Insider Love

I was completely done.  Splitting headache.  Flippy stomach from the stress of the day.  Bone tired.  I came home feeling guilty that I didn’t have an ounce left to give.  Almost every other day, I rally and turn into the mommy interested in kids days and ready for robust dinner conversation.  But when I arrived to not one but two children having emotional meltdowns, it was all I could not to meltdown in front of them right there.

Have you ever just had one of those days where every ounce of strength was gone?

In swoops my husband.  At 6:45 I (essentially) announced I was going to bed.  Moments later there was harmony in the house.  I could hear him in the other room get the fireplace going and engage them in a rousing puzzle.

After play time, he had them packed off to brush teeth and put on pajamas.  I walked in and kissed him and thanked him profusely even though there weren’t the right words to express how he saved me.

I turned around and announced to the kids, “I sure love your daddy!”  The baby replied emphatically, “Well, we can seeeeeeee that!”

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Oh that’s what I want.  My heart did back flips.  I so want my kids to see what insider love looks like.  It’s not movie love with sweeping scores and jets that fly you off to parts unknown.  It’s a love that jumps in when the other person doesn’t have a reserve and saves the day.

When I received a big award this week, love looked like us cracking open a $10 bottle of champagne to toast the recognition while the kids jumped around eating ice cream sundaes.

It is not perfect love.  It is love that fights and has hurt feelings and missteps.  But it is love.  A crazy deep trusting confident love.  And I’m so incredibly thankful, inexpressible grateful, to have the opportunity to know it.

Eight Years – The Good Working Year

I got a call yesterday in between a conference call and a speaking engagement at the Offshore Technology Conference.  I had this little window of time, about 10 minutes to run down to the building cafeteria and grab a sandwich before heading out, and I didn’t recognize the phone number.  I answered on the third ring.

“Mrs. Vincent, we have your son here.  He’s fine.  He fell at school today.  He bumped his head and busted his knee, but his arm, well he’s guarding his arm and can’t seem to raise his hand up to put an ice pack on his head.”

It didn’t take me but a nanosecond to want to have him x-rayed since an incident of brotherly pushing on Sunday also resulted in his arm hurting.  I called my nanny who was a few minutes from the school, and she ran my little man to the Texas Children’s ER for x-rays (since the pediatrician’s office doesn’t have them).  Then I called my incredibly hubby to see if he could do an emergency carpool pick up and run the other little one to an allergy appointment since our nanny would be hung up at the ER waiting on a doctor to read the x-rays.  I proceeded to rush out the door with all the papers I would need for the next two days of work meetings and simultaneously beat myself up for my first miss of an ER visit (not our first ER visit mind you, not with three four year olds, but I’d always been there to take them).

I loved the six year anniversary summary of each of our marriage years in a convenient tag line.

If I had to capture Year Eight, then it would be the Year of Opportunity and Exhaustion.  (I think our seven year anniversary was harder than others.  And oh five years, five years we were on a second honeymoon when I wrote that post. What fun seeing those pictures from New Orleans.)

I have loved this past year.  Both Bray and I have been good to one another.  We may have been a little less good to ourselves.  We’ve worked harder than ever in our careers and harder than ever with our family.  (We’re staring down this Friday night trying to figure out how he’ll see little bit’s ballet recital when he’s supposed to be coaching the boys tee ball practice.)

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Well said, Mr. Ford.  That counts our year eight as a success.

This was the coming together:

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This was the keeping together:

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This is the working together:

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(And yes, his wrist is broken…sigh.  And no, we’re not smiling because of it, that’s from the fall…)

I think it takes some time to figure out the working together.  I’m actually sure it takes a lifetime but by year eight at least you’re starting to get the hang of it.

It’s not perfect, but it is a partnership.

It’s not glamorous, but it is a gift.

It’s not exotic, but it is extraordinary.

And I’m grateful for this man who captured my heart, and for another year which I’ll mark down as a success.

Black Friday

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I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day.

For various reasons.

When I was younger, and less secure, I hated it more for the fact that it highlighted my singleness.  I didn’t date anyone on Valentine’s Day until I was 29.  I wore black every single Valentine’s Day as a silent expression of protest.  (I have a flair for the dramatic.)

But funnily, even after I had a “Valentine,” I never liked the holiday.  It felt like an over-commercialized, over-priced, over-forced, over-done way to pressure people into doing something one day of the year they probably never do any other time.

