Marriage

Sometimes Love: A Spoken-Word-Poem Guest Post

Today I am excited to be over at my sweet friend, Briana Meade’s blog with a guest post for her For Better or Worse series. I am also excited/incredibly nervous to be debuting a little spoken-word poem.

When I heard about Briana’s series on marriage I had just published a more traditional post on the topic here, so I decided to take a risk and do something very new and different (for me) in this post. Not only did I write a poem, but it’s a spoken-word poem AND I decided to record it for you. I don’t usually do this (and by don’t usually I mean NEVER) so please bear with my lack of expertise both in performance and videography. I hope you can see past those things and hear my heart in this piece. And I hope maybe something you hear will move you. Because I believe we need each other’s stories to understand our own.

So…(slightly panicking)….here it goes. Check out the video (and the rest of Briana’s awesome blog) here. Let me know what you think! Unless you really really hate it. Then just don’t say anything. (Also, sorry, Mom, about the cursing.)

 

Little baby Jonathan and Lily.

Little baby Jonathan and Lily.

Grown-up Jonathan and Lily (well, sort-of). And don't be confused by this picture. Buddha has not granted us a son.

Grown-up Jonathan and Lily (well, sort-of). And don’t be confused by this picture. Buddha has not granted us a son.

 

 

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I Sing of Gratitude (Reprise)

In honor of both Thanksgiving and (I guess) Throw-back-Thursday, I re-visited a cute little something I wrote back when I was 23 and a baby and a newlywed. I’ve changed a lot from the person I was then, but I like being reminded of her from time to time. Bless her heart. (If you are not an American from the South, this is our way of saying, “What a darling little idiot,” in the sweetest voice imaginable).

In this case, I think cute little me actually made some good points. In my original post, I wrote about discovering that gratitude is  key in marriage. It’s been three years since I wrote that, but I still think it’s true and I am still glad that we are intentional about expressing gratitude every day, even for the routine things like making the bed, doing the dishes, and taking out the trash. More importantly though, in that post I shared a passage that is still one of the most moving things I have ever read about gratitude and I think it’s worth sharing again, today of all days.

In college I read an essay called “A Country Road Song” by Andre Dubus from his collection, Meditations from a Movable Chair. It is one of the most beautiful and moving pieces I’ve ever read. At the age of 49, Dubus suffered a devastating injury when he stopped on the side of the road to assist with a fatal accident. While pulling the survivor out of the way, he was hit by another car. He was injured so badly that he eventually lost one of his legs and was paralyzed in the other. Dubus wrote about the consequences of his accident in many of his essays, but this particular one is about his memories of running.  I cry every time I read it because it overwhelms me that a man could feel and express this kind of intense gratitude in the face of such incredible loss. If you have a chance, you should read the entire essay because it is so much better than just this small portion. But for now, read this and let it change your idea of gratitude the way it’s changed mine.

” When I ran, when I walked, there was no time: there was only my body, my breath, the trees and hills and sky…I always felt grateful, but I did not know it was gratitude and so I never thanked God. Eight years ago, on a starlight night in July, a car hit me…and in September a surgeon cut off my left leg… It is now time to sing of my gratitude: for legs and hills and trees and seasons…I mourn this, and I sing in gratitude for loving this, and in gratitude for all the roads I ran on and walked on, for the hills I climbed and descended, for trees and grass and sky, and for being spared losing running and walking sooner than I did: ten years sooner, or eight seasons, or three; or one day.”

“I sing of my gratitude…for being spared losing running and walking sooner than I did: ten years sooner, or eight seasons, or three; or one day.”

Of Shoes and Ships and Ceilingwax…and of Second Anniversary Trips Potentially Involving Jack Sparrow

 Hellooooo world! I’m alive! It’s been a really, really, really, really, really long time (as some of you very loyal blog-readers have pointed out.) I kept thinking I’d eventually have a large chunk of time to write a nice catching-up post so that I could then start posting more regularly. But nope. Never found that large chunk of time. In fact, I’m not so sure it even exists. So, instead of a lovely well-thought-out catching up blog, here’s the basic run-down:

