Want What You’ve Got! (grass)

Marriage

Marriage (Photo credit: Lel4nd)

My husband and I are quickly approaching a milestone anniversary.

Would I say that our almost-30-years of marriage has been a perpetual walk in the park? Of course not. Life happens and reality bites, even for the happily yoked.

Our union has seen seasons of growth and seasons where everything seems to be buried under three feet of snow. Such is the nature of relationship – winter and spring, summer and fall.

Budding and blooming, we’ve been silly in love. Holding hands, starting our family, sharing firsts of every kind. Windswept and barren, we’ve felt the chill of change and seen the leaves drop from our tree as if in one fell swoop. Side by side we have weathered bitter cold and sweltering heat, learning how to be there for each other through the years of ups and downs and sideways.

Being in relationship is hard. Whether marriage or friendship or family-tied, the tug-of-war created by personality and circumstance is real and tenuous and inevitable. Many go the way of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” opting for a different set of challenges in hopes that the landscape of new and other will be more pleasing than the well-worn here and now.

Don’t get me wrong – some relationships should be ended. Sometimes it’s not enough to tend your own garden and wait hopefully for the other to join you there. Our brokenness is sometimes more than we – or our life-partners – can bear. Like pouring gas on a fire, some people simply set each other off. We know this. God knows this, too.

In the midst of our relational realities, we have been given direction in the Scriptures regarding how we are to live among our biological, spiritual and nuptial family members, not the least of which is found in Colossians 3:8-10, 12-14:

“But now put these things out of your life: anger, losing your temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and saying shameful things. Don’t lie to each other. You have taken off those old clothes—the person you once were and the bad things you did then. Now you are wearing a new life, a life that is new every day. You are growing in your understanding of the one who made you. You are becoming more and more like him. God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So your new life should be like this: Show mercy to others. Be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Don’t be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them. Forgive others because the Lord forgave you. Together with these things, the most important part of your new life is to love each other. Love is what holds everything together in perfect unity.”

Through the fence, things often appear more lush and green and inviting. This can be attributed to many things, not the least of which is the expense of hiring a landscaping expert to do the work of keeping up appearances for the rest of us.

Today, let’s choose to work in our own yards – caring for our own grass and flowers and (if your yard is anything like mine) pulling our own weeds. Together we are becoming something that looks a little bit more like Jesus everyday.

Want What You’ve Got – including the required maintenance – and watch your well-watered, love-infused relationship garden grow.

Daily Questions: What long-term relationships are you in? What challenges to unity do you face in these relationships? Are you tempted to look over the fence, or are you able to focus on your own relational landscape? Re-read the Colossians 3 text above and take note of the words and phrases that jump out at you… How might living into this text help your garden grow?

Purpling for the Glory of God (a PINK Tuesday post)

Purple color

It’s the first night of camp and the natives are restless.

Wisdom dictates that before they get too wound up, we cover the basic do’s and don’t’s of co-ed, middle school, church camp.

  • DO drink at least four bottles of water every day.
  • DON’T go onto the neighboring golf course.
  • DO mix it up and try to meet new people.
  • DON’T bring food into the sleeping areas (rodents – ick).

And so it goes. It’s pretty much what you’d expect to have to say at the beginning of a week with dozens of tweens and teens whose parents are absent and whose decisions are most often based on what their peers think they should do.

And then there are the hormones. Raging. Which brings the list of do’s and don’t’s to a colorful close:

‘Boys are BLUE. Girls are PINK. What do blue and pink make? PURPLE. NO PURPLING ALLOWED.’

Always groans. Always giggles. A few ‘yuck!’s and lots of whispering with their friends.

Because when you’re 13 going on any maturity level, purpling is a bad idea. And at church camp, it just isn’t allowed.

PDA is at the root of many a battle between kids and their parents (newsflash, folks – PDA isn’t just a handheld device). Many a young person has found him/herself in at least a bit of hot water over their public displays of affection.

PDA might be as seemingly benign as holding hands, but whenever pink and blue connect, purple is made. And we teach our kids that, at least for them and at least for now, purpling can wait.

But what about when pink and blue grow up, get a job, get a life and get married? Do the jr. high ‘No Purpling’ rules still apply?

Today is Valentine’s Day, and many of us are celebrating the life-connection we have made with one who knows how to bring out the purple in us! We buy flowers and chocolate, enjoy dinners out and evenings in with this one who has captured our heart and co-created a life worth sharing.

Sure, we purple.

But are we purpling for ourselves, or for the glory of God?

(Feel free to giggle, but I’m totally serious!)

Displays of affection, when self-serving and driven by relentlessly emotional tides, rarely consider anyone but their own pink and blue. In their frantic efforts to sustain a purple ‘high’ they end up alienating the life that goes on outside of their little purple paradise.

