Endings and Beginnings

Endings and Beginnings

My fiancé received word from home last week that his father may only have a week to live.  Late stage diabetes means infection and when it travels to the blood there is little an older body can do to fight it.

Tomorrow is the day.

Tomorrow we say, “I do.”

“I choose you.”  And this time it will make us husband and wife.

Not really a beginning, that was over two years ago.  It is more of a promise to continue choosing each other for the rest of our lives. A promise we have been nurturing in preparation for this day and all the rest that follow.

Through good times and bad.

Instead of a leisurely Thursday morning together, we will board a jet to Colorado to be with his family as they say their good-byes.  Our first journey together as a married couple.  A beginning.

And an end.

His father is devout and knows where he is going when he leaves us here.  That doesn’t mean my fiancé’s heart is not breaking and questioning the timing of everything.  Life is often full of difficult decisions and no right answers.  We are not promised an easy road.  But we are given hope.

It isn’t exactly how we expected things to be and the emotions are a roller coaster.  Elation and grief. Anticipation and trepidation.  Commitment and loss.  The experience of holding my love two days before our wedding as he cried and saying a prayer with him that his dad is finding rest in his last days can’t be found in any “10 Things To Do Before You Get Married” search on Google.

But maybe it should.  Maybe that very thing defines what marriage really is.  It isn’t the beautiful ceremony we have planned together with family and friends in a few hours, that’s for sure.  It’s the nitty, gritty, life-is-sometimes-messy-and-dirty banding* of two people and their ability to love through everyday life.  For better or for worse and just a taste of what may come.

Bring it on, I say.  We know God has got this.

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 

*Sorry, had to.  It just came out and I went with it. Can’t take oneself too seriously.

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With God As Our Compass

With God As Our Compass

 

It seems like forever ago that my boyfriend and I were talking about getting married and what kind of rings we wanted (598 days to be exact but who’s counting?).  The excitement of being in love and looking toward the future was intoxicating.  How naïve we were to think it would be that easy considering the pasts we each brought with us to the table.

Many ups and down proceeded to follow that point in our relationship as we have navigated through the expectations, laughter, hurt, hope, disappointment, joy, misunderstandings, bliss, silence, and  as we have grown to know each other more and relate as two people hoping to create one life together.  Carving out our common ground and mission has taken a level of growth and sacrifice neither of us knew we were capable of. The fact is we are together now is nothing short of miraculous and a testament to how many times have we prayed and given things over to God because we were not strong enough alone.

The day after Christmas this year, after carrying a ring around in his pocket for over a month, he finally spoke the words we needed to hear and asked me to be his wife.  Of course, I cried and he had to bring me a tissue to dab my stinging eyes.  Of course, I said yes to the question I had been longing to hear.  I knew how much those words meant for him to speak them out loud into the quiet room.

The moment was so laden with emotion we have been carrying from the time we met over 2 years ago it was hard not to just sit there and wonder if it was all real. Had we really made it? Sure, there’s another big step to take but it feels like we are already there and it will simply be the formality brought through legality and cake.  Our promise to ourselves and God started long ago…

This blog is about our love for each other and our children but more importantly it is about God’s love for us and that is why we are truly here today. It is only through our faith in Him that we have made it this far and we will look to Him to be our compass in plotting the direction this amazing journey we are on.

No matter where it take us, for He our true North.

Psalm 63:3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

Navigating The Holidays Post-Divorce

Navigating The Holidays Post-Divorce

 

I still remember my parents divorce when I was about 21 years old, meaning I remember that my family had no idea what to do at Christmas. I was (am) the oldest of six with my siblings falling behind me about every two years and what exactly were we supposed to do on Christmas Day when our parents didn’t live in the same home?

The first year was the most awkward event ever at my dad’s new house, where he was living with his girlfriend we barely knew (I just remember she had short spiked hair, Lisa maybe?). The gifts were all the same thing, canvas bags painted with some southwestern design in shades of turquoise and pink, probably purchased at an airport gift shop.  Like we were all one entity that embodied his responsibility, not his individual children.  I don’t even remember what we did with my mom but whatever it was, I swore the next year we would make a new tradition because Christmas was supposed to be special.

So for about the next 15 years, my family and those who grew to join us through marriage or friendship participated in a themed gift exchange, watched the Christmas Story and then went out to eat Chinese food (frah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah). What movie means the specialness of family more than that classic?

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Now that time has passed and we all have families of our own (and not everyone enjoys Chinese food or the Christmas Story movie), our tradition was morphed to a Secret Santa gift exchange, potluck at someone’s home and going to the movies after opening presents, usually the season’s latest blockbuster like Star Wars or Lord Of the Rings.  When we started this, we were usually the only ones at the movie theater but I must have told too many people because now it is seems to be what everyone is doing!

As an adult , I can look back at my parents divorce and see it from a different lens, especially due to my own divorce and knowing many friends who have gone through the same experiences of devastation, uprooting, loss and grief.  It is never more apparent than at the holidays what divorce represents and how it wrecks havoc on the whole “peace on earth and mercy mild” that the season is supposed to bring.  I’m sure my parents were doing the best they knew how and that probably was very little.

