Our Day Trip to Tangier Island

Thanks to Groupon, several weeks ago I bought a couple of tickets for a day cruise at Tangier Rappahannock Cruises. With the end of summer approaching, Juan and I found the perfect day to take advantage of the acquisition!  The temperature was a perfect 74H/71L. The clouds gave us a breathtaking display of beauty, without shedding a single drop upon us, and the Chesapeake Bay was bigger and lovelier than I had anticipated.

Tangier Island is tiny: 5 miles long and 1 mile wide, and only 3 feet above sea level. Its population is less than 500 people, but it’s rich in American history. Back in 1608, it was visited by Captain John Smith, who named it. On July 9th, 1645, the Virginia Council took all the male American Indians in the area, ages 11 and up, prisoners, and transported them to this isolated spot, in order to prevent further organized attacks against the English colonists. Governor William Berkeley’s own ship transported and abandoned them there.

More than a century later, during the War of 1812, thousands of enslaved African Americans gained freedom by fighting for the British against the American coastal communities around the Bay. The Virginia militia deflected a British attempt to take Norfolk in 1813, and engaged British forces throughout the war. More than 2,000 African Americans gained their freedom aboard British ships.

Today, fishing is the largest industry of the island, and most especially crabbing, mainly the soft-shelled blue crab (which is de.li.cious.)

The second largest industry of the island is tourism. There are daily cruises, mostly seasonal, and they pride themselves with having a handful (I counted 3) of restaurants serving succulent seafood. We had lunch at Lorraine’s and I must say that their crabby fries were so finger-licking good!

Back to history, in 1686, a man by the name of John Crocket  settled in the island, and his sons’ families did the same in 1814. As we rode through the island, we saw more gravestones than I’ve ever seen in one place, and so many of them had a Crocket name inscribed. Graveyards are found at the church, in backyards, in fields…

We rented a golf cart, which is the choice mode of transportation, even for the natives. We saw a church, a library, a tiny post office, a medical building, a school, and a few inns. We also visited a tiny, yet interesting museum which holds pictures and artefacts of the history and the present culture of this place.

Interesting fact: The Rev. Joshua Thomas (1776-1853) was a waterman so he moved from the mainland to the island, converted to Methodism, became a licensed preacher, and was ordained an elder. He served the Chesapeake region for more than four decades. He traveled in a canoe called “The Methodist” and conducted services for the British forces during the War of 1812. He advised the British troops not to attack Fort McHenry near Baltimore. In a prayer, he predicted they would fail. The expedition was not cancelled, and the British fleet was defeated.

Our Chesapeake Bay experience was unique and relaxing. Being in the island for just a few hours felt as if we were trapped in time. We often wondered how these people stand to live in such an isolated and tiny place! And then we were happy to return, bellies full, minds opened, hearts rested. God gave us a little reprieve from reality, surrounded us with beauty, provided us with more memories and marital friendship, and recharged our batteries to get us back to work tomorrow, first thing in the morning!

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Tomorrow is Moving Day

Tomorrow is moving day.

He had the kindest smile and the brightest and biggest brown eyes a little baby could ever have. He happily slept through the night just weeks after appearing in my life. He filled my heart with thanksgiving and praise and brought joy to my existence.

Tomorrow is moving day.

When he was 3, he broke his arm. We rushed him to the hospital and he courageously kept from crying while the doctor manipulated his bones back into place.

Tomorrow is moving day.

In preschool he fell madly in love with a beautiful little girl and he told me he wanted to grow up and marry and have brown babies.

Tomorrow is moving day.

It took him forever to talk. I drove him to speech therapy and celebrated every clear word. His best friend, Mitchell, understood him perfectly well. They had hours and hours of fun with cars, legos, and pretend games. They never argued or fought. They just played.

Tomorrow is moving day.

I taught him to read. He was exhilarated every time he finished a book. The stickers on his chart were an outward expression of the pride and happiness he felt. He was a joy to homeschool.

Tomorrow is moving day.

There were very few things Daniel hated. Among those, are vegetables. He sort of still mostly hates them.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He always had a girl crush growing up. From kindergarten through high school, he was (and is) a romantic at heart.

Tomorrow is moving day.

Ryan became his buddy. Ryan is now his best man.

Tomorrow is moving day.

