Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Tuesday Musings - Windows

I have always loved windows.  Their function is essential.  Here, on this side of the invention of Electricity, they are sometimes the only source of much needed natural light in our days.  Those sweet, warm rays of 'real' light have an amazing way of soothing our souls. Even more than their function though, I am taken with their form.  When Brian and I were visiting Boston, I obsessively photographed nearly a hundred windows - mostly old, ratty distressed one - some with broken hinges and crooked shutters - those were my favorite.  But even the windows on the newer buildings were so rich in character, typical of the New England style.  Both in my house and here in Bellybou' there are old window frames hanging on walls.  They have such a presence.  But more than both form and function, what draws me to these ancient architectural staples is their rich symbolism.  Cliche though it may be, the window is a universal representation of vision, view, perspective and the existence of life outside of ourselves.
Growing up, I lived at the end of a rarely frequented cul-du-sac.  My bedroom window faced the front of the house and thus I had a perfect view of the street, often barren except for the occasional neighbor coming home or lost driver needing to turn around.  The stillness outside my window was my solace.  At night, when it was most quiet, I would stare out into the nothingness, the view was so familiar and unchanging it seemed to disappear and became a blank canvas for whatever mental pictures my mind was drawing forth.  I cant even begin to try and number the life altering decisions that were made while starting through that 4x6 piece of glass but they were many, that's for sure.  That window was covered in real wooden louvered shutters (which have since been taken down and now serve as inventory displays in Bellybou').  The sound of their opening and closing is so nostalgic.  To this day it instantly takes me back to my days on wonder, when contemplations about life and the universe ran wild in my mind and possibilities for the future seemed limitless.  My spot just inside that window is a truly sweet one.  I will never forget it.
Despite having lived in a myriad of different places, all fashioned with some amount of windows, there has yet to be a window as significant as the one I just described. Until now.  As I was perusing Facebook (I embarrassingly admit that I do that from time to time), I stumbled across these photos and I was struck by the instant realization of the significance of this window.  And though I am presently hoping, praying with all faith and fervor to escape detention from behind its view, it has already left its mark of significance on my life.  I have spent an approximated 2850 hours behind this window and during the course of that time have experienced full spectrum of my emotional repertoire.  I have wept achingly, rejoiced with jubilation, raged with fury - and everything in between.  I have lived a lot of life from this view, decided on a lot of things like what to name my child and to teach my children at home (I may not have been able to make that decision had I not had this chance to be away from home for a time).  Regardless of how I will ultimately characterize the summation of my time here, the fact is that this window's view, the perspective with which I see the world from here - and all of the thoughts and feelings that go along with that, have made lasting impressions on my life.
So, I celebrate this window.  And all the windows that have ever shaped my view of life by providing me with a backdrop on which to think and ponder and dream and change and grow and cry and work and rest.
I am happy to have these photos to commemorate its creation.  Little did I know then what this 18'x10' wall of glass would mean to me.




No glass yet. Just frame.  We would walk right through them.

Coming along.

Hiding what's inside.

There she is.  I like looking through the other way - a view I rarely have
except on my usual mad dash to get inside on time.

Are there meaningful windows from your past or present?  What significance do they hold?

Until next time.......

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

You Are One Amazing Dad (and husband) If You.........

