Simple Pleasures

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Family. Quality time. Simple pleasures.
Ice cream. Sunsets. Sweet tea.
Billowing curtains.
Thick grass under bare feet.
Sand between my toes.
Water running through my fingers.
White puffy clouds.
Pretty dresses. Flowing skirts.
Stargazing. Clear skies. Rain.
Swinging. Feeding ducks. A gentle breeze.
Sunshine. Chunky sunglasses. Fruity drinks.
Pumpkins. Watermelons. The smell of baking.
Christmas trees. Twinkle lights.
Fireworks. Glow sticks.
The sound of the ocean.
The view from a mountain.
Waterfalls.
Steam on the mirror. Fresh fluffy towels. Clean sheets.
Wide open spaces. Wild flowers. Palm trees.
Silent, early morning light. A harvest moon.
Porches. Rocking chairs. Story time.
Holding hands. Sparkling eyes. Baby snuggles.
Loving and being loved.

To Love Somebody

coke-parenting-hed-2013You know you’re pregnant when Coke commercials from other countries make you cry. Nevertheless, I love this commercial. It almost makes me want to go buy a Coke…despite the fact that I don’t really like Coke. Maybe I’ll like the new Coke Life if we ever get it here.

(Unrelated sidebar: I’m super impressed that Coke made a diet drink without aspartame. I truly know nothing about stevia, other than it exists, but I’m glad to see a move away from the former.)

Go ahead. Watch it. It’s a commercial. It’s short.

Feel free to nod in agreement, pull your hair out in frustration, and weep with joy at the succinct, true, and beautiful message this commercial sends.

I think I’ve watched it 300 times in the 48 hours I’ve been aware of it’s existence…and, yes, I tear up every time. (I’m going to blame it on the hormones, but I really think it’s just seeing this great reflection of the chaos and the beauty that I lovingly refer to as parenting.)

Selfish = Loveless

In a homily on May 14 Pope Francis explained that the devil tricks people into being selfish, then leaves them loveless. This wisdom is brilliant. And timely. And timeless. I so love the simplicity with which Pope Francis explains our beautiful faith. More than simple, he makes it so applicable. You walk away from him knowing how your faith should impact your behavior. His wisdom is so practical.

But back to selfish and loveless.

I think that is the root of the problem in that 32 video I posted a few weeks ago.

I think the majority of women my age lead fairly selfish lives. I don’t have evidence to back that up. It’s simply my opinion based on the people I know and know about. I think most women I know of are completely self-obsessed, only interested in what’s good for them, easy for them, or fun for them. And I think this is why they feel so empty, like the woman in that video.

Now, before you misunderstand me, I am well aware that I, too, am an incredibly selfish person. I, too, choose ease, and fun, and self-advancement when possible. I’m certainly not pretending that I’m some kind of selfless saint. It’s just that my lifestyle is intrinsically less me-focused than the lifestyles that many other women my age choose. I am raising four other human beings. All of whom have many needs. Most of which have to be put before my own. Despite my own selfish tendencies, my lifestyle often doesn’t allow for many selfish choices. But I’m happy. And incredibly fulfilled.

It’s not as though each moment of my day is pure bliss. Any mother, or even pet owner, knows that when you are responsible for another life there are many less than blissful moments. But when I step outside myself and look in on me and my life, I don’t see the monotony and discontent that the lyricist in that video sees. I see joy. I see love. I see happiness.

So, basically, I think the Pope is right. I think he hit the nail right on the head. And I think that 32 video is evidence to support my theory.

Exactly

For Better or For Worse

I was recently asked why I don’t write more about my marriage. Not just the daily happenings that I sometimes discuss, but the nitty-gritty details. My questioner speculated that it would make for good reading. I’m sure it would. But I don’t write about my marriage for the same reason I don’t talk about some aspects of my marriage, even to my closest friends. My marriage deserves more than that.

In a recent post, “Is Being Family Enough?”, I briefly touched on the special kind of dignity that comes with being “family.” I think that dignity is far surpassed by the dignity of marriage. On my wedding day I stood before my family, friends, and God, committing my life to Josh under all circumstances: for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, for richer or for poorer. My, oh my. We don’t know what we’re saying on that glorious day, do we? After all, how bad can bad be? How poor can poor be? How worse can worse be? How sick can sick be? We may think we know, but we don’t have a clue what those words really mean. I think that’s the beauty of it. On one’s wedding day, one finds oneself so very in love that one is willing to commit to stand by the another, even in the most unimaginable of circumstances.

