Hamster Wheel Days

It’s 7:30 a.m. I’ve just tucked my fourteen-month-old, Sam, in for his first nap. Yeah, I know. That’s early for a nap. But we’ve been awake since 4:30. “It’s another hamster wheel day,” a voice tries to tell me, after a series of events like teething, traveling, and sickness that just won’t let us get back into our sleep routine. But then another voice replies, “Maybe not. You don’t have to live constantly struggling to catch up and never getting anywhere. You have choices.”

I have choices.

I’m not blogging this morning to complain. Well, maybe a little. But I’m making a big effort not to complain to my husband this week, or ever again…and I also have a need to express my feelings in order to work them out. I have expressed my feelings to God numerous times, and I am trying to make him my foremost confidant. But a blog audience is a nice audience to complain to, if you need to complain. I can talk about my struggles without being tempted to attack—like I am tempted to do with my husband—and I usually get some encouraging comments from my sweet readers. If nothing else, pounding the keys of the keyboard does something good for the anger inside me.

God is doing a work in me. He continues to do a work. Through this motherhood gig, he is pointing out sins that I wasn’t previously ready to confront.

Hello, selfishness.

I can keep blaming other people and circumstances for my frustration—there are always plenty of excuses. Or I can take responsibility for my actions and my attitude.

The fact is, I’m not (mainly) frustrated because Sam’s sleep is erratic, or my babysitter cancelled again, or my husband doesn’t help with meal cleanup. I’m mainly frustrated because I am selfish, and I have not planned for “interruptions” in my plans.

I am selfish, and I struggle to see motherhood (and wifehood) as my first duty and calling. I am selfish, and I have tried to neatly portion out blocks of time that are “mommy hours,” and blocks of time that are “me hours.” I am selfish, and I have not lived as Jesus Christ, giving my whole self—my body, my time, my attitude–as a living sacrifice. I am selfish, and I have wanted motherhood to happen on my own terms, not on God’s terms.

I have been deeply convicted that my failure to love and appreciate my husband and son in the midst of inconveniences or upsets in schedule are rooted in selfishness. So I am putting my eyes back on Christ—because I need his supernatural patience and love to get me through these “hamster wheel days.”

I have choices.

I can’t right now choose the time of day I want to study my Bible, or choose how long, or even totally choose what hours I want to sleep. (While I am doing what I can to sleep train, factors outside of my control like teething, sickness, and travel back and forth from Texas are legitimate struggles that cause regression and necessitate some babying.) But I still have choices.

I can choose to own this stage of early mornings and night wakings not as a tragedy, but as an opportunity to grow patience and self-sacrifice. Practically, I can also choose to nap with Sam on the really hard days, and realize that the world won’t end if I don’t post a blog or cook homemade food on those days.

I can choose to get my eyes off myself and focus on others who are going through struggles much worse than mine. I can look to mentors and good influences to lift me up. And I can celebrate all the good around me, like the fact that my friend just gave birth to a new baby.

Getting off the hamster wheel means simultaneously lifting up my eyes and lowering my expectations. I must do this—I will do this—so I can stop running on empty and be still sometimes…at flexible times, at whatever times Sam takes his naps. I don’t know what kind of a day you’d call that, but it sure beats the hamster wheel.

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New Mom? New Home? New Year? Resolutions.

Photo Credit: “Two Thousand Fifteen On Balloons Shows Year 2015” by Stuart Miles
Photo Credit: Stuart Miles

Three things. That’s all. I asked God what he wanted me to focus on this new year, and this week I distinctly felt impressed with three things.

1. Focus on my Family.

2. Make healthy choices for myself and make healthy food for my family.

3. Get pregnant in 2015 with my second, and final, child (God willing).

The first seems easy, the second harder, and the third, terrifying.

Part of the Journey

As you can read in my archives, I’ve been on a journey to embracing motherhood, and the life of self-sacrifice it requires. But this is not an easy journey. I go back and forth in my resolve. I still ask God every day to give me his love and spirit of sacrifice to serve my husband and son in the ways they need me.

It’s discouraging to me that I could want kids and family so much, yet still wish for days of single childlessness. Part of the problem is my selfish nature. But the other part is an attack.

