Thursday, January 21, 2010

Some Thoughts About My Life, Marriage and God

Last night, Dennis and I went out to an inexpensive dinner at our favorite place "Noodles & Company" and then to an MSU basketball game, with a nightcap of milkshakes at a late night diner. It wasn't the most romantic date we ever had, but it was a fun one. We enjoy each other's company now just as much (if not more) as we did before we even dated in college. When we were "just friends" without any expectations of "something more".

When "something more" did develop eventually, it was almost too exciting. I look at pictures of myself from back then, I was definately in some kind of exhilerated stupor. I held back my feelings about Dennis for a couple of years, and when we finally got to the place where we actually shared how we felt about the other, I guess all those supressed emotions just busted out all over the place.

Of course, I'm looking back, seeing all the good stuff, forgetting most of the struggles. I'm tempted right now to make it sound like everything was more perfect than it was. I'm tempted to gloss over the fact that Dennis and I were less the perfect people back then, just as much as we are now. And I've learned a lot since those emotionally heady days.

I'm a complusive journal keeper, and have been since middle school. But I didn't write much during our brief courtship. I think I poured all my writing energies into writing letters to Dennis during that time, since Dennis was working in California. I regret this now, because having a journal would help me be a lot more accurate in my memories. I do recall some days of feeling very strong and then others of feeling very vulnerable, especially in realizing that I had thrown my whole lot together with Dennis, who, like a man, took bigger risks and made bigger changes than I did my whole entire timid and narrow life. Would I truly go with this man?

After a few months, after Dennis made some more radical changes over the radical changes he just made--his path was not a straight or fearful one--I realized that going with this man would be impossible unless I go with God first. And every lesson along the way came down to that basic revelation. Through Dennis, God was going to rock my world, and He wanted me to trust Him. "Hold on tight, Thea, buck up and keep your eyes wide open looking for Me..." Well, that's my paraphrase of "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Marriage is many things, among them a friendship, a partnership, a companionship and an adventure. The relationship itself will have highs and lows, pleasures and pains as well as peace and struggles. There will be nonstop talking and also some phases of silence, but mostly something in-between. The profound knowing each other isn't something that happens in a year or even five. I think that really deep intimacy takes at least 10 years to appear in a marriage--at least. At least 10 years of failing and forgiving each other. Of learning how to understand each other's languages. Of spiritual fellowship. Of ministry partnering. Of supporting each other through losses and gains. Of mundane things. Of grace. Of transitions. Of repetitiveness. But biblically, marriage is a lot more than all this.

That God could take two wildly different people like Dennis and me and make us one is quite amazing. I wanted oneness from the get go--I imagined marriage to be like some Vulcan mind meld where Dennis would immediately sense what I was thinking and feeling and vice versa. And although marriage is being one with the other, spiritually and physically, I think that emotionally and mentally it takes more time, mostly because of our sin natures. When I dealt with my unrealistic expectations, I was able to enjoy our marriage a lot more. The Vulcan mind meld doesn't happen, if it is, then someone is fooling themselves by attempting to control the spouse. I love Dennis for the man he is--the separate human being God created and re-created him in Christ to be. I appreciate everything about him that is unique to him and no one else. And I marvel at the part of him that is joined to me that makes us "us".

Before Dennis proposed to me, I spent time with a friend who was in her 60's and had been married a while. She and her husband had been missionaries and were training missionaries at the time, as well as heavily involved with international student ministries. She said that learning how to adapt to change was vital in preparing for the mission field. I know for a fact that being an adaptable person was not my strong suit then, even though I was unaware of it. But over the years, God chiseled away at my inflexibility through Dennis among other things. Maybe that is why I have gone through so many addresses, more than anyone else I know. It took that much. Then working for a company that has gone through what my boss calls a "paradigm shift" in the last two years. In his evaluation recently, he stated that I adapted very well despite all the changes and transitions.

In other words, I have finally learned a little how to hang on, buck up and keep my eyes wide open for the Lord.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Random Reading

I finished "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, "Counterfeit Gods" by Tim Keller and something really funny by Dave Barry. I'm in the middle of a couple of other good books as well. More about those later.

For quiet times, I've been meditating through John 14-17, I'm almost done with chapter 16.

