Irish Legacy

imageToday I send my kids to school with their green accessories, much the same way my mother sent me.

I believe it was fourth grade, and we were living in Jacksonville, Florida. Mom stopped my sister and me at the front door. She seemed more excited than usual. In her hands were two little buttons which she proceeded to pin on our chests. They said “Erin Go Bragh” and had green ribbons hanging from the back. We were confused.

“Erin Go Bragh?” What did it mean?

“Long live Ireland,” we were told.

‘Whatever,’ I thought. Ireland was like a mythical place that our great grandparents had come from. I had no idea that my sister and I bore the hope of generations.

I also had no idea that I would grow up to marry a man who carried more Irish blood than me. Someone with ancestors who “got off the boat” in Philadelphia and stayed, making livings as servants to some of the city’s wealthiest families. The combination of our DNA meant I would have children who are technically more Irish than me.

But now, I carry hopes for them – just like their great, great grandparents who labored under visions of a better life. And the more I learn about the struggles, troubles, and hardship of the Irish people, the more I am grateful for this land of plenty into which my children were born.

Today we celebrate by wearing green and eating shepherd’s pie. Some see it all as frivolous fun. I see it as a day’s rest after hundreds of years of toil. It is a blessed moment in which we acknowledge the perseverance of many, and the joyful hope that springs eternal from hearts filled with love.

May the Strength of God pilot us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Host of God guard us.
Against the snares of the evil ones.
Against temptations of the world

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!
May Thy Salvation, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and evermore. Amen.

-Prayer of St. Patrick 

7 Gifts from My Facebook Fast

7 Gifts from My Facebook Fast

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This past Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I fasted from Facebook and other media including newspapers, magazines, and TV in order to spend more time in prayer. I broke the fast only to watch a movie with my boys on Saturday night.

My primary motivation was to listen for divine guidance in my role as a voter, and to pray for our nation. This year’s primaries have jostled my nerves like never before, and I wanted to shut off the political loudspeakers and let what I’d already heard digest a bit. I figured that doing so would rid my head of static. I was right. But there were even more gifts from my fast than I’d expected.

Gift 1 – Freedom from the encumbrance of others’ views.
Democracy is based on the idea that every person’s voice matters. But it’s easy to forget that when we’re drowning in the latest sound bites, which fail to convey the totality of the political picture. To make reasonable decisions, we have to weigh facts and presentations against our own experiences and values. Doing that in an echo chamber is nearly impossible. Over the last three days, silence allowed me to hear the voice I should when I enter the voting booth – my own.

Gift 2 – Closeness to the people who really matter.
While being informed and voting is important in a democracy, I need to keep this civic responsibility in proper perspective.

If I’m trying to live in accordance with the plan I believe God has for me, I need to consider at all times my sphere of influence. Some people may connect with thousands. Me? So far in my life, I’m called to serve only a few. My position as a wife, mother, or community member may seem small on an average day, but what I do is critical and irreplaceable. It deserves my full attention.

So, liberated from distractions, I was free to love the people entrusted to my care better. I studied their eyes. Listened – to what they weren’t saying in words. Touched them. Gave and received hugs. Held hands.

Physical closeness matters – to them, and to me. When I think of who is really “there” for me – in the flesh with me, in good times and in bad – it’s these people. And they won’t be with me forever. Best to wrap my arms around them now.

Gift 3 – An increased sensitivity to my own emotions.
My daughter is an Irish dancer, and she and her school were invited to perform multiple times over the weekend at Irish Fests and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. I’m usually rushing to get her to these events, and then feeling a bit anxious when she heads out on stage, thinking about details such as whether her wig will stay put, shoes stay tied, and smile stay fixed if she slips on an unfamiliar floor. None of this has happened to her yet. But still – I worry.

On Sunday, I had a perfect seat to stage left and because of my fasting, noticed that I was able to focus on her dancing. I saw the muscles in her legs working in time to the Celtic beats, the sparkle in her eyes as she surveyed the room. Dancing gives my daughter joy. And without the extra noise in my head, I could share that joy with her. I could feel it in my gut.

Gift 4 – A deeper understanding of the value of time.
Truly, only God knows how much time I have. And how much I’ve wasted scrolling through photos of cute babies and puppies I’ll never meet in person. Or reading articles that just made me angry or sad. Countless hours. It’s silly, even stupid, when I consider that there’s no way of knowing if today is the last day of my life.

Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.

-Psalm 90:12

I learned to change this verse to a prayer.

