5 Ways to Enhance Your Marriage


God and internet dating brought us together…

But staying together and living out the happily-ever-after requires a purposeful choice to nurture our marriage. The past three and a half years have afforded us with ample opportunity to grow in and through our marriage. Some of the ways we have learned to enhance our marriage are:

  1. Pray together. This is something we have recently started doing on a daily basis and it has drawn us together, alleviated conflicts and created such a sweet intimacy. Each morning we start the day asking God to direct our day and at night before we go to sleep, we pray for each other.
  2. Take time to be with each other. Besides taking time to pray, we find that having a weekly date night keeps our relationship fresh and alive. Couples need time to simply be with each other enjoying each other’s company, talking, laughing and being friends. This is not a time to talk about the kids, but a time to connect and remember why we wanted to be married in the first place. Brendan and I still send Skype messages to each other throughout the day whether he’s away at the office or downstairs working. It reminds us of our dating via Skype and keeps us connected. We also set aside an hour each week to read and discuss a book on marriage. We recently attended The Marriage Course and are currently reading Love and War.
  3. Have fun. We have found that the best way to reignite the spark in our marriage is to have a good time together. This may be on a date night playing pool, or enjoying a game of Sudoku together or even having a good tickle fight. Laughing together  releases tension and resets our attitude toward life and toward each other. The Bible says that laughter is good medicine. We’ve found it to be the best.
  4. Think the best about each other. Often it’s easy to assume our spouse is thinking or meaning something by their words that they aren’t which leads to misunderstandings and disagreements. We are learning to assume the best rather than the worst. If in doubt, ask kindly. Most often what we felt hurt or offended by was a whispered lie to our heart from the enemy of our soul.
  5. Make love well and often. When God created us, he created male and female in his image and said man and wife should cleave to each other. That physical union wasn’t only to pro-create or bring pleasure (although aren’t we glad it does?); it was intended as a melding of two spirits, souls and bodies into one. To intimately share ourselves with our spouse in the way God designed is actually an act of worship and a renewed pledge to our spouse. In addition, it slams the devil (who seeks to divide and destroy us) in the face with a “take that!”

Brendan and I still have much to learn about each other and about marriage, but every day we are more in love and grateful for this incredible life together. The more regularly we apply these tools to our relationship, the more we grow as individuals and as a couple. We’re thankful God brought us together through an online dating site from two continents apart, but we are even more appreciative of the methods he’s given us to keep our marriage alive and exciting. Give it a try! Your marriage is worth it.

What are some ways you enhance your marriage? Have you read any good marriage books lately? What type of fun do you enjoy together?

 

The Rest of the Story


I feel a sequel coming on.

I came to the point this week where I am out of excerpts from The Miracle of Us: Confessions of Two Online Daters. I can’t give away all the excitement of the ending even if you know that we made it to the altar. Suspense isn’t really the point, but after all, something needs to be left for the book. I’m encouraged by how many want to read the finished product. Pray a publisher feels the same!

The good news is that as I’ve come to the end of writing, I’ve felt that the story isn’t finished. Naturally, our story has really only begun with a mere three years of marriage completed. We were considered newlyweds by many until only a few weeks ago!

But we’ve been learning so much during those three years. Therefore, Beyond the Miracle: What We’ve Learned About Through Marriage will begin it’s writing process soon. At this point, the book’s skeleton is taking shape in my mind.

More to the story.

While away on our anniversary weekend a few weeks back, I came across a card that had this quote by Irving Stone on the front:

The best romance is inside the marriage; the finest love stories come after the wedding, not before.

Wow! We thought the best part was our story leading up to the wedding. The challenges, romance and miracles that occurred before the wedding astounded us, but so much more has happened afterwards. Nitty, gritty tough stuff. Not that the struggle to step out in faith, believing we could each start over in romantic life by dating online through Skype with someone across the world wasn’t tough enough. I mean, it’s not like praying for our seven children to feel good about the whole situation, and braving immigration paper mountains was a Sunday drive. Those eleven months held some of the hardest obstacles and greatest moments either of us has every experienced.

The truth about romance and marriage.