Go to work. Go home. Go to bed. Go to church. Friends visit us, we visit friends. Easter in Ohio with the inlaws. Dilemma: Go to school? Don’t go to school? Stress, confusion, crying ensues. Decide to do a compromise and plan to start online classes through Fuller in the fall. New dilemma ensues: Stay in this job or get a new job? Still working on this one. Hoping for the new job option to work out soon. Next dilemma ensues: move when our lease is up or stay in the same apartment? Decided it was the best decision finance-wise to stay. Take up hot yoga. Sweat more than I ever have ever. Dye hair strawberry blonde-ish. Start reading Game of Thrones. Bake a lot. Talk. Laugh. Travel to Dominican Republic. Celebrate 2nd wedding anniversary. Take anniversary pictures with friends/photographers Asharae and Tim (will let you know when these pics are available.)  Mom and Anni drive up from Louisiana to visit. It is awesome. That’s pretty much it. Got it?

 So, backing up to one of the most interesting parts of that little rundown – our 2nd anniversary trip to the Dominican Republic. We got the most amazing deal through cheapcaribbean.com that was $12/night per person to stay at this all-inclusive resort in Puerto Plata. That meant that for the entire 6-night trip we paid $144. Which included unlimited food and drinks. Then we just had to pay air-fare (which was the hefty part, but still not so bad considering we flew right from Raleigh) and then extra for any additional excursions or items we wanted to buy.  Neither of us had ever been to the Dominican Republic, so we were both excited to see a new place and get a new stamp in the old passport.  That makes 13 countries for me. Getting gradually closer to my goal of 196. (Ok, but seriously, at LEAST 50.) I was particularly excited about this trip because, being in the Caribbean,  I figured I would for sure meet a pirate as excellent as Jack Sparrow.

Incidentally, I was wrong. I did not in fact meet or even see anyone as remotely excellent as Jack Sparrow, despite being in the prime location for it.

As you can imagine, the Dominican Republic is beautiful! The town we stayed in (Puerto Plata) is on the north side of the island, the opposite side from Punta Cana, which is the more popular vacation destination. Punta Cana is known for its incredible beaches. The beach at our resort was also nice, but the sand was not as sparkling white and the water not as bright aquamarine as it is other places in the Caribbean. What is unique about the DR is that there are mountains basically right up til you get to the ocean. It looks a lot like I imagine Hawaii does (from the pictures I’ve seen of it.) Very lush and tropical.

Our resort had a great beach with these amazing canopy beds you could lay around on and read and nap and have nice people bring you fruity beverages and snacks. It was perfect for people like us (well, like Jonathan) who burn as soon as the sunlight hits their skin. (I actually burned too the first day, but that was only because I waited to long to put on my sunscreen.)

One day we took a cable car ride up to the top of the tallest mountain in the area. The mountain was called Isabel de Torres (not Mount Isabel, just Isabel de Torres.) I hated dangling from that heavy cable car thousands of feet in the air, but I loved the view.

Up on top of the mountain is this Jesus statue that is reminiscent of the giant one in Brazil. Our tour guide (Manny) was very experienced at photographing this historic icon appropriately.

Once we came back down the mountain in the scary cable car they took us on a tour of the city. It looks pretty much like all of the South American cities I’ve visited in the style of the architecture and the way random museums and factories are crammed in right next to houses and convenience stores. We went to a rum factory, but the machines weren’t running so there wasn’t much to see. Then we went to a jewelry “factory” which was actually just  three people polishing stones in this little dugout. We also went to a cigar shop and watched a cigar maker roll up some cigars. And later we went to a fort that had been important in the DR’s war for independence. I did not get much out of the audio tour, but the fort had a beautiful view of the port.

Another day we ventured off the resort to go to Ocean World. Ocean World is like a dinky version of Sea World. It is small and has only a few attractions, like a dolphin show, a sea lion show, and a shark show. No Shamu. What they do have to offer is this exhibit called the Tiger Grotto. They randomly have two tigers (one is white, but he was sleeping the whole time) who live in this habitat with a pool in it. The pool has glass walls in parts and on the other side is a nice pool for people.  So you can swim up to the glass and the tiger will swim back and forth on his side and you can feel like you are swimming with the tiger even though you are separated by a glass wall and are totally safe. It was the coolest thing ever. The tiger was soooo beautiful. I wanted to bring it home with me. If Princess Jasmine gets to have Rajah, why can’t I have a tiger? Just another way Disney has ruined me for real life.