Help me to live as if each day is numbered, so that I can gain wisdom as to how to spend my time.

A few hours into my fast, I knew that if I were given just a handful of days, I sure wouldn’t spend them on Facebook.

Gift 5 – More laughter.
I’m not an overly serious person, but no one would call me jocular. What I find funny often depends on my frame of mind. For example, when our family is eating out, I expect the kids to behave. Tableside antics need to be kept to a minimum. But Sunday night, we were sitting in Jack’s Fortune chinese restaurant when my 6-year old draped a napkin across his head and deadpanned, “Here comes the bride.”

I laughed right along with everyone else. He’s developing his own sense of humor, test driving punchlines to check our reactions. I might have missed out if my mind had been on its usual wander.

Gift 6 – A reawakening to my own interests.
In the quiet of the past few days, I finished a novel, worked on a couple sewing projects, and made a Norwegian dish that I’d never cooked before. With a clear mind, I was savoring each activity, appreciating it for the satisfaction it brings. Sweet moments like these give life color, and they filled my heart with a sense of gratitude.

Gift 7 – A reminder to ‘take the long view.’
My oldest is 13 – a challenging age. My husband and I are seeking ways to understand the pressures our son is facing, and also to help him identify his strengths and weaknesses.

The three of us had a couple rich discussions this weekend, talks that I know will affect the man he’s to become. What we do and say today changes tomorrow’s picture, for better and for worse. I don’t want to waste precious opportunities to give my son a faith foundation for this life, and guidance on how he’s to prepare for the next.

In the silence of media-free days, I can hear the whisper of the One who helps me lead my children and explore the abundant life intended for us. I gain confidence that my voice really does count – with Him who reigns supreme.

And as for the candidates I’ve been ignoring temporarily, I will pray they receive the same gifts given to me. Because a deep, strong understanding of our proper and humble size compared to Him, is valuable in a public servant.

Don’t Laugh at the New Bud

image“That daffodil looks funny, Mom!” she said, laughing and pointing at the new bud.

“Well, it has to start somewhere. And that’s where it begins.”

I knew what she was saying – sometimes things strike us as odd. That tiny, fragile bud pushing its way up through our rocky, leaf-strewn, unkempt garden bed.

But I could felt a tinge of criticism in the air. Whether she implied it or I just created it, I don’t know, but that’s human cynicism for you. We color the beauty of growth with judgement.

Was it meant to be that way?

I would posit that No – it wasn’t. That life was supposed to be carefree. We were supposed to rest in the knowledge that we were created in love and are loved unconditionally from day one through infinity.

But instead, the liar came and whispered in our ears that we could be more. 

He’s still whispering – doing his dirty work of telling us we’re unloved and then making us compare ourselves to others – and I fall prey to him too often. My big downfall is ‘wasting time.’ I always think I’m not getting enough done. As if this life is a big race to finish whatever it is we’re supposed to finish.

Ten days ago, I was sitting with my grandma, lamenting my general lack of industry, when I told her my ‘battery theory.’ “I think people are born with different sized batteries,”  I said. “Some people get D batteries, others Cs. I got triple-As!” She laughed and said, “I think you get that from me.”

I was surprised. But then she told me about some of the things she hadn’t done –  like photo albums – and I loved her all the more. Because I don’t care about her accomplishments. I love her for her. 

All the people I love most are the ones who are so genuinely themselves. Sometimes they have even persisted in a rocky atmosphere. Yet, they always maintain a certain air of grace that is unique to them.

Some of these loved ones are successful in a worldly sense. Some are not. Some seem to be well known, while others are like hidden gems. But they all have one thing in common: they have not stopped growing, and reaching for the Light.

I can’t help but think that that’s what the Lord wants from me too.

Waiting by the Door

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The dog is waiting for his Master.

He sits on the cold bricks and fixes his gaze on the door of the establishment where the one he loves has gone.

The icy wind blows his hair, and flaps his ears.

He sits. Stoic.

He’s lightly tethered to a chair. He could walk away with it. Drag it behind him and try to free himself. But he doesn’t.

Once in awhile, he turns his head and looks in either direction, surveying the scene.

But he always comes back to this position. Eyes forward.

Waiting for the Master to return.

Waiting for the Master to tell him what’s next.

Waiting to be taken to someplace they’ll go.

Waiting for the assurance and love that he knows will come.

His loyalty is evidence of their powerful bond.

The dog trusts and respects the Master.

So he waits.

Patiently.

I could learn a lot from the dog.