Just as our story of online dating, long distance romance and eventual wedding bells (actually there were no bells ringing at our wedding) has portrayed faith, redemption and overcoming the impossible; our marriage continues with building a new life out of a broken past. Restarting careers in middle age, parenting at three age levels: school age, teenage, and grown children as well as being step-parents and grandparents at the same time encompass their own sets of challenges. And immigration paperwork and appointments don’t end when you enter the country. Add to that the fact that marriage itself is the vehicle that transforms our lives and there’s more of the story to tell.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us as we continue the journey. Hopefully, our story will offer hope for yours.

Isn’t it exciting and a little stressful the way life unfolds? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced through life, marriage or family?

Love, War and Sex


My husband and I celebrated our third year anniversary this week. We were fortunate to take off for a few days on an adventure of zip lining through the forest near our home (Mt. Hermon Redwood Canopy Tours), then on to Half Moon Bay where we enjoyed good food, window shopping, long conversations, watching airplanes land and a lot of laughing! We also took a book to read together.

I wrote a bit about this book in a post a couple of months ago titled Relationships. The book, Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge is the most helpful guideline we’ve discovered for our marriage. We’re reading through it a second time. That’s how good it is!

One of the challenges of dating online from two different continents was the sporadic, cyber life we inhabited. Writing emails and long Skype chats gave us the benefit of knowing so many details about each other; our emotional roots went deep. But we missed out on daily dating life which could have enlightened us about our dysfunctional ways of relating. Love and War is helping us understand our messed up perspectives, and what to do about them.

Like many couples, we’ve harbored messed up perspectives regarding sex. Negative childhood experiences, societal messages and lack of understanding this awesome God ordained ecstasy all contributed to our twisted perceptions. John and Stasi Eldredge offer some intriguing and fabulous insights about sex, why we end up with warped ideas and what to do about it. We’re learning a lot.

So at one point during our anniversary get away (sorry, no specific details here!), we discussed our intimacy while lying in each other’s arms. Part of the discourse went something like this:

“Honey, I’m thinking that sex can be analogous to two things,” I mused.

“What’s that, darling?”

“Well, I think it can be like a wedding feast. You know, like Chris and Sabina’s wedding (Chris is our son in Poland who just got married in November); hours of eating, dancing, drinking and toasting, fun and spending great time in relational celebration. Making love should be a celebration of intimacy, relationship and good things.”

“I think you’re right. What’s the other analogy?” Brendan asked. He loves analogies.

“Sex can also be like fast food. Quick, without substance or much thought and no intimacy. I mean they both satisfy a need; get the job done, but isn’t a feast better than a Big Mac?”

“Yeah,” he paused to kiss me. “It is.”

We shared another kiss and felt the promise of feasting stir our hunger.

“Brendan?” I murmured.

“Yes, darling?”

“You know I’m going to have to blog about this, right?”

“I reckoned you would,” he chuckled.

The weekend feast surpassed our expectations. Thank you John and Stasi.

 

 

 

 

INTERNET DATING FAQ


What Would You Like to Know?

People seemed stunned and curious when I tell them my husband, Brendan, and I met on christiancafe.com, an internet dating site. Usually questions fly as soon as I relate a few of the details like:

  1. He was widowed with three young children and I, divorced with four grown children;
  2. Brendan, who’s from Australia moved here to California, but first we traveled back and forth and dated via Skype
  3. We fell in love long before we ever met in person

 

 

One question leads to another and finally the interested folks I’m sharing with comment, “What a great story! You should write a book. I’d read that.

 

 

 

Questions range from “How did you know what site to try?” to “How did you manage to date from such a long distance?” And, of course, the standard “How did you know he was the one?”

This past week someone asked what we thought when we saw each other for the first time in person. I told her, “As soon as I saw him waiting for me in the airport, I threw my arms around him. (Almost hitting him in the head with my guitar!) We kissed for the first time right then, and my heart felt at home for the first time in my life.”

This week I thought it might be interesting to have readers ask questions. Questions about internet dating or dating in general, questions about our relationship, marriage, profiles, immigration, etc.  I’m open to answering those nagging questions that you wish you could pose to someone. I hope our experience benefits others. Or maybe, you know one or both of us and you’d like to know something specific…

Not only do we have an incredible story, but some of you may also. I’d love to hear from those who have experienced similar situations! What’s your story?

 

 

The Reality of Two Continents


If you read my confessions of an amateur writer, you will see why I am behind this time in my posts…ahhh the perils of penning! But I leave you with another small excerpt from The Miracle of Us: Confessions of Two Online Daters…

This may be a good point to impart some information regarding the time zone difference between the USA, namely California where I live, and the east coast of Australia where Brendan is from.

