Saturday, January 31, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

Several couples renew their commitments to each other after being married between 30 and 60 years.

Christian musician Michael W. Smith was a huge influence on me during my teenage years. He recently celebrated his 22d wedding anniversary with his wife and occasional lyricist Debbie.

The Catholic Exchange considers what God meant for marriage to be. (Link via Ryan's Head.)

Children teach adults a lot about how to love and how to relate to God. (Link via Patriot Paradox.)

Alan over at Imago Veritatis examines the nature of sex as God intended it.

Check out all of this week's posts at Little House. They have more touching stories of marriage and family than you're likely to find in one place anywhere else.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Larry's love story  

Last week I shared Rey's love story. After my request to hear others, I received the following from Larry Lovering.

It began when I was twelve, living in Colorado Springs. I was a scrawny and brainy kid, two deadly attributes in the company of cretins with less intelligence than a bucket of Jell-O. I took refuge often with the youth group at First Methodist Church, a very large church in the Springs. They had a heart for God, and their youth programs were well attended. I was in Boy Scouts at that church as well.

One Sunday night, there was a youth service in the gym, and communion was served, potato chips and coca-cola serving as host substitutes. I thought a lot about God and how Jesus lived and died; and that night I gave my life to him. Two months later I was on a plane bound back to Massachusetts as another of my father's marriages was crumbling. It was his third.

The ensuing years put me in different churches but not for sanctification, but for a place to go. The Congregational churches of New England are watered-down ghosts of their Puritan beginnings. I didn't feel like I was backsliding, in fact I didn't really know what that was. But I felt safe there, knowing that God was watching.

High school, and I finally faced up to the demons that dogged me by punching one in the nose after school. I never had a problem with bullies again. And I kept on being a good kid in the face of everything that peer groups can throw. I graduated, went to college briefly, then to work.

At 22, I found a Baptist church near where I lived and began attending, full time now. I began to see what God's plans were for me, and that he was with me all those years. Well, I didn't really realize that until, well, that comes later in the story. As I sat in a singles class for Sunday School, I was introduced to a list-making help to discern a mate. I wasn't too interested in being married at that time, but I thought carefully about my list and resolved not to become unequally-yoked. I worked, went to church, worked again until I was 25.

I met Joann in one of my stores. She was playing a record in the stereo department, a record that I heard from across the store. It wasn't an ordinary song, though. It was Stravinsky's Firebird, played with electronic instruments. There was a style to the performance I recognized, and I thought that my friend Billy and me were the only ones in the Western World who had Isao Tomita's records. I asked Joann whose record it was, and it was hers. Now there were three that knew Tomita.

She was very attractive, and I decided to ask her out before I left for the day. She gave me her number, and for the next three weeks I dialed that number, getting no response. Finally, I did get through, and we set up our first date for September 6, 1980. We spent that day until almost midnight in Boston, and it was very close to the end of the date when I found out she was a believer, which made my heart jump. I was respectful, always, and kissed her on the cheek leaving her that night, with a promise that I'd call her back. I did, the next day, and the next day, and the next…

Our second date was at a church picnic, her church, but we wandered away for most of the time and talked. Our third date was dinner at my house, and I prepared a home made Italian feast, a specialty of mine. To set the stage for this, I thought she was French, ok? Well, she comes up the stairs and says, "You have a nerve, cooking Italian for an Italian." Fortunately she liked my cooking, a lot.

Six weeks later, I proposed to Joann, and she accepted. Five months later we married, on her birthday. And for twenty years, our marriage was one with the Lord, a storybook almost every day, and when the day wasn't so, the night was. We couldn't have children, so we adopted an infant boy ten years after we married. And though our relationship got a little rocky at times, God was still at the head and in control. Even when we found out she had ovarian cancer.

The world didn't stop then, only slowed down a lot. I went with Joann to each of her chemo sessions, and stayed with her every night in her hospital room. We hoped and prayed for a miracle. She lived for four and a half years after that, and for most of those years we traveled and made the most of our lives. She died, at home, in August 2001.

Joann's testimony lived on, spreading her Gospel message about trust and hope, and peace in Him through our web site. It is amazing to me, but two people that I know of, came to know the Lord as their Savior after reading the web site. And my life, cut apart as it was, is slowly regaining life because of God and His promises to me. We knew after our first date that we would be together, and many years later, after she died, I found her list, the one she used to see if I met her "standards." Number 3 on the list was, "would like to cook for me once in a while." I did, for almost two years after we were married, as she arrived home later than I did from work. But of course, that isn't the reason our marriage was so successful. It was God being the head of our marriage.

After reading Larry's story, I downloaded Isao Tomita's rendition of The Pachelbel Canon from the iTunes Music Store (which introduced me to a fascinating artist and also taught me the proper spelling of Pachelbel). Larry recommends the album Snowflakes Are Dancing (featuring the music of DeBussy) for newcomers to his music. Larry runs the Web site, where he offers information on a variety of fascinating topics and also publishes a blog. At the site, you can also read about Joann's ordeal with cancer (in her own words) and how she handled it through faith with the loving support of her husband.

Please continue sending me love stories. I love to read them, and I love sharing them even more.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


I have lots to do today and not enough time to do it, so regrettably I must invoke my Real Life Trumps Blogging™ rights until tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out this week's Christian Carnival at Patriot Paradox.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

My (non-)Mannersly wedding  

I love Miss Manners. She seems to be the only person in the media lobbying for a return to general civility. Twice a week, her column advocates people respecting each other, children showing deference to their elders, and adults behaving like adults. I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything she writes, and she often teaches me something new.

Her January 25 column focuses on weddings, one of her pet peeves. When she writes about weddings, she reminds me of Steve Martin's views on irony in the movie Roxanne: "Irony? No, no, we don't have that here. You see, in this town people ski topless while smoking pot, so irony is sort of a non-issue." (I'm quoting from memory, so that's probably not verbatim.) She holds the opinion that weddings are quickly becoming as irrelevant as irony in Steve Martin's town for a host of reasons, including the fact that many are part of a series for either or both central participants, many feature a pregnant bride and the five-year-old son of the bride and groom as the best man, and many are superfluous ceremonies since the couple eloped but didn't want to miss out on having a party in their own honor. I should say here that all three circumstances have occurred within my own family, and I don't judge anyone for their desire to have a ceremony they can share with family and friends.

