Blinded by Love

Kathy’s parents have been visiting us for the past few days, in a whirlwind of shopping and home improvement projects. Staying only five days, they helped Kathy to select, purchase and install new window blinds and curtains in most of the windows on the ground floor of our home, as well as an assortment of other home projects.

It is always fun to have Mamie and Grandad visit us. They usually stay at a local hotel, and we all split our time between our house and the hotel, where the kids love to swim and pillage the continental breakfast. They often invite a couple of kids to spend the night at the hotel, and a festive air surrounds their visit, devoid of work and school responsibilities. If I can, I take off from work at least a day or two while they’re here, and we usually eat out at least one or two nights.

goin' swimming

Some said the pool was too small, those folks can just sit out for a spell.

One of the things I like best about a visit from Kathy’s folks is the effect it has on my heart toward my wife. We’ve been married, now, for nearly 17 years, and life is not always roses and Nutella. I notice in myself a tendency to take my wife for granted, and even sometimes an inclination to view her as an obstacle to my selfish pursuits.

When Kathy’s folks come for a visit, they invariably seek to be a blessing to her in some tangible way. Cindy takes her clothes-shopping, and Bill busies himself repairing and improving our home. They so obviously love and cherish their daughter, striving to please and delight their firstborn and only daughter. I find myself seeing her in a new light, competitively not wanting to be left out.

saying goodbye is hard

It’s never easy saying goodbye. The fog hides our tears.

It is times like this that I remember that Kathy is ‘my’ wife in the sense that she was entrusted to me, not like ‘my car’ or ‘my shoes’ as a possession or piece of property. In good faith, Bill and Cindy gave their blessing to our union, handing her off to me at the altar. I’m sure they had the expectation that I would love, protect and encourage their daughter, that I would promote her spiritual growth, and would lay down my life for her as we raise our family together. I really like being reminded of the promises I made when we were wed, in the presence of God and so many witnesses.

We watched the Fireproof movie last night, recently purchased from Amazon as soon as it became available. At one point in the story, the husband discovers that one of his wife’s co-workers is trying to win her heart. He visits the man in his office, and puts him on notice: “I know what you’re doing,” he challenges, “ … I know you’re trying to win my wife’s heart. I know I’ve made some mistakes, but I still love her, and since I’m married to her, I think that gives me an advantage.”

Kathy’s parents and I are not locked in a competitive struggle for Kathy’s heart, but it is good for me to see the way they love her and to be challenged to ‘take it up a notch’ myself.


I often brag at what a wonderful mother-in-law I have.

Last summer I had the opportunity to take on a side project for an association of physicians based in Switzerland. With Kathy’s gentle prodding encouragement, I finally finished the project and (after a few delays) was generously paid for my work. I told her that, after deducting tithe, expenses and taxes, we would split the money 50/50, to be placed in our ‘Unaccountable’ budget accounts.

At first Kathy was reluctant. “Shouldn’t we spend that money on debt reduction?” she questioned. “Dave Ramsey says that we should put every extra bit of money toward reducing our debt.” We both bowed toward Financial Peace Plaza in Franklin, TN, mecca to Dave Ramsey groupies everywhere.

A wistful longing flickered in her eyes. Sticking to a budget (or even mostly sticking to a budget) these past 10 months has been very hard for both of us.

“You can spend your half on reducing the debt if you like,” I said, ruthlessly. “But I’m spending mine on something fun.”

I buried myself in computer catalogs and began to gleefully spend my half on cool devices that come in foam-padded boxes. Kathy didn’t say a word about how she was going to spend her new riches, and I pondered this in my heart.

david and mamie

When her parents arrived, she leapt into action. “We’re going to Lowes to pick out some window treatments,” she announced on Saturday. Soon she returned with new wooden blinds, curtain rods and a variety of curtains, and the home decorating project began. Cindy contributed some new pillows, and Bill jumped into action installing the blinds and curtain rods, a loving gift of service that consumed much of his remaining visit time. Kathy agonized over each element of the redecorating effort, encouraged and supported by her mom.

At one point, Kathy asked me, “How much do you think I’ve spent on this?” She likes to play these kind of guessing games to gently ease me into shocking expenses. My guess was less than a fourth of what she spent, but I was too cagey to admit it.

When I finally discovered how much it all cost, I opened my mouth.

“What a waste of money,” I thundered. “You could have bought a really nice [insert electronic device here] for that kind of dough,” I wailed.

I closed my mouth on those words before they escaped my lips, grinding them carefully between my teeth and twisting my lips into the semblance of a smile. “How fun,” I squeaked, schooling my face into a positive expression. “Do you like the new blinds and curtains?”

“Aren’t you upset at how much I spent?” Kathy asked me.