.... get your daughter ready for the Father/Daughter Dance all by yourself - including removing sponge rollers and hair spraying hair - and also get yourself ready - while watching all 3 kids.
.... you take all 3 kids to Costco. Or Target.  Ever.
.... you, on your own with not even a hint from your wife, discover how very low both your daughters are on much needed tights and decide to take all the kids to Target to buy some new ones.  And you buy all the right sizes and colors so your wife does not have to go back and exchange anything.
.... you decide its time to take down the baby's crib and put up her big girl bed after first cleaning the (toy ravaged) room - with no help or request from your wife - while also watching all 3 kids.
... you notice the straggly ends of the baby's hair and decide its time she needs a little trim - cut it yourself (impeccable job) and blow dry to make sure it looks good - while on your own with the kids.
... you successfully grocery shop your own, with all 3 kids.
... you are willing to fill in at your wife's maternity shop so she can spend a little much needed time with the kids - despite your agonizing fear of having to help customers with items such as nursing bra's and pregnant pantyhose -  and having to wrap purchased items in tissue before placing them in bags.
... you take both your daughters with you to your work Christmas Party - in Fresno - even when your mom offers to watch them instead - and stop along the way to pick up some children's laxative for one who is a little constipated.  
... you send your wife frequent and detailed updates - often including pics and videos - to her while she is away so she can know all that went on in the day. (She loves the details)
... you do all of these things with a happy and willing heart.

I love you, Brian.

Tuesdays Musings - Christmas Gifts

I've been thinking lately about how Christmas gifts have changed over the years for me.  The quantity of gifts has greatly reduced from my younger days (I am an only child, remember - my former years were good to me) yet the quality has surely increased. In addition, I seem to count the non-material gifts I receive more and more significant every year.    This year is no exception.  I am truly truly grateful for the abundance of blessing in my life, though it rarely be packaged as I would have thought best, it leaves very little room for want.  This year I am particularly grateful for the following:


LIFE OUTSIDE THE SHADOW
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.   Hebrews 10:1
As I ponder the great gift of Christ's arrival on Earth, I am increasingly grateful to live on this side of the most momentous event in all of history, to experience the 'good things to come' - the out pouring of God's grace and the lifting of the heavy burden of stringent law upon his people.  I must confess my increasing gratefulness might be rooted in some recent literary indulgence.  I have been reading a series of novels by Beverly Lewis about a family of young Amish girls and the deeply tragic drama of their overly-simplistic lives.  The contrast here is striking and reminds me that no matter how much you strip away from life in the realm of the material, the complexity and intensity of the human emotional experience is never any less. I am also struck by the tremendous weight of lawfulness that is carried throughout their insulated culture.  Their love and passion for the Lord is admirable but their rationale for such devout adherence to strict conduct is amiss.  Very sad.  Yet this vivid journey to the inner workings and resulting emotional turmoil of this legalistic society has made me so, so glad for the glorious freedom Christ brought with him in his descendent to this world.  So glad to be liberated from the need for continual sacrifice to cover my shame.  
Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  Hebrews 10:2
Isn't it so true that when we seek our own penance we are only more and more aware of our sin?  Consciousness remains.  
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
"Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
 but a body have you prepared for me.  Hebrews 10:5

These dear scriptures bring such weightlessness to my soul.  God is not the least bit impressed with my feeble and futile attempts to reconcile myself to Him, to make up for my own weaknesses or rid myself of my shame.  For He prepared a body, a Gift, and I will gladly receive.


