Friday, February 25, 2011

The Year of the Honored Wife

Early in our marriage we fumbled around with figuring out our roles. I, a brand-new Christian was eager to put my wildly independent past behind and become whatever was meant by the submissive wife. We interpreted this to mean, among other things, that I would stay home and husband would go off to work.

After a while, I started noticing little things that needed repair, and so I ordered one of the Readers Digest how-to-fix-anything books. The day the book arrived, I thought I’d surprise my husband by fixing the leaky kitchen faucet.

I’m sure the instructions must have said something about turning the water off, but I either missed that part, or I assumed it meant the faucet. It took me quite awhile to figure out how to even get the thing opened, but once I discovered where the guts where hidden, I triumphantly unscrewed them.

A geyser of water burst out shooting nuts, screws, and gaskets up to the ceiling. Like the boy with his finger in the dike, I tried to stop the torrent with my hands, as I yelled out the window for the neighbors.

For a little while after that episode, we settled back into traditional you-man-with-the-hammer, I- woman-with-the-fry-pan roles, but over the years, our marriage solid, our sex roles defined, my husband became more than happy to see me don my tool apron again.

Still, it was always my husband’s career or call that we followed, even when it meant uprooting our lives and driving to a Mayan village in Guatemala and then later, a tiny town in Vermont.
I trusted God with my dreams and schemes and did my best to be good wife.

Since moving to the South a few years ago, we’ve undergone an identity crisis. Nothing turned out the way we expected. Without the job roles that used to define us, we wandered around in no-man’s land. This was especially hard for my husband, made even harder when good things started falling in place for me, but not for him.

I felt guilty about celebrating my victories. But my husband, lover of God, decided his place of humbling was where he would choose to give honor—the other part of that marital directive.Declaring this The Year of Marcia, he has intentionally looked for ways to honor me and to rejoice with me. I have to say, I’m quite pleased with his new understanding of Husbands love your wives.

It’s taken us a while to come to a place of understanding the give and take, the submit and love, the times and seasons of a marriage, but I can see it growing. We’re like a snowman in the making.

 His foundation is the big ball at the bottom. I’m being fitted for the belly, and one of these days the Lord is going to set the head.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Quotable Chesterton Review

Every time I picked up Kevin Belmonte’s anthology of G. K. Chesterton, I felt like a child on a beach outing who starts out to gather only the special shells, the particularly colorful or unusually shaped ones, but ends up with a sack full.

The Quotable Chesterton is a veritable treasure trove of sagacious delights. From the pithy aphorism: “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it,” to an orderly reflection on Reasons To Believe; from the humorous: “A knife is never bad except on such rare occasions as that in which it is neatly and scientifically planted in the middle of one’s back,” to the profound: “Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all its conquerors, nothing is off limits for Chesterton.

And Kevin Belmonte has done us the favor of rounding up and setting down an impressive collection of this literary giant’s timeless wit and wisdom. Included throughout the anthology are informative essays that give the reader deeper glimpses into Chesterton’s life.

A wonderful book for the bedside, desktop, bookshelf, or bathroom, regardless if only for a quick stop or a long reflection.

This book was provided for me by the publisher, Thomas Nelson, Inc., through Booksneeze.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The 37,000,000,000 Mile Marker


I love the outsets despite the fear and uncertainty that attach to all beginnings. I have already begun a thousand lives this way.”—Rainer Maria Rilke

Recently I completed approximately 37,000,000,000 miles of this earthly journey we’re on. (I’m hoping most of my readers are word people rather than number ones, and won’t figure this out.) Being blessed with good genes, I’m holding up well and look forward to putting many more miles on this body before trading it in for the model that will last forever.

A birthday, to me, is much like a new year. In that interface between the old and the new, I take time to look back and examine the nuggets of truth and wisdom, which like a collection of smooth stones, I pocketed during the year. One I’ve carried over to this year’s collection is from Oswald Chambers.

 “Our problems arise when we refuse to place our trust in the reality of His presence.”

Such a familiar fact that its impact is almost lost in the retelling. The reality of His presence when I haven’t felt, heard, seen or been awed by it in days, weeks, or maybe months. The reality of His presence when I see horror, unfairness, sadness, and despair. The reality of His presence when it escapes me even when I cry, pray, strive, and clamor for it.

Yes, Lord, may I trust, believe in, and act upon the reality of your presence.

I don’t know what this year holds. The global upheavals don’t bode well for Israel or us, and the prosperity of wickedness in the form of human trafficking makes me retch. But I have purposed to set my face at the start of this year’s journey on words given to me in two separate birthday cards: HOPE in the LORD. The one who hopes in the Lord is surrendered to Him and trusts Him implicitly. It is a birthday prayer I wish to pass on to you. . .

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit—Romans 15:13

Uh, if you figure out what all those miles are about, you can share where they come from but keep the tally to yourself, please!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How Many Dove Bars Is a Good Wife Worth?

Although I suspect my husband agrees with the biblical assessment that an excellent wife’s worth is far above jewels, he sometimes has a bit of difficulty expressing it.

Years ago we lived in a Mayan village in Guatemala. We didn’t have a phone (yes, dear, some of us who lived in the pre-cell phone age are still alive), nor did we have a refrigerator. The stove was a concrete box in which I could build a fire, but usually I cooked on a two burner hot plate. We ate lots of rice and beans and canned or boxed foods which I bought on our once-a-month trip to the city.

The daily chores, like sweeping the dirt pathways, boiling water and disinfecting vegetables, were time consuming; nevertheless, I enjoyed the simple life. But I also looked forward to indulging in the amenities of city living when we made our monthly trips for supplies.

