Friday, October 7, 2011

Priority #1 - God. Priority #2 - ??

sub·mit
verb, -mit·ted, -mit·ting.
verb (used with object)
*to give over or yield to the power or authority of another(often used reflexively).
*to subject to some kind of treatment or influence.

Today I wanted to share a bit of what's been on my heart this week.  You may remember that last Friday my husband and I went on Mission: Date Night at our church.  That post was really well received and a lot of you thought it was a fantastic idea.  And it is.  Ron and I really talked openly and freely about what is truly important to our family and we came up with a family mission statement.  Great?  Absolutely.

BUT....

A mission statement is only good if you actually intend to uphold the values espoused in it!

I have to tell you this - this past week has been a truly difficult one to get through.  Lines of conversation have been opened between my husband and I which were pretty much curtained off for a long time.  It's brought some tough stuff to the forefront.  If that's not hard enough, the communication between us has failed on a number of occasions.

WHY???

We were trying to be good Christ-loving people who are trying to be spirit-filled and growing in our faith daily, maturing in our relationships with God and each other.  Right??

So what's happening??

As I said - issues are being broached which we've left untouched for a long time.  They were set aside because we broke the lines of communication a long time ago.  Do we dislike each other?  Definitely not.  Do we not love each other?  Absolutely positively emphatically not!  Why the communication breakdown in certain areas then?

Here's the breakdown of our relationship in a nutshell {ok, so it's a large nutshell}.  And please bear with me as there's the backstory to get through before I get to my point!!
  • Ron and I meet in an unconventional way online way back in the days before E*Harmony and other such sites.  This was when a lot of regular folks were just starting to get home computers circa 1996.  The internet was this new-fangled thing.  We'd heard of these "chat room" thingies and me {in Canada} and Ron {in Texas} found a soulmate in each other in the now defunct www.chathouse.com ~ it was love at first click.
  • I {having actually been born in Ohio} made the choice to move to Texas after several months online, telephone calls and in-person visits.
  • In April 2000 Ron and I were married.
  • In August 2001, 24 weeks into our first pregnancy, I developed life-threatening pre-eclampsia.  Ultimately, our first baby {a son} was stillborn.
  • Two weeks later, I had a massive pulmonary embolism and nearly died.
  • The day before our 3rd wedding anniversary, I had a miscarriage at 8 weeks.
  • In 2004, we had our daughter Moira {5 weeks early because I had not-quite-so-life-threatening-but-still-life-threatening pre-eclampsia}
  • In 2006, we had our daughter Peyton {3 weeks early but after an "almost perfect" pregnancy}
  • The day after Peyton was born, my hospital room became a revolving door of doctors coming in telling me everything that was wrong with her.  We were completely blindsided.  We had no clue anything would be wrong with her.
  • Two weeks later, the day of Peyton's second surgery {she's now had 19 total}, literally on the way to  the peds surgery check-in area, I wasn't feeling well and made the judgment call to head to the ER by myself - something wasn't "right"...it had to be quite "not right" for me to leave my two week old baby and not be in the waiting room while she was having surgery!}.  Again, I had a massive pulmonary embolism, but this time it was way worse than the one in 2001.  This one occupied both lungs with a giant clot spanning across between the two lungs.  The head of the ER {in one of the nation's largest trauma centers no less!} kicked all residents/students off my case and he personally took over my care until I'd been safely moved to ICU {after I had to sign my life away on a waiver for the particular meds they had to give me}.  I don't need to share all the details of this illness because quite obviously I survived.
  • By 2008, Peyton's needs were increasing to the point where I had to quit my job and stay home.  We were not financially prepared for this, but it was necessary, so it is what was done.  Ron's job did not pay nearly enough to meet our needs.  I had to cash out my 401k {it wasn't huge, but it was necessary}.  Ultimately, Ron had to search for a new higher-paying job.
  • Long story short...within a month of first contact with the company he currently works for, we had relocated from Houston, TX to Charleston, SC for him to start a new job.  This was in August 2008.  We had no friends or family in our new location.
  • Our first day here was the day after the 7th anniversary of the loss of our son.  We thought this very fortunate - a new beginning for us all.  We tried to find a Catholic church that first weekend.  We found one alright.  Part way through the service, an usher came to us and escorted us out of the body of the church.  He'd apparently gotten "the eye" from the priest who was saying mass.  Perhaps we'd be more comfortable elsewhere??  Our children were apparently too loud??  As an aside, our children barely made a sound the whole time we were in there.  Furious, as the usher tried to seat us elsewhere {incidentally, where there were no seats to be had}, I told him {loud enough I'm sure for those sitting in the occupied seats around where we were escorted to} that if we weren't welcome in the church itself where we actually had seats, then were most certainly not going to stay.  A subsequent letter to the priest resulted in a response from his administrative assistant that basically suggested that he did not care, and he offered us a list of other churches where perhaps we might be happier.  This led to the downfall of our relationship with the Catholic church.
  • By late 2008, we pretty much weren't going to church at all.  Only when we had my parents visiting {and it wasn't to that first church either!}.
  • Sometime around this point, we were introduced to a non-denominational Christian church where we finally found a home - because we were all embraced with open and loving arms into this place which we consider to be our family now.  We haven't missed a Sunday since, unless we were out of town or Peyton was in the hospital.
  • Since we moved here, Peyton's health has declined.  She had an extremely difficult year in 2010, with 10-12 hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses, each leaving her at a less-healthy baseline than she was at before the illness.  We wound up having to make decisions for her life that no parents should ever have to make for their child!
  • Since I quit my job, our finances have been a real struggle.  We got to know collections agencies and creditors more well than I care to say.  I had a full blown panic attack at one point.  I had chest pains reminiscent of my past pulmonary emboli, causing an impromptu trip to the ER which revealed nothing more than the fact that I worry too much.  We finally got the financial stuff sorted out, but we're still pulling ourselves out the Dave Ramsey way.  And just so you don't think we're so incredibly irresponsible with our money that it's taken us this long to get to where we are at today, which still isn't great, just know that since Peyton was born in May 2006, we personally paid off probably in excess of $35,000 in medical bills that weren't covered by insurance.  Everything else snowballed as a result.  It's pretty humbling to buy your "groceries" from a gas station convenience store because that one gas station credit card is your only source of "money".
  • In July 2010, my mother {in Canada} passed away from breast cancer.
  • As of today, I have not slept in my own bed since July 2009.  That's not a typo.  I said 2009.  I sleep in Peyton's room because she first began vomiting profusely all the time.  She aspirates, so there was the grave danger of her developing deadly pneumonia if she aspirated that.  We are constantly using a suction machine on her because, first, of the vomiting, but also because she has long had a problem controlling secretions despite botox injections, medications, and the removal of a few of the major salivary glands.  She can't be alone.  In October 2009 she had her first seizure which lasted over 45 minutes.  The seizures are under control with meds and she hasn't had a grand mal seizure since about November 2009.  That said, I was so paranoid that she'd seize during the night and I wouldn't hear her, so I kept sleeping in with her.  Then it was the unmanageable secretions.  Then she was so incredibly sick.  Now it's the secretions plus the fact that she's on bipap at night and if she wakes up, she panics and will need the mask removed immediately.  If she needs suctioned, you need to be there quickly.  I'm so afraid something is going to happen to her if I am not there that this is now the norm for me.

