Saturday, December 06, 2003

Marriage links for the week  

Wellington Boone is a popular speaker at Promise Keepers conferences. He tells men to be a servant leader in the home, an idea I wholeheartedly endorse and aspire to. Wellington is also the author of Your Wife is Not Your Momma: How You Can Have Heaven in Your Home.

I've said before in this space that older generations need to do a better job of educating younger generations in the ways of marriage. Today's 20-somethings aspire to marriage but have no idea what they're in for.

57 years of good marriage makes one man an expert. He even wrote a book. I haven't read it, so I can't endorse it. I'll certainly be checking it out, though.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Life stories  

When I was in college, I wanted to be a journalist. I didn't actually care about the stuff journalists are supposed to care about, mind you. I didn't want to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. I didn't have a burning desire to play a huge role in maintaining an informed electorate. I didn't have an ambition to root out and expose corruption at the highest levels. I just wanted to have stories to tell. I wanted a job that would make every day interesting.

The longer I studied journalism, the more I realized how much I wanted to do something else, anything else. I value the free American press. It is one of the pillars propping up our society. But I believe that anyone who would be a successful, influential journalist must also be demonstrably unbalanced, to put it mildly. That point hit me hard when, during my senior year, the editor-in-chief of The Dallas Morning News delivered a guest lecture to my advanced reporting class. He said, "One of my best photographers just got back from Bosnia. The shots he brought home were some of the most heart-wrenching images of war-torn misery, death, and destruction I've ever seen. What other profession could offer you that kind of opportunity?" He was genuinely excited. Even at the time I thought he asked the wrong question. The question on my mind was, "Who else but a morbidly insane writer or photographer would crave that kind of opportunity?"

So I graduated with a degree in journalism, and I have yet to write a single word for a newspaper or magazine. I took my career in a different direction. While my current job pays a little more than a newspaper would, it offers nothing in the way of interesting conversation. Say what you will about the insane Bosnia photographer, but he has some great stories to tell his grandchildren.

Since my job doesn't provide me with any stories to tell, my stories have to come from regular life. The catch is that the best stories from regular life are the ones from difficult times. Some day when I sit down with my grandkids, I probably won't tell them about the two or three nice, uneventful days Mrs. Happy and I spent vacationing in Colorado. I'll tell them about the day when

for some reason your grandmother thought it would be fun to visit a casino, so we hopped on this van that was taking people to a gambling district 100 miles away from our hotel. Unfortunately, she has never liked to carry a purse and has never made a habit of engaging in any sort of vice, so it didn't occur to her that she would need her driver's license to prove she was old enough to gamble. No single business in the entire town would let her through the front door, until we managed to sneak past one casino's security, and….

Mrs. Happy, on the other hand, will probably tell them how it came about on another day during that trip that their grandfather swore off horseback riding forever.

I probably won't tell them about that one New Year's Eve when we didn't go out, but just sat at home watching Dick Clark on TV. I'll tell them about the Thanksgiving when

we decided we'd go camping and eat roasted hot dogs and marshmallows instead of turkey and dressing. We forgot that the end of November is probably the coldest time of year in Texas, especially in the Hill Country, so when we woke up at 4:00 a.m. on the verge of hypothermia, we tried to start a fire. Let me tell you, nothing wants to burn when it's 22 degrees*, so….

I probably won't tell them about a week when we were both perfectly healthy and nothing disturbed the routine of our lives. I will, however tell them about the week that began with

this incredible football game. I was spectacular. Your grandfather was so fast that the quarterback couldn't throw the ball fast enough to keep up with him. But I was also out of shape, so every muscle and bone in my body ached when I got home. I was looking forward to letting your grandmother take care of me, but she was suddenly terribly sick with a cough and fever. I tried nursing her through, but I couldn't heal her myself, so I prayed for the first time in two years. That one incident completely revitalized my spiritual life. Then when Grandmother started getting better, I started coughing uncontrollably, running a fever, sneezing, aching, you name it. We had tickets to see Simon & Garfunkel at Madison Square Garden, but I was too sick to go. She managed to find a friend of a friend who could go with her, and that started a chain of events we could never have foreseen….

Difficulties overcome make the fondest memories. If I have a non-spiritual motto, this is it: Fun times are fun while they last, but hard times make the best stories for the rest of your life.


*That's -6 degrees for my international friends.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Thanks  

I'd like to thank everyone for their prayers over the last couple of days. My wife returned to work today. She's still coughing, but feels fine otherwise. I just visited my doctor, who gave me a couple of prescriptions and also, thankfully, confirmed Dr. Warnock's opinion (in yesterday's comments) that there's no reason for me not to kiss my wife. I still don't feel much like writing, but I hope to resume regular blogging activities tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Sick again  

I don't mean to harp on sickness, but it's consuming my life right now. My wife felt a lot better today, but I caught whatever she had and stayed in bed until 4:00 p.m. Further complicating matters is a birthday present I bought for her in October: two tickets to a Dec. 3 Simon and Garfunkel concert in Madison Square Garden. She's a huge fan of S&G. I'm a moderate admirer. There was no way I'd be able to go. After calling people all day long, Mrs. Happy finally found a friend of a friend who could accompany her.

