Sunday, March 31, 2013

Leadership Tips for Husbands - Part 4

5. Remain Calm and be Slow to Anger 

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." - Proverbs 16:32 

Just as there are attributes in women that men find attractive, women are attracted to a man that is cool, calm, and in control. Losing your temper quickly and becoming angry will only cause your wife to resent you and be less likely to obey.

6. Stop Arguing and Trying to Prove that You are Right 

"The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with." - Proverbs 17:14

When you feel the need to argue with your wife in order to prove to her that you are right, you are sending her a message that says, "Obey me because I am right." That implies that she only needs to obey you when she thinks that your are right. The message that you should be sending your wife is, "Obey me because I am the boss." Tell your wife how things will be, stand your ground, and do not allow yourself to be drawn into an argument. If necessary, change the subject, or find another way to politely end the conversation.

"Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." - Ephesians 5:24

To Be Continued...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Leadership Tips for Husbands - Part 3

3. Tell Your Wife What You Want to Eat 

A major part of being a godly wife/mother is cooking. Cooking for someone who enjoys their food is a rewarding experience. Cooking for an ungrateful or picky eater can be very frustrating. Your wife will be much happier cooking for you if she is cooking something that she knows you will like. If she asks you, "Would you rather have an omelet or pancakes?" and you honestly have no preference, just pick one! Whatever you do, do not say that you don't care or that it doesn't matter.

Better yet, be proactive and approach your wife with a couple of meal ideas that you would like to see come down the pike that week. Your wife will probably appreciate the suggestions since she is constantly having to decide what to cook. In the end, you will get to eat some of your favorite meals, and your wife will be happy to cook for a grateful eater. Let her plan the majority of the meals, but throw in a few meal requests also.

Lastly, if you are a picky eater, it is time for you to branch out. If you keep wanting your wife to make the same "plain Jane" meals over and over again, she is going to bore her brains out, and cooking will become a drudgery. Be willing to try new things and expand your palette. Tell her what you want to eat, but try not to get into a rut where you are asking for the same things over and over.

4. Be served first at mealtimes 

"The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits." - 2 Timothy 2:6

You may think that you are being unselfish by being served last at mealtimes, but actually you are just training your family to believe that the children come first, and dad comes last. Not only is this damaging to your position of leadership, it is also teaching the children to be spoiled and to believe that the world revolves around them. Your children are much better off waiting a few moments while dad is served, and seeing a daily reminder of their place in the family.

"That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children," - Titus 2:4

Obviously dad has more patience than the children, so the tendency is to get the children happy first and then feed dad last. Basically, the wheel that squeaks the loudest gets the most oil. That will only reinforce their impatience and selfishness. As the husband, you are (or at least should be) the one who is laboring to make the money that puts the food on the table. Therefore, you have every right to be served first, and by insisting on being served first at mealtimes, you are sending a signal to your wife and children that your are the king of your castle.

To be continued...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Leadership Tips for Husbands - Part 2

2. Ask Fewer Questions 

Asking your wife a lot of questions not only hurts your leadership in the home, but it is also annoying to your wife. Wives do not want to have to bear the burden of decision-making in addition to all of their other numerous responsibilities as wives and mothers. You may think that you are being thoughtful and considerate by constantly asking your wife's opinion about decisions, but actually you are just sending a message that you are incompetent as a leader and cannot make any decisions without getting her stamp of approval. You must have the boldness to make major decisions on your own.

I am not saying that you should not value your wife's opinion and take it into consideration when making decisions. Strive to make decisions that will make your wife happy, but do so without asking questions. Get to know your wife. Observe what she likes and what she does not like. Listen to her when she talks about her preferences, but when decisions need to be made, make them without asking her. For example, figure out what restaurants your wife likes and what she likes to eat there, and then take her there and order her what she likes. Don't ask her, "Where should we go for dinner?" or "What would you like to order?" If you have been married for long, you should already know. This is a very trivial example, but the principle applies to many other areas as well.

Another foolish thing about asking your wife a lot of questions is that women are not as direct as men and therefore often do not say what they really mean. Asking your wife a question does not guarantee that you are finding out what she really thinks about something. You would be better off observing, listening, and paying attention to what she does and how she reacts to things, than to ask her questions, exhibit weak leadership, and possibly not even get the real answer to your question.

If you were going to battle, would you want the general to ask you as the follower what the plan of attack should be? Would you like the pastor of the church to constantly come to you and ask you what he should be preaching? If you were on a flight, would you like the airline pilot to come back to your seat and ask you if he is flying the plane properly? Would that not make you question their ability to effectively lead?

Above all, stop constantly seeking your wife's approval for everything you say and do. Again, your heart is in the right place, but when you do this, you are sending your wife a message that says, "You are actually the one who is in charge." Are you really the leader in your home, or are you just a figurehead like the Queen of England, who does not really wield the political power? Are you just the leader on paper, or are you the "de facto" leader? If you were really in charge, you would not constantly need to check with your wife before making any plans.

Notice, I did not say, "Ask no questions," I said, "Ask fewer questions." It is okay to ask your wife questions from time to time, but most of us as husbands ask way too many questions.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Leadership Tips for Husbands - Part 1

In 2013 America, we no longer have a culture of husbands ruling their houses. Television and popular culture have taught us as men to be weak and to let our wives take charge in the home. The result of this is that both husbands and wives are unhappy, and 75% of marriages will end in divorce. Christians today have bought into the marriage philosophies of the world and are therefore experiencing the same miserable failure as the world around them.

As husbands today who want to have a happy marriage that is patterned after the Bible, we are facing a steep uphill battle. Practically everything and everyone around us are working against us. Whether or not we would like to admit it, both we and our wives have been brainwashed by the world our entire lives, and it can be very difficult to undue that programming and step into our proper role of leadership in the home as men. The current situation is not the fault of women. Deep down, they have a natural desire to submit to and follow their husbands. When a husband steps into his proper role as head of household, his wife will follow his lead and be much happier as a wife.

