Monday afternoon I was sitting in the window seat of a plane flying toward Minneapolis. During take off preparations, some of the shiny chrome trim on the tarmac equipment caught a reflective beam of sunlight and sent it directly into my eye; so, I had shut the window cover. But now I was curious. I wanted to see the view, to look around and say hello to the sky.
When I lifted the plastic shade I was met with a view of tiny ice crystals that had been forming on the outside of my window. I examined them and looked for purpose or replication in their pattern. I thought about Minnesota and wondered if the quilted jacket I had with me was enough to keep the cold air at bay. My thoughts turned toward the conference. It had been a long day, so I reached up to once again close the shade and try to nap. I had been up since 4 a.m. and had a long night of preparations still in front of me.
Just as my arm started the downward motion to close the shade, something caught my eye. I stopped and took in the “skyscape” moment, visually tracking the long blanket of cloud cover beneath the plane all the way to the horizon. I’ve seen the clouds before, but I almost missed them this time.
I had allowed what was right in front of my eyes to be all that I considered. I then wondered, who had I done that same thing to today? Yesterday? This week? So my hope for you today is:
Remember to also step back, take in the whole person, and enjoy or consider their sum. After all, their whole being is always so much more than the sum of their individual parts.
On the day you were born I looked down into your tiny pappoose face, your three inches of thick black hair pointing every direction possible within a 180 degree range, and thought about you on your wedding day. Who would you be? What would you look like? Who might you marry? How would you meet him? What would he see in you that would make him fall in love? What would make you know that he was the one?
I had these thoughts because your dad was holding you, and when I watched him get up to walk you around the hospital room, he and I had only been married for one year and nine months. We were still newlyweds ourselves. But we’ve recently celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and we have changed a great deal over that quarter-century. A friend used to say, “I’ve been married to seven different men during my lifetime, and all of them were the same person.” Well, I think your dad and I are at least on person number three or four in our own marriage.
However, you and he are on your first. So I thought I’d share in the best way I can my memories, thoughts, lessons and wisdom from our marriage for your upcoming life together. This is all I’ve got, sweetheart, except the fact that we’ll be there if you two need us along your own journey together.
Years one and two
At this present point in my life, all I can conjure up in my head from our first year together is that we did a lot of running around, said “We’re married!” quite a bit, wrote lots of thank you notes for the gifts we’re STILL using, and learned quite a bit about each other’s families. By the way, if you get a few things you could stand to go without, I recommend trading them in for one good set of culinary knives. You’ll use them every day.
I think we also had to work out the “self-imposed weirdness” regarding the unspoken assumption that we were having sex. Seriously, the first time we went to the lake with your Roberts’ grandparents and spent the night in one bedroom together, we couldn’t even look people in the face at breakfast the next morning. Not that anything happened; I feel quite certain I wore three extra layers of clothing during that trip and felt mortified that your dad’s family was walking around in their robes drinking coffee and reading the paper. We were shy, awkward, and probably were much more uncomfortable than anyone else at the cabin. So, perhaps the lesson from year one is: Enjoy the newly wed high, and work out the weirdness…as best you can. We’ve already talked about the essential premarital preparation, so I won’t harp on that. You’ve made your appointments, right?!
Years three through five
For us, these were our hardest years. Your father began working nights six months after we got married – stressor #1. I began a sales and marketing job with a good deal of travel-related requirements – stressor #2. We had you – blessing, but in reality the addition of children to a family are also stressors, #3. We internalized our feelings, didn’t communicate, began distancing from each other and really considered splitting up, results of stressors #s 1-3, plus we didn’t know how to handle conflict or much of what it took to manage distance and conflicting schedules – stressors #s…well, a whole bunch of them.But, our friends, our family, our leaders at work, and a therapist didn’t give up on us when we were giving up on ourselves.
So what’s the lesson from us to you for years 3-5? Use your support system, ask for help or get it if you need it, and when you find yourself turning inward – then that’s the key time to begin reaching out to each other.
Years six through fifteen
These were our regrouping years, our managing years, our family life years, and our time together where we really began to learn how to be a family. We got involved in your school, we had your sister, we downsized to a smaller house so I could spend more time with you and your sister (among other reasons)…in a sense, we started our second marriage. We began learning how to parent, how to co-parent, how to trust each other better and how to manage all the responsibilities that came with a young family. In other words, we were getting to the place that I wish we had been in years 3-5, but it just didn’t happen that way.
