This was my first year attending the CHOIS (Christian Homeschoolers of Idaho State) Convention. I had been anticipating the big day for a couple of months, and was really curious how the whole experience would be. So many expectations, and really, I’m brand new at this. I was really hoping I would attend some kind of workshop that would lay it all out for me and make this easy.
Kids pawned off to several relatives for the 3 day event – Check.
Husband scheduled time off to join me- Check.
Notebook in hand- Check.
The day started on a Thursday with a used curriculum sale that I missed because I was busy taking the girls to their cousin’s for the day. Awe, schucks! But that’s all right. What I was really gearing up for was the *FREE* marriage seminar that was going on that evening. Not that I just LOOOOVE to go to marriage seminars, but I’m always up for advice and tools to strengthen our marriage- I feel better being equipped than just winging it and hoping my husband and I don’t kill each other and ruin our children. Especially with two kids, I know the strain they can take on a relationship and I want to make sure that my husband and I are finding ways to make time for each other.
This was the “Real Life” Marriage Retreat: Homeschool Edition.
I really wanted to take advantage because it was one of those “Weekend to Remember” type of marriage conferences that we don’t typically attend since they cost an arm and a leg, and getting a babysitter and all that is just not happening for us. Fortunately, with my nieces coming to the rescue, we were covered .
Sam and I arrived at the University campus where the conference was being held, received our notebooks and sat down. There were maybe 50-75 people crammed into a small room in the most uncomfortable folding chairs the place had. Originally, Sam was excited to go, but when we sat down I could tell he was not that into it.
All of the other husbands were holding their notebooks and taking notes. When I looked over at Sam, he was doing this:
So, I was feeling a little disappointed. In my mind I was thinking: “Sit up straight, pay attention, take notes like the rest of the husbands.” I felt this wave of peer pressure coming over me. While all of the other husbands were expounding on the acrostic for REAL (risk, empathy, admit, & listen) mine was giving June cleaver a black eye and stitches. But due to our competitiveness, and not to be outdone, I did this:
Notice the endearing neck tattoo that Ward is sporting, to let all of the other gents know that June Cleaver is his gal.
After a few minutes, I let go of my insecurities and was able to see my husband as the amazing man that he is. Sure he’s not taking notes and wearing his shirt buttoned up to his neck, but he was there for us. It didn’t take long before we were laughing and trying to keep it together so the speaker didn’t stop and ask us to leave. After and hour and a half there was a 10 minute break. We got up and got some water out of our car and discussed how it was going.
Sam’s first comment was ” This is not what I was lead to believe this was.”
I did not misinterpret any of the information beforehand. In fact, he read the whole overview himself, so I was trying to figure what he was saying. He thought that since it was the “Homeschool Edition, ” we would be hearing more about the homeschooling side of things, and so far the seminar seemed to be focused more on the husband/wife dynamic.
I had to agree.
Since Sam and I have had the joy of marriage counseling and Celebrate Recovery under our belts, it kind of felt like beating a dead horse… great advice, but so far- Been there, done that. I was looking forward to hearing the next speaker and when I asked Sam what he thought he said,
“All I can think about is when they are going to split the men and women into groups and go into separate rooms.”
Huh? Somehow between the neck tattoos and hoop earrings on June, I missed that part.
“Ohhh…it will be fine.” I told him.
And then he looked me deeply into the eyes and said ” Honey, I’m here for you. Whatever you would like, I will do. If you want to stay, I will. But if you want to go, that’s okay too.”
His lips were saying it, but the look of terror was telling me another story.
We went back into the room and listened to Heidi St. John, one of the keynotes for the conference, talk more on marriage. She was a great speaker, but as she was finishing up, Sam’s leg started twitching and I could tell he was not looking forward to the “sharing time.” He would look at me with a big uncomfortable smile on his face that was saying “I’ll do this if I have to, but please get me out of here- NOW!”
So what would any good wife do?
I tortured him a little.
I was really enjoying what Heidi had to say, anyway.