“Nope,” I assured her, regaining my composure. “That’s why it is called ‘Kathy’s Unaccountable Money’. You don’t have to give account for it, it is yours to spend, any way you like.”

grandad and sweet rachel

Rachel and Grandad steal a hug.

Warming to my lecture in the presence of my oldest son, I heard myself continue: “People value different things, differently. It is foolish for me to expect that you would want to buy computers or Nutella (although you could’ve bought at least a small jar) – you get your joy from making our home look pretty. I know you’ve waited a long time to do this, and you and the kids are here at home for a good part of every day, if this is how you want to spend your money, then why should I complain?”

I was amazed at the reasonable sound of my own voice. Who was this wise husband, spouting such words with hardly a grimace or twitch?

I checked my heart. Resentment? Nope. As I spoke, the words had become true.

There are things that are the same for everyone; moral standards, for example; if you steal, it is just exactly as bad as when I steal. Our skin color or economic condition have no effect on the morality — sin is sin, no matter who does it. But some things are relative, even between like-minded people, and the way people spend money seems often to fall in this second list. Your ‘wasteful’ expenditures may seem ‘foolish’ or ‘poor stewardship’ to me, yet (assuming the money is not borrowed or stolen) it may really come down to a value judgment. I may deplore your taste, but I am foolish if I try to claim moral high ground over you in a matter of style.

I am especially cognizant of the need not to throw stones as I think about the way I spend my money.

don't go home!!

Another lovely visit (if too short) with Mamie and Grandad.

The curtains and blinds look very sophisticated and pretty, in our living room. I hope that they are pleasing to Kathy’s eye for as long as necessary for her to feel she got ‘good value’ out of them, whatever that means in this context. I figure I’ve already got my money’s worth out of ‘em, if I can only internalize my own teaching. :)


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8 thoughts on “Blinded by Love”

  1. Two things I want to say about this, three that come to my mind. A piece about curtains and blinds ought to feature at least a single picture of said new curtains and or blinds (for the female readership); You verily step on my toes up here on the (real) moral high ground when you say things like the way people spend money is morally relative; and what a blessing that you respond the way you do to your in-laws, not resenting, but appreciating and being spurred on to more love and good deeds! May we all be such in-laws when our time comes. OK – Photos of the excellent in-laws, the loving couple and the fun children are probably more important than photos of new blinds and curtains.

  2. Lovely lovely blog, dear Timothy! I happen to know that your mom-in-law loves you alot. Which adds to my love for you.

    I’m hoping to see the new decor at some point.

    Praying for your continued careful eating!

    Love you Edgrens. Aunt Kate

  3. Well, Timothy, thanks for getting the tears flowing first thing in the morning. :p

    What a beautiful tribute to Kathy’s sweet parents and their love for her. I also love that it spurred you on to find ways to re-affirm your vows of commitment to her and didn’t cause you to feel threatened by it. So sweet. Right in time for Valentine’s Day!!! AND~I assure you~she LOVES her new window coverings!! :)

    Thanks for continuing to live your life in front of us diliberately for the Lord! It is an ongoing source of encouragement and admonition!

    Blessings to you, Friend – and may you find your Nutella Jar always full!

  4. Liz –

    I knew I needed a few more caveats in there … how people spend money is often a moral choice. But in this context I was trying to point out that it comes down to a choice of style — there is no moral advantage to me in spending my money on computer stuff in comparison to Kathy spending her money on redecorating.

    What I was trying to say is that (like Judas did in John 12) we often shroud our style and preference in high-sounding moral arguments, yet we ourselves would never spend the money in the morally-pure way we advocate. Assuming I’m not going to spend the money on widows and orphans, is there really any moral difference between spending the money on window treatments vs. garden supplies?

    Sure, there may be areas (like entertainment) that are less morally-neutral than others, and there are certainly some purchases that are a better deal than others — but many of them fall back to a question of style or preference, in my opinion.

    There were no pictures of the new blinds and drapes because my hurried photography, late at night, didn’t meet Kathy’s approval. Maybe next time. :)

  5. Tim, I was being strident mostly for effect. I’m one of those who likes to think I (of course) am right in how I spend money, and those who differ are clearly less right, if not, ahem, wrong. I don’t like my pride bubble burst, so I react in teasing. I’m very sorry if it struck you wrong. Your piece was humble and inspiring, and I thank you for it!

  6. Heh. Comments are CLEARLY not a way to have a conversation, as I have discovered before. I was worried that MY response was overly-defensive and pompous.

    You are a GREAT sister-in-law, and I deeply value your insight, not to mention your good example in the area of financial stewardship. :)

    I liked your “two things … three things” poetic language, very Ecclesiastes-ish.

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