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Once upon a time …

27 Jan

Over twenty years ago when I was in the process of planning my wedding, I was surrounded by catalogs, magazines and “consultants” talking about “my special day”.  We love to romanticize landmark moments in our lives.  Watching television commercials and movies we see whirlwind romances flow right into happily every after … Mothers lying blissfully next to their sleeping infant in a well appointed room … even graduation is painted with gleeful seniors shiny faced tossing caps in the air.  While every one of these life events (marriage, the birth of a baby, graduation) are cause to celebrate and rejoice, they are not protected within a bubble that keeps the real world out.  I wonder how much heartache, disappointment and failed relationships are created out of this marketing of perfect moments.


In the midst of my wedding planning, I was aglow with playing princess in a dress and picking just the right flowers.  Weeks after the wedding, the dress hung in the closet with wine spilled on it and the flower  had all died, life started getting real.  I had watched movies and television.  I knew that we should be settling down into our cozy cottage home.  I had consulted magazines and read  books, and discovered that this was the best time of my life.  But, it wasn’t … it really, really wasn’t.  We had no money, my new husband had no job.  Living at my parents house and working temp jobs didn’t fit the script I had written.

Years later, we had our own home and had good jobs, but it still was not the fairy tale I had anticipated.  Rather than romantic dinners, love notes and stolen kisses, our lives often consisted of screaming, throwing and leaving.  When I compared my life to the pictures I had seen in my magazines, the movies I had seen or even the jewelry commercials on TV, I knew we had failed.  This was the validation I needed to confirm that we had clearly made a mistake, where not made for each other and should never have gotten married.  I knew that love alone could see you through anything, and we were sinking.  Clearly, what I thought had been love, couldn’t have been.  Tragically, and I do mean tragically, sad I cried in mourning … with grief … at the end of my marriage.

I no longer felt giddy when he walked through the door unless he was walking out it.  The “chemistry” that had been there was gone … the fireworks had died out.  The moment was over, and I saw no future.  I prayed, and then I read, and then I educated myself … that is when I was introduced to the profound concept that would allow me to persevere another 15 years into marriage.  Marriage is not a fairy tale.  Some days you are not going to like your spouse – or at least what he does.  He is going to tweak you when he leaves dirty dishes out.  He is going to occasionally say things that hurt your feelings.  He won’t be able to tell you need a hug just because you do.  He is a person, a perfect fallible person – and so are you.  To expect a lifetime relationship to reflect all of the expectation of a static marketing photo is ridiculous, but so many of us do it everyday.

We could have so easily been a statistic.  It seemed inevitable.  We didn’t follow the rules in our “courtship”.  We didn’t take the time beforehand to date and get to know each other.  If you could have bet on our marriage we would have been an against the odds long shot.  Thankfully, I found one book in my pile that stripped the veneer and painted a realistic picture of successful marriage.

Our Hollywood and Madison Avenue fantasies of life are fairy tales.  None of us are blemish free.  Mother’s don’t always smile every time they pick up their baby.  Babies don’t always smell like powder.  Husbands don’t always buy diamonds …

Good, loving husbands won’t always bring flowers … Good, loving husbands leave cars without gas in them … Good, loving husbands fall asleep when they are supposed to play with kids … Good, loving husbands come home late and grouchy …

If I got to tell a story about marriage, it would include stories of a man who worked two jobs to make sure the bills are paid.  It would have the princess wife making eggplant, which she hates, just because her husband yearns for it.  This romantic story would be filled with tales of small moments, understated thoughtfulness and two, imperfect and tired people.


Bonding time …

13 Mar

Have you ever noticed how it seems when you are doing your best to try to focus and be intentional with your devotions and spiritual disciplines, life creates a myriad of distractions.  While I read several bits of scripture and a couple of devotions this morning, my ability to connect with God was undermined by two cats.  As I concluded my reading and began to type they began crying outside my door.  Once let in they wrestled on the bed.  After much hissing and growling the separated and began to attack furniture, eat boxes and generally go berserk.  Today it was the cats, yesterday it was the children, the day before an urgent phone call.  Everyday there is something that attempts to draw me away.  I am thankful that I am stubborn, and I am thankful that this project is a promise I made to God.  Otherwise it would be very easy to quit with the standard brush-off:  “I’m too busy…I don’t have the time.” 

Life will always lay out distractions and obstacles that will keep you away from this “bonding time” with God.  There is always something that seems more urgent or something that will “just take a moment” but inevitably pulls us away much longer.

Often these distractions are little nuisances like excessively playful cats, but sometimes these distractions can be monumental:  the loss of someone we love, the suffering of our children, heartache in relationships, unemployment … while silly cats can be shooed out the door, many of life’s distractions can’t be.  Everyone could empathize with letting a few things slide during these times.  These are the times when we carry each  others loads because we know how much attention these struggles require.  However, even in the midst of hardship we must save time for God – I think we could argue during this time it is more important than ever to hang with Him.  While our friends can pray on our behalf, I think ultimately this just serves to strengthen us so that we won’t lose that connection with God throughout our trials.

