Tag: marriage

When stuff got real {and in health, part 2}

(part one is here)

IMG_1122The human condition (I assume. Maybe it’s an American condition? A Christian condition?) means we can make ourselves feel guilty for everything. Sure, my husband is in the hospital and we don’t know what is wrong, but it could be worse. I thought of the wife from a popular southern gospel group, who has spent more than a month at her husband’s side after a stroke and complications. I thought of my friend Kelli, who spent weeks by her son’s bedside in a different state, with her teenage daughter, new home, and fairly new husband left behind. It can always be crazier, more complicated, more serious.

But to me, Rod being on major IV nutrients for 36 hours, and then being told one of his levels had gone back down, felt serious. In fact, I think of that moment as when, er, “Shtuff got real.” Because moments before, in the quiet, early-morning moments before visitors and phones, Rod pledged he was coming home that day, Friday. And even though we both played it brave, it wouldn’t make sense for him to come home if things weren’t doing what they were supposed to do.

And meanwhile, life had to go on. I had no sitter for KK on Friday. There were some floors that desperately needed sweeping and clothes that were piling up.  There was a very special project at work that also involved “the human condition” (a formerly homeless lady we’d ‘adopted’ was moving into her apartment, and I was already a day late with linens and dishes and things…) that had to be cared for. A friend of mine had received disturbing news, and for that, the world needed to stop for a moment. A single mama at church had a scary situation with her baby in the ER of the same hospital, and no one cries alone in my presence. Another friend had a miracle take place on an operating table, and that needed to be celebrated. And on. As much as I wanted the whole world to stop because mine felt like it was imploding a little bit, I couldn’t. Couldn’t cry. Couldn’t really hug my husband. Couldn’t stop being a grown-up.

That turned out to be the best thing.

The details of Friday, of the whole experience, still unfurl slowly in my head. The summary is that I left Rod at 11am for a full day of Life Stuff, and the more I wanted to head back to him, the more delayed I was. The more I wanted my head to be quiet, the more people reached out (which my heart longs for… and here it was, happening. People in 10 states praying for him. I became a one-woman Rod Burton PR Firm… again! :) The more I longed for things to be resolved, the more out of control they felt (’tis why, inexplicably, in the middle of that crazy day, I swept all my floors and did a load of laundry. That, I could control).

Meanwhile, Rod wasn’t alone. Paige visited…our elder pastors..our friend and his son. The nurses were excellent. The phone calls and texts were abundant (even though he was still being covert about his stay). And then, by the time I drove through Taco Bell with the girls and headed back to the hospital, he had a diagnosis.

It happened without me there to listen, without me there to Google, without me there to hold his hand. We had an answer: Celiac disease. One quick read answered a dozen questions from the last few years, and a weekend of reading has answered countlesss more. The more we know, the more empowered we feel, the his history makes sense to us.

room 204Friday night, when all else was said and done, I sat next to my husband, my best friend, my love, in that teeny and kind of awful hospital bed, and after two pretty sleepless nights, he leaned against my shoulder and fell almost immediately to sleep. That is who we are and that is how we do things, and I know it makes me sound like a high school girl to be all “I just want to be with him,” but I just want to be with him, especially when he is vulnerable. That’s our love story. We do this crazy life together, and we are both better for it.

Rod left the hospital Saturday afternoon, not quite 72 hours after entering. I had left him to shower while I went to buy gluten-free bread and Bisquick (thank you, Kroger), and pick up the girls (thank you, Somalia!). By the time I returned, he was dressed in his Kentucky blue, holding his bags, and waiting in the sunshine for us. We made a few calls, put our phones away, and spent most of the remainder of the weekend resting, reading, snacking on gluten-free food (exotic stuff, like fruit!), and generally being thankful for home and health.

There are a hundred themes that this experience has touched in my life. Fear… control… responsibility… marital love… parental love… the fact that I am my parents’ daughter no matter how old or far away I am… the fact that I married a man 13 years older than me… the fact that some friends are friends who call themselves friends and some friends are there in the trenches…faith, trust, reliance on God – not just for my own peace, but for my husband’s life and my family’s wholeness.

