What Kind Of Wife?

My husband has been gone most of the past two weeks, out of town to take care of a family medical emergency. All is well, and he is due home shortly.

It’s been an interesting time.

We are newly married, only about 2 1/2 years, and after 40+ years of life for me, 30 months seems like the blink of an eye. I love the man dearly; love who he is and how he conducts his life. I love that I am better with him beside me, that he balances me in just about every way possible.

I love our life together.

It’s been stressful lately, though; a huge season of transition. Kids moving in and out, a major home addition, a new business, health issues, life in general. Our relationship is good, but we’ve been clinging to faith and hope and love more than we’ve been able to live it. We love each other; we just don’t have a lot of time or energy to be in love.

I think that’s just the way it is, mostly. Life is like this for people in this season of life. He told me the other day, “We aren’t retired, yet. We have a few years of work ahead of us…”

So in his absence, a curious thing has happened. For two weeks, I have stretched out a bit, spread my arms wide, slept in all of the bed, turned on the light whenever I wanted to, like I used to. I’ve focused fully on the kids, like I used to. I’ve felt less anxious, less concerned about how the house looks, whether or not there’s food left over (he always gets home late, after closing the music store). I’ve been less self-conscious and more self-aware. Like I used to.

I miss him, for sure. I can’t wait till he calls me and tells me about his day and we listen to one another breathe on the phone before we hang up, way too late for a 615AM alarm. I send him text messages and email. I miss him.

Like I used to.

There’s something wonderful and fresh about this longing. We’re apart, and the fondness is, indeed, growing.

But it scared me, to realize all of this. To admit, in my head, that I missed him but I was okay.

That somehow, I was breathing easier.

It scared me, and I pushed it all away, and buried it, and leaned harder into the waiting for his call.

And then the other night, I gave in, and I thought about it all, and how it was probably okay that I kind of liked this quick revisit to that other place, where it was me and just me. I lived that way, lived it hard, for eight years. It was me, only me, and the bed was always all mine and my heart was for my kids and when I let go at the end of a long day, I sunk into a place that was just me, and it was good. Easy. Comfortable.

And then I felt called to make a marriage, to commit, to have a partner in the second half of this life. I loved and respected him. I knew, deep in my heart, that he was for me. I chose the “yes”, and I dressed like a princess and walked towards him alone, down an aisle lined with my history, into a circle of the best love I’ve ever known, my children and my friends and my brother and sister-in-law and my pastor and his tears, who tethered me to grace through the working out, through the fear and trembling. I said, “yes”.

I chose, and it’s been the up and down and chaotic and busy and crazy and fun and deeply joyful. It’s been the holding hands, side by side. It’s been the passion and the risk, the wide and the deep.

We lived it, up and down, holding on for dear life. And lately, it’s been tenuous. But still good, solid. It is our life.

And then these few weeks apart, and I’ve been reminded of the wide open spaces I walked through when it was Just Me.

And I whispered, finally, the truth to myself.

“I kind of like this.”

“This is easier.”

Secrets bind anxiety, and I let go my secret to my own ears, and then knew I needed some other ears. I started an email to my most trusted advisor, asking for a few moments, thinking I could pour my heart out and admit my feelings and get some good counsel.

I finished the first sentence and I stopped. I heard his voice, this advisor, and I knew what he would say.

“Have you talked to Tony about this?”

My fear leapt into my throat, and I recognized that Independent Girl, the single mom, the one who Takes Care Of Everything; the part of me that lives in fear, that fixes everything herself, that hates vulnerability, that bears all the burdens. That part of me was terrified to speak these things aloud to the man I loved, afraid of rejection, afraid of letting him process these feelings that had a life of its own.

What kind of wife is content and relaxed when her husband is gone?
A failure.
A bad wife.

I longed to choose the easy, to keep it to myself, to manage it on my own.
I have control issues, but I’m learning.

I picked up the phone, and I called, even though it was after midnight, and I let my heart spill out, carried in the mucky sludge of anxiety and fear and failure.

What kind of wife is content and relaxed when her husband is gone?

It seems odd, I’m sure; but I was terrified. But I told him how I felt, and he responded with understanding beyond my own, layered with love and compassion, and before I realized what had happened, love snuck under my fear and got in between the cracks of my doubt and squeezed until it hurt. He got it, he validated it, he loved me anyway. I admitted my failure.

He loved me anyway.

This is my life. It is not easy.

But I’ve chosen this, and I’m in for keeps.

And he’s on his way home.

I can’t wait.

On Almost Six Months Of Marriage

I’ve been married now for almost six months. Long enough for us to have gotten comfortable with one another, even though every day brings us new experiences. Short enough to have our heads spinning from everything that’s happened in the past few months.