See! No fair!

Another highlight of our trip was learning that we apparently love Indian food. At least the Indian food they served us at the resort restaurant, Moomtaz. We got reservations there because it was the only place available on the night of anniversary and we thought, “We can try it and if we don’t like it we’ll just go to the buffet later. “ I only wish it had not been our last night. It was the most delicious food ever. A total surprise since neither of us thought we liked Indian food. Now we are determined to find an Indian place here in Raleigh that’s up to par.

The only negative part of our trip was some travel delay on our way down that actually ended up cutting out a day of our trip, but we are working on getting some reimbursement for that.

It was so good to have time to relax and rest, to enjoy each other’s company in an un-rushed way. We were able to reflect on how far we have come together in the last two years and how excited we are about where we hope to go together in the future. In the last year we moved across the country, started new jobs, made new friends, visited old ones, learned to run 13.1 miles, worked, and played, shared excitement and laughter and frustration and disappointment.  There are a lot of days when we feel frustrated that we don’t see the bigger picture of what we’re supposed to do in life – what careers we should pursue or where we should live or if we should be in school or if God really has a plan for us that doesn’t involve us wandering around aimlessly. And I especially panic that I’ll never do anything that matters, even to me. But at the end of the day, we are so, so thankful to have each other. And to know that even when we don’t know anything else, we are together and we are always for each other. And that makes us deeply joyful, even when we have to return from the beautiful tropical paradise and go back to spending 40 hrs a week staring at a computer screen.

Hope you enjoyed the travel spiel. Expect more from me soon!  🙂

Things You Should Never Text Your Husband

Last weekend I went with Christina to her cousin’s birthday party at a cool restaurant in downtown Raleigh. While I was there I received a text message from a friend who got married a few months ago. The text contained a picture of a positive pregnancy test. I was really excited for her, and also amazed at how quickly they’d gotten pregnant since they’d only been married a short time. I forwarded the picture to Jonathan along with a message that said, “Well…I guess they decided not to waste any time! I just got this text from ‘Monica.’ ” (name changed to protect the innocent.) Then I stuck my phone back in my coat pocket and kept chatting with everyone. About 15 minutes later I realized I never heard back and pulled my phone out again. No messages. I left it on the table and continued with dinner. About three minutes later, my phone started buzzing in uncontrollable spasms. You know when you are in an area with no signal for a while and then you connect again and all the stuff that’s been sent the whole time you were out of signal comes through all at once? Well, that is exactly what had happened. Apparently, back in my coat pocket, things hadn’t been going through. I looked at the screen to find three texts and about 10 missed calls from Jonathan. For a minute I thought, “Geez, why is he so worked up about this…it’s not really even his friend.” Then I looked at the text exchange and found that what I thought I had sent had not all gone through. This is what he had received:

I am in soooo much trouble...

 

Needless to say, the man wanted to kill me. I tried to talk him down, explaining that I would never just joke with him like that. That I was so sorry. That obviously I would never tell him that I was pregnant via text message and that I would also never take a pregnancy test while out to eat with friends. That I should have thought it through and should never have sent that message in the first place. That I was the worst wife ever. His response, “Are you completely insane?!” And later, “Do not ever send me something like that again!” On Friday night, our marriage was on shaky ground. To all my girls out there, married or not, learn from my mistake. Never send your husband a text message with a picture of a positive pregnancy test on it! Or an email even, probably. Oh, technology…how you have failed me.

So the weekend started out not quite as expected what with the panic and rage, etc. but Saturday morning dawned very sunny and promising (although also quite cold and windy.) We put on all of our cool running gear in which we look awesome and very professional: running tights, shorts over tights (Christina),knee brace (me and Jonathan), long sleeved shirt, jacket, arm-band for carrying iPod, fleece headband that covers your ears, socks, running shoes, and those cool knit gloves with the special fingertips where you can still use your touch-screen phone while wearing. We were decked out. I wish I had a picture so you could behold us in all of our awesomeness. And it is a good thing too because that wind was COLD! But all three of us succeeded in running our first 11-miler with no walk breaks, just occasional stops for water. I can’t stress enough what an accomplishment this was for all three of us. We are not runners. Any of us. And yet, in just four months we have gone from running ¾ mile and then nearly puking or passing out (at least that was me back in September) to doing a 2hr, 11-mile run. I am amazed at the human body. (Although somehow, despite being in the uncontested best shape of my life, I’m still hanging onto those 10 lbs that have tipped me over the edge of my “healthy weight range” and into “overweight, but not yet obese” range. But that’s another story.)

