Running. It’s a love-hate thing. I hate running, but I love how I feel after running. Other than out of breath, I feel accomplished and healthy. I just got back from a run. The kids and I were playing in the front yard when my dad stopped over to say hi. He lives next door. Right next door. Yes, we have our very own version of Everybody Loves Raymond show. You could call it Everybody Loves Steve (my husband) or Amelia (our 3-year-old) or Ben (our 2-year-old) or Curtis (our 1-year-old). Except my mom doesn’t fit the cynical role of Raymond’s mom. I’d liken her more to the free-spirit character of Kramer from Seinfield. She has a way of showing up without notice. After a few boundaries were put in place it has been a HUGE blessing having my parents as neighbors. I can go next door if I need a hug or a jar of pasta sauce, whichever. We didn’t even have to put up a 6 foot privacy fence with a lock and key and electric gate. To tell you the truth, it’s me who spies on them. I consider it payback for the teen years. When my mom is out past her bedtime I text her to see why she isn’t home. If I see her car pull-out in the morning on her day off I teasingly text her, “Where are you going and how dare you not invite me?!” When my dad takes the garbage out at the last minute I make cat calls to him. Then duck behind the window. It was I who broke into their house and stole their Nutella . . . and baked beans . . . and a photo album . . . and probably a few other things that I’ve forgotten about. My dad has spray painted the handles of his tools neon orange so that they can be easily identified. Not that I would ever dare steal his tools. Maybe a rake once, and a hammer once, and a shovel. Anyways, enough about my thievery.
My dad saw us playing in the driveway and came over to say hi. I flashed him my mischievous smile. “No, the answers no,” he declares before I even ask him a question. I conn him into watching the older two . . . I never would ‘ve thought I’d consider a 3 and 2-year-old as “older” but compared to Curtis they are. I tell my dad my route and say I’ll be back in 15ish-minutes. He started counting down as I throw on running shoes and strap Curtis in the jogging stroller. I started running. It was hot. After a block I wanted to quit. I can’t stop. Dad’s counting the time. So I kept on with my run-jog-power-walk-momentum. I hate this. This is so not fun, but I’ll be so glad I did it afterwards. Three blocks in I look down at Curtis in the stroller. He’s chill’n with his hands behind his head and his legs crossed at the ankles. I feel like a slave pushing my mini-master in a rickshaw. I should give him pom-poms and teach him to cheer “Run Momma, Run!” I focus on my breathing. In through the nose out through the mouth. It’s such an unnatural way to breathe. It’s like learning how to breathe all over again. I’m retraining my diaphragm to take deeper breaths. Synchronizing your breathing with your stride is an efficient way to run and it helps with pacing, or so I’ve heard. My legs want to stop moving. I command them, “Move! You will obey me! You can do this!” My arms take turns between swinging and pushing the stroller. I shout, “We got this Curtis!” No response. Did he actually fall asleep!? Pfssht, so much for cheering me on. You’re fired. We’re in the home stretch. I hear the fitness trainer from my dvd workouts, “You don’t quit when you get to the end. That’s when you give it all you got.” I push harder.The sweat drips from my brow, evidence of my determination. I can see the driveway. The kids shout, “Mommy’s back!” They’ve gravitated to the side-yard with Grandpa. Their faces are covered in dirt. Good grief, were they so naughty that Dad tried to burry them alive? I made it. My dad checks his watch, “How was your run?” It took me about twice as long as I estimated but, “It was great!” I’m so glad I ran. I love running. “Thank you sooo much for watching the kids.”
I don’t mention the kids’ dirt covered faces to my dad. #1. I’m just glad he was willing to watch them #2. It’s to be expected and #2. Because I’m retraining another muscle- my tongue. It’s so much harder than training my legs and lungs, and it feels just as unnatural. Naturally, I wouldn’t run unless Amelia was about to ride her bike down the slide (which is a realistic scenario) or if Ben-man was pretending to be Batman on his dad’s ladder. If I could do what I wanted without consequences I’d sit on my couch with a carton of mint chocolate chip ice-cream everyday all day, because it taste good. If it was up to me I’d say whatever I want whenever I want, because it (momentarily) feels good.
