Could I get a translator please?

February 21, 2010







Scene: It’s early on a Saturday morning in 1996– only a few months after Scott and I were married. I’m sitting on the couch drinking coffee in the living room of our very small one bedroom apartment.  Scott’s been busy moving about the apartment since he got up, which was an hour before me. The dishes are done, the bathroom is clean and the washing machine is working on its second load. Now he’s moved onto his next task.

Me: What are you doing?

Scott: (With one eyebrow raised, as if to say, what do you think I’m doing?)  The laundry.

Me: (sighing) Yes, I can see that. Why don’t you sit down and have a cup of coffee with me?   

Scott: Well, I just thought I’d get a few things done around here.

Me: (disappointed) Oh, ok. If that’s what you want to do...

Now before some of my girlfriends email me and say, Disappointed? The man did the dishes, cleaned the bathroom and was folding laundry. Why in the world  were you disappointed?  Read on

One of my favorite relationship concepts comes from a book called The Five Love Languages. It’s been around for a while and it’s a simple concept (simple is good for this brain of mine).

Here are the basic premises of the book:

1) Each of us has a primary way we like to have love expressed to us, this is called our “love language.”

2) We tend to express love the same way we like to receive love.

3) We feel most loved by someone when they are speaking our love language.

4) Two people may be expressing their love to each other and yet they may feel unloved because they are not speaking the same love language.

5) Knowing the love language of those people to whom we are closest…

…can help us to better communicate our love in ways that are meaningful to them and meet their needs

…can help us to interpret and appreciate expressions of love that are made in another love language

For those who aren’t familiar with the book here are the five love languages:

Words of Affirmation: You feel loved when people speak encouraging words to you and verbally acknowledge your efforts and worth.

Quality Time: You feel loved when people spend focused time with you. 

Gifts: You feel loved when you recieve gifts and small tokens of appreciation that are specifically chosen for you.

Acts of Service: You feel loved when others do things to help you.

Physical Touch: You feel most loved and connected with significant people in you life through touch. It can be a simple as a pat on the shoulder acknowledging your presence in the room.

According to Gary Chapman, the author of The Five Love Languages book, we tend to give love and measure the depth of another’s love for us based on at least one or two of these categories.

For me it’s easy to look at that list and identify my two main love languages. If you can read between the lines of that scene between Scott and me I bet you can figure out at least one of my love languages and one of his. If not, here’s the scene with “subtitles” ….

Me: What are you doing?

Scott: The laundry.

Me: (sighing) Yes, I can see that. Why don’t you sit down and have a cup of coffee?   [Translation: Why don’t you sit down and spend some time with me?]

Scott: Well, I just thought I’d get these things done. [Translation: I’m doing these chores so you don’t have to work so hard on your day off.]

Me: (disappointed) Oh, ok. If that’s what you want to do... [Translation: I guess you’d rather do chores than spend time with me.]

Yep, we were speaking different languages from the start!

What about you? How do you express love and how do you like for those around you to express their love to you?

More importantly, what are the love languages of those closest to you?

There’s something to be said for studying their language and then speaking it often.

The beauty of the oyster bed

January 25, 2010


I grew up living on the water. My parents were lucky, smart, blessed (you pick the word) and bought a waterfront lot on a relatively undeveloped Florida barrier island in 1971. 

I loved growing up on the water. Fishing, swimming, sailing, I was blessed to be able to do them all and often.

Our backyard was at the end of a canal on the intra-coastal waterways. A mangrove tree hovered  over the corner of our seawall and a large bed of oyster shells grew below. I never thought these shells were particularly attractive. In fact, we deftly avoided them when we ventured below the mangrove branches to launch a boat or go for a swim. If you’ve seen an oyster bed then you know they’re not beautiful. Oyster shells aren’t like the star fish or conch shells that tourists and natives alike seek as they walk the white sandy beaches of Florida.

Lately though, I’ve been re-thinking the attractiveness of this rustic and under-appreciated shell.

It started when I re-read a chapter of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book, Gift from the Sea. In it Lindbergh compares the stages of love to different seashells she finds on the shoreline. She likens the intial romantic stage to like that of a double sunrise seashell, a beautful, delicate bivalve; each side mirrors the other and is held together by a fragile band that’s easily broken.

For Lindbergh, the middle stages of love and marriage are like the oyster shell. An uninviting analogy, at least I thought so when I started to read her book. But now, as Scott and I move into our 15th year of marriage, I find her description of this season of married life familiar and even comforting. So much so that I’m sharing a few of her words with you (ok, more than a few, but they’re worth the read, so keep reading)…

The sunrise shell has the eternal validity of all beautiful and fleeting things. But surely we demand duration and continuityof relationships, at least of marriage. Not necessarily continuity in one single form or stage; not necessarily continuity in the double-sunrise stage.

