How I Knew I Wanted to Marry You

I was working at an orphanage in Namibia, Africa when our story began. Ron Ward, the director of Camp Berea was looking for a food service manager, he was given my name by a previous employer, and he emailed offering me a job. I didn’t want to work in a kitchen again but I needed the money and the Camp was on a beautiful Lake. My first day at Berea I was given a tour by Luke Ward, and I took note of the fact that he was the boss’s son and not bad looking either! Luke was no longer working at Berea so it was a few months before we connected again when he came back to work.

I was the kitchen manager and he was hired as my assistant, but having grown up working at Berea every time I turned around he was telling me a better way to do something. It was both infuriating and admirable. We worked together all day and had fallen into spending most of our free time together too. One day as a practical joke on Luke’s Dad we devised a plan to pretend that we had eloped. It was payback for when Ron let me believe that I would be stuck running the Berea kitchen alone after my assistant left, purposely not telling me he had hired Luke.

Luke says, “I still remember the exact scene: you were cleaning out the tilt skillet and I was running through scenarios, you were all quiet. I knew we couldn’t really persuade my Dad that we had eloped; I had to convince you to date me first to give credibility to our story. I knew if I could get you to date me, I could convince you to marry me. And I did”.

When Luke asked me to date him I said yes and then I cried. I knew I had found a man that was godly, and good, one who would love me deeply; but that loving him back would take my life in a very different direction than I had dreamed of. I remained torn right up until the day we got married between my desire to go back to Africa and work with horses and kids, versus my growing love for Luke. In the midst of my indecision, I knew absolutely that we would always be friends if we got married, no matter where we went in life, or how little we had in common. I was uncertain about almost every aspect of our future together but I knew we could always be friends.

Luke says, “There were two definitive points during our time working together in Berea, when I knew I wanted to marry you, the first was when I heard about your work at the orphanage in Africa, I knew you’d be a really good mom. The second was while we were working together, before you went back to Africa, I remember you laughing at one of my stupid jokes, and I knew I wanted to marry you. I had written a list of the qualities I wanted in a woman and you pretty much summed it up. I didn’t want someone who was just a Christian; I wanted someone who was actively in a relationship with God. I was looking for a woman who was kind, generous, beautiful, adventuresome and funny. I remember when I wrote my list I was trying to list qualities that are important, not just important to me but important.”

Once we were dating Luke’s mom, a wonderful and godly woman, tried to persuade me not to marry him on numerous occasions, and my mom said the same things to us. “He doesn’t know what he wants to do in life yet, you two are very different, what about your plans to go to Africa again…..” We knew they were right, and we spent hours talking about ways to blend our interests and never got anywhere. We decided to take it slow and after working together at Berea for 6 months I went back to Namibia for the winter. We emailed back and forth sharing our everyday stories and discussing a future together. We talked once on the phone, I sat on the banks of the Zambezi River watching the sun go down, while Luke was frying 1,000 pancakes watching the sun come up over Newfound Lake. My heart sang to hear his voice, and broke at the thought of leaving this place.

When my work visa was up in April I came home, and by October we were sitting together in a hammock by the Lake talking about eloping. Luke asked me to marry him on top of Cardigan Mountain and we eloped the next day standing on a ledge on Newfound Lake.

We didn’t tell anyone we were married for 6 months, I moved to NH and no one even knew we lived together. When our families found out they were angry at being deceived, and heartbroken over missing our wedding. Luke and I honestly thought no one would really care, we are still wondering how we could have been so stupid! We were eventually forgiven and had a casual reception, thank God for loving families!

Over the years God has given me more purpose and joy raising a family with Luke, than I ever had pursuing my dreams alone. Luke has been a tangible illustration of my Heavenly Father’s love for me in a way I never imagined. Marriage has been the hardest, most incredible thing I have ever poured my heart into. I set aside my dream of returning to Africa and wasn’t even sure I still wanted to go, then one day not long ago Luke said, “I have held on to your dreams for you, even when you gave up on them. Let’s go to Africa.”  And one day we will, together.

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To Love & Honor

Two days ago I had a quarter life crisis kind of a morning. It was all in response to an article I read about the roles of men and women in marriage. I of course brought this up to my husband, Luke. “So what do you think?” In my head I believe that God designed marriage in a way that gives husbands the leading role, in real life though this doesn’t seem as clear cut.  A thousand scenarios fly through my mind. What if I’m the only one that wants more kids? I don’t care what he wants to do he can’t just borrow $5K in credit card debt! What if my way is right?

In our culture the idea of submitting to your husband is often repulsive, and I struggled with it too. Certainly that is not necessary, this is the 21st. century after all, haven’t we as Christians decided that giving in to our husbands was some cultural Bible times idea? Not too far into this discussion, one I had somewhat confrontationally dubbed; “who gets the final say”, I was getting defensive!

In the heat of the moment, to even say the word submission is to feel weak, vulnerable, and less capable. “I am my own man! I am usually right!” I vehemently expound. Luke reiterates that it is from a place of love and protection that God has him lead. I want that love and cherishing and I want to be the boss of me! My eyes are dark and glaring, like a cornered cat, my hackles are up. “Why should I?” I scream in my heart. I want to do the right thing. I want to honor God. I want to avoid this issue like the plague.

So I did the only reasonable thing to do and went to my older sister’s for cocoa. She would vehemently state that God made both spouses equal in marriage, but with different roles. I left fortified with a solid argument and good hot chocolate, but the matter was still unsettled for me.

My next step was to ask my little sister, more input couldn’t hurt. “Oh we agree to make all our decisions together.” She confidently smiled. Nodding and smiling in return I thought, I like that sentiment, this is a good philosophy. Still a debate raged in my heart. After 8 years of marriage it’s obvious to me that we will not come to an agreement on all major decisions. We will not come to an agreement on if the kids can have more cake.