His love for animals was contagious. Nothing like a trip to the zoo or aquarium. He knew the name of every imaginable dinosaur, along with eating habits, time periods, and habitats.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He always had an incredible sense of direction. Lizette and I always relied on him to get us to the right place when we were lost.

Tomorrow is moving day.

I could always count on him when I needed someone to kill a palmetto bug.

Tomorrow is moving day.

The more he grew, the more he resembled his dad, both in looks and personality. Yet, he took after me in this one thing: his love for dancing. He was not shy about hitting the dance floor. His signature move was the worm.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He also loved the spotlight. I guess he gets that from me also (OK, he took after me in a couple of things). He found a love for theater and performing. He loved playing the bishop in Les Mis.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He served in Jamaica a couple of summers. He loved everything about it.

Tomorrow is moving day.

In high school, he fell in love with a long-time friend. Her name is Geneva. They officially became a couple on senior prom night.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He has always been and continues to be a very faithful friend.

Tomorrow is moving day.

His love for his family, especially his siblings, moves me deeply. When his sisters call him with a need, he’s willing to help at the drop of a hat. He is committed to Gabriel and I feel peace in knowing that Daniel will never leave him, but will watch over him with great care and love.

Tomorrow is moving day.

“Danieeeeel!” is what you hear at my house any time an electronic device freezes or malfunctions.

Tomorrow is moving day.

Goofy. ‘nough said.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He has become quite a fabulous young man. He is responsible, interesting, tech savvy, fun, engaging, respectful, and faithful.

Tomorrow is moving day.

Geneva has captured his heart and mind. He is a lucky duck. The two will wed in 2 1/2 weeks and ride into the sunset together.

Tomorrow he is leaving father and mother in order to cleave to his beloved.

My heart is full. I am proud, happy, excited, hopeful, as well as sad, nostalgic, and utterly surprised at how quickly time flew by.

 

daniel 4

daniel 6

daniel 10

daniel 40

daniel 39

daniel 38

daniel 36

My Man

Next Monday Juan and I celebrate 30 years of marriage! I can hardly believe it. So it seems appropriate to dedicate this next post in my Tributes series to my man.

I could write a book about Juan, thirty years’ worth! But I will simply honor him for the single most important quality that makes him the man he is. This characteristic caused me to fall deeply in love with him when I first met him, and it is still the strongest draw I feel towards him even today. Juan has matured and changed during the course of our marriage, but this single trait has endured and remained constant throughout. I am so very grateful for this.

Juan’s deep and unwavering love for God is his most attractive quality.

It was probably during our third or fourth date that Juan and I sat side by side to journal our prayers to God. He kept a notebook where he would pen longings, dreams, desires, and fears, while pouring out his heart to the Lord. I loved, loved, loved this about him. Today, I still get up in the morning to find him doing the same thing. Another page in another notebook. Another prayer. Another verse. Another breath of hope and comfort as he fellowships with the Spirit. I love, love, love this about him.

Throughout the many trials and suffering we have lived through as individuals, as a couple, or as a family, Juan has never second guessed the goodness and far-reaching love of the Father. While I have questioned God’s purposes, presence, or care, Juan has remained steadfast in his belief in the sovereignty and love of God, without question or hesitation. In the loss of a job, the frightening prognosis of health, the rebellion of a child, or the experience of depression, his default has always been to run towards the light of God, never from it. In desperate times, Juan has kept me steady, directing me to find hope in the right source.

Juan has had an unshakable love for me and our children. In spite of the fact that in our human frailty, we have misunderstood and hurt each other, his love for God has prevailed in all and through all, moving him to forgive, repent, display grace, and move forward. He is filled with incredible hope and optimism, not because he looks at people or circumstances, but because he fixes his eyes on Scripture.

Juan has been a firm rock and a steady source of security for me, for 30 years. I am looking forward to continue to love him and be loved by him for the next 30. I count myself blessed by God for giving him to me.

 

My New Daughter

Children are a blessing; a gift. You birth them, raise them, and watch them grow into adulthood. Then they leave and you feel as if you were losing them. It’s tough. But then new people are added to your life. Your children get married, and so you are blessed, yet again, with the further growth of your family. Your kids’ spouses become your own children. It feels right.

I raised 4 children. I’m gaining a fifth one: Geneva Rose McGee. Even though she has not married my son yet, and there are still 217 days until the wedding (but who’s counting), she has already become a living, active, and energetic part of our Ledon clan. After a three year long-distance relationship with Daniel, she finally relocated to VA, and it didn’t take long for her to fit right into our lifestyle, schedule, habits, and goals. Effortless.

