Saturday, March 20, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

One female executive suggests that other entrepreneurs undertake domestic training in addition to business training in order to maintain peace and a happy marriage at home.

A Scottish couple, who defied their parents at the age of 18 by sneaking off to Lockerbie for an impromptu wedding, celebrate their golden anniversary.

"In the world of relationships, the most important numbers to learn are: five to one. That is the ratio of positive interactions to negative ones that predicts whether a marriage will last or become one of the sad statistics of divorce." So says an article in Psychology Today. Personally, I've heard that the ratio needs to be ten-to-one, and that's what I aspire to.

"Two-thirds of unhappy marriages right themselves within five years, and depression and low self-esteem are rarely remedied by divorce." So says another Psychology Today article.

In response to Wednesday's post concerning Steven Curtis Chapman's song I Will Be Here, I received a message from Irene about her favorite love song. Check it out. The lyrics, as she says, are real and powerful.

My favourite love song is by Twila Paris: I Will Never Go.…I've heard Steven Curtis Chapman's song too, but somehow it doesn't move me as much as Twila Paris's does. Maybe because her song is "real": we constantly see marriages breaking up all around us. To stand in the midst of all this brokenness and yet pledge lifelong commitment is somehow poignant.


Friday, March 19, 2004

His and Hers III  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage.

What is the most meaningful gift you've ever received from your spouse?

Curt's response

Two years ago, my wife was preparing to graduate with a Master's degree from her university. During most of her schooling, we had to scrimp and cut corners since we live in an area that has a high cost of living, we had only one income, and all of our savings went to pay tuition bills. She had been working at a school for special needs children to fulfill a hands-on experience requirement for graduation, and they offered her a job for the summer that paid fairly well. Since I had been working a job I didn't enjoy in order to pay for her schooling and help her fulfill her dreams, I thought I was due for a reward and suggested that we use part of her earnings to buy a new iMac.

Mrs. Happy thought that was a lousy idea and let me know it. She doesn't like computers, she had worked to earn this degree, and she would be working to earn this money, so if anyone deserved a reward, it was her. Upon reflection, I decided she was right. I had made sacrifices to support her, but I had always considered it a privilege to be able to make such sacrifices—not to mention that a sacrifice with a reward is no sacrifice at all. We would use a portion of her earnings to celebrate in a way that would reward her for all her hard work.

My birthday falls in a summer month, and that year it fell on a week day on which Mrs. Happy didn't have to work. When I arrived home from work that day I found my wife toiling in the kitchen making chicken pot pie, my favorite dish in the world, when she makes it. She greeted me with a smile, a hug, and a kiss, then led me to the living room. She gave me a birthday gift that turned out to be a Spirograph, one of my favorite toys. Then she told me to sit tight while she got something from upstairs. A few moments later, she called down to me, saying she needed my help with something. As I climbed the stairs, I could hear one of my favorite songs playing. When I turned the corner into the main room, I saw a pristine iMac sitting on my desk, framed with a big blue ribbon and bow, blasting BNL's One Week via iTunes. I believe it's the only present I've ever received that made me openly weep with joy. It wasn't because I wanted the computer so much, but rather it was because my wife had gone to a lot of trouble and expense to get me a gift that she neither understood nor cared about, and all because she loved me.

Mrs. Happy's response

It's really difficult for me to rank Curt's presents, since there have been so many thoughtful, creative, wonderful gifts from him throughout the years. Since he cheated on the movies/music/books list, I'm tempted to just list a whole bunch of my favorites, but I'll narrow it down to one (well, actually two, but I have to mention one to make sense of the other).

Ever since I can remember, I could always look at the front or back of a motor vehicle and see a face—the head/tail lights as the eyes, the license plate (or sometimes a spare tire) as the nose, and the grate or bumper as the mouth. So each car has its own distinct personality or expression to me, and I've pointed this out to Curt on numerous occasions while we're out driving. This car looks mad, that car looks smug, etc. Another one of my little artsy quirks is that I often leave a face made out of food for the waiters to discover after we leave a restaurant table, preferably with the tip if we didn't pay with a credit card.

One Christmas, Curt bought me this little book called Faces, containing photograph after photograph of different everyday objects and juxtapositions of objects that appeared to contain faces. I loved it and showed it to just about everybody I knew; my only problem with it is that I hadn't made the book myself.

Recently, I started making faces for waiters again, and Curt started taking pictures of them, ostensibly to help me acquire material for my own possible photograph book. But this past Christmas, he presented a home-made version of Faces, especially for me, containing photographs of my friends, family members, pets, stuffed animals/dolls, restaurant food faces, and various objects resembling faces. This gift touched me on many different levels. First of all, he put so much time and effort gathering all these photographs from my family and friends (in secret, no less) and designing the layout of the book itself. Also, every person, animal, object, etc., in the book has a very special meaning to me, and having them all together in one little booklet overwhelmed me with joy. Furthermore, the whole idea made me feel truly adored, because it shows that he actually appreciates my creative, often child-like vision of the world. Not only that, but he shares it. I am just so blessed to be married to a man who loves and appreciates me for all that am and want to be!