I wonder, though, what Miss Manners would have thought about my wedding. We had a gift registry at three different stores, and Miss Manners despises gift registries. I sang a couple of songs (both of them precious to my bride in some way) during the prelude, a practice which she hasn't addressed in her columns but would surely frown upon. My friend Matt (my favorite singer in the world) sang several other songs important to us both. We had my best man tell a condensed version of our love story for members of our extended family who didn't know how we met, became friends, fell in love, and committed to each other. We had the pastor explain the concept of salvation and why we see marriage as a sacred and holy union, neither of which is essential to the ceremony. I don't think Miss Manners would approve of any of that.

On the other hand, we exchanged the traditional wedding vows, something I feel passionate about. Mrs. Happy (appropriately, I might add) wore a white wedding gown, and I a black tuxedo with a white shirt and no non-traditional colors. We let people know where we registered for gifts, but never insisted that gifts come only from those places, and we never solicited money in lieu of gifts. We also required commitments of time and effort (and as little cash as possible) only from the members of the wedding party. We did not throw ourselves a bridal shower, instead allowing friends and/or family to do so as they desired. I don't think Miss Manners would shake a disapproving finger at any of that, except possibly the gift registry.

I have heard that some people complained about our wedding being "too much of a show." Maybe it was for some people. But of all the weddings I have attended, mine is still my favorite. That's as it should be.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Working together  

I've mentioned before that my wife is an artist. Sometimes she gets me to draw things even though I can't create anything more sophisticated than a stick figure. She says art is therapeutic. A person's art, even when formed by an untalented hand, can express what the heart feels when words fall short. This happens even (and maybe especially) when we don't intend it—just as we can't speak what we don't think, neither can we draw what we don't feel.

So sometimes I draw pictures for her, sometimes she draws pictures for me, and sometimes we draw pictures together. Our favorite collaborative medium is something we call panel art. For a piece of panel art, you divide a page into at least four sections. One person draws something in one panel, making sure that lines in the picture touch every edge of the panel in at least one place. The other person then does the same in an adjacent panel, drawing a completely different picture. The two artists pass the paper back and forth until every panel contains a picture. The catch is that all lines that touch the edge of a panel must meet the lines that touch the same edge from the adjacent panel.

Panel art is a wonderful creative exercise and provides a chance for two people to communicate and create without using words. My favorite piece of ours is one we did in six panels. I'm too tired right now to analyze it and put into words what we were feeling or communicating, but you can see it yourself here. My panels are the upper-left, upper-right, and bottom-center. Mrs. Happy's are the upper-center, lower-left, and lower-right.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

It appears that a cultural tide is shifting again. More educated young women are choosing to build a happy marriage and family instead of pursuing careers in the business world.

One man explores the neurotic habits he and his wife have developed during their thirty years of marriage. He concludes that they help keep the marriage strong. I'm not sure he's correct. I'll let you know in 25 years.

The author of the 1965 book Always Ask a Man, The Key to Femininity revisits some of the things she wrote about marriage, relationships, and womanhood. I can't endorse everything she says, but it is interesting reading.

Ryan (of Ryan's Head) is expecting a baby soon, so he and his wife have been practicing the fine art of swaddling with anything they can find that has the same general shape as a baby.

Bryan (of Clarity amidst Chaos) sees a spiritual metaphor in Batman's enemy Harvey Dent, a.k.a. Two Face. Two Face constantly fights an internal battle of good spirit versus evil nature. His only solace is his wife, Grace(!), whom he simultaneously craves and despises.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Another day in paradise  

I sometimes tend to portray my marriage in a rosier light than exists in reality. I try to be honest about the difficulties involved, but sappy positive things float atop my consciousness, so those are the things that usually wind up on this page. That leads to accusations from friends that my wife and I are a couple of Smurfs living in Smurfland singing Laaa-laaa-la-laa-laa-laa Laaa-la-laa-laa-laaa all day long. It's not true, though. We have a deeply serious argument at least once every two weeks, and more often if we're visiting family. We don't let those fights get us down or come between us, though. We almost always resolve things to the satisfaction of both of us before we go to bed.

Almost every day, we argue about something completely and absurdly inane. We generally forget those arguments as soon as they're over. Sometimes we even forget during the middle of the argument if something distracts us. Here are some of the ridiculous things we've fought about:

So maybe we do live in Smurfland, but even Smurfland had its Gargamel.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

A friend's love story  

I think my favorite kind of story is a true-to-life love story. Movie love stories tend to just make me mad. Hollywood doesn't seem to understand how real people experience love, affection, commitment, and sacrifice. But I love to hear a real person tell how he came to know and love God or how he met and married the love of his life. Bill (a.k.a. Theognome) shared both of his love stories in the comments section of Tuesday's post. It's wonderful. Go read it. (My comments have a limit on how long a single comment can be, so he had to break up his story over eight entries. My apologies.)

My favorite kind of love story is one in which a person's heavenly and earthly love stories are bound up in one another. Rey (the driving force behind The Bible Archive) recently shared his with me, and gave me permission to share it with everyone. Here it is.

Letting go is hard.

I was eight when I saw the Exorcist. It made hell evident to me. At a prayer meeting, one of the brothers preached the gospel and it made sense: It was a way for me not to go to hell.

Then saved, I lived my life without making God my ruler. My focus was on doing what I wanted. I was saved, but my life was mine. I realize in retrospect that even when I prayed, I prayed selfishly. My prayers were about saving me from danger and for girls to like me. Thank God that He is merciful, and even in such prayers He listens, although He may say "wait."

After some time, I wound up going to a Christian conference in Connecticut where the preacher connected the Word in ways which boggled my green mind. I knew I was saved and I knew I wasn't dedicated. I spiritually bent down then and dedicated my life to Him. I went home and read the Bible in its entirety. I prayed, got baptized.

I backslid.

High school was filled with a constant struggle of fighting the Old Man in my spirit. I came to an understanding of Paul's words: Those things I don't want to do…those things I do! Doubt crept into my life and for a time I wanted to die. I thought the answer to "Who will deliver me from this body of death!" might've been myself.

It was one night at the edge of my bed that I broke down before God and realized that I thought I could be a believer without heavenly help. Somehow, I missed the point of being saved in the spirit. While studying the book of Galatians I fell in love with the thought that "I am crucified with Christ and yet I live, but it is not I but Christ who lives within me."

I cried.

God is the one who justifies and he has declared me just in the cross of Christ. He will deliver me from this body of death. It had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Him.

Letting go is difficult. Even now I still hold on to aspects of my life and it pains me.

During my junior year of college I went on trip with my church to a camp where the Word was taught and preached in a way I had never known. Vibrant, pulsating, and powerful, it gave me a taste akin to that of small group studies and private time, but magnified. The people there were saturated in the scriptures, and the singing of hymns sounded like the heaven opened.

