. Ecclesiastes 4:12
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
On August 9th, my husband and I will be celebrating fifteen years of marriage. It's a milestone we've been looking forward to for some time. Unfortunately, no trips to Europe or Hawaii are planned, but we are excited to be here on the edge of fifteen years. Fifteen years of ups. Fifteen years of downs. Fifteen years of being there for one another and of being best friends.
I wish I had all kinds of wisdom to share about marriage and what it takes to make a good one. In some ways, I feel that my husband and I have been blessed with a good marriage that has not taken too much effort on our part. But I suppose if I think about it, there are some truths I've learned along the way, so indulge me while I share the lessons I've learned about marriage over this past decade and a half.
Number one, don't go to bed angry. The other night I did. What's more my husband did. When we woke up, we were still cranky towards one another. So much so that my husband was ready to leave the house for work at 6:30 that morning. Work on a Saturday? Yea, he was that mad. So we sat down and talked and talked about what went wrong and what we were upset about.
Talking things out was something my own parents weren't good about. I think in some ways, things just built up and were never discussed. That's something my husband and I have determined not to do - to keep silent when we're upset, to let the resentment build up. That's never a good idea. Over the years we've worked hard to communicate even about the hard things. It's not always easy to be honest, but I've found that when I share my side and let my husband share his, I come away with a little better understanding of where he's coming from and vice versa.
Number two, practice a little humility. A little humility, like admitting when you're wrong and even conceding when you're mostly in the right, is a good thing. The Bible says that the meek will inherit the earth and that when we humble ourselves God will lift us up. Sometimes it's more important to win the moment than to win the argument. What I mean by that is this. Winning the argument might make you feel better but it doesn't necessarily make your marriage a happy one. That's because, in a marriage, it's not so much about being right as it is about loving someone completely, with utter abandonment. Not so much thinking about yourself, but putting the other person's thoughts, feelings and ideas above your own.
Number three, always avoid the always and nevers of life. As in, "You never help around the house, or, "You always take the kids' side when we argue." My husband is the one who pointed out my tendency to use always and nevers early on in our marriage. It might be true that your spouse sometimes neglects to help with household responsibilities or sometimes seems to take the kids' side over yours, but is it really true that it is always the case? Using always and never statements just sets everybody up for failure. No one wins in always and never situations. So don't go there. Just don't.
Number four, make time for each other. In our marriage, I am often guilty of wanting to do my own thing rather than spend time with my husband. It is hard for me to set things aside to invest in our relationship. What's more, I tend to put the kids first before our marriage and that is backwards thinking. After all, if it weren't for this most important relationship in our house, the kids wouldn't even exist. So it only makes sense that we nurture and cherish our relationship first. It's kind of like how on an airplane they tell you, in case of an emergency, to secure your own oxygen mask first and then take care of your little ones. Nurturing the relationship and bond you have with your spouse can only serve to make you better parents. Our kids love that we love each other. They'd never admit it. They even act like our hugging and kissing grosses them out. But underneath it all, I'm pretty sure they are secure in the knowledge that their parents genuinely like each other and are still going strong after fifteen years.
Last but not least, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. The verse I shared above was one of the scripture verses read at our wedding. I loved it then and still do. In fact the other day , I found a wall hanging with this very verse printed on it. It now hangs in our bedroom, and every morning I wake up to the reminder that this marriage isn't just about us. My husband and I aren't on this journey alone. God is part of it. He always has been and he always will be. The day we said our marriage vows, he was right there with us saying yes in the promises we made to each other. There's a lot of comfort in that knowledge, the knowledge that even when it seems things are unraveling a bit, God is there to keep our bond strong. So when all else fails, and I find that I'm breaking each of my own bits of wisdom as written above, there is something to be said about that third strand - a God who keeps our love alive and well. Not just now, but always.
Happy Anniversary to my best friend. I'm looking forward to many more years of an abundant and thriving marriage. Love to you always. Me.
My family has been out of town for the last couple of days and I must admit, the time to myself has been nice. I’ve been doing schoolwork, a necessary evil, taking time to go on walks, sleeping in a bit later and indulging in my favorite pastime, watching movies, specifically movies of the romance genre. These are the movies that the rest of my family scoffs at – ones that they won’t give me a moment’s peace over. So when I get the chance I probably overindulge. Here are some I’ve been watching: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, a fun little one called, Penelope, and a classic 90’s one, You’ve Got Mail. It’s been great to dust these gems off and revisit my favorite romantic scenes.