Geneva is a pretty fantastic person. Steve and Adanna should be very proud of the woman she has become. She respects her parents and loves her family. She reveres God, is driven by lofty values, and relentlessly pursues her goals.  She is intuitive, smart, disciplined, organized, responsible, and kind. She not only loves Daniel, but our entire family as well. She works with Gabriel with great dedication and commitment, she has fun with us, and she serves and helps in whatever way she can. Like a cherry on top, she sings beautifully and has a passion for worship. Can she be a greater match for our family?

I do not know what the future holds for Daniel and Geneva. Whether they remain in town or are employed elsewhere, I feel joy and contentment in realizing that my son has found a good wife, and I have gained another daughter. I am truly blessed.

Engagement Day :)

Engagement Day 🙂

I was congratulating Geneva on her engagement to Daniel. Her mom, Adanna in the background.

I was congratulating Geneva on her engagement to Daniel. Her mom, Adanna in the background.

Daniel and Geneva with Juan and I. Happy day :)

Daniel and Geneva with Juan and I. Happy day 🙂

Geneva's last visit to VA (before she moved)

Geneva’s last visit to VA (before she moved)

Siblings <3

Siblings ❤

Christmas Eve! Typical Geneva laugh :)

Christmas Eve! Typical Geneva laugh 🙂 Elise photobombing and Tita very amused.

Her new job as Gabriel's caretaker. He is very excited to hang out with Geneva!

Her new job as Gabriel’s caretaker. He is very excited to hang out with Geneva!

To read other posts in my “Living Tributes” series, click here.

Looking Back at My Summer and Forward to What’s Ahead

Back in June, I wrote my Summer Resolutions, outlining my hopes and goals for the past 3 months. As I look back, I can see many things accomplished and some untouched; Great, fun, and fulfilling events as well as hard and painful. Among the most memorable, here are a few:

  • I spent significant time with family, not with all of them at once, and with some more than others, but I am so grateful for the moments we shared. Knowing full well how hard it is to live away from loved ones, I don’t take any face-to-face time for granted.

    Dining out in Dewey Beach

    Dining out in Dewey Beach

  • I vacationed. 🙂 Our family (minus two kids) went to Delaware for some needed R&R at the beach; I got to hang out with two of my best friends in Miami, for a few days; Juan and I spent a day in DC with my sister-in-law and fiance, and my mom and I, again in DC, met with my dear nephew whom I hadn’t seen since I was a kid (always a great treat to catch up with extended family); Our family (again minus two) visited VA Beach; And Gabriel and I got to lounge at the pool a few times. All in all, I am thankful for the times of relaxation and diversion, both of which were highly needed.

    Smithsonian in DC

    Smithsonian in DC

  • I achieved some (but not all) of my cleaning/organizing goals around the house. We began our summer by literally throwing our couches out the window – I have the torn hedge to prove it – and buying new living room furniture after steam cleaning our carpets. That alone felt like a renewal of the soul! My new living arrangements bring me great contentment.

    My living room

  • I had music fun! Went to see Foreigner in concert with friends, a jazz outdoor festival with Juan and a bunch of teenagers, CWorks’ amazing production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as a loved musical of mine, Man of La Mancha, at the amphitheater.

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

  • I spent time with friends, not as much as I wanted, but I am grateful for what I got! With three family birthdays happening, we had opportunities to invite people, have great conversation, play games, and laugh (the best medicine).

    Daniel's birthday. Geneva is the new addition to our family after recently moving to VA :)

    Daniel’s birthday. Geneva is the new addition to our family after recently moving to VA 🙂

  • I worked. Somebody asked me a couple of months, what is it that I do to relieve stress. My answer came out without even thinking about it, “I go to work.” Not only did I have two incredibly packed days of lessons nearly every week, with the most amazing kids ever, but I also worked as a musical director for CWorks’ production of Seussical. I mean, can it get more fun than that? I fall more and more in love with my students and their families, and I count it as a privilege, honor, and blessing to work with each one of them. And as a bonus, I love and thoroughly enjoy the other staff members I get to have fun with. It’s a win-win.

    Horton and I

  • I learned. Attended this incredible vocal pedagogy course at the CCM Institute at Shenandoah University, where I gained great and practical knowledge, which I’ve applied to my teaching already. Next summer, I’ll complete the course and become a certified Sommatic Voicework teacher. I can’t wait!