Jokingly, I threw my arms around a few girls asking them to go play volleyball. One of the girls was really cute but I had decided that I wasn't going to be doing any chasing anymore. Plus this cute girl just kept reiterating her boyfriend's name. These girls told me about working in the camp during the summer and about how washing the pots was fun.

I've done my share of pot-washing in another camp and I never heard it described as fun. I hated it and I hated how the camp managers would yell at us saying that "You're working for the Lord! Is THIS how you work unto the Lord?"

I acquiesced that I would try to stay for the summer but I also warned that my parents were strict and that I haven't gone to camp for more than two weeks since I was 14 because I had to work in the factory where my father worked. They told me that this camp pays, and though very low, it's better than nothing.

I asked my parents and surprisingly enough, they said yes and drove me down a week later.

Away from the city, the noise, and my siblings, I studied. Man, how I studied. I loved it. I could read the Bible in the morning, run over to the kitchen to work, run over to the morning message, have a little free time and then get back to the Bible. All of this was interspersed with hanging out with those girls and some good guys I met there. I carried with me a black guitar re-made by some awesome college friends of mine. I called it the True-Dee after the people who handed it over to me.

Pot-washing WAS fun. It's where I learned to sing while I work.

Those friends are still dear to me. I wrote letters to them all, and this continues even today. At the end of that summer, those dear friends purchased a guitar and gave it to me as a gift. I named it Summer.

For it was that summer that the love for my God grew. It was that summer that a young woman became a close friend, and years later wound up marrying me on those very same camp-grounds in August of 1999.

Laura, the cute girl who I played volleyball with, who convinced me to stay at the camp, has been my greatest help since our summertime conversations on everything from the stars to work in the church. In our relationship, love came softly, entering into marriage as a natural progression. It felt completely comfortable. We've been married going on five years, have a child and we can still laugh like idiots at two a.m. about something or other.

God answers prayers in amazing ways, and in my case, usually after letting go.

By the way, if anyone wants to share their own love story, please e-mail it to me. Like I said, it's my favorite kind of story.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Christian Carnival  

Nick over at Patriot Paradox is hosting the first ever Christian Carnival today. If you're unfamiliar with the term, a carnival is a collection of posts from many different sites that all deal with a similar theme. In this case, the theme is Christianity. Last week, Nick invited bloggers to submit their posts "of a Christian nature" so that he could link to them in the carnival. I submitted my post on spiritual leadership, and others submitted their own Christian posts, so go over to Patriot Paradox and see what's there. You might just find something that broadens your horizons, provokes your thoughts, and stretches your mind.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Falling in love  

A commenter on ireneQ's site recently posed this question:

How did you fall in love with God? In an instant, or through ongoing exposure and getting to know him better? Or, because of fear of the consequences of not loving him?

I'm taking the question completely out of the context in which it was offered, but the thoughts it provoked in my mind surprised me. As I pondered the question, I realized that I fell in love with God in much the same manner that I fell in love with my wife.

I have gone to church my entire life. I met and accepted God at the age of five. I was truly pumped about my new life for a while, then the excitement died down and I didn't pay much attention to God. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I learned quite a bit about God, but I didn't really get to know Him in a personal way. At the age of 14, I attended a youth event (known locally as Disciple Now Weekend) that consisted of groups of teenagers congregating at a house and going through two days of intensive Bible study led by a seminary student. Something clicked in my mind and heart that weekend, and I finally understood everything I had been learning about God. I finally, truly understood (at least as far as I was capable of understanding) who God is, why He loves me, and why I owe Him my life. It took me nine years of knowing about Him to suddenly fall in love with Him.

I met my wife at the age of 22, in the summer of 1994. I immediately liked her friends and felt more or less neutral about her. She felt fairly neutral about me as well (actually, she thought I was a "dud," though a harmless one). She tolerated my presence because her friends liked me. When the fall came, her friends returned to their universities in other states, leaving her and me alone with the other 50,000 students at The University of Texas. Stuck with each other, we started spending time together and eventually became best friends. I developed attitudes of friendship, loyalty, affection, protection, encouragement, and intimacy toward her.

I don't remember the exact moment, but an exact moment did occur early in 1997 when I suddenly realized that I loved her as a husband should love a wife. It took a little over two years of steady emotional development for me to reach that lightning-bolt epiphany.

I had two life-changing experiences that built up for years before exploding, and both explosions continue to resonate through all areas of my life. Thank God.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Our first snowman  

It's been snowing and getting very cold on Long Island recently, at least by my standards. Even the locals say that this is the worst winter since the 1930s, and one day we even reached a temperature lower than the area has experienced since 1911 (2° F, I think, which I assume is somewhere around -50° C). It is certainly the worst winter since 2000, the year my wife and I moved here.

Compared to other places in the world, even compared to other places in the United States, and even compared to other places in New York, that's not really all that cold. Anyone from Minnesota or North Dakota who's reading this right now is rolling their eyes and wishing they could be as warm as 2°. But I grew up in Texas, where we had a two-day-long ice storm every other year to break up the winter days that averaged about 60° (um, 18° C? I really don't know).

We moved here in September of 2000, expecting to see lots of snow simply because New York is "up north," and all the snow goes "up north." The weather didn't disappoint us, giving us at least three good snowfalls, none of which melted until March. Our neighbors told us it was an unusually cold and snowy winter, but we didn't mind. We just enjoyed it.

One lightly snowy day, we trekked down to a nearby park and built a snowman. Mrs. Happy was 26 years old at the time, and it was the first snowman she built since she was six years old. It was the first I had been able to build since my junior year in high school. While other people were cursing the slippery roads, worrying about the cost of heating fuel, and grumblingly shoveling their driveways and sidewalks, we were playing like a couple of kids, wrestling in the snow, throwing snowballs at each other, and fashioning a make-believe person out of a few million snowflakes, a couple of twigs, some buttons, a scarf, and a carrot. Some people hate snow, and some love it. We love it.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Marriage links for the week has a slew of new articles for married people. In I Was Married to Jekyll and Hyde, one woman tells her story of being married to a man with bipolar disorder. Spiritually Alone offers suggestions for motivating a spiritually disinterested spouse. What I Learned at the Mall shows how parents can serve each other in the process of taking care of the children. There's even more, so check it out.

World Magazine's blog points to an article by Baptist theologian Al Mohler making the point that "the regulation of sexuality" (aka, sexual purity) is the first mark of civilization, and that "the weakening of marriage was a first sign of civilizational collapse."

