Sunday, September 4, 2016

Love Your Spouse Challenge

Lately on Facebook there have been a lot of trendy "challenges" that have swooped through; the ALS ice bucket challenge and "Change your profile picture for Paris" come to mind. Currently the hot topic is the "Love your spouse" challenge. Now, I'm not against these challenges, especially the latest one. My standard Facebook news feed is bloated with advertisements and awful news, so seeing a man praise his wife with words of love or a woman speaking life to her husband is a welcome respite from the barrage of drama and Farmville requests.

A few weeks ago, my cousin Kendra tagged me to complete the challenge, which requires a person to post something uplifting about their significant other once a day for seven days.

"Posh!" I declared.
"As if that's a challenge!" I scoffed.

The notion that loving one's spouse was a challenge to be conquered...I rejected the whole premise. I shouldn't have to be CHALLENGED into loving my wife, I should do it naturally! I should desire to! My relationship with Heidi shouldn't be based off someone double-dog-daring me to say "I love you." Silliness!

But it is a challenge.

Loving a spouse takes everything, and the moment you say to yourself "Ah, this romance is effortless", you've been lulled into a dangerous complacency.

Big words for a man who's been married one day over three months.

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)
I've gone from being grouchy about this whole challenge to introspective about it. The challenge is calling men and women out and saying "Hey, you know that love you lavish on each other? That's rare and precious in this culture. Share about it." For perspective, Heidi and I have some Godly friends in Canada that are completely unfamiliar with displays of affection between husband and wife. One couple explained how they turned it into a game; chasing the children down the hallway before giving their spouse a quick peck, unseen by the kids. Now "love" and "excessive displays of saliva transfer" are not the same. But what should be considered normal--the love of a man for his wife and a woman for her husband--is abnormal in our time and is almost unseen by the youngest generation.

Essentially, that's all I have to share. You may continue browsing Facebook now, or perusing other blogs, or checking those unread emails, or harvesting your crops in Farmville.

All gone? Okay, good. Heidi, this is for you.

I love you, Mrs. Graber. I love the way you prioritize communicating with me throughout each day, even when your hands are full. I love the hand-written notes and drawings you make for me, as well as the texts and voicemail recordings and Snapchats and phone calls. That barrage of communication may seem overwhelming to a bachelor but let me tell you, this former bachelor adores it. You are the bee's knees, little lady.

Thank you for waking up early to pack delicious lunches for me. I have been SO well-fed by you, Heidi. The touches that you put into my meals are astonishing. I often feel like an emperor as I pull out perfectly crafted sandwiches, piping hot soups and stews packed in a Thermos, tasty snacks and fruits and desserts and salads...all in the same lunch box. Seriously, you have done an expert job reminding me that my bachelor years were woeful times indeed.

Speaking of challenges, I love the way you rise to them, Heidi. I have loved marriage with you, and I owe a lot of that to the way you meet every obstacle with vigor and determination. I am so grateful I'm not a mountain in your path, because I know I'd get bulldozed just after you've had your morning coffee.

This photo was taken at our yearly extended Graber reunion, which takes place over the course of a Sunday afternoon and packs enough conversation to last a four-day weekend, easily. There were around 100 Graber descendants at this reunion and Heidi jumped right into the noisy fray. (Great-great Uncle Joseph hosted the reunion this year and held it in a refurbished hog barn on his farm. He remarked that our reunion cacophony sounded very similar to the barn's previous inhabitants.)

Heidi, you're holding a hammock strap that was impossibly knotted to itself, so tight that both my Mom and I gave up after assailing it with pliers, screwdrivers, and stern looks. I say "was" because you managed to unravel the knot that stymied the rest of us. The word "helpful" gets thrown around a lot but you are truly full of help, my dear.

This photo was taken after work on an especially long day for both of us. You had been cleaning and running all over the countryside, but when I arrived at home you had me sit down so you could rub my hot, sweaty feet. I have been so respected by you, Heidi. You have shown with your words and your actions that you cherish me. If putting up with my smelly toes isn't the epitome of faithful loving, I don't know what is. :) Even when you spend your full day blessing others, you bless me too. When I get home, you greet me at the door with a hug and tell me how glad you are that I'm back.

I love that you Snapchat me throughout the day. I also love that I have a difficult time finding Snapchats that are appropriate to share publicly. ;) You are beautiful, my love. We just received a copy of "Cosmopolitan" magazine (which puzzles me, because neither of us signed up for it) in the mail. The magazine's cover boasts about the latest "super sex secrets" and "booty boosting cardio tricks" but that magazine can take a hike. I have beheld true beauty, and she snuggles with me at night.

Life with you has been a true adventure, and there isn't a soul I'd rather have by my side, honey. I love the snarky humor you have, especially about the way you believe the world is out to inconvenience short people. There are a lot of complainers out there who have the ability to manufacture gripes out of just about anything.
Sunny day? "It's too hot to do anything!"
Rainy day? "My socks are all damp ugggghhh."
Day without coffee? "Waaahhh I can't get anything done I'm hopeless without my caffeine fix."
Day with coffee? "Man this coffee is expensive and tastes bad and probably isn't fair-trade."
But that's not you, Heidi. You have remained steadfast and upbeat and always have a word of encouragement to keep me going, even when it's "This too shall pass. I'll go get you another pair of socks."

Heidi, you've been sick this past week with a fever and a bad cough. You've had days where it was painful to breathe and nights where your coughing kept you from sleeping. The doctor prescribed some antibiotics and said that, unchecked, your condition could have developed into Walking Pneumonia, which sounds even more awful than Regular Pneumonia somehow. Through this, you have worked extremely hard to provide for our marriage and our home. You have been faithful to care for me despite your own need for care. Yesterday I had a slight cough and you rushed around to nurse me back into health even though you were coughing enough to summon the Grim Reaper.

I have been so blessed beyond what anyone could ever hope to deserve. I'm so grateful for you, my darling. Thank you for being my spouse.

I love you, Heidi.