I don’t know that there is any one place where I was supposed to “arrive” through this experience. I do know that some things that seemed challenging before, now seem just fine; in particular, eating healthier and weaning myself from my Internet/iPhone addiction. I know that when the chips are down, it is not just a handful of other people who hold us together: it is God, working through me, The Wife, The Mama, of this beautiful family that was made by His grace! And this family is what God gave me to”do.” It is what I will focus my thoughts on. It is what I am so incredibly thankful for.

GF-welcomeThank you to everyone who called, prayed, cared, visited, and also, to those who have already begun sharing your stories!


and in health {part one}

and in healthWritten late night on Wednesday, March 6, 2013

There are certain occurrences that make me want to run home… to Chicago… even after nearly 2 years and an internal voice that often whispers, This is home. But sometimes, things happen there… momentous things… like a baby is born to a sister, or best friend breaks her foot and needs help for 6 weeks, or a gramma goes into the hospital, or there’s a retirement party, or someone is moving away to a place I may not ever get to visit, or any other of a dozen (a hundred?) things.

And sometimes, things happen here, and I find myself caught off guard because it is still new, because even though this is home, the natural, instinctive reactions I might have had to a circumstance 2 years ago do not yet exist in this version of our life.

It happened this week. It was a simple phone call… well, two really. One came in the late morning, when Rod said, “I have to go have my blood work done again.” He’d finally gone for the check-up we’ve all been nagging him about for three years, as his weight, energy, and strength have dropped. His doctor identified a level that was so low she thought it must have been a lab error. So he went back to the lab, and I went to Google. As soon as I started reading symptoms, I knew it was not a misread. I just knew. (“I knew like you know about a good melon.” {When Harry Met Sally}) But Rod went about his day, taking care of business and even pausing to buy me an anniversary present, two weeks early. So after a hectic work day, I got home, prepared food for the girls and snacks for our Wednesday night church classes, and forged ahead.

Then another call came, the one I’d talked myself out of expecting. Rod confirmed: he had to check into the hospital to be dosed with calcium and tested for causes of his dangerous shortage.

And I was gripped with panic. And tears. And, “Oh my Lord, how do I manage all these pieces?” Because I wanted to be with my husband, but I have little girls, and big kids with jobs, and friends with jobs and kids of their own, and another friend who’d had surgery earlier that day, and my MOM AND DAD ARE A THOUSAND MILES AWAY!

Cue the goodness… knowing who to tell was key. Rod did not want grand announcements and fussiness.(No church phone tree, no Facebook). I texted my co-workers. How awesome for me that they are pastors and friends as well? The prayers were immediate, as was the support. A few key people in town were contacted, ones who had the right words (‘Pack a phone charger!’ among them). A few others were contacted with the no-holds-barred I am panicking. Please help! I had a good cry while I ‘got stuff ready’ and then got over it. Because we have to.

Paige, the Glue, Paige, our daughter, who is always there for us, was there for us, was there for her sisters. And a steady stream of people offered their presence. And some others offered scriptures (Hi, Psalm 139). And Rod’s boss… who lives 4 hours away… offered delivered meals and lawn service (I have yet to meet this man, but I love him).

We are blessed. In good times and bad, lean times and plentiful, sickness and health. There is honestly nothing that derails me more than my husband being unwell. Even in this case, when he feels fine, having him away from me physically, and in the emotional sense that automatically seems to accompany it, is sucky to the core. I hate when *I* can’t take care of everything he needs. I hate when he is in a place I can’t reach. And quite honestly, even though I am all Woman… Hear Me Roar, when it comes to our marriage and our family, I don’t like being the strong one. It is his place, and he is really, really good at it.

When he is away for work, I have learned to embrace the quiet of nights after the girls are asleep. Music or videos play on my little tablet, lights are dimmer, and I enjoy the silence. With him in the hospital, i want brightness and noise and distractions. I want not to be lulled asleep by soft glows or mellow tunes, but pounded into unconsciousness by sensory-overload. I want him back where he belongs.

