I was blessed last month to be invited by our morning and evening MOM’s Groups to speak about marriage. At the time, I wondered what a man in his late 40s could offer a group of mostly young mothers in their first several years of marriage. Then I recalled a conversation with our oldest son Brendan and his wife Becky when they were discerning marriage. Specifically, I remember telling them, “We promise for better or for worse without really knowing what that means.”
It’s best that we can’t see the future. Maybe an unforeseen struggle will derail all our plans. Maybe it’s a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a child, a broken past or hidden addiction. Or maybe it’s the slow-building weight of sarcasm or unsolicited advice, the accumulated slights of day-to-day living in close quarters, or the endless routine of raising a family. Whatever our cross, when it comes, we can either carry it as a burden or swing it as a bludgeon. For better, or for worse.
After 26 years of marriage, I’ve learned that I’m still the same guy. Certainly I’ve changed a bit: I’ve kicked a few really bad habits, praise God, and gained some gray in my hair and beard. But I still have all the same buttons in all the same places, and Jodi still pushes them—for better or for worse.
Those who read my blog regularly know that book-related posts often include the caveat that this book might not be for everyone. In the case of one my latest reads, Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore by Patric Richardson and Karin B. Miller, it’s definitely true, though not for the usual reasons. There is no dark or objectionable content, nor even a discouraging word, from start to finish.
However, I did make the mistake of discussing this book in mixed company exactly one time. The women were amused and ribbed me gently. The men in the room rolled their eyes and mocked me openly, then worked to change the subject. Apparently a book about doing laundry in more economical and environmentally friendly ways, written by a fellow with a deep love of vintage fashions, disco balls, and stain removal is, in fact, not for everyone.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about throwing out my lower back and learning to surrender my plans to God’s. Turns out the urgent priorities that had to be postponed or cancelled as a result were only the first small lessons God had for me.
We cancelled a trip to Texas, and I pushed back a few other appointments and projects. But certain things—like the baptism of our second grandchild in North Dakota and Trevor’s graduation party here at home—could not be held off. As a result, the following weekend I found myself walking gingerly through a Bismarck hotel lobby while Jodi lugged suitcases and bags to the elevator and up to our room.
Of course, this pushed my insecurity and vainglory buttons: In my mind’s eye, I could see the clerk and all the other guests eyeing our family, wondering why a strapping middle-aged man wouldn’t lift a finger to help his overburdened wife.
My last column was about wasting time—accomplishing too little with the time I’m given.
It has been a busy spring and summer. Our youngest son graduated, a new grandbaby arrived, and three of our children are relocating in preparation for a new phase of life. We have a grad party in the works, vacation plans, work and home projects, and all the ordinary, day-to-day stuff.
Often I cope well with our busy-ness—remembering with gratitude that we are juggling blessings. But sometimes stress and anxiety get the better of me. With so much to do, I rush around barking orders and straining to make everything go according to plan.
Whose plan? Mine of course; the one in my head. This was the plan for July:
Several weeks ago I resumed praying the St. Joseph the Worker prayer on a daily basis for the first time in years. The Church teaches that the Holy Spirit calls us to prayer, and this was definitely a Holy Spirit inspiration. For the past month, time and again, I’ve been convicted by a few brief lines near the end of this prayer:
…having always before me the hour of death and the accounting I must then render of time ill spent, of talents unemployed, of good undone, and of my empty pride in success, which is so fatal to the work of God.Prayer to St. Joseph the Worker
I don’t know about you, but I waste a lot of time. Oh, I get done whatever needs to get done, but that’s a low bar. The real question is, how do I spend the bulk of the time given to me?
I’m working on my old ’66 Ford pickup this summer. Three years ago it was a daily driver, until it conked out along the roadside between Elk River and home. Since then, it has sat in our driveway, in various stages of disassembly, while I tried to track down the problem and fix it. I’ve had the diagnosis and the parts for two years or so, and finally got it running again last month.
What took so long? First of all, there was the anticipation that the job was harder and the problem likely bigger than I understood. I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to finish the job that I failed to start it!
But more than that, I chose not to do it, because I had other projects, other priorities, other things I’d rather do. For example, in the past three years: