


Do You Need a Gift Receipt With That?

One of my love languages is receiving gifts. I love gifts not because I’m a material girl but because I appreciate the love, effort and thoughtfulness that goes into a well-planned gift. Some of the best gifts I’ve received over the years have been the ones that let me know that the giver knows me – beautiful notecards I would never spend the money to buy for myself, a book by a favorite author, a piece of dark chocolate with almonds, a pretty pair of earrings, a fabulous scarf that is really, really almost the color red.

I try to be a gracious receiver of these gifts, these expressions of love and care for me. It has not been easy because it has meant dealing with the voice – that stupid voice inside my head that says, “Kathy, you’re not worth that person’s love. You’re not worth the paper those cards are made of. You’re not worth the words written in that book. That piece of chocolate will only make you want another piece of chocolate. The money spent on those earrings could provide food for the food bank, and you are too vain to be wearing a fabulous scarf like that.”

I know. It’s crazy.

What’s crazier is that because I have such a hard time receiving gifts I become absolutely paralyzed when it comes to giving myself a gift, a little treat, a little something something. I have talked myself out of buying things that I actually need – socks, moisturizer (no, you really do need moisturizer), a notebook. It really is a song and dance in my head because as one who enjoys shopping just to see what’s out there I also know that while those lies are lies they are powerful. The lies that try to keep me in my place by telling me that I am undeserving and utterly selfish are just as strong as the lies that tell me that cute little something something will fulfill me.

Yup. Still crazy.

Through the years I have returned many, many thoughtful gifts from my husband. My mother used to tell me that I had better stop doing that or he will just stop giving me gifts out of exhaustion and a feeling of failure. The thing is that I would return those gifts because I didn’t feel deserving of his love through his gifts.

Jesus has helped silence those lies, just like he silenced the many demons he cast out during his crazy 30s. He tells those lies to be silent, and in their place he reminds me that his grace is sufficient and his love for me is what flows out. He reminds me that my husband and my friends love me, and their gifts do not need to be returned. No gift receipt necessary. (Unless, of course, the gift doesn’t fit. Honey, that ring really didn’t fit.)

So, do you like receiving gifts or giving gifts? What is the best gift you have ever received or given?

And how about this…for posting a comment in response to this post, one lucky winner will receive a gift from me and the good folks at simply-bags.com. The owners of this internet bag/purse company contacted me earlier this month about “advertising” on my blog in exchange for a free purse. Honestly, I had to go a round with those stupid lies, which this time included thoughts like “sell-out” and “greedy”. And after coming to peace and joy with the fact that this little blog has become a little more than a group of two people (me and Peter) reading it and marveling over my wittiness, I wanted to receive the gift and give one as well.

So, share with me and the other readers of MTST about the best gift you ever received or gave and why that gift was the best, and one lucky commenter will be selected randomly and receive this cute bag (monogrammed if you’d like) courtesy of Simply-Bags.com:

It's simply called "The Summer Tote"

http://www.Simply-Bags.com is giving one of my readers this bag because I like to drive a hard bargain!

Comments will remain open, but if you want to win your comment has to be posted by May 5, 8 a.m. CST. And it’s ok if you’re a first-time commenter, long-time reader and you’re commenting just because this bag is so cute and you want to win.

The giveaway is now over. Drum roll…the random number generator picked…Shirley! Thanks to all who commented off- and on-line. You all are a a gift to to me!


“The Talk” – Part 2

Several years ago it was time to have part 1 of “The Talk” with my daughter. Since then she and I have regrouped to talk a little more about sex and sexuality, as well as God’s gift of sexuality and intention for sex, love and marriage and Hollywood’s version. It’s an open conversation that we started in 5th grade, before the school health presentation, because I have control issues and wanted her to hear the information from me first.

This year was Peter’s turn to start the conversation with Corban. I was hoping the conversation would take place first thing this year, but I was reminded that before we began to talk honestly and openly about sex we would have to undo some of our harmless lies.

Kathy: Honey, when are you going to have “The Talk” with Corban?

Peter: Well, I was thinking we should start out with the Tooth Fairy.

Kathy: Oh. Shoot.

…at least a month later…

Kathy: Honey, how about “The Talk”?

Peter: Well, what about Santa?

Kathy: You couldn’t just take care of Santa when you took care of the Tooth Fairy?

Peter: Honey, that’s a lot in one talk. Too traumatic.

…another month or so…

Kathy: Well, how did it go?

Peter: Well, Corban’s response was, “Dad, why do we have to talk about grown-up stuff?”

The “grown-up stuff” he hears today at school will be no surprise. Corban mentioned last night that today’s half-day schedule involved a talk on puberty – imagine a 10-year-old boy speaking with a touch of disdain and rolling his eyes. Honestly, there is tiny, tiny part of my Mommy heart that is relieved that Corban isn’t in a rush to grow up. I saw (and continue to see) more of that in Bethany and her female friends, especially as it relates to their bodies – how they dress and look.

But it’s time. It’s time to start talking openly and honestly as best as we can, as appropriately as we can. Peter and Corban, just like Bethany and I did years ago, have begun what we hope and pray will be a lifelong conversation that starts with “grown-up stuff” and never ends.


