Finding Eternal When You Can’t Slow Down

October 1st.

That was the last time I sat down to write in this space or have more than one minute of alone time. For the record, in order for me to think coherent thoughts and figure stuff out, I need regular blocks of writing time and alone time.

Therefore, I’ve been a little crazy lately.

Two weeks of master bath renovations, while a sick child missed an entire week of school, at the exact same time I was attending appointment after appointment to make selections for the house we are building, because: THE PLUMBERS AND ELECTRICIANS ARE COMING!

Mix in there an all-day pumpkin patch field trip and an anniversary get-away that doubled as a new furniture and light-fixture shopping weekend. Oh, and also, answering dozens of additional emails and home visits from Craig’s List people, as I sell off the old furniture that won’t fit into our new house.

My world has been a blur of choosing between maple and oak, graphite and brownstone, bullnose and ogee, venetian bronze and brushed nickel. Single handle, double handle, 4 inch or 8 inch, center or side mount (faucets). Four inch or 7 inch, prefab or stained-on-site (flooring). Seven feet or 6.5 feet (shower head). And infinite choices of carpet and tile and paint.

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who care where their shower drain is located (center, left or right) and those who have never, in all their lives, noticed the location of a shower drain.

Prior to last week, I would not have known which I was. But I can now say, without reservation, I am of the people group who neither cares about nor notices shower drain placement.

And I promise you, every time I am presented with a question such as, “Where would you like the shower drain?” and I respond with, “I don’t really have an opinion about this—do whatever you think” (the diplomatic version of “I don’t care.”), several people will tell me all the reasons I MUST CARE about this.

In addition to all the aforementioned New House Hoopla, I also have the three kids I’ve always had, with all their dentist appointments, doctor appointments, orthodontist appointments, homework, laundry and daily eating needs.

This is, by far, the busiest season I’ve had since we adopted our youngest daughter seven years ago (which you may recall, was also the exact same season I ended up in therapy and on antidepressants).

I realize a lot of people love this pace. They love scheduling their days down to the minute. They find the running and the choosing and the shopping and the comparing exhilarating. I know these people exist. Some of these people are my actual friends. Some of these people are my actual husband.

But not actually me.

Paddling frantically at this pace makes me feel like my little boat is sinking. I start looking around for things to throw overboard so I can float again.

Social media? Gone.
Meticulous eating plans and extended workouts and Facebook accountability groups? See ya later.
Classroom volunteer? Maybe next month. Or next year.
Leg shaving, eyebrow plucking, fingernail trimming? Look away, I’m hideous!

It sounds like I’m complaining, but I am not complaining. I am very, very, VERY thankful to have the luxury of custom building my own home. Most people never get the opportunity to do this. I never dreamed I would be one of them. It’s a blessing to get to design my dream kitchen, for sure.

But here’s my confession: As much as I know this is a blessing, it’s hard for me to embrace the eternal value of light fixtures and granite counter tops. Especially when I was very content in the home we currently own. And especially when I have to repeatedly turn down time with a friend so I can select cabinet handles. It feels upside-down to me.

All I keep thinking about is this:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

And also, this:

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12: 15-21)

In my head it ends up looking like this:

BUILDING A NEW HOUSE = SANDY IS A FOOL.

Construction

So, I’ve been pouring all this out to Jesus as I rush from appointment to appointment with my bushy eyebrows and chipped fingernails to build my foolish bigger barn.

Here’s what He spoke to my heart:

1. This is just a season. It won’t last forever. I WILL have well-groomed eyebrows again, bless God.

2. God uses stressful seasons to reveal and remove junk in my character. Never pleasant, but always necessary. Let Him work out the junk.

3. Jesus was a carpenter. God in Flesh could have chosen any profession, and He chose to build houses and furniture, of all things. This is when I know Jesus is talking to me, because I never considered His line of work as anything significant, until now.

4. With every appointment, phone call, text and e-mail exchange, I’m not only encountering carpet samples and light fixtures and kitchen appliances, but PEOPLE. Real-life HUMANS. Humans who have families and friends, trials and pain. Humans who desperately need peace and joy and hope. People who need Jesus. What could be more eternally relevant than that?

So, lately, instead of dreading the appointment and rushing through the encounter, I’ve decided to notice the people. To embrace the people. To show Jesus to the people.

In the last three weeks, I paused in the midst of every single appointment to take the time to get to know the person serving me. I learned that one of them used to compete in triathlons and loves a glass of bourbon. I learned one celebrated a 5th wedding anniversary while another is finalizing a divorce. One attended a daughter’s college graduation the same week another took her daughter to Disney World. Tuesday, I spent thirty minutes talking to a contractor, who showed me pictures of his children, his home and his native country. Last night, I listened as the people who bought my rocking chair from Craig’s List told me about their jobs, their home and their new grand-daughter.

I’ve determined that every appointment for house selections is divinely orchestrated so Jesus can love people through me.

This feels eternal to me.

When I have a second to digest it all, I’m excited about my new house, even in all it’s detailed, scheduled craziness.

But, would-to-God that I honor The Carpenter in the craziness.

That, rather than running and rushing over everyone and everything, I’d stop and notice the person in front of me, and thank them, ask questions and offer peace. I pray I offer them The Prince of Peace. So that when this life is over, and I stand before the Lord, He won’t say, “You fool” but rather, “Well done.”

