Category Archives: Love and Marriage

One Year Later: Ray’s Brain Injury Recovery

As the posts regarding Ray’s recovery from brain injury, and our experience of the last year continue (a little slower than I’d hoped!), I know the burning question in the minds of many is, “But how is Ray doing, now?” The process of brain injury recovery is actually a three-year deal, so we’re only a third of the way in. Regardless, I find that I can only address his recovery in the context of how he was doing a year ago.

The family, on a long walk in Tuscaloosa last weekend.
The family, on a long walk in Tuscaloosa last weekend.

A few days after the heart attack, Ray’s neurologist predicted that  he might never walk or talk again, preparing us for a man who might very well spend the rest of his life in a semi-vegetative state. Thanksgiving weekend last year, I sat down with each of the older children individually, doing my best to answer the question that was most on their minds: “When is Daddy coming home?”

My answer, catered to the age and understanding of each child, was this: “Daddy may never come home. He may spend the rest of his life in a hospital bed, unable to care for himself.”

As the days went on, he began to speak and control his movements more. Most of the time, he was able to recognize me, and could tell us the names of our oldest two children, but he had no memory of having more than two kids, and – on more than one occasion – he mistook me for a doctor or some other hospital employee.

Taking a selfie with Boo
Taking a selfie with Boo

Much to the surprise of his doctors,  he was able to go to a full-blown rehab hospital on December 8th. I remember his first day there vividly, when his occupational therapist had to bodily lift him from his bed and into a wheelchair, which had supports on either side of his head and a strap that held him in the chair. She wheeled him into the bathroom, propped his arm on the counter, and placed a toothbrush in his hand. He gripped it with his fist and managed to stick it in his mouth, making a few vague motions back and forth in a sad mockery of brushing his teeth.

At the end of January, it was time for him to leave the rehab hospital, and, based on the recommendations of his team of doctors and therapists, we planned to send him to a secondary rehab facility (read: nursing home). This was due to the sheer reality of his remaining care needs, and the seemingly impossible task of a mother with five children, one of whom was still in diapers and not even walking yet, taking care of of a grown man with such immense needs.

Thankfully, those plans did not come to fruition. At the time, he needed 24/7 close supervision. Showers required my arms in a cage to prevent him from falling over. Nights called for caregiving chores I never expected to have to complete at the age of 41, and days weren’t much easier. He couldn’t walk more than a few steps without falling, but he didn’t know that. I’d get him seated on the couch, admonish him to stay there, and run to the bathroom. Moments later, the kids would yell, “Mommy, Daddy’s up!” He would either completely forget to use the walker at his side, or he would have hold of it, lifted completely off the floor, just carrying it along for the ride, while putting it to absolutely no use.

Now, just over one year into the recovery process, Ray’s balance is almost perfect. Falls remain a possibility, but only slightly more so than for you or me. He walks, showers, and shaves unaided. He makes the sandwiches for the kids’ lunches most days, and cleans up the kitchen after dinner every night. He helps with laundry and many other household tasks. In fact, he’s regained many of his former abilities. His math remains better than mine, and, while his day-to-day memory presents a challenge in many ways, he can actually remember many names, dates, and facts far better than I can. From blowing leaves, to chopping down trees, to replacing my car battery, I am consistently impressed with the many things he is able to do.

Brain injury is a tricky thing, though. I’ve heard it said that a brain-injured person might recover 90%, but it will be a very different 90%. Indeed, the Ray of December 2016 is very different from the Ray of November, 2015, and I’ve come to realize that, while I’ve neither divorced nor been widowed and remarried, the husband whom I

Getting lovin' from Little Man
Getting lovin’ from Little Man

kissed good morning today is not the same man I kissed goodnight on November 18th, 2015.

Both men were made to love and be loved, though. That’s what I will strive to continue to do, and we’re blessed with children and many family and friends who continue to offer their love and support as well. For all of you, we are very grateful.