This blog series will focus on creating a culture of male leadership in the home by making small changes in your everyday life. Some of what I cover will be biblical, but some will simply be my personal opinion. The goal is not to tell you what to do or teach for commandments the doctrines of men. The goal is to help you as a husband to create the right atmosphere in your home and the right dynamic in your marriage. If you find any of my suggestions not to be helpful or to be wrong for you, then just ignore them. Again, I am not necessarily covering the big things or the most important things. I am covering the little things because I have learned over the years that little things can make a big difference.

I am sure that I will be mocked and criticized for many of the things that I suggest, but it is worth it to me if I can be a small help to a husband that is struggling to take the lead in his home. Keep in mind as you read that these tips are as much about changing your attitude as they are about changing the attitudes of your wife and children. My suggestions will be in no particular order.

1. Dress Nicely at Home 

There is a reason why the boss at work dresses better than all the other workers. It is because he knows that wearing casual or slovenly clothing will weaken his leadership and cause those with whom he works to treat him with less respect. I have on two different occasions boarded an airplane with a ticket for coach and been upgraded to first class just because of the way I was dressed. I have noticed that when I do service calls for my fire alarm business, the nicer I am dressed, the better I am treated by my customers.

If you want to be treated like the boss in your home, start dressing like you are the boss. I, like you, work hard at my job and have a tendency to dress down when I have time off at home. However, I resist the temptation to lounge around the house in shorts and a t-shirt and opt instead for pants, shirt, belt, socks, and shoes, in order to look as classy as possible. Save the athletic clothing for when you are performing athletic activities. Look your best for the people you love the most. Don't be afraid to put on a shirt and tie for a family lunch or dinner. Dressing well will not only send a message to those around you that you are a serious leader, it will also change your mentality and help you to be mentally prepared to take charge and lead.

To be continued...

Note: if you have not already listened to this sermon, I suggest you listen to it before going any further.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Writing to Your Wife - Part 4

Creative Ideas for Letter Delivery

Up the ante by actually mailing the letter to your wife. This may seem silly since you live together, but it will make it a lot more fun if it actually shows up in the mail, so just throw a stamp on it and drop it in a mailbox when you are out and about. Deep down everyone is hoping for a personal letter (or a check!) every time they check the mail, but they rarely come. Make your wife's day by making sure that there is something in the mail other than bills and junk mail every once in a while!

Another fun idea is to mail your wife postcards. This is one that I like to use because I travel so much. Because a postcard has so little space to write on, it does not take long to fill one out, so you can bombard her with multiple postcards mailed out from all the places you pass through on your travels. If you don't travel, you can still mail them home from across town in the course of your business. The only problem with a postcard is that you can't get too personal since  you may have a curious mailman or curious children!

A while back I went to the store and picked up a basic small mailbox that had the classic red flag on the side that can be put up or down. I then installed a padlock onto it and set it on top of the fridge in the kitchen. It is a personal mailbox for the sole purpose of delivering letters to my wife and receiving letters in return. When either of us writes the other a letter, we unlock the mailbox, put the letter in, and raise the flag so that the other will know that there is new mail (usually, we are both too unobservant to notice, so the other will become impatient and start dropping subtle hints about checking the mail).

You could also just put the letter somewhere that you know they will find it, such as on their pillow, in the bathroom cabinet, on the kitchen counter, in the breakfast cupboard, etc.

Check back tomorrow for the beginning of a brand new blog series!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Writing to Your Wife - Part 3

More ideas for Letter Content

In the last post, I mentioned that you should compliment your wife's appearance in your letters. Song of Solomon provides a great example of this. As in the biblical example, specifically praise each body part or aspect of your wife's appearance that you like the most. Keep it real. Instead of making things up, think to yourself about what aspects of her looks you like the most and put pen to page. You can also talk about which outfits you like the most on her and how she looks in different types of clothing. Tell her what you want her to wear.

Another idea for letter content could be to remind her of a fun or poignant memory of times that you shared together in the past. Stories and reminiscences about the past can be a perfect springboard into expressions of how much you love her. You can make this particularly interesting by including some new detail about the story that she had no way of ever knowing. For example, "I never told you this, but I actually thought…" or "You didn't know this at the time, but…"

Another idea for content is that you can can plan an outing, event, activity, or evening for the two of you, and instead of telling her about it, write it to her in a letter. Go into as much detail as possible to make the letter interesting.

And lastly, be as creative as you possibly can. Using elaborate similes and metaphors will keep your letter from being boring or run of the mill. Don't be shy when writing your letter. Remember that one of the purposes of writing letters in the first place is to open up new forms of communication. If you are shy or embarrassed, just leave the letter for her to read when you are not around.

Tomorrow's post will cover creative delivery ideas for your letters...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Writing to Your Wife - Part 2

Getting started

The first thing you will need is something to write on. Although your wife will be happy that you wrote her a letter even if it is on lined paper that you tore out of a spiral-bound notebook, you might as well do this right if you are going to take the time to do it. Although quality stationary would be ideal, a quick and easy solution to get started is to stop at the store and buy some tasteful blank greeting cards. This will only work if you write small and the card is decent-sized. If you fill the entire card (left and right of the inside and the entire back of the card), you should be able to write a message long enough to have some meat on the bone. I have even found blank cards with multiple pages in them which provided even more writing surface. Fill up all the space so that it will seem like you ran out of space, not that you ran out of content.

Use your best handwriting. Most of us men do not have the greatest handwriting in the world, and that is okay. I am not saying that your handwriting has to be good, I am just saying to do your best.

Now for the hard part: actually writing the letter! What will you write about?

Honestly, you can can write about whatever is on your mind, as long as it is personal and from the heart. You may at some point even use letters to write about something negative or a sensitive subject that you do not want to bring up in conversation for fear of expressing yourself incorrectly or getting into an argument.

For now, though, your goal is just to write a letter that she is going to like. The easiest way to do that is to write a letter filled with compliments and praise. Here are some examples:

- Compliment her appearance (Song of Solomon is very heavy on this)
- Compliment her cooking
- Compliment her parenting
- Compliment her wisdom/knowledge
- Thank her for something nice she has done for you lately
- Talk about how much you enjoy being around her

Here is the key: be specific! None of the above examples will be effective or make for a good letter unless you are very specific. Otherwise, you have written a "note" and not a "letter." You need to go into great detail about each specific point in order to make the letter personal to her and not just a generic love letter.

