Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Tag

Does Happiness Still Run On This Line?   4 comments



Yesterday I was so sick at heart I felt nauseous.  Life does not make sense to me right now.  My last few blogs show I am oscillating between anger,  faith, sarcasm,  acceptance, doubt, misery, hope… the only constant is depression, which drains my energy and darkens my outlook.  What used to restore my spirit no longer works.  “Happiness is a choice,” they say.  Balderdash.  You can decide your actions, and to some extent you can direct your thoughts, but you cannot pick your feelings like a vending machine treat.  Some folks find cheer in thankfulness or service or friendship, while others find comfort in meditation or nature.  You can keep an eye out for happiness, but it may not show up at any of these stops.  I don’t control it’s schedule.  I can only wait for it.

For some years now I have found consolation in discovering and working to heal my soul’s wounds, but I cannot get at the root of my current turmoil.  That process simply doesn’t work for me now.  Kimberly and I have also solved our conflicts by talking through our issues, but since we can’t make sense of what we are going through now, that approach doesn’t work.  When my emotional energy is dragging, I don’t have enough flex in my shock-absorbers to cushion the bumps, so I’m easily disheartened or hurt or agitated, and Kimberly feels it more sharply because she’s also deflated.  The proverb “as iron sharpens iron” has been profoundly true of us through the years, but during this season it seems often to be “as iron notches iron.”  We need to find a new way of supporting ourselves and one another.  I know we will find a way, we always do, but in the meantime it is painful and discouraging.

Posted February 7, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal

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Growing One   Leave a comment

Yesterday Kimberly was reading to me from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea,” a breeze of calm and insight from the ocean by way of the author’s soul.  Anne spoke of the slow drift between spouses and the need to restore the purity and simplicity of the first wave of love.  Berly and I are coming up on our fifth anniversary (May 10), and neither of us want to return to those early days of our relationship.  Folks remember the romance, the excitement, the uncomplicated acceptance of one another, the overlooking of each other’s faults and feel sad that those intense feelings and sense of inseparability are gone.

Kimberly and I feel sad rather for a culture that believes romance is the fullest expression of relationship.  We would never want to trade what we have now for what we had then.  It was pure and simple then because it was so superficial.  We spent many hours every week for two years sharing openly with one another about the things closest to our hearts, so we knew one another fairly well at a basic level before we married, but knowing the basic truths about someone is so far short of really knowing them and connecting with their heart, which is why the first year of marriage is often so hard.  I know it was for us.

Like marriage, a sailboat on her maiden voyage looks sleek and beautiful, there are no rents or dings, and she slices effortlessly through the water.  But it is only after years of riding with her through the storms, risking life and fortune, and recalling the story of every rattle and dent that the captain knows his boat as no one else ever will, and the bond is deep and fierce.  As we share life with mutual understanding and love, the original beauty and delight I found in Berly fills with meaning and substance.  For me, every line of her face is an etching of her soul.  The roots of our hearts grow ever deeper and more entwined.  To pull us apart now would rend our vitals.

Posted April 23, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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A Blessed Rejection   3 comments

This is a letter from John Peter to Brennan Manning, one of my favorite authors on grace, a Catholic priest who was black-balled for getting married (to Roslyn). 

They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab... I said, "No, No, No!"

My wife, Lolly, and I were at a breaking point.  I did not think I could continue to stay married to someone who was so self-destructive!  But I wanted to consult you before moving out or calling a lawyer.  When I did call you, Roslyn said that you were in route to Providence, Rhode Island, for a week of renewal at a Catholic church there.  Ros also said that you had a layover in Newark to change planes.  So I immediately drove to the Newark airport and, believe it or not, found you in the midst of that huge airport!  I told you what was going on, and you said that I, under the circumstances, could leave Lolly—after twenty-five years of alcoholic drinking!  So I drove back to our house in Manhasset, New York.  When I arrived there some three hours later, I found Lolly all cleaned up and as sober as I had seen her in a long time.  She announced to me that you were coming for dinner!

