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Entries in Marriage/Family (43)


Marriage Help, Déjà Vu Style

Here is a repeat of something I wrote a couple of years ago (in blog years, that's a lifetime), slightly edited, that is still very true.

My husband is a simple man, but he's not a simpleton. His advice is often very simple, and to an over-analytical woman like me, occasionally has sounds a little too simple. It can't be that easy; we must discuss it more; we must understand it more; we must find other ways to look at it.

I remember an occasion many years ago when we had a conflict about something and I was quite upset over the whole matter, mostly at our inability to find consensus.  Being the over reactor I am, I concluded that we must need professional help.  My husband's answer?  We just need to forgive each other, and treat each other as we would want to be treated, consider the other more esteemed, and obey Christ in our marriage.

Can it be that simple?  Isn't there more?  Don't we need some kind of analysis from an expert to point out every jot and tittle of weakness?  Isn't there a book we need to consult before we can even begin to solve things?

Yes, there is something more: the "something more" needed is to just do it.  To obey.  No, it isn't easy.  It means swallowing my pride.  That's often a big bite to swallow.

When I look back, I think there is been too many times when I expended more energy than was necessary looking for the perfect answer rather than taking the more simple approach.  Maybe he was on to something.   Maybe I should have spent more time reading this:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself bybecoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.(Phil 2:3-9)


The best example of what marriage should be

My next door neighbour is 90 years old. He's been living in his house since it was built, almost 50 years ago. He can remember when there were no houses behind us, but rather empty fields.

He has amazing energy for a man his age. He walks his dog twice a day, drives away in his car to run errands, and mows his own lawn. I noticed about four years ago how he when he began his fall leaf collection procedures, he would bring a lawn chair into the yard with him. The lawn chair is for taking rest breaks as he blew the leaves in a pile, mulched them, and then bagged them.

This spring, as he began his lawn clean up, I noticed that he was in his chair more than out of it. He doesn't take help well.

Last night he was out in his yard, and my husband went to chat with him. We already knew this, but his wife has the beginning of Alzheimer's. He does all the housework and cooking, apparently. He told my husband she asks him the same thing five times in the space of a few minutes. They do have a son who visits them, but I don't know how often. 

When my husband came in last night, he said that our neighbour, for the first time, didn't seem as quick to reject any help with his lawn this year. This is a good opportunity to serve someone, and I hope we are able to do that. But more than that, this man is alone. His wife is slipping away from him. He's 90 years old; how many of his friends are even alive? I felt sobered as I thought about what would happen should he be the one who some day has a heart attack, and she is left alone in the house, confused and scared. 

This man is very cheerful; all of the time. He is committed to caring for his wife. I'm sure he would rather have her at home than somewhere else. It might be easier for him if he didn't have to care for her, but she's not going anywhere. 

This is where marriage ends: with old, frail people.

When we think of marriage, what do we consider most important? Equality? Submission? Control? Communication? 

How often do we ask ourselves this: will there be someone there with me should I slip into mental confusion?

My neighbour could teach a lot of men a thing or two about commitment. When couples think their marriage is going to fall apart because this or that thing won't go their way, I think perhaps they need a dose of having a spouse who relies on them physically. That's where the real lessons about commitment come into action. When we were young married women, we may have thought our husbands were committed to us becuase they'd let us pick the movie. It goes so much deeper than that. Do I have a husband who will do for me what my neighbour is doing for his wife?

I know I do, and I'm grateful for that. And I'm thankfulf for the example of this man. It's humbling to know him.

I'm thankful God has put us next to this couple, and I'm thankful for opportunities to help. They are the kind of example we see less and less these days.


Middle age and inactivity

In the past month, since I broke my wrist, there has been a certain amount of frustrating inactivity. I won't complain, though. I have the promise of this ending, so the frustration of not being able to wash the windows on a nice day isn't earth-shattering. The fact that I have to get my shopping-phobic husband to take me for groceries will not be a concern after next week.