TRADITION
I may as well have coined the phrase 'familiarity breeds contempt'.  I am always into change, moving on, trying something new. So naturally, I have never been big into tradition.  No two Christmases have ever looked the same for our little family.  I think it's to be expected that in the early years of family life holiday traditions remain a work in progress.  However, now that my kids have approached the age where they form solid lasting memories, I feel its high time to nail down some meaningful traditions we can keep for years and years to come.  Cutting down a tree in the forest, baking copious amounts of cookies, caroling, tree lighting ceremonies, candy cane lane - these are fun and great but I can not commit to doing them every year.  Whatever it is we decide to make a lasting tradition needs to have more significance, promote togetherness rather than the potential for strife (as in many of the afore mentioned events - if you saw my recent Facebook post you'll know what I mean) and not require much money or busyness. 
So, after a discussion amongst friends and a few hours of research online, I am happy to say that we have made some progress.  I stumbled across an ancient tradition that seems to be lost among contemporary church today called the Jesse Tree. It is a part the traditional Advent celebration in the Reformed Church of America.  Though I don't know from where the tradition originated exactly, it seems that it was common for English churches to bear either an engraving of a Jesse Tree or a stained glass version.   The Puritan movement nearly brought an end to this tradition, at least in our country, with its efforts to purge the church of any and all 'graven images'.   Now it seems to be making a comeback, if not in churches, then in homes, at least, as it serves as a great Christmas family devotion.  The tree acts as a kind of family tree for Jesus.  Though not a precise genealogy, it bears a variety of symbols each representing a person on the storyline of God's rescue plan for the world.  It begins with creation, includes many other significant Biblical characters and then picks up Christ's line of descent starting with Jesse, the father of David.  Its puts the Christmas story into perspective of the bigger picture of the Bible as a whole, something I am eager for my children to know and understand.  
Our Jesse tree is made from some broken branches off a tree in our backyard and some felt ornaments I threw together sloppily in a creative flurry (very, very) late one night.  I also bought a great book called the Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean to read each night (there are 25 stories, one for each day of Dec) as we adorn the tree with its rich symbols, one by one.  I can't say we did it every night. In fact, we have landed ourselves quite a ways behind as this past week has been extra full, but it is a start, a beginning and I am grateful to have learned about this and been able to incorporate it into our celebratory festivities this year and for many years to come.  
So, tradition and I are making amends. I think we have a strong future together.


TALENT
This is an odd one, I know.  And before you go thinking that I am about to rattle off a list of my special abilities to make myself look good, let me explain.  
This year has been one of tremendous introspection for me.  I have spent more time than in any other of my 30 short years hashing over the underlying roots of my tendencies, thoughts, and behaviors.  Naturally, I am almost always focused the negative - that which I want to change.   It wasn't until I began reading the Strengths Finders book that I realized how intensely focused on I had been on all the billions of things I do wrong and ways I need to improve.  The book states that something like 97% of the time we spend seeking to improve ourselves, be it in the workplace or in relationships, is devoted to weakness rather than strength.  I found that statistic quite enlightening as well as the notion that there is equally great value in better understanding our strengths, how to use them more often and more efficiently and that doing so may even yield greater success from our efforts towards self discovery and growth.  
StrengthsFinders, which is based on a large body of research conducted by Gallup, set up a classification system for our many different personality traits that includes a variety of different 'talents', as they call them.  These 'talents' are temperamental, innate, intuitive as opposed to skills and abilities we acquire throughout our lives, and we all have them despite our tendency to live at least somewhat unaware of them and their full potential in our lives.   Similarly, I have been reading another book on parenting that deals with re-focusing' our attention from the negative aspects of our children's emerging personalities and trying to better understand how the different parts of their temperament, though they may make for more challenging days as a parent, can actually be positive characteristics that help lead them to success. The shift that has taken place in my own mind from negative to positive, weakness to strength, with regard to both myself and my kids, has been so encouraging.  I am glad to know that despite my various character flaws, I might actually have some underlying talent that might end up doing me some good someday.  Maybe it has already.   I am grateful for even the notion of it after a long year of true-self exposure and the endless struggle to improve my many weaknesses.  


PRESENCE 
More than ever before I am so grateful for the time I am present in my home with the company of my children.  Yes, being at home with little kids can make you crazy, and it does, but on days like today when I have to be gone all day long,  my grief over the harried house, endless noise and occasional fighting are really put into perspective.  I am happy to spend all the time with them that I can in this terribly short little season of life.  
Also, some fruit of my aforementioned introspections has been realizing (remembering) just how much I need to be with people, friends, community.  I have renewed appreciation for the many opportunities I have in my life to connect with people.  I sometimes neglect them as I am so easily distracted by other busyness and ambitions but the presence of Christ here on earth reminds me of the great gift of presence - other's in my life and mine in theirs.  Thanks, to those of you who I do life with, for being faithfully present friends. 