The enemy buffets me with fear about possible ways my family could disintegrate. Investing time in people doesn’t feel as safe as investing time in self-advancement, or career-advancement. I’ve blogged about this before.

But God is helping me to face these fears and combat my selfishness; this year, through three resolutions:

  1. Make my family my mission field.

God is teaching me it is honorable to devote my life (for a season) to raising children, and raising them in the fear of God. He tells me he knows my selfish heart, and teaches me that what the world honors is not what he honors (Luke 16:15). And he assures me that even if something happened to my family, this time of self-sacrifice would not be wasted. Through marriage and parenthood, God is refining my character, teaching me to serve his children (that includes my own, and humanity in general), and helping me develop vital life skills. Like cooking.

  1. Cook healthier food for my family.

I don’t have much patience for cooking. I’m a simple girl who likes a simple life–some blank pages, a pen, and a good book–so I’m glad God has shown me what’s vital and what’s not. Being a Pinterest mom is not vital (though the world might say so). My family can do without scrapbooking. They can do without elaborate home decorating. But they can’t do without good food, because food begets life and health. So, this year, although I don’t feel the need or want for any new hobbies (you should see my stack of unread books), cooking is my new “hobby.” No matter whether I always have family around me or not, I’ll always need to eat, right? But as for having family around me, I really would prefer it, and that’s where resolution 3 comes in.

  1. Get pregnant in 2015.

When we finally decided to have kids eight years into our marriage, we decided on the number two. We didn’t want an only child, and two seemed like plenty: one for each parent to corral. As it turns out, I’d prefer to have the kid/teen/young adult periods without the baby stages. What can I say? I just don’t resonate with the woman who wrote: “I’m afraid to stop having babies.” With that the case, I figure it’s best to get on with the baby-making show, get past these tough years, and then enjoy my children who, as a side benefit, will be close enough in age to play together. This is all God willing, of course. In my limited understanding, this two-kid plan seems best for my family and our situation, but I realize it’s totally up to God whether or not we will conceive again. All we can do is try, wait, and see! (Hold on! We are not trying quite yet. There is a lot of 2015 left to go.)

So there we are. Three things in 2015. The first seems easy, the second harder, and the third, terrifying. Good thing God has recently reminded me of this promise:

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (Eph. 3:20).

I claimed this promise yesterday, while clutching an”impossible” to-do list. But as the day wore on, I checked off thing after thing–phone calls to pediatricians and pharmacies, phone calls to friends, a batch of healthy cookies, minestrone soup, some writing time, a trip to the grocery store, and clean dishes. God delivered on his promise! And I know he will again.

I Prayed a Prayer in Texas . . . and Wound Up in Missouri

missouri welcomes you
Photo Credit: jodyandjanie.blogspot.com

Several months ago I prayed: “Something about our lives and our home feels broken; we need a change.” I haven’t posted for the last month because, in that time, my husband got a job in St. Louis that we could not at first make public; and we have been busy moving. Now that we are here (as of one week), I finally have some room to exhale, rejoice, and explain how this move answered my prayer.

When I prayed my prayer a few months ago, our lives looked pretty perfect. Buc had a good job; we had a nice house, a good church family, and a beautiful baby; and I got to stay home with that baby. But there was definitely a problem: Our family of three wasn’t “gelling” like I knew we should. We weren’t bonding and creating traditions and just “being a family” like I knew God intended.

Details like Buc’s early commute, Sam’s erratic sleep patterns, and Buc’s arrival home around Sam’s bedtime made Daddy-and-Baby time nearly impossible on weekdays. These facts also made it hard for us to eat meals together or have family outings. And for those months when Sam was waking through the night, and waking at 4 and 5 and 6 a.m. for the day, I was plumb exhausted. I had nothing left to give.

As I looked around our home, saw our neglected dogs, overgrown flowerbeds, unused backyard, and the garden Buc had failed to plant, I realized Buc had little left to give either. We were just “getting by.” We didn’t have energy to really enjoy life, and enjoy our baby, together.