Fast forward a few years.

I’m not perfect. My husband’s not perfect. Our marriage is not perfect. We are two imperfect people charged with living together and given the added responsibility of managing a household and raising a family. Are there ugly moments? You know as well as I do that there are many. Do those “moments” sometimes stretch past the end of the day and spill over into other days? Of course they do. So why don’t I talk about them, vent about them, or share whatever struggles we’re currently facing? I think doing so violates the dignity of our marriage. Even if my sole intention is just to get something off my chest, that’s not how it works. Whether my audience is an anonymous internet audience, my mother, my sister, my best friend, or a stranger at the park, if my words belittle Josh, they belittle my marriage. If they belittle my marriage, they belittle Josh. Marriage is hard enough without one or both of the spouses slowly tearing it apart to anyone who will listen.

I’m not suggesting that it’s healthy to keep your emotions bottled up inside. But I think struggles of this nature ought to be shared only with your spouse or your private journal. (Not barring a marital counselor or your confessor, if the situation applies.) Or (as should be the case in my marriage much more often than I do) first with my journal to filter out some of the unnecessary and potentially damaging words, then with my husband to attempt to build a bridge over, around or under the situation. Josh has it much worse than I do when it comes to bearing the brunt of our arguments. My knack for sarcasm often results in some pretty cutting comments, which is why I should work harder to filter out some of the emotion in my journal, so he and I can deal with facts.

While I obviously don’t know this from experience yet, I think I may have discovered the secret behind the 80-year-old couple sitting on the park bench, having been married for the past 60 years, and still very much in love. Mutual respect. They’ve seen each other at their very worst, their very best, and everywhere in between. The same is true for anyone in a marriage, but I think their secret is how they respond to and recover from those situations.

I recently heard someone say that the opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s self-love. After pondering those words for a few moments, I decided truer words have never been spoken. While “hate” isn’t comfortable, and it’s definitely not something you want to be part of your marriage, that’s not what will ultimately do it in. Self-love, on the other hand, especially when greater than the love you have for your spouse, will.

This is what is at the root of the saying that a successful marriage can’t be 50/50, rather it must be 100/100. Both partners must make every effort to give 100% of themselves. Yet, both partners must be be willing to give 110%, 150%, or 190% when, for one reason or another, the other is only capable of giving 90%, 50%, or 10%. Remember those scary vows? This is where they come in. We promised that we would do this, did we mean what we said?

If either or both spouses are more concerned with their own needs, their own desires, their own dreams, goals and aspirations, than those of the other, the marriage just won’t work. To make marriage a real, true, lifelong commitment, we have to look past ourselves and only see the other. How scary that can be sometimes! That’s why trust is so crucial. One has to be able to trust their spouse enough to be totally vulnerable. One has to be able to totally trust that their self-sacrificing love will be reciprocated. That’s what makes a marriage work. Not just work, but land two 80-year-old people on a park bench, 60 years after making vows that they really didn’t understand, sitting happily just because each is with the other.

Finding Time to Love

While reading an article about the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, I came across the most simple and profound quote. Jim Caviezel, the actor, quoting Ivan Dragicevic, stated

“Man always finds time for what he loves. If somebody who doesn’t have any time finds a girlfriend and falls in love with her, he will always find time for her. People don’t have time for God because they do not love Him.”

I love it when something so simple rings so clear and true. Even though I didn’t come up with this on my own, these are my favorite kind of epiphanies. Furthermore, this is such a fitting statement to summarize some of my Lenten experiences.

As you may recall, one of my Lenten epiphanies was about being called to tithe our time. Most days during Lent, I probably did a decent job of doing this simply because of what I chose to do for Lent in terms of prayer. Added on to my regular daily prayer time, by the end of the day most days, I’d probably shared about 10% of my awake time with God. But what about now that Lent is over? And what about the fact that it was kind of happening by default, not because I had a burning desire to spend as much time as possible with the Lord in prayer?

I think Ivan’s statement sums it up perfectly. Even though I’ve grown SO much spiritually, I still have such a long way to go. Yes, I love the Lord. But do I love Him with the same passion that I love my husband? Or greater for that matter? I’m always a little emotionally high maintenance, and during my pregnancies it can amount to downright neediness. Recently, I’ve found myself almost daily begging Josh not to go to work or to come home early or whatever else will get me a few more minutes with him. Where is that same passion for more time with the Lord?

