This year has been different for me than any I’ve ever experienced. We moved into the Mack Pack Ranch thinking we’d have our little piece of Mayberry. I did expect lots of work as we completed project after project to get our home from it’s dilapidated state to the vision of a little ranch house property we had envisioned from the start. What I didn’t expect was a random break-in at the end of February when I came home from picking up the kids from school to find our front door rammed open. Only my laptop computer was missing, but this event left me wondering if I was being watched as I had only been gone for 20 minutes. I also didn’t expect to be robbed at gunpoint in my driveway only a couple of weeks later as I was taking in our trash containers the day before my oldest son’s 7th birthday. I expected to be displaced from our home for most of the summer while we were having carpet and tile put in. I didn’t expect to get a call from someone I have learned so much from that informed me that a marriage of 43 years was coming to an end. To say it’s been a difficult year would be an understatement.
This year has caused me to really take time to reflect and evaluate what is important to me. When our home was broken into, I became more cautious of my surroundings, but I wasn’t fearful. I remember grabbing my gun from my purse, telling the kids to sit still while I boldly canvased the house just hoping the perpetrator would pop his head out. I’m pretty sure that was mostly just adrenaline and mama bear coming out.
But when I was nearly run over by a yellow corvette and had my phone stolen at gun point while being cursed at by the thief, who I later found out had murdered someone hours before our encounter; something was triggered in me that has left me changed. For a couple of weeks afterwards I was a mess. My heart raced when I was in public with my kids. My faith in humanity was crushed. If something like this could happen in my own front yard, was anywhere safe? Yellow cars of any kind still trigger a startle in my heart. But I have learned that the anxious thoughts disappear when I pray. I can’t change the outcome of the young man who robbed me, but I can pray for his family members who were undoubtedly changed by his actions as well. I pray that they would be comforted and that they would find hope in the everyday and that if they don’t know how much God loves them, that they would discover it somehow. When I pray, the anxiety leaves, peace floods in and I continue on with my day. Anxious thoughts still come occasionally, but I have learned how to thwart them with God’s word.
Another type of anxiety struck with the phone call announcing the end of my model for marriage. I began to wonder if I even know how to be a wife. Do I really know what it takes to have a successful marriage? What does a successful marriage look like? Does the number of years make it successful? Is it how the relationship makes you feel that makes it successful? What is a good marriage? I’m by nature a fixer. Hello, we took on a BIG fixer upper with the Mack Pack Ranch! lol I like to find answers to problems, I like to research and find solutions. I don’t do well when I can’t manipulate a desired outcome. But if I’ve learned anything from parenting my five children, it’s that I can’t control other people, but I can control myself. I can’t make anyone fall back in love.
What I can do is nurture my own marriage. I can decide to make sure that my husband knows that I cherish him. That I appreciate him and desire him. I can speak with kindness to my spouse and my children. I can choose to look at the good in people and choose to speak life.
What broke my heart most was learning that this occurrence is more common than I thought. That there are countless marriages that have gone on for decades that lack love and respect for each other and simply go thru the motions, being housemates but not helpmates. I’m nearing 40, and many of my friends who have grown up in the church, in Christian homes have parents who live in loveless marriages. They wouldn’t dare get a divorce, but they go thru the motions day in and day out, being unkind to the very gift they were given 30, 40 or more years ago. From my observation, it doesn’t happen all of a sudden. It is a slow unassuming process. It’s daily neglect that builds up over the years and promises and vows that are forgotten. We all get married with hopes of that Happily Ever After. But what we don’t realize, is for that fairy tale to be a reality takes work. I remember hearing Martha Tennison speak not long after I was first married. It’s been awhile since I heard the story, but I’ll try to recap as best as I recall. She tells a story of how she had just mopped the floor and her husband or son walked in on her freshly cleaned floor and she yelled at him for soiling the floor with his muddy shoes. Then another day after mopping the floor a guest came over with muddy shoes and her response was nothing but sugar and sweetness. She made the point that we should treat those we are mothers to and married to with the same sweetness as those who we aren’t related to. I don’t want to be so comfortable in my marriage that I forget to do those things that won my husband’s heart in the first place. When Jeremy & I were dating he tried so many times to start arguments with me to see how I would argue. I know the value of picking my battles. He wasn’t very successful about getting me riled up. It still takes quite a bit to ruffle my feathers. What I’ve learned is that most of the time if I’m really “right” about something we disagree on, it’s much more rewarding to have him admit I’m right than for me to point it out to him. The truth always comes to light eventually. In fact, there are more times that I’m wrong than right and as rewarding as it is to not have to say “I told you so,” it’s equally rewarding to not have to eat crow when I was in the wrong. We recently honored a couple in our church who have been married for 60 years. When asked their advice for what to do to make marriage work, he said, “Stick with it.” And when asked what to do when your marriage is struggling, she said, “Stick with it and do what you know is right. Be loving and kind, that always works.”
So here I am, feeling a little helpless with all the crazy circumstances surrounding me this year. I sit and ponder often, “What can I do?” Just like I couldn’t stop the thieves from breaking into my home or from pulling a gun on me and stealing my phone, and I can’t make anyone choose to have a happy marriage, I can choose differently for myself. I can choose to be kind, to have joy and to live each day giving all I can to make those around me feel loved and cherished. What can you do today?