Monday, December 17, 2012

MARRIAGE MINUTE #5: Laugh With Each Other

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;  Ecclesiastes 3-4

Marriage Minute #5:  Laugh with each other!

My heart still aches for those 20 precious little souls lost on Friday in that horrific tragedy.  I really can’t stop thinking about it.  I’m still asking God for direction, because I feel like there’s so much more that can be done, but for now, I’m just praying—for ways we can change, for guidance, for wisdom, for peace, for fear to melt away, for an increase in faith and for joy.  Even though I have no idea how a mother could ever recover from something like that.   And I certainly don’t have a clue as to how a mother could ever laugh again or dance again, but God does, and I will pray that God will abundantly bless those families with unexpected joy and laughter at unexpected times and bring upon them a glimpse of hope and normalcy.  God did this for me and my husband when we were going through a very difficult time.  And if anyone ever told me that I was going to find something to laugh about in the midst of having a miscarriage, I would have thought they were crazy.  But it’s not crazy…it’s God.      
I had been trying unsuccessfully for a baby for years and when I finally got pregnant in 2007 after over 4 years of trying, I was so excited.  I couldn’t believe it.  This was it.  This baby was such a huge answer to prayer.  At 6 weeks, I began to bleed.  Just a little.  I kept telling myself that it was nothing.  Just some spotting.  I called my doctor on my lunch hour and she said to come in right after school.  I still had to teach 2 more classes which was very difficult to do, but as soon as the bell rang and I waved good-bye to my students, I flew out the door…in tears.  I was driving to the doctor’s office…in tears.  I walked in to the waiting room…in tears.  I filled out some paper work…in tears.  I was asked to pee in a cup…in tears.  I had to get an ultrasound…in tears.  There was nothing there.  No baby.  No heartbeat.  Nothing.  Dr. Stephanie tried to be hopeful and said that it may just be too early to see anything, and that I would need to wait to determine if it was a miscarriage or not.  She told me to go home and rest but if the bleeding became heavier or I experienced cramping, I was to head straight to the emergency room.  I left the doctors office…in tears.  I drove home…in tears.  I hugged my husband…in tears.  I sat on the couch all night…in tears.  I knew.

Supporting former Illini Player, Deron Williams, at the Utah Jazz Game
Just a couple years before this night, Brad and I realized that we needed to have something in common.  Something that we enjoyed doing together.  So we started watching basketball together which happened to be the year that Illinois was amazing and ended up making it to the championship game—Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Roger Powell, Luther Head…you know the team.  Brad and I have bonded over basketball ever since.  And when Deron Williams got drafted to the Utah Jazz, we became Utah Jazz fans.  Big ones.  We even bought the NBA Ticket and watched every game together (we didn’t have kids yet).  We even flew out to Utah to go to a game together.  It’s just what we needed.  To have something that we could do together…to talk about…to get excited about…to laugh about…it was great.  And it still is (too bad Illinois has stunk since then—maybe this year will be different, we’ll see).  So how does basketball fit in with this story? 
Skiing in Utah

Because as I sat on the couch after coming home from the doctor…in tears, Brad and I turned on the last Utah Jazz game of the season.  The game was not going in our favor and in the meantime, my condition got worse.  The bleeding became really heavy and I had severe cramping, so Brad took me to the emergency room… in tears.  They did blood work to find out if I indeed miscarried and we waited…in tears.  And waited…in tears…and waited…in tears.  Finally we were waiting so long to find out something that I already knew the answer to, so I asked Brad to turn on the Jazz game…in tears.  I sat there watching it for a while…in tears.  Then suddenly, out of nowhere…laughter.  Brad looked at me funny… wondering why after hours of tears…knowing that I most likely had miscarried…why would I be laughing?  He didn’t say anything to me at first.  Then, I started giggling to the point that I couldn’t stop.  Brad had to ask what was so funny.  And through the laughter, I told him…

“If anyone came in the room right now, they would think, ‘Poor lady, she’s having a miscarriage and all her husband cares about is watching the basketball game!  What an insensitive jerk.’  They would have no idea that I was the one who asked you to turn on the game.  They would totally blame you and feel so bad for me.” 