There are other shells…here is one I picked up yesterday, an oyster…Sprawling and uneven, it has the irregularity of something growing. It looks rather like the house of a big family, pushing out one addition after another to hold its teeming life– here a sleeping porch for the children and there a veranda for the play-pen; here a garage for the extra car and there a shed for the the bicycles. It amuses me because it seems so much like my life at the moment, like most women’s lives in the middle years of marriage. It is untidy, spread out in all directions, heavily encrusted with accumulations…

Yes, I believe the oyster shell is a good one to express the middle years of marriage. It suggests the struggle of life itself. The oyster has fought to have that place on the rock to which it has fitted itself perfectly and to which it clings tenaciously. So most couples in the growing years of marriage struggle to achieve a place in the world…In the midst of such a life there is not much time to sit facing one another over a breakfast table. In these years one recognizes the tuth of Saint-Exupery’s line:

“Love does not consist in gazing at each other (one perfect sunrise gazing at another!) but in looking outward together in the same direction. For in fact, man and woman are not only looking outward in the same direction but working outward.” 

Observe the steady encroachment of the oyster bed over the rock. Here one forms ties, roots, a firm base. (Try and pry an oyster from its ledge!) 

Here the bond of marriage is formed. For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm.

The web is fashioned of love, yes, but many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow-growing devotion and, playing through these, a constantly rippling companionship. It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of a lack of language too; a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physcial and mental. It is a web of instincts and intuitions. The web of marriage is made in the day-to-day, living side by side, looking outward and working outward in the same direction. It is woven in the substance of life…

In the oyster stage of marriage, romantic love is only one of the many bonds that make up the intricate and enduring web that two people have built together.

I am fond of the oyster shell. It is humble and awkward and ugly. It is slate-colored and unsymmetrical. Its form is not primarily beautiful but functional. I make fun of its knobbiness. Sometimes I resent its burdens and excrescences. But its tireless adaptibility and tenacity draw my astonished admiration and sometimes my tears. And it is comfortable in its familiarity, its homeliness, like old garden gloves which have molded themselves perfectly to the shape of the hand.

Today, at Claire’s request, we went for a family jog. Before returning home we stopped for a rest at the bridge a few blocks away and peered over the seawall.  A large oyster bed was nestled below.

I marveled at the the beauty of these shells and the life-sustaining nature of each oyster. Each oyster strong and unique. Each shell protecting the life within. Each one clinging to the solid rock underneath.

“They’re kind of  beautiful, aren’t they Claire?” 

“I’m not so sure Mom.”

“Oh, but I am.”

Hide and Seek

February 16, 2009


A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.

-Max Lucado


Dear Claire and Ella:

Today you’re too young to fully understand this quote. Right now you’re far more interested in jumping on the trampoline with your daddy and playing hide and seek with your friends than you are in matters of love. But, when you are older, should you decide that God is calling you to married life, I want you to remember this quote and bind its truth to your heart.

There will come a time when men will seek after your heart and try to win it with their charm and the things of this world. And when they do, remember this, you are a beloved daughter of God, hidden in Christ Jesus. And this is where your heart should be–hidden in Christ and set upon the treasures of heaven. 

If you hide your heart in Christ you will not be impressed by men with earthly treasures. You will not be swept off your feet by vain ambition and temporal attraction. If you hide your heart in Christ He will rescue you from such worldy distractions as well as the pain and disappointment that comes from following after them.

My beautiful daughters guard your precious hearts and heed the wisdom in these words… hide your heart so deeply in Jesus so that only a man who seeks first Christ and his Kingdom will ever have a chance of finding it.




My Story, Chapter 2.3 – Not my body

April 30, 2008

[I haven’t written an installment of My Story in a long time. Here’s the first of a couple I’ve had in the pipeline but hadn’t had time to finish…]


A week or so after my emotional after Mass reaction to our visit to the Catholic Church Scott and I attended one of the We Believe classes taught by the associate pastor, Fr. Palka. In this class Fr. Palka taught directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) paragraph by paragraph.


Now I know what some of my Protestant friends who read this might be saying to themselves. It probably sounds something like this:“Well, there you have it. That’s the problem with those Catholics. If they’d just study the Bible then they’d know they’re wrong. But no, they go and study some book written by men.” 