You might say there was nothing deeply wrong with our setup; they were just logistical things keeping us from family time. But I would be careful about saying that. A lot of wise people have observed that it’s the little things in life—the daily patterns and routines—that make up the whole life. If we’re not careful about those little patterns that are just a degree or two off target, we will soon find ourselves far from where we originally intended to be.

Originally, we decided to have a baby because we wanted to grow our family; we wanted to create new traditions and spend time together and just be a unit. So the fact that I was doing most of this baby stage by myself, without my husband, was sort of devastating. I found myself growing resentful of my baby and even my husband, and I didn’t want to resent them. So, in addition to complaining at home a whole lot (sorry honey), I prayed.

As I prayed about our brokenness at home, Buc felt things breaking work. Situations pushed him to seek employment with another company. And he started praying too. He set forth a number of conditions that God would have to answer in order for him to move his family over 600 miles from home. Guess what? God answered every single one.

So while our church and Texas family members scratched their heads over why we were leaving such a nice life, I sighed with relief. No more breakfasts alone. No more days of waiting until 6 p.m. to talk to my husband. Perhaps some lunches together (we now live within ten minutes of Buc’s work). Perhaps some suppers out with the baby. No more yard upkeep, at least while we remain in the townhome we’ve rented. No more dogs to take care of, for now (two kind families at our Texas church adopted Bill and Ted). A much needed break from church positions that were gobbling up precious weeknights. Just…a much needed retreat from a life that had grown too busy and clumsy to facilitate a new family learning to “be a family.”

No, I’m not happy to have left all the wonderful family, church members, and friends I’ve gained in Texas over ten years, but I know this is God’s plan for us, for now. And for that, I give thanks. For me, the New Year ushers in an exciting period of growth and change, and hopefully a well maintained blog so I can document what God is doing in our little family of three, and stay connected with my friends and extended family. Happy New Year, dear readers!

Be Angry and Sin Not—Yeah, But How?

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What I saw in my kitchen this morning made me instantly angry, and I most certainly would have sinned, again, if I had not been meditating for the past two days on the Apostle Paul’s instructions to “Be angry and sin not” (Eph. 4:26).

The puppies tore up my rug, again, the one I had just fixed with duct tape (don’t laugh); and their water and food dish was empty, again, showing that my husband had shirked his duties for these puppies he wanted, again.

As I sat stewing at my dining room table, contemplating what to do with this welling anger (magnified greatly by past-due pregnancy hormones), I stroked my Bible. This was supposed to be my morning devotion time, but I was tempted to wake my husband and yell at him: “See what they did? You clean it up. See their empty food and water dishes? You fill them.”

I was also ravenously hungry by this point, and getting angry, yet again, that Buc has never in nine months of pregnancy made it a priority to get up and eat breakfast with me on the weekends. He always has to shower first and look at his news, which seems extremely selfish when I’m about to pass out. Because he won’t rearrange his routine, we miss eating breakfast together—because often I just can’t wait.

Anyway, this morning I had a decision to make. Was I going to pause and pray, or just react? Because I’d been mulling over Ephesians 4 for the last two days, I heard these words in my mind: “Be angry and sin not.” “Forgive others as Jesus forgave you.” “Speak only words that will encourage others, not tear down.” I also remembered an anecdote I’d just read about how Abraham Lincoln once advised a general to deal with his anger at a colleague. To summarize, Lincoln told his general:

Write a letter to that man in all honesty, in all nastiness, to express your feelings.

But…

When you are done with the letter, DO NOT send it. Reread it to yourself, then burn it. Now, write a new letter.

While my first impulse was not to pause and pray, or to write a letter, I asked Jesus for strength to overcome my instincts, my unreasoning hunger, and my prego hormones. And then I popped in a toaster strudel to tide my appetite, and pulled out a clean sheet of paper.

“To my husband,” I began. “I am very angry at you right now…” From there I quickly filled up the front and back. I could have gone on, but interestingly, part of my letter ended up detailing my own faults. Trying to see things from Buc’s perspective, I found myself writing things like, “I know you would tell I am too easy on the puppies, letting them get away with ruining my stuff, and how will I discipline a child if I can’t even handle dogs? Maybe you’re right; I just wish you could appreciate how damn hard this is for me. I’m not good at discipline.”