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21 Things We’ve Learned in 21 Years of Marriage

Today Jon and I celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. That marks exactly 19 years of wedded bliss. (The first two years were so hard.) So, as a special treat to you, I asked my husband to contribute his insight to today’s post.

Monday, while he was at work, he emailed me his thoughts about marriage. Tucked within his list of thoughts was this little gem:

“Having sex on Monday is a great idea. ☺”

From the mouths of guys…

You may recall that this is the same husband whose Love Language is “Buy Me Chips

21 Things We've Learned in 21 Years

1. No one’s words carry more power, good or bad, than those of your spouse. Choose your words wisely.

2. Spontaneity gives way to intentionality over time. With careers, children, school and hobbies, you can’t just pick up and go out to dinner whenever you want. If you’re not careful, busyness can overshadow relationship. Don’t let it happen. Plan regular dates and weekend getaways—or whatever you need to have an uninterrupted conversation.

3. There is no greater joy and no greater responsibility than having children. And also, raising kids together will test your relationship like nothing else. Staying yoked in parental matters and presenting yourselves as a united front is vital—both for you and for the children.

4. Living debt-free is one of the best things you can do for your marriage. Getting on and staying on the same page about all financial matters eliminates a mountain of marital stress.

5. You can be right and wrong at the same time. Winning an argument is fleeting if you tear down your spouse in the process.

6. Making your spouse the butt of a joke is never funny.

21 Things
7. Never discuss heavy topics when you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, or While You Are On An Eighteen-Hour Road Trip With Kids (commonly referred to as HALT-WYAOAEHRTWK).

(Warning: Most of the years you are raising kids you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.)

8. Be completely honest about everything. Except, of course, for the exact time you need to leave the house in order to arrive at the thing on time. Lie about that. Padding the time by 15-30 minutes is a gift to your spouse, who may or may not run late on occasion. They don’t ever have to know. They will only know they were always on time for the thing. And you can pat yourself on the back for that.

9. You won’t remember most of the stuff you fought about five years, or even a month, from now. But you will always remember how your spouse made you feel during the fight. So, fight wisely. Even if you don’t agree, you can always affirm their feelings and let them know you understand what they are saying.

Bride and Groom

10. There is no relationship on earth that will reveal more of your own selfishness than marriage. This feels like bad news, but it’s actually great news.

11. Always, always offer a sincere and humble apology. (“I’m sorry you misinterpreted what I said.” is not a sincere and humble apology. It’s an accusation.)

12. Timing is everything. Learn the best times and the worst times to approach your spouse about heavy topics. If you aren’t sure, ask. For example, Jon has learned he cannot discuss anything with me before coffee. I have learned that I cannot discuss anything with Jon two seconds after his head hits the pillow.

13. Most marital discontentment is rooted in unmet expectations. If you expect your spouse, your relationship or yourself to be perfect, you will always be discontent.  If you expect that marriage will sometimes be difficult and that your relationship will usually not look like a love song or a movie script, then you will be fine. State your expectations clearly.  Change your expectations whenever necessary.

14. If you look for negative traits in your spouse, you will find them. If you look for positive traits in your spouse, you will find those, too. Choose to dwell on the positive traits.

15. No one will protect your marriage but you. Sure, your Mom may pray for you and your friends may encourage you, but you and your spouse must do the hard work of fiercely protecting your relationship from everything and everyone who threatens to weaken it.

16. Believe the best, always. Before you accuse or jump to conclusions, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.

17. Surround yourselves with people who have great marriages, who will give it to you straight when you are being a jerk, who will pray for you when you are struggling and who will celebrate your victories. Don’t discuss details of your marriage with friends who are critical of your spouse, with people in dysfunctional relationships or with those who are not invested in seeing your marriage thrive.

18. Every time you hear one of your friends or family members losing a spouse through divorce or death, you will need to stop and catch your breath.  Then, you will try a little harder to be the partner your mate deserves.

19. Marriage is not about finding your soul-mate or the one who completes you, neither is it about someone else making all your dreams come true. As Dennis Rainy so aptly puts it, “If you want to be the center of the universe, then there’s a much better chance of that happening if you stay single.”

Instead, marriage is one of the most selfless relationships you will encounter. It requires daily patience, kindness, honor, protection, trustworthiness, hope and perseverance. (I Corinthians 13:4-6) The best marriage partners are peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17).

None of that flows from self-centeredness. All of that flows from a relationship with God.

20. Laugh a lot. Have private jokes that only the two of you “get.” Finding the humor in every situation decorates your marriage with joy and draws you toward each other.

21. There is a point you reach—I suppose it’s different for everyone, but for us it has happened in year 19 or 20—where you look back over the terrain of your relationship and realize you’ve made it through a hell of a lot. Your history as a couple bears the marks of love and laughter and tears and failures and an abundance of grace and forgiveness. It’s your marriage story and you are stronger and better because of it–because of him or her.

In all its hills and valleys and deserts and storms and famines and harvests, you have created something resilient and beautiful, because you stayed the course.

And you decide again—maybe for the hundredth time—that you’re committed forever.

Jon and me

Happy Anniversary, Jon. Thank you for choosing me, in 1993 and also in 2014. I love you forever and ever and ever. I’m so proud of us.

(P.S. I know it’s not Monday, but I don’t have any plans tonight…)

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