I am training my tongue to speak words of affirmation because that’s what God says to do, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” –1 Thessalonians 5:11 I’m also in tongue training boot camp because words of affirmation is my husband’s love language. If your unfamiliar with “love languages” checkout Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages. The languages are different ways in which people express their affection. They include: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Gift Giving and Acts of Service. Words of Affirmation feels so foreign to me. It’s like 9th grade Spanish class all over again. I stumble on words and I don’t know if I’m conjugating them right. It goes something like this:
My husband comes home from work. I greet him at the door with a kiss. My love language. He asks me how my day was. “Good.” I keep it short. The kids are climbing all over him and making a ruckus. I hate competing over the noise volume. The kids show him their daily drawing and he ohs and awes and them. He’s such a good daddy. Maybe I should say that. Oh. I’m supposed to ask him about his day. “How was your day?” I hush the children and try to listen to his response. He starts talking about ductwork, air compressors, and heat pumps. I wish he’d quit with the H-VAC (heating and cooling) lingo and cut to the gossip. He continues on, “…there was a leak in the coil…” I really need to finish cooking dinner. I wish we could just talk about this later after the kids are in bed. Wait Audrey, you need to listen to show him you care. I do care! I care about him, just not so much about split-system filtering units. Then I flip the situation and ponder- What if I was talking about how Ben ate a crayon today and it came out brown and how I wondered if it was originally a brown or blue crayon, and then after telling my story Steve showed no interest? I’d feel completely blown off! AND unloved. So to prove my un-dying love for my husband I throw in a question about sub-pumps.
While cooking I put a few groceries away. They are leftovers from our earlier that morning shopping extravaganza. I was going to say “excursion,” but shopping with three kids definitely qualifies as an “extravaganza.” I shamelessly bribe their good behavior with cookies and penny horse rides. I midst of my bustling I hear my husband say, “Thank you for going grocery shopping.” Huh? He’s thanking me for spending money? That’s so weird. He must be doing the affirming thing. Crap, what’s my response supposed to be? “Bien, ey tu?” No, that’s not it. “Um,” I need a translator. “Thank you for working so we have money for groceries.” He smiles.
After dinner while I’m washing dishes he comes up to me and says, “Thank you for washing the dishes.” Why is he thanking me for washing the dishes? I always wash dishes. It’s my job. I don’t thank him for doing his chores. Oh right, love languages. He’s telling me he loves me. Most women would probably keel over if their husband thanked them for doing dishes. I’m so ungrateful. Why am I so bad at this!? “Um, your welcome?” I should say something affirming too. “I’m glad you had a good day at work. I respect how hard of a worker you are.” That feels so cheesy. He smiled. It must’ve been the correct response. He better feel super loved because this feels so awkward.
Later that evening he comes inside after mowing the lawn. He comes upstairs where I’m bathing the kids. “Thanks for bathing the kids,” he says. They were dirty and needed baths. It’s not a big deal. Oh, affirmation. Umm. “Thank you for mowing the lawn.” You can be more positive than that. I look out the window for inspiration. “The yard looks great!” Don’t mention the row of weeds he missed. Audrey. Don’t do it! That negativity would wipe out all of the positives I’ve commanded my tongue to say. It’d be like eating a Snickers bar right after a run. I hear the trainer’s voice in my head again,“You don’t get to the end and quit. That’s when you give it all you got.” I push harder, “I really appreciate all of your hard work today. Working, mowing the lawn AND helping with the kids! You made their day when you let them ride on the mower with you. You’re such an awesome Daddy.” He smiles and kisses me- now we’re talking my love language! Is time to put these kids to bed yet?!
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:9-10
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
Dear God, Help me to be my husband’s number one fan. Let my words be words of encouragement to build him up rather than unnecessary words of criticism. Give me wisdom when it’s necessary to critique and when to just keep quiet.