Yesterday we celebrated the life and love of my husband’s dad, here with his bride in 1961. They celebrated 50 years of marriage last month, and on Monday, he went to meet his Creator. And in his passing from the land of the dying to the land of the living, we have seen the hand of God on his life. Now he knows fully, even as he is fully known. I will return next week to a regular posting schedule, and until then may you embrace the glimpses of eternity that show up in the smallest of ways, and may you celebrate this life as a mere shadow of the one to come.
Folding the clothes is a gift today — this blessed act of normal, the sweet scent of detergent. I didn’t even complain when I put them away, typically the part where I dream of having a robot who can do it for me. But today, I have savored the cotton, sorted the pinks, matched the socks with care, nary a robot thought in sight.
We know there’s a time for everything, but it’s easier to accept the time for birth than it is the time for death. My father in law is entering into the last weeks of his appointed time and there is sadness in the knowing. But aren’t we all approaching that time, living one day closer to our last? He may get there first, but we’ll all get there eventually. Everyone has a living story, and we’re watching as his comes to an end. And we begin to count the gifts with every word spoken. When someone says I love you when they’re dying, it seems to mean more than in the middle of their living.
But why? Perhaps because we know we’ve forgotten to remember the sweetness of those words in the busy, and it’s only here at the end where we pause long enough to realize how heavy they are with grace and blessing. We say each of these last days is a gift, but so are all the ones that came before. We try to pack more meaning in the ends and beginnings of things, but I wonder if the Lord sees them all the same?
Her moment of birth bursts with the same amount of blessings as a Thursday afternoon six years later when she comes home from school and plops her bag on the floor.
Isn’t the day we said I do filled with the same kind of magic as ten years later when we pass the beans and biscuits around our Kmart table? Isn’t her first day of kindergarten equally as monumental as the 22nd day and the 76th day and the last? Because in each of those days, she lives and she moves and she is. Eternity is not for later.
He weaves eternity into our minutes. Everyday, he is creating minute after minute, and he hands us the grace we need for each one as they come. Worry and anxiety show up when we try to rush ahead into the minutes that haven’t been made yet. And we try to manage the future inside a time that doesn’t even exist, and we wonder why it makes our stomach hurt.
When we stepped off the elevator for the first time on the Palliative Care Unit last week, I had the distinct feeling of the presence of God. This is a place where heaven touches earth. It was real, palpable, comforting. But heaven touches earth in my living room, too. In my bedroom and in my front yard and on top of the Empire State Building and on an island in the middle of the sea and in the cardboard houses in Manila and on my front porch. Heaven touches earth every minute, when I touch my husbands hand and look into his eyes, when the girls whisper goodnights and I love you’s and the boy makes a mess with toy airplanes and crayons. Heaven is touching earth right now. But sometimes it takes endings for us to see it.
We’ve been talking for over a month now about how art is more than cutting and pasting and paint; we’re talking about being people who actually live as though we believe we are creative and courageous. And that comes out in all kinds of ways.
Today, I’m writing over at (in)courage about how my willingness to embrace this creativity is influencing the way I see things – specifically time with my husband. I would love to have you join me there.
Scooper lives in the Southeast with her husband of fifteen years, three children, and much laundry. Once a history professor, she’s now a stay-at-home mom, having traded in a college classroom for school around the kitchen table. She enjoys writing, photography, books, strong coffee, running at daybreak, and anyone who can make her laugh.
For months, I prayed that I wouldn’t throw up or cry as I floated down the aisle to meet him. I didn’t want mascara dripping down my face or nausea ruining my dress. I didn’t want to be a mess. I wanted to be perfect. Looking back, I probably saw God’s answer to my superficial prayers as a good sign that life would be a lovely storybook . . . just like that day.
Fifteen years later, I still have the dress and the photographs. What I don’t have is a story that matches the one I envisioned on August 12, 1995. We spoke heartfelt vows and lit symbolic candles. The minister said, What God has joined together, let not man separate, but I hardly noticed. Love is blinding like that.
Life would surely be as pretty as we looked on that day. Marriage would be one extended date night. And when kids came along we would spend weekends strolling through the park and licking ice-cream cones and gazing into one another’s eyes as we pushed picture-perfect children back and forth on the swings.
My dreams did not include marriage being harder than I ever imagined and life bringing so much unexpected pain and stress. We enjoyed many good and happy times but as the years rolled by, problems became apparent. Parenthood brought us closer but it ushered new challenges into our marriage as well. Sleep-deprivation only intensified the crazy. We fought and made up but never actually resolved anything significant.
