Monday, October 30, 2017

7 Days, 7 Photos, And The Importance Of People

There's this challenge floating around on social media right now: "7 days, 7 black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanations. Challenge someone different every day." I'm a sucker for these kinds of things.

Maybe it's because I'm in love with lists. Maybe it's because I like the spark that a little challenge adds to my life. Maybe it's because I really am a social media addict. Or, maybe in the case of this particular challenge, it was the intriguing idea of 7 pictures of my life that didn't include people.

Do you have any idea how much of your life includes people?

Coming up with 7 meaningful photos of your life without including any people in them is harder than you might think. I quickly discovered my whole life is entwined with people. My life without people would be meaningless, dull and lonely.

I did do the challenge. I spent 7 days looking at my life with eyes to see what photos I could take that would give a true picture of what it includes. The interesting fact is that, while the photos do not include people, every one of them is evidence of the many people in my life.

Day 1/7

Five mornings a week I pack lunches for my school children. The contents of each are as individual and unique as the person who eats them.

Day 2/7

It's a rare day that couldn't include some version of this photo. Why? Simple. Seven people live in this house and they all wear clothes.

Day 3/7

Some version of this photo could also be found nearly every day. Why? Again, the people who live here. At least three of them are young, creative, messy and have huge imaginations -- that's a house behind those curtains.

Day 4/7

Five afternoons a week I see some version of this scene. It represents the privilege of a Christian school and a row of dedicated mothers, unified by one cause: Time to pick up school children.

Day 5/7

Shopping day. Need I say more? That Goodwill bag is definitely the most fun part of the photo.

Day 6/7

Food prep. How much of my life is taken up by that task? I could have just used some version of this photo every single day but the stuff usually disappears before you have a chance to take a picture, if you know what I mean.

Day 7/7

This is kind of my favorite photo in the whole bunch. That silent, empty auditorium represents so much more than meets the eye. It represents community, friendships, encouragement, fellowship, belonging, growth, accountability, security, faith, love... All because of the people who are not pictured.


Maybe some of you are like me. If you are, take up the 7 day challenge! Regardless, take this opportunity to go let all the people in your life know how important they are to you.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

To Be Apart

It is my uneducated belief that there is nothing so good for a marriage as time spent apart. Maybe not always. I also believe it is essential for a good marriage to place high value on time for just the two of you together. But there is nothing that makes you appreciate what you have, more than when you don't have it; nothing.

Chris and I have always been very generous with each other when it comes to allowing the other one to go off and do something on their own. He pushes me to do it and I encourage him to go if he can. Sometimes it's just a Saturday afternoon run to town for him by himself or going to the sewing alone for me. Other times it's ongoing projects, like him being in charge of the school's Bible Quizzing and going to a practice every Tuesday night or me going to choir practice once a week and helping with the Christmas program. Sometimes, it's bigger things, like me going to Arkansas alone to be there for my dad's surgery or him going off for a week to help a buddy with a job.

'Absence makes the heart grow fonder' is not a meaningless, empty saying. It's true.

It's not until they're not around that you really realize how much you depend on their support every single day. How much you take for granted another adult in the house to fill in the gaps where you leave off. How much you rely on another person in authority to take over when you're weary of 'adulting'. How nice it is to not carry the sole responsibility for everything. How hard it is to go to bed at a decent hour when you know it's going to be just you laying there....

My week has gone well, really. It is quite different to be a single mom when your two oldest tower over you and your youngest tucks himself into bed at night. I remember the days when work required Chris to overnight somewhere and I had two 'babies' to put to sleep. First one cried and then the other until finally I joined them and wondered if I would ever make it past those days! Time has a way of dimming those memories but it is much easier when your children are older, there's no question about that.

Weeks like this have a way of making me face my fear head on. The longer I live, and the more people I learn to know, the more often I hear the words 'cancer' and 'freak accident' and 'sudden death'. Some days I wonder how much longer it can be before the news hits closer home? Sometimes I think I should be more surprised and shocked that we're all alive and healthy than I would be to find that we're not! Having my husband gone for a week drives in a sharp reminder of how it would be if he never came back. It's sobering. And it's good for me.

I need these kind of reminders over and over and over. It's nearly impossible, it seems, to keep the perspective of eternity in the forefront. He goes off to work every day and comes home; I take children to school and do housework. Repeat, repeat, repeat. In the daily-ness of life, it's so easy to think it will stay this way forever. Many, many people could testify to the fact that life can change drastically in the blink of an eye -- one phone call, one Dr appointment, one freak accident, one last good bye.

It's been a long week. The road to Arkansas is long and, while I know it's a bit irrational, the battle with fear will be so much less when all those miles have been traveled and Chris is back, safe, at home. Still, I'm glad for these experiences. If you get the chance to be apart from your spouse for a day or two... or seven, I'd encourage you to do it. You'll appreciate each other in a whole new way on reunion day!

PS. And when he shows up at 8:00 on Sunday morning instead of 8:00 Sunday night, you might discover you can do cartwheels and your mind, at least.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dear Mom

My husband is gone this week, Mom. Any idea why that's been making me think of you?

Chris went off to Arkansas this week on a work adventure with his buddy from Horton's Countertops days. I'm happy he had a chance to get away and do something out of the ordinary. At the same time, I'm missing him dreadfully and it's made me go back in time and wonder how it was for you, Mom.