That does it for now.  This post in now and entire week late - let's just say I was too busy savoring the freedom Christ brings, cherishing sweet moments with my children, building lasting memories of traditions rich in significance and relishing sweet time with family and friends - and not scurrying around from store to store for last minute gifts, wrapping presents until the we hours of the morning, or trying to make the house look somewhat decent for when family arrives......


Until next time...........

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Musings - Still to come.......

I am doing my best to stick to this weekly thing but I gotta' cut myself a little slack here.  I have drafts, but I am signing off for the night. Stay tuned. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tuesday Musings - Firstfruits

       

6 years ago, upon the purchase of our first home, we bought a Meyer lemon tree.  We knew it may not produce fruit in the first year or two but we were not prepared for such a long a tedious wait.  Year after year we tended to our little tree, taking it with us each time we moved (luckily, it was in a barrel) and going to great lengths to make sure it had the right nutrients, proper drainage, and warmth during frosty nights.  There were many times we thought she was a goner but we kept at it.   Lo and behold, last month we finally picked our very first lemon.  Our first fruit.  
I can not help but think of how this lemon tree experience parallels my life as a whole, and particularly parenting.  Sometimes it feels like the wait for evidence of our labors is endless.  As parents, we know to expect it but still, it is no less difficult to patiently await the fruit of your efforts in your children's lives, wondering if and when it will ever come.  I often get wrapped up is wanting so badly to see results of my labor that I forget how valuable the process in between can be.  Take homeschool for a simplified example.  I really really wanted to know that Hayden was mastering the concepts we were covering in math, that his reading fluency was improving, that his worldview, in light of significant portions of our worlds history, was taking shape. Now that our first semester is coming to a close, I can say with confidence that we have achieved each of those things yet the most exciting and beneficial part of this experience so far is not that we can say he has met certain benchmarks but rather how profoundly I am being changed.  Day in and day out I am challenged - my patience is tested like never before, my nerves are grated on relentlessly, a new light is shed on my own idolatry of productivity and efficiency.  I realized quickly that if this was going to work for our family, I needed to give some considerable attention to my own flaws which have become exacerbated and exposed.  Like in all areas of parenting, the process, more than in the end result, is where the good stuff lies.  

So for now I will content myself with the little traces, the hints, the glimpses of the things we are striving for. Like when Hayden surprises us with a genuine attempt to console his sister after accidentally hurting her or when he actually puts his shoes on without having to be told before stepping out of the house.  Or when Halle articulates herself with maturity and poise and tells her brother that his actions make her feel like he loves her less.  And when Elena, after kicking and screaming with the strength of a full grown mastiff all the way up the stairs, quietly crawls under her covers, whispers 'ba-ba' to ask for her binky and then closes her eyes and sleeps.  Such sweet fruit. 


Here are a few pics of some recent fruit we are bearing.

Elena learning to cook......







Sister bonding......








And finally, the fruit of our effort to limit the time our children (boy) spend playing video games:  If no wii, no ipod, iphone, or computer, the silly games on his sister's pink camera will do just fine.  Sigh.

Until next time..............

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My New Friend

It's been a while.  I have no excuse for this recent hiatus from blogging other than that I just haven't felt like writing.  Thoughts and ideas circulate in my head but they never reach a point of culmination necessary to even begin a post.  Maybe this is because my musings of late have been heavy, deeper than usual, and thus, harder to articulate.  Maybe I am wrestling with some lingering insecurity over the impressions I leave on my readership.  Maybe I am just lazy and inconsistent.  Regardless, I am moving on.

I recently made a new friend.  This friend has been around for a long time and although I have always known about her, I had yet, in all my 30 years, to acknowledge her as a friend.  In fact, I have fostered quite a bit of animosity toward her throughout my life and it wasn't until these past few weeks as I was so burdened my the weight of my hatred that I decided I would try to relinquish my ill-feelings and embrace this ever-faithful, never changing, with-you-'till-you-die kind of friend.  Her name is Brokenness.  She sticks close.

