Week 3: Laughter (Maintain Your High Maintenance Marriage)

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The running joke is that sarcasm is our love language.

The very first time I met Greg, he showed up with a couple of friends to help me move apartments. My two takeaways about him that day were, “wow, his eyes are really beautiful” and “dude, he’s funny.”

When I first met his family, they told me they were thrilled he finally met someone who could come back at his jokes and jabs so quickly.

One Saturday early in our dating relationship, we drove to Chattanooga for the day. Halfway there Greg started his rendition of the song version of “The Lord’s Prayer,” which sounds incredibly sacrilegious, but the tears streaming down my face were in breathless laughter, not offense.

When I knew things were getting serious between us and I considered he might even be The One, I made him sit down and watch my all-time favorite movie, Waiting for Guffman. He didn’t know it at the time, but if he didn’t like the movie, I was really going to have to reevaluate our relationship.

(I kid.)

(Or do I?)

At any rate, it’s safe to say that laughter has been a HUGE part of our marriage.

(And for the record, he laughed more at it the first time than I did.) (I always knew he was a keeper.)

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” – E.E. Cummings

Greg and I laugh at and with each other. Laughter has taken the sting out of many painful situations and circumstances, and has equalized many conversations. Most discussions, heartfelt outpourings and deep talk always ends with some kind of a joke to diffuse the heaviness. Not in a manner of minimizing the importance of what’s happening, but to get us to loosen up.

Because it’s so vital in marriage to not take yourselves so seriously. (tweet)

Take God seriously, yes. Take the sanctity of marriage seriously, yes. But honestly, a lot of us (or maybe, just me) need to do some chilling out about life and love and marriage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten beyond high-strung about something and Greg will temper it all with a joke.

And vice-a versa. Likewise, I’m sure.

(10 points if you get the reference.)

And I’m absolutely, 100% confident laughter is important to God.

  • God told Abraham and Sarah to name their child laughter (Genesis 17:19)
  • David said that nights of crying our eyes out will give way to days of laughter (Psalm 30:5, The Message)
  • Psalm 91 says, “I’m whistling, laughing and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God.”
  • David wanted to “run loose and free, celebrating God’s great work, every bone in my body laughing, singing ‘God, there’s no one like you.” (Psalm 35:9, The Message)

“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” – Jesus

If Jesus came to give us life to enjoy and have in abundance, why don’t we think that applies to our marriages, too? When I enjoy a movie, I laugh. When I enjoy a book, I laugh. When I am thrilled to no end to finally be in bed at the end of the day, I laugh myself to sleep.

(I kid.)

(Or do I?)

And when I enjoy my hilarious husband, I laugh. No one on earth makes me laugh like he does. He brings me smiles and joy, every day.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s been that way since the beginning of time, and if it was the same for Adam and Eve, and maybe they even laughed years later about their biggest faux pas.

Like maybe Eve says, “Remember that time The Almighty asked you if you ate the apple? And you were all like, ‘Dude! It was her! That woman you gave me!’ Like you couldn’t have not eaten it! Dude, you’re hilarious.'”

And maybe every time Eve struggled to figure out what to make for dinner Adam said, “Why don’t we have Baked Apples? Or Apple Pie? Or Apple Fritters?Anything with apples would be awesome.”

And then maybe she flicked him with the kitchen towel and maybe he made a face like he’s a regular ol’ stand up comedian.

Hypothetically.

“Laughter is carbonated holiness.” – Anne Lamott

I think enjoying our spouses makes God laugh too. I think when we all get to heaven we’re going to be shocked at how much fun we have, and maybe we’ll be standing in line weekly for tickets to Jesus’ stand up show.

(He’s probably way into physical comedy.)

I think when we laugh with our spouse and have fun together and don’t take life and each other so seriously…I think when that happens God christens us all Isaacs.

“You have as much laughter as you have faith.” – Martin Luther

Ya gotta have faith. And a whole lotta laughin’.

Challenge: Take one night to watch a funny show with your spouse…phones, computers and iPads closed. Or while you’re out on a date, don’t allow any heavy conversation, or anything work-related; make it a “for fun” date only. Or talk about ways you can bring more laughter into your marriage. Pray that God would show you ways you and your spouse can lighten up and not take yourselves so seriously.

Additional resources you might find helpful:

Be blessed this week. And please be sure to check out other great posts in this collaborative series!

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How to Maintain Your High Maintenance Marriage (New Series!)

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QUESTION: What is the one thing I’m definitely not?

ANSWER: An expert.

I’m not an expert in parenting, cooking, cleaning or anything else that the Proverbs 31 woman does well. And I am most especially not an expert in marriage.

But while I’m not an expert, I’m a fan.

  • I’m a fan of husbands and wives and the marriage relationship being the most important one outside of a personal walk with the Lord (yes, even more than the children).
  • I’m a fan of working hard to be preventive in marriage and not reactive.
  • I’m a fan of giving our kids the essential security that their parents love and adore each other and are not going anywhere. 
  • I’m a fan of soaking up as much information as possible on how to be a better wife and what we can do to better our marriage.

And as a huge fan, I’ve got something really exciting to share with you:

Mondays in February, I’m collaborating with Kayse Pratt, Emily from Primitive Roads and Kelly from Exceptionalistic to talk marriage. We’re going to share the good, the bad and the ugly…all with the intention of encouraging you that your marriage needs to be high maintenance. As my husband always says, “we pay people to do oil changes in our car regularly but we neglect regular maintenance in our marriages.”

And that’ll preach.

Here are the specific areas we’ll be covering next month:

  • February 4 – Communication
  • February 11 – Service
  • February 18 – Laughter
  • February 25 – Sex

(Gulp. Yes, I just wrote that. And yes, let’s talk about it baby. Because you know what? We’re married to m-e-n. It’s kind of a big deal.) (Actually I know a lot of women it’s a big deal to as well.) (What I’m saying is it’s a very. big. deal.)

I’m extremely excited for this series, and I hope you are too. It all kicks off next Monday, so be sure to come back then and make sure you check out KayseEmily and Kelly‘s posts as well!

What about you? Do you have a high-maintenance marriage? Any particular question you’d like to see covered? You can comment anonymously, in case you’re a little embarrassed about what you want to ask (not that I’ve ever done that or anything…).

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Being

Mama & son in field

The kids are tucked in bed dreaming their Lego-and-lollipop-filled dreams and I go downstairs and flop into My Chair and exhale loudly with all my limbs splayed out as far as they can reach. It takes me a few minutes to gather the energy to get My Fuzzy Blanket and wrap it all the way up to my chin, and as soon as I do, it starts:

The rehashing of the day’s activities and the replaying of the hustle and the bustle and my quick transformation into snappy mom and order-barking-mom and the focus on getting things done and the checking of the lists…twice even. And again like clockwork I start beating myself up for being That Mom and try to reassure myself that the script change starts tomorrow.

It’s always tomorrow. The sun and Fun Mom and Dedicated Writer and Consistent Worker-Outer — they will all come out tomorrow. Right?

And then I fall asleep and when I wake up and I forget all about the new script because I have the old one down pat, man. Down. Pat. I don’t need cue cards or a teleprompter or anyone off to the side feeding me my lines. And the scenes unfold exactly as the script dictates they would and the next thing I know, I’m splayed out with limbs askew and I remember that doggone it, today was supposed to be the day.

My husband and I have been talking lately about me having the courage to be who I am and letting go of what I think others expect of me. I’ve been trying to be a great cook even though I hate cooking and meal planning. I’ve been trying to be Holly Homemaker but in all honesty consider it’s a good day if just the countertops are clean. And while eating and cleanliness are important (some would say vital), I’m realizing that putting a meal on the table and trying to be the next Giada are two totally different things. And I’m learning it takes more out of me to try to be amazing at the things I’m naturally bad at, than it does to pour energy into the things I’m naturally good at.

I spent the majority of last year ignoring the things that make me me, and instead poured myself into the things that are the antithesis of me because I’ve been too fearful to fully embrace me. I’m scared of success and I’m scared of failure and I get too easily overwhelmed by the big picture — so instead of starting small I just don’t start at all. And when I do that, everyone suffers — my kids suffer and my husband suffers and my calling suffers and everyone and every thing around me suffers.

And I think that makes God suffer, too.

So this year has turned into tomorrow and now the script is changing because if the script doesn’t change then the show gets cancelled. And the changes started last week and it was so hard to read the new script. The paper was different and type was small and I think it was written in Farsi and it was so very hard. The words were foreign on my tongue and I felt like an inexperienced hack — but I read them anyway.