I paused for a moment, considering how small this morning’s events really were in comparison to life’s bigger mysteries—such as my son’s impending birth—realizing how sad it would be to ruin a morning just for the chewed up rug and empty water dish. And then, remembering what I’ve learned about fruits and roots, I wrote: “Maybe a root of this anger is that I feel unappreciated and disrespected. I feel you don’t understand how hard certain things are for me [like disciplining the dogs] or how important other things are [like breakfast on demand]. I just wish you would try to see things from my perspective and not brush off these things that are a big deal to me.”

By the end of two pages, I felt less volatile, but I still didn’t trust myself to speak in love. Remembering a tip from Dr. Laura’s The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage, I pulled out a second clean sheet of paper. (The basic premise of Dr. Laura’s book is to kill your spouse with kindness—actively love him or her so much through words and deeds that he or she can’t help but respond in kind.)

ImageNow, I listed all the GOOD things about my hubby I could think of. Blinded as I was by my anger, I needed to remember that my husband wasn’t intentionally annoying me; and I knew that compared with all his good traits, this little issue would fade.

After I wrote for that one page (why is it so much easier to write bad than good?), I cracked open my Bible and reread Ephesians 4 in The Message version (yesterday I read the NIV), and then I went on to Ephesians 5 for good measure. Very funny, God. Chapter 5 is the one about wives submitting to their husbands. In my reading, which took no more than ten minutes, I was reminded of these key ideas:

1. Because I have been reborn, I can rely on Jesus’ blood and breath flowing through me, and Jesus’ love for my husband. I don’t have to rely on my own strength anymore.

2. Also because I have been reborn, God wants me to be mature, not childish anymore (Eph. 4:14-16; 21-24). How mature is it (I had to ask myself) to make a fuss over a torn rug and an empty water dish, or my empty stomach?

3. “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life” (Eph. 4:26-27).

4. “Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another [husbands included] as quickly and as thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32). What a tall order this was! But compared to Christ, who forgave those who tortured and murdered him, what did I have to complain about?

5. “Figure out what will please Christ and then do it!” (Eph. 5:10). I was pretty sure it wouldn’t please Christ for me to explode at my husband or skip my morning devotional. I was also starting to feel that it would please Christ for me to, once and for all, admit that these frustrations with our puppies are largely due to me not preventing bad behavior I could, actually prevent. I figured it would please Christ for me to finally just deal with the problem so it wouldn’t waste any more of my time or energy. I resolved to submit to my husband’s good counsel (Eph. 5:21-28) and start being more assertive with the dogs, and not let them sleep in the main areas of the house anymore (we have a laundry room that will do as well) so as to avoid these unpleasant morning surprises.

When Buc sauntered into the kitchen, eyes widening at the fluff strewn all across the tile (I hadn’t had energy to clean it yet), I was just finishing my three-part anti-anger plan, and I had no desire to yell at him anymore. I also didn’t feel much like talking (which is sometimes the best recourse when you can’t say anything nice), so I left the list of good traits on the table and threw the nasty letter (ripped to pieces) in the trash. I went to take a shower, after which I started scrubbing the bathroom tile. Better to give myself lots of distance from the temptation to sin. After awhile, Buc approached me, and he lit up my day with three statements:

1. “Do you want to eat breakfast together?” (Yes, I did.)

2. “I found that list you wrote about me, and I know you’re mad at me, because you don’t write those good things when you’re not. But I appreciate the list, and I love you. And I cleaned up the dogs’ mess.” (I was gratified that he’d found the loving list, and he knew without me telling him that I was angry. I was also reproved by the fact that he thinks I don’t write good things about him unless I’m angry—something for me to work on.)

3. “I’m going to get cracking on organizing my closet and my gun supplies” (something I’ve wanted him to do for the last few weeks). “I appreciate you honey, and how you keep me organized.” (This made me feel especially good, because it told me he has noticed the extra efforts I’ve been putting in to get ready for our baby. I was also softened to see that Dr. Laura’s advice was working: I had chosen to be kind to him, and he chose to be kind back.)

