Love My “Fun” Wife!

20960970_10155616590081944_2092164334_oMy wife and I recently celebrated our thirteenth anniversary.  In reality, it feels more like our twentieth if you consider all the years we’ve known each other.  We’re like that “Dawson’s Creek” couple, not that I’ve ever even watched an episode.  And through it all, this many years later, I wake up each morning feeling as though I’m the most incredibly blessed man in the world.  As I’ve said before, “I’ve married the girl of my dreams.”

My wife has a lot of fine qualities about her, all of which make her a great wife and an especially great mother.  She’s kind, caring, faithful, loving (I may as well just write down the fruit of the Spirit), and most importantly, fun!  That’s what my kids would say.  “Umma’s fun!  She plays with us.”

Sure, we all have those moments after a hard day’s work where we just need a few moments to relax and do some Instagram or ESPN vegging.  My wife is no different.  For her, however, those moments are few and far between.  For her, it’s not Instagram, Netflix, or Riesling which marks her time at home after a long day, but Monopoly, brownies, and crafts with the kids.  It’s not uncommon for me to walk through the door to see cards, crayons, papers, and sprinkles scattered across the floors and tables of our home.  I used it mind it, but not anymore.  For from them spring the laughter and delight of children who know what it is to have a fun time with a mom who loves them enough to play with them.

Of all her Christ-like qualities, it may just be her desire and willingness to play with our kids that shines most brightly.  For it is in play (as I’ve written about here) that she both embodies and seeks the incarnation of Jesus – in pouring herself out and into the magical world of their minds, hearts, and imaginations.

I write this as a way to celebrate the blessings of a “fun” wife and mom but also as a nudge and reminder to myself to continually enter more fully into the lives of my kids.  Even if it requires emptying myself of my own desires, ambitions, and comforts.  Even if it means playing Clue (Hate board games).  Sometimes, that’s what it takes.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:5-8)

Time to Move On?

If you’ve worked anywhere for any length of time, chances are that you have at one point or another wondered whether you were in the right place.  We wonder whether the latest feud with a co-worker or boss was a sign of things to come or merely a reality of working with others.  We question whether the lack of joy and satisfaction at our job has anything to do with whether we are being fully appreciated or given enough opportunity for what we have to offer.  We can’t help but catch ourselves wondering about what it would be like to work for company X or whether we’re even on the right track.  Whatever the reasons may be, sooner or later, the question inevitably comes up.  Is it time to move on?

As one who’s faced this crucial question on more than a few occasions, I’ve come to understand that the process of how we arrive at an answer should not be a hasty one.  While there are instances where the answer is as clear as can be, the majority of times they are not, at least not immediately.

Here are four helpful questions to consider as we wrestle with whether it is in fact time to “move on”.

1. Is the grass really greener?

The tendency to think that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” is something we need to guard against.  Whether the novelty of something new or the ordinary of the present, this tendency is a powerful one which has little to do with the reality of the present situation or the promise of a future one.  Consider both the joys, benefits, and opportunities of your current work situation as well as the challenges, obstacles, and similarities on the other (side of the fence).  In fact, it may be helpful to have an honest conversation with someone there.  More than likely, you’ll find that the “greener grass” comes with more watering and mowing.

2.  How can I grow?

When it comes to career growth, sacrifice, patience, and commitment are virtues we are willing to embrace for the prospects of financial gain.  What we often forget is that our purpose, peace, and overall flourishing lie beyond financial prosperity.  And so while career growth is important, our personal growth must not be overlooked.  In fact, our career and personal growth are often more related than we realize.  For these reasons, we much ask of our current situation whether we are embracing with the same level of openness the challenges and opportunities for personal growth as we are the vocational.  How might God be using this current situation to grow me as a whole person – spiritually, emotionally, and relationally?  Perhaps, the real issue is not the job or even the people around you.

3.  Where am I going?

Certainly, there are times when we do need to go.  Barring any sort of moral conviction, abuse, or extenuating life circumstances, however, we need to think about the short and long-term ramifications of our choices.  Beyond the urgent and very necessary needs of rent, bills, and sustenance (especially for those with families), we must assess whether we are moving towards the path in which we feel called.  When on the fence about the question of change and moving on, it is often the question of whether I sense an undeniable pulling towards something that ends up making the difference.  It is, then, not simply a matter of where we are moving on from but of asking if and where we feel led towards.