As an enemy, Brokenness brings a huge burden of shame and remorse.  I know this very well.  There is an inevitable cyclical pattern to my life that starts with a season of unabated effort to stake victory over my enemy followed closely by the crushing disappointment of yet another defeat.  I am trapped.  Longing to feel good about myself, my actions, my decisions, my being, my pride seeks hard after conquest of the habitual fleshliness that follows me everywhere I go.  Functioning under the self-inflicted pressure to overcome it is exhausting.  As a perfectionist, I often have a firm, all-or-nothing approach to things in my life and it serves to forcefully perpetuate this cycle.  I end up saying to myself, (not out loud or even consciously), 'If I cant overcome my character flaws, then why even try?  Useless.'  And down goes the spiral until something leads me again to the delusion that I can change myself.

So, as the saying goes "if you cant beat 'em, join 'em.   And so I will align myself on the same side as Brokenness and see where that leads.

As a friend, Brokenness ushers me into a true humility - one that accepts grace and allows me to see others through it's lens.  There is tremendous freedom and weightlessness.  I sort of flail around in the 5 stages of grief as I attempt to deal with my flaws and imperfections.  I deny their existence, I become angry, I try to bargain with God to just take them away so I can feel 'normal', sometimes I become depressed for a time until whatever ailment is no longer so fresh in my mind, but I never seem to come to a place of true acceptance.  Embracing my own brokenness is a huge step in that direction.  It seems so counterintuitive to accept something for what it is, to just let it be and call that progress yet no more so than the notion that to truly live, one must first die, and that in serving lies a greater reward than in being served.

I am looking forward to exploring more the idea that our weakness can be our greatest strength.  I am curious to know what that really looks like in my life with Brokenness as a friend.  I have always believed that God is more that able to bring good from even the worst in me and even though I know in my head it is not limited to this, I usually tend to see and expect that 'good' to come in the form of relief, removal, complete acquittal, 180 degree change.  Once again, my expectations prove false and I am left with none.  Yet, I am hopeful that my journey with my new friend will be an exciting one.


Have you begun this journey yet?  Do you have stories to share?

Until next time......

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tuesday Musings - Clearing Spaces

My home is a metaphor for my life in many ways.  It's divided into fragments or, rooms, if you will, (in fact, as my life has become more fragmented we have coincidentally acquired more rooms) some of which I am more willing to invite you into than others.  Some are (um..sometimes) clean, neat and well decorated (relative term!) and others are sad and neglected.  There is inevitable damage from the wear and tear of life (often brought about by the same boys, ehm, people in both cases). It grows fuller by the year and contains my greatest joy.

I was reminded yesterday of yet another way in which the maintenance of my home parallels the maintenance of my life.  It is so hard to clear spaces.  One of the disadvantages of living in home bigger than you really need is that there are all these random spaces that are not actually necessary for containing things.  For example, there are some cabinets at the top of our stairs along what would be the balcony of the second floor.  I am obliged to set something decorative on top though my limited choice of objects has produced something far from interesting to look at.  I assume these cabinets are meant to contain the linens of people who have more linens than are presently being used in bedrooms and bathrooms. (which is not us).  What this counter top-type space is good for however, is the piling up of all kids of random objects set there by 4 people who shall remain anonymous as they travel up and down the stairs.  Its ornaments often include, in addition to the too few and too small shabby (not chic) picture frames intentionally put there,  a showering of miniscule lego parts, open tubes of lip-gloss, dirty laundry, week (some even older!) old dishes and cups that have been hiding under beds and in closets (or in plain sight on someone's desk!) awaiting their voyage to the dishwasher (or trash!) piles of trash or other items to discard and of course, poopy diapers.  Keeping this thing clear is impossible.  It is my nemesis when it comes to housework.  It attracts clutter with a magnetism that is beyond my strength to conquer.

