Does Forgiveness Equal Immediate Relief?

The other day my two youngest angels got into a little scuffle.  I’m not exactly sure how it all went down because I was not an actual witness to the demise of their kindness towards one another but apparently there were words spoken, unkind words, which led to one of them hitting the other one.  As I emerged from my sanctuary (the laundry room) my youngest daughter walked right up to me, hand on hip, and proudly declared that “Josh was naughty because he hit me.”  I had heard enough of the conversation between these two and their father to know that the situation had been addressed, dealt with, and apologizes had been spoken so I firmly said to her, “ Josh already said he was sorry and when someone says they’re sorry, we don’t talk about it anymore.”  My husband chuckled as I uttered those famous mom words and muttered under his breath, “Yeah, momma knows all about that.”  I immediately shot him the “look” as my heart was slowly acknowledging the fact that the Holy Spirit was looking an awful lot like my husband in that moment.  
In my marriage I have been all too guilty of bringing up past wrongs repeatedly in the heat of a discussion or argument.  I think many women suffer from this phenomenon of borderline forgiveness.  We say we forgive our husbands for something that was truly hurtful and offensive and in our hearts we sincerely want to be able to totally forgive that wrong but there is just something that won’t allow us to completely let go of it; at least for a while.  Ryan and I are working through a series about forgiveness, and I really connected with what one woman wrote about after she found out her husband had an affair.  She forgave him – at least she said she had and she wanted to, but as the issue of his affair resurfaced repeatedly in the coming months of their reconciliation they both began to doubt whether her forgiveness had been sincere and heart felt. Her husband reasoned that surely she couldn’t have forgiven him when she felt the need to continuously hurt him with what he had done.  And she couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t allow her to work through the pain of what he had done.  She needed to be able to talk it through to reach her forgiveness but he, being a man, wanted to put it in the “finished” box in his head and forget it ever happened. 
What they concluded after studying the Bible, praying, and seeking counseling in this area was that true forgiveness does take time; it is not immediate.  You choose to forgive but it can takes months or even years for the heart to truly get over it and stop rehashing it repeatedly, and the one who has been forgiven needs to be able to extend grace to the forgiver and allow the scab to be picked occasionally so that the wound can really heal with time.  This concept works for me; as a woman especially.  I can see where wrongs that truly stung in the beginning of my relationship have definitely become very small smudges as time progresses.  What at one time seemed like an insurmountable mountain for me to “get over” has been replaced with a feeling of peace as time and God’s grace provides a healing balm to some once extremely sensitive and hurtful topics.  So while it’s true that when forgiveness has been extended we should try not to talk about it anymore, it may be equally as true that there may need to be some revisiting of the events and circumstances for a woman (and I’m sure even some men) to truly wrap their minds around it all and to be able to come to a place of complete forgiveness.  Sorry guys, but in this case, God’s forgiveness can begin a good work in a marriage but you need to hold on as He is faithful to complete his good work in your wives’ lives.  
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
Just keep livin!!