 

Flying Over Rapid City

The pilot just announced that we’re at 39,000 feet and flying over Rapid City, South Dakota. The man to my right across the aisle is playing an online crossword puzzle. These might be irrelevant details to some. But to me and my aching heart, they are clues that I’m not alone in my thoughts.

During this flight home to the East Coast, no other cities have been mentioned to us passengers. Just this one. And Rapid City just so happens to be one of the few places my grandparents lived in their 74-year marriage. Yes – the same couple I left a few hours ago in Seattle, WA, where the three of us celebrated Grandpa’s 94th birthday yesterday. And where Grandma has taken a liking to online crosswords as a replacement for the paper ones she’s done for decades.

Rapid City, South Dakota.

In the 1950s, my grandfather was a service and marketing engineer with Boeing – the mammoth aviation company. His piloting experience during WWII paired well with his University of Washington degree, and one of his long-term assignments was Rapid City. There, my grandmother was also busy – raising young children, my dad and my aunt.

In Seattle, they had left their brand new home to renters. “And while we were away,” Grandma tells me, “our church tore down its original building and put a new one up in the same place.”

This spring, that ‘new’ church building will be demolished as the congregation christens yet another one on Easter. My grandparents’ ‘new’ home, now 63 years old, has also been sold, and will disappear into the earth as a developer moves in to make use of the prime real estate.

Time marches on. Decisions are made. We collect the mementos we want to save and move forward. But the process rips at our hearts.

Do you ever wonder what might have been – had you made a different choice? 

Wondered about the ways that life moves – with or without you? 

And how His hand is at work in it all? 

Sitting in my dorm room at Dickinson College senior year, in the spring of 1994, I was contemplating life after graduation when I had a thought. A thought I have never forgotten in the 22 years since.

‘What if I moved to Seattle?’ 

I pictured myself trying to fit in to that city – a place where I had never lived, only visited – since my dad became a military officer and we were assigned elsewhere.

‘I could apply for graduate school at the University of Washington. I could get a Master’s in English. Or go to law school. Or maybe get a job. I could see more of Grandma and Grandpa.’ 

But I was fearful, and lacked the resolve to throw caution to the wind and move where I had no solid prospects. Or friends. Instead, I accepted a job as a legal assistant in New York City, and headed off on another adventure that ultimately took me to Washington, D.C. and into the arms of my future husband – a wonderful man with whom I’ve forged a life I desperately, desperately love.

But what if? 

Sitting with my grandparents this weekend, during yet another visit that is too short and too infrequent, I listen with my whole being. It is beautiful, sacred, joyful time. I want to recapture years. I want to fill in gaps.

I study the details of their faces, try to imprint their voices on my mind, and take copious notes on these people I love beyond words. I try to nail down the essentials and some of the family flavor, but I know the essence of it all is slipping by.

Ultimately, everything I feel comes down to an ache of gratitude and a longing for more. I want to say, ‘Thank you. Thank you,’ every single second, and ‘Please, don’t let it end.’

I hold up fairly well, keeping relatively dry eyes until I’m alone at the airport and suddenly everything spills over like waterworks. The missing them. The missing my husband and kids. The knawing knowlege that you can’t savor any morsel of this world’s goodness forever, eats away at my insides.

What would God say to me now?

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

-Isaiah 51:11

The promise of life without heartache is a balm to my spirit. If only I could grasp that perfect state here, for longer than a few precious moments at a time.

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Concerns for My Daughter

I’m catching a mid-morning flight and trying to leave the house quietly. But my daughter is up to say goodbye.

She’s always been an early riser, but I’m still surprised to see her standing there in her pajamas, her blond hair a tousled mess.

“Honey, you should be asleep.”

She turns her head ‘No’ and whispers while moving in to hug me tightly.

“Did you leave Daddy a schedule?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. But who’s driving me to dance?…What is the plan for tomorrow?…Did you remember to tell Dad about…?”

She has a list in her head.

Just like me.

Maybe that’s not a good thing.

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See – the list making – the idea that we can finalize plans, has become for me an extension of my perfectionism – something I do not want to pass on to her. Having a few ideas about what I’d like to do is one thing. Expecting them to happen just as I’d like, is another.

I want to tell her to relax. Enjoy. Don’t anticipate.

But it’s hard to convey these things effectively. And there are even bigger things that I must teach her. Things I believe are essential for her to understand.

If all of Scripture could be boiled down to two central messages, they’d be: 1) Be not afraid. 2) You are loved.

More than anything else, these are the things I want my daughter to know. And sometimes I worry she isn’t getting these messages.

‘But maybe she’ll see,’ I think. How can I help her see?

These were my thoughts in Bible study Thursday night, where we were discussing Jesus’s mother, Mary – the one person in history other than Christ himself who best exemplifies a person exercising full trust in God’s providential care.

To the root of her being, Mary was humble and put her faith in God. She had no silly notions that she was in charge of her life. As the angel told her that she would bear God’s son, she declared herself “the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). Her ‘yes’ – given despite the questions she had – showed she accepted the full weight of His authority, love, and protection. From within that sacred space, she then assumed her role in God’s plan and prayed from her deepest depths, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” (Luke 1:46)

Mary’s life was anything but easy, and it’s impossible to overstate how agonizing it must have been for her to watch her son die on a cross. But everything we know about Mary leads us to this conclusion: in the role that God chose for her, Mary was fully cooperative, and God used her as His instrument to point others to Christ – to Himself.

Not surprisingly perhaps, Mary’s last words in the Bible, concerning Jesus at the wedding feast in Cana, are to the servants – and all of us – “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5)

We too can magnify God – make He who is invisible, visible – by fully leaning into Him and asking Him to fill us with His love. Then, His love flows into our words. And into our actions.

Lord, I thank you for your mother, Mary. I ask that you make me more like her, and that Your Will be done in me. Make me a vessel that magnifies your Love, projecting Your radiance to my beloved daughter.

My Facebook Problem

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2009 was the year. I signed on to Facebook and so did just about everyone else I knew. It seemed like people were coming out of the woodwork. Men and women from high school, college, jobs I’d had, and my community, all became ‘Friends.’ It was nifty really, to find that despite all of the dreaming, planning, and working we’d done, we had similar lives. In essence, we all cared about the same things.

Like most people, I typically only post good stuff on Facebook. Or the things in my life for which prayer or consolation are appropriate. I hope they are events that my ‘Friends’ see as relevant and noteworthy, because we all want to find that others relate to us. But we don’t need to share everything. No one wants to see dog vomit, right?

Several years ago, my dad asked me how many ‘Friends,’ I had. When I answered, he probed a bit.

“Do you actually know all of them?”

I told him, “Yes. Or I knew them fairly well at some point in my life.”

That all changed sometime in the last couple years, because now I have ‘Friends’ of Friends. They are people I have minimal knowledge of. People who really don’t know me. You probably have some ‘Friends’ of the same sort.

If, in real life, I would usually have no idea that ‘Jen So-and-so’ vacations in the Caribbean twice every year, why in the world am I spending time viewing photos of her beachy getaways? And if ‘Dave What’s-his-name’ has political opinions that unnerve me, why am I allowing his caustic comments to get under my skin? I have learned to switch my news feed settings, but there is A LOT of stuff out there that doesn’t pertain – in any way – to me.

I justify my time on Facebook by acknowledging its value. There is useful information that helps my writing and guides my reading. And if it weren’t for this social medium I wouldn’t have known that an old, dear friend lost her niece to suicide, or that the prayers of thousands are helping to heal another friend’s husband – a Marine who was gravely injured overseas. I want to know what’s going on, and if I can contribute something worthwhile to my friends’ lives, however remote they might be.

But instead, I am sucked in by catchy (though not original) everyday truths about coffee, friendship, parenting, or the mourning process. ‘LIKE’ and Repost if You Agree!

Last week, I shared my woes with a friend. A “real-life” “in-the-flesh” “we met for coffee” friend. Together we renewed our vow to only look at Facebook at certain times and for certain reasons (mine having to do with participation in a writer’s group). My efforts have been valiant, but I am still not following through on that promise. I have wasted time – scrolling.

This morning, the Word spoke to me loudly.

Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.

-Ephesians 6:10

As a Christ follower, I have been made a new creation and given the enormous power of the Holy Spirit to overcome my flesh, which is prone to stray from the abundant life that He has envisioned for me. If I’m struggling in my inner battle, it’s because I have NOT relied on Him.

This life is a concrete, physical life – NOT a virtual one. God designed it that way. He gave me, you, and all my ‘Friends,’  bodies with which to taste, touch, smell, hear and see the physical world. In these ways, we can truly experience the richness of life, and by extension, the richness of Him.

Lord, renew me today. Help me to dispense with the wasted time I spend dabbling in worldly chatter – which I KNOW diverges from the fullness I have in You.