One thing I’ve been praying for a lot lately is for our marital love to become the love that Christ intended for it to be. In Ephesians Chapter 5 we’re told that wives should submit to their husbands as the Church does to the Lord and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. That’s pretty powerful stuff. It really moves me and its something I greatly desire for our marriage. (Although I’ll be quick to tell you, I hope Josh never has to hand himself over for me in the manner in which Christ did for his bride, the Church.)

What I find so funny is that I’ve been asking to grow in this kind of marital love without really understanding what it even means. My actions show very clearly that I have more passion for my husband than I do for the Lord. That being the case, I think it’s laughable that I pray for Christ to teach us to love each other as He loves His Church and vice versa. Thankfully, God loves me just the way I am, despite my many imperfections and ignorances. I’m confidant that through continued prayer I will grown in both martial love as God designed it and love for God himself. I have no doubt that He can work on more than one part of me at a time.

On a less serious note, this quote also called to mind my Lenten Facebook experience, or, more accurately, experiencing life without Facebook during Lent. There are several people I keep up with on Facebook. There are many more that I am “friends” with, read their status updates, look at their pictures, but never actually communicate with. Regarding the later, I’d say I am not actually friends with those people, regardless of what I’d like to think. All relationships take effort to sustain and reading about someone’s life on Facebook doesn’t count. As for the former…well that’s the question that really got me thinking.

Previously, I would have told you that I rely on Facebook so much for communication because I’m too busy for other forms of communication such as lunch dates or even phone calls. Taking into account Ivan’s statement, which I wholeheartedly agree with, if I am too busy for time with these people, am I even really friends with them?

Being out-of-state from many of my closest friends, the ease and convenience of Facebook for feeling involved in each other’s lives is unparalleled. I don’t dispute that. But what if its come to the point where Facebook is all you have left? With few exceptions, I didn’t talk to or communicate with the people who I keep up with most on Facebook at all during Lent. I’m actually not even sure if I knew I missed some of them until I “saw” them again on Facebook. I was really excited to “see” them, but it never even occurred to me to get in touch with them without using Facebook. That may just mean I’m selfish. But if the same is true for them, are we really even friends to begin with?

I don’t have an answer to that question.

My point is that love is a verb. For those of you struggling to remember, verbs are words that show action. If we can’t take even the smallest, simplest action, whether it be for our spouses, our friends, or the Lord, how much do we really love them? Let’s be honest with ourselves. Ivan is exactly right. When we love something, we make time for it. It’s not uncommon for Americans to move their whole schedule around to ensure they don’t miss some particular hour of TV. If we can do that for a show that we “love,” why is it so hard for us to make a little time for the people we love and for our God? After all, people and most definitely God have so much more value than anything you could possibly find on TV.

Lucky Love

lucky love

So there are all of these posts up now like 26 ways to make a girl happy and the ones that describe the sweetest girl and sweetest guy and it just makes me realize how luck I am…I guess that sounds super cheesy but it’s the truth. I have the most amazing man in the entire world.

Just a few examples:

Josh works at least 10 hours a day 90 miles away from here, but he drives home every night now just to make me happy.

When I was looking for something to eat tonight, I found cake mix and icing in the back of the pantry…apparently Josh is going to make me a cake for my birthday.

Even though he can’t call me during the day, he sends me sweet texts when he can sneak some time on his phone.

Even though he misses his friends too, when he’s home with me, he gives me 100% his attention.

When I was being a hormonal basket case on the phone tonight, he was so patient and calm and just kept telling me how much he loves me and how he’s going to do everything he can to make me happy.

He always finds a way to reframe whatever is upsetting me so I can see it from a more productive angle.

He always knows what I really mean when I say ambiguous things like “it doesn’t matter”

He’ll give up a weekend of much needed rest just to make sure I can get to Texas to see my family

I could go on and on but the baby’s sleeping which means I should be sleeping too…oh that reminds me… he’s an incredible father and nothing makes my heart overflow quite like watching him with our son. It’s a feeling like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

Moral of the story: true love exists and I’ve found it…no matter how cheesy all of this stuff sounds, it means a lot to me. Josh knows me on such a deeper level than anyone ever has before.

It’s funny how when you’re in high school and “in love” at the time you really mean it. You love that kid more than you’ve ever loved anyone, but after you grow up and find the real thing, you can’t help but laugh at what you thought love was. I don’t mean to degrade those first loves b/c I know they’re special…I’m just so overwhelmed with how intense real love is.

I should probably write all of this down somewhere so that I can read it when we have rough days. Even though I know we will have rough times, I’m fully confident that we can survive it all…

Yeah, I’m pretty darn lucky