fifteen years

Yes, here I am,

having to process all these feelings again, dang it.

(I’m sorry, kids)

This past weekend our entire family traveled to Iowa for my brother’s wedding.  It was an incredible way to celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary.  My brother and I got married on the same summer weekend, fifteen years apart.  I can’t even believe it.

I love these guys so much.  If someone where to ask me to name one of the greatest and joy-filled experiences of my life, I would hands-down, without a doubt, say “my siblings”.

There is no one else in the world who has been through the things we have been through together.  We all have our own friends and lives, but only we share the bond of blood.

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While we were there, we visited the cemetery.  We stood there to remember Brandon, stare at his gravestone, and mourn the brother and wedding that never happened.

We love you, Brandon.

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I feel like I’ve entered a new season of life.  Four of my kids were sleeping-in while I got to hang out with my nieces and nephews so their moms could do stuff.

“Okay, kids.  We’re gonna have Lego-building contest.”

I love being an aunt.

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Those little glowing rectangles,

I mean, seriously…

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I love this picture of my brother-in-law and my Dad.

Love you, Dad!

My dad officiated the wedding and did a great job.

THE DAY AFTER MY WEDDING, my parents moved to Iowa (they don’t live there anymore–long story).  My dad spent a few years as the pastor of a small congregational church (he’s not a pastor anymore–long story).  That would be the year my brother met his future wife, Laura, who lived down the street.  I remember going up to visit them my first year of marriage, and my brother asking me, “Beck, how do you spell Laura?”

He was making her a blanket.

Last year for our fourteenth wedding anniversary I wrote:

“Fourteen years doesn’t seem like all that long, and by long I mean impressive.  Five felt long.  Seven felt significant.  Ten was monumental.  Since then it’s been a blur of added years.  Honestly though, the years you acquire are not achievements, they’re gifts.  It’s the gift that changes things.”

Fifteen years feels significant again.  I am ready to move on, and when I say that, I mean to move on from these past fifteen years of marriage and all the pain that it’s brought me.  My husband and I were 20-freaking years old when we got married and had absolutely no idea.  I have spent so many tears crying about the pain of marriage.  I am done with all the feelings that this was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life.

As recent as this summer I thought, this is the year.  This is the year we are ending up divorced.  This is the year I cannot take it anymore.  Before we get in any deeper, I’m out. I imagined going to my brother’s wedding and having to face the terrible reality that while we are celebrating the beginning of one marriage, we are also having to deal with the ending of another.  I’m sorry mom and dad. I’m sorry to ruin your incredible legacy.

I honestly never understood how tragic divorce is.  I don’t know why, but as time goes on, I mourn more and more the all the deaths of divorce.  Divorce isn’t something I EVER imagined could happen to me, but as I look around, as it happens to more and more people I know, as I hear from the ones who have lived and gone through it, it hits me.

I want this marriage to last.

I WANT this marriage to last.

DAMN IT.

The past five years with its blur of added years.

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The past fifteen years and all the ways you went wrong,

from the very deepest depths and the bottom of my heart,

Thank you.

hearts and letters

Maybe some of you can relate to this, but I really do live in two different worlds.  There’s the world I have to live in, and then there’s the world that exists no matter where I go or find myself.  Outward circumstances change.  Time goes on.  And I’m still here.

I don’t always–EVER–know how to get out of the world inside my head.   I have dishes to do.  A house to clean.  My brother’s wedding to travel to this coming weekend.  I need to get online and start looking through books for the coming school year and my head doesn’t care about any of this.  It’s like I’m caught in the middle between two worlds.

I’m stuck in here.   There’s like an itch in my brain that makes being all here, as in, all there, completely impossible.  The hot water heater busted yesterday morning, so I’m not washing dishes til the water is hot.  The house is a mess within hours of me cleaning it.

Sometimes the stuff I write about here has absolutely nothing to do with my actual life.  It’s not that I’m lying to anyone.  It’s just that part of me is starting to realize that how I experience a particular given moment may not at all be what someone else experiences.

(Yes.  “Duh.“)

My kids, if they were to look at me now, would see a mom staring into the computer.  They see me at the kitchen table typing.  They have seen me doing this for hours upon hours over the past five years since we got the internet again.  The image of mom on her computer will be permanently fixed in the skies of their memories.  These were formative years in their lives that are forever a part of their personal family history.

I say this as if I’m experiencing guilt.  I’m not.  I am, quite simply, just thinking out loud.  At some point, as my kids grow to experience their own realizations, as they look back and see their own past for themselves, they will come to understand the truth about me.

My brother is getting married this Saturday.  I’m excited for the wedding and to see my family.  This wedding has been a long time coming, for my brother, for my almost sister-in-law, and for everybody who has followed them and their story.  My brother has loved this girl since he was fourteen years old, and though they have both also loved other people in the past, on Saturday, they will pledge their lives and love to each other.