 

No Punching

“NO!” I yelled, a bit too forcefully. “That is NOT funny.”

I turned to face my little boy, whose eyes grew large with trepidation.

“We DON’T say things like that. We DON’T do that. EVER. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mommy. I’m sorry, Mommy.”

Admittedly, I was only half-listening moments earlier when he was telling me about a kid in his class who had been annoying him that day. He was reenacting the schoolroom scene with typical little kid smiles and giggles, and fantasizing about how he could respond, when suddenly he said, “And then I’d punch him in the face.”

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I try not to overreact to my kids being kids. But when a line is crossed, I want them to know they’ve crossed it, and violence is NOT funny. Left unchecked, childish dreams of handling situations with fists can slowly and subtly become acceptable possibilities. And until I can have rational discussions with them about self-defense and what might constitute a “just” war, they need to know that hitting someone is not OK. They need to learn self-control.

That said, I probably overreacted because I’m feeling a bit raw.

I don’t want to wade too far into political talk, here. I am not versed in government theory and feel rather inadequate amidst political discussions. But I do vote and therefore believe it is my responsibility to stay reasonably informed about issues affecting my community, state, and nation, and I have to say that this year I am more disheartened than ever before.

It all came to a head last night when I saw a clip of Donald Trump at a Nevada rally saying he would like to punch a protester. ‘I can’t believe this,’ I thought. ‘I just dealt with this here in my kitchen 4 days ago!!!’

Some would say Trump was just speaking off the cuff and didn’t really mean it, but I’m teaching my kids to mean what they say and – call me idealistic or overly-sensitive – I expect the same from a presidential candidate. This man’s behavior is decidedly un-presidential. It is childish.

Don’t think for a second I’m letting the other candidates off the hook. I’m falling back on my values of hard work, honesty, fairness, generosity, freedom, and goodwill to all people – regardless of age, race, gender, religion, income, or status – and I’m not finding anyone who should get my vote without me significantly compromising on the ideas I’m trying to instill in the 3 members of the future generation who live in my home. Instead, I see candidates who are appealing to an angry nation. And this is an even bigger problem.

People are angry. And under that anger, lies fear. Fear of the future. Of new laws. Of old laws being revised. Of new people. Of protected people becoming unprotected. The list goes on and on. As a nation, we are fearful of change – change in any direction.

Where do fear and anger reside? In the heart.

And what is the remedy? Divine intervention.

Scripture resonates with one message more than any other, and it is this: BE NOT AFRAID.

Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God.

I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.  

-Isaiah 41:10

To find peace – freedom from fear and anger – it is up to each one of us to recognize that we are not in control. That we don’t even dictate the beating of our own hearts. That there is Something greater.

In recognizing this, we become aware. We develop an appropriate perspective. We become “right sized” in relation to this Greater Power, and we see the same relationship between other people and this Power as well.

The experience is humbling. It is also enriching. Because no longer do we look to other people as our saviors. Or our servants.

The uneasy truth of this life is that people – ALL people we will ever know – will let us down. Only the Something Greater – Someone Greater – could not.

Only a perfect God could promise that He would strengthen us, provide for us, and protect us. And the only way to really know Him, is to allow Him in.

“Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”

-Revelation 3:20

How do we know that we’ve really allowed God into our hearts? No amount of adherence to earthly laws can confirm it. The evidence is found in the yield of our lives.

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy….[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.

-Galatians 5:19-26

If we reap what we sow, we get what we deserve. And the roster of candidates represents our fruit.

Shame on us.

It is time to once again open wide the doors of our hearts. To humble ourselves and connect with Perfection. And to ask that He will forgive our failings and renew us – each of us – as individuals – once again.

 

For another article on Christian responsibility to critically view candidates positions, consider this:

Before Donald Trump, the sad history of when Christians anointed another political bully

Small Success Thursday – Trashing an Attitude

Small Success Thursday – Trashing an Attitude

I have been angry for some time, and it led me to do something I typically wouldn’t. On February 2, I complained on Facebook.

Posting this photo, I gave the following ‘status update’:

Ok, Annapolis friends, I don’t usually gripe but I am fed up. Does this look like recycling to you?!? Every week they empty our two yellow bins and leave the tall one UNLESS I hang a sign on it saying, ‘Recycling. Please take this.’ Needless to say I didn’t put up a sign today….I mean, really?? Really??

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Many friends responded and shared their same frustrations, and I relished the sympathy for a little while. Don’t we all stew in our own self-pity sometimes?