What’s the lesson here? Well, mostly it’s that if you begin a family, you will always be considering your actions, your goals and your decisions based upon not just you, or even the “us” in your marriage, but the “we” as an entire family. You may give a little more than you expected at this point in your life, but the entire family gains. We were worn out, broke, and sometimes at our wits’ end with parenting demands, but those were really, really good years.
Years fifteen through twenty
At some point in your family life, there will be a juncture where you don’t have to drag around baby paraphernalia, you’ll be able to sit down and eat entire dinners together as a family and enjoy the conversation with everyone there…you’ll be able to sit back and take a breath as a parent. This was during years 15-20 for us.
Wow, it took a great deal of energy to get there, but – wow again, it was such a good feeling to be able to allow you and your sister to: Go to your friends’ houses and spend the night, take a short vacation with just Mick and I, and allow you to drive to places we had always shuttled you to before this time. You became more autonomous, and we began enjoying that change.
The lesson? I hate to write this phrase because it has sort of been captured by the bullying community now, but it holds true in marriages as well… “it gets better.” When you pour your love, your energy and all you have together into child rearing, family development and professional development – eventually, it DOES get better. To have enough money to eat dinner out occasionally, to sit back and watch you and your sis go to prom and then to college – – what a rewarding and blessed time those years were for us!
Years twenty through twenty-five
I think of these years as the time where your dad and I got to shift a few resources from you and sis and begin redeveloping ourselves. Your father began to really enjoy golf again, he began to get tickets to sporting events and take a few trips with men from church. I went back to school and began really working at my career in a more in-depth way than before. I’ve worked on developing a few ideas I’ve always wanted to do. In other words, we got to help you begin your own journey, then begin enhancing our own.
The lesson of this time in our life? I think for one thing, you WILL be able to change your role as parenting/overseer to parent/mentor and encourager. You’ll be able to sit back and offer guidance to your children when they ask, but enjoy watching them manage their own lives as they can. You’ll be able to rediscover the desires of your own heart and take more than two or three-day vacations with your husband. And, you’ll be able to go to dinner with your children – oh, say – at a restaurant in south Oklahoma City, where they tell you, “Mams, Paps…we’re getting married.” And, you’ll be able to celebrate with them, because you’ll know they are as ready as they can be at this special time in their life.
Dear sweetheart – when you and your fiancée are in the middle of a stressful time somewhere in your future life, just let us or his parents know…and we’ll do our best to help you get through the wrinkle. The main point of this letter, though, is that you CAN. There will be struggles, you can get through them, and to have a husband you can grow with over the next twenty-five years and beyond…well, it’s a blessing that I could never had comprehended.
Your dad and I love you very much, sweetheart, and we love your chosen man too. May your first twenty-five years together be all you could hope, and may our Lord richly bless you and he over the next few months as you get ready to begin your life together.
I love that we have wireless at my place of employment, AND that I can take a quiet moment when eating lunch. I’m using this time to share my quiet moments of thought I had early this morning. Thoughts that are still with me six hours later.
1) The Gianna Jessen video from 2008 is an interesting opportunity to revisit your views about life, death, politics and values. Speaking in Queen’s Hall of the Parliament House, her message is delivered to an audience representing great diversity. A message representing one voice, standing for many others. If you’ve not seen the piece, I would recommend it for several reasons…One of which I address in my “second lunch-time point.” I chose to share this link because it’s her 16 min. speech in full, but will require a Facebook account to view. You can search for the video easily in two parts on your internet browser if you avoid FB…
2) My second thought is this. Regardless of what you believe, where you fall on this issue, or how you personally wrestle with feelings on one side of the line or the other, I would encourage you to embrace all human beings and think about loving them…without attributing a “sin” or behavior toward rationalizing how things are…or aren’t.
I was reading from John 9 this morning, and was thinking about how many clients I see in my office who struggle with the sins of their parents, or grandparents, or other family members. Much of this “sin” is simply their family members’ inability to understand the consequence of their actions…or ability to empathize due to their own damage or pain. Many clients feel they are being greatly punished for the sins or consequences of their family history. Their pain is very real.
However, my message to you, the public, on this Faith Wednesday is this: Turn these thoughts around, and think about the OPPORTUNITY your struggles or setbacks provide you to live out your faith, and glorify Him who you call Father. Gianna Jessen does. I try to. Thousands of heroes and heroines do across the world every day.
Yes, this is a Christian message. But it holds for people who have other faiths as well. Or, for those without a faith to call their own. Good luck, today, taking up the opportunity you have been given…with whatever struggles you are bearing…to use it to glorify and spread a positive message for your Savior. For your faith. And/OR, for the good of those around you.
Take care, Red Dirt Kelly
1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9: 1-5
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