"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you."
-Philippians 4:9

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Another year older. So much has happened in the past year. So many changes, adjustments; so much growing up! Some of those changes were reflected beautifully in my birthday celebration.

When you think birthday gift, what do you think? Be honest. The first thing that popped into your mind was some form of "stuff", wasn't it? Well, we don't have room for more stuff. There's only so much stuff you can stuff into a 33foot RV. We've prioritized our spending to the point that we don't really have the cash to spend on more stuff, either. And, honestly, the less stuff we've had in recent months, the more free we've been, so we desire stuff less and less. Hmmm. If that's the case, what's a hubby to do to celebrate his wife's birthday? We're treading new ground here on what it means to give a gift to someone. And, oh man, if he did this well the first time around, I can't wait to see what the future brings!!

So...what was my hubby's birthday gift to me? You'll have to have some background on our life first. We have 2 boys that play football. It is currently football season. That means 4 nights per week of practice (5:30-7:30pm), and all day Saturday at the football field for games (one plays at 10am, the other at 3pm). This also means that, because darling hubby works mostly nights, I do the shuttling to practice and entertaining the 2 little ones during that time, feeding everyone late, doing bathing and bedtime most nights by myself. And on Fridays, this is compounded with putting together a cooler of drinks/food to make it through Saturday, a bag of toys to entertain little guys for hours on end, making sure laundry is caught up so we have changes of clothes for sweat-drenched kids to change into, gathering football equipment and making sure pads are switched from practice pants to game pants, breakfast is set out and ready at bedtime because Saturday morning is up and running around here...well, you get the point. Fridays are BUSY for me.

My birthday just happened to fall on Friday this year. And Dan was working again. The kids happened to wake up with a bee in their bonnet and it was shaping up to be a battling day. But all that gotta-do list had to get done!! By the time we had to leave for football practice, I was stressing because much of the list had gone by the wayside in favor of intervening in my kids' antics so as to keep all of them alive and my house in one piece. Dan called while we were at practice to see how things were going (sneaky man!) and got an earful of frustration. Little did I know that his gift was already in progress.

Football practice let out early, and we headed home thinking that MAYBE the list could be salvaged since it wasn't horribly late yet. I drove up to find that Dan was home already. That was strange. We opened the door to find the entire list done. No joke. The whole thing. The dog was bathed. The dishes were done. The laundry was in process. The floor (and ceiling - it's carpeted in our RV!) had been vacuumed. The toys were put away. The porch was swept. The bathroom was cleaned. And Dan was just waiting for me to get home so he could go out and do take-out for whatever my heart desired for dinner; there were chicken tenders already cooking for the kids. My sweet man had planned ahead, talked to his boss, and gotten approval to take off early so he could do this for me. What a precious gift!!!! He took the whole burden off of my shoulders. It's not just the *doing* the stuff, but also the *thinking* to be sure that everyone has everything covered for the entire next day because we won't be home at all. He did that just for me! I think I'm likin' this creative, no-stuff, gift-giving thing!! We wound up having a wonderfully relaxing evening, and a great day at football the next day with both sets of grandparents there to cheer on the kids. To steal a phrase, it was a "perfectly perfect" birthday weekend! (oh, and there were French Silk Pie *and* Publix birthday cake. YUM!)

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Road to Healing - Fin.

The wait is finally over. You can take those worms out of your mouth now. (Sorry - reference to a bad joke from my childhood: "waiting with bated breath". Get it? Bate = bait = worms. I know. It's bad.) Where were we? Oh, yes. The next chapter in the healing story. The one I've been avoiding like the plague. It's one thing to feel the release of living through it and quite another to be willing to share it in print. You're still only going to get a sketch with few details on this one, but much of this involved the marriage relationship, and, well, some of it is just going to remain there.