Ok, so that's the major points of the past 11 years of married life.

How many of you have had challenges or difficulties that seem absolutely unmanageable or unbearable?  I bet I'm not alone.  I bet there are lot of people out there whose marriages haven't survived the loss of a child, or the arrival of a special needs and/or chronically ill child, or the loss of one income, and so on.  I bet I'm not the only one who has faced insurmountable odds.  I also bet that there are a lot of you out there who absolutely cannot relate.  Maybe to one or two things, but probably not all of these things combined.

To say our relationship has been strained is an understatement.  Read the following scripture:

Proverbs 31 (NLT)
A Wife of Noble Character

 10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
      She is more precious than rubies.
 11 Her husband can trust her,
      and she will greatly enrich his life.
 12 She brings him good, not harm,
      all the days of her life.
 13 She finds wool and flax
      and busily spins it.
 14 She is like a merchant’s ship,
      bringing her food from afar.
 15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household
      and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.

 16 She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
      with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 17 She is energetic and strong,
      a hard worker.
 18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
      her lamp burns late into the night.

 19 Her hands are busy spinning thread,
      her fingers twisting fiber.
 20 She extends a helping hand to the poor
      and opens her arms to the needy.
 21 She has no fear of winter for her household,
      for everyone has warm clothes.

 22 She makes her own bedspreads.
      She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
 23 Her husband is well known at the city gates,
      where he sits with the other civic leaders.
 24 She makes belted linen garments
      and sashes to sell to the merchants.

 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
      and she laughs without fear of the future.
 26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
      and she gives instructions with kindness.
 27 She carefully watches everything in her household
      and suffers nothing from laziness.

 28 Her children stand and bless her.
      Her husband praises her:
 29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
      but you surpass them all!”

 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
      but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
 31 Reward her for all she has done.
      Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.




Oh....my....goodness.  I am SO unworthy as a wife.  If I compare myself to this Proverbs 31 woman, I am so sub-par.  I'm not worthy.  Then I go on to read this:

1 Peter 3 (NLT)
Wives

1 In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2 by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3 Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 5 This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands. 6 For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.

Husbands
 7 In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

These scriptures are so incredibly important.  SO important to digest and understand if you want to be a Godly Christian spouse.  Herein lies our disconnect.  The conversations that Ron and I are now having are ones that haven't been had when they should have been had.  It's opening up old wounds that weren't really ever healed.  They were hidden and ignored while infection festered and spilled out at the time when were ultimately decided to make things right.