So Bray and I don’t go out on Valentine’s Day.  Even before we had kids I remember making a meal at home.  We don’t buy presents or flowers.  We swap a card, but we do that year round.  Now, for the kids, especially at this young age, I enjoy it.  We say I love you every day, but it’s nice to get them a stuffed frog with a heart and some red candies just for fun.  Plus, they learn to value each child in their classroom as a friend as they walk around and give everyone a card.  At this age, it has this feel of friendship and belonging, and I’m softening on that aspect of the Valentines hoopla.

But on the romantic side, ole St. Valentine has a tendency to make women feel lonely or disappointed or sad.  That’s why I don’t go in for the big bouquets of red roses and heart balloons.

However, this Valentine’s week, I realized it had been a month or more since Bray and I had a date (we try to go out once a month), so we made plans to see a movie (before Valentine’s Day – we wouldn’t brave the crowds on the 14th!).   V-day gave us an excuse to head out for a few hours and pretend we were just a couple instead of parents of three wonderful, but boundary-testing, four year olds.

As we were sitting in the theatre watching Monuments Men, I received a reminder about what love really looks like.  Matt Damon plays one solider in a rag-tag group of soldiers in Europe during World War II trying to save the world’s greatest art from being decimated during Germany’s retreat.  Eventually, he partnered with a French woman to find where the Germans stashed some of the finest French works.  He was married with two kids back at home.  Halfway through the film, he visits her apartment to get all of her notes on the missing pieces.  After they have dinner, she looks at him and invites him to stay, saying “It’s Paris, no?”

He had a lot of reasons to say yes.  He’d been away from home a long time.  That meant a long time with no sex.  He was a handsome man in his prime.  He was in Paris.  No one would know.  And the propositioning woman was lovely and French.

But he said no.  I love that he didn’t jump up and say no like he’d been offended.  He looked at her.  You could tell he considered the proposition.  He was tempted.  Heck, he’d agreed to come to her apartment!  It’s just he said no despite all that.  He said no because he had a wife at home to whom he had promised to stay faithful.  He never promised not to be tempted.  He’d just promised to look the temptation in the eye, pause, wonder, but still say no.

We did not go to a Valentine’s mushy romantic movie.  We went a movie about art and World War II.  But in that moment, it had a big Valentine’s Day message.

That’s what love is really about.  It’s not about overdone floral arrangements.  It’s not about overpriced four course dinners over candlelight.  It’s about the action instead of the expressions.  The decision instead of the displays.

Marriage Image

That title is not a typo.

It’s not supposed to say mirror image and my keen editorial eye just missed it.

It is supposed to say Marriage Image.

I don’t write a lot about marriage here.  The reality is my husband is not a blogger.  Heck, he didn’t even marry a blogger.  His wife just turned into a blogger four years and three kids after he’d already said “I do.”  And he’s super private.  So after a few ill-fated, not preapproved, marriage posts, I learned my lesson.

So I got this one cleared first.

Let me say two things:

  • I am madly crazy nuts in love with my husband who I think is insanely handsome and bright and wise and patient and trustworthy and faithful and good.
  • Our marriage is hard sometimes.

Sometimes, it’s hard because of me.  Sometimes, it’s hard because of him.  Sometimes, it’s hard because we’re both so dang stubborn.

I feel strongly that I should be respectful of my husband.  So in those hard times, I don’t attack his character.  But I do have three girlfriends that I can talk to about the yucky stuff.  The fights.  The struggles.  The pain.

I learned something this week though about the way I could get into trouble if I’m not careful.

I have friends that are in good marriages.  Like overall their marriages just don’t seem to hit very many rough spots and they have a ton in common with their spouse and things generally go pretty smoothly.  I also have friends that are in brutal marriages.  Like marriages where the spouse is affirmatively denying they’ve ever loved their wife and I’m astonished that they’ve managed to hang in there and keep praying.  And of course I have friends with marriages like mine that have really amazing months and then really hard ones.

It is easy sometimes to fall into a pattern of commiserating:  Oh, you’re struggling so much and your husband was unkind, I totally know how that goes and boy do I feel your pain.

We find ourselves Marriage Imaging.

But what if it’s not true?  Not that it’s not true EVER, but that it’s not true at that time.  Marriage Imaging can do two things.  One, it does a disservice to your marriage if it’s going through a good patch by maligning it.  Two, it makes you start seeing the negative instead of the positive in your marriage.