When last I wrote on this topic, I left us in a new career, a new definition of our walk with Christ, a new understanding of who we are to be as the church, a new focus on our family FIRST as our mission field, and a new seeking of the Lord in how we were to proceed in life rather than in "ministry." And I told you that's when things got tough. As if they hadn't already been a struggle. But this was different.

You see, it was like peeling the onion. I know, cliche, but it works here. All of those other things that God had stripped away, revealed, cleansed, and healed had to do with external influences. Teachers, pastors, church members, false doctrines, wounds inflicted... All of it people and things outside of ourselves. Lies that we had internalized and made our own, to be sure, but the pains and hurts were things we could address together; a united front against our enemies, if you will.

Once this was accomplished, though, we had to look each other in the face. And we realized that there were some really deep wounds we had inflicted on each other, too. Talk about a leap of faith. It's terrifying to get honest enough with your spouse that you've been pretending for and hiding from for years to say, "I'm hurt. Badly. And it's you who did it.Oh, and by the way, I'm angry about it." Shoot, it's terrifying to get honest enough with yourself to admit that's the truth. I had spent so long protecting Dan from the attacks of others and trying not to hurt him with my own criticism that it was almost impossible for me to admit, out loud anyway, that a great deal of my pain DID originate from his choice of the ministry over me and the kids. Partly because I felt complicit in that choice. Partly because I had bought into the same lies that led to that choice. Partly because I knew that if I was hurt by those lies, I must have hurt him deeply, too, and I really didn't want to hear that. But was healing worth the price? Worth the risk?

YES! O, my, a thousand times, YES!!! It took place over weeks and months, but there was a definite opening up of ourselves to one another. A growing willingness to say, "I love you, but there's something between us that I can't let stand if we're going to really do this moving forward together thing." It was excruciatingly painful at times. There were tears, arguments, struggles to learn how to communicate lovingly while detailing just what the pain was and how it had affected multiple facets of our relationship. No area was left untouched. When you're married, supposed to be ONE FLESH, and there are unaddressed wounds and masks that never come off, it poisons everything. We had to talk about parenting, finances, career decisions, dreams and hopes unfulfilled, personal affronts, rejections, disrespect, communication, false perceptions, *gulp* even the marriage bed. Both of us had to really listen. Both of us had to humble ourselves and accept responsibility and correction. Both of us had to forgive. And both of us had to let go of it - all of it - and, saddened as we were about it, we had to agree that guilt and condemnation had no place in our marriage any longer. Not toward each other and not toward ourselves.

Praise be to God, He had laid all of the groundwork for those discussions to take place in a marriage that wasn't seeking to do anything but find the truth and work forward together. We didn't WANT to cast blame. We didn't desire to hurt one another more deeply. We wanted to expose the wound, drain off the poison, and heal this thing once and for all. The gangrene ran deep. Honestly, it almost killed the marriage not so long ago. It is God's grace alone, His perfect timing, that allowed us to come to a place of honesty. Of truly beginning to KNOW one another. Of healing.

And, having experienced this level of oneness with my spouse for the first time, it leaves me in awe of Christ's statement that He and the Father are One, and he desires that we be One with Him in the same way. The bring-you-to-tears, speechless, staggeringly indescribable oneness that can exist when a marriage is healed and becomes what it was designed to be is a mere REFLECTION of what the oneness with our God is to be. Can you even wrap around that? Me neither. But I am so thankful to be in a place to really explore what it means. Together with a spouse I love. And trust *fully*. And am excited to know - and be known by - more and more as we journey together.

Now, all of that said, does healing in this area mean that we now have a blissfully happy, no problems marriage? Nope. But we address the problems as they come. We can know for sure that whatever needs to be said will be heard. And that any rebuke/correction we offer one another will be given in love and accepted in love. And that we really are there to uphold one another and offer partnership and strength in the other's weakness. It, like so many other things, is still a work in progress. I suspect it will be until we die. But we're on firm footing again. Rooted in Love, founded in Christ, and learning to walk in truth. It's a good place to be.