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Entries in Marriage/Family (43)


Wills and life insurance policies, a teachable moment

My husband and I have been in the process of updating our wills and life insurance policies. While we went through this procedure, it of course made me think about what would happen if my husband was to die. None of us is assured tomorrow, and last fall, my husband's best friend from high school and our best man at our wedding died at 53 from a heart attack. His widow didn't expect to be parenting three teenagers on her own. Life insurance gives you financial comfort; the practical, day to day things are probably a lot harder.

I watched my husband recently lean an extension ladder against the house to clean leaves from the eaves troughs (translation for other cultures outside of Canada: gutters). I hate ladders. I'm thankful for his willingness and lack of fear of heights to do such a thing.

The sun roof in my car has been leaking. My son, while borrowing my car for a few weeks, was rained upon in a drive-through because of it. After scouring the internet for help, my husband found some sites with direction on how to remedy this. This entails basically taking apart the ceiling of my car. Did you know that sun roofs are expected to leak? Their success lies in proper drainage. Hence, I will never have a sun roof again.

I'm glad I don't have to do that. I'm thankful for little things like that. In addition to that, my husband is my best friend. He is the one I trust the most. He understands me. He puts up with my frailties in a way that no other friend (other than Christ, of course) can do. Sometimes, our relationship reminds me of this song. I do try to build friendships, but every now and then, I wonder, "What would I do if I didn't have him?"

It's a good question to ask. I can sit here today and proclaim that God is good and has provided for me, but if my husband died this afternoon, how easily would such praise come? In the face of shock and grief, how would I be? Would my emotions control me? It's one thing to say, "Oh, yes, I would be fine. God would be there with me," but we don't know exactly do we? It would be a time of testing.

In the past couple of years, I have learned a lot from women who are single. Whether they're widowed, divorced, or just single, I have seen how they handle such things on their own. It often shames me, because I'm prone to complain. How would I like to handle things alone?

This past summer, when my boys got in a car accident and we found ourselves, at midnight, en route to a hospital, only knowing that one son was out of the car, and the other was trapped inside, with chest pain, was one thing with my husband by my side; but what if I had been like our friend who was widowed last year, facing things alone? Yes, we have friends who would help out, but no one supports me in the way my husband does. It would not be easy. It would be a test of my faith. It's always much easier to rejoice when things are going well.

It has caused me to regularly evaluate my heart. How much is my trust based on my circumstances? How much easier is it to say such things with a living husband? And it has caused me to change how I pray. I'm learning to pray regularly for strength to face trials that haven't even come yet, to pray for God to help my unbelief, my fickle heart, and my self-involvement. We don't always see our own sin, but guaranteed, if we ask God, he will show it to us.

And it will be a kindness to us in the long run.


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.