God is faithful, but we’re not marrying God.

PIC split tree bound back together

Every day, I bless a merciful God that there was no internet to speak of when I was younger. This means there are no insanely humiliating photos of me in a crop top and acid wash harem pants. It also means that I never published an article like this one in Catholic Exchange:  Marriage Is Work.

In this piece, which I absolutely would have written as a newlywed, the earnest, not-yet-married Emma Smith hears her secular coworkers lamenting the way their ex-husbands had cheated on them

“There’s so much of that out there!” my boss exclaimed. “I know one of my girlfriends who is cheating on her husband and I know a couple of other people where both of them are cheating. I guess you’re lucky if it doesn’t happen to you.”

Smith goes on to explain to the reader that she knows that her soon-to-be husband will never cheat on her.  She knows this.  She knows for a fact that it simply will not happen.

Marriage isn’t a drawing of the straws, where if your spouse cheats on you, well, “sorry, you just drew the short straw. There’s nothing you could have done to prevent it!” It’s not an institution where if you are a strong, happy, and healthy couple you’re just “the lucky ones.”

And she knows, she says, that people will think she’s just young and naive for knowing that her husband will always be faithful.

And yet, I can say that. I can say that because I have a faith and a God who stand behind me in that statement. And I can say that because the love my fiancé and I share is not human, it is divine. We love each other because we love God and we have discovered that in loving one another, we get to love God more fully. Moreover, the love that we have for one another is divine in origin. God gave it to us at our baptism and it had a full 15-20ish years to grow and mature so that when we met, it blossomed.

Well, let’s start with all the ways that Smith is right.  She says that “marriage is something you work on … marriage is a calling.”  And she is right.  She says:

Our faith allows us to make these promises [of faithfulness] because He who gave us love was faithful in His love until the end. … We as Catholics are granted the same strength of faithfulness to the end when we return our love to the one who is love. When we participate in making our love a sacrament, when we make a way for God’s grace to enter the world every day, when we demonstrate outwardly our inner devotion, we can say with full knowledge and confidence that we are not in a game of luck.

Yes indeed. A strong marriage doesn’t just spring into being on its own. If we translate our love of God into love for our spouses, and when we let our love for our spouses nourish our love for God, then we will be fulfilling our vocation.

But that’s it:  we’ll be fulfilling our vocation, period. That is all we can depend on: that God will be faithful to us.  Beyond that, things can get very messy.  When Catholics fulfill their vocation of marriage, it can turn out looking like an awful lot of things, and that includes ugly, painful things that may or may not ever get resolved in this lifetime.

Because here’s the deal: you aren’t marrying God. You’re marrying another human being. Your spouse is marrying you, and you are a human being.

And what do we know about human beings? They sin. They sin, and they sin, and they sin. Sometimes they enter into a valid marriage and then they cheat. Sometimes they understand fully what they are supposed to do, and they just don’t feel like doing it. Sometimes calamity strikes, and they crumple under the blow.  Sometimes they let their own sorrows and weaknesses and selfishness overcome the love that is offered to them. Sometimes — no, my friends, always — they are a tangled ball of good intentions and bad habits, unhealed wounds and unfounded desires.

Many, many times, the grace of the sacrament helps us to avoid serious sin. Sometimes, though, the grace of the sacrament helps us to forgive each other when we sin. Sometimes it helps us to survive when our spouses refuse to repent.

So the confident if untried Emma Smith is right in sighing over the fatalistic modern view of marriage — right in condemning the idea that some people just get lucky, and there’s no way of improving your odds. But she is disastrously, innocently, offensively wrong when she thinks that we can somehow guarantee that things will turn out well, just because we intend to work hard.

Ever heard of Hosea’s wife? Ever heard of Israel? Ever heard of the entire human race? God knows that this is what happens when you enter into a marriage with another human being: one way or another, sooner or later, your love will be rewarded with pain. And I know this because I love my husband — my faithful, loving husband — and I’ve hurt him.
I pray to God, and I hurt my husband.
I understand marriage, I believe in marriage, I have spent years upon years working on my marriage, and I hurt my husband. And He forgives me, just as I forgive him.

I am glad that Smith understands so well that the grace of marriage is something that must be actively pursued, consciously acted upon. And I hope that her confidence in her husband is rewarded with unbroken faithfulness and love, and that she will not be shattered when she discovers that he does have flaws. I hope that people read her piece and realize that it makes sense to look hard for a spouse who is trustworthy.