Now I am ALL about girlfriends sharing their struggle.  I think it is critical that we have friends pray each other through the rough patches.  If I hadn’t had Godly women praying for me in the spring, I don’t know what I would have done.  But I think it’s also important not to diminish the work that God is doing in a marriage becoming strong or healing or solid.

I found myself in that dilemma.  And I caught myself.  Instead of responding with marriage image to a message, I stayed silent.  Then I responded with a prayer.  “I am so sorry to hear this news.  It is heartbreaking.  Can I pray for you right now?” And then I left a prayer as part of my message asking for God to intervene on the marriage’s behalf.

That did two totally DIFFERENT things than had I responded in kind with a “marriage image.”  One, my girlfriend got something she needed way more than my commiseration which never helps anything.  She got someone asking God for help.  Much more useful!  Two, it helped me realize how good God has been in this current season of my marriage and focused me on thanking God for what I have today.  Not what I had in that hard month half a year ago or what I might have a year from now.  But how completely in love I am without any glimmer of frustration or anger this week in my marriage.

So I’m going to work on avoiding marriage imaging, and pray with my friends in their marriage struggles, and express my unbridled thankfulness to God and to my spouse when we’re in a solid place.

Sisters Stories: Praying Through A Divorce

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Yesterday, you met my dear friend as she revealed the truth of an affair to her husband over a year after it ended.  I asked her how it happened; after watching my own parents’ marriage ripped apart by an affair, I’m always on alert for my own marriage.

Her response not only helped me appreciate how quickly things can unravel, but also how differently women fall into affairs.  The man she had an affair with had been an old boyfriend.  They had dated on and off and reconnected after some time.  He bemoaned the challenges in his own marriage.  She said that after a few lunches and texts, it didn’t take long.  After three months of the typical “passionate” affair most people think of, she shared that the remaining year found each of them trying to find a way out of it and trying to make sense of how something like this could have happened.  Like I couldn’t end it if it really meant nothing – if there wasn’t a reason….

Based on nothing but antidotes from those in my life, I believe men can fall into affairs for the pure physicality of it.  Women more often have an emotional connection to the person.  A past relationship.  A colleague.  A fellow soccer parent.

After sharing her dark secret with a few friends, all advised her not to tell her husband.  And yet, she wasn’t certain she could keep it from him.  The secret that had been eating her up inside finally came out in the simplest of conversations when he happened to ask, “Do you have something to hide?”

Two months later he filed for a divorce.  In response to the news, she pleaded, “How sure are you?”  His reply, “about 50 percent,” gave her hope.

Here is the rest of the story in her words.  If you pray, then join me in praying for a marriage restoration story.

While my relationship with Christ had been growing for months, it suddenly hit overdrive with my marriage in distress.  The words in Psalms rang true, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I started reading constantly. I wasn’t sleeping or eating, so I had a lot of extra time.  Books that I’d had on my bookshelf for years, Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs and His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley, were read anew along with books new to me: The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, plus lots of books on being a spiritual woman.  What I quickly learned was that I wasn’t a Godly woman, and I didn’t show love to my husband.

I embarked on The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick.  I won’t give the ending away, but I encourage anyone to do it.  Even if you aren’t married, dare to love your children, your parents, your coworkers with God’s love as outlined in I Corinthians 13.

Through all of this reading I learned, really learned to my core, several principles of Christianity:

1)  God loves me.

2) He is faithful to forgive.  Grace is instant.  I now see friends who are so complete and instant with mercy, just like God is to me.  I long to reach that level of love.

3) By seeking God first, everything else I needed would fall into place.  My husband didn’t die for me, or stay like I had hoped, but I know God did and does.

4) This life is just a moment, not eternity.  It took months of hoping for earthly relationship gain with continual disappointment to reach the point that my hope transcends this lifetime.

I still pray that my husband will return.

I hope that he will recognize this amazing transformation in my life and want to join me in living with God at the center of our marriage.  The purest picture of Christ’s love for his church is marriage.  His church commits adultery every day by worshiping gods like work and possessions above Him.  Yet His grace is instant when we fail, and His forgiveness is complete.

I pray my husband’s heart will heal, and my children will see God through this, but I no longer fear a future without him. My God is sufficient to meet all of my needs and to work for my good because I am working for His purpose.

 

My brave friend shared, at the end of our call, these words about her journey thus far:

I needed him to file for a divorce.  I was never going to be who I am today without him filing.  I have a relationship with God, a reliance upon Him, that I would have never found if he had never left.  But I still pray for restoration.  I still have hope.