See the next post for more content ideas...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Writing to Your Wife - Part 1

In today's world of cellphones and computers, writing letters has become a lost art. However, writing letters can be a very effective way to communicate with your wife. Like you, I live a very busy lifestyle and don't have time to sit down and write long letters to my friends, family, church members, or other loved ones. Nevertheless, I do take time out to write long letters to my wife because it is time well spent. In the long run, you will spend more time trying to fix problems in your marriage than it would have taken you to prevent them in the first place by putting forth the effort necessary to have a good marriage. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Why write a letter when you can just speak to her face to face or pick up the phone and call her? There is something different about writing a letter. First of all, it shows that you have put a lot of thought and effort into what you are saying. It will also get her attention because it is something out of the ordinary. Writing a letter can also allow you to express things that you may not feel comfortable expressing face to face. Sometimes a letter can be even more personal and intimate than communicating in person.

"How about an email?" Theoretically, you could accomplish the same thing by sending an email, and if you are able to do so effectively, then great. The problem with email is that when we write an email, we usually tend to make it shorter and more casual. Writing a "letter" is different than just writing a "note." In order to write an effective letter to your wife, you will need to write more than just a few lines, and you will need to include serious content.

The following few posts will contain many practical tips and ideas on writing to your wife. Although this will be geared toward men, the same principles will apply to a wife writing to her husband. Everyone likes receiving a letter whether they be male or female!

To be continued...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 15 (Conclusion)

When Zsuzsa got off the plane in Sacramento, I was waiting for her at the end of the jet bridge, standing around the corner and off to the side so I could surprise her. She did not expect to see me until coming out of security, but I popped up out of nowhere and embraced her tightly. This was one of the happiest moments of my life. We had been apart for 19 stressful days, and I had been nervous about her possibly not being let back into the country (they had given her trouble about not having a return flight), but now we were together, and everything was perfect! I had a sufficient job, the apartment would be ready in 4 days, and we were together for good!

After we had hugged and greeted each other, I had another surprise for her. My brother-in-law Bobby and my sister Raani had bought us each white gold rings as a wedding gift. I was already wearing mine, and I presented her with hers. She was thrilled and responded by laughing and saying, "You're mad!" (Remember, she learned how to speak English in Britain, so when she said "mad," she didn't mean "angry.")

We would spend that night (Saturday night) and the next at the Days Inn hotel since our apartment was not quite ready. I wanted to make our "second wedding night" as nice as possible, so I had bought a disposable styrofoam ice chest and put in a bottle of apple juice, a bottle of orange juice, and a bottle of cranberry juice on ice (this was the fundamental baptist equivalent of a bottle of wine). We were just thrilled to be together!

The next morning we went to church at Regency Baptist Church, and my wife was baptized after the morning service. She had already been saved for over a month at this point but had not yet been baptized. The pastor also announced that she and I had just gotten married, so everyone congratulated us after the service. A week or two later, the church gave us a really nice reception since we hadn't had much of a wedding ceremony.

After two nights at the Days Inn and two nights staying in a camper trailer in my sister's driveway, we finally got into our first apartment. We had very little furniture, but we were so happy to be married and in love, we didn't care at all. We slept on a twin size mattress on the floor and did not even have a table and chairs. We had 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 spoons, 2 forks, 2 knives, 2 glasses, etc. Within a few weeks, my parents gave us a table with 2 chairs as a wedding gift. When we had friends over for dinner, we always had to tell them to bring their own chairs! Then a couple months later, a couple in our church got married and since they had each already lived on their own, they had 2 of everything. They gave us a king size bed (that was a major upgrade!), a sofa, and lots of other furniture and kitchen appliances. That was a major blessing.

Now we have been married for over 12 and a half years, and we are even more "madly" in love than we were back then. After all these years, I still sometimes feel like a newliwed!  I thank God for giving me such an amazing wife and for allowing this crazy story to have a happy ending! 

Come back tomorrow for the start of a new blog series!

Friday, March 22, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 14

My mom, Susan Anderson, decided that the piece of mail made out to Zsuzsanna Toth-Anderson was "close enough to her name" for her to be justified in opening it. It was a notification that copies of our official marriage license were now ready to be ordered. My parents were of course shocked and called both my brother and sister to vent. "Did you know about this?!" It was a Wednesday early afternoon when they first found out, and when I got home from work that evening to my brother's house where I was staying, I was told that they had found out.

I figured that the Wednesday night church service would be the perfect place to meet them after they had found out. I figured it would be a safe place. They couldn't come down on me too hard in such a public place! I thought of Joab taking hold of the horns of the altar in the temple when Solomon sought to kill him (bad example, since he killed him there anyway!)

As it turned out, they had already cooled down in the few hours between finding out and church rolling around. My brother and older sister bore the brunt of their initial blow-up over the phone, in addition to my younger sister Lisa, who had the misfortune of being in the room when they found out. At church, the first thing my dad said to me was, "It's okay, Steve. We're not mad at you." I laughingly said, "Well, I guess you won't be telling me never to do this again!" Thankfully I had a very good relationship with my parents, and they had really liked Zsuzsa, so everything was fine. Once my wife came back from Germany, we went out to dinner with them every Friday night for months and would often even spend the night at their house when we were over there on a late night (we slept in my old bedroom! haha).

I was counting the hours until Zsuzsa would be back, and we could finally be reunited after a very long 19 days apart. Finally, Saturday evening rolled around, and I headed for the Sacramento airport to pick her up.

To be continued...

Back row from left to right: my younger sister Lisa, my mom, my dad, Clint's wife Spring, my brother Clint. This picture was taken shortly after Zsuzsa came back from Germany at a reception the church gave for us.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 13

A couple days after my wife headed back to Germany, I headed out with my brother, uncle, and cousin, on the four-day backpacking trip that had already been planned long before I had even thought of getting married. I no longer wanted to go because I had a lot more important things to be doing. However, it was important to my brother that I didn't cancel, and since he would be helping me out over the next couple of weeks, I decided to go ahead and go. It ended up being a great trip and gave me lots of time to slow down and think about things and make a game plan for the next 2 weeks. Every night on the backpacking trip I worked on a long letter to Zsuzsa that I mailed to Germany the day I got back to civilization.