To be continued.

Yep. We love us.

I am not a marriage expert.

But I am an expert on my marriage.

(I may have said here that before)…

Rod and I have been best friends for a long time now… almost, as I like to remind him, half of my life. In just 2 months, we’ll have been married for 10 years. And in those years, we have packed in a whole lot of living. Sometimes I feel like time has been compressed in a 2-for-one deal. Having little kids and big kids, crazy whirlwind career-changes, and of course, the big move and all that followed, have rocked our world time and time again… sometimes in a rock-n-roll fun kind of way, sometimes in a “Gee, we’re between a rock and a hard place with big old boulders hanging by a thread over us” kind of way.

And yet…

Rod travels a lot for work, and since my job pace has slowed, he’s been wanting me to make a little trip with him. The wedding of 2 of our friends this past weekend allowed us to do that. It took some planning, and 3 cars eventually going about 3 hours from home, but it was so worth it.

We excitedly reunited in the hotel lobby.

We ate pretty, pretty grown-up food:


And then, we actually skipped going to a movie (one of our favorite things), for which we had gift cards (another of our favorite things), to go back to the hotel, lounge around, and watch “old” movies on cable (and by old, I do not mean black-and-white, groomed eyebrows and cool cigars. I mean Twister).

It was fabulous.

We talked about the kids only a tiny bit and work only a tiny bit. We talked about some plans for the year, some friends and what they’re going through (we love you, D-Js!), and we talked about the fact that even though every other day something makes me wish we could have one more baby, it’s awfully nice to have time for Just The Two Of Us.

’cause you know? We love us.

I’m really grateful we have a daughter we can trust with her little sisters~

our pretty girls

~ and have been able to for several years, so that we can steal away… be it for an hour or 24, to get time together. And I am really thankful that even though Rod often has a very imperfect wife, who is 30 pounds heavier and about 30,000 nerves shorter than that girl he married, he still sees how much I love him. He sees me trying to be my best not just for me, God, and our kids, but especially for him (there is absolutely still a hair-fluff and a lipstick-refresh when I am about to see him). And during this particular season of time, I want to say to every wife I know… that if you are having a rocky time, an uncertain time, a difficult time connecting: let your husband know you appreciate him. He might not ever ask for it, but everyone needs it.

This guy? As my sweet Gramma says, he is a “good man.” To me, he is the best.




morning after, and before

Last night, we had session 2 of our marriage class.

I told Our Story in front of a group of people… for the first time.

(someday, maybe soon, I will tell it here, but not quite yet).

It didn’t require as much bravery as I thought. It almost felt good…not in a I’m so proud of that chapter of my life way, not in a take my advice kind of way, but in a Look how far we’ve come way for sure.

In every class, we vote on who ‘worked the hardest’ on their marriage that week, and the someone wins a book. Last night, I won:

I was touched and honored by the words of my classmates last night (especially the guy who referred to me as a young hippy girl!), and I am happy that what most people seem to see in Rod and me is our love and commitment for each other and our family.

I think perhaps I still live in some fear that people will only see what I, what we, used to be. But I need to conquer that. We are here. We are together. All things are, and have been, made new.

Since the girls were with their big sister and we were not necessary at home (they were making Paige’s amazing popcorn and homemade pretzels), we decided to have a great date of our own. Thanks to DST, there was still plenty of sun, and we headed to a place where I’ve wanted to go since we moved here:

We crashed at Nacho Hippo, where we worked on our homework for next week and I excitedly studied the menu:

We decided to make our own nachos (2 control freaks…surprise!). Our add-ons were mango salsa, salsa verde, and steak (I let Rod have all of that…) They weren’t the best ever, but they were pretty good.

Whilst eating (I can’t help it. “Whilst” makes me think of Chandler Bing, and Chandler Bing always makes me smile…), we enjoyed this view:

and we set aside our marriage homework so that Rod could explain to me the intricacies of the NCAA tournament, the NBA draft, and how Coach Calipari from University of Kentucky advocates for his players.

He’s so patient and detailed and…goofy. How could a girl not be mesmerized?


