Stupid in Love

Image created at
Image created at

I’m thirty years old with a ten-year-old marriage and a one-year-old son, and I’ve realized I’m stupid in love.

Not stupid in dreamy, teenage girl love, or romantic young woman love. Those are some of the false notions of love paraded in media and in our culture, and I know all about those. Those are the kinds of love that get you into trouble with teenage boys, and that get your foot through the door of marriage, but rarely any farther.

No, I’m stupid in agape love. God’s love. The love that chooses to love when someone is unlovely, when someone is angry, when someone needs you all the time and can’t return a favor. How did it come to my attention that I’m stupid in love?

Largely, The Love Dare, which I first blogged about here.

The opposite of agape love, says Love Dare author Alex Kendrick, is selfishness. And sadly, I know all about selfishness.

Boy, do I.

I had some holes in my growing up years that went unfilled—not to make excuses, just to provide some background if you’re new to this blog–and I spent my twenties first trying to survive, then crawling out of my hole of depression, and then working to further improve my newly non-depressed self.

I sought degrees, careers, publishing credits, and pats on the back from friends, church members, and family—because these investments weren’t risky…I knew I could keep them, no matter what.

One of my accomplishments was co-writing a book called The Hidden Half of the Gospel. It’s a book about how Jesus can heal our suffering, because he went through everything we did. And through the writing of that book, and through participating in the accompanying prayer ministry, I did largely heal from my suffering.

I began to open up to people like never before. I began to seek relationships. I began to spread the healing message I had learned in prayer groups and women’s ministry. My social life became the fullest it’s ever been. And I even decided to take the risk of having a child.

I thought I was pretty well equipped for this new job of motherhood and homemaking, what with all the healing I’d done.

Well, I wasn’t.

Yes, I had experienced the love of Jesus pouring into my heart—that’s what healed me from my own childhood wounds. But over the past year-ish of parenting—and especially since we’ve moved to St. Louis, where I mostly sit at home with my husband and son, stripped of outside relationships, accomplishments, and recognition—I’ve realized I’m not well equipped at all. I’m bad at putting my husband and son ahead of myself. I’m stupid in love.

It shows up in my short temper with Buc for not helping clean our new, tiny, easily dirtied kitchen. It shows up in my irritation at Sam for waking at “inconvenient times,” or for taking up “my” writing time. It shows up in my resistance to embracing the fact that THIS IS MY CALLING; THIS IS MY LIFE’S WORK RIGHT NOW.

The Love Dare has honestly helped me more than any self-help book I’ve read—and I’ve read a lot—because it is getting my mind off myself. For most of my twenties, I thought the best thing I could do was to focus on improving myself, because I was a miserable creature. But while “self-directed self-improvement” is sometimes called for, too much of it can ruin your heart for others. I think this is where I was before The Love Dare.

There’s not much room on my bookshelf these days for novels, memoirs, or light reading. Cookbooks, parenting books, and “others-directed” self-help books are what I’m into right now.

Before the dare, I was still too focused on developing myself and my career that I forgot my roles also include homemaking, wifehood, and motherhood—because God created women for these roles. I’m not saying he created us for these things exclusively, but when we have husbands and children—as I do—they should definitely be top priorities.

Yes, I needed The Love Dare to challenge me, to move me out of my prideful high place, and to put me back in the driver’s seat of God’s callings for me of wife, homemaker, and mom. I needed a “self-improvement program” that judges my progress within the context of how much time and effort I am putting into others—because where we spend our time (and money, if we have it) shows what we really love.

At this point, I’d say I’m still “stupid” in love. But I am learning. Day by day, and dare by dare. Slowly, my life is beginning to look more others-centered. 

It’s amazing the time I’ve found to take care of my home and family now that I’m putting them first. Here is a “family wall” I’m working on so that Sam won’t forget his relatives.
The second best “others-directed self-help” book I’ve read recently is Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe. The coauthors Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson have pointed my attention to the importance of small details in the home, like straightening a bookshelf, lighting a candle, or playing music to create a pleasant home atmosphere. (This bookshelf still needs work, but it’s better than it was!)


This was my to-do list one day last week, and I had to stop and laugh, and take a picture, as I considered how my to-do lists have changed in such a short time. (Wipe out sticky areas of the cupboard? Really? I bothered to put this on the list because I didn’t want to forget this nagging thing during Sam’s nap time. Free times in short supply make one really prioritize daily goals!)
Enjoying lunch out yesterday with my sweet boy, after his fifteen-month appointment.


Daring to Love: The Ultimate “Self-Help” Project

love dare
by Author Alex Kendrick

This week I wrote on my Facebook page that I’m addicted to self-help books. But that’s softening the problem. Really, I’m just addicted to myself (that’s the human condition, you know). But this week, and for the next month, I’m working to change that through reading and performing The Love Dare, which you might remember from the movie Fireproof.

I’m one week into “The Love Dare,” or the forty-day challenge of doing something specific for my spouse every day; and already I feel that it’s is changing me. From my words to my actions to my thoughts, I am being challenged to be kind to my husband, give him the benefit of the doubt, and extend grace. Oh, and to be the first to initiate these loving traits, even if and when he doesn’t deserve them. It sounds kind of hard. But it hasn’t been, not really.

