Marriage Doesn’t Work! Thirty-Five things I’ve learned in 35 years of marriage

35 yearsWell, we made it. So far, so good. My beautiful wife Donya and I have been married 35 years today. Thirty-five years! We are one year shy of having been married twice as long as we had been living when we said, “I do.”

(Sorry. I will be right back. I need to take a break and let that soak in a little.)

Anyways, where was I?

Oh yeah. Thirty-five years. That’s a long time. You learn a few things about marriage and relationships if you spend 35 years in one. At least, you should. If you don’t, God help you.

Well, I have. And I have decided to share one thing learned for each of the years we have been together. Here goes…

  1. Marriage doesn’t work. You have to work it. You have to determine to make it work. I once oversaw the merging of two church congregations. That was challenging. Merging two lives into one is infinitely more challenging.
  2. Toothpaste should be squeezed from the bottom up, but why quibble over something like that? Pick your battles wisely.
  3. Marriage is not 50/50. It is 100/100. Each is all in for the other. Musketeers, baby!
  4. Every relationship is dynamic, with a life of its own.
  5. A relationship will define itself if you give it time.
  6. “I’m sorry” is not said enough and when said it has too many qualifiers attached. “I’m sorry, but…” is just an excuse. “I’m sorry if you…” is a passive-aggressive way to put the blame on the other. “I’m sorry.” Period.
  7. All fights are born of selfishness. All of them. Every single one.
  8. A loving touch is better than the most poetic Hallmark card.
  9. Hallmark cards are pretty handy.
  10. Flowers matter.
  11. Chocolate matters.
  12. If you don’t feel that lump in your throat when you write on that card, if you don’t fret over just the right flowers, if you don’t go out of your way to learn which chocolate…if you are just using those as props in place of actual engagement and true devotion, none of it matters much.
  13. It isn’t all sunshine and roses. The sun sets and the rose grows among thorns.
  14. Magical moments are more magical because they are uncommon.
  15. Marriage is mostly made up of the mundane: trying to make the money outlast the month; doctor’s visits; crying babies; dirty diapers; dirty dishes; overtime; cutting the grass…
  16. Marriage is more than living together; it is doing life together…even the mundane part.
  17. Space is sometimes needed.
  18. If you beat your wife up, make her breakfast.
  19. If you beat your wife up any other way, get help.
  20. Accept the blame, even if it may not be totally your fault.
  21. Forgive. That isn’t easy. Look into forgiveness, what it really means. It is a costly venture. Forgiveness does not eliminate a debt or a misdeed. It absorbs it. If a lender forgives the debt, the lender is still out the money. Forgiveness is free, but it is not cheap.
  22. The grass ain’t gonna mow itself.
  23. The dishes don’t clean themselves.
  24. Kids are not indentured servants, but cleaning a dish or two and making their bed won’t warp their personalities.
  25. T-shirts should be laid flat, the sleeves folded over, then the shirt folded in thirds, flat and wrinkle-free.
  26. Good luck getting anyone in the house to fold your t-shirts that way. Do it yourself.
  27. Opposites attract. Or attack. Usually, one or the other.
  28. It means everything to your wife and kids to hear you pray.
  29. Be vulnerable.
  30. Handle your mate’s vulnerability with care.
  31. Just because you know your mate’s worst faults, that isn’t a license to share them on social media. Or anywhere else. Protect one another.
  32. Who cares if your Facebook page looks like a Leave It To Beaver montage? Who cares if everyone knows there’s no way your life is that perfect? It’s your life. Live it. Love it. Only share the part of it that warrants sharing.
  33. Picking nits is a bad habit.
  34. Stay! Marriage works when you are committed to its success and when you are both in it for the long haul, come what may.
  35. Last but not least… Jesus! Jesus first. Jesus last. Jesus most. Jesus as your example. Jesus as your instructor. Jesus as your confidant. Jesus as your power. Jesus as your passion. Don’t leave home without Him and never shut him out at home.

I am not listing these things because I conquered them all. Heck, I barely did any of it right. But I learned the truth of them anyways. I guess the real key to our marriage lasting has been the fact that God gave me a woman who was better than me and better than I deserved. My only contribution to its success was being wise enough to know that.

