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.





Book Review: “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan

10 06 2009

So, I’ve been reading Francis Chan’s book, “Crazy Love” for quite some time now.  I’ll be honest, I read the first 80% of it within a week or so, and then the last 20% took me forever to finish.  Part of that was life getting hectic, and I don’t know what the rest was.

But, it is now finished, and I have much to say about it.  However, I will first remind everyone what I mean when I say the word “review”.  It’s not meant to be objective in any way.  This is entirely subjective (which, I believe, is the point of reviews…you find someone you tend to agree with, and then trust their opinions on various media suggestions) and moreso, is definitely very much about where my head and heart are right now.  So, as with everything I say, take this with a grain of salt, a swig of your favorite beverage, and hopefully a munch of something tasty.  That said, here we go:

“Crazy Love” is definitely the most interesting book I’ve read in the last five years.  No, it’s not the most “gripping”.  It’s not very exciting at all, actually.  Mostly, I have a hard time reading non-fiction.  So, if it doesn’t have a story and characters and twists, and whatever…it doesn’t get read (all the way, at least).  But, Crazy Love called to me in the bookstore.  No joke, I believe God placed this book in my hands.

Francis Chan has a simple premise here-that we’re not living as we should.  That we’re not living the lives we profess.  That we are sapping our own vitality here, and potentially endangering our very souls by doing so.

See, Pastor Chan (of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California) believes that we need to be sold out for Jesus.  And we, as Christians nod in agreement, and say “Of course, man!  Amen!”  But Francis doesn’t let us off the hook there.  He says, “Well?  How about it then?  Where is your faith?  Where are you walking where only God can catch you if you fall?” Read the rest of this entry »





Book Review: "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan

10 06 2009

So, I’ve been reading Francis Chan’s book, “Crazy Love” for quite some time now.  I’ll be honest, I read the first 80% of it within a week or so, and then the last 20% took me forever to finish.  Part of that was life getting hectic, and I don’t know what the rest was.

But, it is now finished, and I have much to say about it.  However, I will first remind everyone what I mean when I say the word “review”.  It’s not meant to be objective in any way.  This is entirely subjective (which, I believe, is the point of reviews…you find someone you tend to agree with, and then trust their opinions on various media suggestions) and moreso, is definitely very much about where my head and heart are right now.  So, as with everything I say, take this with a grain of salt, a swig of your favorite beverage, and hopefully a munch of something tasty.  That said, here we go:

“Crazy Love” is definitely the most interesting book I’ve read in the last five years.  No, it’s not the most “gripping”.  It’s not very exciting at all, actually.  Mostly, I have a hard time reading non-fiction.  So, if it doesn’t have a story and characters and twists, and whatever…it doesn’t get read (all the way, at least).  But, Crazy Love called to me in the bookstore.  No joke, I believe God placed this book in my hands.

Francis Chan has a simple premise here-that we’re not living as we should.  That we’re not living the lives we profess.  That we are sapping our own vitality here, and potentially endangering our very souls by doing so.

See, Pastor Chan (of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California) believes that we need to be sold out for Jesus.  And we, as Christians nod in agreement, and say “Of course, man!  Amen!”  But Francis doesn’t let us off the hook there.  He says, “Well?  How about it then?  Where is your faith?  Where are you walking where only God can catch you if you fall?” Read the rest of this entry »





Confess, Re-Dedicate, Pray, Repeat.

27 05 2009

Here’s the deal.  I’m going to lay it out for you all right now, and in the open for all to see.  Because it’s what needs to happen.  Frankly, it needs to happen for everyone that calls themselves sons or daughters of God.  It needs to happen before you go to youth group, before you go to church, before you go to bible study, or really we should do it again and again, before we lay down before bed, and before we get up out of bed for our days to begin, and probably throughout our day as well…

So what the heck am I talking about.  I’m talking about confession, re-dedication, and prayer.  I hate talking like this, but I’m going to add one more preface here:  This isn’t about being public so people will see me.  And it’s not about “earning God” because nothing I can do is worthy of God.  And anything in public that I do, is probably worth even that little bit less.  But it’s late at night, my wife is in bed, and I’ve got no one to share with.  So it’s going to be you.  Sorry about that. 🙂

So yeah, let’s start with confession. Read the rest of this entry »





Doctor Octoroc Needs Your Help!

18 12 2008

Hey there, readers!  Well, this is the kind of thing I have to admit, that I absolutely love the blogosphere (which is different from the Blagosphere)…when one blogger notices a problem with another blogger, and reaches out to help.

Ein - Doctor Octorocs puppy

Ein - Doctor Octoroc's puppy

So, any of you who checked out or downloaded Doctor Octoroc’s Christmastime “8-Bit Jesus” over at his site, Doc needs some assistance.  His six month old puppy, Ein, has gallstones (kidney or bladder stones?  I an not a doctor.  Good thing Octoroc is…) that are too large for him to pass, and therefore requires surgery.  No, Doc Oc is not asking for you to pay for the surgery.  Instead, he’s asking that if you liked the album, and if you were considering buying the physical copy, that he needs you to pay in advance, instead of when it comes out.  See, he doesn’t have the cash to create the CDs, but will with your contribution of $15.  So, it’s giving, yes.  And it’s giving during the holidays, in a sense of cameraderie and fellowship, but it’s also a two-fer, because on top of the sense of giving, you’ll also get the physical CD (with more tracks than listed on the site) of “8-Bit Jesus.”  You can read more about this situation and learn how to donate, by clicking this sentence.

So, let’s help a brother out, and take some pity on his dog, eh?  I can’t do it right now, but I plan on doing it after Christmas, when I’ve got a little more cash to spend.  Let’s support some cool chiptune interesting-ness (of course it’s a word!) and help someone out in the community as well!