What I’ve learned in marriage: to wait

Confession: The other day I was texting with two friends at once. This is quite a feat for me, a slow texter. Fortunately, we were group messaging. Unfortunately, they were talking circles around me.

We were contemplating whether the rewards of attending a ladies’ seminar together would be worth the gigantic hurdles of a) the spouse permission process, signed in triplicate, b) babysitters, c) meals, d) adequate clothing for appearing in public at a fancy event, and e) how many of us will be pregnant by that time.

Hence the utter poverty of my texting approach, which comes out to roughly two words every fifteen minutes. I pretended I was driving and couldn’t endanger the lives of my children.

(Okay, I was driving. But not the whole time.)

One friend said, So how do you go about broaching this subject with your husband? Sometimes I really wish I could see into how these conversations go for other couples.*

I dodged, because it felt like too much to say:

In our house, it aalllll depends. He likes task lists by email, so he has a visual. He likes big conversations after the kids are in bed, but not just as we’re about to drop off to sleep. He likes to save the little things for when he’s *not working in his office, and the touchy things for when I’m *not simultaneously making supper, balancing a baby on one hip, directing several children in cleaning up the living room, listening to music, and opening the door so the cat can get outside. (This happens at our house.) There is an awful knack to picking the right time and medium.

You know how long that would have taken me to text!

But she persisted. I really want to know.

Okay, I said. Well.

What I do is I mention it sort of casually, like ‘Hey, today I was texting with x and x about whether we should try for Oasis this year or just hit the beach instead. Hahaha.’

(Which, regrettably, is true – but don’t forget the context of hahaha.)

And then I drop it entirely. I used to always follow up by pressing for an answer right away – ‘Well, what do you think about me going?’ – but after a while I realized it’s simply not how his brain works. So I drop the seed and let it go, and by the time I return to the topic a couple of days later, he’s had time to get used to the idea. Sometimes he even has a plan made.

That took just as long to text. But it is also smarter than it appears at first blush.

You know I’m trying to be more direct than in previous years. In saying this now, I’m not undermining being direct; I’m highlighting the fact that being direct does not mean being urgent, pushy, and non-strategic. I don’t know about your man, but mine likes time to think on things. He doesn’t think on things by talking about things. When I keep asking it’s like poking the same spot over and over: he develops a bruise, and winces away. He needs to answer in his own time.

So I lay it out casually (one time), and when it feels ripe I ask (one time) for real.

And then whether he says yes or no, whether he acts on the matter as lightning or as molasses, I try hard to keep my mouth shut.

Sometimes it even works.


P.S. I hope he is not reading this post. That would kind of give everything away, wouldn’t it?

* Unfortunately my phone ate our conversation, so this is not verbatim, but I will not be held responsible for accidents.

A Christmas hymnsing

Confession: I never, ever get my fill of the Christmas carols. For this reason, one of our new favorite-of-favorite holiday traditions is inviting friends in for a hymn sing.

Each year, our local community enjoys a Christmas concert at 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon—and we’ve found that in the evening afterwards, very few of our friends have other plans made. We’re already dressed up and in the mood for joy. It’s the perfect time to get together.

hymnal - Silent Night

We borrow Songs of Faith and Praise from our church house, and The Mennonite Hymnal from our sister church; and we ask my dad (who is good at things like this) to bring along lesser-known sheet music for us to try.

Then we line up two very capable babysitters to entertain our 15-20 kiddos upstairs, with books and games and child-friendly food.

And then—we sit in the living room and just sing.

And sing.

Partway through the evening we break for food: this year, a build-your-own taco bar with lots of fixings.

taco salad

It doesn’t all go as planned. My boys throw hissy fits about sharing their Legos. I later vacuum chip crumbs from every corner of my upstairs. And when we try to finish the music with a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus, we can’t remember where to go, and get stuck in an endless circle involving “King of Kings” forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever—And so we end the evening hunched over my very quiet laptop instead, listening to Christopher Hogwood’s chorus perform it, so at least we can get the final chord Exactly Right.

But oh, it is JOY!

I love to see the bright faces of family and friends. I love the way the children glow over the fun they had. Most of all, I love the beauty of a dozen or more full voices blending together in worship of a newborn King, and in friendship with one another. This is the part I long to come back to each year. Glorious!