 

Sex is NOT the Nourishing Food of Marriage (but it is the apple pie a la mode)

On Friday my Facebook feed lit up with reposts of an article from Aleteia.org, written by Mr. Ryan Williams, entitled “Sex is the nourishing food of marriage,” with the subtitle, “It doesn’t come as the result of other acts of charity in a marriage; it is the cause of them.” (**Please see the editor’s note at the end of this post for an update)

WHAT???!!!

First let me say that I LOVE Aleteia. They cover awesome topics like Simone Biles regularly attending Mass, and Eucharistic Miracles in Krakow. But I must say I am questioning their judgement with this particular article.

The angry, snipey part of me wants to say: “Go figure, a man wrote this article.” Yep. An article that’s all about the “fact” that everything good in a marriage is an outgrowth of sex.

The guy doesn’t even use flowery terms like “marital intimacy,” Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 4.10.43 PM“intimate union,” or “the marital embrace.”

No. He just baldly refers to it as “sex,” the most banal, mundane term that exists for this awesome act of unity between a man and a woman.

That’s right. It is an awesome union. I REALLY LIKE the act of which we speak. A lot. But is sex the food that nourishes a marriage? Are the acts of charity in a marriage caused by sexual intimacy?

Dear Lord, I hope not.

Men and Women Aren’t the Same

If Mr. Williams hasn’t figured this out, he probably needs to, in order to keep his marriage happy. For men, he may be 99% right. Goodness knows it seems as though a man can think very little of his wife one minute, and want to jump between the sheets the next.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 4.06.12 PMFor women, however, it’s a very different story. If a husband has mistreated, ignored, or maligned his wife, she most likely will want nothing to do with the marital act. If they haven’t spent “quality time” together recently, she will very often want nothing to do with sex. We women are generally sexually attracted to the person who makes us feel loved, important, and cherished. If these needs aren’t being fulfilled, intimacy will often be toward the bottom of the list of things we’d like to do in our spare time.

Good to Better, Better to Great

If things are relatively okay, sex can make them good. If things are good, sex can make them great. And if things are great, sex can bring husband and wife to a physical and a spiritual intimacy that can be known in no other way on God’s green earth.

However…

Sometimes Sex Isn’t on the Menu

If sex were the “nourishing food of marriage,” from which all acts of charity arise, how would a man ever care for his elderly wife suffering from Alzheimers, who no longer recognizes him as her husband? How could he possibly change her diapers, spoon-feed her, and help her in the shower?

If sex were the “nourishing food of marriage,” how can a woman caring for her brain-injured husband help him to “re-learn his history,” oversee his therapy,  and sort out all of his medications? How could she remain patient (albeit imperfectly) when his reactions are inappropriate and disinhibited?

Are these couples less married because they can’t partake in the marital act?

From where do these caregivers’ many acts of charity arise? Mr. Williams would have us believe that such acts cannot, in fact, exist because these couples aren’t uniting fully in their marital bed!

Let’s look at this from a different angle

A priest is married to the church. If acts of charity in marriage arise only out of sexual union, as this article would have us believe, how on earth can a priest carry out his duties of endless self-donative love for his parishioners and Christ’s people?

Likewise, a nun is married to Christ, united with Him in a holy union unlike any that we married folk will ever understand. She performs countless charitable acts for her students, strangers, the poor, the disabled. How can she possibly perform these acts when she can not make love to her Beloved?

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 3.57.41 PMHow?

And just consider for a moment the Holy Family, the most perfect family ever to exist on this earth, upon which we are meant to model our own families. If charitable acts flow only from sexual intimacy, how was Mary able to serve Joseph, and Joseph able to serve Mary?

Sex: The Apple Pie a la Mode of Marriage

I’d like to counter Mr. Williams’s with the argument that sex is not the nourishing food of marriage. To try to stick with the “food” analogy, I’d argue that, for us dessert lovers, sex is the apple pie a la mode of marriage – the pièce de résistance which more fully unites us, which makes us feel more wholly one.

But there are many other wonderful delicacies on our menu, even if Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 4.42.59 PMwe’re not enjoying dessert. There’s the meat and potatoes of long hugs and extended kisses. There’s the delicious mozzarella sticks of holding hands. There’s the  delectable fresh bread of laying in bed spooned into one another, even though you know this cuddle is going absolutely nowhere.