    With my long-time friend, Kathleen, who happens to be a very talented voice teacher!

  • Probably one of the most significant blessings granted to me this summer, is the fact that I got invited to join a small, intimate, women’s fellowship group. I’ve met with them only a few times, but in these short weeks, they have had a severe impact on my spiritual growth. In a time of emotional instability (can you say pre-menopause?) and during a period in my life where God is firmly and sternly stirring my heart, digging up hidden idols, and exposing my lack of faith and trust in Him, God, who is always kind and gentle, has provided me with praying friends. They have been a tangible expression of God’s love towards me. What a gift!

    jude 1:24-25

    Jude 1:24-25

  • In addition to fun and games, this summer has been a time of growth and self-examination. I, along with my church family, have suffered loss, betrayal, and deceit. But, as with any other God-given tribulation, He has also granted us the gifts of trust, love, mercy, forgiveness, and peace. What a great God we serve!
  • Finally, my husband and I said goodbye to our Kingsway Community Church this past Sunday. I nearly cried when they all prayed for us during our last service there. Needless to say, I feel sad to leave the congregation I’ve grown to love and cherish.  This church has been an integral part of our lives ever since we moved to VA. But now God is moving us to another congregation and opening new opportunities for ministry. He is also calling us to take time to rest, examine ourselves, and listen to His guidance. I feel some grief and some apprehension. I also feel some excitement. I certainly feel peace.

Looking ahead, I am hopeful that God will show Juan and I the direction he has for us (one step at a time), as a married couple, as friends, as his servants. Honestly, I am not looking forward to putting in the effort into building new relationships. That’s the antisocial in me talking. But I am anticipating that little by little, He will help us to grow roots and feel at home at Third Presbyterian Church. 

I am also excited to start a new school year with a growing (actually I’m maxed out!) private music studio, CWorks classes, and music directing a couple of shows. I absolutely love the kids I am working with and can’t wait to spend hours learning, enjoying singing, and growing together.

My year will be busy and packed. But I hope and pray that God helps me to utilize my time wisely and effectively. I want to spend enough time in the Word, because I need it so very, very much. As I am being emotionally and spiritually stretched, I am anticipating that I will look back, at the end of this year, and see that I have become a more God-fearing person, a better wife and mom, a more faithful friend, and a more humble servant.

Fiddler on the Roof: Musings and Pondering…

What a show! What a magically, wonderful show! As I prepare to be the music director for CWorks’ winter production, I can’t help but to ponder on the meaning and the impact this script and music will have on all of us. First of all, the show is highly entertaining due to its rich characters, fabulous music and dancing, timeless humor, and deep cultural connections. It is also thought provoking and enlightening, covering themes such as family values, tradition, and antisemitism.

I am a Christian, therefore I see everything in life through the lenses of my faith. From that perspective, I write this analysis of the content of this script. It is not exhaustive by any means. It simply reflects my own (limited) thoughts and pondering on the subject matter.

Brief Summary

In the fictional, Russian village of Anatevka, lives a milkman by the name of Tevya, along with his wife Golde and his 5 daughters. The story takes place at the turn of the 20th century, depicting life in a Jewish community coexisting with gentiles who, influenced and encouraged by the Tsar and a generalized antisemitic sentiment, persecute, drive away, and disperse the Jewish people living among them.

In the midst of this political turmoil, Tevya faces even greater challenges and difficulties in his own family. He has always held fast to the traditions of his people, but now his daughters are stepping away from his way of life, rejecting the old ways and choosing their own path. In Tevya’s mind, there is a struggle maintaining a balance between protecting the traditions of his people and supporting his loved ones. The fiddler on the roof illustrates such a struggle. In Tevya’s own words: “You might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy.”

Analysis

While there are many aspects of this show that could be analyzed, my aim is to limit it to the traditions depicted in this story. I find them fascinating and worth thinking about.

In Jewish communities there are discrepancies as to what is allowed or desired according to their religion. Much like Christianity, which has differences in denominations and cultures, yet has the same core system of belief across the board, Judaism has many faces and degrees of religiosity, while being united in common beliefs. This is not an analysis of Judaism in general, but a discussion on the traditions seen in this particular family and community of Anatevka.

Traditions

As far as I’m concerned, there are two types of traditions reflected in this story: Those ordained by God, and those made up by people. The script does not make a distinction between the two, but I think it’s worth mentioning the difference.