Despite being Christians and going to church, we stubbornly navigated through life and its unfolding drama in our own strength, a rocky marriage simply a by-product of the sludge that simmered deep down below the surface.
Of course the problem was never with me. And the more self-righteous I became, the more he withdrew. And the more he withdrew, the more expectations I issued out of desperation and control. The cycle went on like that until it became our normal.
But “dysfunctional normal” can’t last forever. For me, the uglier things became at home, the harder I worked to maintain a shiny and presentable facade. I hoped for the glittery exterior to magically seep down into the ugly deep and wash it clean. I thought life would return to pretty when this or that circumstance went away.
My lonely and entitled self sought comfort in a million different lies. We should never have married. He’ll never change. I’m right. We married too young. This isn’t what I signed up for. We’re being punished for something.
The story is complicated but in February 2006 it reached a climax. We legally separated with fragile hope that it would be temporary. And though it sounds ironic, we still deeply loved each other. There was so much to fight for: children, family, the covenant of marriage. But for six months we lived apart and it was hell.
I’d spent years frantically trying to keep up appearances. Those days were over and relief flooded my whole being. We were a mess and I didn’t care if the whole world knew. Pretense is terribly exhausting. I was ready to put that precious energy into saving my marriage.
Words I’d hardly noticed 11 years prior revisited me like a forgotten but faithful friend: What God has joined together . . .
In the midst of a blurry and complicated existence, truth began to shine ever brighter; ultimately it was truth that set me free. God, in his sovereignty and goodness, brought us together. It sounds simplistic but it was all I needed to know.
Even the simplest truth holds power to root out a houseful of lies, lies that had long pursued me. In times of anger, confusion, and fear, I’d found solace in their supposed believability. The lies made me the center of the universe so that I could cast all blame on a guiltier party.
Thankfully, truth and lies cannot coexist. A house divided cannot stand and mine had all but collapsed. God had brought us together. That simple truth inspired profound hope. Desperate and white-knuckled, I clung to it one day at a time.
Slowly we rebuilt. The miracle of restoration began to prop us back up and piece us together. Repentance and forgiveness brought freedom and put our marred union on a path toward healing. Faithful loved ones, generous neighbors, and our church came alongside us to provide love and support that still overwhelms my heart with gratitude.
It was a process. We are still in process. Daily I battle fear and doubt. All those lies taken captive? Well, some days a few of them get loose and come back to visit. Practicing truth takes just that: practice.
My faith was at times non-existent. Even now, it can be shaky. But his word says that if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). It’s backwards to me but I’ve learned that His ways are usually like that. He brings life out of death, freedom out of surrender, redemption out of brokenness, faith out of unbelief.
God knew what He was doing 15 years ago even though we didn’t. He had brought us together and by His lavish grace…
We still are.
Oh, Scooper. What a fantastic, genuine, beautiful post about real love, the messy kind that takes choice and work. I love this post and am thankful for Scooper’s willingness to share it with us today. To find out more about her, visit her blog, A La Mode. PS? Today is her 15th wedding anniversary. Go congratulate her!
As wives, we have great power. We can build kingdoms or tear them down with our words alone. I’ve been thinking about this influence over the past few weeks, as we celebrated nine years of marriage last month. It has taken me this long to begin to believe, really believe, that he loves me like he’s always said.
I know it doesn’t make sense. Of course he loves you, they say, he’s your husband! But I have filters, you see. Those filters sift through his words (or non-words) to find evidence of contradiction. I usually find what I’m looking for. And it isn’t fair to him. He is a simple man, a loving man. And he is a man. He doesn’t complicate things like I do, and he doesn’t say love things if he doesn’t mean them. What logical man would do that?
Gradually, over the years, I’ve dared to trust him, to believe him, and even riskier, to act like it’s true. Not only that, I’m learning what it means to invite him to love me in the ways I feel loved rather than grumble and pick and complain.
We have great influence. Sometimes I discount it, because it’s easier to believe that what I say or how I say it doesn’t matter. It is actually easier to believe untruths about myself and my influence than it is to believe the opposite. When that low opinion of myself gets in the way, watch out, because havoc will ensue.
I read this morning in Roy H. Williams Monday Morning Memo a reminder of the truth about why God made a wife for the man. She wasn’t just his helpmate or assistant. The literal Hebrew translation in Genesis says that she was made to be his ezer kenegdo, or a strength opposite him, a power facing him, a rescue that looks him in the face. What if we dared to believe that was true? Would it change anything?