Read one man's story of his struggle with pornography, triumph of sexual purity, relapse into old habits, and recommitment to a Godly, healthy lifestyle.

A lot of predictions are coming true with this headline: Lawsuit to overturn Utah polygamy ban cites Texas sodomy case.

President Bush is planning to create a program to promote healthy marriage. It looks like this effort will actually promote good marriage rather than just ban gay marriage.

Richard Bott is taking an "informal, completely unscientific, statistically unreliable" survey to find out people's real views on marriage. The more people who participate, the better, so let him know what you think. The survey's five questions take about two minutes to answer.

Ryan over at Ryan's Head talks about men being role models in their families

Gentleman, if you are going to win the war for your family, you must do two things:

You must be a rock.
You must be a role model.

Rock and Role.

And here are a few cool links that have nothing to do with marriage.

Take a quiz to find out which part of the Body of Christ you are. Apparently I'm a thumb married to a solar plexus.

Tom Walsh recently set a new record for number of consecutive wins on Jeopardy! (seven). He is a committed Christian who plans to use his $186,900 prize package for humanitarian work overseas. He created a blog to chronicle his run on Jeopardy! (so start reading at the bottom) and plans to continue it as he puts his winnings to work.

Dean Allen has two nearly identical dogs. He has posted a photographic guide to telling them apart. This is a wonderful, witty homage to dogs, my favorite animal.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Spiritual leadership, part 3  

Offering up some more comments on the topic of spiritual leadership in the home. Keep 'em coming! This is great.

From Theognome

Bill Cunningham informed me of an article he wrote several months ago called How to Discipline Your Wife. That sounds terrible, evoking images of Ricky bending Lucy over his knee after saying "Lucy, I need to teach you a lesson." But his article actually takes a practical look at being a spiritual leader and giving a family loving, productive correction when necessary. (Scroll down to the September 25 post if your browser doesn't automatically take you there.)

From Rebecca

Read Rebecca's love story on her site before reading her comments here. —Curt

Michael always encourages me to improve in worship—sometimes he goes about it the wrong way ;-) but his desire is to see me achieve my full potential in God. I think that is fantastic. He doesn't try to compete with me or anything, even though I know he would do a better job than me. He lifts me up.

About the whole husband-dominant-wife-submissive thing…I have two friends, a married couple, who told me about the time they were teaching a young married sunday school class, on Ephesians. They said that on the day when they got to the verse about "wives submit to your husbands", all the young husbands were sitting there all puffed up and ready for an ego boost. Instead, my friends talked about the picture of a husband caring for his wife the way Christ cares for the church—all the young women in the class cried—one of them said "If I had a husband like that, I would WANT to submit to him!"

I don't think I fully understand it, like, am I supposed to always do what Michael says or wants to do? Sometimes I KNOW that he is wrong, and if I submitted to him it would be wrong, or even sinful! When it comes to making decisions, we need to work on it I know, but
generally we discuss things. If it's something like "Where shall we eat" he always wants me to choose so that I will be happy (awww) but for bigger things sometimes we argue because it gets complicated. I don't see how always doing things his way would be a good thing. That's not a marriage! But he loves me so much that a lot of the time he will do things my way because he wants to make me happy. Sometimes I submit to him even when I don't want to because I know that he is right, or better, even though I prefer something else. Or sometimes I submit even when I disagree because sometimes you just have to do that.

I guess that, as far as possible, he tries to make me happy, but sometimes he has to lay down the law and when he does that it is never to hurt me, it is usually because it's necessary.

I will and I do oppose him when something feels wrong though :-)

Anyways, I don't have much experience in this but that's what I think.

From Tina

You said:

I try to base my actions on Paul's exhortation to husbands in Ephesians 5:25: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Jesus gave up His own life for the benefit of the church. No boss or general or dictator would do that—in most earthly scenarios, that just wouldn't make sense. Those of a higher rank hold a higher importance and would not sacrifice themselves for an underling. That's why I don't look at traditional leaders as husband role models, but rather to Jesus.

You're right to base your actions on Paul's statements here. I think that many spouses get hung up on "obey". It's a scary word to people because for most of us, those people we have had to obey did not necessarily have our best interests at heart. Yet, if you are loving your wife has Christ loved the church—you'd never want to do anything to hurt her. Her best interests would always be in your mind.

When a husband is truly obedient to the Lord. When he honestly seeks him for wisdom and guidance for decisions then why should a wife be afraid to "obey"?

For example, when there is a decision to be made my husband and I sit and discuss things. I give him my opinion and thoughts on the subject because sometimes God gives women a different point of view, sometimes women have a different sensitivity in areas that their husband does not have. Then my husband takes all we've talked about and goes to God. I trust that my husband seeks God with all his heart. I trust implicitly that he wants to follow God's will. There is no fear or resentment in my heart when my husband comes to me and say "we are taking this direction". I know that he loves me and would not make a decision to purposely hurt me or our family.

It also says in Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Verse 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. And again in Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

It's a give and take situation. When the husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church then she has no problem submitting to him as she would the Lord. Christ is asking you to trust Him and your wife to trust you.

The problems come when these verses are taken out of context by men who want to dominate and control their wives. That's when what was originally intended to mirror the church (marriage) now mirrors a war zone.

Good luck as you explore the meaning of these verses in your own heart and how the apply to your marriage. When seeking answers with a heart open to Jesus' answer, an answer is always given.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Spiritual leadership, part 2  

I received a lot of good feedback from yesterday's post about spiritual leadership in the home. Since my comments are currently non-functional, I thought I would share some of the thoughts that were shared with me.

From Irene

I was reading recently about the husband giving spiritual covering to the wife. It is speculated by various scholars that Adam was standing right next to Eve when she ate of the fruit of the tree. Gen 3:6b says, "She also gave some to her husband, WHO WAS WITH HER, and he ate it." (emphasis mine) So in effect, Adam most likely heard the entire conversation, failed to intervene, and therefore failed to protect his wife.

The husband, I believe, has God-given authority to protect and care for his wife, which is why she is asked to "submit" to him. This protection extends to spiritual protection. Don't ask me how this works out in practical terms, because I'm not sure myself. But my pastor once told me how his father discerned something was not quite right in a certain church situation. My pastor said his mom didn't believe his dad, and even he himself dismissed it because his mother was "more spiritual" than his dad—and if anyone should know about these things, it would've been his mom. Yet his dad was later proven right. So the mantle of leader and protector is upon the husband and he is perhaps given special grace to see/discern certain things at certain times, to protect his wife and family.