I've been following Kevin DeYoung's blog, today was really good, you can read it here:

Although I disagree a little, it's probably just my age. In my day, we called such behavior either procrastination or perfectionism.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Life is a Highway

Dennis and I went on a short road trip to Ohio to visit friends in Dayton. It was an adventure, as it was kind of slick on the highways Friday morning. My husband was patient for the first hour and a half of my expert driving advice--when he finally said that I needed to chill out, it was actually a relief. I was beginning to annoy myself as well.

We have made thousands of trips on icy roads, long before we married each other and afterwards as well. I never really thought much about the risks involved, nor did I worry nearly half as much as I do lately. After Dennis got me to shut up, I was reminded that I wasn't always like this. What happened to me?

Actually, in my defense, there were six cars that were in ditches along a mile length of highway just 15 minutes into our journey. I've long dispensed with the magical thinking that it would never be us in the ditch or worse. And the fact that the economy sucks and the state is too broke to put out the ice melting potion on the highway anymore is never far from my mind. And I have enough experience with Dennis to know that he's an extremely good driver and that I can trust him, if I want to. It's just that even extremely good drivers still make mistakes every once and awhile, and I have saved our lives so many times in the last 20 years by my expert back seat driving, that it is hard to give up that very important responsibility. I've often wondered how he manages to survive driving without me.

[Yes, it's scarey how I really think. There is freedom in humility, in knowing that I'm not all that and I will never be. As many times as I "saved" us from serious danger, there were just as many times as I nearly cause it, too. Pride can make one really deluded.]

The irony is that we started out our trip with a prayer for safety, and not long afterwards, I behaved as though I never asked God for anything at all. I've fallen between two exhausting extremes, never worrying and worrying too much. I think trusting God is not about denying the irrefutable existence of ice on the road, but nor is it about being obsessed by it. If it is His will, we'd get to our friends' house and back. If not,well, then we will deal with it when we get to that point. Meanwhile, slow down and don't hit the brake pedal.

On the way home, it was a nice sunny day. I knew that there was still some ice on the road, especially when we crossed over the state line into Michigan. But by then I meditated on the truth that it's by His mercy and grace that I am even able to walk across the room, that without Him I can do nothing.

Monday, January 04, 2010

My Music Opinion

In 1968, I was 6 years old, and this is what most of my babysitters were listening to. It was psychodelic folk, like this example of Gentle Soul's "See My Love", with the lovely vocals and pretty instrumentals. I could actually listen to this for awhile without getting tired of it.

It doesn't sound right as a digital recording, it needs to be a vinyl played on a turntable with everyone lying on the lawn on a sunny day looking up at the clouds for a few relaxing hours.

What's an "LP" you ask? I don't remember exactly what the initials stand for, but that's what we called record albums when they had two sides with at least a half hour's worth of music on each side. Yeah, you flipped it over. And if you were lucky, your record player did that for you. You also had a spindle that would hold several albums in a stack, and it would keep dropping them and the needle would swing its arm automatically for you and play each record for you.

I read an interview of Van Dyke Parks in Splice. He worked on albums as a whole concept back in the 60's and was involved with producing for several artists over the years like The Byrds, Gordon Lightfoot, Beach Boys and even U2. In fact, the keyboards in "See My Love" are played by Parks.

In the following video, Parks is accompanying Brian Wilson in "Orange Crate Art". Parks was Wilson's lyricist in his famous "Smile" project. I love it because it has poetic and comforting feel to the words. Yes, it's a pretty song. I miss that kind of music. Because of rock, every thing seems overly exciting--having to have a heavy beat and a loudness to it.

I was even listening to a local Christian radio, and the music seemed too noisy. There were a few songs with deeply felt and solidly Biblical lyrics, but the music just seemed overdone. Maybe I'm getting old, but what's wrong with just a vocalist and a piano? The only song I actually turned up was one by Jars of Clay, who seem to understand that a song needs to have a variation within it to express the meaning of the words. The song "Flood" is an older one by 10 years, but still very listenable without getting annoying.

Here is Parks in one of his earlier recordings:

There is an actual musicality to the song that keeps the joyful tone and reminds us that the song is about hoping in God. And I like the brassiness of the piece as well. It makes me feel like an Angel of the Lord is about to make an appearence any moment now. It sounds, well, alive. Not just noisy and loud with a beat.