But others suggested I go to the city’s facilities office and ask for one of the new, larger, blue bins with a lid on top. After two weeks of delay – and not feeling any better about the situation – I finally made the trip today. I walked into the city building so ready to politely vent to whomever was in charge.

A petite woman emerged from a back room with a resigned smile on her face. I explained my situation, and she told me that the blue lidded bins were on back-order, but that I could take one of the open top ones, if I’d like.

And then she told me what hadn’t occurred to me before – that there is considerable turnover among the contractual companies that pick-up the city’s waste, so it’s not the same people on our route from week to week, and they know only that they should pick up the blue bins. They’re in a hurry of course, and they kind of go on ‘auto-pilot.’

I started to envision these guys – dumping my cans on 15 degree mornings, not stopping to look at the cans’ contents. Moving from job to job. Trying to provide for families.

Then I realized, my bins are yellow!

I was holding the yellow ones in my arms, ready to exchange them, when she asked how I’d gotten them. I said, “I’ve had them 14 years. I don’t really know.” She replied, “Well, get yourself a blue one and you won’t have any trouble.”

I guess I’m blessed they had been picking up the stuff in my yellow bins at all!

I left there with a new blue open-topped bin, and I will go back to get a lidded one when they come in.

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I also left there with a reminder: there is usually more going on than meets the eye, and it’s always important to extend sympathy to others. Even if you don’t fully understand the rules, obey them and life generally goes more smoothly.

It was like a little bit of divine insight pulled out of my own trash heap.

 

 

A Good Time to Thank a Husband

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DC Metro (fisheye) by ChrisDag https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisdag/

The 10 a.m. Metro train had just pulled out of New Carrollton station and my friend Marcia* and I – stay-at-home moms – were standing in the aisle, holding on tight to our kids – 7 total between the two of us. On this temperate July day in 2010, we had decided to take them into DC to the Hirshhorn Museum. My husband was already at work in the district, and hers was in Eastern Europe on business.

Initially, I didn’t give it much thought when Marcia’s phone rang. But I could soon tell from the lilt and excitement in her voice that her husband was calling, and I remembered it had been several days since they had been able to talk. I was amazed by what happened next.

Handing the phone to her kids, she said, “Daddy’s calling! And he can’t talk long, but tell him thank you for working so hard and for making it possible for us to enjoy this special day.”

In turn, each one of her four kids greeted their dad with enthusiasm, thanks, and a happy, brief recounting of what was going on in their lives.

The entire conversation lasted about 5 minutes. And as we slid into the underground tunnel, I was gobsmacked by the deep conviction I felt.

When was the last time I had thanked my husband for his hard work and for making our lives at home so comfortable?

There is an acceptable and shameful practice in our society today of badmouthing men. It’s often subtle. You know how it goes. “My husband just doesn’t know how to _________,” or “Men just don’t get it” – whatever the ‘it’ of that moment is. These conversations are always tinged with an air of female superiority, and you don’t have to know much about the nature of God to know He wouldn’t approve.

God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.

– Genesis 1:27

I’m as guilty as any woman of this. I’ve made sexist comments about men that I wholeheartedly regret. Especially now that I have two sons who are among the greatest treasures of my life, and I rely on my husband night and day to help me understand the way these boys think!

But the larger issue here is that the insidiousness of ingratitude threatens to tear apart the foundation of marriages. This works both ways of course, but a woman’s affirmations to and thanksgiving for her husband can go a long way toward bridging a gap that might be gradually growing between them.

And saying, “thank you,” when we don’t feel like it, or when we also want to be acknowledged for our contributions is hard, yes. But divine help is offered to us.

In her book, The Power of a Praying Wife, Stormie Omartian says, “You have to know that whatever has crept into your relationship so silently and stealthily as to not even be perceived as a threat until it is clearly present–such as making idols of your career, your dreams, your kids, or your selfish desires–can be removed. You have to trust that God is big enough to accomplish all this and more.” (p. 19-20)

So what are my idols? Comfort? Free time? Fear and worry? A desire for recognition or accomplishment? Books, TV, Facebook, etc. – entertainment of any sort?

An idol is anything that I prioritize ahead of honoring God. And I know from experience that if I’m not putting my relationship with God first, then my marriage – which is a blessing from God – will suffer.

I see most clearly when I regain the right perspective: God is the Maker, Sustainer, and Giver of all good things. And when I listen to Him and give Him thanks, my heart is transformed from stone to flesh, and I can be the loving wife I want to be.

*Not her real name.