On one of these excursions, we met friends at an ice cream shop. Everyone bought one of the inexpensive, locally made ice cream cones. Everyone that is, except me. I had my eyes on the row of the indulgently expensive, chocolate covered Dove Bars. Throwing missionary thrift aside, I plunked my money on the counter.

My husband, being more sensitive about our financial responsibility, was clearly annoyed by my extravagance. He shot me a glare that practically melted the chocolate coating right off the bar. I hunkered down with my treat and sent a silent message back, “You’ve got to be kidding—I live in an adobe house, for crying out loud.”

After a while, Bob’s perspective returned. Understanding there was a time to eat beans and a time to treat his wife to Dove chocolate, he attempted to make amends.

“Marsh, I’m sorry,” he said. Then, with eyes of love, he proclaimed, “You’re worth twelve Dove Bars.”

Hmm. Sometimes you’ve just got to read between the lines.

The Sentry

My dad died last night. Thought, feelings, and memories are too tumbled to express right now, but I have posted an essay I wrote about him a few years back. Although frank, it is with love and respect to the man who had such a part in shaping me.
                                                        The Sentry

He carried dead men around with him. But we didn’t know it then. We thought he was just an unpredictable man─ patting you on the behind one minute, swatting you alongside the head the next.
He owned a small tree service business in Vermont, which meant he was able to work about seven months out of the year when the state wasn’t buried under snow. Some years he prospered. He bought a small cabin cruiser and red MG sports car. We went on little vacations, stayed in cabins in the Adirondacks, and camped out in secluded bays on the boat. And no matter how often he warned us we wouldn’t be getting much for Christmas that year, we always did.
Other years he relied on his hunting skills to provide us food. The opening of duck season in October ushered in the non-packaged-meat months. My mother stoically plucked the feathers from the geese hanging upside-down on the back porch and found hundreds of ways to cook the meat so we wouldn’t complain. November was as much about deer hunting as it was Thanksgiving. We ran to the window each evening as he returned from the day’s hunt to see if an antlered head hung off the back of the truck.
 In February, Lake Champlain offered up her bounty of little fish called smelt. I was thankful for two reasons: I liked smelt, and spring was in sight, which meant packaged meat.
He bragged about us to friends and ignored us at the dinner table, only emerging from behind the paper to tell someone to pass the bread. We were confused by the glimpses of his love set against the glare of his anger. We didn’t know about the silent sentry who had accompanied him home from war years ago onboard an old Liberty ship. The sentry who still stood watch over the door of his memories.
He went straight to work after returning from the war. People had told him that was the best thing to do; it would help him forget. His conclusion so many years later—“It didn’t.” One day after he retired and had more unoccupied time, he armed himself with a computer and freed those old, but still unhealed memories, filling page after page with inky letters that formed the thoughts his lips could never express. He printed them out, bound them between orange sheets of cardstock, and handed a copy to each of us with an understated, “This is my war story.”
I am sorry I was so full of my own life, I wasn’t interested in his. I didn’t perceive his attempt to apologize, to proffer an explanation about himself that might soften my memory. I don’t even remember the day, probably months later, that I picked up his manuscript and began reading:
Combat: My Worst Days
Christmas Eve, 1944. We went into an attack on the town of Hollar, Luxembourg. On the approach to the town, we came under mortar fire. They were the so called screaming meemies of WWI fame. The last I remember was seeing a large flash. I was knocked out by the concussion.
The Day after Christmas, 1944. My daughter Barbara's birthday. We were awakened about 2:00 A.M.  Ate a K- ration breakfast in a stable.  I sat on a dead hog. I was in dread of this day. I did not want to be killed on my daughter's birthday. `
He wasn’t killed on that day, or on any of the many others that he spent crawling through snow camouflaged by a sheet over his helmet, sleeping in holes and in barns, with dead animals, with dead men. But the juxtaposition of the soldier and the father, of the giver or taker of life, followed him long after the war ended. Sometimes the edges bled together leaving him frustrated and speechless.
He had been an infantryman, that frontline class of soldiers who suffered such severe hardships and casualties that they were awarded a special badge of honor. He earned his Combat Infantry Badge in the Battle of the Bulge as a replacement for the Fifth Division in the Third Army, “Patton’s Blood.” With each man replaced, he considered his own finite time. His newly expressed fears spilled onto the page:
I think the worst part was the waiting to go into the attack. At that time you had to face your God with the realization that you and He could be looking at each other very soon. Once the shooting started, you were too busy to think about much except staying alive. However, after seeing a lot of my friends killed, I began to think as each one left it was coming nearer and nearer to my turn and my nerves began to leave me. I fully believe it was only the grace of God and some of the skills I learned hunting deer in Vermont that brought me through.
I tried to superimpose the images from those pages on my own children, themselves older than the twenty-five years he was at the time, but I could find no place of familiarity. None of them had lived outside in the snow and cold and gone without a bath for over two months. None of them had slept in a slit trench, arms wrapped around a buddy to keep warm, only to witness that same buddy’s helmet fly off his head, and his lifeblood stain the foreign snow the next day. None of them had to face a solitary enemy soldier one lonely night and decide whether to kill or let live.
 He titled his story The Battle of the Bulge: As Seen Through the Eyes of One GI Who Was There. Perhaps he was offering us a personalized version of war. But it wasn’t just a long-ago foreign war I was seeing through someone else’s eyes. The morning sun spread across the pages as I read. None of the events in our lives had changed; they just looked different caught in this light.
 I finished reading the last page, page twenty-one, and gave my own silent salute to this soldier, my father.