I’m a nerdy sort of a girl who likes to learn things from books, who likes step-by-step instructions. The Bible gives me the core principles on love (God is love, love keeps no record of wrongs, I should forgive seventy times seven times, etc.), and it also give me the perfect example in the life of Jesus (because Jesus is God in the flesh)…but The Love Dare, with its day-by-day steps, has given me a format that my personality loves.

As a Melancholy wife, I’ve always felt I needed to keep some kind of record of Buc’s wrongs; it was my job to correct him and perfect him (sound familiar, women?). In fact, trying not to nag Buc has been my biggest challenge during our ten years of marriage. Want to know what the first dare was? (Did author Alex Kendrick have me in mind when he wrote this?)

“Speak only positive words to your spouse,” and “if you can’t be positive, don’t say anything at all.”

Even if I had stopped there, I think I would still feel a change at home.

It’s actually a relief to be told that, for today, and for the next thirty-nine days, my task is not to say anything negative to Buc. (I even have a place to check off each dare, and a page and a half to journal about my thoughts each day!) As I’ve continued to implement my daily dares, it’s been a relief to know that my words will not cause any arguments for the day; it’s a relief to have decided beforehand that any negative thoughts I will “take captive” to Christ–I will not say them to Buc.

I can’t say I’ve done a perfect job in my first week of dares, but I can say my home is more peaceful; many petty arguments have been eliminated; and my new thoughtfulness is often being returned. All in all, The Love Dare is positively impacting my home environment, and it’s probably doing as much to refine my character as any self-help book I’ve read. Who knew that putting others above yourself (in a healthy, Christlike way–not in a martyr-like, self-effacing way–of course) was actually a form of self-help, too?

And now, dear [Lindsey], I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. (2 John 1:5)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.. (1 John 4:7)
God knew, that’s who. I’m so glad to serve such a wise God, and I look forward to learning more about his character as I practice loving my husband better.

In Debt $20,000—In Love Forever

Yesterday was a dark day in the Gendke household. The unexpected surprise of a $20,000 student loan bill all but put my husband into a depression. Understand: he’s not like me—he doesn’t get depressed easily. But if there’s one subject he’s touchy about, it’s money. Especially since we found out we’re having a baby, he’s been extra vigilant about cutting costs, paying off debt, and restructuring our finances.

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This is the bill for my bachelor’s degree. Since we’d had it deferred until after I finished my master’s, we didn’t realize that when it started up again, it did NOT include both loans.

For two heady weeks, before we got the $20,000 note yesterday, he had it all planned out: pay off my $24,000 student loan (the old one—for my bachelor’s—but we made the mistake of thinking this included my master’s, too), then pay off his car, and finally, our home. By his calculations, he could have all this paid off by December, right before baby came.

Now, that won’t happen.

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This is the bill for my master’s degree. Needless to say, we were not excited to see this amount piled atop my already prodigious bachelor’s debt.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re hardly destitute or living month to month. My hubby’s investing skills and financial expertise have ensured abundance in eight years of marriage—still, we were so close to being out of debt.

For him, achieving financial freedom is about his number-one professional goal. And I love that about him—it makes me feel more secure—but sometimes that goal overshadows other areas of life. He’s not a worrier, but by golly, he does get so preoccupied about finances that he can be hard to talk to about anything else (to be fair, he’s often said the same about me and my writing).

His own family criticizes him for being “cheap”—for not always upgrading to the newest gadgets even though he could—and for giving our niece and nephew ten-year investment accounts, rather than cheap baubles for every birthday. However, what they don’t see is that these money-saving practices are what have allowed him to offer needy friends, family, and church members thousands and thousands (and thousands) of dollars of financial assistance over the years. They are also what will soon, perhaps within a few years, allow him to retire early and spend more than just nights and weekends with his family.

Call me cheap, too, but if you ask me, living frugally is just living smart. And for the comfortable, worry-free lifestyle my husband’s habits have offered me—a lifestyle better than I ever enjoyed before him—I am eternally grateful.

I just wish he didn’t worry so much.

I hate to see him, like I did yesterday, slumped over in his seat, head in hands, seeming bereft, as if all his dreams had been shattered. Worst of all, I hate feeling like I caused this.

Yesterday, seeing him like that I started to feel bad for getting my master’s degree, especially since now I’m not exactly “using” it. Of course, I feel I have used it in writing The Hidden Half of the Gospel—but when we’re talking about paying off a $20,000 bill, that book will only cover one-fourth to one-third of the cost.

I felt so bad I even apologized for being such an expensive wife (even if I don’t fit the usual profile of excessive shopper). All I could do to reassure him was to say, “Honey, look at all the good in our lives. Think of our wonderful marriage, and our baby coming. And even if you don’t see it right now, I do see benefit in the master’s because it gives me more and better job security if something should ever happen.”

He didn’t look convinced.

“Do you want me to look for a job now?” I tried next, clutching at straws.

He looked at me as if I were crazy.

“You’re pregnant. No.” Sigh. “Just keep doing what you’re doing. And write a bestseller.”

When I saw a wry smile playing at the corners of his lips, I sighed, too. With relief. I don’t want to take a typical job, not right now. But I think I would be willing to look if he wanted me to. At least, I hope I love him that much—as much as he obviously loves me.

Now, because of his pristine financial habits—and because he makes things sound worse than they are—I get to travel a mere ten feet to my work desk, and write about how we first met for my memoir—AKA my gestating bestseller:) Today, I’m sort of thankful, actually, that this little $20,000 “setback” has provided the perfect moment for me to remember exactly why I love this man.