Then came last night. Last night, I felt like watching something new, something I hadn’t seen before. Since I’ve rented most of the movies I’ve watched, I felt it might be good to watch one that came with our Amazon Prime subscription. That’s when I noticed it, Me Before You – one I’ve passed over on previous occasions, thinking it sounded a bit cheesy. But after a moment’s thought, I decided, ‘What the heck.' It was free, and I could always turn it off if I didn’t care for it.
When the movie started, however, I was immediately hooked. This quirky little movie drew me in from the get go. It’s a story about a man who loses all mobility after being in a serious accident. When the movie opens, you see him in his “normal” life waking up to a beautiful girlfriend, on the phone making business decisions, seemingly in a top-of-the-world euphoric rush. Then as he steps out onto the street one morning, he is hit by an oncoming motorcycle. End scene.
Fast forward two years, and the man is now living with his parents in the annex of their house, in a state of complete disrepair and fighting demons daily; demons like depression, listlessness and hopelessness, not to mention an array of medical maladies.
Enter the cute, quirky, chatty girl who’s been hired to be a companion of sorts. From her fun sense of fashion, to her bubbly personality, she is everything he needs in a companion – someone to rouse him out of his stupor and bring him joy again. And that’s exactly what she does. At first, he resists her efforts to form a friendship and continually makes her life miserable. But day after day she comes back, ready to try again and, eventually, she brings him around.
She gets him out of the house. Takes him places, watches films with subtitles with him. In general, a warm and genuine friendship begins, and she basks in the idea that she has done her job. Until one day, she finds out something rather disturbing. She overhears his parents discussing the fact that this man has made plans to end his life by assisted suicide. As they talk, she learns that he has tried to commit suicide once already and has made a deal of sorts with them. He will give life six months more and then, if still unsatisfied, travel to Switzerland to end his life in a peaceful manner.
When the girl finds out, she determines to make him change his mind, to show him how beautiful life can be and that it’s worth living. Despite her best efforts, however, in the end, he does travel to Switzerland and end his life with his parents and the girl by his side. And though I’d enjoyed the film, as I described it to my husband later that night, I felt thoroughly unsatisfied with the ending. I tried to account for that, and here’s what I came up with.
Suicide was something I contemplated for years before I was diagnosed. I write more about it in my post, ‘This is called the I wish I didn’t have to write this post.’ In short, I lived in a pool of misery and despondency for many years. But though I contemplated it on more than one occasion, there was never a moment when I went through with it. There’s a reason for that, and it has to do with more than the dogmatic thinking that committing suicide is like committing murder. It has to do with three things that remain despite the most difficult of circumstances we may face in this life.
1 Corinthians 13:13 New International Version (NIV)
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
See I believe as the Bible teaches that though all else should pass away in this life, three things remain: faith, hope and love. Faith to get us through the dark times, hope that our life will not just be one long, wretched day of misery. And most importantly of all, love – the love of our Heavenly Father who sees in any type of darkness and provides a shining light to guide us out of it. Faith, hope and love. These things remain.
Back then, when I wanted so desperately to end the pain of my existence, these three things kept me going. I think more than anything else when times were tough, I believed that things would get better. What’s more, I wanted to finish this race of life, not quit early, because there was a stitch in my side and I was gasping for every breath.
Watching the movie, what troubled me was that in this case, hope didn’t win out, faith didn’t win out, love didn’t win out. That’s why at the end of a movie that in all other aspects was well done, I felt wholly unsatisfied.
God is a God of hope. He is a God who knows every moment of our life, a God who has a plan for the dark times we go through. He understands our suffering. He understands how desperately we wish the pain would end. He understands and more importantly, he cares.
Life is difficult. It can be dark, and cold, and sad, but there is joy even amid the darkness. Believe that because it’s true. Finish the race you were meant to run. You will encounter steep hills, long, tireless days, and moments when you just want to be done, but press on. Press on trusting in the three things that will remain: faith, hope, and love.
Patient: steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity (Merriam Webster)
The other day, my husband and I were sitting around talking with some friends, when I overheard him giving me a compliment. He said, "You know, my wife has the patience of a saint." When I heard him say this, my ears perked up. It was a shining moment for me. 'Wow,' I thought, he really thinks highly of me.' Then I heard the second part of his statement and my heart fell. Unfortunately, his compliment was attached to some strings. He went on to tell a tale that I am not overly proud of. One, in all honesty, I'd rather forget. But as always, my blog is a place I choose to be real, so here is a story of a time when I was anything but patient with my kiddos.
It's quite shocking really. It was a Monday and my daughter had been ultra moody with me all weekend. She'd been quite hurtful saying some not very nice things and just being a stinker all together. So the next day, when my son and I got into an argument, I sort of lost my cool. Walking away from him, I muttered under my breath, "Sometimes I hate having kids. They suck all the joy out of life." Thinking he was in the other room and not paying any attention to me, I proceeded to carry on with my day.