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True Believer: A word about Felicia Cash on her milestone birthday – May 29, 2015

weir girlsWhat does one write about his sister-in-law? Maybe only a fool would do so. You know that whole business of going where angels fear to tread. I only have one SIL on my wife’s side, and she turns 50 today. (It is possible I said too much already.) I have known her since she was 14. And I am better for it. (Don’t tell her that.)

I can describe my wife’s sister in two words: True Believer. I know of few people who can wear that moniker as well as she. Let me break it down for you…

True.

She is true. She is true to her God, first.

She is true to her beliefs. She is true to her faith. She is true to her husband. She is true to her kids. She is true to her family…her church…her career.

Faithful. And true.

In Hamlet, the ever-quotable, and often-wise Shakespeare wrote this line for Polonius to his son  Laertes, who was dying to get away from his talkative dad and experience the world:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

fefe-boboIt is argued that we have changed Shakespeare’s meaning over the years. He meant to say to his son, “Look out for your own best interests.” That fits his other advice of “neither a lender nor a borrower be.” We have morphed it into the modern philosophical idea of really knowing yourself and being true to your true self.

I would use the modern meaning here. My sister-in-law is true to herself. One needn’t wonder where she stands, what she thinks, how she feels about most things. If you know her, you know the one, true version of her. She is not this Felicia for one group and that Felicia for another.

That’s a family trait and she exemplifies it as well as any.

Believer.

I like this part, because I have been the beneficiary of it. At the lowest moment in my life, when I had lost much of what I held dear and banished myself and my family to the East Texas backwoods, where I would lick my wounds, heal, and try to rise again, I discovered the ministry possibilities of the Internet. I wasn’t preaching much, if any. So, I wrote. I wrote a daily devotional that was distributed via email. It was called Morning Manna. I later changed the name to The Way-Maker, because I was clinging to that promise in Isaiah 43:9…

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (ESB)

Sure, that verse has specific application, but it had personal meaning to me. I needed the Way-Maker to make a way for me.

Back to the devotional. I had no idea if it would work. I really didn’t know how to grow it.

It did work. Moreover, despite my ignorance, it also grew…from one original subscriber to nearly 2,000 in a matter of months.

I wrote that devotional for several years. It was one of the best ministries I ever undertook.

That first subscriber was my sister-in-law, Felicia Cash. Many of the first people who joined the group were people to whom she forwarded the morning devotionals.

She still believed. In me.


I do my part and am true to myself as a brother-in-law. I give her grief.

But, I love her. I thank God for her. And I want you—and her—to know how she helped me believe in me again. She was a part of me finding myself, finding my way.

And now she finds herself FIFTY YEARS OLD. Fifty!—

(Sorry. Just had to remind you.)

Happy birthday, sister.

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When I Falter…

Anaya

The French Foreign Legion gave us this famous motto:

“If I falter, push me on. If I fall, pick me up. If I retreat, shoot me.”

It is, of course, a magnificent way to say, “I may fall. I may even fail. But! I will never, ever quit.”

I would like to change the phrase “IF I falter” to “WHEN I falter.”

Humans falter. Humans fail. Humans stumble. If you have never experienced the bitterness of failure, I would suggest you have not aspired enough. Failure – whether great or small, on the big stage or behind closed doors – is inevitable.

It is not a question of “IF” I falter, but when.

I would, however, like to move the focus from the failure to the witness. Enough inspiration exists for those who fail. Memorable quotes abound. Multitudes of examples of perseverance exist.

But what about when your coworker – or even your competitor – fails? What about when your spouse fails? What about when your kid fails?

What then?

Today, pressures abound from every quarter and so much of what we say and do is under the white-hot spotlight of public scrutiny. (Hello, Twitter and Facebook.) Let someone misspeak, misspell a word, or make a mistake and watch the Twitter waters churn with vicious comments and demeaning Memes, like sharks on chum. Listen to a wife belittle her husband or a husband berate his wife over some failure. Go to a Select baseball (or football, or soccer, or basketball, or tiddly winks) game and listen to coaches and parents blast a preteen for a mistake. Listen to parents boo and hiss umpires and referees. Listen to how they talk about the kids on the other team.

Enough has been said about how we respond to our own failures. Not nearly enough has been said about how we respond to the failure of others. Not nearly enough is made of encouragement, kindness, patience, and empathy.