As soon as I got back from the trip, I got a good job at a company called Liberty Bell Alarm doing residential alarm systems. I had grown up helping my dad with electrical work, and a friend of my sister Raani already worked there and gave me a recommendation, so I was able to start work there immediately. They started me at $9.50/hour because I already had electrical experience, and I would be consistently working 50 hours per week Monday through Friday, with the option of working Saturdays on top of that whenever I wanted (which I ended up doing very rarely because I was newly married, and I felt that it was more important, once my wife returned, to spend as much time with her as possible in the early days of our marriage).

Finding an apartment turned out to be harder than I thought it would be. I thought that when an apartment complex had a bunch of balloons and a giant banner that said, "Now Renting," that they would actually have apartments available (imagine that!). It turned out that the vast majority had nothing available within the next month. Finally I found a nice apartment that was close to my job and would be ready 4 days after my wife was scheduled to come back.

Over the course of the weeks that my wife was in Germany, we exchanged a ton of emails and even spoke on the phone a couple of times. The last time I had spoken with her over the phone was the week that I met her when I had called and invited her to church.

Everything was going perfectly according to plan until 3 days before my wife would be back. That was when my mom got a piece of mail from Reno, Nevada, made out to Zsuzsanna Toth-Anderson.

To be continued…

Picture taken on the backpacking trip. I am in the bottom of the waterfall (look closely)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 12

On Monday, August 14, 2000, I dropped my bride of about 24 hours off at the San Francisco airport to fly back to Germany. She had to go back in order to get her stuff, put in two weeks notice at her job, two weeks notice at her apartment, tell her family, etc, etc. Altogether, she ended up being gone for 19 days. I had a lot to do in those 19 days!

Put yourself in my position: I had just turned 19 years old, I worked at Round Table Pizza making less than a dollar above minimum wage, I had just spent all of my money on the last two weeks of going out with Zsuzsa, I was still living at home with my parents, and I had just gotten married and not told anyone! All of this had to be fixed in the next 19 days. The main things I needed to do were get a real job and get an apartment.

I decided to tell my older brother and my older sister right away, so that I could enlist their help and get their wisdom on setting up a new household since I was new at this. When I told my brother Clint, his first reaction was, "You're still going on that backpacking trip!" Then he was pretty concerned about the fact that I had gotten married so suddenly and seemed a little nervous about the whole thing, but then he said, "Well, she did definitely seem to fit in well with our family." When I told my sister Raani, she was thrilled and said, "Yes! She is going to be my new best friend!"

I got permission from my parents to move in with Clint and Spring for a little while since he had just moved into a new bigger place, and there were more job opportunities on that side of town. I moved my stuff over to a spare bedroom at Clint's place but didn't even unpack because I knew I'd only be there until I got into my own apartment which I was, of course, determined to do before Zsuzsa returned. That would also give me a base of operations to get everything done that I needed to over the next 19 days without my parents becoming suspicious.

My plan was to tell my parents as soon as she got back from Germany in a couple weeks. That way I could tell them, "This is my new job, new apartment, and by the way, this is my wife." I figured that would sound A LOT better than, "I live at home, have a low-paying job, and I just got married, but my wife is in Germany right now." So I went to work to make everything happen asap!

To be continued...

My brother Clint and I around this time

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 11

Sunday morning, August 13, 2000, my first thought when I woke up was, "What in the world did I almost do last night? Have I lost my mind?!" Throughout the morning as I got ready for church, the idea seemed less and less crazy to me. When Zsuzsa and I first greeted each other that morning, we were both kind of looking at each other and tested the waters like, "So, are we still going back up to Reno to get married today?" We both acted like we were settled on it, but we both had our doubts about it and were trying to read whether or not the other had doubts.

We went to the Sunday morning service, and Pastor Nichols preached a sermon called "Childhood and Youth are Vanity" from Ecclesiastes 11. I took the sermon as a confirmation that getting married was a great idea. I was 19, and she was 21. Time to grow up!

After church we drove through Arby's and headed straight for Reno. We went to the wedding chapel and then headed for City Hall to get a marriage license. To get the marriage license, all we needed was to each show our ID to prove that we were both adults. As Zsuzsa showed her passport, and I showed my driver's license, I noticed the lady behind the counter writing my address on a form.

"You're not going to send anything to that address, are you?"

"No. Why?"

"Because my parents don't know that I'm getting married, and I don't want them getting anything in the mail about it before I've told them."

"No, don't worry, we won't send anything."

Back at Chapel of the Bells, we had the most basic possible wedding ceremony (lasted about 2 minutes) and headed back to Roseville to consummate the marriage.

Later that evening we had to drive to my uncle's house where my brother was because we had already agreed to go by there that Sunday night in order to plan an upcoming backpacking trip that had been scheduled before we knew that we were getting married, and I didn't want to tip anyone off that something was up by not being there. We only stayed for 20 minutes because we obviously wanted to be alone together as much as possible since we had just gotten married.

We had a wonderful afternoon, evening, and next morning together, but she was still scheduled to fly back to Germany later in the day Monday...and no one yet knew that we were married!

To be continued...

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 10

On Saturday, August 12, 2000, now two weeks into her visit, we had a very serious conversation about our relationship. We were very much in love, and the thought of her leaving in 2 days was hard for us to imagine. We had become inseparable and had spent every waking moment of the last 2 weeks together. The last time we had talked about it, we had agreed that we would get married the following January, which was about 5 months away. We began to discuss how we would continue our relationship over the course of that 5 months. She would probably not be able to afford to fly out during that time because it was an expensive trip. She would probably also not be able to take any extended time off from work or school during that time.