Unfortunately, my son had heard every word. You have to understand that he has a very sensitive nature, so for him to hear his mother say that he was sucking all the joy out of her life was pretty devastating. I didn't know at first that he had overheard me, but later my husband took me aside and informed me that our son was pretty upset. At that point, I was still pretty angry. Rather than being repentant, I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Well they do suck all the joy out of life sometimes." What's more, when my husband tried to smooth things over between myself and my son, I repeated my assertion.
Once I'd cooled down, I searched out my son and explained why I was feeling this way. I told him that, as a parent, I sometimes grow weary of dealing with the same issues day in and day out. Issues that never seem to be completely resolved or go away. It makes me feel so tired and weary, and it does feel as though parenting brings more pain than joy at times.
I once said that I never understood God half so well as before I had kids. Kids are tough. They just are and in the midst of the yuckiness of raising two near teenagers there are days when I just think to myself, "And how much longer do I have to put up with these two?" I wonder sometimes, if God ever mutters those same sentiments. Oh, I know God is the definition of patience. I believe that firmly. But surely there must be times when he gets tired of all the messes we as humans manage to make on this earth.
I'm grateful that our God is a long-suffering God - One who is able to love us steadfastly despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. Quite frankly, knowing that God is abundantly patient with me makes me a better parent. It helps me to remember to be patient with my own kiddos, love them and hang in there with them - even on days when it feels like they've "sucked all the joy out of life."
Seriously, though, love your kiddos. Be patient with them the way God is with you. Remember how kind, good and forgiving he's been with you and model that love for your own little ones. There's not a better way to parent than to follow God's example of patience - patience that lasts despite every circumstance. May we love our kiddos as much as God loves us. Amen and Amen.
The other night my daughter and I were lying in bed cuddling when, for some reason, the Star Spangled Banner came up as a topic of discussion. I asked my daughter if she knew the lyrics to it. When she nodded her head no, I proceeded to sing it. Not very well, mind you, but I wanted her to know how important that song is, so I did my best.
She joined in when she could and we finished the song together. While my rendition wasn't pretty, I still got a little choked up as I thought about what it means to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I don't know about you, but I take this great country we live in and all the freedoms we enjoy every day for granted. I don't often think about the thousands upon thousands whose blood has been spilled in my defense, in our country's defense.
There are many troubling and disturbing events taking place in our nation right now. While I could go into the politics of who did what and why and how, I'm afraid I'd be missing the point.
The truth is our country has faced many troubled times in its storied history. For two-hundred forty years this nation has seen its share of ups and downs. And while America is often called a great nation, it seems like we, as petulant children, have forgotten how truly great it is - what it means to be both free and brave.
Maybe we need to go back to the basics, to the days when America was an infant nation - still fighting for complete independence.
In 1814, Francis Scott Key penned the words of our national anthem as a poem. At the time he wrote the Star Spangled Banner, Key was in Baltimore negotiating the release of a Dr. William Beanes who was a British Prisoner of War. Key was able to negotiate Beanes' release, but the Brits refused to surrender their prisoners of war because they were in the midst of an attack against nearby Fort McHenry.
Fort McHenry was attacked with powerful weaponry and merciless barraging. Due to lack of sophisticated ammunition and weapons, the Americans were unable to fight back. All they could do was "hold the fort" and hope for the miraculous. Throughout the night, Key anxiously watched to see whether his beloved Stars and Stripes had been replaced by the Union Jack. It was during these tense and trying hours that Key penned what would become the nation's anthem.
Finally, their twenty-four hours of bombardment ended in an unsuccessful attempt by England's finest. They were unable to capture Fort McHenry. The Brits withdrew and Key was surely overjoyed when, by the dawn's early light, the flag he loved so much was still gallantly streaming.
Do we love our country as much as our founding fathers did? Do we appreciate all that is beautiful about being an American? Those who planted the seeds that became our democracy fought because they weren't free. They fought because they wanted something better for the country they called home. In their struggles, they earned the right to pass on to us this gift of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
America is not perfect, but it is still pretty great. Francis Scott Key thought so. Our founding fathers did, too. And the many men and women over the years who have defended our country to their very last breath believed in this country, too. May we not dishonor their memory by giving up when there are so many important things to fight for.
We as Americans have inherited a legacy of what it means to be both brave and free. I pray to God we pass this legacy untarnished to those who will someday inherit this great country we call home.
The Star Spangled Banner
by Francis Scott Key
Oh say can you see,
By the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed,
At the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
Through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched,
Were so gallantly streaming.
And thy rocket's red glare,
Thy bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through thee night,
That our flag was still there.
Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.