Saturday, February 28, 2009

License to Date... Your Spouse

Last night I drove almost two hours to Toledo to hang out with my husband. At first this felt really silly of me - kind of pre-marital do-anything-to-see-your-boyfriend Sarah - but given that it feels as if we haven't seen each other for more than an hour each day since February 6, I was able to justify asking my mom to come watch the kids overnight so that I could meet Brandon for a late dinner and a night in a Days Inn just outside the beautiful... Toledo, Ohio. We enjoyed an expensive seafood dinner and a glass of wine each at a place that calls its side orders "accompaniments," and then went back to the hotel for the night (juicy details noticeably absent...). This morning, we went to Panera for bagels, like the good ol' days, reading the paper and making random comments, allowing the important conversations to perculate here and there. And then I drove back to Ashland and Brandon drove to Bowling Green for work, beginning Phase II of tag-team parenting.

We knew this was coming - this hectic relay race from the end of January to the end of April between my work and Brandon's baseball coaching and other contractual work and weekend retreats and roadtrips and conferences. I don't have to tell you how busy our lives can get - you experience it in waves as well - time ebbs and flows just like the tide. We schedule nearly every hour of this season on a calendar hanging on the fridge, in Outlook, on our phones - but sometimes, we forget to schedule each other in.

Some couples I know have picked a night during the week that is "sacred;" it is their night to do something together, whether it's dinner or bowling or shooting hoops or playing tennis... anything, just to have some allotted time together, away. I don't know about you, but even if Brandon and I are home together, there are some nights when it might as well just be one of us there separately - we don't talk, we veg out in front of the TV, he does his thing, I do my thing, and then we go to bed. Real inspiring. But if we force ourselves to actually go out, leaving the kids at home with a sitter for a few hours, that's two to three hours of sustained alone time, no distractions of dirty dishes, laundry, TV (for the most part), computer, etc., to keep us from talking.

For those of us who feel like we've gone on so long without engaging our spouses in any sort of conversation about our collective lives that sitting together over dinner for an hour sounds excruciatingly painful, that's probably exactly what we need. Scheduled time together with your husband can remind you why you love the guy, and that will feed into the oh-so-important sex life that has a habit of shriveling up during the busy season, too. Ah, sex. That's a whole other blog.

Why does this matter so much? God is a relational God - he designed us to be in relationship, with him, with others, and if he designed you to be in a marital relationship, then it's worth the investment of time and even money (heaven forbid we have to dish out $20 bucks for a babysitter so we can go out, when we spend that much buying lunch at Quiznos on any given weekday) to make sure our relationship is healthy. In turn, doing the same with God - setting aside time and remembering why you love him so much - works just the same.

Sometimes our marriages (and relationship with God) get pushed to the bottom of the priority list because, we say, the threat to lose it is much less than a job, our sanity, our health... whatever. But if we improve on sustaining our marriages, everything else will improve with it. There's one less stressor. Our marriages are the second-most important relationship on this Earth next to the one we have with Jesus Christ. How much more, then, should we invest in them?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Leah Considers Mercy

Leah Considers Mercy
“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved,
he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.”
- Genesis 29:31

On my knees I begged, Lord
make him love me, I want to feel his kiss
instead of hear the whispers from his lips
to the sister of my blood, sister in the law,
How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Beloved, to me, only me…
and then one came. I named him Reuben:
he has seen my misery

My son… our child, a gift for a man
whose calloused hands are rough
on my back after this afternoon’s sun,
whose sunburned shoulders
carry two bales instead of one,
two… I will be loved now.

Reuben has his daddy’s eyes
and some of my father – the hands of a shepherd.
But I am not loved. I can feel the rolling hills
raise up their crops, tickle lambs’ feet—
years are grains of wheat,
harvests bountifully hollow,
fall, frost. Reuben plays on the floor
at my feet, I am crawling not loved.
The door clicks quietly in the night,
and Simeon: one who hears makes two for mercy,
for pity I am not loved.

What does she have? Not two sons
with wild hair, sucking thumbs and chasing
their father after dinner. Not two sons waiting,
sleeping, tucked under her blankets each night.
Not empty shadows, cold pillows and sheets,
this dense silence. My lover is hers – he browses
among lilies - I am not his – I finger the field
of dandelions with boys at my side,
wonder at this strange abundance.

Reuben and Simeon dart in and out
of the kitchen, call Dad! when the door opens.
His hands hug and hold them close.
Bread is on the table, I’m roasting lamb –
so hungry – my stomach swells,
eyes water, mouth dry. Levi: attached
Three. Now he will hold me close.

The boys grow tall and handsome,
just like their father. I watch Reuben
pick daffodils - it is spring, you know,
and the days are warm and bright.
Simeon finger-painted a stick woman smiling
and I taught him how to write M’s and O’s.
Levi is learning to walk, marching
like a soldier, and when he stumbles,
he doesn’t cry, only looks at me and laughs.

I have a fourth now. He came to me
three weeks ago, and he is beautiful -
he has my eyes and all his Father’s glory.
I know he will do great things, but for now,
he smiles, infects my soul.
I named him Judah: praise

Monday, February 16, 2009


Wrap your atmosphere around me –
I do not want to be the moon, unable to deflect
even the smallest cosmic speck. I flinch and dodge
a million bullets in a meteor shower, yearn to watch
the light show at night without fear. Without you,
my surface is sensitive – I bruise at the slightest affront,
scurry away to nurse my hurt. If I must wear
the craters of personal implosions and exterior stonings,
dress them in deep blue water with stunning clarity
so that none may question why this happened
but only know that nothing so beautiful
and pure could come without pain.