But I hope to God she is never involved in any kind of marriage ministry — not with the childish understanding of marriage that she has now. What will she say to the woman whose husband is cheating? Or to the man whose wife won’t stay sober, or won’t stop gambling, or won’t stop browbeating him in public? What will she say to the spouses who do work hard, and have found themselves sinned against? Maybe “Let’s put our heads together and figure out how you could have worked harder to prevent this. Good marriages aren’t just a matter of luck, you know.”

And what will she say to herself when she finds herself sinning against her husband? Maybe she will not cheat, but oh, she will hurt him. She will.  This isn’t a warning about your husband-to-be, dear confident, untried brides. It’s a warning about you.

Why give birth? Why love?

Wow.  Many, many thanks to Garard Nadal for posting this incredibly pro-life short film from Unilever:

I do not know what Unilever’s Project Sunlight is about, but man, the clip is lovely, and will do much good. A great companion, as a matter of fact, to this comic illustrating a quote from C.S. Lewis, who died fifty years ago today.  (Thanks to Jason Bach for sharing the comic on Facebook!)

Hope doesn’t mean you know nothing will go wrong.  As Lewis says:

The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

 

An unthinkable story of love

Devin Rose has written a harrowing account of their adoption story.  It begins,

Several years ago we adopted three children. We are no longer their parents. This is the story of what happened.

Everyone should read this.  Everyone.  It is so important.  It’s not only about adoption, it’s about making decisions in love.  God bless Devin and Katie and all of the children they love and care for.  I am so grateful to them for having the courage to express these dreadful truths so clearly.

 

Because my husband said I should . . .

Here is an excerpt from the chapter I’m contributing to a book about marriage:

Children give our bodies purpose.  I always have to laugh when people complain, “The Church treats women like baby-making machines!”  The truth is, the secular world is the one that treats women that way—and expends tremendous amounts of money and effort in trying to find the “off” button, often putting women through years of physical and psychological contortions with one kind of contraception after another.

The Church, on the other hand, teaches that the bodies of men and women are designed the way they are, reproductive systems and all, because they have a specific purpose in life.  What is that purpose?  Something huge:  to make love, literally — to create something, to bring new love into the world.  Sometimes this looks like physically bearing children (whether many or few); sometimes it looks like adopting; sometimes it looks like simply becoming aware that we are all here to love and to be loved.

When we can witness our own, familiar bodies actually doing this right before our very eyes – making something where there used to be nothing, bringing something new into the world – we are compelled to think about why we are here, and why God made us, and what it means to make love.

The book is by Our Sunday Visitor Press.  Will share more details when I get the green light!  It looks like it’s going to be a great project.

Catholic Digest: Pro-life Even at the End of Life

Oops, just realized I have a second article in the latest edition of Catholic Digest.  Do get your hands on this one if you can!  The strength and clarity of the people I interviewed is just astonishing. I wish I had had enough space to include all of what they had to say about making end-of-life decisions for the people they love.

I wrote about the experience of tackling this harrowing subject in a post called “Bright Wings.”  I’m just going to reprint it here (it ran first in the Register on Jan. 17, 2013), because it dovetails so nicely with Thursday’s Bigger on the Inside post.

****

I’m writing an article for Catholic Digest about end-of-life issues.  To be more precise, I’m finally writing this article.  I was putting it off because (a) I’m lazy, (b) it involved conducting interviews, and I get very nervous talking on the phone, (c) it seemed like a depressing topic, (d) I was petrified of getting some detail wrong, leading readers astray, and causing the needless deaths of countless helpless grandmas, and most of all because (e) I was scared.  Scared of finding out exactly what the Church actually teaches.

I knew the secular ideas of Church teaching were wrong.  I knew that the Church is not cruel or heartless, and I knew that her teachings are derived from hundreds of years of rigorous scholarship, and are guided by the Holy Spirit.  I knew that sometimes people suffer needlessly because people misunderstand Church teaching.

But I also knew, without even realizing I was thinking this way, that what God wanted from us was awful.  Or, in the older sense, awe-ful.  Scary, hard, intractable, too much to bear.  Without realizing I was thinking this way, I thought I’d have to massage the facts into something more palatable for the general public, so as not to scare people away from fidelity to the Church.

Yep, I thought God would need my help.