Believe me, that thought even crossed my mind. But the time I spent examining the doctrine of Sola Scriptura taught me something. I knew that the Catholic who studies the CCC is in many ways no different than the non-demoninational church member who sits underneath the teaching of their pastor or the Presbyterian who studies the Westminster Confession. That person is learning how that pastor or leaders of their church interpret the Bible and what that church believes about salvation, baptism, communion etc. 


In a real sense all of the pastor’s sermons make up his own little catechism that he uses to teach his church members how to interpret the Bible and what to believe on matters of faith and morals.  The Catholic who studies the CCC is learning how the Church interprets the Bible on such matters. One big difference of course is that the Catholic Church unabashedly tells it’s members that this is the teaching of Christ’s church and it’s not up for debate or personal interpretation and what one may think is God’s special revelation to them. This of course is based on it’s belief that God never intended for each individual to study the Bible alone and come up with their own personal theology or truth but instead desired for His Church to be the “pillar and foundation of truth” (I Timothy 3:15).  


With this in mind I came to class ready to hear (not necessarily agree with) what the Catholic Church taught from a Catholic priest who was teaching not his own personal interpretation of scripture but instead the official teaching of the Church. I was both curious and cautious in my approach to this class. I was genuinely interested in hearing answers about the Catholic faith but I found myself carefully scrutinizing everything this priest said. I’m a somewhat expressive person (don’t laugh too hard at the understatement Dad!).  I’ve been told that sometimes what I’m thinking is written all over my face. I have no doubt that Fr. Palka could see the scrutiny in my expressions. Especially when it came time for the week devoted soley to questions and answers.


The first class was rather benign in it’s subject matter. Nothing was addressed that was controversial or really any different than what I believed as a Protestant. It was the second class that ruffled more than a few of my feathers. Scott couldn’t attend this class because of work so I went with my parents. At one point the subject of birth control came up. Because it was outside the scope of the subject matter for that class Fr. Palka really didn’t fully address the topic. I’m not sure I heard much of the teaching after that point. All I could think about was how some old celibate man who lives in Italy is not going to tell me what I should do with my body.


I had no problem expressing this opinion to my parents once we were in the car and headed home. In retrospect my thoughts sounded a lot like the thoughts of all those pro-choice women who claim no one should tell a pregnant woman what to do with her body. But at the time, I didn’t have the knowledge or understanding to even make that connection. I just remember feeling like “how dare this Church or anyone think they could control this area of my life.” My parents were wise enough not to say anything except something about going home and studying the subject. 


I knew I wasn’t alone on my views on birth control. I could have polled any one of my married Protestant girlfirends and I guarantee they had used or were using some kind of birth control. It just wasn’t a question or issue for us and our Protestant faith. Afterall, it was my Protestant pastor who sat down during pre-marital counseling and awkwardly asked about our “family planning” measures (in others words, were we planning to use birth control for a while?). There was no discussion on the morality of this decision. It was a given that artificial (unnatural) birth control was an acceptable practice.  


So there I was, at a place where I’m questioning many of the assumptions I’d made about my faith over the years. The morality of birth control was one assumption I would have been fine with leaving alone. But once again the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me just accept what I’d been taught. So, I reluctantly studied this subject.



One of the first things I read really surprised me. It might surprise you too:


Up until 1930 when the Church of England held it’s Lambeth Conference, no organized Christian church had every formally permitted the use of unnatural methods of birth of control. In other words, up until this time the universal teaching among Christians had been that unnatural birth control was immoral and against the will of God.


That fact alone made me stop and wonder…How does a behavior go from being immoral to moral overnight?

Does this mean that for all those centuries Christians had been misled by the teaching against unnatural birth control and denied some right to control their bodies? Or, could it be that in 1930 the relativistic nature of the doctrine of Scripture Alone had finally had its impact on this moral issue? I’d seen the ramifications of “Scripture Alone” on doctrinal “truth” as it’s taught in different denominations. Was this just the logical extension of that doctrine applied to a moral issue?


After the decision at the Lambeth Conference it was only a matter of time before the acceptance of artificial birth control (ABC) became the norm for most Protestant churches.  In most churches today it’s just not an issue that is discussed.  Artifical birth control methods, including sterialization methods like vasectomies and tubal ligations, are all pretty much accepted.  The one church to hold on to the belief that these methods are not the will of God for men and women was the Catholic Church. But why?


Or, as I wanted to know, why not? Why not permit artificial contraception? What’s so wrong with it? Afterall, isn’t it my right and my husband’s right to control our family planning? What right does the Church have to try to tell us what we can and cannot do with our sex life? And hasn’t modern medicine given us great advances through artificial birth control and sterilization procedures?