What had happened was some conservative Catholics at the church you went to visit in Providence found out that you were married and reported it to the bishop.  The bishop then forbade that parish to have you speak there, so what did you do?  You called Lolly and said you’d like to come to dinner!  So I had to turn around and pick you up at LaGuardia and home we came.  Lolly could not have been a more willing or welcoming hostess.  She loved you, Brennan.  After dinner I retired, and you and Lolly sat up and talked almost all night!  She had sworn that she would never go back into treatment again, so you can imagine my surprise when, the next  morning (Sunday), you told me that Lolly agreed to go back to Brunswick Hospital Rehab….

As you know, Lolly stayed sober in AA for the rest of her life—over twenty-five years!  She passed away September 27, 2009.  And the gift of her longtime sobriety was something that my children and I found as close to heaven as I suspect we’ll see this side of the grave.

–from All Is Grace, Mannings recent autobiography, though I would much more highly recommend The Ragamuffin Gospel or Abba’s Child if you want a taste.

Posted January 3, 2012 by janathangrace in Reading

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Today’s Marriage Homily   2 comments

I married off my sister-in-law today and gave this message.

The Third Strand Makes All the Difference

     They say love is one long sweet dream and marriage is the alarm clock.  I can testify to the truth of that.  But waking up is not a bad thing unless you want to spend your life in a coma.  Erin & David have been through a lot together already and gotten to know each other pretty well.  I’ve been impressed to see them work through major decisions like buying a house, employment changes and relocation.  Still marriage always brings in new dynamics.

Before marriage there is always a question, you have to have a backup plan, you can’t really trust the future.  Marriage is a commitment for life.  It gives the safety you need to work out personal and relational issues, strength and courage to engage in difficult endeavors, and instead of a place to call home, you will have a person to call home, a resting place for your heart.

No longer I and you, but us: as the song says, “Me and You Against the World”.  Everything that happens to you happens to the other as well.  Every relationship you have becomes part of the marriage (as you can see here today).  No decision you make will be for you alone, but will involve your partner in some way.  You start thinking about “us” instead of “me.”  What does “our” future hold is a very different question from what does “my” future hold.

the bride and parents

In Ecclesiastes, a cord of three strands, is about three persons: husband and wife, and the third I am inclined to believe is God himself.  But I would like also to consider the three strands of love, three crucial expressions of love, the dynamics that hold the strands together.  I call them “graces” to emphasize that to work well, they must flow not simply from you, but from God’s heart through yours to your mates—loves 3 strands.

Grace of Acceptance

Love is full of delight, so accepting one another should be easy, right?  But you are human, you will fail and hurt and misunderstand each other.  All marriages have these struggles, but healthy marriages acknowledge and face them honestly.  This does not mean detente where you just sidestep issues, but a real effort to understand, respect, and make room for your differences.  Learn to recognize and respond to one another’s true needs, the needs of the heart.

I can’t tell you how much personal healing and growth I have gained from Kimberly accepting my weaknesses as well as my strengths.  It is scary.  It may feel uncomfortable to cry in front of your wife, for instance, but if I do not let her in, I stay locked inside myself.  When you are given permission to be yourself, to bring all of who you are into relationship, and be embraced as a whole person, it gives you the safety and strength to accept yourself and grow into the beautiful person God designed you to be.

The problem comes when your spouse is just “wrong.”  How can you accept that?  Trying to settle who is “right” and “wrong” will probably make matters worse.  Accepting them is not agreeing with them–it is rather trying to understand where they are coming from, what their needs are, and how those needs can be met.  Where do you get the strength to love unconditionally?  Only from God.

Grace flows from Him into us before it flows out from us to our spouse.  We need to discover ourselves as loved unconditionally before we have the strength and security to love another truly.  Author and minister Brennan Manning says, “God loves you as you are and not as you should be!  Do you believe this?  That God loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity, that He loves you in the morning sun and the evening rain, that He loves you without caution, regret, boundary, limit, or breaking point?”

 Grace of Trust

Giving someone your trust is a great act of love.  You can only be vulnerable with the deepest parts of yourself, those things you want to hide from everyone, to the extent you can trust the other person.  But you can’t order trust for overnight delivery.  It is a life long intentional process.  You can’t make someone trust you and you can’t simply choose to trust another.  A deep level of trust is never simply granted to someone, even the one closest to you, but is earned step by step as you share your inadequacies and receive empathy in return. Everyone doubt’s their own loveliness. You can each be the reflection of God’s loving eyes to the other.