I am by disposition someone who doesn't like to be idle for long. While I do love to spend a few hours lost in a good book, I enjoy it much more when the house is in order and the laundry is folded. I don't think I'm as bad as my father or the next door neighbour, whom we call "The Veteran." He's 90 years old, and still drives (well, I might add) and walks his dog twice a day. On Monday, I saw him in his yard, with a lawn chair, sitting down and picking up twigs to put in a yard waste bag. Even if I had two good arms, had I offered to help him, he would have been offended. I'm not that bad.

But being aimless, without any specific thing to tackle, is hard for me. That is why I know that some day, should I be terminally ill, the illness won't kill me, but the discouragement of being able to do nothing might.

Recently, I was remembering how busy I was when the kids were being homeschooled. It was a good kind of busy, because it was domestic and inellectual. There was the challenge of details, but there was the always present thought of how to tweak the curriculum, the hope of really good materials, and ways to achieve goals. My mind worked fast, and I seemed to have a lot to say. Life was very focused. I knew exactly what my resonsibilites were every day.

With adult children and a big empty house, it's not always so clear. As my husband reminds me, my job is to live in a God-glorifying way. That's the big picture, and I know that. Without specifics, sometimes, I find myself at odds. What is my purpose? Where do I fit? Who cares what a wet blanket, 49 year old woman has to say? It's a young woman's world these days.

Sure, I could get a job, but I have seen what happens with women my age who go back to work, "part-time" they say. It turns into being away from home more than one wants. It means spending money on work clothes, on gas, on convenience food.

It means becoming unavailable. I know women who are so busy between their jobs and their service at church that there are completely unavailable when there is an unexpected need. I want to be available. I want to be able to visit my kids, or be here for them when they want to come home. Lord willing, I want to be a grandmother who knows her grandchildren.

Many afternoons, as I become aware of the quiet in the house, it occurs to me that this time in my life is a respite. I'm in a place of limbo, almost. I don't have grandchildren yet, nor are any of my children married. Both sets of parents are healthy. I have so much freedom. And while I like it, I often feel its weight. 

Young mothers with small children aren't the only ones who need encouragement.

A woman whose children are gone from home need to be reminded to find God in the every day moments; in the quiet moments, on the days when no one is coming home for dinner, and when she hasn't uttered a word to anyone other than her dog since her husband left for work. It is very easy for a woman to stop rejoicing in the Lord when she sits in an empty house all day long. Discouragement can come to women in all sorts of places; frantic and busy ones, and silent ones.

In response to this quiet life, I do what I have always done: I put my head down and I keep busy. I study. A lot. I read. A lot. I prepare my Bible lessons. I listen to sermons. I take pictures. And I find ways to serve others, whether it is a meal for a friend just out of the hospital, or a note to someone who needs encouragement.

This is a time of quiet. Like hibernating, I guess. What will I take away from this time? Will I waste it? I don't want to to. Whatever this time is for, I feel compelled to learn as much about God as I can.

Perhaps days are coming when that will be especially necessary. 

In the meantime, I'm thankful for this little piece of the world and for the God who has blessed me so abundantly.


Are we preparing them for illness?

Recently I came across the blog of Evan Welcher. If you're not familiar with him, he's a young man dealing with some pretty sobering circumstances, the illness of his wife. I read his post about keeping the "I Do" in marriage, while I blubbered over my keyboard. I'm not one to cry like that, but this really got to me. Of course, this post was widely shared, and it was worthy of being shared.

I thought about when I was engaged, and my husband and I were counseled. Did anyone prepare us for illness? Not really. There were the inevitable issues of submission, communication, and keeping the romance alive, but nothing about illness. We don't expect newlyweds to deal with serious illness, but they do.

Now that I'm fast approaching 50, I think about this more with regard to my husband and me, but I never once considered it in those first heady days of being newly married. I didn't need to think about think about serious illness or death; not yet. But we all know that young people get ill and young couples cope with very difficult situations. I think those who do could give some very sound counsel to other young couples. Being prepared for the typical marital issues is fine, but I don't think it would be wrong to prepare couples for how to cope with illness. There's more to marriage than power struggles over the toothpaste, or toilet paper roll, or whether or not the mother goes back to work full-time when babies come. Illness is no respecter of persons; it strikes anyone.