In many ways I was ignorant. I’d never heard anyone in the Protestant churches I attended talk about the morality of birth control. And, while I’d always known the Catholic Church was against artificial birth control, I never knew why. All that was about to change.

 Tomorrow…The “why” behind the “not”


No Valentine’s fanfare here…

February 15, 2008

laundry hamper

Gotta’ confess, Scott and I usually let Valentine’s Day pass with little fanfare.

I know there are some out there who would call us “unromantic.” That’s ok. We just don’t buy into this day all that much. Honestly, I’m not much of a flowers kind of girl. I’d rather have him help me around the house (which he does all the time). It might have something to do with that “love language” thing. I don’t know. But the bottom line is this, Valentine’s Day doesn’t rank high on my “most important days of the year list.”

I suppose Scott got off kind of easy. Then again, maybe not –candy and flowers once a year versus helping with the laundry year round?

Love truly is in the eye of the beholder. Right now I’m beholding three baskets of laundry and thinking of my beloved… Thank God for my man!

Happy Valentine’s Day Honey!

Things that make you go Hmmmm…

July 30, 2007


Every now and then I hear something and it just makes me stop and think.

 A few months ago I heard this priest talking about the divorce rate and a wedding tradition in a small town in Croatia. Seems that in the small town of Kerzegovina (population 13,000) the divorce rate is very low (some claim there has never been a divorce). I haven’t checked the stats on this so I can’t confirm nor deny the accuracy of this claim.

Supposing this fact is true, one wonders what’s going on in this town. How have they kept divorce from infiltrating their community and destroying the hearts and hopes of men, women and children? There are some who believe the marriage covenant in this community is strengthened by a perspective on marriage expressed in a unique wedding tradition commonly practiced in this Catholic community.

In the small town of Herzegovina, when a Catholic couple is married, they are told:  

You have found your cross. It is a cross to be loved, to be carried, a cross not to be thrown away, but to be cherished. 

 In Herzegovina, the cross represents the greatest love. During the marriage ceremony, the bride and groom place their hands together on a crucifix. Then they kiss, not each other, but the cross. The crucifix they kiss at their wedding then becomes a focal point of their home. It’s a reminder that if one should abandon the other, they cannot do so without abandoning Jesus Crucified.

 Ok, I have to admit, it’s not all that “romantic.” But then anyone who has been married for a while knows that contrary to our cultural traditions and stereotypes, marriage isn’t only about the romance and “feel good” stuff. No, marriage is about so much more.  

So, this tradition made me think. Instead of allowing the world to teach our children that marriage is about finding someone who makes you happy, who “completes you,” and who adores you, what if we teach them that the primary purpose in marriage (like any vocation in life) is loving and serving God by loving and serving those around you (in this case, your family). What if we focused on marriage as a means of becoming more like Jesus and committing to helping your spouse to love Jesus and others too instead of seeing it as a means of “self-fulfillment.

Instead of thinking of marriage as a “right” (i.e. my right to be happy and to not be alone, my right to fulfill my physical and emotional desires, my right to have children, my right to be loved), what if more people saw marriage as a true covenant; a covenant in which one surrenders their “rights” just like Jesus did when he came to fulfill the Father’s covenant with us. A covenant fulfilled when Jesus came to carry the cross for us.  

Again, I know this is not so “romantic” in the traditional sense of the word. But then given the statistics of marriage and divorce among Christians perhaps it’s time to redefine “true romance.” Maybe the self-serving romantic fairy tale of marriage we’ve been handed by our culture is another one of the enemy’s lies we’ve believed.

What if the real image of marriage we should hold onto is that of each spouse carrying a cross for the love of their life, like Jesus did for us?

 Hmmmm….I can’t help but wonder if our brothers and sisters over there in Herzegovina might not be onto something. 


*Note: A few disclaimers and qualifiers…

  1. Marriage, divorce and re-marriage are touchy subjects. Please don’t read into this any judgmental overtones. These are the musings of an a “idealist” who often has high expectations of herself and the world around her; one of my strengths and my weaknesses. That being said, this post is not a diatribe against those who find themself divorced. It’s really about the hope of what Christian marriages can become.
  2. I should also make the disclaimer that in no way am I suggesting that all of marriage is about “carrying a cross” and there is no place for “romance,” emotional and physical fulfillment, joy and contentment. I’m just suggesting the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of “self-love” in marriage instead of an other-centered, self-giving love that Jesus calls us to show one another.