Ron and I hear all the time from people who are amazed by our strength and our faith.  We constantly hear that people don't know how we do it.  I tell you what.  It never to me feels like we've got it all together.  It never feels like we're as amazing as everyone makes us out to be.  The only thing amazing to me is that somehow with the help of God we have been able to avoid falling into the 80% of married couples with special needs children who wind up divorced.  It's so easy to get in an argument and think things would be easier if you could walk away from it all...but at the heart of everything, that is so not what we desire!  I can't stress that enough.

I feel like Ron and I both have increased in our relationships with Christ so much over the past couple years especially.  We both became believers since we began going to Seacoast Church.  We have both been baptized as believers.  We are both walking on a journey with Christ that is blossoming and growing and giving us each so much blessing in so many ways.  But something is not clicking.  We're doing great having God as our number one priority.  But our priorities below that are messed up.  My main priority has been Peyton.  When I have a child who could potentially die {and who, in all likelihood, will live a very short life}, am I supposed to not care about her??  That's how I feel.  In my heart of hearts, I know Ron should have a higher place, but circumstances tell me that I have to do my best by Peyton while she is still with us.  Ron would argue that if he and I aren't right with each other, then how can we be there enough for Peyton and how will we be there for each other and Moira when something does happen to her?  He's right.

If you go back to 1 Peter, where Peter talks about the duties of a wife, I can tell you this: I care nothing for fancy hairstyles {actually haven't had a haircut since last November or December, I think $$$}, expensive jewelry {most recent jewelry "haul" was in the form of the distribution of my mother's possessions}, or beautiful clothes.  Have you seen my Goodwill post??  I'm not the one happily paying $180 for a pair of Seven jeans.  I'm the one who paid less than $5 at Goodwill - my first clothing purchase in almost a year.  In my role as stay at home mom, I've somehow lost any form of style identity.  I'd like to be more stylish and whatnot, but the means are not there.  Beauty from within??  I don't know.  Maybe that's what others see??  Gentle and quiet spirit???  Oh my.  I don't know about that most of the time!  Does God see me as beautiful by the way I present myself with this inner beauty and gentle spirit??  I'm not sure.

As for Ron, he does honor me.  He loves me so much despite everything I've talked about here that is not healthy for a marriage.  He has immeasurable understanding for me.  Weaker than him?  Yeah, I probably am.  He has so much more patience with me.  With life.  But he gets frustrated.  With me.  With life.


Ephesians 5 (NLT)

 21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.
 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

And then there's this scripture (DAD: STOP READING HERE!!!):

1 Corinthians 7:5 (NLT)

5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.


Oh my.

What are these scriptures talking about?  Yes, I'm finally going to get to my point.


Submission.


Submission to each other as man and wife.  Submission to God.  God intends for Ron and I to have a beautiful, happy, healthy relationship with each other.  Not just seeing each other in passing in between work and duties with the children.  Not just when I happen to catch a time when I'm not totally and utterly exhausted {which is most of the time}.  We are meant to love each other fully and completely.  I have to tell you, being completely honest and real, we haven't had the relationship God intended for us in a very long time.  For my part, I totally admit I'm as much to blame as anyone.  I have suffered with exhaustion to the point of tears, depression, frustration and anger at our life situation, and so on.  There's been so much negative in our life that for the longest time I couldn't see the positive.  Let me tell you this, at some point along the way, the "relationship" Ron and I have today was born out of habit.  Not good habits either.


Ron and I are married.  We are together.  Tough as things get, we're not leaving each other.  But we're not living the life that God intends for us - and that is SO hard to realize right now.  This family mission statement requires that Ron and I develop that relationship NOW.  What has been put off for so long is now completely necessary.  And it's not an easy thing to confront head on when it's been avoided for so long.


We must submit to each other and live the lives that God fully intended for us to have in order to truly submit to His will.  It's not easy giving up control - especially when you realize you've really never been the one in control in the first place!  God is in control.  He's the one with the master plan.  He's got the blueprint of our lives and our marriage all mapped out.  It's up to us to make the right moves towards getting ourselves back on track with His plan.


Friends, I know that we're not the only couple to face tough times.  I know that we're not the only ones who have found life so challenging that you fall into habits that do nothing to promote a life-giving healthy spousal relationship.  I know we're not the only ones who are followers of Christ doing all we can for our family but who somehow can't make our spouse the priority that they need to be.  I also know that we can't possibly be the only ones who recognize this in ourselves and who desperately want to turn things around and have the married life that God intended for us to have.


In closing, I would really ask you humbly for your prayers as Ron and I deal with all of these things.  We love each other desperately and love each other enough to fix what is broken for the betterment of ourselves, our family, and our relationship with Christ.

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