He was seventeen to eighteen hours ahead depending on daylight savings which they do not observe on the Gold Coast of Australia. So, just to give you an idea of what our world was like for nearly a year; Brendan would get up at 5 a.m. so that I could say good morning to him when it was 12 p.m. the day before, my time. That would be the first I would “see” or talk to him each day. Then he would get ready for his day and get the kids off to school. (Later, after we were certain about our relationship, I would often speak to the kids as well, sending them off to school with my love.)

Usually, after the kids were safely on the bus, Brendan would come back and talk to me again around 8 a.m. his time; 3 p.m. my time, if I didn’t have to be out the door to go tutor someone after school(my other job). Then when his work day was ending, before he had to pick up the kids, he would call again – 2 or 3 p.m. his time (10 p.m. mine) to say good night to me.

We’d be chatting away when suddenly one of us would exclaim, “Oh my gosh, it’s four o’clock – time to pick up the kids from the bus!” Then off he would go to get the kids, and I would go to bed. Many times I would “wait up” so we could finish our conversation, or so I could see the kids. It became a strange, surreal world we lived in being in two time zones, living in two different days, in two different countries. It was a wonderful world as well, and the only way we knew to “date” online from such a distance.

Thank Goodness for Skype


Filling the gaps excerpts continued…

We decided that Skype was the next step. For any of you that remain unsullied by or ignorant of technological advances, Skype allows people to communicate via computer by message (like instant messaging); by voice, if you have a microphone and/or by video if you have a camera.

With Skype we began instant messages, but still longed to see each other and talk ‘in person.’ Since at the time neither of us had built in cameras, I ran off to Staples to investigate the possibility of owning, or if I could even afford to purchase such high end equipment. My assumption being that a webcam must be something that would far exceed my budget.

“I’d like to price a camera for my computer so I can talk on Skype,” I plunged in, addressing the sales clerk, certain my naiveté was showing.

Come on Laura, it’s just a camera! I tried to calm myself, but I couldn’t seem to rein in the prancing, pawing gallop of my heart at the prospect of seeing Brendan for the first time. The sales associate didn’t seem to notice and led me to the webcam section, handed me a plastic package and said matter-of-factly, “This is the one I recommend for Skype. It runs $39.95.”

Did I hear him correctly? Not a hundred something, but a mere forty bucks? For the cost of dinner and a movie, I could carry on a video call with someone across the world? Amazing.

“Great. I’ll take it,” I heard myself say over the din of my galloping heart.

No teenaged school girl felt as exuberantly giddy as this forty-seven year old grandmother did at that moment. I’m even hesitant to say that I may have skipped part way to the check-out line. All I envisioned was getting to see my Aussie man in video person within hopefully the next 48 hours, and the grin could not be forced off my face.

Christmas Proposal


I can’t believe that I am celebrating my fourth Christmas with Brendan; well, I’m counting that first one when we booked a quick flight on December 9th for me to fly out the twelfth and be with him in Australia until two days before Christmas because I couldn’t bear to be away from my kids on Christmas. We shared the actual day via Skype; his Christmas day was my Christmas Eve and I watched them open their gifts around the artificial Christmas tree that I had helped the kids decorate. I remember it as if it were yesterday and yet we’ve had two others here–almost three now, each in a different house. Oh, life has certainly been an adventure.

After we confirmed my flight to Australia, and I pinched myself to see if I was actually going to see Brendan again, I began to think about him proposing to me. He had come to America five weeks after my first visit to Australia, and we made a quick tour of California and Nevada so that Brendan could ask my parents for my hand in marriage and meet my three other children as well as my close friends. That trip whirlwinded us from Los Angeles to Pismo Beach, San Francisco and Reno and back home again where Brendan tore himself away from me to return home to his kids the day before our Thanksgiving. The purpose of that trip was for him and my kids to get to know each other. Still, as our love for each other and confidence that God’s plan included marriage grew, I became impatient for the next step, which in my mind was the actual proposal.