It would have been very cost effective for me to fly out and visit her (now that my mom was a flight attendant), but there was a major problem with that plan also. Where would I stay? My wife lived by herself in a student apartment at the university in Munich. I knew that it would not be right for me to go there and stay with her because we were not married, and it also would not have worked for me to stay with that missionary in Munich again because he and I did not get along at all, he lived across town, etc. The way things looked, we would have to be completely separated for the next 5+ months, and both of us hated the thought of that. Even phone calls would be expensive and rare (times were different back then). We would only be able to communicate by letters and email.

Then we started saying things like, "Well, if we know for sure that we are going to get married anyway, why don't we just get married right now?" We tossed around the idea for a few hours, and then we finally just hopped in the car that night and headed for Reno, Nevada (2 hours away). We got there late in the evening and asked at gas station where to go to get married. The gas station worker told us where to go, and when we got there, they had just closed 20 minutes ago! What?! I thought it was a 24/7 thing! Apparently I had confused Reno, NV, with Las Vegas, NV. We got in the car and drove back home since we weren't married, so it would have been scandalous for us to stay the night there. Plus my parents of course had no idea that we had gone to Reno, so we had to get back home so that they would not know that anything out of the ordinary was going on.

Zsuzsa slept in the car on the way home as I drove. At one point she woke up startled at how fast I was driving on the winding freeway, but she must not have been that scared because she went right back to sleep. We got back to the house and headed to our separate bedrooms for the night.

The next morning (Sunday) I woke up, and my very first thought was, "What in the world did I just almost do last night? Am I insane?!"

To be continued...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 9

 Thursday, August 10, 2000, we headed to Marine World for the second time. The first time we had gone to Marine World, everything was perfect, but the second time, everything seemed to go wrong. Many of the rides were broken down, and we got rained on. Once in particular we waited in a long line for a ride, and then right when we were almost to the front, they closed down the ride. Zsuzsa started complaining about the day, and I took it personally. I felt insulted because I felt responsible for having taken her on a date that wasn't going well. "Let's just leave right now," I said toward the end of the morning, "I don't care how much we paid for admission. If you aren't having fun, let's just leave."

We left and still had a lot of the day ahead of us, so we decided to head for the coast and try to find something else to do. We had a little bit of a fight in the car about how the morning had gone, her attitude, and my reaction to it. Within a couple hours, though, we were back to our normal, happy, and in-love selves again.

We decided to take a drive along Highway 1 and find a beach where we could walk along the ocean. The scenery on the drive along Highway 1 is breathtaking! You must drive carefully, though, because it is a very windy road and you are driving along the edge of a cliff. We enjoyed the scenery of the drive, and then tried to find a place where we could find beach access (preferably for free since we'd already spent a lot of money on the aborted visit to Marine World).

Finally we saw a sign for beach access and pulled off. I parked the car and walked over to a little kiosk where a man was there to take the money for entrance to the beach. I asked about the price of entry, and this creepy man told me that it was $7 per vehicle, but that it was a nude beach! I went back to the car and informed Zsuzsa that we would have to look for another beach access FAR AWAY! We drove on further and finally found a good beach access where we could walk along the beach and wade in the shallow part of the water.

We were approaching the end of her visit and talk of marriage was getting more serious. She would be flying back that Monday which was only four days away. When we first talked about getting married earlier that week, it was "in a year or two when you (Zsuzsa) finish college." Then it quickly became "next summer." Next it was "after this next semester of college we'll get married in January, and then you'll finish college here." Well, on Saturday the conversation turned toward a much nearer wedding date.

To be continued...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 8

 The next day was Sunday, August 6, 2000, and we went to church again on Sunday morning with the whole family. We decided to repeat our Sunday afternoon from the week before, so we again went to the American River and repeated our picnic, rope-swinging and tree-climbing ritual, and afternoon of relaxing together by the river talking.

At this point, we had been in love for almost a week and were already talking about getting married. I remember on this day walking by the river and talking about our plans for the future. I told her that I planned on being a missionary to Europe or starting a church in the US. I also explained that married life would not be like these two weeks of pure fun and spending money. I would actually have to go to work every day, and we would probably be very poor in the beginning. I also explained that being a missionary or starting a church would involve a lot of sacrifice. When the afternoon was over, we headed for the evening service at church.

One of the highlights of our second week of fun activities was going kayaking on the American River with my brother Clint, his wife Spring, and our cousin Joel. Afterward we went to an all-you-can-eat Chinese/seafood buffet. One of the fun things about this restaurant was that at the front door, they had a wall covered in hundreds of snapshots of various customers who would come in. They took a picture of our group with a Polaroid camera, and my brother Clint, in his typical comedic fashion, labeled the picture with "our names." He gave us all silly nicknames having to do with seafood. Zsuzsa became "Sue Shi", and he became "Cal O. Mari." On a previous visit with my sister to the same restaurant, we were trying to figure out why the fish we were eating were filled with something yellow. We asked the waitress who told us with a Chinese accent, "Everybody pregnant!"

On Thursday of the second week, we headed for a second day at Marine World. Our first day spent together had been at Marine World, and we had had a wonderful time, so we thought it would be fun to go back. This would lead to our second fight (we only had two fights on her whole 17-day visit, even though we spent every waking moment together).

To be continued...

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 7

Friday night, exactly one week after Zsuzsa arrived, we drove to Lake Comanche to meet up with my sister Raani and her family who were spending the weekend there camping. On the way there we picked up dinner at Burger King. It's funny looking back at how much fast food we ate that week! We eat so much healthier now, but back then, it was Taco Bell, Arby's, Burger King, Jack in the Box, etc. Out of all of these, a whopper from Burger King was her favorite.

We had a little trouble getting to the campsite, so we didn't end up arriving until late that night. When we got there we went straight to bed (don't worry, we were in separate beds in a one-room travel trailer with Bobby and Raani and their two kids Jessica and Jonathan, so we were well chaperoned. Let it also be noted that back then, I was young and inexperienced, so I did not have the same standards and dating practices that I would have today. I also watched movies and listened to worldly music back then. However, I would never have been caught dead spending the night with a girl or committing fornication). When we got there everyone was in bed, but Bobby and Raani were still awake, so Bobby kept us up for the next half hour telling a lot funny jokes as we all lay in our beds crying laughing.