And the laughter continued.  Soon, we were both laughing.  Now, Brad couldn’t stop laughing either.  I wanted to see our team play, so we sat in the emergency room watching our team together…holding hands…laughing.  And in that moment, we found peace.  Peace in that no matter what happened, we had each other.  We were there for each other.  This bible is right...there is a time for everything.  And that night was a time to weep together and a time to laugh together.  The Jazz lost the game that night.  We lost our baby that night.  But in the midst of our pain, our sadness and our tears, God provided us with a very unexpected moment of laughter that we could share together. 

~Obviously, going to the ER that night, Brad and I didn’t think we would have ANYTHING to laugh about, but God was there through the agony to shine a glimpse of His light in and gave us a reason to laugh.  It’s something we still laugh about today.  That night bonded us together forever—because of the loss of our baby and because of the laughter we shared.  This week, I pray that you, too, will find unexpected bursts of laughter and joy in your marriage and in your life no matter what’s going on around you.  No matter what’s going on in our country right now.  No matter what’s going on in your marriage right now.  There is a time for everything, and I know we've all experienced weeping and mourning for this tragedy and for other things throughout our marriages and our lives, so I will be praying that it will soon be our time to laugh and to dance together!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Be the Change: A Mother's Heart Breaks for Connecticut and for this Nation

**Written 4 years ago right after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shootings...
“Be the Change You Wish To See in This World” Mahatma Gandhi
I am in tears.  My hands are shaking.  It took me 45 minutes longer to put my kids down for a nap today because I didn’t want to stop hugging them.  My 16 month old kept saying “nuggle” (snuggle) and so I did.  Every time she said “nuggle”, I hugged her a little tighter.  Tears were welling up in my eyes.  While I was snuggling with her, my 4 year old came over and asked me to put my arm around him while he hugged my leg.  It was then that I broke down crying.  Tears of sadness and heartbreak for all the moms who will never hug their child again.  Tears of joy for the gift of being a mother.  It was if they knew what had happened today in Connecticut.  It was if they knew that I needed to love on them a little more.  I love my kids so much that it makes my heart ache.  What can I do to change this world for them? 
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I cannot imagine how it must feel for the moms who lost their babies in the tragedy today.  I can’t even fathom the pain they must be going through.  As mothers, we are given such a special gift to hold our babies inside of us for so long.  And we love these gifts from God from the time we find out we’re pregnant.  No, I take that back.  We love them even before that---we love them from the time the desire is put into our hearts to be a mom.  And the love grows and grows as the baby grows.  We carry them in our wombs.  We endure sickness, pain, discomfort, weight gain, and we love it!  Why?  Because we are their mother even then and no other person can have that same closeness with them as we do.  We feel their every movement.  We take every little punch and kick.  We smile at every roll and twist and hiccup.  The bond that forms between a mother and her unborn baby is indescribable!  And then we give birth and we get to meet the little one who has been so much of a part of us for so long.  The little one that we have so much love for already.
Benjamin:  A Mom totally in love!
And I remember after my son, Ben, was born feeling overwhelmed with fear.  When he was inside of me, he was safe.  I knew that he was getting enough food and fluids and that he was totally protected from everything.  I just wanted to keep him in there.  But as soon as he was out, he was so exposed.  He was so little.  He was so helpless.  And it was now my job to protect him, and it scared me.  All the things that could happen to him flooded my mind.  And it hit me just how big of a responsibility being a parent is.  My husband and I were so surprised that no one from the hospital checked in on us to make sure that we were doing ok as parents.  But then I felt so much more secure when my motherly instincts kicked right in and I realized how strong and capable I was and how strong and resilient Ben was.  And, oh, how the love grows.  And you love your first child so much, you wonder if there's enough love in you for a second?  And there is....and then some!!! 