There will be stumbles and falls along this journey of building trust.  Expect it.  The pressures of the world blast against you and blow you off course, but this is the bedrock to which you always return, this commitment you make today and every day after: to live in integrity–being honest, understanding, and accepting, out of a heart growing in love.  I have seen that you two have such a commitment to being honest with one another, that you are willing to show each other your emotions, even the difficult ones.

Nothing is more powerful a support than someone knowing your failings and loving you regardless, I don’t mean the failings that are obvious, but the ones you have hidden all your life.  Out of fear of rejection you covered them up, you felt unlovable because of these shadows. But how can we ever feel secure until we find someone who will love us after knowing us completely?  God does this for us, but we need someone to show us this, someone with skin on, with a voice and smile and hug we can really hear and see and feel.  Having experienced this with Kimberly, I can say this has been the truest revelation of love to me.

Grace of Sharing (Listening, Understanding, Respecting)

Set aside regular times when you turn off the TV, turn off your cell phones, forget your To-Do lists, and concentrate on listening to one another.  It will take hard work and a lot of time.  I can tell you ahead of time that you will need to learn a new language and culture, become an anthropological researcher.

Erin, you women are complicated creatures.  You understand each other by some magic telepathy.  Please remember that our brains don’t tune to that channel.  If the man asks, “How are you?” and you say, “Fine!” he will take your word for it, give you a peck on the cheek and sit down with the remote.  You have 49 distinct meanings for ‘fine’ depending on your intonation, your eyebrows, your lips, your hands, your posture.  You are so eloquent… but we completely miss your subtlety.  We can only understand what you say plainly with words.

David, never assume anything.  You don’t know women, not even Erin.  The good news is you can learn, the bad news is it will take a lot of effort and patience.  You have to ask questions repeatedly.  You probably won’t even know the right questions to ask, which is okay because Erin already knows what she wants to say.  You just have to open the door.  Even if you don’t understand at first, but really listen, she will feel better.  By listen, I don’t mean nodding and saying “uh huh” as you watch the Colts fumble.  The DVR was invented to save marriages.

Kimberly and I come from different families, backgrounds, experiences, and personalities, and when she shared bits and pieces of her perspective with me, they didn’t fit into my worldview.  It sounded like Chinese.

We all have unique perspectives, which seem normal to us.  If my point of view is normal to me, then your point of view has to be abnormal.  We all stand at the point we think is the correct balance.  To the right of us are conservative tightwads and to the left are profligate spendthrifts.  To the right of us are workaholics and to the left are lazy bums.  On this side are the messy and on the other are the clean freaks.  Where you stand is always “reasonable” (otherwise you wouldn’t stand there).  This means the other person’s position is “unreasonable.”  So you will always grudge yielding.

Kimberly wanted me to vacuum behind the sofa where no one could see the dust, not even us.  It was “unreasonable.”  Many of you say “Your wife is right, that is very reasonable.  What is unreasonable is cleaning behind the hot water heater.”  But those who clean behind the hot water heater see that as normal, it is the people who scrub their driveways that are bonkers.  Whatever your position, it is what it is.  Erin, your view is entirely legitimate.  David doesn’t have to agree that you are right and he is wrong, but he needs to respect your perspective and make room for it as much as he is able.  And the same for you Erin.  That big scrap of metal he wants to keep looks like trash to you, but to him it is a little piece of a dream.  Let him have a shed to stack his dreams in.

The source of these expressions of love, these graces of trust and vulnerability, listening and understanding, respect and acceptance, the source is God, the strand that keeps the cord from unraveling.  It is crucial to your marriage that each of you individually and as a couple develop a deep, honest, trusting relationship with God, find in him the grace you need for yourself and one another.  His love is limitless as the sky, constant as the sun, deeper than the ocean, eternal and unconditional as only God Himself is.  In Him you will find life, and through him your marriage will be a little taste of heaven (with a few quarrels mixed in).

Posted November 6, 2011 by janathangrace in thoughts

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