My pastor also told me of a lady he knew who was attending some ladies' group. Her husband asked her to stop but she refused. Later their marriage broke up because it turns out that the group was a very gossipy group and it somehow poisoned her and affected the marriage. Again, as the leader her husband perhaps saw something she did not, but she failed to submit and as a result disaster occurred.

I'm not sure if this helps at all. As a consolation however, I'm sure many people are still trying to figure this particular issue out! :)

From Rey

Forgive me for being so long-winded. It has been something I've been considering, this idea of being a spiritual leader in the home (and then the Church itself).

Because, you see, in the very testimony of Christ’s life, in that He humbled Himself and gave Himself for the Church He was indeed in a servant-like position. He washed the feet of the disciples. Fed the hungry. Healed the lame. Made the blind to see. Accepted the scourgings, the spittings, the crucifixion, and even the separation from God the Father…all in being in the form of a servant.

In Ephesians when Paul illustrates Christ and the Church by means of showing the relationship of Husband and Wife He is reflecting the continual sacrificial aspect of the life of Jesus in regards to His Bride. This agape aspect did not rely on any worth or ill-worth of His Bride, but on the worth of His own love placed on the Bride. Any action or in-action on the part of the Bride did not affect the constancy of His love, nor would it merit His cutting off that love. There is nothing that could separate the Bride from His Love (praise His Holy name).

Therefore, one could posit that the love of a husband for his wife transcends feelings of hurt but is completely one that is self-sacrificial as an example of Christ towards His own Bride. It is part of His sacrificial love and His constancy in that love that He must provide the spiritual guidance that would strengthen His Bride. This would glorify the Father, which is the goal of Christ and should be the goal of all believers.

Knowing this (and knowing that the scripture expressly teaches) that the purpose of teaching is so that people may walk worthy of God and therein glorify Him. This is something which has amazing implications on every aspect of our lives—one which boggles my mind and constantly pricks me in that it is not fully evident in my own life.

If we are to give ourselves over to the process of having others glorify God (this is the very reason the gospel is spread) then how much more important is this in the very home, with the person we have become one with?

But how is this done? Is it done by beating up the spouse to have her understand the mysteries of God so that she may glorify Him? Well, if we are to be examples of Christ, we are to do no such thing. It is done with patience, with sacrifice, by example, and when need be by gentle words based completely on the truth offered in the scriptures.

What makes this so practically hard is that we imperfect men are not the perfect man Christ Jesus. Whereas Jesus would remain patient through His disciples constant mistakes, we lose our tempers and make mistakes. Women are, very often more patient, more kind, more spiritually minded, more other-minded. Why oh why can’t we just let them do this job of leadership?

God has set up an order in the church and in the home and He has something amazing planned. That although men and women are equal in what God has offered through the redemptive work of His Son, they are different in the roles they take here on earth. God wants men to stand as spiritual leaders in the Church and the Home and in a way personified by the very life of His Son. In a man standing and taking this role his wife will stand and take the role of the woman, helping her husband in the role which God requires of him, not with envy but with submission.

When we wash the dishes, and take out the trash, and clean the house, and fix the fixtures, and dust the cabinets, and wash the laundry—it is not to be done grudgingly as if to think "This is HER job!!" but willingly and as to glorifying the Lord…constant and based on the power of God and not on herself. And when we open the Bible to read it aloud before bed, or pray aloud at supper, or leave the verses on the fridge with a love note, or share what we’re studying with our wives, not grudgingly but willingly, we are glorifying the Lord. Christ did not beat the Church into submission, but the Church seeing the wonder and radiance of her Groom, submits and therein our own wives will sacrifice, and give of themselves, and support their husbands worshipping God in the very role He has supplied for them.

This thinking goes against the grain and fiber of our society, but wonderful thing it is to see that God knows much more beyond anything we can ever know. How wonderful it is that even in this Christ illustrates the need to worship the Father and the Father points out the light of the Son and the Holy Spirit takes us and empowers us to understand, enabling us to do, and putting in us the idea to practice. How unsearchable are His ways, past finding out. That He would choose to illustrate the Son with His Bride in such an amazing manner is both humbling and exhilarating.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Spiritual leadership  

I often wonder what it really means for the husband/father to be the leader of the household. One thing I know for sure: leader is not the same as boss. I did not marry my wife so that I could have someone to do my bidding. My family is not a corporation and my role as husband is not a job with an annual review of how well I and my employees fulfill our set responsibilities. My family does not run like a well-oiled machine under my strict supervision, nor should it because we are individual people and not switches or gears or cogs in a wheel.

So in a way I know what being the leader of a family doesn't mean, but what does it mean? People have told me in the past that a husband and wife should discuss family decisions, but final decisions belong to the husband because God has anointed him as head of the family. Others have told me that a marriage should be a 51-49 partnership, with the husband controlling the 51 percent. I used to know a family of six (two parents and four children) that operated as a weighted democracy: each kid gets one vote, Mom gets five, and Dad gets ten. I'm not comfortable with any of these scenarios because in them the man of the house functions as a ruler rather than a leader.

I try to base my actions on Paul's exhortation to husbands in Ephesians 5:25: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Jesus gave up His own life for the benefit of the church. No boss or general or dictator would do that—in most earthly scenarios, that just wouldn't make sense. Those of a higher rank hold a higher importance and would not sacrifice themselves for an underling. That's why I don't look at traditional leaders as husband role models, but rather to Jesus.

Jesus sacrificed Himself for the church, but He did more than that. He taught, He fostered, and He lived as an example. I feel like I should do that in my own family. I do okay as a leader in some areas, though I continue to learn more every day. But I run into problems in the spiritual arena. How do I foster spiritual health in my wife? I don't know that I should be held completely accountable for her relationship with God, but shouldn't I be providing an environment conducive to growth? Shouldn't I try to give her the tools she needs to learn? Shouldn't I exercise faith in my own life so that she can see how faith works? I'm sure I should, but I also have the nagging feeling that there's a lot more to it that I'm not even aware of.

In our church's last worship service of 2003, our pastor handed out Bible-reading schedules for the new year. This particular reading schedule takes you once through the Old Testament, twice through the New Testament, and a few times each through Psalms and Proverbs. Mrs. Happy took one, turned excitedly to me, and said, "We should do this!" She was right. We should have been doing it five years ago, and I should have led the effort, but it never really occurred to me. So now we're following the schedule, and we haven't missed a day yet. It wasn't my idea—not everything has to be—but I intend to make sure it continues and doesn't fizzle out after a few weeks. Maybe this is my first lesson in spiritual leadership.