Abigail:  A Mom Realizing How Much Love She Has

With every inch they grew, my love grew.  With every inch our babies grow, a mother’s love grows.  And with every inch our babies grow, a mom’s protective instinct grows as well.  We want to protect them from harm; from illness.  We want to keep them safe.  I still struggle with fear about the safety of my kids---at the park, on playground equipment, riding in the car with someone else, staying with a babysitter or even at my parents’ house and just pretty much whenever they are away from me.  And as they grow, you realize how much more their lives are not just in your hands.  And when tragedies strike like the elementary school shooting in Connecticut, I go back and forth from complete empathy and sadness to total fear for the safety of my own kids.  “I am never sending my kids to public schools.”  “My kids are never leaving the house again.”  “They are always going to stay in my sight.”  None of which is possible.  None of which is the answer. 

Hear my prayer, Lord, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping.  Psalm 39:12
But, what is?  We have enough to worry about in dealing with the safety of our kids growing up in these dark times so what CAN we do to feel safe in this country?  What can we do to ensure that our children, whom we love so dearly, aren’t going to be shot just going to school or going to a movie theater or going to a Safeway to meet their Senator or going to the mall?  It’s starting to feel that no place in this country is safe for us or for our kids.  I don’t want to live in a country where everyone is afraid to tell the truth to someone for fear of being shot.  I don’t want to live in a country where a Principal or a teacher is too afraid to give a detention to a student for fear of being shot.  I don’t want to live in a country where a boss is too afraid to fire someone for fear of being shot.  I don't want to live in a country where a parent can't lovingly discipline their children for fear of being shot.  I don’t want to live in a country where you can’t do anything without the fear of being shot!   Why has the violence in our country gone to this level?  What is happening?  I’m just mad.  I’m frustrated.  I’m incredibly heart-broken.  I’m so fearful.  I’m anxious for what the future holds for my precious kids---for all of our precious kids.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:6

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6

So, what is the answer?  I don’t know.  Do we have metal detectors everywhere?  Armed guards in every school, movie theater, grocery store, mall and restaurant?  Or better yet, what is the cause?  I don’t know that either.   Is it violent video games?  Is it violent movies?  Is it over-medicating our kids?  Is it over-medicating ourselves?  Is it parents working too much?  Is it moms not being at home like they used to?  Is it the desire for money over family?   Is it that God isn’t at the center of every family? Or better yet, who do we blame?  I don’t know that either.  I’m sure all of our minds are scrambling to find something or someone to blame.  The shooters?  Their parents?  The guns?  The person who sold them the guns?  Our President?  Our country?  Ourselves?  And there may even be some of us blaming God. 
Something has to change, America!  We cannot live in fear.  I do not want to be the mom who wakes my son up for school for the last time.  I do not want to be the mom who helps get my daughter dressed for the last time.  I do not want to be a mom who eats breakfast with my kids for the last time.  I do not want to be the mom who kisses my boy for the last time.  I do not want to be the mom who waves good-bye to my girl on the school bus for the last time or drops her off at school for the last time.  And it’s just not right that any mom should have to experience the last time with a child!  It’s just not right that any mom should have to experience the loss of a child for any reason but especially not for this reason---a senseless, heartless, violent act of evil. 

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1
My heart breaks for the Connecticut moms who had to experience the last time today…the last moment with their child…the last memory…the last smile…the last hug…the last kiss…the last wave.  It’s just not fair!  A mother shouldn’t have to go through that.   No parent should.  And my heart breaks for this nation. 
Because I am so full of heart-break, anger and fear right now and because there are so many questions that I don’t know the answers to…I have stop my head from spinning for a minute to seek the truth.  And the only truth that I know and the only thing that gives me any peace at a time like this is to remind myself that God loves us.  God is saddened by what happened today.  And even though it’s hard for us to imagine, God loves our children even more than we do.  And if you’re a mother, that’s a lot of love!  So, instead of choosing anger or hatred or fear which come so easily when a tragedy like this happens...I am choosing to focus on two things:  God’s love and change.  I am going to pray for God's love to surround every mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, husband, wife, brother, sister, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, friend, or neighbor who was affected by this shooting in prayer, and ask God to surround them with His peace and comfort.  I am going to pray for God's love to surround our country and unite us all.  And I am going to pray for change!  All of us—together—have to focus on change in this country.  Positive...Godly...Change!!
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,just as in fact you are doing. 
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Love the Lord your God with all your heart; with all your soul; with all your strength; with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself.  Luke 10:27
Every single one of us needs to work together and seek God’s wisdom on how we, as individuals, can change to make ourselves better, our families better, our country better, our world better!  WE have to be the change that we want to see in this world!  I don't care how much we've heard the phrase, be the change, it is time for us all to live it!  To really, truly change.  To really, truly love.  To love more.  To pray.  To pray more.  To hug more.  To kiss more.  To encourage more.  To uplift more.  To appreciate more.  To laugh more.  To spend more time with family.  To have more joy.  To love our God more.  To be more content.  To make things simple.  To appreciate the little things.  To love our neighbor more.  To spend more time with our kids.  To be more forgiving.   To love ourselves more.  To be committed to making this world full of God’s love!  To be committed to being His Light in this world of darkness!  You need to be the change.  I need to be the change.  We all need to BE THE CHANGE!!!