Mom joined what was now a family discussion. “Many times Dad and I agreed on decisions, but there was one time that Dad was excited about a business opportunity and all I could see was having to leave our children home many nights. I never voiced my opposition, and this endeavor had a major effect on our lives. I didn’t want to burst his enthusiasm or face his judgment that I was being negative.”

The question for me has never been whether or not I can voice my opinions, or be the deciding force in major decisions, that is an overwhelming yes. My question here is; after we’ve hashed it all out and a stalemate has been reached, is there a biblical truth that directs me to let my husband take the lead? Does the Bible give us a structure for our roles in marriage? After great debate and studying I believe so. Read Ephesians 5:22-30 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.”

Here my husband is given the roles of savior and lover, he is to nourish and cherish me, to give himself up for me as Christ did for the church. I am given the direction to make myself subject to my husband. This isn’t a word we use a lot today. To be subject to Luke is to place myself under him, this is a voluntary choice on my part to let him lead. Submission is not something you can take, or force from someone. It is placing myself in his care.  

Choosing to give preference to my husband and follow his leadership is peaceful. It brings us a new oneness, and it demands a level of trusting from me that I am unaccustomed to. I see in Luke a greater willingness to listen to my point of view and defer to me. I see him give himself up for me in a whole new way. This is not about winning or losing, it is about building a loving relationship, orchestrated by God in a way that reflects Christ’s love for us, His church.

Parenting as a Team in the Early Years

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The day our first child was born I was awestruck looking at him and thought, we made this child, a part of both of us and a whole new person!  A phrase from our Pastor lodged in my heart, “God has given you an eternal soul to be responsible for.” Luke vowed to be an expert at putting baby to sleep, and armed with a swaddling blanket and pacifier did just that. There’s nothing more endearing than watching my husband rocking our son to sleep. He was like our first pet crawling around our cramped apartment floor.

While still in the first years of our marriage, we had three boys in two years. These were wonderful years, but also extremely difficult, Luke and I were often forced apart by the daily struggles of raising children. I was tired, he was impatient. One evening after Luke had disciplined our toddler my facial expression displayed my disapproval, and this frequent scene became too much. “We can’t watch the kids together. Either you watch them or I will!” With this resigned declaration from my husband, I felt absolute failure as a mother.

This was a moment of desperation for me. How could we be a loving couple if we couldn’t parent together? It was hard to manage the kids and feel like we connected with each other, Luke craved time with just me but there was so little! I knew it was vital to learn to connect as a family and as a couple. Luke wanted intensely to be an integral part of our home life, to be able to support me in raising our sons, and to be needed by me. He wanted to walk in the door and be my hero.  As I learned to lean on him, and communicate my needs so he could meet them our relationship blossomed. Becoming aware of what I needed from Luke was the first step in working together. Asking in a humble patient way BEFORE it was a national disaster was the next. My expectation was that Luke would be able to see when I needed help and know how to help without being asked.

We fell into a predictable pattern of Luke being occupied on the computer while I managed the house and kids, then at some point my expression would unavoidably show my frustration, next came, The Offer. “Hey babe do you want me to help you with something?” I always said, “No it’s fine, I got it,” too mad by that point, and too prideful to ask for help in a specific way. Our success in becoming a good team hinged on our ability to express our needs to each other. I learned to ask, and Luke learned how to help me. It was so hard for me to even ask that I went over the sentence, “can you hold him while I make supper?” 50 times in my head before getting it out!

 I also started taking my struggles to God immediately in each angry moment of disagreement. I worked hard to ask Christ to change my heart when I was prideful or controlling. A quite helpful refrain in my head many times went like this, “you do not own him!” We had a common desire to be a unified team and that desire drew us together. We also laughed together at our boys antics, Luke has the endearing quality of laughing out loud at every funny story I tell him. I have always saved the comical parts of my day to laugh over with him each night.

We learned to talk in a way that the other could hear, I listened more, and he plowed through conflict more. Many times when we felt strongly about something or got predictably angry over a certain behavior in our children it went back to our own experiences or our expectations for the future. I had vowed never to marry a hot tempered man that would deal with our kids in an angry manner. If I even felt that Luke was becoming angry at a child I was insanely defensive. We had to talk about these fears and reactions over and over until I trusted Luke’s disciplining to be fair and controlled, and accept that I would have to forgive him when he wasn’t perfect.

In these early years I discovered an amazing secret on endearing our children to my husband’s heart. Make love to him often. When he felt close to me he had the emotional energy to pour into the kids.  This cure had miracle properties! Making time together as a couple with three little boys took enormous creativity and determination. If the baby went to sleep I would have egg cartons for each of them with mini snacks or toys to occupy them, and turn on a kid show for the one kid that would watch TV at that age. Sometimes these efforts to find kid-free time together turned into comedy routines from the ten million interruptions! No matter what it was never wasted effort.

One of the most wonderful routines we have now is bedtime, I kiss each one goodnight and Luke does all the work. This was not a simple or pain free process! A few years ago when he started putting them to bed every night the kids would yell for milk, or sneak out of bed multiple times, Luke would spank them and I hated it! I didn’t want our evenings to end with spankings. We eventually figured out a great system and a better schedule. This was where we practiced communicating about discipline, expectations, and child training. What an incredible gift it is every night to have my husband put the kids to bed while I nurse the baby or drink cocoa!

After six years of parenting practice I love the connection we have as a family and a couple, it’s more than enough motivation to keep communicating and never settle for dysfunction! We have changed for the better raising what is now four sons, these eternal souls given to us by God, it is our journey of joining together.