And I acted my heart out.

On Monday after school, instead of demanding that bags be unpacked and homework started immediately, I scooped my kids onto my bed and we started playing. We had a pillow fight and they pretended they were sumo wrestlers and thank goodness Jaana remembered to make a pillow boundary around the edges so Paxton didn’t fall off. They played Rock the Boat and Bicycle and we laughed and giggled and watching the two of them enjoying the moment reminded me again and again that there’s so much I miss when I’m That Mom. That night as I tucked Jaana into bed she told God in her prayers, “Thanks for the fun we had with Mommy today.”

I don’t ever remember her saying a prayer of gratitude that I made her do homework the minute we got home from school.

As soon as we walked through the door on Tuesday afternoon, the kids yelled, “race you to Mommy’s bed!” and off we went to play and pillow fight and laugh together. On Friday we played Headbandz and Guess Who? and Twister and watching Paxton trying to put left foot on green while right foot was on red is something I will carry deep in my heart forever and ever amen.

The next morning as I was still sleeping, Jaana snuck in and put breakfast by the bed with a precious note that said, “Dear Mommy, you are such a great mom! You’re a good writer. This is a gift for everything you do. Love, Jaana”

That note is my very own Academy Award.

Working off a new script meant some things just didn’t get gone. Our meals were Anything But Gourmet. The house was Just Kinda Sorta Clean. I only vacuumed once and forgot about that load of laundry in the washing machine.

But the new script brought a lot of peace. I wrote some. I ran even more. We ate and didn’t go hungry. I enjoyed my kids and my days and I enjoyed my week. I looked ahead at next week’s scripts. I felt more fulfilled and more satisfied and inherently more me.

And I think that’s what it’s supposed to be like — this journey as parents and this journey as Christ-followers and just this journey as sojourners. I adore the Amplified version of John 10:10, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” Not just have life for the sake of living, but to enjoy life. Not just have it in abundance, but until it overflows.

Life that is to the full and overflows isn’t a life of tasks and to-do’s and days spent with doing. It’s life full of relationship and being and I truly believe that includes being with my kids and enjoying my life with them. Life that is enjoyed is life spent being who God created me to be. Being a wife and being a mom and being a writer and being a runner.

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And the overflow of that Wife/Mom/Writer/Runner Being pours into meals that are mediocre and a house that needs to be dusted again. It fills the holes and turns the just-okay into more-than-okay. Because that’s how things work in God’s economy. When that script is weird and uncomfortable, that usually means God wrote it. (<= tweet that)

So as I sit here full and content and satisfied, I rehearse next week’s script and allow those foreign words to roll around on my tongue so when it’s time to say my lines they aren’t as awkward:

  • Take the kids to the park and leave my phone in the car
  • Give grace to Jaana and not insist her room stay clean because after all, she’s a pretty amazing kid in a million other ways
  • Go outside with the kids and play

And lastly,

  • Just BE.

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Sibling (Thanksday #84)

She always rushes ahead of me up the stairs so she can be the first one in his room in the morning. Always. She wants to be the first face he sees and then climb into his bed so they can laugh and wrestle and giggle and hide under the blankets.

As we slowly crawl through car line to pick her up, he likes for me to roll down the window so he can see her from across the way and as soon as she climbs into her seat he always says, “How was school today, Jaana Boo?” Always.

The way they hide behind the couch giggling together and trying to be quiet when Daddy’s on his way home. Their laughter as they play and chase and tickle and then dress up in scarves and hats and gloves for their “trips to Atlanta” which are walks hand-in-hand around the house. Their snuggles as they watch Word Girl or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and even though they are six years apart they are twins in spirit.

Right now he’s walking his chubby almost three-year old toes across her tummy and saying, “push baby push!” and they’re in a fit of laughter as he pushes my throw pillow (again) around the kitchen and living room pretending it’s a T-Rex on its way to get her.

I love these two. To my toes I love them. Yes they bicker and yes they tattle and yes they whine. But they love each other fiercely and watching their faces light up when they see each other after a long day at school makes it all better. Makes everything all better. (<= click to tweet)

I’m thankful today for my two amazing kids. For their sweet hearts and tender spirits and their loving hearts. For the smiles they bring to my face when they have no idea I’m even watching. I wonder if that’s what God feels like when He watches us enjoy and love each other too.

What are you thankful for this week?