May God Bless Your Obedience and other “Whacky” Sentiments

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This July, the hubs and I celebrate 19 years married. Not to brag since many have logged more years than us. But as the daughter of divorced parents and granddaughter of divorced grandparents, it’s kind of a big deal to me. I have no disrespect for divorced people, especially those who’ve suffered through abuse, addiction or adultery. For them, divorce can be a most welcome salve to their wounded spirit. But if I had any tip for staying married under what some might call more ideal circumstances, it would be this–the needs of the marriage must trump the wants of the self.

To illustrate, let me share a story from my first year of marriage. The hubs and I had packed up and moved west for kicks and giggles. We told folks, if we loved it, we’d stay and if we hated it, we’d leave. Trouble was, we had no plan for if one of us loved it and the other didn’t. We purchased a house in a suburb outside Seattle and spent our evenings after work going for walks around our new neighborhood. We talked about the future, promotions we hoped to attain, money we hoped to make and the number of children we planned to have. One of the hubs’ recurring dreams was returning to the Midwest. “The Twin Cities are great,” he’d say. “You’d really like it there.”

I’d roll my eyes and nod my head. Being a Michigander who’d always dreamed of living west, I had no intention of ever doing winter again. I’d joke in response, “Fine but you’ll have to get a promotion and a relocation package, help selling our house, and I’ll need a winter clothing allowance.”

Two years into our west coast adventure, I’d snagged a great promotion and was excited for more travel, more responsibility and more money. Three months after that, the hubs was also offered a promotion and a relocation package to guess where?? That’s right, the Twin Cities.

His news disappointed me to say the least. But I recalled another component of our evening walks, discussions of starting a family. I wanted a career but I also wanted to someday parent our future kiddos full-time. I’d seen enough jet-set executives to know I couldn’t do both. That meant, gulp, that his promotion meant more to our future family in the long term. I resolved to move to Minnesota and find another job.

I broke into tears when telling a friend my tale of woe. She responded by saying, “God will bless your obedience.”

My tears may have sucked back up into their ducts as I stifled a laugh. Only a religious nutcase would say such a thing, or so I believed at the time.

But 19 years later, I’ll admit that getting to raise our kids in Minnesota is one of the many blessings I’ve experienced since letting go of what I thought I wanted in favor of what my marriage needed.

Growing up with a single mother taught me self-preservation. Submission was not modeled in my mother’s home. Like her, I refuse to be anybody’s doormat. Even the term submission may stir up a feminist rant complete with finger snaps, head bobs and curse words. And yet, year after year, regular practice of submission, putting my individual wants second to the needs of others, particularly my spouse–being obedient to what I know in my heart is right–has brought me blessing. Truth!

I blow a kiss across the plains to my religious nutcase friend whose wisdom once sounded whacky to me. And if you’re trying to cobble together some good years with someone in marriage or even in friendship, consider which small sacrifices each person in the relationship could make for the good of the whole. And may God bless your obedience.

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Are the Wheels Round? Thoughts on the American Dream

It’s been established that I play a little tennis. And recently, my team played a match at a swanky country club surrounded by even swankier homes. And for a few minutes, after finishing my match, packing up my gear and re-fueling on a granola bar, I watched a young man hit tennis balls with one of the pros. The teen wore a t-shirt with the name of an elite private school. He was a decent tennis player and most likely a nice boy with a bright future.country club

But imagining his future did manage to turn me a bit green. He evidently lives a privileged life filled with opportunities like private school and private tennis lessons at a lovely suburban country club. I wished in that moment that I could give my children access to such privilege. Don’t misunderstand. We’re not broke. And our kids go to very good public schools. But I don’t see myself as wealthy and sometimes feel I lack the ability to provide access to a “good” life. Therein lies my problem.

I’m the kind of person who is impressed when another parent says their child goes to Stanford or Notre Dame. And yet, telling someone your offspring goes to an elite college really says next to nothing about your child. It maybe tells me that your child is intelligent and possibly even hardworking. It certainly tells me that your child is privileged. But where someone goes to school doesn’t say anything about whether that person is honest, patient, kind, generous, loyal, joyful, gentle or self-controlled.

So in essence, my jealousy–spurred only by my perception–of the young tennis player, mainly signals my desire for privilege in my own life. Whoa.

MercedesYears ago–before we had children–the hubs pondered a job opportunity in Nebraska. We were living on the west coast at the time and I joked to my grandfather about how the lower cost of living in flyover country meant the hubs should buy me a Mercedes for agreeing to move there. (Sorry Nebraska. I’m sure you’re state is lovely.) But the point is, my grandpa didn’t laugh at my joke nor did he understand how having a Mercedes could make me happy. In fact, his exact words to me were, “Are the wheels round?”

Puzzled, I squinted at him and asked, “What?”

“On a Mercedes,” he said. “Are the wheels round on a Mercedes?”

“Yes,” I answered slowly, not entirely sure if he was having a senior moment. But then he smiled and I understood. He needed not say more. Round wheels will get you where you’re going. Anything extra serves an entirely different purpose.

The vehicles we choose to drive, like the clothes we wear, say something about our tastes but nothing real about our person. And I don’t mean to be derogatory toward Mercedes. They are beautiful automobiles. Just as I’m sure Stanford is a good school and that many good and decent students attend there. I just need to check myself and be reminded that there are way more important things to offer my children than privilege. If you’ve never given this much thought, maybe consider how the way you live your life speaks to others. Do people know you to be honest, patient, kind, generous, loyal, joyful, gentle and self-controlled? Is instilling those traits in your children more important than providing them every privilege and opportunity? If not, why not?

photoToday is Memorial Day. A day to honor those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, to ensure the privilege of our continued way of life with its access to democracy, freedom and opportunity. My grandfather did not die in the line of duty. But he was a WWII veteran who served his country proudly and lived long enough to teach me much about what it looks like to live a good life. A life that need not include luxury cars or country clubs to be blessed. Happy Memorial Day.

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