Thursday, July 17, 2014

Other Plans

I woke up to a crisp cool morning. Temperatures in the 50's. No humidity. You'd never know it was mid-July. It could easily be mistaken for an early Autumn morning. 

My cuddily Oompa Loompa (aka Baxter the Goldendoodle) seemed especially sweet while I got ready and loyally stayed right by my side. Knowing I had some extra time and wanting to take advantage of the cooler temperatures, I decided to take the dog for a walk. Little did I know he had other plans.

I should have known before we left our driveway when he was trying to chase the leash, spinning himself - and me - in circles and working us both into knots. I realized the problem. I was giving him too much leeway. I had to tighten the leash, give him less rope and essentially less freedom. I attempted to keep him right by my side. He still had other plans. 

We started our ascent down from the cul de sac. It's the perfect hill that requires no pedaling when whizzing down on your bike (yes, even at my age I have tried it). It's also the perfect hill to get a jump start on a jogging pace. Yes, as you can imagine, my doodle dog had other plans. 

He was still trying to get the leash in his mouth. Maybe he thought he could chew himself free. The whole episode landed him tying his own front legs with the leash and in one full swoop he knocked himself to the ground. I was concerned he might be hurt but he was now aware he had a better angle on eating the leash. I could see he did not want to be tied down. 

As quick as he fell, he was up even quicker and off we went. It was as if the gun had sounded and he was racing out of the gate headed toward the finish line. He's half my weight and full of puppy energy. He doesn't know his own strength and I was about to find it out for myself as he yanked me down the road at a blazing speed. I'm not a runner. Add onto that the fact that I haven't trained for ANYTHING since early April. I'm not only out of shape, I'm NOT A RUNNER. But we were running. 

We made it all the way down the hill and through the dip in the road before we started up the steep incline. He was determined to keep running and I was now breaking into a full sweat and panic. "Baxter, slow down!" I yanked on the leash, I tried to pull him back. For a half second the force of his speed was almost pulling me and I nearly thought I might just let him drag me up the hill. No, I had to regain control.

We managed to make it to the end of the road at a jogging/brisk walking pace. On our way back home I could tell he had worn himself. Silly dog. He stopped to sniff every mailbox, every pile every other dog left behind, digging into clovers, he even went chasing after a grasshopper. Now I was dragging him. "Come on, let's go home." He looked up at me and I could tell - he had other plans. He plopped himself in the grass on the side of the road. He had plumb wore himself out and we had 3/4 of the way yet to go. "You've got to pace yourself, Bax. You can't use all your energy up in the first leg of the race!" 

I'm happy to say we made it home. He's resting and so am I. I never intended to break a sweat on such a pleasant morning. We both are trying to catch our breath and I am certainly seeing the life lesson in our morning run/walk/jog/exercise fiasco.

I can only imagine how often I am pulling and tugging, trying to break free of the grip the Master has on me. Somehow I see this restraint as restricting what I want to do, never realizing He's graciously trying to spare me of the fight and struggle and loss of energy that it inevitably brings. He knows how far we have to go and what hills are up ahead. "Come on, God, I want to run! I'm ready. Just let me go. Why are you holding me back?" 

He's also willing to lead and guide me - if I would just walk with Him. I constantly leave His side, trying to forge my own way, distracted by all the "stuff" others leave behind. "Stay on course," I'm sure He wants to remind me. Before I know it, I've worn myself out and I don't have the strength to make it home. 

My intentions were good. I started out so strong. I wanted to run! You told me to press on toward the goal, to run with perseverance the race set out before me.

"I also said to throw off everything that hinders you."

Lord, the grip You have on me was holding me back.

"No, the grip I had on you was for your own good. To guide you, lead you, help you stay on course and pace."

I just didn't know how far we had to go.

"That's why I want you to walk beside me. I want to guide you."

I wonder how differently our walk together would be without the struggle over control. If there wasn't a fight to be in the lead, there would be a true balance of strength and pace. If there wasn't a mad dash in the beginning, there would be endurance for the end. If there was an understanding that where we're going and how we get there isn't up to me, then I would be willing to rest in knowing He has other plans. 


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Today and Everyday

Marry me, today and everyday

It was one year ago today when I became Mrs. Michael Wright. We danced to the familiar song by Train just after we'd been announced as Mr. & Mrs. The wedding was simple. A small gathering of family and a handful of dear friends on a hot summer day. We stood in the center of our loved ones gathered around us as they shared in our joy. A summer thunderstorm had popped up just before the ceremony but once it was gone it left a rainbow painted across the sky. If anyone needed one more confirmation from God it was there. The presence of the Holy Spirit filled the room. 

I love when people ask how we met and we both end up dumbfounded. We laugh about how often our paths must have crossed for years and how we never met before. God wrote our story. He's still authoring new pages and chapters each day. Somehow He saw fit to bring two lives together and work it all out for His good and glory. 