In celebration of our amazing accomplishment we went to Outback and used a Christmas gift card to eat a large amount of Bloomin’ Onion, steak, baked potatoes and Caesar salad. Yum. (Perhaps now understanding those lingering 10 lbs…) We went home and had a relaxing, uneventful night.

Sunday morning, Jonathan wakes up in horrible pain all over his stomach and back. At first we think it is food poisoning, but after a few hours we realize it’s something more than that. Eventually I take him to Urgent Care hoping they can do something for him. The man is in so much pain it is all I can do not to burst into tears, but, knowing that wouldn’t be the least bit helpful I instead make a lot of un-funny jokes. It’s something I’ve always hated about myself-that in a medical crisis I get so upset I feel the only way to keep myself from exploding with grief (not helpful) is to crack corny jokes (equally not helpful.) Eventually the doctor tells us it is either a kidney stone or the early stages of appendicitis and we go home to wait and see. Thankfully, a few hours later it becomes clear that it is not appendicitis and after drinking what seems like several gallons of fluids, Jonathan starts to feel better. We are so thankful that Jonathan is more or less back to normal with only a few residual side effects.

I have heard from multiple sources that kidney stones are one of the most painful things the human body can experience. Most say it is the closest equivalent men can experience to childbirth and some women who have been through both even rank kidney stones as the more intense pain. I feel horrible that Jonathan had to go through that. But I know that one day, a few years from now, when that positive pregnancy test is mine, I will be reminding him of what this felt like. And I will probably point out the fact that he was only dealing with something smaller than a dried pea. While I will be dealing with something the size of a small watermelon.  But don’t worry, I probably won’t tell him any of that in a text message.

Kidney stone. Not Jonathan’s. Ew.
Approximate size of baby…though probably heavier than a baby…I hope

 

Marriage and Other Miracles

I’ve been trying to blog for days (and days and days) and everything keeps coming out jumbled and messy and I am facing a complete inability to think linearly. Instead all of my thoughts come in bursts and flashes that I can’t quite manage to capture and organize. So the options are to wait until I’ve ironed things out neatly and can present them one at a time like so many articles of clothing folded just so inside my drawer. Or I can go with the jumbled mess, something more like the pile of unsorted, dirty laundry sitting in the hamper. And on top of it. And on the bathroom floor. Which I suppose is truer anyway.

Last weekend we went to Indiana for the wedding of some dear friends of ours. The wedding was sweet and fun and I loved being able to share in the joy of our friends as they began married life. Weddings are a different experience for me now that I am married. In one sense, I feel more joy and excitement for the couple as I know what it is they are stepping into and what they have to look forward to. But I am also always struck with a sense of awe, understanding that I am witnessing a miracle, or rather the beginning of one. I don’t exactly believe that in the moment of the wedding ceremony, you magically become one, but I do believe that through the process of marriage your hearts are knit together in an inexplicable way. Somehow two people who didn’t even know the other existed a matter of years ago become a family. It’s beautiful to witness in someone else and it’s astounding to experience for yourself.

There’s so much of the daily parts of marriage that seem unremarkable, but I never want to forget that every day I am living out part of a miracle. It’s why I wrote the words of my wedding vows so carefully, “Jonathan I love you. I choose you today and every day as my husband, my helper, and my best friend…” The miracle is not just that I fell in love with him when I was nineteen. And it isn’t just that I spoke those vows to him one day last June. The miracle is also that I wrote these same words across my bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker just last week. It’s that when I come home from work at night he wraps his arms around me in a hug so big it lifts me up off of the floor. It’s that I chose him on my wedding day and I chose him when I woke up this morning. That I will choose him tomorrow and that I will choose him on the day I die. The miracle is God giving two sinful, unfaithful people the measure of grace necessary to choose this kind of faithfulness on a daily basis. The miracle is that after being together for nearly five years and married for more than one, I am still in awe that I get to choose him.