A part of the scripture I read today involved Jesus’ temptation in the desert (Matthew 4).  As much as I would like to imagine I can relate to the trials He endured, I really can’t.  Today we “fast” through various means of sacrifice and even those who participate in a literal fast, generally aren’t going without food for forty days.  While self-inflicted, Jesus must have felt physically weak and maybe alone.  It’s so hard to empathize with Jesus knowing His perfection and that perhaps he “gets it” where I don’t, but figuring that God made Him fully man as well I have to figure He experienced some of my frustrations and, while not yielding to them, my weaknesses.  How easy would it have been to be distracted by an offer of food.  I can tell you, my mind would’ve come up with nine-bazillion justifications why it was OK and that really God probably wanted me to have the food.  I think sometimes life’s distractions are like the bread in the desert.  They distract us from our purpose and they seem urgent, important or reasonable to yield to.  Ultimately though by yielding to them, by allowing them to have priority over our relationship with God we have actually denied ourselves nourishment … the Bread of Life … the Living Water.  “But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”” (Matthew 4:4)

Sometimes we allow our own insecurities or shame to distract us as well.  I read a lovely devotion a fellow wrote about having difficulty engaging with God during his devotion time and that ultimately he was excessively distracted and ready to give up.  In the midst of his devotion time, his dog urged the man to let him out.  (See how distracting these pets can be.)  While his puppy wandered in the rain, the man asked God to help him … meanwhile the man waited and waited for his puppy to come inside.  This extended time outdoors in the rain was uncharacteristic of the puppy who was not fond of rain or cold.  While he called for the dog, he did not return.  After much concern the man went out in the rain to find him and discovered the wet puppy shivering in the rain with shameful eyes and a torn bag of garbage nearby.  Naturally the man knew the nature of his dog and was not thrilled to have the mess to clean, but mostly wanted the puppy inside, warm and dry.  God was able to allow him to see that he was like his puppy, distracted by the world and then to ashamed to come in out of the rain.  Of course the most famous Biblical example of this is the Genesis story where Adam and Eve hid from God, ashamed.   “But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’  He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.'” (Genesis 3:9-10)

Life will always have something that it puts out in front of you as a reason not to take the “quiet time” to connect with God.  Often we question whether God even cares or if it even matters.  We know that it’s important to do our taxes, to get the laundry caught up, but sometimes, particularly in times of trial, we find it hard to remember why “quality time” with God is an important priority and actually eases our burden and enables us to manage everything else.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Let the wild rumpus begin…

30 Jun

Oh my gosh, can you hear the circus music playing yet…seriously this is a major trapeze/acrobatic/high-wire act to be accomplished today.  I think this is exactly the kind of day I was thinking of when this blog came to mind. 

Waking up at ten til eight, I realized we were already destined to be late for 8:00 swim practice.  Dash away…dash away…  Baby girl breaks down after being advised that since cousins are sick playdate has been canceled.  Dash away…dash away…  Off to practice and following a bit of chit-chat with moms and dads and helping around the pool, baby girl breaks down because children have teased her.  Dash away…dash away…  Hugs and hugs and hugs and negotiate detente between a 5, 6 and 8 year old – All is well as we work collectively to rescue a pool-side catapillar… baby caterpillar.  Dash away…dash away…  Big boy gets out of the pool, “Let’s go, I’m done.”  Hmm thinks me, “What about cupcakes and your meet ribbons.”  – “Don’t need ribbons.  Don’t like cupcakes.”  Dash away…dash away…  Off to the house, pleas coming from the back seat – take us to the pool. (Ummm where did we just leave from)  Promises to consider it “if we have time”.  Dash away…dash away…  Must get ready for tomorrow mornings weekend camping trip – groceries, packing, gear.  Dash away…dash away…  Check email to discover new writing assignment has come in and will need to write up to four articles on bankruptcy by the end of the day.  Dash away…dash away…  Experience a Total Recall moment and realize that the “school” is going to have to be emptied of 20 boxes of books and piles of lumber to accomodate camp – has to happen today.  Dash away…dash away…  Realization that I have 105 minutes until I have to be dropping off the big boy to “hang-out” with friends – my only real helper.  Dash away…dash away…  Realize that I have promised a bank trip to a customer and must process business payments today.  Dash away…dash away…   WHERE ARE THE DERNED REINDEER!

I will tell you the part that is probably most disturbing about this entire scenario is 1)I think I can do it or 2)I think it might be a good day.  But if you find me strung up from the top of my circus tent hanging by one leg and one arm…it isn’t part of the routine and I may need a little help.

I’m hoping all of you have an awesome day and have a moment to make it fun!

Back in the Swing…

25 Jun

Just a couple of minutes again…I see a theme developing.  These days we are waking up at an ungodly hour (for me) of 7:00 AM.  Now for many folks this might not be a big deal, but in my world, this is summertime.  The only time of year that we should be able to lounge around in pajamas until noon.  The only time that I should not have to scrape myself out of bed so that I can assault each of my sleeping children out of their beds.  They, however, wake up cheerfully with the knowledge they are heading to the pool.  I have come to terms with the idea of it, but do have a mental countdown calendar in my head until practice is over.  Until that time I have succumbed and accepted every morning I will wait poolside for two hours and each Thursday night we will dedicate to dive meets and then each Monday night will be devoted to swim meets.  Thank goodness this all ends come August.  Then the sudden realization hits – August is when football and cheerleading practice begins in the fall.  At least this is an evening activity.  Why are we so happy to do things when we see those sweaty smiles?

Well it appears that I am going to have less than my fifteen minutes this time…A swimsuit clad girl is hovering over me with a disapproving look and commenting “are we going to leave soon”.  After a brief disagreement on whether it takes 10 or 15 minutes to get to the pool, I have decided not to push my luck lest I have to endure the disapproving look when we slide into swim practice 5 minutes late…again.