On the next day, Saturday, we enjoyed hiking around the lake and riding around in a little fishing boat with a motor on the back. Bobby also offered for me to take a ride in the boat with just Zsuzsa, so he showed me how to operate the motor. It was one of those motors where you sit at the back of the boat and hold a handle attached to the motor and turn the whole motor to the left or the right in order to steer. After cruising around for a while, I thought it would be fun to let Zsuzsa drive it, so I showed her how to use the motor. She drove it for a few moments, but when the boat started going pretty fast, she panicked, threw the handle of the motor away, shrieked, and put her face in her hands. This sent the boat spinning, and I had to quickly grab the motor and stabilize things. I suspect that she wasn't really scared but was just trying to be cute (and succeeding, of course).

In the late afternoon, the two of us were talking together about a lot of things, and somehow the subject of homos came up. I explained to her what the Bible taught on the subject, quoted her Leviticus 20:13, and told her that I believed that our government should give homos the death penalty. This made her very upset and became our first fight. It was not that she had a particular soft spot for homos, it was just that she had always been taught that the death penalty was wrong in general, and especially for something other than murder! Basically, she was just emotional because she considered me to be a nice guy and could not believe that I would condone of such a "violent" measure. It seemed like a contradiction to her at the time. Keep in mind that she had just gotten saved only 6 days before.

We argued about the subject, and she stormed away upset. I didn't think too much of it because it was obvious that she just needed some time to cool down and think it over. However, I was of course saddened that we had gotten in our first fight. When the sun went down, and she still wasn't back, we all began to get worried. It had been a couple hours and was now getting completely dark out. My sister's family and I all grabbed flashlights and began walking around the lake shining our lights and yelling, "Zsuzsa!" Finally, Bobby found her as she was walking back into our camp. He was a little bit upset because she had scared all of us, and it was not safe for her to be out in the dark by herself.

"We've been out looking for you this whole time!"

"Oh, was that you shining that torch?" (in her British accent, of course. Apparently "torch" is what they call a flashlight over there!)

We then got in the car and drove home that night so we could be at church in the morning. I didn't bring up the sore subject, and we just acted like nothing had happened, but she of course realized that I was right at some point.

To be continued...

Zsuzsa took this picture of Jessica and Jonathan on the day this story took place. This is also the boat from the story.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 6

The next morning, she still had not told me that she was saved. We headed out for another fun day together, and about halfway through the day, she finally told me. This was, of course, the best news I had ever heard. Before she was saved, I was trying not to develop strong feelings for her because I never for one second would have thought of becoming romantically involved with a girl who was not saved. Now that she was saved, I allowed my feelings to be unshackled, and I very quickly was madly in love with her. Thankfully the feelings were mutual.

Day after day, we continued going to all the places on the list that I mentioned in a previous post and spending every waking moment together, only separated by night. Sometime during that week we went by my sister Raani's house where we made a plan to meet her, her husband, and their two children, on a camping trip that they were taking to Lake Comanche that Friday night. Once again, within 10 minutes of arriving at Raani's house, Zsuzsa was climbing to the top of a tree in her backyard.

Starting the day after she got saved, I had her read her Bible every morning starting in the book of John. That Bible I had mailed her for Christmas back when she was in Germany was finally getting some action! An interesting thing to note is that after she was saved she instantly understood the Bible. In the past, she had tried reading the Bible before, and it made no sense to her. She had even tried reading John 1 in the past, and she didn't understand it, which is why she immediately quit reading it. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." - 1 Corinthians 2:14 Now that she was saved, however, I would talk to her about what she read each morning, and it was clear that she understood it. The Holy Spirit had moved in.

Zsuzsa was definitely fitting in well with my family also. We saw my parents everyday morning and night, and it was very clear from the beginning that they really liked her. Everyone loved her British accent also (Believe it or not, even though she spoke Hungarian until she was 8, and then German from 8 onward, she didn't have a German or Hungarian accent. She had a British accent because in Germany, she had been taught British English, and she had also spent a year in Britain). I thought her British accent and strange British vocabulary was very cute, but alas, after being in the US for awhile, it would eventually be completely gone. Now she speaks American English so perfectly that no one would guess that she was not born here.

We went to church again that Wednesday night and spent everyday going to a different fun place. Everyday was wonderful, and I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. We were like two peas in a pod. That Saturday (8 days after she arrived), we would be up at Lake Comanche where my sister Raani and her family were camping. That is when we had our first fight.

To be continued...

Raani's family around this time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 5

On Sunday morning, we went to Regency Baptist Church with the whole family. This was her very first time in a Baptist church. She still wasn't a believer, but she really enjoyed the service and said that she liked it a lot better than Catholic church. After the service, we grabbed a couple of sandwiches from Togo's and headed to the American river for a picnic lunch and an afternoon by the riverside. I sought to impress her by swimming across the river and then swinging high in the air and doing tricks on a rope swing. She sought to impress me by climbing to the top of a tree. We talked all afternoon and then headed back to church for the 6:00pm evening service.

At the end of the evening service was the invitation/altar call. With everyone's heads bowed and eyes closed, the pastor ask for anyone who was not saved to raise their hand. Zsuzsa raised her hand. A lady named Carolee Hemphill then approached her and asked if she could show her the Gospel. She agreed and they walked to the front of the building where Mrs. Hemphill went through the Gospel with her yet again. When she got to the end, she wanted her to pray and ask Jesus to saved her, but Zsuzsa declined. She said that she had already heard all of this from Steve repeatedly, but that she still wasn't quite ready to believe it.

After church, we headed to the Round Table pizza I worked at for dinner and met a couple of my friends there. Then we drove up to Auburn to look at the stars (most of the stars are not visible in a big city like Sacramento). I told her about how there were bears and mountain lions up there, which seemed to make her nervous. After building up her fear, I decided to jump out and scare her with a loud roar. She jumped away, shrieked, and buried her face in her hands trembling. For about 10 minutes, I tried to apologize and console her, but she would not look at me, take her face out of her hands, or say a word. I literally thought I had driven her insane (once my dad had told me a story about about how  some kids dropped a grasshopper down the back of another kid and how it made the kid lose his mind - that story was going through my mind at this moment). I was thinking to myself, "What will I tell her family?"