This is where it kills me not to have a comments function. I have an intense desire to hear everyone's thoughts on spiritual leadership in the context of a marriage. Please send me an e-mail at comments[at]atimelikethis[dot]net.

Update: Comments are back! Check out the posts for Thursday and Friday to read others' thoughts on spiritual leadership in the home.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Money matters  

Money rests squarely at the top of the list of reasons couples divorce. It is, without a doubt, one of the biggest sources of strife between spouses. That has not really been the case in my marriage despite my having been unemployed at various times for a total of six months. We have always done our best to live within the means that my paycheck alone can support so that my wife can work or not without terribly impacting our lifestyle. We thought we had done a pretty good job of that until she lost her job two weeks ago. Now we see that we had been relying on her income more than we thought and that our checking account will not be able to support our current money management "system."

We sat down and actually examined our spending habits, and we were astonished at how much money we, and I in particular, waste. I spend $1.35 buying a bottle of Dr Pepper every day, at least six days a week. That comes to $8.10 every week, roughly $36 a month, and almost $430 a year. I also usually buy my lunch during the work week, averaging $5 a day—more than $100 a month and close to $1,300 a year. Add to that the two or three times Mrs. Happy and I eat at restaurants or fast food places every week, and the money really adds up. And that just scratches the surface.

So now we do some adjusting. We have in the past attempted to fix and follow a strict budget, but we've never followed through with any measure of discipline. However, right before the beginning of the new year, we set spending limits for ourselves in every area we can think of. It is a practical, relational, and spiritual exercise for us. Practical because we are now spending less and saving more. Relational because it is a task that requires effort and sacrifice for both of us together. Spiritual because we believe that every dollar in our possession is a gift from God and that we should manage it accordingly. I also believe that God has entrusted me with the responsibility for taking care of my family's present and future finances. I pray that I'll prove worthy of the task.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Good, marriage-loving sites  

Today is a lazy and unmotivated day for me. I can tell because I'm feeling lazy and unmotivated and would rather blame it on the day than pull myself out of it. I've tried several times now to start writing something witty, insightful, and engaging, but it just hasn't worked. Instead, let me just point you to a Web journal by Maggie Gallagher, one of marriage's more prominent defenders. A blurb on her Web site describes her thus: "Maggie Gallagher, author, Case for Marriage, nationally syndicated columnist on sex, marriage, babies, life, art, culture, God and woman at Yale, etc." I haven't thoroughly explored her site, but it looks pretty good so far.

Also check out Theognome's Thoughts. Judging from the comments he left in my post on Saturday and from the things he says on his own posts, he obviously loves his wife and doesn't mind telling the world about it. Anyone who does that is okay by me.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

Most Republicans and married people are very happy; a lot of Democrats and unmarried folks are not. So sayeth a recent Gallup poll. Key quote: "…marriages properly entered into are arrangements truly made in heaven. That some couples turn them into battlegrounds from hell does not diminish the marriage compact's capacity for producing bliss."

60 years of marriage and history. "They try to explain the reasons for 60 years of happy marriage, Mary chatting away and George looking very stern indeed. It goes on like this for some time, and many explanations are offered, including Mary's simple and witty 'marry young and live long.' But it’s clear some things just can’t be explained. Some things are ineffable, beyond the reaches of human language, though not comprehension."

A 93-year-old man looks back on his marriage of 63 years and offers his own ten commandments for a happy marriage. One that I plan to implement starting today: Tell her you love her and kiss her 30 times a day. READ THIS ARTICLE.
Update: I tried counting how many times I kissed my wife today. I stopped counting after 50, and I wasn't kissing her any more than I usually do. I do need to make more of an effort to hold her hand when we walk, though.

Friday, January 09, 2004

The Princess Bride  

I recently purchased a DVD copy of The Princess Bride. It has long been my favorite movie, one which I have seen more than 20 times and could easily see 20 more. Watching the movie again after several years of not seeing it has reminded me how much I love it. There are two scenes that resonate more with me as an adult than they did when I first saw it in high school (on tape, not in a theater). First, this exchange:

Westley and Buttercup run along the bottom of a ravine, eluding Prince Humperdinck and his hunting party.

A few more steps and we'll be safe in the Fire Swamp.

We'll never survive.

Nonsense. You're only saying that because no one ever has.

I love Westley's attitude here and try to adopt it in my own life every day. For a number of years, my own insecurities made me think that I would never be able to make a marriage work. In addition to my lack of discipline, maturity, and emotional stability, I knew that the divorce rate among children of divorced parents was two to three times higher than in the general population. With all that stacked against me, how could I possibly hope to succeed? I eventually came to the conclusion that in the area of relationships, statistics and probabilities don't apply to me—which is how the Westley character tends to look at everything.

Here's the second scene:

Westley and Buttercup emerge from the Fire Swamp to music reminiscent of Beethoven's Pastoral symphony. They exchange words and looks of love. Humperdinck emerges from the woods on his horse, Count Rugen beside him. Three warriors, armed and ready, are mounted in formation behind. Buttercup looks beyond exhaustion. Westley looks worse.


You mean you wish to surrender to me? Very well, I accept.

I give you full marks for bravery—don't make yourself a fool.

Ah, but how will you capture us? We know the secrets of the Fire Swamp. We can live there quite happily for some time. So, whenever you feel like dying, feel free to visit.

Armed warriors begin emerging from behind trees all around.

I tell you once again—surrender!

It will not happen!

The warriors have now cut off any possible avenue of retreat, and they all have loaded crossbows aimed at Westley.

(drawing his sword and roaring)
For the last time—SURRENDER!

(roaring right back, bigger)

I like this scene because I like to think that I would behave the same way in a similar situation, putting myself between my beloved and whatever unfortunate army might try to threaten her or take her away. I hope that I would, without hesitation, die before letting that happen.

This is a great film and a great love story, appropriate for anyone who likes comedy, action, romance, drama, suspense, sports, family relationships, or movie monsters, as well as anyone of any age who can handle mild violence, kissing scenes, and one powerfully delivered "SOB" profanity. If you haven't seen it, do. If you have seen it, see it again soon.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

A marriage joke?  

It was either 1998 or 1999 when Mrs. Happy and I decided to get a new television, since we had been using a 13" TV that I received as a high school graduation gift in 1990. I felt flush with success from my recent acquisition of a job at Dell Computer Corp., and we were primed to make our first major purchase as a married couple. So we borrowed some relevant issues of Consumer Reports from The Happy Father-in-Law, gathered up Mrs. Happy's 14-year-old brother just for the heck of it, and headed off to Best Buy, a store that recent advertisements had led us to believe was holding a huge sale.