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Beauty update  

She's even more beautiful today than she was yesterday. I don't know how she does it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Being here  

I've been a fan of Steven Curtis Chapman ever since his first album, though I haven't kept up with his work in recent years. His I Will Be Here, from his third album, More To This Life, is my favorite love song. Here are the words:

Tomorrow morning if you wake up
And the sun does not appear
I, I will be here
If in the dark we lose sight of love
Hold my hand and have no fear
'Cause I, I will be here
I will be here
When you feel like being quiet
When you need to speak your mind
I will listen
And I will be here
When the laughter turns to crying
Through the winning, losing and trying
We'll be together
'Cause I will be here

Tomorrow morning if you wake up
And the future is unclear
I, I will be here
As sure as seasons are made for change
Our lifetimes are made for years
So I, I will be here
I will be here
You can cry on my shoulder
When the mirror tells us we're older
I will hold you
And I will be here
To watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here

I will be true to the promise I have made
To you and to the One who gave you to me

And just as sure as seasons are made for change
Our lifetimes are made for years
So I, I will be here
We'll be together
I will be here

When I first heard the song, the first verse held a great deal of appeal to me. I longed for an unshakable and intimate relationship with a woman. I wanted to commit myself to someone through good times and bad. I wanted to face life with a woman who would be my closest and dearest friend and lover so that we could share every part of ourselves and still feel secure. Before I was married, the first verse perfectly stated what I wanted in a marriage.

I've been married almost six years now, and I find that the second verse speaks to me more. Though the disappearance of the sun in the first verse is a powerful and poetic image, the unclear future of the second resonates to me as more true to life. My wife and I have grown older together and changed together and held onto each other through it all, never knowing what would come next, never knowing how we ourselves would change, much less the world around us. But we have grown and changed as individuals and as a couple, and it has been a joy.

I remember that on my wedding day I thought I would never see a sight more beautiful than the woman who stood before me in that chapel in the woods. I believed that with all my heart until the next day, when I was amazed to find that she had grown more beautiful overnight. I soon discovered that the more I knew her, the more beautiful she became, and now when I wake up in the morning I feel like I'll burst from sheer joy on seeing how her beauty grew while she slept.

The daily business of marriage, the personal and mutual growth, the uncertain future, and the constantly blossoming beauty all surpass the greatest expectations I had when all I wanted was just a lover more sure than the sun.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Real life strikes again  

Mrs. Happy started her new job yesterday. It's full of challenges, but she's up to them. Today we have a lot of household work to catch up on, so I'm just posting this week's His and Hers question:

What is the most meaningful gift you've ever received from your spouse?

(His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage.)

Monday, March 15, 2004

My Passion perspective  

Last year, I played the role of Jesus in my church's Easter production. The scene in the Garden of Gethsemane remains vivid in my memory. I remember trying to understand what Jesus must have been feeling, praying to His Father as His disciples slept, knowing that He was about to lose His lifeline, His connection to the Father. That He sweat drops of blood testifies to the extreme stress He felt at the time, probably greater stress experienced by any man before or since. I can't imagine.

I remember standing on the stage at the front of my church, kneeling in prayer and sensing the presence of the actor portraying Judas behind me and to my left. Having read the script and rehearsed the play, I knew why he was there. I knew what would come next. He would kiss my cheek, cueing an angry mob and a couple of Roman soldiers to rush down the aisle, tackle me, and pretend to beat me. I knew that every member of the mob would play the part well, exhibiting pure hostility in the feigned beating. I also knew that the mob members sometimes got carried away, sometimes misjudged where to safely aim a realistic-looking blow, sometimes slipped up in the excitement of the moment. I had bruises from rehearsal to prove it. It was scary, hearing them run at me from the darkness of the house and knowing the impact was imminent. If I had turned and run, they probably would not have pursued me. If I had put my hands up and told them to stop, they probably would have stopped. I could have stopped it, but that would have ruined everything.

After the last performance, I inventoried my injuries. I had two abrasions on my forehead, a scab on my right elbow, a couple of bruises on my legs, and an invisible wound on my left knee that remained tender for another month or two.

My wife and I saw The Passion Saturday night. Some people say that the movie made the historical events leading up to the crucifixion more real to them. It did that for me in a way. It gave me a better idea of the extent of Jesus' physical pain than I've had. It humanized Mary, Peter, and John for me. Most of all, though, it filled in the gaps of knowledge left by my experience in the play. Compared to the pain Jesus endured, my injuries hurt no more than an eye-blink. I'm sure that as He prayed in the garden, He knew every blow He would receive with far more certainty than what I could gather from my script. I'm sure that in the garden He felt more fear and stress than I will ever know. I'm sure He could have stopped His attackers with more authority and effectiveness than I could ever dream of. But He didn't. That would have ruined everything.

The Passion didn't really give me any new insight into the importance or meaning of the crucifixion. What it did do was inspire me to redouble my efforts to be more like Jesus, carrying out His Father's plan no matter what the personal cost.