Sex On A Stick

I handed my two boys sex on a stick the other day; at least that’s what it felt like.  Recently Ryan and I have been chatting with some parents and researching when exactly is the appropriate age to talk to our children about their bodies and more importantly, “the birds and the bees” – apparently we’re behind schedule. Blame it on remarriage, or the seven kids, or just the busyness of life, but whatever it was we needed to get on the ball with this subject.  According to most of the parents we talked to and the information we gathered these conversations should have begun at around 7 years old. Reluctantly we have accepted this. We owned up to the fact that we had to address some of these very delicate subjects with our firstborn children soon and as we reasoned to ourselves; better late than never.  
Firsts things first, I was put on the task of finding an appropriate book for the boys.  I went to a Christian bookstore and found one book on a boy’s changing body but we were after something a little more substantial – we wanted the sex aspect of it all as well.  If we were “going there” with them, we were going all the way, shooting for a home run so to speak.  I found another book that was on the New York Seller’s bestselling list and it was recommended for ages 7 and up and had reviews from parents who had even read it to their toddlers. I thought, if these parents are reading it to their toddlers it has to be pretty tame; however, I have to admit I would rather read a sex book to my three year old than my ten year old.   The book also featured cartoon like drawings for all of the illustrations, and I preferred that over anything resembling a real live human being, my own personal comfort zone I suppose.  I ordered it, and we began to amp up the boys for a very special book that was going to arrive soon that would help them understand the changes that they would be experiencing with their bodies as they aged.  As we would talk they would walk away rolling their eyes, and Ryan and I would burst out giggling acting like we were the naïve, innocent ones about to have this whole new world opened up to us!  
 The big day finally arrived, the book came, and we opened it up slowly.  I glanced over at my husband whose eyes were bulging out of his head as he looked down at what appeared to be about the halfway point of the book and staring back at him was a cute drawing of a buck naked little girl and an equally cute drawing of a buck naked little boy and bonus – they had all of their little buck naked parts pointed out with descriptive arrows detailing the scientific terms. He, Ryan, immediately brought the book into the dining room and muttered something about how his boys weren’t going to read something that taught them about vulvas.  I gulped, and then said quietly,” Honey, we are trying to teach them about their bodies and sex so they probably do need to see some sort of illustration describing what the parts are.”  He unwillingly agreed. 
 I recognize that neither one of us was quite ready for this conversation; if any parent can ever truly be ready for this, and we were both in a state of shock that we had actually reached this stage of parenting already.  It seemed, at times, that they were still our cute little buck naked babies but they weren’t, they were here at this age and we needed to be responsible and start to teach them before they received their education in private from an unapproved source, such as a teenage boy introducing them to Playboy or even worse, the world wide web of every indulgence you can fathom.  Our goal, as parents, is to be honest with them, as honest as possible about our shortcomings, our failures, and our victories – even in the area of sex.  They are not to that point, but they are to the point of needing some honest, heartfelt information from the two people on earth who were given the responsibility of training and teaching  them – even in this awkward area.  
Our plan was to give them the book to read together and then individually discuss any questions or comments that they had about what they read. So the moment arrived.  I was a nervous wreck and could hardly even look either boy in the eye as I motioned to their father to “get the book.”  He retrieved the prized possession and then in a very authoritative voice said something along the lines of, “Remember boys, we ordered this book for you, well, it’s here, and we’d like you to read it together and then we’ll talk about it later” and with that the book was handed over.  In that one moment I felt like I was completely stripping them of their innocence and their childhood and exposing them to the world’s deepest, darkest secrets.  It was also in that moment that I realized it was never meant to be a deep, dark secret; we ruined it, not me and Ryan “we” but we as humanity. We turned one of the most precious gifts God gave a marriage into this deep, dark secret because of our sin.  It was never meant to be that way.  It was instead meant to be a beautiful outpouring of intimacy expressed between a man and a woman and if we, as their parents, could start here with being honest, perhaps, just perhaps, we could continue to have open, honest dialogs through the hard years where temptations would be raging in their naïve hearts and minds and their souls being bombarded with this porn laden, sex ridden, no holds bar society that we are attempting to raise them in.  Maybe, just maybe, with the help of this book, our commitment to each other and to them, and a whole lot of prayer, we could beat this unhealthy, sick, and straight from the pit of hell agenda that the Devil has for our kids (and your kids!) and their shameful perspective on their bodies and their sexuality.  Maybe, just maybe, we got this🙂
Just keep livin!!

Intentionally Married?

Often when a young, Christian couple first gets married there’s this very innocent and naïve idea about how their marriage is going to work out. The philosophy goes something like this, “We love God, we love each other, so our marriage will be great.” This is a fantastic concept – for like a day – and then reality sets in and loving God and loving each other doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore.  What happens between the till death do us part vows and the cold reality of many marriages with distant stares,  avoidance through obscene busyness, and the frigid expanse down the center of the indulgent, tempur-pedic mattress?  How do we get to this point, only a few years in, where our communication only reaches so far as to the basics of “how was your day”, and the trite response of “fine” and with that he lazily lounges upon the couch, watching the news, and drowning out the family while ignoring her disgust and eye rolls. She, hurt due to being unseen and unheard by the one who is supposed to love, honor, and cherish her, ignores him with steely glances and tempered snides and in revenge tunes in completely to the littlest members of the family who are actually vying for her love and attention and reasons to herself that “he will pay for this come bed time.” This is often the invisible crossroads when a couple must decide whether they will pursue the concept of being intentionally married, a desire to pursue passionately the concept of marriage and take the necessary steps to transform their marriage into something beautiful or the alternative; going the route of those sad couples, passing each other in the hazy fog of remembrance but not even caring enough to put forth the effort anymore; those known as the floaters.
Going back to my love of John Eldredge, he has this to say in his book Love and War regarding the state of many marriages today and the tradeoff that often occurs, he calls it, “A cordial peace accord in which we have both conceded a good deal of desire in exchange for smoother daily operations.”
This is sad but so true.   Desire brings depth, depth brings an honest look at ourselves, and an honest look at ourselves often brings us back to a place of pain in our pasts that we are forced to deal with, properly grieve, and then rise above the ashes.  Desire also brings passion, passion in turn breeds joy and pain because when you passionately love and work towards the best that something can be, in this case a marriage, there will then be disagreements, arguments, pain, and tears but tears bring healing and healing brings growth and growth ultimately brings us closer to Eden and to the heart of how God saw the concept of marriage in the very beginning. 
Marriage is hard work.  I thought I walked into marriage with my eyes wide open – not entirely true.  I knew marriage could be difficult, and I knew that I was capable of honoring till death do us part vows in the hardest of circumstances; however, I was very naïve towards some of the less obvious issues that our unique situation would hold.  A widow and a widower coming together brings a very interesting set of circumstances to a marriage, blending 7 children, adopting each others children, dealing with grief, blending extended families, getting over an idea that we would just plug each other into the spousal roles that we were used to, addressing our children’s grief, addressing our different upbringings and even cultural differences (yes, there are differences between where I’m from and where he’s from, even in America) and many other variables as well.  I admittedly work hard at just about everything I attempt.  I’m a text book first born, but I have loosened up considerably with the circumstances that life has thrown my way… but – I do not like to fail.  I expect a lot from the relationships in my life and the relationship with my husband is no different.  Poor man, I hold the bar high but I hold myself to the exact same standards, and I won’t back down and accept a mediocre marriage when we can have a fantastic one through awakening that desire for God’s plan in our marriage. It’s the difference between being floaters who pass each other in the night and the alternative of being intentionally married partners pursuing the lifelong goal of passion, pursuit, and a return to Eden.  We choose to be intentionally married… for life. Can you say the same?
Just keep livin!!