The advertisements grossly exaggerated the extent of the price cuts. We found sale stickers on two of the television display models broadcasting an array of insipid music videos that offended me both as a music lover and as a consumer. The lack of variety in the video images did nothing to sell me on the quality of the TV sets, and the horrid popular music of the time just made me want to leave the store.

Then a funny thing happened. A new video began running, and instead of cursing it and looking away, I watched. I had never seen the video, heard the song, or seen the young female performer, but I was mesmerized. The energy in her voice and the charisma in her dance kept me enthralled, stock still, with my mouth open until the picture faded to make way for a trite piece of video garbage. I don't remember if I said this out loud, but I know I thought it: "If there is any justice in this world, that girl will be the biggest star of her generation."

That girl did go on to become one of the biggest stars ever, and certainly the biggest star of her generation so far. Her popularity grew and her record sales skyrocketed (though, for the record, I have never purchased one of her CDs), but the general public's respect for her gradually waned until it seemed that few people cared about her except 14-year-old girls and dirty old men. Nevertheless, her most recent album debuted at No. 1 on the charts, and you would have to live in a cave (or possibly outside the United States) to go an entire week without hearing her name or seeing her picture.

Throughout the years, she has released some songs and pulled some stunts that I don't approve of. But remembering my initial reaction to her, before I heard the hype, before I heard the jokes, before her image overshadowed her artistry, I always try to cut her a significant amount of slack. I know she is an incredible talent underneath all the glitz her handlers have foisted upon her. I know that the pressures of fame make people, especially people as young as she is, go completely insane and do weird and stupid things, even above and beyond the weird and stupid things we all do. I can't say with any certainty that I would behave any differently in her shoes. I try to imagine myself standing backstage at a concert and someone approaching me and saying, "Okay, put on this humiliating outfit, hang this giant snake around your neck, go sing your song, then give Madonna a full-mouth kiss on national TV. Oh, and here's a check for two million dollars." I am ashamed to admit I would probably do everything they asked. Still, in interviews, she demonstrates true poise, intelligence, and respect, providing more articulate conversation than the majority of popular performers today.

Unfortunately, the media trumpets her every indiscretion that they can prove, all the while speculating and inferring and implying whatever they can't prove. But after all the times I have directed negative thoughts at the media due to their treatment of her, and after all the times I have excused her in my own mind for mistakes common to everyone's experience and blown out of proportion by infotainment television shows and supermarket tabloids, her latest controversial escapade left me shaking my head in disappointment.

News reports, which of course must be taken with several grains of salt, say that after a night of partying in Las Vegas, she married a childhood friend. Apparently neither she nor her friend were drunk. Both were in enough control of their faculties to obtain a marriage license, find a wedding chapel, walk down the aisle, and say "I do." But she filed for an annulment the next day, saying that the wedding was a "joke" that had gone too far.

I'm sure she didn't intend to demean or undermine the wedding ritual or the idea of marriage, but that's the effect her actions had. People are now laughing about it, pointing fingers at her, and making all sorts of jokes on late night talk shows and in stand-up comedy routines. All the laughter, though, betrays and reinforces society's attitude that a marriage that ends as soon as it begins is funny rather than tragic. And her actions, at least as far as I am able to determine them, at best display a lack of respect (and at worst a flagrant contempt) for an institution that I hold dear. So now I just shake my head and wonder, "Britney, what were you thinking?"

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

part 2  

I posted yesterday about how someone in my house died on Sunday. If you haven't read that, read it now.

Since both my wife and I had heard completely different accounts of who had died, we both started to second-guess ourselves. It sunk in that we still had no idea what happened. By the time we got to church, the shock of the tragedy and the sense of human loss had given way in my mind to more practical, selfish concerns. George's death, while sad, would not greatly affect our day-to-day lives. Mary's death, on the other hand, would have pretty drastic consequences for us. Since the house is in her name, free and clear, she would probably leave it to all four of her kids. In that case, given the way the family is situated, I'm guessing they would sell it and split the money. That would mean we would have to find another place to live, and probably quickly.

Mrs. Happy and I have never intended to stay in New York forever, and have always assumed that we would one day return to Texas whence we came. Right now we feel like we still have more to accomplish here before we leave. But we would probably interpret the loss of a job and the loss of our living space within a week of each other to be a fairly direct communication from God that it's time to leave. That thought and thoughts that proceeded from it occupied my mind on Sunday morning to such an extent that I don't remember much of anything that happened in the worship service at church.

After church, we still felt funny about going home. We were afraid we might meet someone outside and have to talk to them as if we knew what was happening. We didn't want to ask, because we should already know. And on top of everything, we needed to pay our rent but had no idea whom to give the money to. So we went out to eat. Going to lunch didn't resolve any of the issues for us, so we went to a movie (Mona Lisa Smile). I lost myself in the movie, but the events of the day came tumbling back once the end credits started rolling. At that point, we had nowhere to go but home.

Many, many family members had packed into the ground floor and basement of the house. No one stopped us and quizzed or asked us any awkward questions, so we went straight to our apartment. On the way, we overheard a couple of conversations that made it clear that it was our landlady's son who had died.

Yesterday (Monday), Mrs. Happy painted a watercolor picture of an iris and wrote a note of condolence that we both signed. We gave it to her after I got home from work, let her know she was in our prayers, and offered our services whenever she needs them. Although Mary complained about her son a great deal when he was alive, he was still her baby and she is hurting more deeply than I can fathom. She told us she feels more alone now than she ever has in her life.

Looking back, I see that I should have been more forthright, more compassionate, more helpful to the family who had suffered such a great loss. But I felt flustered, foolish, and ill-equipped to function around a large, grieving family in an Italian Catholic culture I know nothing about. Once the extended family have all gone home, we intend to provide more concrete assistance than the "Let us know if you need anything" that we have offered so far. This is an opportunity for us to minister to a widow in need, and we also know that God brings the best things out of the worst tragedies.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Shock, grief, and disquiet  

I can think of only two words to describe my day yesterday: bizarre and unsettling.

I should begin by explaining that we rent the top half of a two-family home. My wife and I live in the second floor and half-finished attic while our landlady, Mary, occupies the ground floor and basement. We love Mary because she has always been good and kind to us, often telling us how much she appreciates what good tenants we are. Even so, we have never really developed a close relationship with her or her family, which visits often. She has four middle-aged sons, two of which are identical twins, George and Harry. George lives below us with his mother, and Harry owns and lives in the house next door. We see them together all the time, but haven't yet learned how to tell them apart.