I stumbled across a story of sportsmanship the other day and it made me consider how I treat others – even those with whom I am in competition.

Very little has been said about this…..On December 2, Basque athlete Iván Fernández Anaya was competing in a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre. He was running second, some distance behind race leader Abel Mutai – bronze medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the London Olympics. As they entered the finishing straight, he saw the Kenyan runner – the certain winner of the race – mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line.

Fernández Anaya quickly caught up with him, but instead of exploiting Mutai’s mistake to speed past and claim an unlikely victory, he stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the line and let him cross first.

So, who was the real winner there?

Be careful. That is a trick question. There were two winners. Mutai won the race he had fought so hard to win – with an assist from a fellow runner. Anaya won as a human being. He won the right to sleep well at night. He won the immense satisfaction that comes from having done the right thing for the right thing’s sake.

They say nice guys finish last, but those who say it don’t really know where the finish line is. Life is not about always winning. Life is about always learning. Life is about growing. Life is about investing.

“If I falter…” the ball is in your court.

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Everybody Talks: The head-rattler’s guide to using social media

statusEverybody talks, but so few have anything to say.

There has always been this innate need in humankind for fellowship. God created us to be social creatures. A long time ago, I heard a preacher use the quote, “You were created to worship the glory of God and to fellowship with the God of glory.”

The Apostle Paul said it like this:

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:9

I realize this will come as a real surprise to those who know me, but when I was a kid, I talked incessantly. It was almost stream of consciousness, like Robin Williams only more annoying and less funny. I had a joke or a commentary for every subject.

My insights might have annoyed a few adults. I know for a fact it wore on parents’ last nerve.

Dad called it, “Poppin’ off.”

Dad was not a fan of poppin’ off—especially to adults. And he had the belt to prove it.

Mom would say that I sometimes talked “just to hear my head rattle.”

I liked Mom’s description better, because, even then, I was a real fan of words and the pictures they draw in one’s head.

With a little help from Mom and Dad, I did learn not to say everything I think. And especially not to say it as I am thinking it. Better to let a thought marinade. Even if I think I have insight on a subject ( and I usually do think that), I try to ruminate before I illuminate. When I am fired up (and because I am not dispassionate, I sometimes get that way), before I give someone a piece of my mind, I try to determine if afterward I will still have peace of mind.

I try to think before I talk. I also try to think straight and shoot straight, so long as shooting straight is not just an excuse to be rude or hurtful.

I try. I do not always succeed.

Like I said, I know I am not alone in the need to be heard. We all want to matter. We all want to believe someone cares what we think, what we have to say.

This is why Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter) are zillionaires.

Social media thrives because of the human condition. Social media feeds our need to fellowship, our need to matter. Thanks to social media and the untold power of the Internet, everybody has a voice. Everybody has a platform. Everybody is a critic. Everybody is the star in his/her own movie.

Everybody talks.

If only Plato’s wisdom would pop up every time Facebook or Twitter popped up on my laptop or smart phone:

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. ~Plato

Head rattlers beware. These days, popping off will get you more than a  thump on the ear from Dad, a scowl from Mom, or a lecture from your wife. Facebook and Twitter posts have ruined marriages, ended friendships, and cost livelihoods. They have even started uprisings. This is a powerful medium that extends beyond the screen on which you vent or the “share” button you push.

Whether you are the over-sharer chronicling your life on social media, the activist trying to lead the political or social charge, the class clown poking fun and cracking jokes the virtual classroom where no teacher is there to shush you, or the shadowy lurker perusing pictures and stalking others, social media is filling some sort of void in your life, some need or urge.

So, here is a short self-awareness guide for social media head rattlers. It is just a series of questions to ask yourself before you hit “post.”

  1. Why am I posting this?
  2. Whom might I offend with this post? Should I post it anyway?
  3. Will it make someone laugh, cry (in a good way), or think? Will it inform, inspire, or empower?
  4. Will I feel better about myself if I resist the urge to share this?
  5. And then, finally, WWJD?

Happy head rattlin’, everybody. See you on Facebook (or Twitter).

And now, an obligatory song because it sounds cool and is titled “Everybody Talks”…

 

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