*****

Where do you sing the songs of Christmas? Which carol do you love best?
And if you are local and wish you were here, tell me! I’d love to include you next year…

Tribute to a childhood friend

Dear Naomi,

We first met over a cat. Four cats, to be precise, darling little mewling things with a sign that said “Free.” I fell instantly in love with them. We were at an autumn barn social, as I recall, where we bobbed for apples and ladled cider out of a brand new toilet (whose idea was that?!). And you, another 12-year-old with curly-wild hair and oversized glasses, brought four kittens to give away.

If my dad has told this story once, he’s told it a hundred times. I came to him, my eyes shining. “Dad! There are kittens! And they’re free!”

He smiled, sort of. The smile may have been rather pained. “Remind me again how many cats we have already?”

“Eight,” I confessed. “But they’re all grown up.”

“And these will be too,” he said. “In a few months.”

“Daaaa-ad.”

“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “If you can get someone to take one of our cats, you can have a kitten.”

I thought it a surprisingly low bar. I am not an aggressive saleswoman, but within minutes I had found a lady who said “Well, we were thinking of getting a barn cat to keep the mice down. Do you have a male?”

Yes, and I knew just which one I could part with—a plain and non-personalitied tom. So I got my wish: a white and orange puffball of my very own. I was radiant. You and I talked cats a while that night, and found we understood each other. You even came to visit me and see how Butterscotch was getting along. And I think you were as devastated as I was when he died an untimely death.

Later, you invited me to your piano recital, a Christmas party where we ate and played silly games and got stuck on icy roads. That was fun.

The point is, I’d lost track of you until my sister moved to your part of Virginia. There you were, all grown up; married; two kids.

And then one winter, when the worst fog of my depression had settled over me and threatened not to lift, I heard that you had cancer. A horrifying cancer, growing fast. I am ashamed to confess this, but I envied you. I was sick too, Naomi, deep in my mind—and I envied you your ticket out of this world.

But you? You were a fighter. You lost your unborn son to that cancer and you lost your hair and your health and your future, but you fought like a Samurai. People around you knew you were losing, but you had a few more tricks up your sleeve. Even at the end, you spoke of ice packs and Vitamin C and nutritional supplements. You laughed till you coughed and you made us laugh with you and almost the last words I remember you saying, when the doctor sent you home for the last time, were “He thinks I’m dying but I think I’m not.”

In this I envy you still: you knew that cancer is not a Thing That’s Meant To Be, and you pulled from deep internal sources and gave it a run for its money. Last week I heard it won, and my heart broke. It backed you into a corner and took away weapon after weapon and treasure after treasure and forced your earthly life from your hand, but in the end I think you smiled—because in the corner behind you there opened a door of glorious light. And you were the one to deliver the fatal blow: cancer died and you passed through the doorway. You won.

I join you in fighting the evils of a broken world. Cancer is not Meant, nor starvation nor incest nor abortion nor betrayal, and we fight these things if they cost us our lives. That’s because the God who allows them will take the things of slime and horror and turn them on their heads. All things are Meant—or will be by the time He’s done with them. (Genesis 50:20) The earth is good, and worth fighting for. You learned this before I did, but I get it now. I don’t envy you your ticket anymore.

I wish I could see you for just a moment. I hope He gave you back a double portion of that wild-curly hair. I hope you’re loving on that baby boy. I hope you’re looking into the eyes of Jesus and seeing the Answer.

If I can find a kitten this time of year, I’m going to get one, and keep it for you for old times’ sake. I will name it after you: Free.

Tell Jesus I love Him but there are a few things I need to have explained, someday.

Shari

*****

Please join me in praying for the family and friends of Naomi Schrock in Catlett, VA.

This week

Confession: This week I spoke a greater volume of ridiculous words than I ever intended to. Some of them I cannot recall without a wave of horror. Chances are, if you had an email, text or personal conversation with me this week, I made a fool of myself.

This week I lay on my couch a lot, with back pain.

This week I heard words of folly from a man sought out for his wisdom.

This week I read a horrifying story of epilepsy in a little girl whose mother I love.

This week I got news that a childhood friend passed away from cancer.

This week a voice on the phone said, “I’d rather you heard it from me than from another source…”

This week, the day I planned to spend with my grandma fell through. And the weekend I planned with my sister. And the visit I planned with a close friend and her daughters.

This week I failed a test or two, and I cried.

This week my faith in the goodness of the world is shaken.

But I hear tomorrow starts a new week, isn’t that right? Sunday is coming. God is still good. There will be time with my man, alone on a getaway. There will be time, if I am lucky, to write and write. There will be more small warm arms around my neck, more beautiful music, more blue sky and falling leaves.

I hope for less news.

*****

How was your week?