With the sun dipping behind the trees and the dinner dishes still on the table, I watched her grab her purse. As she headed for the back door, he grabbed his keys and joined her, hand on the small of her back. We’re going for a ride. Wanna come?
I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do less than go for a ride with my parents in the backseat of their non-radio-listening car. No thanks. They would just ride around, she sitting there pleased like Ms. Daisy, he driving slow like an old man. At least that’s how my fourteen year old mind saw things. What a waste of time! How boring!
And then? (You know what’s coming). Last week, I got old and boring. After The Man and I had dinner at a place I don’t even remember now, we got in his car and we drove around. We made a big loop around our side of the city, he driving slow like an old man, me sitting like Ms. Daisy, only in front. With the windows down, the air had a cool sweetness reserved for early summer. I was ever so pleased to watch our town roll by shaded gold by the evening light. Even the rundown buildings looked like art.
As I soaked in those minutes with my Love in that quiet car, I thought of them. I saw my parents as if I was in the car with them that day rather than on my bed on the phone with Heather, Bryan Adams signing from my red boom box. I saw them as peers for a moment, comrades surviving the battles of parenthood, lovers needing a little time and space away from the dirty dishes and maybe even the kids. It took me nineteen years, but I think I get it now.
Is there something you finally see as a gift? Is there a moment you would like to unwrap here with us? The guidelines for Tuesdays Unwrapped can be found here. In summary, link up with the permalink to your unwrapped post, or your link will sadly be deleted. I would also ask, as a courtesy, that you would please link back here to Chatting at the Sky by either using the button or a text link somewhere in your post. Thank you.
Quick note: If you are interested in submitting a guest post but did not get an email from me, send me an email at emily(at)chattingatthesky(dot)com with ‘Guest Post’ in the subject line and I will send you the guidelines. (And ps. you don’t have to have a blog to write a guest post!)
Today, we celebrate grace and forgiveness and watching movies on the couch. We celebrate what was before, when life together was new and all about us. We celebrate what is now, with kids and blurry days of task and sit-down dinners and one-more-story. And we celebrate what will be, the future that always seems far off and later, but is to me this day. Because this life we have now, with all its messy and unexpected, is the lovely future that this dreamer always hoped to live.
Do you have a minute to stop and chat at the sky? Link up below to share with us what it is you are celebrating this day, be it simple, messy, lovely or grand.
When this week is done, the hectic will begin to slow and we will settle in to the slower rhythm of summer. At least, that is what I tell myself. The busy season of youth ministry is really just beginning. But summer is a sweet time of it with the seniors still around but not in school anymore, mid-week lunches and weekend trips.
Having three young kids doesn’t allow much flexibility for me to join them on those trips, but I am learning to embrace my role of supporter and background pray-er as he goes away with them. There is always a twinge of left-out sad that doesn’t disappear when we grow up, surprisingly. But for the most part, summers are good times. And I’m looking forward to this one.
I don’t talk much here about The Man’s job because it’s his job and well, you know. That also means I don’t talk much about our church here because church is The Man’s job. But today, I’m talking about both.
Our church values students. I love that there are over 200 of them going on a 10 day service trip in June along with 50 volunteer staff. There was a line of adults who wanted to go on this trip because of how much they love these teenagers. I love that these students serve on Sunday mornings by volunteering in the nursery, making the coffee in between services or running video cameras in big church.
Youth ministry is our job. But I can’t imagine doing anything else, even if it wasn’t.
Want to know something I do not love? I do not love that every year, we have to say goodbye to a whole bunch of them. See those students there on that stage? They are some (yes, only some) of our seniors who will be graduating in the next few weeks. Leaving, moving on, growing up. Not only do I not love saying goodbye to them, I think I might hate it.
As our kids get a little older, it’s becoming easier for me to slowly ease back into the lives of these students. This class in particular. I can’t really think about them leaving without tearing up.
So I don’t really think much about them leaving. Not yet. But that is the thing about youth ministry. They always grow up and move on. And then we get a new freshman class to keep for four more years.That’s the only good part.
What a blessing it is to know them. I can’t imagine being the parent of one of these graduates. I’m having a hard enough time sending the twins to kindergarten.
I know this is entirely unrelated to this post, but scroll down to enter the I Heart Faces photo contest this week. The theme is “your best face photo ever” and you should all enter because it’s so fun!