On this first anniversary I want to share some things I've learned about a godly marriage.

We aren't perfect. 
To say we fit perfectly together is quite a compliment. You must understand we were not "made for each other." We feel completely blessed to be able to compliment each other so well, but we're opposites in many ways. We share common interests BUT we work to stay interested in each other's lives (although I am more than willing to let him have guys night whenever the latest Sci Fi movie hits the theatres). At the end of the day, we are both human, fallen flesh, capable of hurting one another, being selfish, not considering the other's needs and the list could go on. Recognizing our need for grace and forgiveness from God, understanding His merciful hand blessed us with lives redeemed, we must seek to love and forgive each other. There has to be room for grace because heaven knows, I am nowhere near perfect!

God is the center.
If we didn't allow room for God in our lives and our marriage then we would have never ended up together in the first place. Acknowledging His hand in orchestrating our lives causes us to recognize our great need for Him as we live each day. You can't deal with the everyday "stuff" without starting EVERY SINGLE DAY with The Lord. Before we part ways each morning, we go before The Lord together. 

I can't even begin to tell you how much honor and integrity it must take for my husband to submit to God by wrapping his arms around me and committing our day to The Lord, even if we had been arguing the night before (gasp, yes, we have had disagreements). There's nothing that can melt a heart of stone like the Spirit of The Lord and thank God He has set me straight so many times when I simply wanted to be indignant. Allowing God to have His way in ME and in our marriage has already proven to make all the difference.

Tough Love. 
We've both been through life experiences that have taught us to love and appreciate that what we have takes work and commitment. We both understand that every single day is an opportunity to pursue one another - or to grow a part by following one's own selfish dreams. We've seen it, lived it and it causes us to make sure our priorities are in order. 

Nothing about our relationship has been conventional. In the past 15 months we got engaged, sold two houses, rented a house, built a house, moved a total of 4 times (combined), became a blended family, sent a 5 year old to Kindergarten (who also changed schools), changed jobs (Carrie) and got a puppy. That doesn't even describe the external factors. (Are we crazy or what?!) I'm not trying to portray some overly difficult life but you know as well as I do that life isn't easy. Neither is love. 

Love is a choice. Somedays it's more difficult than others to CHOOSE to love. Yes, even we have days when we don't necessarily like one another or when something (or things) are pressing in on us and making it easy to become distracted. Isolation came easily for both of us. It had become a way of life for him and for me, it was a defense mechanism. We've had to be mindful that when life happens, when it's tough, we need each other. We can't just retreat or put up the walls of separation. We have to tough it out and love through it, together.

Patience is a Virtue.
I cannot admire enough my husband's virtue of patience. He is tender-hearted, a servant, giving and selfless and truly one of the world's most patient people. When I am emotional and chaotic, he is calm and patient. When I am loud and overbearing, he is quiet and patient. When I am difficult and defensive, he is gentle and patient. As much as I want to be the wife whose husband lacks nothing because of her, I must make sure you understand it is the other way around. Proverbs 31:11 is inscribed on the inside of HIS wedding band - but I now understand it is not because that is what I make him, it is who he makes ME. I am learning from his example. The godly qualities that are being lived out in his life are also what God continues to use to teach and grow me. This causes me to recognize that I am still a work in progress. If God has enough patience with me to want to shape and mold me, then I must never falsely believe I have somehow achieved the mark. What I'm learning about becoming virtuous is that it is an active state of pursuit. 

Always kiss me goodnight.
You've seen it on pillows, in frames, inscribed on walls. I'm not sure where it came from but my husband will tell you he's heard it from my lips a time or two (or several dozen...or hundred...but who's counting?!) It is more than just a statement, it is a mindset. It is an intentional desire to connect with and to each other one last time before we drift off to sleep. Just like that all important prayer that he is committed to saying each morning before we go our ways to work or wherever the day takes us, making a point to "kiss each other goodnight" is an intentional choice to connect as husband and wife. Pillow talk can be some of the most important time together. 

I could go on and on as I keep thinking of things that make a difference in our marriage. Some of these include:
- Date night. Having intentional time for just the two of us to enjoy each other.
- Communication. We make a point to always be in contact with one another but we also talk about almost everything.
- Protecting ourselves and each other. Making sure our communication/interaction with members of the opposite sex is always forthright and respectful so that nothing can be called into question. Whether it's someone from work, an email, text, call, etc. Striving to honor God and each other.
- Loving the little things. He still opens the doors for me. He seeks to serve me. I pack his lunches and make homemade meals. I make sure there's always dessert or chocolate (because he loves chocolate more than any woman I know). Compliment each other. SEEK TO SEE THE GOOD. 