I did five interviews in three days, I read the catechism, I looked up the relevant documents, and I got some clarification from Rich Doerflinger.  I did my research with the same internal posture as I take on externally when I’m watching a horror movie that everybody says is really, really good and I shouldn’t miss:  I was tense, defensive, ready to cover my eyes as the hero slo-o-o-o-owly opens the door to see what’s inside the creepy old shack in the woods.

So, I opened the door. I found out what the Church really says about end-of-life issues — how to make the decisions, how to care for people, how to do your best to strike the balance between letting technology do its job and letting nature take its course.

Guess what the Church teaches?  God loves you.  He loves life.  He has life to share, and He shares the light of His eternal life by sending the Church as a support when we are weak.  He sends the Holy Spirit into the ICU and the NICU with the respirators and dialysis machines, into the womb that holds the anencephalic child, into the hospice room with the 80-pound man who no longer wants or needs to eat.

And because He is a God who loves, He is a God who grieves — not only for the sick and the dying, but for the living, who have to carry the burden of their decisions after sitting up night after night without sleeping, without a change of clothes, without knowing clearly if they are causing pain or bringing relief to the ones they love.  That every life is valuable, and that includes the lives of caregivers.  He enlightens the minds of nurses.  He strengthens the hearts of parents.  He brings clarity to grown children.  And He grieves.

What I learned is that the Church teaches, “God loves you, God loves you, God loves you.”  Always and forever, in the darkness of doubt, and in the light of the truth.  This is what is at the heart of all the teachings of the Church; this is what we will always see when we force ourselves to uncover our eyes and watch the story as it unfolds:

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Communication keeps a marriage strong.

Him:  I love you.

Me:  I love you, too.  But if you get me pregnant, I’ll stab you in the eye.

Him:  I have two.

Valentine’s Day Massacre

(photo source)

This year, I revealed to my husband that I actually kind of like Valentine’s Day.  This is despite all the times I told him that I hated it, it’s lame and stupid, and a made-up, over-commercialized saccharine-fest invented by Hallmark and Big Floral.   For fourteen years, the poor man has been wondering why, every February 14, I would say I wasn’t mad at him, while I was clearly mad at him.

I was mad, you see, because everyone else was getting flowers and riding in heart-shaped hot air balloons and– I don’t know, eating hot fudge sundaes that turned out to have a tiny violin player at the bottom.  And here I was getting nothing, which is what I repeatedly told him I wanted.  Pray for me:  I’m married to a monster.

Anyway, I finally realized that it doesn’t make me defective to enjoy flowers — and that if it’s artificial to suddenly act romantic on a nationally-specified day — well, we need all the help we can get.  Alarm clocks are artificial, too, but if they didn’t automatically remind us of what we ought to do, we’d be in big trouble.   So, yeah, I asked him to get me flowers, and take the plastic wrap off, and he will, and I’m going to like them.  Whew, that wasn’t so hard!

Having taken this huge leap forward in our communication skills, I decided to hunt around to see what normal human beings do on Valentine’s Day.

If you want to feel like you’ve got your act together, just ask the internet a question.  Okay, maybe not in all circumstances.  If you’re rewiring your living room, for instance, or trying to remove the Spaghetti-o decoupage from an angry cat, you may very well have lots to learn.

But if you need help with your relationships?  A quick trip down Google lane will have you feeling like an expert, a champion, a genius, a hero of common sense and decency.  For instance, if you Google “What do guys want for Valentine’s Day?” you will come across this depressing paen to modern love, written by a man:

One of my favorite presents was a trip to the grocery store.

I remember the clear, cloudless day, sun shining down on me proudly pushing my cart into Central Market. Rachel was with me, and some friends who came along.

I picked up a steak and set it in the cart. Rachel said, “That’s great, Doug!”

I grabbed some chips. Rachel said, “That’s really great, Doug!”

I picked up some really expensive jam. Rachel said, “Yum, that will be really great, Doug!”

In fact everything I picked up got the same response from her (or very close to it), and that was my present: I could choose anything I wanted, and she could only say how great everything was. What an awesome gift that was, a trip to the grocery store.

So what did I get, besides some red AND yellow peppers?

I got what most men want. I was accepted.

I weep for America.  I weep for mankind.  I weep for myself, because this is the saddest, stupidest thing I’ve ever read, and I read it three times to make sure I wasn’t missing something.  What is Doug going to get for Christmas from the gracious lady Rachel?  A coupon for Not Getting Kicked In the Nuts?