Readers, this may seem a long post to recount a silly could-have-been spat this morning, but don’t take lightly how important these small moments of life really are. I believe our lives are made up of these small moments, these small choices (to yell or to pray, to speak kindly or to criticize) and they are the stuff our characters are made of in the end. One “silly” spat can ruin a whole day, just as the choice to submit to God in something as simple as pausing to pray (or to read, or to write a “fake” letter) can set off a full day’s worth of kind words and deeds.

I wrote this post for myself, to remind myself how important it is not to skip my daily time with God, but I hope I have reminded you of the same thing. Even born-again Christians need to be recalibrated on a daily basis.

In Debt $20,000—In Love Forever

Yesterday was a dark day in the Gendke household. The unexpected surprise of a $20,000 student loan bill all but put my husband into a depression. Understand: he’s not like me—he doesn’t get depressed easily. But if there’s one subject he’s touchy about, it’s money. Especially since we found out we’re having a baby, he’s been extra vigilant about cutting costs, paying off debt, and restructuring our finances.

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This is the bill for my bachelor’s degree. Since we’d had it deferred until after I finished my master’s, we didn’t realize that when it started up again, it did NOT include both loans.

For two heady weeks, before we got the $20,000 note yesterday, he had it all planned out: pay off my $24,000 student loan (the old one—for my bachelor’s—but we made the mistake of thinking this included my master’s, too), then pay off his car, and finally, our home. By his calculations, he could have all this paid off by December, right before baby came.

Now, that won’t happen.

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This is the bill for my master’s degree. Needless to say, we were not excited to see this amount piled atop my already prodigious bachelor’s debt.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re hardly destitute or living month to month. My hubby’s investing skills and financial expertise have ensured abundance in eight years of marriage—still, we were so close to being out of debt.

For him, achieving financial freedom is about his number-one professional goal. And I love that about him—it makes me feel more secure—but sometimes that goal overshadows other areas of life. He’s not a worrier, but by golly, he does get so preoccupied about finances that he can be hard to talk to about anything else (to be fair, he’s often said the same about me and my writing).

His own family criticizes him for being “cheap”—for not always upgrading to the newest gadgets even though he could—and for giving our niece and nephew ten-year investment accounts, rather than cheap baubles for every birthday. However, what they don’t see is that these money-saving practices are what have allowed him to offer needy friends, family, and church members thousands and thousands (and thousands) of dollars of financial assistance over the years. They are also what will soon, perhaps within a few years, allow him to retire early and spend more than just nights and weekends with his family.

Call me cheap, too, but if you ask me, living frugally is just living smart. And for the comfortable, worry-free lifestyle my husband’s habits have offered me—a lifestyle better than I ever enjoyed before him—I am eternally grateful.

I just wish he didn’t worry so much.

I hate to see him, like I did yesterday, slumped over in his seat, head in hands, seeming bereft, as if all his dreams had been shattered. Worst of all, I hate feeling like I caused this.

Yesterday, seeing him like that I started to feel bad for getting my master’s degree, especially since now I’m not exactly “using” it. Of course, I feel I have used it in writing The Hidden Half of the Gospel—but when we’re talking about paying off a $20,000 bill, that book will only cover one-fourth to one-third of the cost.

I felt so bad I even apologized for being such an expensive wife (even if I don’t fit the usual profile of excessive shopper). All I could do to reassure him was to say, “Honey, look at all the good in our lives. Think of our wonderful marriage, and our baby coming. And even if you don’t see it right now, I do see benefit in the master’s because it gives me more and better job security if something should ever happen.”

He didn’t look convinced.

“Do you want me to look for a job now?” I tried next, clutching at straws.

He looked at me as if I were crazy.

“You’re pregnant. No.” Sigh. “Just keep doing what you’re doing. And write a bestseller.”

When I saw a wry smile playing at the corners of his lips, I sighed, too. With relief. I don’t want to take a typical job, not right now. But I think I would be willing to look if he wanted me to. At least, I hope I love him that much—as much as he obviously loves me.

Now, because of his pristine financial habits—and because he makes things sound worse than they are—I get to travel a mere ten feet to my work desk, and write about how we first met for my memoir—AKA my gestating bestseller:) Today, I’m sort of thankful, actually, that this little $20,000 “setback” has provided the perfect moment for me to remember exactly why I love this man.