Come to think of it, this is a lot like life in general.  I often mindlessly fill up spaces in my life with meaningless tasks just to be doing something.  The stillness which often precludes the realization of emptiness is fearfully avoided.  I long to clear out space in my life; in my heart and in my mind; space that will allow me to move with greater freedom and less discomfort.  But too often there is clutter. It seems that as soon as I muster up the energy to clear it away, another batch comes charging in, just like at the top of my staircase.

Sometimes it's even hard to want to make or clear out space in my life.  I previously wrote about an article that discusses our inherent tendency to abhor emptiness and spaciousness.  (This was in my post on FOMO or, fear of missing out, for you newcomers - where I mentioned my fear of emptiness, be it of mind, heart or schedule being related to my fear of missing out on some experience to be had)
There was a season of my life during which stillness, silence and emptiness sat well with me.  If you haven't already guessed, this season was prior to my becoming a mom.  These days with all the stuff and the noise and activity anything else feels so foreign.  One would assume the opposite would be true; that the crazier things get the more we would need silence and calm but sadly, their perceived value diminishes the less they are known.

In recent weeks my heart, my head and my schedule have been as full as ever.  My heart is heavy for friends who are grieving and tired from fiercely working toward a sustained connection in my marriage.  My head is swirling with thoughts, facts, observations, standards and a bigilloin other things related to schooling my child at home as well as aching from thoughts related to the future of a failing business.  My schedules is double, even triple booked on some occasions and the next few weeks bring no relief.

There is no space.

Lord, help me clear some.

In the meantime, I am not sure how much photo uploading I will be doing.  So this is the perfect time to include some overlooked shots that should have been posted months ago.

Here they come...

Sweet Sisters

Last Day Of School

Here we are at Halle's last day of preschool


Elena had to do EVERYTHING the other kids did, including take a turn in the middle of the circle.


And climb up the very, very, tall tree house 


Hal with her buds Ashlyn and Merin

Fourth of July
I have always loved this holiday.  There are some many fun festivities and it means my B-day is only 4 days away (not nearly as exciting these days).  We are not always super celebratory but one thing we always do is eat a breakfast of champions at the fire station.  We love firefighters for many reasons but especially because they know how to cook up a mean pancake breakfast.  This year we decided riding our bikes to the station was a good idea.  Not so much.  Not pictured here are the many tearful and frustrated faces we encountered as a result of unwanted helmets, drastically varying bike riding paces, tired legs and overly thirsty mouths thanks to the artificial juice and copious amounts of syrup we all consumed.  It made for some cute pics though.....

E is NOT into her helmet.


Just out of the driveway - things still looked good.


Pre-meltdown





So cute (and rare)





NOT into the backpack either


VERY into the bounce house and giant blow up slide though.  I took her down a few times with me but then as I was distracted talking to a friend, I see her at the very top all by her self and before I could say anything down she went.  Oh well, she survived (and begged and begged to go again)

Until next time...........

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Musings - 8 Reasons Why I Love My Marriage

Yesterday, Brian and I celebrated our 8th Wedding anniversary.
Wow.  8 whole years.  That is high school and college put together.  (It's funny how I still judge lengths of time by comparing them to high school and college.  I wonder if I will ever grow out of that.)
We went out on a little date to celebrate and had lots of good conversation; both of which are real treats around here these days.
I spent much of my day pondering the many things I appreciate about our relationship and I thought I might as well write about it.
Here it goes:
(Disclaimer:  I am going to go ahead and skip the whole 'Im married to my best friend' cliche and just take that one for granted.  Also, I am going to intentionally leave out anything that has to do with children.  It is very rare these days that our marriage gets much thought or recognition all by itself without any mention of kids.  I would like to do that here. )

1.  It is hard - yes, my marriage is hard.  Like most marriages it has it's good times and it's bad.  But the inevitable difficulty that comes with intimately sharing a life with someone serves as a catalyst for all kinds of good stuff.  Eventually.  If I let it.  The fact that marriage is hard reminds me that life is hard, at least sometimes, and that it doesn't do any good to whine or complain or try to run from the inevitable disappointments in our time here on earth.  I have learned that tension and conflict are not as scary as they once seemed.  There is no need to be ashamed of them and in fact, they are very important parts of growing together with someone else.