4.  Do I have perspective(s)?

The question is not whether we have a perspective.  We all have a perspective.  The problem is that we only have one.  Our own.  Though our perspectives are indeed valuable, we must remember that they are but one among many.  Read any good book on leadership and you will see an emphasis upon one’s need to seek a level of self-awareness and perspective that cannot be had without the aid of others.  Regardless of how knowledgeable or wise we may think we are, it is scarcely possible to gain the needed “perspective” to make an important decision without seeking the advice and counsel of others, especially from those who love you and are not afraid to give you their perspective.  And don’t forget prayer!  He’s got GREAT perspective.

At a minimum, I have found these four questions to be especially helpful in addressing the issue of change in my life especially as it pertains to vocation.  Hopefully, these will help you as you process your current situation while keeping you from making some of the same mistakes that I’ve made.

“Dear Joy”

Hi Joy!

I imagine that of this moment you’re experiencing something akin to that which has been so beautifully captured in your photos – travels with Mike and family, quality time spent with friends, the enjoyment of delicious treats, and just the freedom from any sort of worry, fear, or pain.  Paradise.  But if heaven can be defined by that place in which God’s glory and presence is most fully manifest, it must be even that much richer.  Having just learned last night that your earthly father was not much of a presence in your (or at least your brother’s) lives, it must be great to be experiencing the fullness of God’s fatherhood in your life.

Joy, I am so sorry for what you had to go through over the past year and especially these past couple of weeks since the stroke.  It’s nearly unfathomable to imagine what you went through.  I imagine that among everything else you experienced, the lost hope of “immediate” healing coupled with the inability to speak were two of the very worst you experienced.  Even as I say that, I can’t even begin to imagine the physical pain you must have endured.  Or even, at times, the fear of the unknown.  I’m sorry you had to go through all of that.  My hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit ministered intimately and powerfully to you during this time.  I imagine that you have come to know firsthand the great depths of human suffering and through it, the even greater power and comfort of the Father’s love.  I imagine that were you able to speak, you would have blessed us with treasures “unspeakable”.

I don’t know if you heard me last night.  But I finally decided to man up, hold your hand, and say a few words to you, one of which was that I’m sorry for being a bad brother-in-law and for being a coward, not taking more initiative to talk with you.  I wonder if coward was the right word.  I’d probably add selfish to it as well.  A mix of the two probably do get at why I wasn’t a better brother to you.  As you mentioned in the past, my family certainly has dysfunctions which I could easily choose to blame for my actions.  But I know, as you know, that every family has dysfunctions.  The question is whether I was willing to do anything about it, even if it meant displaying a seemingly enormous amount of courage, humility, and selflessness in the every-day moments.  Even if it were to just ask how you were doing or what was going on in your life.  I assured you (last night) that I would do things differently because of you.  I’m not exactly sure what this looks like.  They may be baby steps.  They may be giant leaps.  Probably both.  For me, they would still probably be one and the same.  Either way, I do hope that by the time I join you in heaven, I will have grown enough to get up off of the bed to ask you about you.  To get up out of “my room” and get to know my sister-in-law!

Joy.  I’m not sure if you noticed.  But a couple of times on my Facebook status, I shared how you “inspire” me.  Inspire is a big word.  It’s a word that comes closer than most to that which I hope to do in my own life.  Inspire.  And yet, that’s exactly what you did do.  While we surely trust in and submit to the sovereign will of God, I had come to see in you a “mountain” of faith which hoped and fought for complete healing this side of the resurrection.  I think it was only a couple of weeks back when you sat across our dining table high-fiving with my wife at the notion of travelling our favorite places together as a family once you got better.  When stopped at a medical crossroad, in the face of all of the suffering that you had already endured, you chose to hope, to fight again…even more valiantly.  This was just days before you would experience your stroke.  How devastating it must have been.  The morning of your daughter’s big birthday party.  Mother’s Day weekend.  And I’m sure if we could’ve caught glimpse of your soul, seemingly trapped within your failing body, you were fighting still!  Rest Joy.  Your “fight” has inspired many.