Let me say this loud and clear: OUR MARRIAGE IS NOT PERFECT. We are not perfect. You already know I admit this. I'm sharing this because in the past 3 years (let's not even count the past month), I can't even begin to tell you how many women I've sat across and heard some version of "My marriage is in trouble." I've witnessed it and I've experienced it. I sympathize and I also recognize the signs, the cycle, the defenses, the hard-heartedness, the selfishness, the hurt, the emptiness, the loneliness. I GET IT!!!

I've also heard so many versions of "I wish I had what you have." Okay, now you can. You have to work at it. EVERY SINGLE DAY. You have to make that commitment to forgive, love, cherish, honor, connect - even when you don't feel like it!!! Ready for this? Even in the past year there have been days when I didn't feel like it. There were moments of frustration, disappointment, hurt, argument, disagreement, and a host of other hurdles to overcome. I'm not writing this because I think I've figured it out. I'm sharing this because I am constantly working on how to figure it out. 

Today and everyday, I choose to marry him. Today and everyday I must choose to love him, honor him, serve him, prioritize God then him over everything else, seek to protect him, choose to kiss him goodnight, forgive him when he's hurt me, ask forgiveness when I've hurt him. Today and everyday.










Thursday, July 3, 2014

He's My Son

In the past 6 years, I've heard it all. Some variation of someone's opinions based upon their observation.

"He sure is a handful."

"Your son has so much energy."

"Does he ever stop?"

There's the more polite version that attempts to cover up what they actually mean, "I bet he crashes at night."

The other assumption, "You must be exhausted."

Then there are those who won't say it to my face so I get the second-hand comments, "I heard he's quite a character." What exactly does that mean?

They like to label it with things like "He's got an active imagination" or "He's so creative."

I get the consoling of "One day that energy will be put to good use," or "I just don't know how you do it."

Do what? Parent? Be a mother to a boy? Be his mother? Gasp.

JUST STOP! PLEASE.

How do I be his mother? How do I parent this active-on-the-go boy? It's simple. The same way every other mother parents their child who sits still and minds and never ever, EVER, disobeys. Yeah right.

One day at a time. One moment at a time. One prayer at a time.

The truth is he is a handful. He does have a lot of energy. He is full of himself, active in every sense of the word. He's got a vivid imagination that I admire and a creative side that I do wonder where it will take him in his future. He's also got an argumentative personality that tests every limit. He needs the final word. He has to have an explanation for almost everything. (Tell me again how we don't share the same DNA?! Somehow my poor mother survived!)

Yes, it is a challenge. Isn't all parenting?! Surely I'm not the only one who is on her hands and knees before God asking for grace and peace and patience and kindness and gentleness as I love and parent. Surely I'm not the only mother who has cried tears of frustration or collapsed out of exhaustion because of a tiresome day of parenting. AM I???

I know my boy. I know he's not easy. Parenting is not easy. Usually everything comes easily to me. But not this. I've enjoyed great success and opportunities to excel in nearly every job I've acquired. But this - no degree, no job experience, no internship could have prepared me for the demanding schedule, the problem-solving skills, the relational expertise and all the real-life experiences I'd have to endure. It's a job I begged God to give me and He answered. WITH THIS CHILD. My boy. I don't believe He thought I was fit to handle the challenge but I do believe He planned to stretch and grow me in a lot of on-the-job training! I also know He didn't make a mistake. Not in appointing me to this position and not in creating this boy, my boy, His child.

Another mom spoke wisdom into my soul this week about comparing my child to anyone else's. "It's like putting David in Saul's armor. David had the wisdom to say "No, this doesn't fit," but our children don't know that for themselves. It's our job as their parents to say "NO" to the comparisons on their behalf. When people expect them to fit into a specific category, we must be their advocates. We must be that wisdom to say, "That doesn't fit my child." Oh how I love this! It is my anthem from this mom's heart to anyone else struggling with whatever stage, age or challenge you might be facing with your own child.

I beg of you. Please, for the love of my son, please stop judging. Stop staring. Stop accusing. Stop blaming. Stop commenting. Stop trying to console me. Stop trying to tell me how to parent. Stop advising me on what he has or lacks. Stop pointing the finger of how I've must have failed him or not provided the right "whatever." He's my son. My boy. And I love him even through all the difficult, energetic, handful moments. I'm not asking you to love him the way I do. I'm not even asking you to like him or tolerate him. I'm just asking you to stop judging him and stop feeling sorry for me. You can never know how much I love him. I bet it's as much as you love your own.

Maybe it's a special need. A disability. Maybe it's a troublesome teen, or a trying toddler. Maybe it's an exertion of independence or an abundance of energy. Join me in this wisdom, knowing that Saul's armor wasn't meant for David. Trying to compare our children to others is like putting Saul's armor on David. Pray for armor for your child(ren) but pray it is the armor of God that they suit up with everyday.

Thank You, Lord, for the work You've begun that You promise to complete. Philippians 1:6. I know You're still working on us both.