Monday, December 10, 2012

MARRIAGE MINUTE #4: Respect Each Other in Your Words and Actions

“However, let each one of you love his
wife as himself,
 and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”   Ephesians 5:33


Respect Each Other in Your Words and Actions

I have to admit when I saw that “Respecting each other with your words and actions” was my marriage topic this week, my first reaction was “Ugh.  I was hoping for an easy one.”

Then I thought, why is this is such a hard topic for me?  Probably because I am incredibly guilty of not showing my husband respect in my words and actions.  Probably because it’s never easy to share the things that you have struggled with in the past and even still struggle with now.  Oh well, here we go…

Being married for over 12 years, and knowing each other for over 16 years, there is a level of comfort that goes along with knowing someone for so long.  That’s a great perk of marriage, right?  That your spouse is with you for everything no matter what?---the good, the bad, the ups, the downs, the best of you and the worst of you and even the gassy side of you, the no make-up, the unshaven legs, the feet that desperately need a pedicure (if you can ever afford it), the unwashed hair…well you get the point.  But when does being comfortable around one another cross the line from being comfortable and just being yourself and being disrespectful?

I hope you don’t get tired of hearing about the challenging times that Brad and I faced in our marriage, but I had a good conversation with a great friend today about how important it is to not always put our best foot forward especially when it comes to marriage and parenting, and so I’m putting my ugly, unpedicured foot forward for a minute to be real.  I crossed the line so many times from being comfortable with my husband to being just plain disrespectful in my words and in my actions.  

Brad and I had been married for 8 years before I got the wake-up call from God at how much of a snot I was to him (sorry, that’s really the best way for me to describe myself at that time.)  I complained a lot about his job and how little time we spent together.  (Hello?  See how important Love Languages are?)  Because of my frustration with him, I disrespected him.  I pointed out everything he didn’t do well or at least what didn’t meet my expectations.  I was ungrateful and condescending towards him in every possible way.  Some of it was said in sarcasm, but you know that most things said in sarcasm have a lot of truth behind them.  And frankly, I just said way too many things that just didn't need to be said. (I'm still working on that).  Oh, and the wonderful fights sparked by too much alcohol were just ugly.  I would wake up the next morning just fine and wonder why he was so mad at me.  Could it be that I said some really mean things to him and didn’t even really remember it?  Praise God for freeing me from this!

There were a lot of other factors that I was dealing with in our marriage like infertility, depression, insecurity, lack of trust, but that was no excuse for the lack of respect I showed my husband.  Even though we didn’t have kids at the time and we both worked as teachers, I didn’t really help him much with the house work.  I was too tired or I needed to grade papers or lesson plan, so he ended up doing a lot of it.  I remember one time, he was on his way home from a band concert that I didn’t go to because I didn’t like them (Hello? What about going to support your husband?).  Anyways, he called me on his way home saying that he didn’t have anything for dinner yet and he asked me to put on a can of soup for him.  I remember feeling very bothered that he would ask me to do this when I was lying comfortably on the couch watching tv while the house was a mess and laundry needed to be done.  I remember rolling my eyes and getting up off the couch, walking into the kitchen and opening a can of chili.  I put it in a pot and turned the stove on high and went back to lay down on the couch to finish my tv show.  Instead of walking in the door after a long day to a nice dinner and a cold beer waiting for him, he walked in to burning soup on the stove top.  “Oh sorry about that” I shouted from the couch.  I really don’t know what he ended up fixing himself for dinner that night.  I was too busy lying on the couch watching tv to care. 