We can still have a perfectly wonderful meal, even if apple pie isn’t on the menu. In fact, skipping dessert while more fully exploring other menu options can lead us to a better understanding of what we both enjoy, while also leaving us feeling more satisfied and maybe even a little healthier.

Likewise, a marriage can be strengthened through abstinence, whether it’s forced or voluntary. The acknowledgement that our union transcends beyond the physical and can survive the lack of the physical can increase trust and improve our ability to give selflessly. Moreover, it can help us to recognize that our ultimate goal and responsibility is to aid our spouse on their journey toward the ecstasies of the heavenly kingdom, rather than toward the ecstasies of the world.

With all this in mind, I would ask Mr. Williams, and all married people, to consider the roll sex plays in their lives and marriages. Can your marriage survive – and thrive – without it?

If it can’t, I suggest that you consider broadening your menu.

**Editor’s note: The article referenced on Aleteia has been changed since I originally wrote this post, for which I am extremely grateful.*** The article no longer states that “Sex is the nourishing food of marriage,” but that “Sex is kind of like the nourishing food of marriage.” (emphasis mine) The subheading has also been changed, from indicating that sex is “the cause” of charitable acts, but that sex is “a cause” of charitable acts. This is a huge distinction, drastically changing the meaning of the article, in my opinion. Thank you to Aleteia and Mr. Williams for clarifying the author’s intent. I do not know whether the body of the post has been substantially changed. In the interest of editorial integrity, I will leave my post unchanged.

***another Editor’s note: I initially indicated that I “was extremely grateful” that the article’s title and subtitle had been changed. Upon reflection, I realized that’s not true. I’m actually extremely ticked that the article would be so substantially changed. In this “blogosphere,” changing articles substantially is not okay. I’m grateful that the clarification was made, but wish that it had been done in a way that was more honest and respectful of the original content and context.

Homecoming!

Ray’s Home!

After eight weeks in Grand Rapids in neurological rehab, Ray has finally come home. Here’s a how it went down…

welcome home dad
Yes, one of these kids is not my own. 😉
We Had a Week that Could Have Been from that Fiery Place Below

First off, I’ve been suffering from a terrible cold that has only affected me (worn down as I am), and has made most of my nights sleepless due to uncontrollable coughing. I tried everything, but for two weeks straight I was lucky to get four hours of sleep each night.

I drove my sleepless self to Grand Rapids Sunday, so that I could
learn Ray’s routine and get the recommendations for his ongoing therapy. I returned home  Tuesday evening, and woke up Wednesday morning to two sick kids. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease didn’t strike Boo too badly but it left Little Man beside himself.  My sweet little baby wouldn’t stop screeching, and wanted to be held constantly. He didn’t want to eat or drink. Nothing made him happy.

Wednesday night, a tree fell on the power line running to the house, and we had a partial electrical outage. No A/C. No oven. No big deal.

No well pump. Ergo, no running water.

No toilets.

No way.

Electrical Outages Can Actually Be A Blessing

kids in hottubWhen you are a single mom with five kids, two of whom are sick, a lack of electricity running you out of your house and into the arms of your loving mom and dad who happen to have a pool is actually a blessing.

Mom and I took turns attempting to keep Little Man happy, while the other kids swam and played. It made for a far better day Thursday than the one I had planned, which was filled with work and cleaning.

The Big Day

Friday, still sleep-deprived, I left early to make the four hour drive upray at going away party to Grand Rapids. Again. There was a farewell party for Ray, a few last minute details to cover, and his room to pack up. Then, I turned around and drove the four hours home, arriving in time for the steak dinner Ray’s mom had waiting for us.

Of course, Little Man wouldn’t stop screeching. I had to remove him from the house so Ray could enjoy his welcome home dinner. Brain injury and screeching babies do not agree with one another. But, my trip to Walgreens to get Epsom salts was rewarded with a half hour long happy bath time (overseen by Bonita while I ate my dinner), and a happy baby at the end of it all.

Praise God.