The speakers really emphasized that unique strain that homeschooling can put on a marriage. For a mom, your kids can easily become the center of your universe, especially when so much energy is devoted to home educating. Being successful at homeschooling does nothing to improve your marriage. And in the big picture, while education is important, it is the legacy you leave your children that they will remember. A great education for your child at the expense of your marriage is an epic FAIL. Here was the acrostic they gave for LEGACY- I’m putting this on my fridge for sure:
L… Love. By working tirelessly at our marriage we leave our children and grandchildren a legacy of knowing what LOVE looks like- that they will pass on to their children.
E… Education. Very few divorced couples have any options for their children’s education. Strong marriages ensure the privilege of HOMESCHOOLING.
G…Grandparents. Strong marriages give our grandchildren the privilege of knowing grandparents without all of the complications of divorce and remarriage.
A…Assets. By building a strong marriage, we leave our children and grandchildren a better FINANCIAL head start (also family heirlooms aren’t divided).
C…Christ-like witness. Children and grandchildren learn about what’s important to God by watching where we invest our lives.
Y… Yoke. Children and grandchildren of strong marriages have a living witness to all that can be accomplished when two people are pulling the plow TOGETHER.
Some great points to reflect and a reminder of our goal as a couple and family.
And then came the time when she said, “We’re going to take a ten minute break and then the men will go upstairs to room 204 and the women will gather to the front.” We casually walked out the doors into the hall with the rest of the folks. And there was Sam, giving me “that” look (of course I had already decided to leave, but this was so fun) so I waited around in the hall a little bit. Sipping my water and acting oblivious to the looks of fear and panic he was giving me. And as the men were filing up the stairs, I could see the anxiety building. Flashbacks of group therapy were filling his mind. So I waited as long as I could and then finally said,
“Let’s get out of here.”
I couldn’t have made my husband any happier and at that moment and I truly was “Hearing what he was saying,” “Reading his love language,” and “Showing a willingness to prefer my spouse.” We left in a dash and with a couple more hours before we had to pick up our kids, we had some time to ourselves.
We went to Taco Time. And it was glorious.
We felt like we were newlyweds again. Just Us, having a meal together, talking over Mexi-Nuggets and enjoying the Muzak. No kids. Ahhhh. It was just what the doctor ordered. I got more out of the hour alone with my husband in Taco Time than the three hours we had spent at the marriage conference. Funny thing is, we were doing just what the speakers were suggesting. We took time out to be alone and reconnect. I got to laugh with my husband and go on a date.
Sam and I were talking over dinner about something Heidi St. John had said. She said that in the room there were at least four couples who were there as a last resort. Living separated, or on the verge of divorce, and the marriage conference was their last attempt to “fix” things. It was a hard truth to hear and I was broken for the couples who were in that position. Having been there myself, I know that is the worst kind of pain. We were reflecting on how grateful we are to God that he brought us through that season and so thankful for counseling to be able to see the dysfunction and be given tools to change those behaviors that can destroy a relationship. And I’m not saying that out of arrogance. I think it was the most humbling experience I’ve faced as a person, aside from salvation, of course.
It is crazy how far we have come in eight short years as a married couple. I am thoroughly enjoying that we are at a place where things have mellowed out a bit and we are experiencing some real peace and joy between the two of us. But at the same time, I think, none of us are impervious to sin. It doesn’t matter how perfect you think your marriage is, because on the turn of a dime, you can find yourself in the midst of chaos. This is a fallen world, and horrible things happen that can rock a marriage. And not just infidelity. Deaths. Fires. Illness. All kinds of disasters. As they pointed out at the conference-
“One of Satan’s best weapons: A couple who believes their marriage is immune to the possibility of divorce.”
While my husband and I feel like things are great now, there’s a part of me that still needs to be on guard and working to protect our marriage. The enemy can strike at any time, especially when our defenses are low.
I really try to lift my husband up in prayer daily, it helps me keep perspective on my place in our marriage. When I am praying for him, it takes the focus off of myself, and it is then that the Holy Spirit convicts me. It is usually my heart that needs the readjustment after all, not his. I don’t know how many times I’ve taken an issue to God and he throws it back in my face. He reminds me that it is not about me, rather “Us.” Us meaning Sam, myself, and Jesus. I’d like to think that we’re like the Three Amigos, us three.
That has saved me many times. And then there are times when I really do want to punch Sam in the face. And I’ll just go on record and say that, no, I have never physically punched my husband in the face.
…But I’ve daydreamed about it a time or two.