My boyfriend and I are dealing with holiday traditions again this year as he instinctively holds tight to the Christmas ones he started after his bitter divorce 8 years ago while I try to create our own traditions and include him in the ones with my family.  His daughters are older, too, and making plans with their friends and it is hard for him to let go and adjust around everyone’s needs and wants.

Because his family is in Colorado, he and his kids were used to being by themselves and all the things he’s used to doing revolve around that mindset.  He’s not thinking in terms of being part of a larger picture now and it leads to misunderstanding and disappointment.  It also means planning ahead so as to fit everything in and it’s no surprise he is NOT a planner. Even when I try to have the conversation months in advance.

It, also, doesn’t help that his parenting plan is the MOST AWKWARD EVER and despite being his “kid weekend” he must send them back to their mother’s at 4pm Christmas Eve and they come back at 9am Christmas morning (don’t forget to allow for travel time).  It makes it very hard to all go to church together, let alone find a time to celebrate as a family. Don’t think I forget to thank God above always that my son’s father and I respected the holiday and allowed for full Christmas Eve with him and full Christmas Day with me (his family celebrated Christmas Eve).  We even had a few times where we celebrated together.

The season of giving brings with it so many expectations and I’ll fully admit I have plenty of my own.  We should be doing this and we should be doing that.  I have to constantly remind myself I should be happy with all the wonderful things I have and not what has yet to be.  This is not an easy transition and we will have plenty of bumps and bruises along the way just like my family and many others have had to go through navigating both the stress and healing that this time of year can bring.  The Savior’s birth brings hope…

What are your families traditions? How have you survived the holidays when your family situation was less than perfect?

May you all have a blessed Christmas Day surrounded by family and friends, no matter what that may look like for you!

 

One Step Forward With Hope

One Step Forward With Hope

Bear with me as I type this with one hand. My non-dominant hand.

This last weekend, my boyfriend and I spent the weekend down in Portland, OR, a rare weekend with just the two of us.  It was reminiscent of last March when we spent the weekend at Cape Disappointment State Park in a yurt and exploring the coast.  We were supposed to go backpacking both times but in March he had just torn his meniscus while participating in SAR and I just dislocated and broke my shoulder while backpacking two weeks ago.  Both weekends were consolation prizes of sorts, I guess.  Trying to make the best of the change in plans and just enjoying our time together but still somewhat disappointed it wasn’t quite what the original plans had promised.

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I love Portland, especially for the FOOD.  Funky food carts, farmer’s markets and niche eateries, there is always a new treat to try.  Add Powell’s crowded warehouse of a bookstore (which may have been a mistake with a broken shoulder) and a handmade bike show, we had a great time in the city of bridges, even if just a bit gluttonous.

One of my favorite finds at the bookstore was the devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, in a worn faded purple leather cover.  On the drive down, we had been talking about wanting to do a devotional together as a way of having something meaningful to share each day on the phone.  We did find a fun one for dating couples but my bf reads this book often and I liked the idea of sharing that with him so I picked up my own copy, as well.

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Since our original plans had involved staying in a tent for the weekend (which fit our budget), my bf opted for taking advantage of an Airbnb instead of a hotel in town.  While at dinner at my favorite place, Cultured Caveman, the couple whose home we were staying at messaged to ask when we would arrive because they were headed to church.  When we said we were a ways out, they said they would simply leave the door open for us.

When we pulled up to the home it wasn’t quite clear where to park or which door to enter, so we sat in the car a bit and debated what to do.  It was just a bit awkward, I’ll admit, walking into a stranger’s home like this.  Or maybe I should say my bf got frustrated and I tried to gauge from the Airbnb ad where to go and which room was ours.  He was going on about his stupid idea of doing Airbnb, staying in the home of some strangers instead of paying more for a hotel and I was reminding him that I loved this kind of hostel thing (even if it didn’t totally lend itself to a “weekend away”).  I probably don’t have to say that it put a bit of a damper on the fun we had had that day. Fun we desperately needed.

You see, we had our first couple’s counseling appointment scheduled for the upcoming Tuesday and it was out there beyond this weekend like a mother-in-law coming to stay for a visit.  Struggling with my bf’s anxiety over getting married for some time now, this is our attempt at a step forward. You know anyone else who has a date set but no ring? Yeah, me either.  It’s been a weight we’ve been carrying and it can turn any sunny situation into a rainy day.  And things like the fact the hospital wouldn’t let him talk to me because he wasn’t family when I was there a few weeks ago are only salt in the wound that we didn’t marry last spring as planned.

We did eventually let ourselves in and found our room, our hosts showed up awhile later and introduced themselves and their home and we settled in for a quiet night of somber devotion and a promise to make the best of the next day.  August 12th from Chambers’ book turned out to be apropro (in my mind, anyway): Matthew 8:26.  Why are you so fearful, oh you of little faith?