God is Good

If you recall, just before Ray went to Michigan, I was about to lose it. I have a few things on my plate these days, and helping Ray with his at-home therapy had fallen off the plate and landed – SPLAT! – on the floor. His time in Michigan was a much needed opportunity for him to get the services he needed, while giving me a break from the stress of my inadequacies. (I say that with total healthy self-love. None of us are perfect.) It was also a time for me to prepare mentally and spiritually for his homecoming, and to get used to the idea of living by a schedule… something I’ve always known the value of, and which is vital to the well-being of a brain injury survivor, but that I – quite frankly – totally suck at.

I prayed a novena of total surrender to Jesus, finishing on the day Ray came home. Undoubtedly the best thing I could have done, and I’m grateful that it appeared when it did, an answer to a prayer.

Two Days of Life on a Schedule

I can’t say we’re sticking to it 100%, but we’ve done pretty well. The most important part is keeping Ray active, and we’ve definitely done that. He would love to take a three to four hour nap every day, but the schedule “simply doesn’t allow it.”

Proof that Big Families are a Blessing

ray and z on bike rideHaving five kids and a brain injured husband can be difficult to navigate. Very. To begin with, brain injury does not get along well with noise, chaos, and craziness. Add to that the myriad of kids’ activities, competing wants and needs, and trying to meet them all as a “single parent,” and a big family could quickly be seen as a curse.

But, thanks be to God, this weekend we have seen the blessing of theray and ike doing legos big family. The kids have – unbeknownst to them – become Ray’s therapists. Dude took a bike ride with me and Daddy Saturday morning. Bear did Legos with him in the afternoon. Ray played Battleship with Bonita, and played games of pool with Dude and Bear at my parents later in the day. All excellent forms of physical, occupational,ray playing pool or cognitive therapy for Ray, and a great way to keep the kids busy, thinking, and off their devices.

Here’s praying that we can continue this into the week!

The Unexpected Blessing of Being Open to Life

This little guy turns one today, so it seems fitting that I write a post I’ve been meaning to Evan in swingwrite for a very long time.

I’d like to reflect on the fact that, about one year and eight months ago, when Ray and I shared our news with friends and family, the overwhelming response was, “Are you serious?” or, “How could you let this happen?” or, “Raymond, you should have had that taken care of a long time ago!” or even, “You’re killing me!”

Thank God, we were serious. Thank God, we did let this happen. Thank God, Raymond hadn’t had “that” taken care of.

Because, first of all, our family was not complete without Little Man. We had one more seat in the car, a little more space in a bedroom, and tons more room in our hearts. From the moment he came into this world — smiling, I swear! —he has been a blessing to us. He has brought joy, laughter, and endless snuggles into our lives. Everyone who meets him remarks at what a happy child he is. Anyone who sees him agrees he’s one of the most beautiful babies they’ve ever seen. Each person who holds him is instantly wrapped around his little finger, and happier for having had a cuddle.

Evan standing at tableI’ve always thought this was God’s way of showing us how he will bless us when we are open to his will for us. When people would argue with me that Ray should get “snipped,” that surely we couldn’t have more children, I would point to Little Man and say, “But if we had followed your advice, we wouldn’t have him!” 

To me, Little Man was a living, breathing testament to the importance of always remaining open to life.

But then God took it one step further. Because bringing light and laughter and one more person to love into our lives wasn’t enough. If Ray and I hadn’t been open to life, to this life in particular, there would have been no baby to wake up and begin to cry on the morning of November 19th, when Ray got out of bed. There would have been no child to carry out to the family room to nurse at three in the morning. No baby to set down on the floor while I called 911. No baby to remain sitting quietly by as his mommy performed CPR on his daddy.

Evan sitting on floorNope. If we’d followed the way of the world, and the advice of most of our family and friends, there would have been no baby. I would have remained peacefully asleep that morning, and Ray’s body would have grown cold long before I awoke three hours later to find him.

Does every “surprise” baby save his daddy’s life?

No.

But this baby is a reminder that God has a plan for each and every one of us. And that we’ll never know what blessings we’ve kept from the world in the babies whose existence we’ve prevented.