2. It changes me - like I said, good stuff often comes from the bad.  My marriage is a fire - sometimes it burns but it refines me like nothing else.  Lord knows I need refining.  My marriage forces me to continually face my flaws and weakness head on and because ignoring them or pretending they are not there would be a great insult to my husband, I am forced to deal with them.  And I am better off, for sure.
Never before have I been so aware of areas of my life that need changing and never before have I been as eager for the change to actually occur.  I enjoy change and though it proves to be terribly difficult, I enjoy process of working toward healthy change in my life and person.

3. It is unique - there is no other marriage like it.  I love that.  No use comparing ourselves to other couples out there. They are not us.  Brian and I recently revisited our Meyer's-Briggs personality profiles.  It is so interesting to think about the many ways that we are different and the same.  We are such a unique blend of varying personality trait, interests, desires, fears, etc.  Knowing that really causes me to value our marriage for its specialty and appreciate the present state of our union, no matter what's going on.

4.  My husband is very humble - One of the most attractive qualities I find in Brian is what I like to call his 'humble contentedness'.  It's difficult for me to ascribe either of those two characteristics to myself despite my deep longing for them and he continuously inspires me to work toward them even more.  Others may strive to prove themselves, to maintain an image or perception from others, an exhausting pursuit both to live and watch, from which I find such relief in Brian.  This relief drew me to him like a magnet in the beginning.  It still does.  In my marriage I find freedom to be nothing but exactly who I am, ugly though she may be at times.  Brian's humility frees him from needing me to be anything else.  He needs no trophy.  Not in the form of a wife or in any other form for that matter.  He does not seek self recognition.  He is a great example of how to live as an extrovert who deeply values social connectedness without needing others to validate his self worth.  He is content with himself and what he has to offer.

5. My husband is adorable - this embarrasses him greatly, I know.  Apparently being adorable is some kind of grave violation of one's manhood.  I'm sorry, but it is true.  Everyone who knows Brian loves him. He has a way of making people feel comfortable and making people laugh (and laughing with them).  His laughter is contagious.  His lightheartedness is refreshing.  He takes a genuine interest in others and makes you feel important.  You can not help but adore him. You know you do.

6.  My Marriage is FUN - I married a very fun-loving guy who, as I mentioned, loves to laugh.  He loves to remind me that because laughter is the hearts best medicine he is likely going to live longer than me.  Sometimes I take myself a little too seriously and make too big a deal out something too small to worry about.  (just sometimes) I am often relieved by Brian's 'Hakuna Matatta' approach to life.  Even though we have slightly differing views about that constitutes 'fun' in regard to pastimes (i.e shopping, pedicures and having tea vs. hunting, fishing and gaming) we always manage to have a good time.  Often times I find myself in need of some good old fashion fun and my marriage is a great place to find it.

7. It gets better by the year - I fear that at first glance this appears corny and cliche.  But, what I mean to say is not that marriage is always, in every moment, better than before.  Indeed there have been seasons when we have been worse off than ever.  There is no telling what life will bring our way that will strain and test and try and even break us.  But despite the lowest of lows, we emerge better, stronger, wiser, closer.  Only by the grace of God.  My marriage is such a vivid example of the working of God's redemption in our lives.  If he lets us hit a low, enter the depths of the pit, its only so that He can pick us up and carry us out, so that He will be revealed and known in our lives.

8.  My marriage is home - Like a child who thinks of running away or hides under the bed, there are times when I chose not to be fully present in my marriage, thinking that being somewhere else for a while, even just mentally, will provide me some kind of retreat.  But no matter how hard I seek I will never know rest, comfort or companionship better than than I do when I'm at home.  I love being home.  For better or for worse, I am here to stay.