We awoke the next morning to the smell of coffee and joined the couple in the kitchen for breakfast.  They were gracious and talked of their life, mostly of their mission work in Papua New Guinea.  I was bouyed by this, my bf and I have talked about what our future ministry together might be beyond the work we do now in a community kitchen.

Sitting there at the kitchen table, I glanced out the sliding glass door and could see that we may have interrupted them as we got up this morning as there were two opened books turned down on the patio table and some pads of paper and pens.  On closer inspection I could see the books were identical devotionals: My Utmost For His Highest was written on the covers of both.

There have been many times I have given our relationship over to God and many times I have not been sure that I have the strength to make it through my bf’s battles with anxiety.  But I can tell you in that moment, sitting at that table with that couple in what really was a random turn of circumstance, my heart was filled with peace and I thanked God for whatever may come next.

Just like this weekend, our relationship has turned out to not be quite what the original plans had promised.  But I have to hold onto hope that what God has in store will turn out to be so much better.

Patience Is Not My Virtue

Patience Is Not My Virtue

I want someday to be now.

I do not want to wait.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. “. -Philippians 4:6

Oh, God and I have been talking. Well, I’ve been talking and He is a faithful listener.

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

Morning, noon and night, actually.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

Easier said than done. I can see it, our life together. And I want it now.

“…when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, do you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” 

Okay, that’s not scripture. That’s my favorite quote from Harry Met Sally.  But the truth is that is where my heart is. Let’s get this thing moving…

But life is complicated. Humans and relationships are complicated. Complex, intricate, involved, convoluted, tangled, tricky, thorny.

Tortuous.

Where to live, one checking account or two, one bathroom or two, two bedroom or three, who will pay the bills, whose church or new church, step parenting, When, where, who and how. PTSD from previous divorce. Anxiety and depression.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Ephesians 4:2

Our commitment is strong, we show up every day. But I am not always strong. I am not always patient. My frustration shows. Tears flow. It doesn’t always look like love. Feel like love.

But it is.

And I must be patient.

Even if it kill me.

 

I Choose You

I Choose You

This is something that my boyfriend and I have gotten into the routine of saying to each other.  I can’t remember if we read it in some “how-to” article or just came up with ourselves.

Those 3 little words seem to mean more to us than the more famous 3 little words, especially when things get complicated and strained between us.  I think it’s because it clearly demonstrates the ACTION needed in relationships.  It reaffirms that no matter what is going on in our lives, we choose each other anew each day.  A reminder that our choices must align with what we know is on our hearts.

I. Choose. You.

We also like to send each other YouTube videos and one day I found this one. Couldn’t be more perfect.

 

10 Ways To Actively Love When You Don’t Feel Like It

10 Ways To Actively Love When You Don’t Feel Like It

Love ebbs and flows, we all know this.

Dating with kids takes constant schedule maintenance and communication. Something my bf is not good at. I hate to make a generalization but it is rare to find this quality in a man. Thankfully, my bf has many other wonderful attributes.

His self-acknowledged deficit in the area led to some conflict when it came to spending time together for his birthday. Without going into detail, this led to frustration by him about what he thought I understood about being a single dad and he brought up  what sounded like a “kitchen sink” list of issues.

I wanted to be understanding but I spend a lot of time doing that already, including planning my life around little league, visitation schedules and his commitments to other activities (that I fully support). I want to be a priority, too and it didn’t seem to be what he was thinking.

I wanted to be mad. I wanted to be upset. I wanted to throw stuff back in response.

I didn’t feel very loving in that moment.  I felt frustrated myself. I started my own long list of responses to his list, like a flood it came out.  Then I stopped and looked at what I had written. And took a deep breath.

It didn’t look like love.

I want to love.

I did an Internet search for help but only found generalizations, not how-to’s. So I thought I would make a list (as a note on my phone, I need all the help I can get).  This way, I can be reminded and self-coached to be the partner I want to be.

Here’s what I have so far:

  1. Keep a list of all the things you love about your partner to look back on (I have a long list!).  This is my favorite.
  2. Let your partner know you are upset but wait for a full conversation until you are calm and collected.
  3. Remember your partner is human like you and doing the best they can.
  4. Read some scripture. God’s love is a great example.
  5. Pin or collect quotes or sayings to read about forgiveness or understanding your partner when you are all lovey dovey to read later when needed.
  6. Pray, meditate, listen to soothing music, go for a walk. Give yourself a timeout.
  7. Put on your “love spectacles” (Glen Doyle Melton) before speaking. How would you like to be spoken to?
  8. Will this matter in a month? A year? 20 years?
  9. Carve away anything in your actions that doesn’t look like love.
  10. Let your pride go. Your relationship is at stake. Someone has to go first and it might as well be you.

I am a work in process as a partner, just like our relationship.  Just like my bf. We survived this moment but I’m sure we will have others. That is all part of the weaving and growing together.

What do you do in times like this?  What should I add to my list?