 

If you’d like to see more posts like this, you might check out:

At This Most Difficult Hour, 7 Things I’m Grateful For

A Peace that Surpasses All Understanding

and one of my all time favorites:

Ugly, Squeaky, Humbling: 7 Things I Love About Our Little House

 

An Unexpected Homecoming

It’s been a long week. Last Saturday, Ray’s sister was visiting when he had a bout of “seizure like activity.” On Monday, just as I was getting ready to leave the rehab hospital to go pick up the kids, I noticed that Ray’s breathing was labored. One thing led to another, and it turned into another “seizure-like” episode. Next thing you know, we’re back at St. Vincent’s hospital for testing.

An echocardiogram, CT scan, EEG, and MRI later, we were all set to leave St. V’s Friday afternoon.

However, we could not return to the same acute rehab hospital we had come to know and love. The average stay there is 14 days. Ray had been there for 49, and the insurance wasn’t ready to pay for more. Tuesday had been set as his discharge day.

I had prayerfully considered bringing Ray home, but the doctors and family and friends strongly discouraged it. He is very impulsive, extremely shaky on his feet, and recognizes neither. He should use a walker or wheelchair, and needs a spotter, even with the walker. But he doesn’t remember that and, without a second thought, will hop out of bed, a chair, or even a wheelchair and eagerly want to help me, grab an imagined item, or go to the bathroom. How could a mother with five young children, including a baby, handle that? The answer is… she probably can’t. Plus, at a subacute rehab, he would receive two hours a day of therapy, whereas if he were at home he would only get three hours a couple days a week.

I toured three subacute facilities, and said I would cut off my right arm before putting him in two of them. However, there was a third that I was very comfortable with. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up and miscommunication, and that facility denied him admission. We were expecting to get that figured out early next week, so we decided to put him in one of the other cut-off-my-arm-subacutes in the meantime.

On the way to his new "home away from home"
On the way to his new “home away from home”

I figured he’d survive a few days in a poorly decorated geriatric facility, and then we’d get him to the better option.

We left the hospital around 4:30, and finally got to the new facility at five. After waiting 20 minutes for someone to bring a wheelchair, we were finally shown to his room. Walking through the halls, I was reminded of why I wanted to cut off an arm before sending him there, and when we walked into the vintage eighties room, boasting two beds with nasty, mismatched comforters and not much else, I wanted to cry. It was only for a few days, though, so I thought we could handle it.

But then I noticed that the bed had no rails. And the tech informed me that none of their beds had rails – that’s considered a restraint, and they can’t have restraints. So I asked about a bed alarm. And he said that, no, they didn’t have those, either. That was considered a restraint too.

And I said, “He can’t stay here.”

Which left only one option. Bring him home.

Thus, last night, with no planning and zero preparation, I finally brought Ray home, after

Home at last
Home at last

over two months of hospitalization. My full time job has now switched from hospital visitor, rehab supporter, and medical advocate. I am now 24/7 caregiver, not just to five kids, but to one adult man as well. Fortunately, I had been trained in walking with him, helping him to the bathroom, and transitioning from wheelchair to car. Unfortunately, we left the hospital with no training on his medications, no medical equipment, and a house that needs rearranged to fit our new needs.

It’s gonna be an interesting few days, but it’s good to have him home.

How I Can Support Traditional Marriage and Not be a Hater

Anyone who follows this blog in any way, shape, or form would probably correctly assume that I am opposed to gay marriage.

More precisely, I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Why? Because marriage is an institution created by God to serve a very specific role within his creation – to procreate, and then to provide a stable, loving environment for those little beings who were procreated.

As our pastor pointed out recently, it’s pretty obvious how’s it’s supposed to work. Just look at the anatomy. A man and a woman fit together in a way that no two women or two men can. Man and woman were made for one another.noahs-ark1

When God told Noah to load the ark two by two, would the whole plan have worked if he loaded two male elephants and two female horses? I think not.

Okay. We’ve established where I stand on the subject. And now many of you have made a few judgements about me.

I’m a hater. A bigot. A close-minded, ignorant, bullying jerk.

I can handle that.

And I’ll still love you.

Go ahead. Unfriend me on Facebook. Erase my contact info from your phone if you feel you must.

After you read the rest of what I’ve got to say.