I recently started a new job in a large office full of new people. It’s been a challenge to not only learn about the work itself but to try to get to know the people working around me. Everyone has been very nice to me, but it’s hard not to feel isolated in my little cube while I listen to the other girls making lunch plans, talking about hanging out on the weekends and visiting each others’ cubes where they whisper and laugh. One thing I’ve noticed though is how rarely they talk about their husbands or boyfriends in a positive light. It seems that all that they have to say about them is something stupid they’ve done or how annoying they are. Of course, I don’t believe for a minute that this is all they feel about their husbands/boyfriends, but I wonder why it is that it’s so much easier for people talk about their spouse’s shortcomings than to talk about their good qualities.

I think it has to do with the view of marriage that is so prevalent in western culture. That marriage exists to make us happy. If this is the point of marriage, then it follows that people are intolerant of anything that makes them unhappy in their marriage. If the success of a marriage is measured in happiness and the only obligation people feel is towards their own happiness, it’s no wonder so many marriages end in divorce. If marriage is seen as something primarily self-serving it will ultimately fail.

Marriage is about becoming more holy. It is a partnership that spurs one another towards holiness. It is about laying down your life for someone else. It is about showing love and grace and compassion and forgiveness even when you don’t feel like it. It is about encouraging, speaking words of life instead of words of destruction, putting someone else’s interests before your own. The “happiness” of marriage flows out of the security of having someone who chooses to love you unconditionally, not out of your total agreement with every word that comes from their mouth or how they handle every situation. It is the overwhelming certainty of having someone who will not leave you when they grow tired of you and will not turn to someone else when they are discontent.

Living out this kind of self-sacrificing, intensely faithful marriage is impossible for a human. But nothing is impossible for God, and He is willing to share that power with us. And that, too, is a miracle.

 

Just for fun, a few of my favorite pics from our wedding as photographed by the lovely and talented Asharae Brundin Kroll and Taylor Horton. (If you need a photographer, hire one of them. They are excellent and they travel.)

Us under the huppah my brother built, being married by David Henderson

Soooo married!

This is how I feel everytime I kiss him. Only I'm not that skinny anymore. 🙂

 

My necklace from etsy and the bouquet my matron of honor, Lanise Guidry, made for me

We're so cute, they didn't know what to do with themselves.

Please, no more pictures!

 

I Sing of Gratitude

Today I am celebrating.  The sun is shining, the breeze is gentle, the daffodils popping up everywhere and as of today, I have been married to the most wonderful man in the world for ten months.  Amazing.

People are always saying that the first year of marriage is the hardest…if that’s true then we are going to have the easiest life ever. : ) I credit Jonathan greatly for the easiness of our transition into marriage. His graciousness, his ability to let go of things quickly, and his willingness to be flexible have made what were potentially dozens of conflicts into just a handful.  After almost a year, we still enjoy being together, we fight less than we did before we were married, and we laugh all the time.

I don’t and will not ever pretend that we have a perfect marriage or that we know how to do everything just right, but I do recognize some things that we are doing right and I think it’s worthwhile to look at something and say, “This is good.” The thing that stands out to me the most as I reflect on our married life is an attitude of thankfulness.

Without having ever discussed it or made a collective decision to do so, we thank each other all the time. Even for the tiniest, most insignificant things we do as a matter of routine. Thank you for making the bed this morning. Thank you for making dinner. Thank you for unloading the dishwasher. Thank you for cleaning the litter box. Thank you for hanging up my coat. Even if I’m not at home, I’ll get a text that says, “Thanks for doing the laundry yesterday!”

All this thanking might seem silly or a bit like overkill, but I think it makes a world of difference in our attitudes toward each other. When I feel appreciated for the things I do, even the everyday mundane things, I don’t resent doing them. And I’m not saying it never happens, but it’s hard to be frustrated or irritated with someone when you are in the habit focusing on the ways that they bless you. When you truly see each other as a gift, you are so much more willing to put in the hard work of communicating, compromising, and showing love unconditionally.