 

I May Be Childless—At Least my House is Messy

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Please don’t think my house always looks this bad! This is just what it looks like when I reorganize my office.

Last weekend I again felt like a failure as a woman. How did this happen, you ask?

Scene: I’m standing in a pasture talking to two girlfriends. The first one is twenty-eight like me, and married, but unlike me, has a kid. Same with friend number two, only add a couple years and a couple kids.

Can you guess what we are talking about?

The pasture belongs to number-two. Number-one and I have come for a visit and are walking number-two’s property. Inevitably, the talk turns to houses and the jobs we work to afford them and the bodies we are housing with those jobs.

What are our livelihoods? How are we getting by day to day and affording these homes in which we live and raise our families?

Basic questions. They deal with basic necessities that we all have.

Yet when I find myself in these conversations, I see an un-level playing field.

Number-one has started cleaning houses to supplement income. Number-two has started selling Mary Kay. Number-one makes her own cleaning products from baking soda. Number-two plants and cans an impressive garden. Both plan to homeschool, and number-two is positively beaming just talking about what fun it will be to write lesson plans again (she was once a teacher).

Then there’s me. They don’t turn the conversation my way, but I take care of that in my head.

“So, what are you doing to supplement income? What financial struggles have you had? What sacrifices have you made for your family?”

“Uh, well, currently my life is pretty easy,” I’m embarrassed to say (in my head). “Financially easy, anyway. My hubby is making good money at the moment. And we don’t have kids. Yet.”

“Wow. That must be nice. So what do you do all day?”

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“Uh…” here I panic a little. My mind wants to go blank. What is it that I do again? It’s not gardening. It’s not concocting creative cleaning supplies, chasing rug rats, or drawing up lesson plans. When I did write lesson plans two years ago, I don’t remember relishing the act.

Truth is, I’m struggling just to keep my house clean at the moment. And I don’t even have kids, mind you.

Wow.

What a loser I must be.

Standing with these two very industrious ladies, I am suddenly struck with the weight of my failure as a woman.

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Yet another view of my office under construction. Note the headless bookshelf in the corner; my hubby made that for me, and I am waiting for him to finish it off before I put it back to use.

 Am I a Woman, or a Worm? (Perhaps a Writer…?)

A few days removed from my moments out to pasture, the Holy Spirit has helped me realize something I was missing while feeling so guilty for my perceived failings: There’s a good reason why I’m not out cleaning houses or selling Mary Kay or planning a garden or writing lesson plans, and it’s not because I’m a failure. It’s because that’s not who I am.

If you want to get financially pragmatic about it, sure—I’m also not doing those things because we don’t need the money (I might be if we did)—but there’s this point as well: We planned not to be put in that situation. All my waffling about motherhood aside, we also always wanted to be financially stable before we brought kids into the world.

As I prayed about my feelings of failure and my worthlessness as a woman, the Lord brought these words, like balm, to my soul: Don’t compare yourself to others. Just compare yourself to Jesus.

Sometimes when I pray I hear whole paragraphs and Bible verses rising out of the slime of my soul to comfort and guide me. Note that my slime wouldn’t do any good had I not already  planted God’s word in it (Psalm 119:10). Yet this message was annoyingly concise. So I thought about those words some more. How could I compare myself to Jesus in my struggle about womanly duties?

Then it came to me: Jesus had a mission and He followed it. He let others plant the gardens and tend the kids—let them do their missions. But as for Him, He wandered from place to place with “nowhere to lay his head.” He obviously had no house to clean.

Again, I was reminded, it’s not a gender issue.

Not to say I’m going to abandon cleaning altogether. Since I do have a place to lay my head, I will try to keep it reasonably clean. And if we have kids, I’m sure my mothering instincts will kick in. But the truth is, I’m just not by default a homemaker.

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Okay, I’ll admit it: I’d rather my table be full of literary rather than culinary masterpieces!

Like a blessed dew this memory came to me: As a girl, I hated gardening. When my mom tried to get us to help her, I tried anything I could to get out of it–unlike my girlfriends who have always enjoyed the activity.