It turned out that the joke was on me! She was of course scared when I jumped out at her, but she only pretended for 10 minutes to have lost her mind in order to punish me, and because she liked listening to me pleading with her that everything was okay. We had a pretty good laugh about it in the end.

We got back to the house that night, and I went to my room with a heavy heart. I had really become fond of Zsuzsa, and I was sad that she still wasn't saved. I got on my knees and wept, praying to God that she would get saved. Little did I know that at the exact moment my tears were flowing as I prayed for her, she was upstairs in her room, asking Jesus Christ to save her.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 4

Zsuzsa arrived at the airport at about 5:30pm, and we headed back to my parents house in Roseville. The drive home took over 4 hours because of the Friday night business traffic. This gave us a lot time to talk and get to know each other. I gave her the Gospel again, and we talked about many other things. When we got to Vallejo, I pointed out Marine World to her and said, "By the way, that's where we'll be spending the day tomorrow." I had not yet given her any details about everything I had planned for her visit, so she was pretty impressed and excited when she saw those massive roller coasters from the freeway.

When we arrived at our family's home, she met my parents, and I showed her around the house. I showed her the big bookshelf in my room that I was pretty proud of which had 3 long shelves (I have always love books and done a lot of reading). The top shelf contained about 40 different King James Bibles, the middle shelf was filled with foreign language materials, and the bottom shelf was filled with all the other various books I liked to read. She thought having forty-some Bibles was a little bit excessive. I told her that at least if I were ever burned at the stake, there would be plenty of fuel, and that didn't seem to make her feel any better about it! I wanted to keep talking to her, but I knew she was probably tired from the long trip, so I showed her upstairs to the guest room where she would be staying (my room was downstairs).

The next morning we got up bright and early and headed for Marine World which was about an hour away. When we got to Vallejo, we stopped at a Rite Aid drug store to buy some candy/snacks to throw in my backpack. I distinctly remember the topic of our conversation while we were in the candy aisle: I was trying to convince her why parents must spank their children. Being an unsaved girl from Europe, she had been brainwashed into believing a lot of left-wing ideology such as socialism, feminism, humanism, gay rights, etc., and she was definitely against spanking. I quoted her a lot of Bible verses and explained the rationale behind it. She still wasn't saved, so she didn't get on board with spanking right then and there, but she was definitely considering what I was saying.

We had a REALLY fun day together at Marine World, and we immediately had hit it off and become fast friends. It was definitely one of the best days I had ever had. We saw a few animal shows and rode all the rides. Our favorite ride was called "Thrilla Gorilla." Throughout the day I continued to talk to her about salvation. I really wanted her to get saved, but I didn't want to badger her too much, so at one point I gave the Gospel to a few other people who were waiting in line with us for a ride because I figured that way she would hear it again without me having to bring it up to her yet again.

We talked more on the drive home, and I remember explaining to her why there was no way that evolution could actually be true. She had never in her life even heard of anyone questioning it. She had been told that the Bible was "scientifically inaccurate," taught that the world was flat, etc, so I explained to her all the good science in the Bible and how the "big bang" and evolution were complete nonsense. We got back to the house and went our separate ways.

The next day was Sunday, which would be her first time ever going to any church other than a Catholic church.

To be continued...

Petting a porcupine at Marine World

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 3

Now that my parents were used to the idea of Zsuzsa coming out and staying with us for a couple of weeks, I sat down with my mom one afternoon to brainstorm and come up with as many ideas as possible of fun things to do while she was visiting. Although I had grown up my whole life in Sacramento, CA, there were a lot of places in Northern California that I had never seen or been to, so I was pretty excited myself to go to a lot of these places. It also sounded like more fun than going to Germany again because whenever I went to Germany, I was working hard the whole time I was there and doing very little sightseeing. This, on the other hand, would give me lots of German practice but would be a pure vacation!

A few things to keep in mind: although I had obviously felt an attraction to her the first time I met her, and I even had a premonition that I might marry her on Wednesday afternoon of the week that I met her, I was definitely not in love with her because I still barely knew her. We had spent a total of about 40 minutes together on the three occasions I met her in Germany, and we had only talked on the phone once for about 10 minutes. Also, she was still not saved, and I had absolutely no intention of ever falling in love with, dating, or marrying an unsaved girl, no matter how much I liked her. In the 9 months between the time I met her and the time she came out to visit, I had gone on a lot of dates with various girls, but nothing serious at all. Every girl I ever dated was saved, and my first step was always to bring them to my church to see if they enjoyed the hard, biblical preaching. I just looked at this as having a good time showing the sights of California to a friend, but obviously I hoped that she would get saved and that sparks would fly. However, I didn't have my heart set on it.

My mom and I sat in the living room brainstorming as I wrote out a list of places to go during her 17 day visit. I took the whole 17 days off from my job at Round Table Pizza and decided that I would spend every last dime of the $1000 I had saved up for my now canceled Germany trip. Here is what we came up with:

Marine World Africa USA in Vallejo, CA
Old Sacramento
Rafting on the American River
The Moaning Caverns
Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean
Six Flags Great America (we ended up going to Marine World twice instead)
San Francisco and Chinatown
Kayaking on the American River
Folsom prison (this fell through since they didn't allow foreigners to tour)
Waterworld USA
Lake Comanche
A Beach Boys concert (yes, I was worldly back then)
Golfland Sunsplash
Folsom Lake
A couple other places that I can't remember

…and of course, all 3 church services each week.

Finally, July 28 rolled around, and her flight would be arriving at the San Francisco airport about 5:30pm that evening. The San Francisco airport was less than 2 hours from my house in Roseville, CA, but for some reason I left to go pick her up first thing in the morning. I was there for literally over 8 hours waiting for her flight to arrive! I was just really excited about her coming, and since I had no cellphone or anything (almost no one did back then), I was afraid of getting stuck in traffic and not being there when she got off the plane (okay, looking back it was ridiculous to arrive that early, but hey, better than being late, right?). I spent the entire day at the airport reading, walking around, and eating a few meals.