Because here’s the news flash: it is possible to disagree with someone’s actions and still love them.

Case in point:

Most of you know that I wasn’t always the Bible-loving Catholic woman that I strive to be today. In fact, in my earlier years, I “lived in sin” with my boyfriend. Of course, at the time, I joked about that whole living in sin thing. Sin wasn’t something I really took seriously. Cohabitation seemed practical and convenient, not to mention that it was what everyone else was doing, and I was in love and we planned to get married.

But I digress. What I’d actually like to examine here is my parent’s response to my lifestyle choice.

Guess what?

My parents did not approve.

I knew this without them saying a word. But, because she loved me, my mom had a very, very difficult conversation with me. One in which she had to use that three letter “s” word no mom born before the sixties wants to have to use with her daughter.

I’ll give you a hint. It ends with an “x” and has an “e” in the middle.

This had to be an incredibly difficult topic for my mom to broach. But she did it anyways. Why? Because she loved me. And, in her love for me, she did not want to stand back and let me enter into a sinful situation without doing everything she could to prevent me from making a mistake. A mistake that she knew would drive me further from God.

Did you catch that one sentence?

Because she loved me…

Imagine that.

In today’s world, people seem to think that, if we love someone, and they do something we believe to be sinful, we should keep our mouths shut.

No. Scratch that. Keeping our mouths shut is not enough.

We must actually change our value system and accept that the actions of the other are perfectly fine.

Otherwise, we’re haters, bigots, and close-minded jerks.

Thank God I got married to that live-in boyfriend. Otherwise, I’d have to feel offended by my parents, who would not have changed their views and thus, by today’s standards, must surely hate me.  I’d have to call them haters and  bigots and close-minded throwbacks.

But wait. They never did hate me. They stuck to their value structure and shared it with me.

Out of love.

Imagine that.

Let the trash talk begin. Feel free to comment below.

(Be warned that all comments are moderated. While I will attempt to respond to all respectful comments, I reserve the right to edit any inappropriate content. I also reserve the right to take a really long time to respond because it’s hard to focus with five kids running around the house. But I’ll do my best.)

An Honest Reaction to “Joyful” News

My hands shook and my knee jumped frantically of its own accord as I sat on my shiny throne.

God, please, no.  You can’t do this to me.

No, no, no.  That’s not what I’m supposed to say.

Not my will, but Thy will be done, Lord.

It can’t be true.  Please, don’t let it be true.

No, that’s not right, either.

I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.

And so the inner struggle began, in the early morning hours, as my husband slept just twenty feet away, blissfully unaware of the turmoil I was experiencing, which he would soon share.

And the thoughts came back again, of their own accord.

God, please, don’t let it be true.

But it was.  The little blue “plus” sign was clearly visible in the light from the single overhead fixture.

I was pregnant.

This would be number five.  When we got married, my husband and I had agreed that three was the perfect number.  But that was before…

Before I converted to Catholicism.

Before I became a different person.

Before I said, “I don’t always understand the Church’s teachings, but I was called into the Church, and I have to believe God wants me to follow all of the teachings.  I can’t just pick and choose.”

And, anyways, I get this one.  Every child is a gift.  How can I say, “Thanks God, for the four wonderful gifts you’ve given me, but I’ve got enough now.  I don’t want this gift you’d like to give me, so I’m going to prevent you from giving it.”?

And yet, here I was now, thinking, God, please, no.

Funny enough, I desperately wanted another child.  Only a few weeks before, I’d held a friend’s baby, lamenting the fact that my child-bearing days were over.

And how do I explain that – a Catholic, trying to follow Church teachings, wanting to accept another life from God, yet resigning myself to being “done”?

Well, that’s a long story, or at least one that I can’t tell and feel that I’ve done justice to all parties involved.  Essentially, there were many, many reasons why my husband had made it very clear that we needed to be DONE. Valid reasons.

I waited a day to tell my husband.  I took the test on our four-year-old’s birthday.  Unsure of how he would respond, I didn’t want to ruin her day.  So I waited.

He was shocked.  But I had underestimated him.  Ultimately, he came to me, gave me a hug, and said,

“We’re gonna have a baby.”