Popular.

Being a published writer is a very strange thing indeed. I remember feeling grateful and proud when I saw my first byline, and I remember that More Than Serving Tea didn’t seem real until the first copies arrived at my home. I couldn’t believe someone was going to read what I had written.

But that’s when the fear and doubt really try to settle in and get comfortable. Getting published (or writing a public blog) doesn’t mean anyone is going to read what you wrote. It just means you’ve entered a new kind of crazy, manic, creative, wishful, hopeful, fearful place. Being published doesn’t mean having readers.

Blogging has opened up an entirely new avenue for writers to do just that – write and then hope their words will have readers who not only read what they’ve written but love it. Or at least like it enough. Is there anyone out there who blogs on a public blog and doesn’t want people to read it? You? You write a public blog but you don’t care if anyone reads it? Liar.

😉

We bloggers all have our good days when we write something that we think is funny or thoughtful or thought provoking, and our lovely readers concur. And then we have our bad days when inspiration never strikes or the words aren’t as clever or don’t turn quite right.

I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t know how many readers I have. It keeps me humble because most days here at More Than Serving Tea it’s a small but faithful bunch. It’s been fun over the two years or so to learn a little more about some of you, and even better to actually meet some of you (Alvin!).

But today (Friday) was not a good day or a bad day. It was weird. I was popular.

I’ve seen surges in my readership, especially when the likes of Scot McKnight or Sojourners crosspost or link to my blog. It is flattering because I respect both blogs and the communities that read those sites, and I’m grateful to have that exposure and mutual respect. And it is dangerous because I see how easily my humility turns false and gratitude for a God-given ability to write wants more than feeling God’s pleasure as I write. I want fame . Or at the very least some blogosphere popularity.

But today the blog stats were beyond anything I had seen, so initially I thought my post on keeping my mouth shut was beyond amazing. I still think I had a pretty good line or two and that the overall post was well-written, but that really wasn’t it. I lucked out and my post made some popularity list that I think is created randomly. I could say that it was a God-thing, and maybe it was. I’m pretty sure in some way it was. I just don’t think it was to make me popular and famous, per se. Popularity, even for one day, can feel like success, and even success is fleeting and misguided because it easily makes me stare at my bellybutton.

Today was a good lesson in popularity because I had it and I was “it”, and, friends, it is the same as it was in high school. Fast, flattering and fleeting. I can only hope that a handful of the many first-time readers (heck, I’d take one) would stick around for the ride to join the ranks of my long-time readers, first-time commenters. But that’s popularity.

I could work hard to try to be witty and write posts with popular tags in popular categories. I could try to be popular, but if today was a God-thing, God was giving me a tiny bit of space for me to think about why I gave a “bleep” about what other people think about my writing before I gave a moment’s thought to whether or not my words communicated integrity, faith, grace, hope and love.

Do I want to be popular first or do I want to be found faithful first?


Do You or Don’t You: Valentine’s Day?

This will be the 18th Valentine’s Day sort-of-but-not-really-celebrated. Early in our marriage we were giddy-in-love and wrote notes and kept the local florist busy. One could fairly say we’ve become less romantic and increasingly practical. We are less giddy, more in love, write notes about getting the car’s oil changed and remember that cut flowers die but nothing says, “I love you” like getting one step closer to being debt free.

But if you must do cut flowers the $20 bunch at the grocery store placed in one of the many vases we received 17 years ago from our wedding will suffice. 😉

I grew up knowing my parents loved each other, but it wasn’t until college or so when I noticed my father making more of an effort to show my mother his love and affection. One year I remember he hung a little box containing a piece of jewelry on the gear shift of her car, and another year I remember he bought her a new watch and left it near her bathroom sink. The point is, I remember.

So every now and then Peter and I remember. We remember that our children are watching us and learning about marriage, commitment, honor, respect, faith, fighting fair and not so fair and…about love. We hug and kiss in front of the children. We argue with and apologize to one another in front of the children. We exchange gifts in front of the children.

But as a mother  I find myself looking far more critically at the messages around Valentine’s Day, and I get a bit weirded out. Commercials about men frantically trying to find the perfect sparkly something, floral arrangement, chocolates, lingerie, fragrance, etc. and print ads showing women wearing sparkly somethings or lingerie all for that special someone who isn’t necessarily their spouse until death is commercialized romance on drugs. I’m not sure it’s all that romantic let alone about love. Maybe it’s about “luv” – a generic imposter that looks like the real thing but falls terribly short?

I’m really not that cynical, but it’s a little crazy out there. Be careful. Seriously.

So this Valentine’s Day Peter and I will do what we’ve been trying to do for 17 years and lowering the pressure to compete with the commercials and celebrate our love. We will try to love our children and be kind and patient with them (and leave a little note and some chocolates for each of them), and we will try to love one another and be kind and patient with one another. We are hoping to have dinner with a young couple on the staring line of what will hopefully be a long running, long loving marriage. We can’t think of a more perfect Valentine’s Day.

What are your plans?