Then I started thinking that it may be difficult to recognize her since I had only met her 3 times briefly, and it had been about 9 months since then. So I made little sign to hold up that said "Zsuzsanna Tóth" like limo drivers do. When her flight finally landed I stood there holding my sign as a huge throng of people flooded out of customs, and I waited anxiously to spot her.

To be continued...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 2

At the end of October, about 3 weeks after meeting Zsuzsa, I got back to the US after having been in Germany for 3 months total. A few days after getting home, I pulled out the paper that had her phone number and email address on it, and I sent her an email (back then, calling Germany was very expensive). Over the next few months, we exchanged casual emails every few weeks and about 2 or 3 actual letters in the mail. One funny thing she said in one of the letters was that she loved children and that if she had the means to support them, she would love to have 20 children (be careful what you wish for! haha). I also mailed her a Bible for Christmas with her name imprinted on the cover in golden letters.

While I was in Germany the first time, my mom had become a flight attendant, so now as her son, I was able to fly to Germany for only $150 instead of the $1100 that I paid the first time. Also, I got to sit in first class for no extra charge. I decided to plan a second Germany trip for the following February, this time for 3 weeks instead of 3 months. On my first 3 month trip I stayed with about 6 different missionaries for a week or two each. I wasn't interested in going back to Munich because I didn't like the church or the pastor there at all, so I spent my entire second trip in Koblenz, staying with the missionary I liked the most, Thomas Hastings. I didn't tell Zsuzsa because I knew I wouldn't be able to see her anyway, and I didn't want to be rude.

When I got back, I decided that I would save up some money and take a third trip to Germany that summer. In the course of our emails, Zsuzsa mentioned that she was planning on taking an out-of-the-country vacation in the summertime, and that she would really like to visit an English-speaking country like the US or Australia. I told her that if she wanted to visit the US, there was no better place to go than California, and that if she came to visit, she could stay in the guest bedroom at our house (I still lived with my parents) on the one condition that she came to church with us Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I also told her that if she came, I would take a couple weeks off from work and show her all the sights of Northern California. Eventually she agreed to come, and I decided to spend the entire $1000 I had saved up for a third Germany trip on hanging out with her instead.

Only one problem...I hadn't asked my parents permission before inviting her to come!

I started by mentioning it to my dad (while he was busy and not paying attention, of course) in a hypothetical way. "You know, dad, it's really hard for me to practice my German without having anyone to speak it with. Wouldn't it be great if instead of having to go all the way to Germany, I had someone here to practice with? Maybe a traveling student or one of my friends that I met in Germany. Maybe one could even stay at our house for a little while and sleep in the guest room. Then I could practice every day. That would be cool, huh?"

Next I went through the exact same hypothetical conversation with mom (also when she was preoccupied and not paying close attention).

Then a week or two later when they were both together I said to them, "Now you remember about the girl from Germany who is coming to visit in a few weeks, right?"

"What? What are you talking about?"

"Remember, mom and dad? We talked about this! This is a friend from Germany to help me practice my German! You don't remember me telling you about it?"

"Well, I do remember something about that..."

"Yeah, exactly! Well she's coming on July 28 and staying in the guest room. Isn't that okay with you guys? I thought it would be fine."

"I guess," says dad.


To be continued...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Wife Zsuzsa - Part 1

My wife around the time I met her (age 20).
On October 4, 1999, my wife and I met for the first time. I was standing in a very busy square in downtown Munich, Germany, called Marienplatz, handing out tracts and giving people the Gospel. I handed my wife a tract as she was walking by, and when she had gotten about 20 feet away, she turned around and brought it back to me.

"I'm sorry, I'm not interested in soccer," were the first words she ever said to me. The tract had a picture of a soccer player on the front, so she thought it had something to do with sports.

"It isn't about soccer, it's about the Gospel."

"Gospel? Can you sing them for me?"

"What?" with a laugh.

"The gospel songs! Can you sing them for me?" In German, the word "gospel" only refers to the music style. I then explained to her what I meant by "the gospel" and opened my Bible and went through the whole plan of salvation with her starting with Romans 3:23. When I finished going through the whole thing with her, her response was, "Well, none of this will do me any good if I am late for work." I then asked her for her phone number and email address so that I could do a little "follow-up"! (Anyone who knows me knows that I am not big on "follow-up," but I made an exception for her...)

The next day, Tuesday, I was in the same place at the same time doing the same thing. I had my eye out for her hoping that I would catch her again on her way to work. Sure enough, she came and greeted me with a smile. "How do you like my new boots?" Her new 'boots' were a pair of tennis shoes (English is her 3rd language, although you wouldn't know it by how well she speaks it. Most people don't even realize that she is not from America since she has literally no accent at all anymore). We chatted for about 5 or 10 minutes before she had to head off to work.

On the next day, Wednesday, I was disappointed that we didn't see each other. When I got back to the home of the missionary I was staying with, I decided to pull out that phone number and give her a call. I invited her to come to the Wednesday night church service, which she said she would do. We talked for about 10-15 more minutes, and I was expecting to see her there that night. She never showed up, which was pretty disappointing.

The next morning, Thursday, she came and saw me on her way to work and apologized for not showing up. A friend had called her at the last minute and needed help, so she ended up deciding to skip coming to church (It was probably for the best because that church was pretty lame. As it ended up, her first time in a Baptist church was at my home church in Orangevale, California, which made a much better impression on her than that church would have). Just a few hundred yards away, a man had covered himself and his car in gasoline and was threatening to "blow himself up." This had a caused a major scene in the Marienplatz so we chatted about that and a few other things. This would be the last time I would see her until 9 months later.

On the next day, Friday, on my way to the train station to leave Munich for a distant part of Germany, I kept my eye out for her all the way as I walked through the Marienplatz, but I didn't find her. I never called that phone number again until after we were married.

To be continued...

This is me (age 18) in Marienplatz handing out tracts the exact week that I met my wife.