So often, instead of our love taking root and blooming gloriously in the garden, we grow smaller and narrower until we’re no more glorious than a beet, hardly peeking out from beneath the soil, keeping all of the fruitfulness of our relationship hidden from the Gardener and the rest of those growing there. Where we ought to be displaying publicly the beauty of God-given love we opt instead to minimize or secularize the sacred shades of purple, trading them in for a cookie-cutter version of the relationship flavor-of-the-month as decreed by the ‘church’ of pop culture and media.

The sad fact is that what our world sees as purple is a fake and a frauda counterfeit color on a hijacked palette of knock-off shades. It’s the world’s purple that we warn the campers about. Purple that’s hot. Illicit. Edgy. Risky. Selfish. Non-committal. Temporary. Purple that misuses pink and takes blue for granted. Purple that trivializes the art of connection. Purple that stains and discolors and bleeds out in the wash.

God’s shades of purple aren’t like those we see on the streets and tv screens of our world. God’s purple is rich and deep, eye-catching and multi-faceted, a color you can paint a life with. A color that this dismally grey world desperately needs to see.

When we live our love in front of the world, we lend one of God’s most breath-taking colors to the ongoing art of our lives. How we live our purple points others to a Love who is able to take my marbled pinks and your muddy blues and blend them in such masterful, powerful ways that the resulting shade – when it reflects the Son – creates hope. And passion. And joy.

Purpling for the glory of God is the way my smiling Father holds my Mother in his embrace and calls her ‘Mum.’

Purpling for the glory of God is my friend Ellie, holding the hand of her husband whose hospice care dictates that their life together is about to change.

Purpling for the glory of God is a teary-eyed Brian holding onto his bride of more than 20 years before closing the car door and heading toward his distant worksite. Again.

Purpling for the glory of God is sometimes a kiss and sometimes a touch, but it is always a demonstration of a deeper truth that says, with the writer of Ecclesiastes:

“Seize life! Eat bread with gusto. Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh yes – God takes pleasure in your pleasure! Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one!” (Eccl. 9:7-9, The Message)

On this Valentine’s Day, think twice before publicly displaying your affection for the spouse that you love.

Think twice, and think purple.

For the glory of God.

A Tale of Two Moms (a PINK Tuesday post)

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Image by kataaca via Flickr

A dear friend pulled me aside a few weeks ago. She was visibly agitated – you could read it on her face. She proceeded to share with me her deep heartsickness over her relationship with her son. And her daughter-in-law.

You don’t even need to know the details – suffice it to say that all the signs pointed toward relational tension between the women in her son’s adult life: his wife and his mother.

I listened as she described the way their recent interactions had gone south. I heard the longing in her heart for meaningful connection with her adult son and his family. But as she focused in on the disturbingly cold and distant behavior of her (relatively) new daughter-in-law, it was as if a mirror was being lifted in front of my eyes. I was seeing myself in the words of my friend – as if for the first time.

Her words continued to describe familiar scenes from my own young & married story, only this time I was seeing me through the lens of her. Rather, through the eyes of my own mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law came from a family full of sisters. Close sisters, whose lives regularly intersected in purposeful ways. Family reunions and frequent road trips to visit a sister or cousin or niece were the norm for the family I married into. Her enthusiasm for family (and for including me in hers) was evident well before my husband and I said our I Do’s, some (nearly) 23 short years ago.

This intense family-focus wasn’t all that comfortable to me. I had a great family, with parents whose love I’d never doubted and whose care for me had always seen me through. I wasn’t in the market for MORE family. I just wanted to be the co-creator of MY family.

As I listened to my friend’s pain, I realized that I had never even thought about how my mother-in-law must have felt in those early years. Yet somehow I found myself relating so easily to the present-day and more-than-once-removed scenarios as they were described to me that I was left feeling quite unsettled and uncomfortably exposed.

Unsettled because I had never before had the vantage point from which to see myself through the eyes of my husband’s mother.

Uncomfortable because I can’t exactly say that I liked what I saw.

Exposed because the light of revelation didn’t actually shine on me until I realized that the words coming out of my mouth were words that I desperately needed to have reach my own ears.

Sometimes our best advice to others is best directed to ourselves.

My friend has no idea how she helped me to unpack more than two decades’ worth of missed connections and misinterpreted intent.

I thought my mother-in-law wanted to be my mom (but she actually just wanted to continue being her son’s mom).

I was pretty sure that my mother-in-law was a threat to my marriage (yet how could her hopes have been set on seeing the son that she loved fail?).

I was so convinced that my mother-in-law might somehow take what was mine that I forgot to notice just how much of hers she was willing to give.

Time.

Patience.

Forgiveness.

And Love.

Undeserved love, mind you.

(Isn’t that just like a mother?)