A number of years ago, my father-in-law had a serious fall. His feet landed on a concrete patio as he fell from a ladder. His heels were crushed. There was no possible way to set the bones. It was a matter of patiently waiting to heal. There was pain and there was recovery and there was therapy at the end of the road. There was my mother-in-law nursing him back to health. She coped beautifully. She was prepared, though. And I think she was so prepared because she knew that marriage can involve suffering, and she knew who her God is. She was able to see the situation within the sovereignty of God. She did not work diligently to nurse him back to health because she believes in gender roles for men and women (although, she does); she did so because she loves her husband, accepted that this was part of married life. Should a day come when the roles are reversed, he will do the same. 

It's exciting to get married. We are on top of the world, anticipating making a home with our beloved. It's an adventure. Yes, it is a process to learn good communication skills and submission to the Lord and to one another. But it's also wise to prepare a young couple for potential illness. It may not come like what is happening with the Welchers, but it will come. Perhaps it will come when an expectant mother requires bed rest because she's fighting blood pressure issues when she's pregnant. Maybe a husband hurts his back, and it's months until he's recovered. Or maybe someone finds himself/herself struggling with a spouse with mental illness. The kind of commitment and selflessness that those situations demand is quite different than trying to live with the battle over the wet towels on the bathroom floor.

My husband and I have not struggled with any serious illness. The most serious was when he had his appendix out and when I had a Cesarean with my second child. But those were trying times for both of us. I'm thankful God gave us the grace to get through them. But there will be more. My husband's best friend from high school died from a massive heart attack this past year at the age of 52. Death and illness are not something "they" deal with or is far in the future. Understanding God's sovereign will in suffering is not something we have to reserve until we're in the situation. Now is as good a time as any. 

Have any of you read any good books about coping with suffering? If you have, I'd love to hear about them.


Don't give my husband romance lessons, thank you

My closest friend and I had a chuckle yeserterday about something she'd read regarding how men can keep the romance alive in their marriages. It was written from a Christian perspective, so there wasn't anything nasty in there.

I am not an overly romantic person, and that's good, because my husband isn't the type, either. And that's okay with us. If he was to sit down, at candlelight, look into my eyes, and recite poetry, we'd both end up laughing. We love candlelight, but we have never been what I would call romance lovers.

That isn't to say that he hasn't done things that are romantic. When we'd been married twenty years, between him and a friend of mine, a plan was hatched for me to visit her in California. He did all of the arranging himself. That was romantic. For him, having Rice Pudding for dessert fosters romance. Maybe we're weird.

Last night, after my husand read what I had read, he took up one of the author's suggestions to sing to me, and he began to belt out "Unchained Melody," and in a strange twist of irony, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." After the pets ran away and hid, he stopped. Most of the time when my husband sings to me, he does it to generate laughter.

After the furor died down, my husband looked at me and asked me seriously, "Would you ever want me to do any of those things?"

I told him without hesitation, no. And I told him that what is the most romantic thing to me is twofold: consistency and follow-through. My husband is one of the most consistent people I know. Relationships with moody people are hard. I don't do those kind well. He is not moody. And when he isn't juggling forty things at work, his follow-through is great. I have a husband who calls me almost every night shortly after 5:00 to ask me if I need anything before he leaves the office. How romantic is that?

In talking to my adult children about matters of the heart, I point them regularly to those two qualities. It is essential for both husband and wife. I dated someone who was unpredictable and moody. Those things were what made me look closely and realize that we were not compatible. Romance may take work, but the effects are often fleeting and need to be conjured up again tomorrow. Romance is subjective. Consistency fosters security and trust. When a man stands before God and his family and vows to love his wife as himself, and as Christ loved the church, he'd better know a thing or two about being consistent, because "until we are parted by death," can be a long time. A lot longer than it might take to scratch out a few lines of poetry. If a woman really wants the poetry, then, yes, her husband might want to give it a try. But not every woman wants a poem.

The suggestion to keep the romance alive in a marriage is a good one. But the best piece of advice a man could give another man, in my opinion is this: know who your wife is. If a man knows his wife well, talks to her, listens to her, and watches her, he'll know what is romantic to her and what isn't.