In light of the Royal Wedding tomorrow (confession: I have not followed any of the hype, and I only even remember that it is tomorrow because it is my dear British friend’s birthday, too) I thought I would honor marriage, weddings and my dear husband. (Bear with me as I brag on him. Or don’t. Check back tomorrow).
Too often, I spend my energy, both inward and outward, on my little ones — thinking about their current challenges, enjoying their engaging triumphs — and my husband, who USED to take up a lot of this brain space, comes at the end. Today, I want to set that on end.
For all my creative impulses, my spastic moods, my stubborn streak, my over-use of big words, my husband has a tried and true patience and stability that makes him so right (and at times so wrong! er, I mean challenging) for me. When I talk way too much, he listens diligently. While I have been spending this year remembering to breathe, he has often been my breath for me.
This month we will celebrate nine years of married life together (we were mere babies when we got married). We have some amazing history together, and often when things get tangled up and tough, it is our story that reminds me that we’ve been through junk before. And we love each other more today.
Marriage is hard. To try to make two people, two lives, combine to make one is full of challenges. It’s hard anyway, and then you add kids to the picture. Sheesh. Like when we are both uber-tired and the house is a disaster and there is no dinner to be found and the kids are both crying so loud that I can’t even hear my own thoughts let alone try to hear the thoughts of the grown up across the table from me and he’s worked a super long day with craziness at work and I thought you fed the dog. Sometimes it can seem like there is not enough to go around. Sometimes it can seem that it is easier to just snap, or add him to the list of annoyances or inconveniences. Can you believe that I do that? Well, I do. And then I’m humbled, hit in the head with my own brokenness. He is on my team! He is on my side, at my side. When I decided to marry him, I had no idea what kind of father he would be (though clearly I had a sense of his character). He is so many of the things that I am not. He has patience in areas where I have little. He brings energy to times when I am lacking. There is no other man on the planet that I would chose to raise my children with.
He is athletic, and spirited. He can be quite a jokester (though he knows better than to play one on me). He is determined and hard-working. He has an integrity that I have seen little of elsewhere. He is kind, boy is he ever kind. He knows Love and because he does he can give it freely, unconditionally, no strings attached. And he does, graciously, as he serves our family and those in his life.
Though we are no marriage experts, one thing my husband and I agree on: we have to put our marriage before our kids. Strange to say, even harder to do. But the best thing that we can do for our kids is to have a strong, committed, firmly rooted in the Lord marriage. We continue to grow and learn from one another, and my prayer is that we can be an example to my little ones — I want them to see our love and humility, our service to the Lord in each other.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21
OK, awkward bragging finished. Thanks for bearing with me. Also, if you’re looking for more marriage inspiration Rachel Held Evans wrote a great post a few weeks back.
Do you have anyone you want to brag on? What’s your story?
I don’t know what it’s like for you, but around here when I run into people at church or the playground or a cocktail party and I ask “how are you? How’re things?” the answer I commonly get is “busy! we’ve just been so busy.” Often, I hear a list of activities, either child or adult driven, or house projects, or work issues. Mostly, these things sound interesting.
I have a confession to make: we are not very busy. And I love it that way.
I get short of breath thinking of the schedules that I sometimes hear of people keeping. I know for some people this works. You know the saying: If you want something done, give it to a busy person. Somehow it fits. But for me, being busy equals more stress. More timelines. (Remember how I’ve been working hard to never hurry? It would just be utter failure if I had so much to do). I know this is my very nature, and it seems to work for our family. Around here, we often have nothing scheduled. But it’s not because we don’t DO things.
We get out plenty, and do lots. Some things we do as a family (like our Saturday morning music class); some things are kid activities (the Gardens are a favorite!) Us grown ups are involved in the constant cyclone of house projects. But mostly we hang out. I have found that in just leaving space, being available, we are open to spontaneity (ice cream in town on a hot afternoon!) and creativity (you should see what the Eldest can do with Lincoln Logs). I want my kids to witness this in my husband and I, so that they know how to be spontaneous and creative themselves.
Sure I’ve heard the words “I’m bored.” And sometimes, I’m bored, too (though I often don’t recognize it at the time). But these moments of boredom, of discomfort and disquietude, are often the springboard for something deeper and more rich than anything I could have planned. These moments can all look different: as really great conversations with my husband; as a really awesome fort that the kids constructed (and kept them occupied for hours!); as inspiration from an unplanned source. But they all grow us. I learn about myself, I learn about the people around me.
It’s also about being available for the moments of need in my life. I don’t want to be so scheduled that I don’t have time to make a meal for a new mom. When a friend is hurting, I have time for the cup of tea and a chat. When my kiddos need extra love and snuggles, we’re not running out the door trying to get some place else. In not being so busy, I can live in the moment that is in front of me. I can have Christ’s eyes, and I can be Christ’s hands.
Many of the things that keep us busy are good things: to learn a new skill, make a new friend, serve your community. I’m sure there will be a season in my life where more structure will come, as the kids are older and develop their own interests. What I’m providing for them now is a venue to begin to even know what those interests might be. But I also know that even when my kids are teenagers, we still need times of “not busy.” When I was a teen, so much of my growing up happened in the unscheduled moments.
I can’t imagine what our lives will look like that far in the future, but I’m thankful that today the weather is beautiful and we have no where to be.
I had a moment of clarity today in which I discovered one of the reasons that my husband’s night shifts are so difficult for me to endure: I put everything on hold. I wait; hold my breath. It happens slowly, mostly because the night shift creeps up on us. In the beginning, it almost never looks like it’s going to be a month of upended time travel. It starts as one night, odd hours for a day or two. So, I suspend normal life, waiting for the pieces to fall back in to their proper alignment. And when one night because one week becomes another week — well, I’m still waiting. I have put our family in a holding pattern, waiting for my ideal and well-worn daily duties to fall back to their places.
This is tough: for me, for the kids. For our house (the bathroom! the vacuuming!) I try meal planning but toss in the towel. (Am I packing a lunch for my husband? Or is it a midnight snack? Am I making dinner for just the little ones, or the whole family?) I attempt to make the bed but give up (someone has been sleeping in my bed nearly every hour of the day!) I want to make a playdate, but get mixed up about when my husband will be awake and ready to play. In putting things on hold I crawl in to survival mode and I forget that sometimes the very things that I have set aside are the exact things that I need to keep some semblance of normalcy in our lives. Today, for instance.
Today we played with dear friends in the morning, while dear ol’ daddy slept. We got out of the house, romped outside. The kids laughed and played. I walked, soaked up sunshine, sipped coffee, and caught up with one whom I have missed. And why have I missed out? I chose isolation instead of comraderie. I was waiting, twiddling my thumbs, anticipating the end of crazy and the coming of normal. Instead, today the little ones were thrilled to have someone other than me to play with and I was lifted by joyful companionship. What a blessing!
Though tonight brings the close to our wacky-crazy-mixed-up family hours (fingers crossed!) this is a lesson I will hold to for the next time (there is always a next time). My husband, thankfully, is resilient enough to fall in to whatever life is happening in the present moment, and I need to keep our momentum moving forward. I will not idly wait any longer.