Camp is over for the summer.  This is another one of those things where my experience differs from the experience of others.  I’m really not a part of the camp family in the same way the counselors are, and even my husband and children are.  It can be sad, particularly since camp, in the past, was the place where you instantly fit in as family.

I still love the staff and campers.  The difference is they don’t love me, at least not in the same, reciprocated way.  I miss them, but I doubt any one of them today–right now–is thinking back and missing me.  And honestly, I’m okay with this.  Camp is not about me anymore, about the life-changing experience that I am having.  It’s their turn now.

And yet, here I am, still blessed by it all.

Does Graceless Abound?

The Transformed Wife’s post today was called Does God’s Grace Allow Me to Sin?  Here are the first two paragraphs:

Some women have told me that I don’t show enough grace in my posts. I focus too much on teaching women how they are to live their lives: be sober, love and obey (and submit to) their husbands, love their children, be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, and good so that “the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4, 5). I teach women to not teach men nor be in authority over them and to be silent in the churches (1 Timothy 2:11, 12). If they have a question, ask their husbands at home since it is shameful for them to speak in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34, 35). I teach them to be modest, shamefaced, have meek and quiet spirits, and if they are married to husbands who don’t obey the word, then win them “without the word” (1 Peter 3:1) by their godly behavior.

Many women don’t like being taught these things and being told what to do, even Christian women. They cry, “Where is the grace?” and “You are judgmental!” Grace doesn’t give us the license to sin. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1,2).

It’s not like I have a problem with any of these verses.  What I’ve started to notice, and what I don’t like, is that in this particular kind of Biblical womanhood, these verses are taught exclusively.

The Bible is a ginormous book.

So you’re telling me that in great God’s goodness, love, and generosity to women, He took this mammoth piece of written work, and gifted us with four to five verses that are special–just for us.

And those are it?

These verses are terrifying when they’re taught by themselves.  That, I think, is one reason women think this Biblical womanhood lacks grace.  It’s not courageous, strong, or faithful to take something that terrifying, that cut-off, that exclusive and excluded, and then never acknowledge or be able to understand anyone else’s fear or discomfort.

That’s graceless.

But it’s not even that.

And I don’t know where to go from here.

I honestly have no idea where I’d even start to tell another person about Jesus.

Shockers

(I’m continuing my responses to The Transformed Wife.  I should note that I’m not actually responding directly TO her, but merely having her daily posts serve as writing prompts.  Today she published a post titled Fornication is a Sin Against Your Own Body. )

“You’re not living together!”

When we sat down for our first pre-marital counseling session, the pastor was not shy in hiding his elation.  He kissed us both on the tops of our heads, clapped and lifted up his hands to the heavens and thanked God that we, as a couple, were not living together.

Apparently this was an abnormal thing.  He’d never asked us if we were living together.  He just knew that we weren’t.  He’d known us from camp, and when my hometown pastor had not been able to do our counseling or wedding, we turned to him.

Old enough to be our father, he wasn’t married, and also wasn’t shy about letting us know.  As we paged through the results to our individual pre-marriage quizzes, he told us plainly, “I don’t know beans about marriage!”  When we got to the section on sex, an act neither one of us had ever participated in either with each other or anybody else, the pastor assured us with a jolly and optimistic, “Don’t you worry!  You’ll figure it out!”

(Note: For a very long time, I was mad about this, what felt like a blind “send-off”.)

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I feel out of touch with our cultural realities.

I read this all the time:  We live in a fill-in-the-blank culture.  Today Lori’s post started with the words, “We live in a highly sexualized culture.”  Okaaaaay–what does that mean?  I feel like I am guilty of parroting lines like “We live in a _____ culture” without actually thinking about what this means or whether or not what’s being said is true.

Something I’ve heard repeated regarding our culture is the that feminism is trying to destroy the distinctions between men and women.  We are living in a culture that promotes the idea that men and women are essentially the same.  We are???

I don’t get out much.  But last night I was sitting at the trading post talking to a 4th-6th grade camper.  She was telling me about her friend Aiden.  Aiden is a girl.  She had another friend who told her that Aiden was a boy’s name.  The camper corrected the friend by telling her, “There’s no such thing as a boy’s name or girl’s name.”

Hmmm, I thought.  Maybe this is an example of what they’re talking about?  Is this an example of our culture being taught the idea that men and women are the same?  Is this what children are learning?  That there’s no such thing as a boy’s name or a girl’s name?

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I had no idea Taylor Swift wasn’t hot.