I love and appreciate my girlfriends and their stellar skills at motherhood, gardening, cleaning, and other things I dislike doing. And I am thankful that they feel called to do them—for without women like these, I really think society would fall apart.

But as for me, well, I just didn’t come into the world wanting to work with my hands as much as dabbling in words and ideas.

So what is it that I do all day?

Well, until we really hit the jackpot and can afford a maid, regrettably, I clean when I have to. I cook a bit, too. But on the perfect days—on the days when Satan is not winning and I’m not worrying what the world thinks—I write.

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Just a few of my journals.

Hi there! If you liked this post, you might enjoy some of my other posts about women’s issues and family-related topics, such as:

Role Confusion and the Modern Woman

Celebrating 8 Years: Roots of a Love Story

A Career is Not Enough

The Question Every Young Couple Must Answer

Celebrating 8 Years: Roots of a Love Story

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“Do you want to talk again, maybe tomorrow?” he asked from his bachelor pad in balmy Texas.

“Sure, if neither one of us dies before then,” I responded through huffs and puffs of cold Minnesota air.

I was walking briskly up College Street, autumn leaves crunching underfoot.

He thought it strange the way I ended that third phone call. But you have to understand it had been no more than six months since the previous winter when I’d found myself sitting in that mental ward.

I was making a slow recovery from depression, trying my luck at a few random classes in community college after having dropped out of a pricey private institution.

With a BBA, he was in his second year of a new job in the finance industry.

We were both living single and lonely in small apartments. Both dejected from recent life failures, we had recently both shut ourselves away from family and friends.

Apparently he found something intriguing in my dark humor and brooding ways. As well, he’d liked the pictures my bff, and our matchmaker, Samantha, had shown him. It was before the days of Facebook, so I would wait until our first live meeting about a month later to see him. No matter. His voice, smooth and soothing, already gave me goosebumps.

“What are you doing tonight?” he would start our phone conversations, which quickly became daily affairs, usually no less than four hours at a pop.

I couldn’t believe how attentive he was. He actually wanted me to read my journals out loud to him, which I did.

“I’m taking a walk/organizing my closet/doing dishes [pick one—these were all true over the months of phone dating…and all due to that nervous, post-depression energy I suffered in those days]. What are you up to?”

“I’m just lying here, thinking about you.”

Each night on his primitive, 2004-model cell phone, he gave me his full attention, something I was not used to with males. The previous two men in my life I had met at my workplace, a restaurant, and the relationships had always been about what I could do for them. The boy I had loved in high school (a much nicer guy than these two) ended up having precious little time for me after going gay.

I wish I could say that I unreservedly returned Buc’s affection in the beginning. But every true love story must have a complication, mustn’t it?

Sigh. After dropping out of college, I’d struck up a conversation with my most recent ex (he’d since been fired from his dishwashing job at the restaurant). This happened a couple months before I met Buc.

The first contact I’d had in about six months with this dude (who shall remain nameless) started with him telling me he’d love to get together—but I’d have to go to him, because he was under house arrest at the moment.

Instead of running the other way like I should have, guess what I did?

Yep.

I got physically and emotionally involved. Again. Apparently I was attracted to his brooding ways. I identified with his suicidal tendencies, and as lonely as I was, well, any guy was better than none.

Lord forgive me. And Buc forgive me too. How stupid I was.

It should have been an easy choice. Let me put it this way:

  • One had three kids, the other had none.
  • One was unemployed, the other a successful broker.
  • One had a criminal record, and the other? Nary a traffic ticket.
  • One had a history of drug and alcohol use, the other, a history of jalapeno abuse.
  • One was a broken deadbeat who needed me to rescue him, while the other was a broken believer who wanted to rescue me.

Gee. I wonder who I should choose?

You might say I could have chosen neither. I could have accepted the newspaper editor job I’d been offered–but that didn’t pay anything (college newspaper, you see), and I was already out of money—plus, that restaurant where I’d picked up the last two losers had just gone bankrupt.