Sadly, I could go on and on with more stories on both of our ends demonstrating how we didn’t respect each other in our words and actions.  All I can say is that I’m so grateful to God for not allowing our marriage to continue with such disrespect.  For giving us both the desire to change.  For giving us both the eyes to see in ourselves the things that were not of God.  For giving us the courage to face our ugliness and allowing God pull the beauty out of it.  Years later, after a year of counseling, learning our love languages and devoting ourselves to being more respectful towards one another, I did have the opportunity to redeem myself after the burned soup incident.  Brad called me on his way home from a long night at school and asked me to have some dinner made for him.  When he got home, I was waiting upstairs with hot pizza, cold beer in the Jacuzzi tub.  He still talks about that.  

Today, we are not perfect and we never will be, but we both work very hard to be respectful to each other, and it makes a huge difference not only in our marriage but also in the example we set as parents.  This week, I pray that you will ask God to allow you to see changes that you can make to be more respectful towards your spouse in what you say and do.  I pray that God will show you specific ways that you can bless your spouse, so instead of having a burned-soup-marriage, you can have a hot-pizza-cold-beer-waiting-in-the-Jacuzzi-tub marriage!  It’s so much more fun that way!

Monday, December 3, 2012

MARRIAGE MINUTE #3: Communicate

 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” 
 James 1:19

Marriage Minute #3:  Communicate--Find Out How You Communicate Best

Women are talkers.  In fact, there have been studies that show that women talk nearly 3 times more than men.  One source states that women speak 20,000 words in a day while men speak only 7,000 words.  However, recently, I have discovered some research that claims that this statistic is false and that women and men actually say nearly the same amount of words in a day.  No way!!!  Just ask my husband.  Just ask my brother.  Growing up, my mom would ask my older brother a question like, “How was the dance?”  His response…”Fine.”  My mom would ask me the same question, and I would tell her every detail—every song played, every song I danced to, every conversation I had, how I was feeling at every moment, what everyone wore, what the decorations looked like, who chaperoned, where we all went afterwards…well, I think you get my point.  I don’t care what the new research says, I truly believe that women talk more than men do. 

Regardless of who talks more, in a marriage, the important thing is that you talk.  Brad and I learned two ways that we communicate best and get out the “tough stuff”. 

1.       Writing Letters or Emails:  While going through some very challenging times in our marriage, we realized that talking face to face was not the best way for us to communicate.  We would interrupt each other too much.  We would get angry.  We would always end up yelling or fighting and so we decided to write.  Writing for us allowed each of us to really stop and think about what we wanted to say.  Writing allowed us to get all of our thoughts and feelings out without the other person jumping in before we had a chance to finish.  Writing gave us more freedom to express ourselves honestly and openly.  But the writing was just the starting point…it was a way for us to begin a difficult conversation and give the other person a chance to think and pray about a response.  Then we both felt ready to have a face to face conversation and commit to resolving it together.  I highly recommend writing--especially if you have a lot of things you’ve been wanting to say but haven’t or if you don’t seem to get anywhere during a tough conversation.

2.      Sunday Night Chat:  Again when we were going through some difficulties in our marriage and especially after having kids, we realized that we needed to set aside some time where we talked…really talked.  So we picked one night a week where we sat down together after the kids were in bed---no kids, no tv, no computer, no sounds---just us.  It was during this time that we checked in on how we were doing, how we were feeling, and we gave each other the opportunity to safely talk about anything we needed to “get out.”  And it was helpful. 

I love the verse from Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  This week, I pray for the communication in your marriage.  I pray for opportunities to talk to each other in whatever way works best for you and your spouse.  I pray for honest and open conversations.  I pray for break-throughs in any closed areas.  I pray that when you do talk that you will be, as the bible says, quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.  I pray that you will both commit to making time and taking time to talk and, no matter who says more words in a day in your marriage, you will use the words you do say to build each other up!