The God-mandated traditions are the ones that were established in Scripture from the time of Moses. The ones designed by man happened through the years and have strong cultural roots.

The Sabbath: The show opens with preparations for the Sabbath. The day of rest was most definitely established by God. In the Genesis account of the creation of the world, God worked for 6 days and rested on the 7th. One of the 10 commandments given by God to Moses said to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”. The Jewish nation was strictly ordered to maintain a day of rest, from generation to generation. The purpose of the Sabbath was to 1. provide time for everyone (including servants, slaves, and animals) to rest; 2. have a day dedicated to the worship of God, free of distractions; 3. to point to the Messiah. In fact, from Christianity’s world view, all God-mandated laws were given to prepare the way for Jesus, and in Jesus, all the law is perfectly kept and fulfilled (“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill it” – Matt 5:17). So how did Jesus fulfill the law? 1. By keeping it. 2. By becoming our rest. This sounds simplistic, but it truly is a remarkable, deep truth:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus provides rest. This profound truth shows us that in our quest for salvation and in our desire to be right with God, man has always struggled to perform, do good, please a perfect God, and has always failed. Through religion, we cannot possibly reach God, because He is holy and we are not, he is perfect and we are flawed. All our efforts, in the end, are tiring and heavy. So when Jesus stretched out his arms on a cross and died on our behalf, He unequivocally declared that He, the only perfect sacrifice, paid the penalty for our sins. Therefore, we need to struggle no more. We can actually rest from trying to be right with God. We are right in Him. We now please God because we love him, not because we hope He will avert his wrath. It is the greatest of news! And it is most certainly true rest from our labor. JESUS IS OUR SABBATH.

Match-making: Now here we see a tradition that is not mandated in Scripture. This is a cultural custom which in many cases has proven to be very practical (I guess?) Match making is at the center of this story, as one of the traditions that is upheld, almost at the same level of the other God-given laws. We see examples of matches being made in Scripture, but there is no law dictating it as the only way to marry. Tevya’s daughters go against this tradition by choosing their own husbands. Even though he struggles with this, Tevya goes along with their choices (at least with two of the three daughters), proving he is progressive and caring enough to break from his own way of life in order to support and love his family.

Marriage: The topic of marriage is central to the story. Again, marriage is mandated by God back in the creation of Adam and Eve. It is the holiest of unions in the human realm and it is to be highly valued by God’s people. In Fiddler on the Roof, the issue of mixed marriages comes to light. We see in Scripture that God created all races and colors and He doesn’t have an issue with inter-racial marriages. However, it was clearly mandated to the Jewish nation that they were to marry within their own faith. Why? 1. To preserve the worship and the knowledge of God throughout the generations, and 2. Of course, to point to Christ.

First, the Jews were the only monotheistic people group for thousands of years. They were the only ones who had the truth of God in their minds, hearts, and in the written law of Moses. They were to marry each other to preserve and advance this knowledge. In Christianity, we see the same principle at work. God calls us to not be unequally yoked (II Co 6:14). This inequality has nothing to do with race, education, or cultural differences, and all to do with our faith.

Second, marriage points to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-32). More specifically, it points to the relationship between Jesus and his people (the church). What used to be a distant relationship between man and God, worshiping in a temple containing a big, heavy curtain for the purpose of separating man from God, has become a close, intimate relationship. Jesus has drawn near to us, opening the door for us to have access to God. Ephesians calls it a “great mystery”. I am very thankful for this reality. During this Christmas season, I am especially blessed by the knowledge that Jesus condescended and became a human, in order to be like me, make atonement for me, and have an intimate relationship with me.

Conclusion

I am so thankful for the Jewish people. They have been the recipients of God’s covenant and love, as well as His law and prophets. In spite of persecution, dispersion, attempts of annihilation, and hatred, God has preserved the Jews and has been true to His promise.

I am grateful for Jesus Christ, who was a Jew and fulfilled all the laws and the prophets. He has broken the divides that once separated the people of God from all other nations. In Christ, there is no longer Jew or gentile, male or female, master or slave. Salvation is equally available to all, through faith. There is no longer a need to strive to gain salvation, for He has done that for us. He is truly our rest.

Aside from the conceptual analysis of the main themes of this play, I am beyond excited to be a part of it, simply because it is fun and entertaining. And, of course, the music is fantastic! In fact, I need to stop writing this oh-so-long post and get downstairs to my piano to finish studying the music. After all, auditions start tomorrow!