As I’ve been thinking about what thankfulness means in my marriage, I’ve also started to think more about what it means for the rest of my life. Or, I suppose more accurately, what it could mean. If a spirit of gratitude in my marriage has made these last ten months so overwhelmingly joyful, what could the rest of my life look like if I looked at it from the perspective of thankfulness? If I stopped resenting the fact that I have to play with small children for 8 hrs a day , the fact that I can’t eat whatever I want without consequences, or the fact that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

Several years ago I read an essay called “A Country Road Song” by Andre Dubus from his collection, Meditations from a Movable Chair. It is one of the most beautiful and moving pieces I’ve ever read and it deals directly with this theme of gratefulness.  A little background on Dubus (note, this Andre Dubus I, not Andre Dubus II his son who is also a writer)–he grew up in Lafayette, LA, my hometown (woo-hoo!) but lived much of his later life in Massachusetts. One evening when Dubus was 49 years old, he stopped on the side of the road to help a man and woman having car trouble. Another motorist swerved and hit them, killing the other man and crushing both of Dubus’ legs. He later had his left leg amputated and lost all use of his right leg. Dubus had been an avid runner before his accident. This essay is primarily about his memories of running through all the different seasons. I wish you could read the entire essay, but I’ll try to choose the best passages.

” When I ran, when I walked, there was no time: there was only my body, my breath, the trees and hills and sky…I always felt grateful, but I did not know it was gratitude and so I never thanked God. Eight years ago, on a starlight night in July, a car hit me…and in September a surgeon cut off my left leg… It is now time to sing of my gratitude:for legs and hills and trees and seasons…I mourn this, and I sing in gratitude for loving this, and in gratitude for all the roads I ran on and walked on, for the hills I climbed and descended, for trees and grass and sky, and for being spared losing running and walking sooner than I did: ten years sooner, or eight seasons, or three; or one day.”

I cry everytime I read this because it overwhelms me that a man could feel and express this intense gratitude in the very face of such incredible loss. What would my life look like if I understood what this man did? What would this world look like if we chose gratitude over resentment and joy over sorrow? It literally takes my breath away to imagine.

Burn Out

I think I have finally reached the point of total and complete burnout as far as my job is concerned. After months of struggling with a sense of purpose in what I’m doing and some frustration with the monotony of it, I’ve finally reached a point where even the weekends aren’t enough recuperation and nothing seems to encourage me. While I genuinely do love the kids I am with, I am tired all of the time and I am bored out of my mind. I am completely out of patience and feel that I cannot answer one more question. Except for naptime in the afternoon, I spend 7-8 hours a day entertaining and verbally responding to a preschooler and a toddler and half of that is correcting, cajoling, convincing, rebuking, or coming up with creative and interesting things for them to do. I’m worn out. I’m committed to this job until the end of May. Intellectually, I know that’s not forever. But right now, it feels like forever. And every morning when my alarm goes off everything in me screams, “NO!”

Jonathan and I continue to wait for good news from the schools he’s applied to, but so far there hasn’t been any. We’ve begun to discuss where we’ll go and what we’ll do if school isn’t on the table for next year. It’s somewhat exciting to think about moving somewhere new based on nothing more than an interest in the location, but it can also be overwhelming and frightening. Mostly though I am frustrated and feel defeated. I am so tremendously proud of my husband for applying to these programs that are highly selective and are evaluating your creative work which is often so deeply personal. I think he is so brave for pursuing something like this and it took a lot for him to even allow himself to pursue it simply because he felt it was impractical. I am frustrated with God because I don’t understand why he would have given him this dream and given him the courage to pursue it if it isn’t even going to work out.  And I feel completely at a loss as to how to encourage him in the midst of this. I don’t know how to make him believe that whatever the outcome, he is tremendously talented and gifted and that I respect and admire what he’s done so much. Just saying the words doesn’t seem to be enough.

I also had a tremendously selfish conversation with my husband in the midst of all of this where I whined about not being seen as a writer or taken seriously for my writing. It was juvenile and pathetic and the truth remains that I have not produced anything new creatively in almost a year. This is my own fault. No one sees me as a writer because, well, I don’t write.

So friends, this isn’t a witty, endearing, or uplifting blog post, but it is an honest post. I feel like I am failing. I am failing as a nanny. I am failing at being an encouraging, supportive wife. I am failing as a writer. I feel empty. Like I have nothing left to give. But this one promise keeps echoing through my mind. A voice that says, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”