And so we are.

Thanks be to God.

Surrender for My Valentine

Surrender and Valentine’s Day?,  some might ask, incredulously.  Seriously?

Well, surrender is a funny thing.

Were I to surrender myself to the wrong thing, say sexuality, or drugs or alcohol, or the false gods of materialism and wealth, it would consume me totally. Ultimately, it would change the person I am, change my goals, change my loves, change my relationships.  It would become difficult for me to maintain relationships on more than a superficial level.

In some ways, I suppose, surrender to God is similar.  Surrender to the Lord changes me.  It changes the person I am, changes my goals, my loves, and my relationships.  Yet, our surrender to the Lord will never consume us, not in the “All used up and good for nothing else way.”  It’s an amazing thing.  Rather than being consumed – used up –  we are given more.

In fact, it is only through our total giving of ourselves to the Lord that we can totally selflessly give to others.

I’ve witnessed this first hand in these past few weeks, as my husband has grieved the tragic loss of his best friend.  I knew he needed time to grieve.  I knew that, in his grief, he needed loving arms to come home to, and caring ears to listen.  He needed the security of knowing that I was there, no matter what.

For the first few days, I was completely immersed in prayer, knowing that I could not possibly give him everything he needed without much needed support.  And, for those first few days, I must say, I was pretty spot-on.

But then I began to slip a bit.  Quite frankly, that whole self-donation thing isn’t easy, especially when the person that you’re giving, and giving, and giving to is in no shape to give anything back.  And my husband wasn’t.  In that first week, all he could do was take, and take some more, and then a bit more.  And that got hard.

We had received the news Saturday afternoon, and already, by the time I was in adoration early Tuesday, I was begging Jesus to help me overcome the anger and resentment that I was beginning to feel.  I was disappointed in myself, but I knew that I never could have gotten through the previous three days without clinging to Christ, and that I would never get through the days and weeks to come without continuing to do so, humbly aware of my own inadequacies.

And that’s when it hit me: Surrender.  I had already taken it for my “One Word 2014” two weeks prior.  At the time, I didn’t know how soon it would come into play in my life, or that my surrender would be so important to others around me.

That morning in adoration, I realized that, only by my total surrender to Christ, could I give my husband the support he needed.  Only by giving myself utterly and totally – every shred, every desire, every need- over to Christ, could I allow Him to use me as His servant in support of His precious son, Ray.  Only then could I be the hands and feet of Christ – His loving arms, His caring words, His supportive presence.

Our God is pretty awesome, isn’t He?  He’s a jealous God (Ex 34:14; Deut 6:15; et al), yet His jealousy is not like that of humans.  He doesn’t attempt to keep us for Himself, like a jealous husband or boyfriend.  Instead,  when we give ourselves to Him, He essentially multiplies us, making us more for others, and giving us back to those around us in a fullness that we can never achieve on our own.

Love and marriage are all about self-donation.  And self-donation is hard.  But we can do it, when we are surrendered to Christ.

Last Saint Valentine’s Day, I was Meek but not Milquetoast.   This Saint Valentine’s Day, I’m Surrendering to the Lord.  Perhaps not the box of chocolates or lacy lingerie that my Valentine had in mind, but I think it will serve us well in the end.

And maybe I’ll throw in some chocolate and lace just to keep him happy tomorrow as well. 🙂

Belgium Chocolates

 

The Cat’s Away…

The cat being Ray, of course.  Off across the globe, enjoying malted beverages and weinerschnitzels.  The mice have played quite a bit, and I must confess that, while I do miss my DH, a week on my own does have its benefits.  As much as I enjoy our evenings spent relaxing with a glass of wine on the deck, or cuddling on the couch to watch a movie, I find that I am much more project-oriented when he is out of town.  He hasn’t traveled in nearly a year, so it was high time for me to tackle some projects.

