Of Christmastime, Stress and Marriage

12 12 2009

Christmas, Stress & Marriage

So how’s everybody been?  Wow, you’ve gotten bigger!  Oh and look at you!  Wow, when I last saw you, you had such long hair!  But now…Wow.

Okay, enough jokes about how long it’s been.  I’m a dork.  (I say so all the time) so don’t allow it to phase you when I go days or months not writing, especially when I’ve recently gotten a new game (which frankly, is a lot more fun than sitting down and trying to write something interesting or entertaining).  Also, it’s the Christmas season (which, before that came the Thanksgiving season, and the Halloween season before that).  So, suffice it to say, like every other day as a father of two young children, it’s been a little busy.

But that’s not why you’re here!  That’s not why you came to read this!  You’re interested in why I linked Christmas, Stress and Marriage in one title!  Well, here’s how it is:

At Christmas, we always long for that family time.  That time around the fireplace where there are stockings hung neatly, ready to be filled with goodies…a glowing, beautiful tree, trimmed with fragile and precious ornaments and below the tree, gifts beyond reckoning.  We want a little train going around the tree, and the puppy frolicking and playfully scared of the train, while our kids sit by us and sip cocoa whilst we read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and all that crap that will absolutely never happen in anyone’s lifetime.   (And that includes the family who made the Hallmark cards or anyone else in this century.)

More likely, you’ve just come home from work, you’ve got kids who are dirty and hungry (but not for quality food: only chicken nuggets and mac and cheese), you’ve got two stores to hit, and three people to buy for and your checkbook says “nuh-uh, you ain’t going anywhere.  You can’t even buy gas!”

Your husband or wife is working late and you know they’re coming home stressed.  The kids will go to the stores with you, but they’re going to be hell, kicking, screaming, pouting, dropping to the floor, not being able to decide if they want to cry about being in the cart, or crying about having to walk.  They want JUST ONE TOY!!!  JUST ONNNNNNEEEEE!!!  and they have to pee.

Now.

But, you pack the diaper bag (or, if you’re like me, you prepare one, and leave it by the front door – where it stays until you remember it between the first and second store when you have that unmistakable fecal smell emanating somewhere behind you in your youngest’s car seat…) and you boldly go out, trying to make something out of the little money you have, feeling guilty that your own spouse seems to get less than the secret santa you have at the office.  And little did you know?  Everything goes exactly as you expected it!

Meaning, that the kids were terrible, people looked at you like you were Satan himself, raising hellspawn that wouldn’t listen if there was a gun at their heads.  You couldn’t find anything on your list, yet still spent crazy money on food for the kids (that ended up getting thrown away mostly anyway), and you come home, even more broke, tired, depressed and angry than you were before you left.  But now, your spouse is home, wondering why you won’t just relax!  And making everything sound much simpler than it ever could possibly be.

Maybe you don’t have all of that going for you.  Maybe it’s just a couple things.  But I think all of us can empathize with a little of that scenario.  Christmas, instead of being about Christ, giving from our hearts, and loving people in His name, has become about trying to “show” how much we care by giving the best gift we cannot afford or trying to make sure we “repay” the gift we got from the person last year.

Or, on the flip side, we’re so stressed that everyone gets gift cards and no soul at all.

What happened?  Where did all of this stress come in?  Where did our relationships go, and where does love have a chance to enter?

Now, let me start off by saying that I have no stake or claim in the full answer, nor do I in any way, shape or form embody some perfect balance here.  Far from it!  But I, like you, seek something more authentic.  I seek something that means something, and makes my running around worth something more than simply trying to catch up.

And beyond that, when we’re doing all this crazy running and losing ourselves in these petty missions of rampant, unchecked consumerism, we’re losing our families, and typically, our marriages suffer as a result.

So what do we do?  How do we start to turn things around?  It’s not like Macy’s is all of a sudden going to start giving away massages and babysitting, without buying something, just so Mom and Dad can grab a coffee (also gratis, of course, in my dream scenario), and talk and rekindle love while at the mall!