A couple of years ago, I was reading the comment section on an internet article.  I don’t actually remember what the article was about, but there was a man who’d written out an entire paragraph in the comments explaining the difference between hot and not hot.  Two words etched into stone–and into my mind–the non-hotness of Taylor Swift.

“NO BODY.”

This was a first, and honestly, I can’t believe I hadn’t realized this before.  I had no idea that the beautiful, talented, guitar-playing Taylor Swift didn’t have a body.  To me she was beautiful.  Her honest, innocent, story-telling song-lyrics made her even more so in my eyes.  Last I had seen of her in the Love Story music video, she had arms, legs, a head and a torso.  She seemed like the kind of girl I could see myself running around and being friends with in high school.

Kaley Cuoco.

No way!!!  I couldn’t believe it.  This was the girl who–in one man’s opinion–was better than Taylor.  I was completely shocked. I’d never liked Kaley Cuoco.  The character I’d seen her play those couple of times on TV seemed so…mouthy and dumb.  I actually feel like that’s a mean thing to say.  I judged a woman solely by the character she had played on a stupid, Primetime television show.

(Kaley, I didn’t even know you.  I’m sorry for judging you like that.  Taylor–I didn’t really know you either, but I felt like I did, and I’m always going to love your songs, especially the early ones.  I can see how things have changed with your music.  You say the old Taylor is dead now.  I know love hurts and changes us sometimes.  Hang in there.  Keep living. XOXOXO.)

Kaley Cuoco– she was HOT.

She was the one with the body.

Did College Make Me a Better Mother?

(As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been following the blog posts of The Transformed Wife.  Many of her posts are disturbing to me.  For the time being, in order to assist in sorting out my thoughts, I have decided to write responses to her posts on my own blog. Lori’s post today was titled Does College Make Better Mothers? )

My husband is the sole reason I ever finished college.

We were living in St. Louis at the time.  He was in full-time graduate school at the Seminary, and I was in full-time nursing school at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, with multiple part-time jobs between the two of us.  I was a little over halfway through a 15-month accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, when I didn’t think a college degree mattered anymore.  I remember a conversation my husband and I had.  I was crying, and very much wanted to quit nursing school.  I begged my husband to let me quit.

When I say “I begged my husband to let me quit”, it’s not so much that I felt I needed his permission to do something this major, although I did feel like that.   It’s that I did not feel comfortable quitting, making such a drastic decision that would go against the plan we had both decided on, unless we were both in agreement and on the same page.   I couldn’t quit unless he let me.  I was not going to quit unless we were both in agreement that quitting was for the best.

School was not the problem I was having.   I loved going to classes and clinicals.  With all of my gen eds out of the way, the nursing program focused exclusively on all things medical, and that is what I loved.  I loved the hands-on, practical experience of getting to be in a hospital setting.  The classes were great, but the clinical sessions were where I really felt like I learned the most as far as becoming more comfortable and competent.  I was learning how to care for and work with others toward a shared goal and vision–what I desired most of all to see and be a part of–the healing of people.

My problem was leaving my one-year old son.  It broke my heart anytime I had to leave him, any time I kissed him goodbye and had to walk away, leaving him in the care of another Seminary wife and mother who watched children in her on-campus home.  I don’t know why it hurt so much.  I was a young mother, and this was my first child, so all the feelings and responsibilities were new to me as well.  I had no past experience to base anything on, nothing from the past to tell me that this, too, would be okay.  The woman who watched him was someone I trusted completely, and to this day, am grateful for her.  Besides my son’s father, grandmother or any other close relative, there was nowhere I could’ve felt more comfortable leaving my child.  She was caring and able.  But she wasn’t me.

There was no guilt involved, not in this situation.  It wasn’t the should-y guilt we start to feel as time goes on as moms.  It wasn’t a feeling of “well, it really should be fine for me to leave him while I go to school, but I still feel like I ought to be doing it myself”.  It wasn’t the “I can’t believe that I–again–was such a horrible mom today. ”  It was, instead, more like my own motherly version of separation anxiety.  My child and I had a bond–again–like nothing I had ever known.  I was attached to him in a deep, profound, and emotional way.  Motherhood had changed me.  I was not the old me.  I was a mother, and there is something so deep, true, and scarring about that reality–the permanent fact that life will never be the same.

“Please let me quit”, I whimpered to my husband.  “There’s no point in me finishing college”.  This going to college, I thought, was just a temporary setting.  I was just going through the motions to make it seem like I hadn’t really thrown away my life, to satisfy all the people who would think I had wasted a perfectly good opportunity to finish college.  I didn’t really want to be looked down upon as a loser, but I was more than willing to endure a stained and tarnished reputation if it meant being able to live for what I felt was true and right.

“A mother’s place is with her children.”

That was my visceral, heartfelt belief.