OK, OK.  I confess.  The kids have been staying up till ten, and by the time they’re in bed, I have little energy left to do much of anything, but I did get to watch the Twilight movie the other night without having to listen to his opinion of the silliness of the plot or the quality of the acting.  I adored the movie, and am waiting with baited breath to see if maybe, just maaaaayyybe, my hold request will be fulfilled tomorrow so that I can watch the second movie when he gets back.  Is it wrong to pray for such a thing?  😉

Having gotten over my disdain for the pool, I’ve been having a blast swimming with the kids.  I finally jumped in on Monday, and Bear finally overcame his fear of the water.  He realized that he can, indeed, touch the bottom of the pool, and that the floaties really will hold him up.  Bonita is finally jumping into the deep end, and Dude is diving off the diving board.  Boo had already discovered a week or so ago that she could have lots of fun floating in the pool, and watching her kick her tiny little legs madly, trying to get from point A to point B is an absolute stitch (yes, I just said “stitch.”  Can you tell I’ve been spending time with my mom?)

The kids have also been having lots of fun collecting tomato-eating caterpillars off of my tomato plants.  The caterpillars have a comfy home, which is currently on my living room table.  Ray would have a cow, but I’m just happy that they’re not eating my good tomatoes.  Fortunately, the kids have been very responsible about cleaning the cage, as these are some seriously poopy worms.

 

OK, back to productivity.  Look, I’m posting to my blog!  I have also crossed off many “to-do” items for various volunteer commitments, as well as Arbonne business.   I’ve planted flowers that had languished in plastic pots for weeks.  Today, I reorganized the towel closet, throwing away a mountain of tacky old towels that I had been hanging on to in my depression-era mentality.  The closet looks great!  I’ve started refinishing the hall tree that serves as a space-filler for the powder room, and am excited to be replacing the mirror with a fabric memo board.  (Guests don’t have to look at themselves while they sit on the pot anymore! Yahoo!)  I’m itching to get my hands on the kids toys and just throw, throw, throw stuff away, before tackling some major reorganization of the toy storage.  I’ve got three dressers to paint, and the basement storage room to reorganize as well.

Sooooo, no chance I’m getting this all done before Ray gets home.  Perhaps he can fly back to Germany for a week in August? 🙂

A Valentine’s Post – Meek but not Milquetoast

One of Bishop Coyne’s New Year’s Resolutions was

“To be meek but not milquetoast.”

It may seem odd that this is the topic for my Valentine’s Day post.  Bishop Coyne probably intended these words to be applied to our spiritual life – our willingness to be obedient to God and to stand up for what we believe in, in a loving, non-violent way.

But I find that, at this juncture in my life, where I most need work on being “meek but no milquetoast” is in my day-to-day relationship with my husband.

You see, Ray and I are both a bit bull-headed.  Both of us were the baby in our families, both accustomed to getting our way and being a little bit catered to.  We’re both strong-willed, quick to speak, and slow to back down.

And so here’s where the “meek but not milquetoast” bit has begun to sunk in with me.

Sometimes Ray says things that I don’t appreciate.  Things that make me feel undervalued, unappreciated, and more than just a little ticked off.  Once he’s said it, he’s not going to take it back, and he’s certainly not going to apologize.

I’d like to give him a piece of my mind, reminding him of all the wonderful things I do, that I work late into the night folding clothes and cleaning the house.  I want to inform him that he gets to sleep while I clean up vomit, stroke backs and hold back hair. Yet…

“A gracious wife delights her husband,
her thoughtfulness puts flesh on his bones;
A gift from the LORD is her governed speech,
And her firm virtue is of surpassing worth.”
(Sir 26:13,14)

There are times when he does things that I disagree with, or that I find annoying.  I’d like to tell him exactly what I think of his actions.  But…

“[Your adornment should] be in the imperishable beauty of a
 gentle and calm disposition,
which is precious in the sight of God.”
(1 Pet 3:4)

 

So this is when I need to be “meek but not milquetoast.”  This is when I need to bite my tongue and pick my battles.

My mom used to always ask me, “Stephanie, is that really a mountain you want to die on?”

The fact of the matter is, there aren’t really many mountains I want to die on.

That’s my gift to my Valentine this year.  A more peaceful wife, a more peaceful home… All because I can choose to be meek, though I will never be milquetoast.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs at the days to come.”
(Prov 31:25)