No, as the months went on that fall of 2004, it became clear that God was propelling me to make a choice. A drastic choice. Doors were closing all around me, and I literally didn’t feel strong enough to go it alone. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that God was with me—but sometimes we are so low (or so delusional) that we need God’s hands to reach out, take hold of us, and give us a good shake through the hands of another.

“Think about what you’re doing!” Buc would cry in frustration as I lamented to him that I loved both of them. “Why is it even a choice?”

One night he almost gave up on me. I had waffled again, saying I needed to take a break from both to sort myself out. Meanwhile, he prayed for a sign.

“God,” he prayed several days into this separation, “if she calls tonight, then I know you want us together. If she doesn’t, then we’re not meant to be.”

That night when I called, I don’t remember what I said. I know I was not totally convinced one way or the other, but God didn’t need me to be ready just yet.

Buc took this as his sign, and I’m so glad he did. After this, I waffled another time or two, but he didn’t give up on me. He trusted God, even though my utterly stupid behavior baffled and hurt him.

I think I owe our eight years of marriage to my husband’s faith, a faith I have seen again and again over the years when his job was uncertain, or I was uncertain, and he prayed for a sign, received his answer, and made up his mind not to worry because, as he simply and calmly explained, “It’s God’s plan.”

It’s a faith I’m still hoping to develop.

I saw it again just this week, as he faced a job-threatening audit at his branch. Yep, my hubby has become the manager at a top-notch financial branch, and earned plenty of top-performer awards and trips along the way. (Just for kicks, I googled my ex last year and saw his gnarled face and tattoos pop up in a mug shot for a domestic dispute. Gulp! To think I could have married that!)

“I could get fired,” Buc announced coming home a few days ago. “But if I do, I know it’s God’s plan.”

Since I’ve been staying home, I’ve told him many times I wish he could stay home with me. I get so lonely.

“Well, maybe getting fired would be a blessing—we could spend all day together,” I quipped.

Seems all this alone time is not good for the logic—it’s his awesome job that’s currently allowing me to “write to my roots.” But no matter how I’ve spent my time in the past few years, home or not, my desire to be by my hubby’s side continues to grow.

As I awaken to the beauty and possibility around me little by little (because rediscovering family, God, and dreams after deep depression happens gradually), I realize more and more what a jewel I have right beside me. What do I need a wedding ring for? He is my rock, always returning to me at the end of the day.

Today, our phone calls are shorter, because they only last as long as it takes for him to drive the thirty to forty minutes home. (By the way, he’s still employed at that job that is too far away for my liking. “God’s will,” Buc said.) Still, he calls me every day. Kisses me every morning. The calls are a little less exciting than they used to be, more often filled with dinner plans or daily headlines than deep confessions of past sins or heated professions of love. After eight years, there’s not much we don’t know about each other. But though the conversation may have leveled off, the love never has. To the contrary, it has only grown.

Over eight years, as he’s helped “nurse me back” to mental health; talked me down from countless emotional cliffs; and worked day after day to clothe me, feed me, and shelter me, I am starting to “get it.”

His love for me is like God’s love–hoping all things, bearing all things, believing all things. I only hope that I will learn to love other human beings as much someday. Ever since moving to Texas, I’ve had a slow thaw in my heart. But I hope he knows that right now he’s got all the love I’ve got—with these melting icicles creating more room for him every day.

Honey, I thank God that you chose me, and even more, that I chose you! (Oh, how thankful I am that I made the right choice!)

Image

(Blast from the past)

February 7, 2005, 8:14 a.m. (about a month before we got married)

When I imagine our life together I feel unspeakable joy. Especially today after setting our wedding date.

Last night—remember my tears of joy?—I felt, finally that I have something to hope for (on this earth), for you are my representation of Christ as the husband of humanity.

A place to belong, somewhere to fit—the knowledge that someone thinks I am special enough to invest in for a lifetime…darling, you don’t know what you have given me by asking me to share your life with you.

I am so blessed to have someone who loves and cares for me as a prized possession, yet at the same time respects me as a person. I can’t wait to be your family (even if it means making lunches and suppers and breakfasts sixty more years). To be with you every day will be a privilege and a joy. I hope you feel the same way.

buc and Lindsey