This morning came fast and everyone was sleepy. I ushered Rod and the girls out the door for school and now I wait. This afternoon, KK has to get her 4 year old shots (!!!) and Rod has an opportunity. It’s one our family needs, so I am spending today mellow, still, and prayerful…not worried. It’s one of those times when we’ll know for sure whether a door is opening for us. And we’re ready to walk through it.

when you already have a room

I’m in an unprecedented time in my life in that I’m actually taking two Bible studies. One, The Search for Significance, I’ve already written about. The other is Dynamic Marriage, and it’s both teaching and inspiring me…

For every person who has ever told Rod and me, during some polite PDAing, to get a room or something to that effect, I can only say this:

You want a happy union? LOVE each other.
You’re not receiving love? GIVE it…and TALK about it.
You don’t ‘feel‘ the love? CHOOSE it.

Rod is my best friend. I always want to talk to him. I always want to be with him. This doesn’t mean I don’t greatly emphasize and enjoy other relationships in my life, but it does mean that ours comes first. Always, and even before our kids (obviously not before God).

We still hold hands in the car. We still say ‘I love you’ on the phone, maybe more than once. We still talk several times a day on the days we aren’t together. We intentionally seek to make the other laugh, to show affection, and to Get IN the Room we already have.

You can’t ignore a relationship or take a person for granted and expect that relationship to flourish.

We are at the beginning of a marriage class. I am excited about what it will teach us and where it will lead us. We never had pre-marital counseling, marriage training, or even much specific advice given. People either didn’t want to advise on our crazy union at its beginning, or now they think we have it all together. Well, we do have it together, but there is always room for improvement. There are nights we don’t kiss before drifting off to sleep. There are days we say ugly things to each other. There are weeks when we just can’t seem to connect.

But we always want to be together. And it’s good to get some more tools in our arsenal to assist us during hard times,

I just started following the wife of one of my favorite preachers. Cindy Easley is married to Dr. Michael Easley, a former president of Moody Bible College in Chicago. Her book is called Dancing With the One You Love, and her FB page just linked to some wonderful ideas on how to love your husband.

To this great list I would like to add….

meet his physical needs. This doesn’t make you a slave, but it does make you an obedient Christian woman and a good wife. (and by the way, it doesn’t have to be a chore…) I recommend rekindling a love for kissing. I read an article in my beloved Good Housekeeping a few years ago that suggested kissing good night for no less than 6 seconds. Try it. Seriously.
look your best. Chances are he doesn’t care that you don’t look how you looked on your honeymoon, or before the pregnancies. But he does notice if you wear something flattering, put on some lipstick, and smile because you feel good about yourself.
do not trash him to your friends (in person or on FB) or disrespect him in front of your children. Sometimes I am guilty of interrupting him when he corrects the kids. Sometimes we have different opinions on how to discipline them. I need to wait… thereby showing my kids to respect their father and authority in general.
do something he likes to do. Ask me about Kentucky basketball…
listen to him. Granted, most guys don’t want or need to talk as much as we do, so when he is stuck on a subject, even if it’s one that bores you (bus engines, politics), incites you (some politics), or grosses you out, listen. He is talking to you because he trusts and values you. Stop what you’re doing, tell the kids to wait, look him in the eye, and support him with your attention.
– pray with him. For no reason other than ADD, or perhaps laziness, this is a tough one for us. It’s not that we’re unwilling to pray together; it’s just that we don’t take the time to do it. This is one of our daily homework assignments for the Dynamic Marriage class.
dream with him. When our kids are grown, I’d like to move to Europe for a year and write. I would also like to drive across the U.S., ending my trip at the Muir National Park in California. I can’t imagine doing this without him, and I don’t want to.

I’m not a marriage expert, but I am an expert on my marriage. This month we will celebrate nine glorious years of a marriage that statistics, common sense, and at least half the people we knew said would never make it. The only reasons we have made it are because God, in His amazing grace, blessed us, and because we are extremely careful to take care of our marriage. I’ll spend the rest of my life being grateful, and passing on what I’ve learned.