The Ronne’s Big, New, Grand Adventure

It’s a new year (yay!), and the Ronnes have some big plans for the next 365 days.  We have properties to flip, kids and chickens to raise, goals to attain, and a few other fun thoughts up our sleeves.  We had a good 2012, a painfully good year as Ryan and I reflect back upon that year; a year encompassed with many highlights and some lows as well.  I use the word “painfully” because 2012 held a very different feel to it than the prior year of 2011 which was our honeymoon year.  2011 was the year of firsts: the butterflies, the highs of a new life together, the excitement of a fresh relationship, different surroundings, and a new adventure.  In contrast, 2012 was the year that brought a slap of reality to what this new life was all about.  We chose to face it all straight on and made a conscious decision not to bury any of it in busyness or in checking out on each other. We struggled through, prayed through, fought through, and rejoiced with each and every victory as we got honest with one another, honest with our pasts,  honest about our future, and honest with our Maker. 

It was a wonderfully victorious process as we can now look at each other entering 2013 with a deep appreciation for the choices we’ve made to be together, to make our marriage the best it can be, to be the best parents we can be to our seven children, and the decision to be present in the moments; appreciating each moment of joy or pain, boredom or tears, for what it is and taking away the fulfillment of growth that the moment has allowed in our lives.  
As Ryan and I have been reflecting on these few years we’ve spent together we’ve decided that 2013 is going to be a year that we do something significant as a couple.  I’m not talking about the mundaneness of raising a family, or going through the motions of life, or falling asleep in each other arms every night – although very good things that we do together; instead, I’m talking about something bigger, like life or death big, adventurous, dangerous, something that only the two of us can produce because of the sanctity of our coming together as one in this moment and time in eternity.  Something resembling a grand adventure completely unique to our personalities in our relationship and without us coming together and accomplishing it, it would never happen. We’ve discussed this idea for a while and prayed about it because we really felt like it was something we needed to enjoy doing together such as taking up a hobby, or possibly going somewhere and doing something worthwhile, but this had to be something that our two hearts were completely invested in TOGETHER and something that we both felt completely drawn to and called to – in other words, not something I talked him into; which can have a tendency to occur in marriages🙂.  While working through this concept over the past few weeks we’ve come up with some great ideas but ultimately landed upon an idea that we are both very comfortable with already, extremely dedicated to already, and pretty well rehearsed in already; drum roll……… We’ve decided to put it all on the line and….. write together.
Now this could be disastrous for a while – especially if we have landed upon something big that we’re supposed to accomplish together.  The Devil won’t be thrilled and we’ll probably get frustrated and irritated with one another, frustrated when our ideas don’t mesh and frustrated when one of us has writers block and the other has ideas coming out of their eyeballs. But, we’re determined to plug through regardless, lay it all on the line and see if God can use any of what we have and are together for His glory and His purpose.  We’re not exactly sure what this looks like for us as a couple yet.  It could be blogging, it could be writing a book, it could be writing articles, but it is going to be set in motion this year. Right now we are taking the necessary baby steps to make this happen.  We’re making an office out of our guest room because we’ve reasoned that writing would certainly be easier with a tranquil, peaceful, semi quiet spot to accomplish it in.  It’s a baby step but it’s a step in the right direction.  Outside of this move, stay tuned, there should be more to come.    
Every couple should have a grand mission to accomplish together – giving the relationship purpose and meaning as it joins the two hearts together for the purpose of accomplishing a single goal.  In this new year as we have evaluated what our mission is, and I urge you to evaluate what your mission could be with your spouse, think about it, pray about it, and make it happen! Do something that would never get done if the two of you hadn’t come together and joined your hearts as one and do it soon for the world will never be the same without your contribution!
Just keep livin!!