If you live in RVA and want to see this amazing production, you can buy tickets here.

Shalom!

Fiddler on the Roof

Eight Traits That Will Kill Any Marriage

At the young age of 18, I met my then future husband. I fell madly in love, and he felt the same way about me. Within weeks we were engaged and in less than a year, we were married. We were full time students and quite broke. Even though we stepped into adult roles very suddenly, our youth and immaturity was evident as we tried to manage both college and marriage. We were not very good at it and hurt each other deeply. In fact, we were quite unhappy, and to be honest, the only reason why we didn’t get a divorce was because we both believed in the Bible. We didn’t know many things, but there was one assurance we did have: God hates divorce. So, despite our immaturity, unhappiness, endless fights, and financial instability, the word divorce, never crossed our lips. We would stick together no matter what, because our love for God was stronger than our love for each other.

And so we set off to build a family despite our difficulties. We had babies, we worked in ministry, we explored careers, we grew up, and slowly but surely we learned a thing or two about being married and making each other happy. Our marriage is far from perfect, but Juan and I can honestly say we are the best of friends. We have not only survived an unhappy marriage, but we have learned and experienced true intimacy, deep joy, unconditional acceptance, and fulfilling companionship.

I am not a relationship expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have learned a few things during my (almost) 29 years of marriage. I certainly understand specific characteristics that have the potential to unequivocally destroy this sacred union. Similarly, I understand the antithetical ones that can build and repair it. So here they are:

Eight Traits That Kill Marriage

  1. Pride. Pride says, your faults are bigger than mine; your sin is nastier than mine. Pride wants to be right. It exalts the action over the person. Pride fails to ask forgiveness and refuses to forgive. Choose humility instead. Acknowledge that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and we are all in equal need of forgiveness. Decide to listen and understand over self-justification. Apologize often, and forgive every single time.
  2. Cynicism. Merriam-Webster describes the word as “believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest”. Cynicism doesn’t give the benefit of the doubt. It is the perfect companion to pride. It encourages defensiveness and discourages honesty. Choose to trust instead. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Co 13:17). Take the other at his word, thus encouraging open communication. Ask God for optimism and hope, trusting your marriage can improve, even thrive.
  3. Silence. Lack of verbal communication sabotages growth. Silence speaks volumes, as it is easily interpreted as indifference and lack of desire to connect intimately. In silence there is no conflict resolution, but only fertile ground for misconceptions and discouragement. Choose to talk, and to do so as much as it’s needed. It is the most effective way to know each other, as well as encourage, confront, correct, and enlighten each other.
  4. Manipulation. Its main goal is to control and get its own way. Whether it is through the use of tears, screaming, lying, scheming, nagging, or overpowering, manipulation will kill intimacy, trust, and friendship, without a doubt. A manipulative spouse is not a friend, but a rival. However, patience allows room for waiting. Wait for your spouse to have a change of heart or action. As you train yourself in humility, trust, and open communication, manipulation should completely disappear from your tactics.
  5. Harshness. It is the opposite of kindness and gentleness. Harshness, plain and simply, destroys. Like beach erosion, each wave breaks down one’s dignity. While kindness protects and builds up, harshness lays one bare and humiliates. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov 15:1) Nothing repairs and assures the other of one’s love better than kind words, soft touch, and gentle smiles. Give them generously and expect miraculous results.
  6. Laziness. It is apathy and negligence. Laziness does not make an effort to improve, change, or love. Laziness is satisfied with status quo and is unwilling to do the hard work of marriage. But marriage requires persevering and hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. Don’t give up! If you fail today, you can succeed tomorrow!
  7. Unfaithfulness. It does not adhere to vows and it breaks promises. It comes in various forms and degrees, but it is always wrong and lethal to the relationship. Unfaithfulness is rejection and it builds walls of mistrust. Your eyes, heart, body, and soul are only for your spouse. Do not allow even a hint of unfaithfulness to go unchecked. Even when nobody knows, God sees. So be quick to repent, for God is faithful to forgive. Confess and make any necessary changes if you want for your marriage to stand a chance. Faithfulness is the blood of the relationship. Don’t take it lightly.
  8. Isolation. The refusal of intimacy hardens hearts. Physical, emotional, and spiritual separation prevents healing and becomes most unsatisfying. So choose to never live apart, if at all possible, or even sleep apart. Physical closeness and intimacy should be constant; emotional connection and friendship should be sought after with creativity and passion; spiritual oneness should be pursued at all cost. In order for marriage to work, two people must be one, in every sense of the word.