Plant in my volcanic cavity a hemlock tree
so all will witness how you’ve rooted yourself
in my explosive fragility and called me strong.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Baby Bug

Okay, I admit it - I have the baby bug. A combination of recent baby showers, many friends pregnant, and my little man starting to talk and potty train has me thinking it would be fun to do this again. The major hitch in this equation is the husband.

The husband does not one teensy little bit even for a minute want to have more kids. He did at one time -- a long, long time ago when there were no kids in the picture, he was all in favor for a big family... like, 4+, and of course so was I. Am I. But he has been the one at home with our two children under 3 for Elvis's entire life, and half of Lydia's, which makes him justifiably against having any more kids... right now.

I have at least pushed the "maybe later" button, so that the discussion isn't completely sewn up. Maybe after Elvis and Lydia are in preschool, or maybe after he is in or done with graduate school, or maybe after we've got the timing just right... but nothing we have ever timed has actually happened in our timing. That's how it goes.

What complicates this wanting more babies thing for me is that we've been through three miscarriages, two c-sections, one difficult pregnancy and one difficult post-partum NICU experience. After the last miscarriage this summer, I was left with a lot of weird emotions -- the pregnancy was definitely not planned in the first place, I was on birth control, and Brandon was really not ready to have another child in the family. And then we miscarried and were left with sadness and relief and guilt about feeling relieved. I had never been on the "baby not wanted" side of the painting, and it was a strange, awful place to be, especially in light of where we have been in the last four years.

Prior to Elvis and Lydia, we had two miscarriages - one a partial mole pregnancy and another very early miscarriage (4 weeks or so). For the first time since I became a Christian, I was thoroughly pissed at God. Honestly. I couldn't understand why we had to go through miscarriage #2, when we certainly figured out what it felt like to lose the hope of a baby the first go-around. It was an empty, depressed, silent time for me. You know those times in your life when God is so quiet and your grief is so deep that you no longer feel the joy and peace and happiness that had accompanied your faith for so long? I was there.

Brandon and I wanted a family so badly. We started wondering whether I could ever "hold on" to a baby or if we would go through the loss and pain of miscarriage after miscarriage. In a women's Bible study at the time, our group was cross-stitching verses from Scripture on a weekly basis, and about the time I had the second miscarriage, we cross-stitched the verse, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart," and I remember pushing that needle in and out, in and out, attacking the cloth with my thread, "YEAH Right!" I said in my head, "DeLIGHT yourSELF in the LORD! What the heck does that look like?!" Did I mention I was angry?

After that second miscarriage, I couldn't find it in me to rejoice in the Lord, not the way you would think of rejoicing. But what I could do, and did, was list out ten things about God that I needed to cling to during that time of waiting, and healing. It was a list of promises God has made in Scripture about redemption, about how Jesus wept too, about how much he loves me, about salvation, about heaven, about plans and purposes. There are times in our lives when we just aren't feeling it. I'm just not feelin' ya, God. But in the midst of that deep pain and grief, God is there, and if we can't rely on the emotions of our faith during those times, we must rely on our intellect, and if our intellect can't get us there, we have to know in our souls the truths of the Word. We know he loves us, even if all of our circumstances seem to shout otherwise. He loves us, and he is continually working on us.

God pulled me out of my pit of grief slowly, gently. He let me heal at the pace he knew was necessary for that healing to be true. We can't just put band-aids on our wounds and pretend that our injuries are shallow scrapes when they are deep heart-wounds. It won't heal that way. We need to deal with the pain by letting God deal with our pain. I can't tell you how many times I shook my fist up at the sky and asked, "WHY?!" He never answered that question about those first two miscarriages directly, but he redeemed those losses.

Even though the pregnancy this summer wasn't planned, I was excited at the possibilities - concerned about my poor husband and his sanity, yes - but excited. So when we miscarried, I was sad, but the core of my being, the rock that is my salvation, was not shaken. Something between miscarriage #2, live babies, and miscarriage #3 rooted my faith more strongly than it had before. I can't disregard the fact that having two healthy children here to snuggle up with during and after that miscarriage helped soothe the ache, but I also believe that God did a work through all of that fight and grief, something to build me up in a way I could never have done on my own.

So now I'm in this new season again, this season of weepy-eyes when watching television and a baby, any baby, even Shrek babies sneak into the picture. This season of wondering whether I can convince my husband that more kids is a good idea. This season of contemplating whether wanting more kids is a selfish thing or a selfless thing, whether it matters, whether God will bless us with more kids, whether He has "closed up my womb" like he did in the Old Testament, whether our timing will be God's timing, and whether I would be okay with any or all of these possibilities. Right now, I think I would be okay with whatever God proposed, but ask me tomorrow and I might have lost all patience and sense.

Regardless, God loves us, whatever season of life we are in, and He has a purpose for us right this minute - single, married, widowed, pregnant, working, at home with kids, trying to get pregnant - wherever we are we are here for a reason. Cliche as it is, it's true. The trouble we have is finding peace and contentment in the present without losing hope for the things of the future.

FAITH-BUILDING ACTIVITY: What are ten things you know to be true about God, based on Scripture? Think about your current situation and see if you can find verses that speak to it, and if there aren't specific scenarios that come to mind, then what are some truths you can root yourself in, regardless of the situation?