Anyway, Mrs. Happy and I got out of bed yesterday and started getting ready for church. We had slept a little longer than we should have, so I was rushing around brushing my teeth, picking out clothes, etc., when my wife called to me and asked, "Is someone crying?" I knew I wasn't crying, so I looked out a side window and saw about 15 people—including one of the twins, one police officer, and several members of Mary's extended family—loitering in the driveway looking as gloomy as the cold drizzle falling from the gray sky. Then I looked out a front window and saw an ambulance parked in front of the house with no lights going, no siren blaring, and no apparent activity coming from within. Going back to the side window, I observed that everyone's pacing seemed to center around the door immediately below me. With nothing else to go on, I figured someone in my house had died.

I told Mrs. Happy what I saw, and she confirmed my thoughts with her own observations. My mind raced. The death had to be natural, or else there would be more police around, but Mary and George were both equally likely to have died a natural death. Mary is elderly, but in far better health than George. I had not seen Mary outside. I had seen one twin outside, but it might have been either George or Harry. Mrs. Happy claimed to have seen both twins through the window, but then decided that she may have seen the same twin out of two different windows. Everyone outside was crying, but no one was talking, and no one was knocking on our door to let us know what happened.

When we were finally ready for church, we stood at the top of our stairs slightly afraid to walk out into the mournful and subdued chaos below us. As we left the house, we found the one twin in the driveway and respectfully asked what had happened. "My mom passed in her sleep last night," he said. We expressed our sincerest condolences. We stood with him for an awkward moment and, not knowing what more to say, walked to our car. Then began the seriously bizarre and unsettling part of our day.

"Okay, so was it George or Harry?" Mrs. Happy said.

"What do you mean?"

"Which one died? George or Harry?"

"What are you talking about?" I said. "Mary's the one who died."

"Mary? He didn't say Mary! I would've fallen apart on the spot! He said 'My brother passed away in his sleep.' His sleep!"

We talked back and forth for several minutes. Both twins speak with heavy foreign accents, and the one we had just spoken to was emotionally distraught and talking through barely suppressed tears. I had heard him say, "My mom passed in her sleep last night." My wife had heard him say, "My brother had problems with his sleep and he passed in the night." I understand now why many forensics experts say eyewitness testimony is unreliable. We had two completely different recollections of an event that transpired less than five minutes before, and we could not reconcile them.

Neither one of us felt good about going back to the twin and asking him to clarify, but the uncertainty was, as I said before, unsettling. A death in the house would certainly affect our lives, but the effect would be drastically different depending on who died.

I'm running late for work today, so I'll finish this tomorrow.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Showin' love link-style  

Since I began this Web site, I've received a good bit of encouragement from others online. I actually got a big confidence boost yesterday from Travis at food for fish <>< in yesterday's comments section, and an even bigger boost (in terms of both validation and traffic) from ireneQ in her blog yesterday. Others have sent me notes of encouragement over the past few months and/or plugged me from their own sites. I always try to respond personally, but I don't always get a chance to do so publicly. So today I'm adding a new category of links to the left-hand column called "Blogs with exquisite taste." These are sites that link to me and point their readers here, but that I may not get a chance to read as regularly as I would like. Most of them have many times the number of readers that I have, so their support has been a huge encouragement. I list them in roughly the order that I became aware of them. They're all good, so check them out:

Clarity amidst Chaos
Dr. Adrian Warnock's UK Christian Blog
blogging: mccord style
Patriot Paradox
The Wilderness
Adrian Warnock's UK Blog
Blogdom of God
King of Fools
Broken Masterpieces
Tuesday Morning
My Imagination
food for fish <><

If you link to me from your site and I've missed you, please let me know in a comment or an e-mail. And thank you for your support.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Chemicals and marriage  

I sometimes have a tendency to think too highly of myself. Case in point: I like to think that I am in complete control of my actions, decisions, and words no matter how I might feel physically or emotionally. Eighteen months ago, my underactive thyroid quickly and firmly disabused me of that notion. For nearly a year, I had been getting tired easily, dissolving into tears for little or no reason, snapping at my wife, and generally being no fun at all. I didn't realize anything was wrong with me until I saw my doctor for a routine physical. She said my thyroid levels were low, prescribed me some medication, and sent me to an endocrinologist. The thyroid condition wasn't serious, so I just continued on the medication. A few weeks after I started taking it, something strange happened. One day, my wife and I were teasing and tickling each other, laughing a lot, and being extremely silly, and I got a strange feeling of nostalgia or déjà vu or something similar. I couldn't quite place the feeling for a while, but then suddenly recognized it. I stopped laughing, looked at my wife, and said, "I'm myself!"

I think it's a credit to our marriage and Mrs. Happy's knowledge of me that she didn't immediately cart me off to the nearest mental hospital. Instead, she smiled sweetly and said, "Yeah. You are." She knew exactly what I meant. I meant that I have always been silly and affectionate with her, that I hadn't been that way for quite some time, and that I had finally returned to that state. However much I wanted to believe that my will is stronger than my body chemistry, that I can be exactly the same person no matter how well or ill I feel, the truth is that a low level of whatever hormones the thyroid produces sent me into a tailspin.

It made me realize that I can't take too much credit for the way I treat my wife. And now I know better than ever that I need to keep working to better myself so that even when I'm at my worst I can still be a good, strong, and happy husband.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Layoff recovery  

I'd like to thank everyone who has offered up prayers for me and my wife the past couple of days. My wife has been fluctuated between sadness, anger, and relief—now she doesn't have to work on Saturdays—over the layoff, but emotions are settling down and we're beginning to assess our situation and explore a variety of options. That's what happens when things change: you have to assess, explore, and opt.

Anyway, I've done my best to be supportive and encouraging without smothering her with sympathy. Tuesday afternoon, Mrs. Happy brought home her best friend and partner/coworker, another layoff casualty, and I took them both out to dinner. Then we came home and spent the evening telling stories, sharing memories, laughing a lot, and even singing songs along with my ukulele accompaniment. It was 1:00 a.m. before we said good-bye. Yesterday, we spent a relaxing and enjoyable evening with my mother and her husband. Today, I took her to Best Buy so we could spend a little of our Christmas cash (grandparents are awesome!) and she picked out a CD/DVD from Coldplay, one of her favorite bands.

Right now I need to get back to her so we can spend some quality time before I return to work tomorrow. Again, thanks for all the prayers.