But here’s what I’m learning (and it’s modest and meager, but I think it’s a start):

Love is the key.  I need to realize that all the money in the world would not represent the love I feel for my kids, my wife, my family, and the friends in my life that I care about so deeply.  If I could buy every present I could ever want to give, it would NEVER represent my love for those people.

And more importantly than that idyllic situation, I won’t even come close to that kind of money, ever.  Ever.  And I need to own up to that.  My credit cards are NOT going to prove my love to people.  Not even close.  All that will do is make me feel like I should “do better” next year, and I’ll be deeper in the hole when I get there.

So it’s not gifts that will show my love.  What will?

Me, I think it’s two things:  Time, and acts of service.

For my friends, instead of buying little 5-buck trinkets that mean nothing, and will likely do nothing for my friends other than require storage, I’m trying to find ways to serve in meaningful ways.  Even if it’s just a matter of seeing what I can pray for them.  It’s amazing how much light comes into people’s lives (especially in this season) when you ask them if you can pray for them, and what would THEY want you to pray for?  It’s like someone threw a rope down a well to a person stranded there for years.  It’s truly amazing, and I’d recommend it to everyone.

But, here’s the deal:  YOU NEED TO ACTUALLY PRAY.  I know that sounds dumb, but I’ve done it lots: I ask people if they need prayer, and sometimes I even write it down, and then it goes in the laundry and I forget I even asked.

So, my advice: Pray right then and there.  When you get that request, you pray.  Stop anything else.  Pull over to the side of the road if you’re driving.  If you’re checking your email and someone writes it to you, pray THEN.  Whenever, whatever.  Drop it and pray.  You will NEVER regret that.  And I tend to remember things when I make a moment of it like that.  So the odds are, when you’re praying by yourself later, you’ll remember that you need to pray for that person again.

Prayer is a wonderful giving of time and service.  But sometimes we need to actually physically do things for people.  And I’ll admit that while I should be doing this more, I fail terribly here.  I’m more of the gift-card guy myself.

But, for my friends, when they’re moving or just need a babysitter, I need to reach out and say “you know what?  I can do that.”  Or when my kids have been screaming and running around all day?  I can sit down and do an art project with them.  Or I can shovel (or snowblow) the snow at my neighbors’ house, or even do the sidewalk down the entire block for strangers to be able to walk without sinking in the snow.

But you know what stinks?  Even when you start to do these things, you get tired.  It’s hard work ACTUALLY loving people, instead of throwing cheap tokens around in lieu of actual quality time.  So when you get home, you just want to drop down, thank God for letting you get through it, and eat, sleep and be merry.

Except, you’ve forgotten someone (or at least, I do this all too often) and that is your spouse.  Your wife or your husband.  Maybe they’ve been on this kick too, to turn a new leaf and give something substantial instead of superficial.  Or maybe they’re just chasing the next big sale.  Who knows?  But they’re likely just as stressed and burned out as any friend you’ve helped.  But they’re familiar.  They’d understand.  They want you to feel good and rested, right?

Absolutely.  But that’s exactly why we need to give 110% percent to them too.

Because girls, let me tell you:  If Daddy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

And boys:  If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

And if Momma or Daddy ain’t happy?  Marriages suffer.  Fights occur with increasing frequency.  Resentment grows.  Feelings of remorse, regret or whatever creep in, and we start to get angry at that lazy good-for-nothing of a husband, or that wife who only has to watch the kids, while the provider goes and works and stresses over how we’ll pay the bills the mortgage, as well as get gifts this year…

But it’s gotta stop.  We’ve gotta give even more to our wives and husbands than we do to anyone else.  I mean that.  I need to do this.  You need to do this.

I don’t have the answers or know how that will always play out for you.  I can tell you for me, it is going to involve doing a little more picking up of the house late at night.  It’s going to involve sleeping on the couch on Friday nights, because I know that Saturday morning, it’s the only way that I’ll ever hear the kids wake up before my wife does.  (I’d sleep through a nuclear holocaust, I swear…) It’s going to involve me simply praying for her, and asking God to reveal where I can love her better.

I know I’ll screw up sometimes.  But, you know what?  God forgives me.  And I know I married a wonderful woman who will forgive me too.  And definitely, above all else this Christmas, I want to give myself more.  I want to give my wife less stress.  And I want Christ to be at the center of it all.