However, I also wanted to wait for God’s and Brendan’s timing, so as I boarded the plane I prayed that God would be in control and let me just enjoy another couple of weeks with Brendan in person without focusing on when, where and whether he would pop the question. Here’s a good place for a confession. Carol (who had become engaged while I was on my first trip to Australia) and I had frequented a few jewelers for just a slight preview of what we might like in the way of engagement/wedding rings when the time finally arrived. On one such occasion, I fell in love with a ring and visions of my finger graced with it in proud proclamation that I belonged to Brendan nearly tormented me, but I fought off the longings and determined simply to relish the time with my sweetheart.

Confession number two: I thought about a proposal a lot. I know. I know. Silly girl, dreamer of dreams, oh romantic that I am…

Brendan was glad to have me there, not only because he missed me, but because his late wife had always planned and shopped for Christmas far ahead of time and he felt a bit lost. The year she passed, most of their Christmas things were already done so Brendan didn’t have very much to think about, but this time he didn’t even know where to start. I gladly helped him figure out what gifts to buy, and off we went shopping each day. We even looked at a few rings, but alas, no proposal.

Finally, on our last night, we enjoyed a wonderful evening together, dining and walking around eating gelato afterwards; and I thought surely, any moment he would ask me. Still, I pushed those pestering thoughts away and tried not to anticipate or expect anything. I truly wanted to trust Brendan’s timing in the situation. The night passed and we went home. Confession three: I was a little disappointed. I couldn’t believe that I was leaving the next morning, again feeling the dread of not knowing where we were headed with our relationship. Plus, the sorrow at having to leave him again really overwhelmed me.

We cuddled on his bed for the last time, kissing with tears in our eyes.

“I can’t believe that I’m going home tomorrow and I don’t know when I’ll see you again.”

Brendan kissed me again, and then looked in my eyes. “I can’t let you go without asking you to marry me. Will you marry me?”

Of course!!! “Yes, of course I will.”

Brendan had an elaborate plan that he hadn’t had time to concoct and carry out, and no ring yet to offer so instead he ended up asking me on the spur of the moment completely differently than he had thought he would. But all I cared about was that I was going to marry him someday soon. That was good enough for me! And somehow it seemed a little easier to go home excitedly exclaiming my engagement.

You’ll have to read the book to find out about the ring…

 

 

How Did You Know?


Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of young women from Switzerland and as usually happens when we first meet someone, the topic came up of how I met my husband. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve read how it usually goes…

Me:”We met online.”

New acquaintance: “No way! Really?”

Me: “Yep. I know…(smile knowingly here), crazy, huh?”

New acquaintance: “So how? What site were you on?”

Me: “Well, I started on eharmony.com, but I actually met him on christiancafe.com.”

New acquaintance: “Wow! That is so cool. So tell me about it…like did you email or talk? How long was it until you met in person?”

Me: “We emailed for a few weeks, then talked on the phone a couple of times, but then we Skyped.”

Both of us: “Thank goodness for Skype! I know, right?”

Me: “We met in person a little over three months after he first “winked” (like a poke on Facebook) at me. I went to Australia to meet him….”

And so continued the conversation until eventually the question surfaced “How did you know he was the one?” A very good question. Because it’s not like I hadn’t communicated with quite a number of men, asking myself over and over if this new guy was “the one.” So I’ve given that question a lot of thought, and I’ve interviewed a few people as well regarding that same question…how DID you know?

It may sound too simplistic, but the truth is that I just did. Suddenly something was different about Brendan, about the situation, about how it felt in my heart, and a certainty existed where only questions had plagued me before. For the first time, I didn’t ask if he WAS the one, I asked for confirmation that what I felt in the depths of my soul was real. And, as we continued to communicate, the conviction became stronger. It felt as if we had always known each other, even when we shared new things. Like I knew a deeper, broader place/part of Brendan that no one told me about, I just knew. A soul connection.

When I asked another person if it was the same for her, she agreed “Oh, yeah. We just knew.” She explained that on the night they met, her husband told a friend that he had just met the woman he was going to marry; even though she was dating someone else at the time. They married three weeks later and have been happily married for fourteen years.

One of my closest friends took longer to feel convinced that she and her husband were meant to be, but still she never questioned it. It grew on them a little more slowly, but the confidence grew stronger as time went by. I think she summed it up best stating, “If you don’t know, then you don’t know.” Clearly, if you don’t know, then you haven’t met him or her yet. But, don’t lose heart. It’s worth waiting for.

So, how did YOU know?