Your husband was a preacher. All the years of my life were interspersed with occasional weeks and weekends when Daddy would be gone. A lot of my memories of those times are vague; I was the youngest and everything happened before I was born (or so I used to think). Most vivid in my mind are the many, many weeks Daddy spent an hour away from home, teaching classes at Calvary Bible School.

This week I've been trying to imagine what those weeks were really like for you, Mom. Calvary Bible School landed in the middle of winter. In Arkansas, this could mean many things -- moderate weather, freezing temperatures, sunshine or maybe an ice storm. Back in those days there were cows to be checked on and a whole broiler house full of chickens to keep fed and alive. Way back in the day there were also pigs, I believe, who managed to make as much nuisance of themselves as possible when the man of the house was away. Inevitably, when Daddy was away, the cows would find their way through the fence or the feeders in the chicken house would decide to malfunction or the ice on the pond would need to be chopped so the cows would have water or a vehicle would refuse to start. Indeed, it seemed the whole farm was just waiting for the handyman to depart to spring any number of catastrophes on the poor wife left behind.

The thing is, Mom, I have good memories of those weeks! You used to let us take turns sleeping with you and do special things together those weeks when Daddy was gone. I have nothing but good memories of those days and I've been marveling this week at how much that fact reflects on the kind of Mom you were.

Daddy was not just a text away back then. In fact, you couldn't even count on the fact that you could get through if you tried to call him at any given time. You had children to care for -- to make sure they got to school and to settle disagreements between and to feed and keep happy. You had double the work and worry with your husband gone. I'm sure you felt lonely some days and misunderstood. I bet you looked at all the other wives who's husbands never taught at CBS and wondered what they had to complain about? I know you were just as human as anybody else, Mom, and there were times when those weeks without your man at home were just plain hard.

Maybe time dims the memories, but when I look back those days are filled with cozy times together and a mother who loved us and made us feel special. This week I'm the mom. I don't have any chickens or cows, much less pigs. It's not snowy nor icy and my husband is a text or phone call away at pretty much any given moment. I realize now the effort you put forth, Mom, to make good memories for us those weeks when Daddy was gone. I know now that you weren't necessarily having as much fun as we were. And, I for sure know that letting us take turns sleeping with you was most certainly not for your sake!

Thanks Mom.

Love, Bethany

PS. I'm trying to make good memories this week but, I confess, I'm drawing the line at letting anyone share my bed.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How Romantic Is Your Marriage?

The two of us sat together companionably in our silent house. The clocks ticked, the air conditioner hummed, and slowly the stress of the day ebbed away. All five children had been invited away for an evening of games and pizza with the aunt and uncle and here we were, all set for a romantic evening.

Shall I describe the scene for you?

We sat together companionably, yes. Him on one side of the table in his dirty work clothes, eyes fixed on the laptop, right hand busily clicking and doing whatever you do in the fascinating computer game he was playing. I sat on the other side, feet up on a chair, mouth full, busily scarfing down the sub sandwich he had brought me -- the entire footlong length of it.

Sandwich gone, I scootched a chair up next to his and lazily scrolled through Facebook on my phone. "Suppose I would write about this," I grinned to myself. "How many shocked and appalled readers would I have? Does anybody else in the world do such unromantic things when they're given a chance for an evening alone? Granted, we're spoiled with willing 'babysitters' nearly any time we want one but are we odd? Should I feel slighted?"

He glanced at me with a sheepish grin, "I'm just going to finish this," he told me. "It won't take very long."

"That's fine," I assured him. "I'm not even feeling bad."

"And I'm not," I realized with a bit of surprise, as I leaned my elbows on the table and watched a game that made about as much sense to me as handing a pattern and a piece of material would to a man. And I found this discovery to be interesting. "There was a time when I would have been feeling bad," I mused to myself, absentmindedly checking through my email. We've never been the romantic candle lit dinner or fancy restaurant type; our romance has always been the kind found in small things and ordinary days. But I had to admit, there would have been a time that I would have chafed at sitting together doing this. "It's called mature romance," I decided, as I scratched his back and ran my fingers through his hair. "We're completely comfortable with who we are and what the other one needs and who cares about all the things you might think you should do when you have a chance for an evening alone?"

Because, did I tell you what kind of a day it was? Let me tell you.

It was one of a string of days where summer had returned with a vengeance, as if determined to get as much 90 degree weather in as it possibly could with October looming on the horizon. I had spent the day turning two bushels of apples into applesauce by myself. My feet ached and my back ached and all I had eaten the entire day was yogurt and granola for breakfast and about a third of Charles' piece of pizza somewhere in the lunch time vicinity. Basically, I was exhausted and starving.

Chris had spent the day in and out of the cool Tire Shop office and 90 degree out of doors/bay listening to customers who complained about the price of tires or insisted that all four of their tires must be put on so that the letters on the wheels are at the top. He had dealt with employees who needed a course on work ethics and customers who couldn't make up their minds and people calling who needed immediate favors. Basically, he was exhausted and in need of some mindless activity.

Eventually the game ended and he headed for the shower, throwing back over his shoulder with a grin, "Now that's my idea of a good time - you, sitting there beside me, watching me play." I laughed and knew with certainty that I didn't feel one bit slighted.

"And maybe I will write about it after all," I decided, as I threw away the subway trash and went on to spend the rest of our evening in less mature romantic activities.