Thank you for all of the times you’ve empowered me…your brother-in-law, “the pastor”.  The encouraging words following a sermon preached, your enthusiasm after having shared the glorious good news with friends, your willingness to seek the “wisdom” of a younger brother-in-law.  As much weight as you may have placed upon me as your “pastor” brother-in-law, it is ironically you who has ended up doing most of the pastoring in our relationship. =P  Thank you.  Be encouraged!  Your life will continue to inspire me, and I don’t doubt many others, for however long I have left of my brief time here.  A legacy.  That’s what you have left for me.  A legacy that will live on in eternity.

As you shared your delight in all things Seattle, you gave us all the confirmation we needed to book our flight.  Not quite sure whether it was the right decision or not, once you started sharing of your time there, I knew it would no longer be just another visit to a new city, but a way for us to experience personally that which left an indelible mark on your heart.  I can’t help but to remember how compelled you were to share about your time there with Mike and your love for the city.  It was almost as if for that moment, we were all lifted beyond the realities of your cancer.  (Thank you for the discount links you sent us right after we dropped you off!)  I can’t wait!  Oh, that we could all walk the streets of Seattle together!  One day we shall!!

Oh, and by the way, I just found out last night that you gave yourself the name Joy (upon receiving your citizenship).  I just want to tell you that you did a great job with it.  It’s perfect in so many ways!  Maybe one day you can share with us why you chose it. =)

I love you!

Steve

A Stroke of Inspiration

Whether with words, letters, hugs, or gifts, the ability to express oneself to another is perhaps the greatest gift of all.  Just in this past hour, I’ve had the great privilege of helping my kids get ready for their day.  Where on many occasions I find myself at whatever cost scrambling to get them through the doors of their school on time, today was different.  I was able to exude in my presence a sense of peace, gentleness, and love.  As they exited the car, I wished them a great day, assuring to them with a look of promise and delight, “I love you guys!!”  Sitting down at my cafe of choice, I did what I always do before getting to my day’s “work”.  I messaged my wife to see if she got to work safely.  And as always, I felt a sense of relief and gratitude.  Upon sending her some messages of affection and assurance, along with a humorous meme or two, here I am find myself on my laptop doing with you what we so often take for granted.  Express ourselves.  Communicate.

Watching the unraveling of my sister-in-law’s body and being at the hands of cancer has not been easy.  So much so that I now feel a part of that special community which exists only for those who have experienced it up close and personally.  Pain, fear, weakness, nausea, discomfort, anxiety…  Faith, hope, anxiety, joy, hopelessness, anxiety,  faith, joy, hope, faith…  STROKE… (speechless!)

Trying to place myself in her shoes, I can’t help but to wonder what she must be thinking, what she must be feeling.  (Oh, to be able to tell the doctors how much pain I’m in.  To be able to tell my husband to turn off the lights, to turn on the lights, to scratch my upper lip.  Oh, to be able to hold my daughter’s hand, to make her eyes light up, to tell her how much mommy loves her.  Oh, to be able to tell her the words I’ve been waiting to say.  To share of my dreams and plans I had for and with her when I finally did get better.  Oh, to be able to express my frustrations, resentments, and angers.  To be able to make amends for that which I  wish I could take back.  Oh, to let others know that I actually AM “here” and not “on another planet!”  How I wish to be alone, not having to witness myself becoming “extinct”, being increasingly “replaced” by others.  How I wish to be smothered in hugs…to feel your bodies next to mine.)  There are hardly words to describe what this state of existence must feel like.  It hurts to even try.

Communication.  The ability to express oneself.  To clothe one’s thoughts in words, hugs, posture…sacrifice.  How unfortunate that it it must too often take something like this to recognize the beauty, power, privilege, and necessity of communication.  If we exist to love, all we have is a means for that.  Let not another word go unspoken.  Let not another hug go un-given.  Let not another sacrifice go unmade.  Let not another cry go unheard.  It may not always be easy.  It may not always be comfortable.  It may take great intentionality, even great courage.  But we must.  The alternative is simply too costly.