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Commitment. It’s This New Thing…It’s This Old Thing.

13 02 2009

 

Old-Skool Hardcore Commitment

Old-Skool Hardcore Commitment

So I was listening to the Bible today (I’m a big fan of the “Daily Audio Bible” podcast…the reader, Brian, is awesome and so on fire for God.  He’s got a hippy-dippy voice so not created for radio, but he’s doing his thang-thang for God and that’s amazing and powerful and God’s definitely taking his loaves and fishes and working miracles from it, and that is truly inspiring…but I digress.)  

 

So I’m listening to the Bible today, and thinking about those ancient times.  Times so distant to us that a lot of the cultural references and thoughts are so foreign to us, that we can’t really get in there, mentally.  We can only associate ideologically or really, more in a strictly historically academic sense.  So I am thinking about these things…And then I think about commitment.  I consider myself committed to Christ.  What does that mean? 

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Commitment. It's This New Thing…It's This Old Thing.

13 02 2009

 

Old-Skool Hardcore Commitment

Old-Skool Hardcore Commitment

So I was listening to the Bible today (I’m a big fan of the “Daily Audio Bible” podcast…the reader, Brian, is awesome and so on fire for God.  He’s got a hippy-dippy voice so not created for radio, but he’s doing his thang-thang for God and that’s amazing and powerful and God’s definitely taking his loaves and fishes and working miracles from it, and that is truly inspiring…but I digress.)  

 

So I’m listening to the Bible today, and thinking about those ancient times.  Times so distant to us that a lot of the cultural references and thoughts are so foreign to us, that we can’t really get in there, mentally.  We can only associate ideologically or really, more in a strictly historically academic sense.  So I am thinking about these things…And then I think about commitment.  I consider myself committed to Christ.  What does that mean? 

Read the rest of this entry »





Hell, Heresy and the Holy Bible

12 12 2008

 

I can feel the tension already...

I can feel the tension already...

First off, to those of you who tuned in to hear the discussion about video games that are violent, that swear often, or that generally you wouldn’t want to play with your pastor?  That’s coming.  Don’t worry.  I still have a lot to say about it, and I’m excited to write it.  But something has come up and I feel it is of more importance and interest for right now…Perhaps tomorrow I will write the other post.  Stay tuned for that.  However, even if you typically only read my blog for the gaming news, it’s still a worthwhile topic, and I would love for you to chime in on it.  

Now, back to what I came to write.

I finished listening to This American Life‘s most recent podcast, entitled “Heretics,” but minutes ago.  The story is about an influential evangelical preacher, named Carlton Pearson, who as of a couple years ago, started to doubt the existence of hell as presented in the Bible.  Now this is a man who has committed his entire life to preaching and spreading the gospel.  All of his life he was taught that there is a heaven where those who accept Christ go, and a hell for those who do not.  Hell is a fiery, terrible place with weeping and gnashing of teeth, and it is eternal torment.  

Now, before I continue, allow me to preface what I will continue writing:

1) When I write this, it is not to convince anyone.  I don’t expect (nor do I want) you to believe what I say because I say it.  I have no authority to do that, nor should I.

2) What I write, you may agree with or you may not.  I don’t hate on you on this blog, so don’t be hating on me in the comments.  I’m all for vigorous discussion about the topic, but by posting a comment, you agree to discuss the issue, not the people writing the comments.  I mean, if you need to, feel free to flame me up and down.  I can take it.  I mean, I’m writing about it. 🙂  But don’t stifle someone just because they disagree with what you say.  Let’s discuss it like adults and pray that the truth is made clear.  (Because after all, it will set you free.)

3) Before you read this, you really should do yourself a favor and (if you want to comment, even though I’d love it regardless, you really NEED to) hear the This American Life piece first.  You can download it (or just click to listen to it) HERE.  I’m going to present some of the information, but really, this discussion really only works if you know what I’m talking about.  And This American Life is really a wonderful show in general.  I recommend it anyway, regardless of their topic, as it’s presented well, and always entertains.  Seriously, did you click the link yet?  Do it.  Now.

Okay, that said, let’s dig in.

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