I understand these negative traits because at one point or another, I have displayed every single one of them and have experienced their destructive power. Dear reader, my hope is that you understand the love and fulfillment that can be possible in a good marriage.

The Secret to a Good Marriage:

GRACE

It’s easy to write about what we, as spouses, should or shouldn’t be doing. It’s much harder to live it. They key ingredient is grace, defined as “unmerited favor”. Grace is the character trait that is willing to hit the reset button, to start again, to give second, third, and one hundredth chances. Grace is willing to forgive and not hold on to resentment. Grace understands that we all wrong others and that we are all in equal need of pardon. At its very core, grace is self-sacrifice. Without it, it is impossible to mend a broken relationship. But with it, all things are possible.

In my own marriage, I have learned to give grace and to receive it. No matter how much I have hurt my husband or how much he has wronged me, we have chosen grace, time and time again. But this grace is impossible to manufacture. You don’t order it in the mail or press the ON button to activate it. You cannot even will it into existence. Rather, grace is formed and matured in adversity and need, when we give it a chance. The truth is that grace is a part of God’s character, and only He imparts it. And He gives it generously and in a timely manner. So if you need it (and you do), ask Him for it. He is not only able to give you the grace needed to love a spouse, but willing and joyfully desirous to do so. It is in the power of grace that your marriage will flourish and be a fountain of life rather than mutual discouragement.

Please let me know if I can pray for you as well. It would be my privilege.

A Love That Grows With Time

There are average weeks filled with average days that go by without any kind of out-of-the-ordinary occurrences. Last week was one of those. You know, the regular stuff that happens in families: good-morning kisses, driving to work, giving rides to the kids, cooking, cleaning, catching up in conversation with husband over dinner, and so on and so forth. Last week was typical.

And then something extraordinary happened as I was sitting in church on Sunday. No, it was not the worship (though it was good) nor the sermon (though it was insightful and applicable). This amazing, little moment came from God through the woman who was sitting in the row in front of me.

The time for communion was approaching. I remember the pastor encouraged us to make peace with anyone we had offended, before we partook of the elements. The reason I remember this is because I approached my youngest daughter and I asked her to forgive me for being a butt earlier in the car. Yes, those were the exact words I used. She smiled and forgave me and proceeded to go up to the front to take communion. I sat with Gabriel and waited for her to return with the elements for me to take. Anyway, while the congregation was moving around during this very holy occasion, this middle-aged woman started a conversation with her husband — a very quiet, intimate conversation –. I could tell it was something weighty. I could see it in her eyes. It was something that only concerned the two of them. I sat there and watched. The perfect picture of intimacy drew me in. They were both standing, very close to each other, and she had her eyes glued on him as he was talking. People were walking by, songs were being sung, but her eyes never wavered. I could not see his facial expressions, but I could see hers. She had a gentle smile, an inviting smile, a sweet, sweet smile that said you can tell me anything, because I love you. She listened, responded in short sentences (no, I couldn’t tell what they were saying, nor did I care to know), and listened again. But it was the look in her eyes and the love in her countenance that mesmerized me.

This couple has been married for probably close to 40 years. Their children are all grown and married. They know all about each other, the good, the bad, and the ugly. They see each other every day. There are many couples who live through that same length of time and find themselves bored, disillusioned, lonely, or frustrated. Just because you live with someone for that long does not guarantee that you will share the level of intimacy that I witnessed this past Sunday. It was beautiful and oh, so encouraging!

Sunday came and went, and this dear woman did not know how much she blessed me. The love she and her husband exchanged with one another and the intimate connection they shared without even touching each other, ministered to my heart. In a week (or a month) when I have not had out-of-the-mundane exchanges with my own husband (busy lives tend to have that effect on relationships), I am reminded that love and intimacy are true and real, even with the passing of time. In fact, love and intimacy are able to grow and deepen with the passing of time.

I have a good marriage of 28 years. I love my husband and my husband loves me. Being part of this amazing, little moment on Sunday lit up a fire in me. It reminded me to treasure the little moments, to continue to seek to know my husband and be open enough for him to know me. I want for my face to look like that when I listen to him. I desire for our intimacy and friendship to continue to grow with age and time. I will not settle for just getting along. Instead I strive to deepen our relationship until death do us part. I know he loves me enough to want the same thing.