We’ve had a lot of changes in our family. In the midst of it all, we’re learning how to live together, how to accommodate one another, how we each deal with crisis.
We’ve learned to be clear and frank about what it is we like and dislike. What we need and could do without.
Part of me was utterly terrified about getting married again. There were so many ways things could go south. I had gotten pretty comfortable living on my own. Crossing the line from ‘single’ to ‘married’ at this point meant some major life changes. After six years, I’d figured out who I was as a single mom. To be married meant a total new life definition. It meant changes would be ahead. It would be a call to a selflessness that I wasn’t sure I could muster. It was a huge risk for me; to place that level of trust in someone was overwhelmingly frightening and a real challenge to my insecurities.
What if he realized, after a few days/weeks/months that he realy didn’t like me? What if he changed his mind?
I’ve had to own all that stuff and more, to be honest about my fears and concerns. To listen to his. To learn more about love and respect and what matters most.
It takes work. It’s not always easy.
But there’s something so solid underneath even the hard times. I’ve long believed that in order to be in a healthy relationship, I had to be healthy first. I think I’m a lot closer to that today than ever before.

And this man is solid, too. Decent and kind. Authentic. And pretty firm in his commitment; he hasn’t changed his mind.

I’m glad I’m married. I’m think this in one of life’s finest opportunities to feel the full force of our belief that God’s mercies are new every morning.

Indeed, they are.

If He Hangs His Guitar In Your Room, It’s A Done Deal

I’ve been married for two months now; we celebrated our anniversary last night with dinner at Five Guys (fun and YUM and who in the WORLD can eat that many fries, anyway?) and a trip to the Apple Store (just looking….)

At our age, we’ve decided to maximize our time and celebrate every month.
And thus far, here’s some of what I’ve learned:
  • Talking is good. Talking equals communication. Making assumptions can lead to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Talking can fix that.
  • It’s really nice to share the load of stuff like getting up early, washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, etc. Especially the getting up early part.
  • When kids are raised with grace, they tend to offer it fairly easily. And that is a beautiful thing to watch.
  • It’s kind of cool to have a guitar hanging in your bedroom.
  • I’m a better person when I laugh a lot. And being married has led to a lot of laughter. Which was unexpected.
I like being married. Actually, I liked being single, too. But this is different, and rich and rewarding. And every day feels like a gift.

With The Family

This is Dana (along with Syd and Shannon).

She was ordained to ministry today; meaning that her home church ceremonially confirmed that she is “called” to serve God with her work and her life, and that she is, indeed, doing so. Baptist-style ordination is a mixture of formal prayers and responsive readings and informal speaking by people who were significant in the life of the one being ordained. It was a unique day for Dana, where she was the center of attention, affection and affirmation.
It was a unique day for me, too. Dana had spoken with me to personally invite me to attend, and followed up with a written invitation by mail.
I accepted. I drove to Caroline County and walked into a beautiful, rural Baptist church. It was slightly awkward.
Slightly awkward because Dana and I have a unique relationship.
We’re both “Mrs. Brawley”.
Dana met and married Lonnie – my kids’ dad – last year.
As we have carefully and tentatively navigated the waters of interacting, managing kids’ schedules and figuring out how to communicate, we discovered something interesting: we liked each other.
I mean, I really like this woman. I respect her and admire her. She’s funny, focused on ministry and passionate. She cares deeply for my children. And she takes good care of the man who was once the most important person in my life.
I swear, I can’t sort it out. She and I both acknowledge that it’s very weird.
But it is what it is.
I came to the service anticipating that I would simply be a witness. I found a place in the next-to-last pew, in the very back of the church, planning to stay out of sight and out of mind, while still honoring the invitation.
But Dana sent Sarah back to get me. She had saved me a seat, up front.
With the family.
At the end of the ordination service, all those present were invited to speak privately with Dana as she kneeled at the front of the church. Church members, family, friends, co-workers, fellow pastors – for an hour, people streamed by to whisper a prayer, speak words of encouragement, offer a hug. There were many tears. As I watched others stream by, I considered what I should do.
In the end, I went forward and knelt before the woman who is now married to the man that I married almost 20 years ago. We shared words and a hug.
It’s weird. It’s awkward at times.
But more than anything, to me it’s a great demonstration of the reality of this statement:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8.28 (NLT)

And I believe it is proof that grace covers everything, if you just open your heart and let it in.
I don’t know if anybody has ever figured out what this sort of relationship ought to be like. I’m just gonna roll with it. It’s working, and it’s good.
And I’m grateful.

Marriage Is Work

God’s not looking for us to say “I’m sorry” and then keep repeating the same sin over and over…He’s looking for us to be broken, repent and cry out, “I don’t want to live this way anymore!!!” – Perry Noble

We visited NewSpring Church last Sunday, checking out their satellite location at the Florence Civic Center. It was an interesting adventure, seeing how a group of passionate and fully committed folks come together to office a worship experience using technology and a lot of smiles.
I went to check things out in the light of PCC’s future endeavors.
I left powerfully impacted by the message of the day.
If you are married, I want to encourage you – no, let me say I want to beg you to watch the message that Perry Noble preached last week. You can log on to their site and literally go to church. Skip through the music if you are short on time (but it’s brilliant and worth whatever you have to set aside – you will worship!)
If you are married, you need to hear what Perry has to say. It’s from the Bible. It’s true. And it matters. If you’re not married, it still matters – for your future, for your friends, for your family.
For me, it’s personal.
I hope you’ll watch. Go here to see Message #5 in the series Five Lies of the Devil.