We have instituted a painful no-germs policy that eliminates kissing, eating and drinking after each other, and facing each other in bed until we're both healthy. That's probably worse than the coughing, fever, and headaches combined.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

All things for the good  

I haven't prayed in nearly two years. Not seriously, fervently, spontaneously, and personally, anyway. Here and there I have led the church or a church group in prayer, and I have sat down and prayed with people who needed comfort, but I have not devoted any real time to communication between me and God alone. A couple of years ago I went through a series of difficulties during which my most intense prayers seemed to go unanswered. I never doubted that God is in control. I never doubted that He makes all circumstances work for the good of those who love Him, even if we can't always see how that's true. I never doubted His love for me. I just started to doubt that prayer did any good. God knows what's best, and He's promised to do that whether I ask for it or not. So for nearly two years I have brought Him few requests of any kind and none of a personal nature. During that time, I have made decisions based on my own reasoning, solved problems using the tools at my disposal, and generally tried to change the things I could, accept the things I could not, use my rational abilities to discern the difference, and in the process generally lost all sense of God's presence in my life.

Sunday night, however, I prayed. I prayed seriously, fervently, spontaneously, and personally. Lying wide awake at 2:38 a.m. next to a beloved wife suffering through two full minutes of dry, racking coughs through which she could barely breathe, I realized anew just how powerless I am and how pointless it is to go through life not leaning on God. So I began praying silently. I prayed for healing for my wife. She kept coughing, but I prayed anyway. I prayed for an elderly friend of ours experiencing health problems. I prayed for Todd. I prayed for a friend of mine going through seemingly insurmountable marital problems. I started praying and the floodgates opened, both in my prayers and in my tears. I realized that even though I had lost the feeling of God's presence in my life, He had of course never left me. Forgive me for indulging in cheesiness here, but when I look back over the beach of my life, I'll probably see one set of footprints in the sand of these past two years.

I took Mrs. Happy to the doctor yesterday. He prescribed some medicine that should help her and also told her to get a chest x-ray to make sure that her lungs are okay. As we got ready for bed last night, she sat down and coughed. And coughed. And coughed. I sat down next to her, and during a short break in the coughing I told her about the previous night, about how much I had prayed. The muscles in her face relaxed. She looked at me and said, "So something good is coming of this. I was starting to get angry about it." We talked about it for awhile, about how her sickness made me pray again and how my praying comforted her. Some people would say that everything happens for a reason, and that maybe she got sick so that I would start praying again. I don't believe that, but it wouldn't surprise me either. I do believe, however, that God often makes wonderful things grow out of terrible situations, and that this is one small example of how He works.


Update: The chest x-ray showed no signs of pneumonia, but she's still coughing more than I've ever seen a human being cough. Now we just have to wait and pray that the medicine works the way it's supposed to.

Monday, December 01, 2003

More sickness  

A couple of weeks ago, I complained here in this space about my runny nose, my aching head, my cough-induced raw throat, and a few other ailments plaguing me at the time (actually, I complained two days in a row, here and here). My wife took good care of me during my sickness, but just about the time I started feeling like my normal self again, she started coughing. She spent this past week trying to will her cough to go away, but it finally got the best of her on Friday, the day I played football for three hours and came home barely able to move.

In one of those previous posts, I wrote:

On the other side of things, I don't much like for her to be sick. I do enjoy and crave the responsibility of caring for her in her vulnerability, but I hate the helpless feeling of not being able to heal her myself. About a year ago she developed some sort of bronchitis and could not stop coughing. She suffered quite a bit, but (even by her account) not as much as I did. I hated that I couldn't defend her from the infection inside her body. I wanted to take it into my own so that she wouldn't have to hurt anymore. But I couldn't. All I could do was give her medicine, keep her as comfortable as possible, and kiss her forehead all day long.

She appears to be suffering from the same thing now as she was then (diagnosed as asthmatic bronchitis), only this time seems worse. The inhalers the doctor prescribed seemed to work magic back then, but now they don't offer much relief. She coughs constantly except while sleeping, mucus clogs her nasal passages so she can't breathe through her nose, and her temperature hovers around 101 and 102 degrees.

I've been doing my best to take care of her even though I'm shuffling around like a 95-year-old. She may have hit a turning point on Sunday. My constant attention and some turkey soup from our NY surrogate parents Russ and Sue have raised her spirits considerably. As I write this she's happily watching an episode of Law & Order.


I met a guy once who told me that his wife had just recovered from a year-long bout with some sort of cancer. He told me that the year had been difficult, but he had stayed with her. He actually stuck out his chest when he said that, and also mentioned that some of his friends didn't understand why he wouldn't leave her. I wanted to paraphrase Chris Rock and say, "Whaddaya want, a cookie? You're not supposed to leave your wife, you low-expectation-having foulfilthblankinswearword!"

I don't mean to be judgmental. I've never been in that position, so I can't say with certainty how I would handle it. But I do know that the times when my wife is sick and vulnerable are the times I feel the greatest affection toward her. It's those times when I can really serve her without expecting anything in return, which after all is how I'm supposed to serve her all the time.