So thank you, Kim, for blessing and encouraging my heart. May God give you many more loving and intimate years with your husband, and may you continue to be a gentle but powerful example to so many others.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”- 1 Peter 4:8

Parenting Disney Style

As I was flipping channels looking for something to watch on TV, I briefly came across a reality TV show. All I could watch was about 7 or 8 minutes before I couldn’t take it anymore. Several girls had traveled to England to meet their Prince Charming. They did not know the man in question was an impostor and at the end of the show, after they “fell in love”, he would reveal his true identity (probably to the horror of the winning contestant).

But this is not a criticism of reality shows (I confess I do watch a couple of them; Have you seen Master Chef?) Rather, this is a perplexed observation of the interviews with these girls as they entered into their quest to find love. The words “fairy tale”, “prince charming”, “happily ever after”, and “soul mate” easily flowed from their mouths, garnished with deep sighs, bright eyes, and pensive smiles.

Let’s face it, girls are practically born romantic. Our little princesses love the idea of growing up and finding their prince. Not just any prince, but the perfect one, you know, like their dad. Through a steady diet of fairy tales, their feminine, little hearts are persuaded they will grow up, meet a great looking boy, fall in love instantaneously, and marry for sheer, eternal joy. Teenage girls’ Pinterest boards are packed with ideas for wedding dresses, wedding hair, wedding pictures, decorations, themes, and menus. Their minds are full of dreams of happily ever afters. It is natural and adorable when they are young. It is worrisome as they grow older.

I don’t claim to have an expert opinion on this issue, but it seems to me that it is actually unhealthy for parents to foster this idea of finding a soul mate, as if each of our kids are “meant” for a specific other person, and that this person will provide the happily-ever-after their hearts long for. It could seem harmless to instill this romantic idea that destiny (in a secular world) or God (in believers) has chosen this one, perfect match.

Am I just a cynic and a pessimist? I’m open to hearing other views, so feel free to chime in. But before you do, let me clarify my point of view:

I believe in marriage. I believe in marriage to one person, until death-do-us-part.

I believe in God, and I know that all things are ordained by him. Everything works out for the good of those who belong to him. Even bad marriages.

I believe that marriage is a really, really good thing. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful husband who has been my absolute best friend for the past 28 years.

I also know that marriage is hard, even painful. Spouses hurt each other, betray each other’s trust, and are hard to live with. Marriage takes WORK and perseverance. The idea of sheer happiness in a marriage, in my opinion, is non-existent. A good, intimate marriage develops in a battle ground where two people are striving and fighting against their own selfishness to love their spouse. It takes time and effort and lots of I’m sorry’s. It takes forgiving and forgetting. It takes self-sacrifice.

It is naive to think that bad things won’t happen, even in the lives of young people who take all the necessary steps to “insure” a future, good marriage. Death happens. Abandonment happens. Abuse and betrayal.

Finally, there are people who remain single, either by choice or by circumstance. The truth is that not all women find their “prince”. Our daughters could be called to God-ordained singleness, which is not a life any less worth living than a married one.

So if our girls, while maturing in age, do not simultaneously mature their thinking from fairy tale to fact, they could find themselves facing the harsh reality of life and not knowing how to respond to it. They could be so disillusioned by their crushed dreams, even to the point of a weakening of their faith in the providence of God.

I’ve been guilty of over-spiritualizing this concept of awaiting for this sole chosen mate. And while I don’t think we should crush little girls’ illusions and dreams, I am also convicted that we are to communicate realistically about their options. Marriage is an option. Singleness is an option. Hopefully they will marry one man and live intimately and lovingly with the same person until their old age. But sometimes things don’t work out that way. To me, what is important is to ground our children in a personal faith in GOD, not in marriage or circumstances in life. A spouse can abandon, but God will never abandon. A spouse can betray, but God has laid it all down for us, proving his faithfulness. We may feel lonely in our life’s journey, but in God we can find steadfast and fulfilling fellowship. So no matter what happens to our little girls as they grow up, if they are anchored in God, by trust, then they’ll not only be OK, but they will be prepared to face whatever comes their way.

Let us reject Disney and fairy tale parenting. Let us, instead, point our children to Christ, regardless of where life takes them.