It has always bugged me in our relationship, that my husband doesn’t seem to “get” my big picture.  I was looking at this situation–of whether or not to finish college– in the great big huge giant grand scheme of things.  What mattered was THIS moment.  And in the great big huge giant grand scheme of things, what matters in THIS moment, is that I am making the most of THIS moment, by doing what I believe to be true and right in the great big huge giant and overall grand scheme of things.  In twenty, thirty, fifty or sixty years, what would end up mattering more?  That I finished college, or that had I made the most of every opportunity to be there for the dearest, most beloved, closest people in my life?

What should I do
right now in THIS moment
to guarantee that in the end
I do not regret my life?

I think then I would have called it priorities.

Priorities, perhaps, but now I also see fear.

My husband wouldn’t let me quit.  He did not agree that me quitting school was for the best, and because of that, I made the choice to finish my schooling.  At the time, I viewed this as me submitting to my husband.  I saw this as one of my earliest major submission tests in marriage, and I had passed with flying colors.  I had wanted one thing–to quit, and my husband wanted another–for me to not quit, and I had gone with what he wanted.  Wasn’t a wife’s greatest temptation to assert her own will and try to usurp her husband’s authority?

I had just overcome a wife’s greatest temptation.

Did I want some kind of prize for this?  Actually, I think I kind of did. I thought this was actually a huge deal to have done this, to have submitted without even much of a fight.  My husband didn’t seem to realize at all–all that had happened inside me to make the choice to not quit, to go ahead with what he wanted.  To go with what my husband wanted–Isn’t this what a wife’s submission was all about?

Kind of.  Sort of.  No, not really.

I do still believe it was an example of submission.  But I look at it now with a slightly different perspective.  At the time, and through the years, I was seeing submission as a form of God’s protection.  Since God was the one who put my husband as the head, who put my husband “in charge” of me and our family, then my husband’s will was the gauge of right and wrong.  Was what I wanted right?  All I had to do was ask my husband to find out, and if he agreed, then I knew it was right.  If he disagreed, then my will must be wrong.

I do still see submission as a form of protection for a wife, but it isn’t so much of a magical, fool-proof way to find out whether what she wants is right or wrong.  A husband’s will is not some kind of divinely inspired magic-8 ball for a wife to consult and seek out guidance.  A husband, in a true and healthy Christian marriage, is the one and only human person who is just as much invested in and connected to the outcome of the joint life as she is. A wife’s submission is not meant to be taught in isolation.  A wife’s submission, just like the Bible verse, is nestled and fits into a much greater context, into a great big huge giant grand scheme of Biblical, beautiful, Christ-centered things.  A husband’s will is important, and so is the wife’s.  Together they follow with Christ as their leader.

There was something about that decision that seemed monumental.  I was at a crossroads, and deep down inside, in that moment, I felt like finishing was going to be something that would prove, down the road, to turn out for the best. As it turned out, after finishing school, I was able to work as a nurse for a few short years after college.  During that time, we paid off a huge chunk of our student-loan debt, which I don’t even remember now which one of us had acquired more.  We bought and paid off a $17,000 minivan because we had the money.  We’ve driven that minivan over 200,000 miles to Florida and many other states to see family and friends.

It’s been ten years since I last used my degree.  People ask if I miss being a nurse.  Sometimes I do, but it also isn’t something I regularly think about.  This past week when my oldest son broke his forearm playing field games at camp, and my littlest son had a moderate allergic reaction from a wasp sting, I found myself back in the medical setting.  Those are the times when the itch returns.  I don’t miss the hectic, long days of stressful working environments.  I don’t at all miss the fear of majorly messing something up.

I’ve always said the stuff I loved best about being a nurse are the same things I get to do now as a mom.  Tucking people in at night.  Sitting beside them, listening with love, as they tell me their stories or ask about mine.  Checking in from time to time and making sure everyone’s doing alright.  I was never, and will never be, the nurse you wanted there in the intense and crucial moment of trauma or a massive stroke or heart attack.  I was the person there to help you along on the road to recovery, to dust you off, help you up, and get you back on your feet after someone else had saved your life.

I honestly don’t know if college made me a better mother.  I certainly don’t think that it made me a worse one.  I do know that for me personally, I don’t regret starting, going to, or finishing college.  There are some things I might have done differently.  I do wish I had taken more time toward the end of high school to think about, research, and make an educated decision on what general education courses would be most helpful to take.  A mother’s place is with her children–for a time.  There will come times when a child’s place is not with the mother, and a mother’s place is somewhere else.  I appreciated the time I got to use my degree, and if the time ever comes to use it again, I will be glad for that, too, as well as thankful for the time my husband wouldn’t let me quit.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying this current season of life.  I get to homeschool my kids, be a stay-at-home mom, and continue learning many things I never knew before.