You know, I probably treat my husband this way sometimes.  But the difference is, neither one of us is okay with it.  We don’t assume that relentless criticism and belittling is part of a normal relationship — we try to get past it.  And please note,Doug and Rachel’s travesty of a relationship is just as much Doug’s fault as it is Rachel’s:   women can’t demean their husbands and boyfriends without the man allowing, even wanting it to happen.  It takes two to be this dysfunctional.

This reminds me of the story of the man who had invented a brilliant method for saving money on the farm.  “On the first week,” he says, “I fed my  horse a bale of hay.  On the second week, I fed him half a bale of hay.  On the third week, I fed him a quarter of a bale.  I was damn near to teaching the horse to live on nothing at all, but on the fourth week, the ungrateful s.o.b. died on me!”

Happy stupid Valentine’s Day, folks.  I hope you get something nice.  Or if you get nothing, I hope at least it doesn’t feel like a gift!

Thought experiment

Belief in God is for the weak, who are just looking for comfort and an escape from reality.

Some days, yeah.  Probably.  But also:

You beg God for strength often enough, and eventually you will see that you have none yourself.  None.  What you are without God is brittle and empty and cold, like dead coral.  You can’t even make your own heart beat.

You pray for the courage to forgive someone, and you soon notice that you yourself live next to the abyss.  You play next to it — you spend your life fooling around, threatening to throw yourself in, just to get attention — and the communion of saints is forever hauling you back, buckling your safety straps again, teaching you the same old rules of basic decency.

You’re called to love, stupidly, endlessly, outrageously.  You think on the perfections of God, and then you see that you have been pouring your heart into people and things whose whole nature is to let you down.  And after you realize this, your main responsibility is to love some more.

And you’re called to be loved.  He loves you when you don’t want to be loved, and then He leaves you when you don’t want to be left.  And when you don’t like it, that’s when you need to change.

The mercy of God comes like a flood.  Not a warm bath:  a flood.

You can go back and salvage some of your stuff, but you will not be living in that house again.

“You have nothing else but God.”

Today’s post was written by “Pansy” for her blog, Pansy and Peony — and she graciously allowed me to re-post it here today.  Pansy is a young and lovely mother of seven, who discovered a year ago that her husband was having an affair.  She wrote to readers for prayers, and has this grateful update.
I was going to edit it for length, but it’s a fairly quick read, and I think you will appreciate her candor and her expressive language.  I found this essay moving and, frankly, fascinating.
Please note:  this essay was written by a real person who has clearly been through enough.  Comments criticizing her actions will be deleted immediately.
UPDATE:  A link to this post also went up on Mark Shea’s blog.
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It’s been nearly one year since I posted this. I was thinking of waiting for the one year mark, mostly because I just didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I also wasn’t sure in my heart until pretty recently that it’s all going to be alright, so I didn’t want to jinx anything. Also, something about the whole St. Blog’s Pantsapalooza Event of 2010 made me think here I am actually in possession of some knowledge I should perhaps pass on. In many of the comboxes, in between the yays and nays for pants, there would be talk here and there of not one, but of few couples someone might know, Catholics with large families, breaking up. I stumbled the other day on a statistic that only 1/3 of couples survive infidelity. I cannot even begin to understand why us. I have no idea, except God allowed, chose, helped…He did it. So I guess it was time to write…something. I hope it’s not lame.

As of now, we are surviving, we are building a new marriage and our old marriage is dead and gone. It’s is withered and decayed and the new one is bright and filled with hope. As of right now, I love my husband more than I ever have. We are not merely “riding it out”. Everything is new again. I place the “blame” on you, Dear People. When this broke, my husband was very lost. He will tell you he was in the darkest place he has ever been. He was evil or surrounded by evil, not sure. He was depressed, he obviously wasn’t thinking straight and the more he made bad choices, the worse he felt, and in turn would make more bad choices. He was just piling more “spiritual muck” onto himself. As Mark Shea says “sin makes you stupid”. So many men I see who take the route my husband have become literally unreachable under all that muck. When you all reached out and prayed, my husband will tell you it was around that time he started to wake up and come out the fog. This wasn’t an immediate process and at first, he fought it, but it was a way for God to grab him and take hold and slowly start clearing that muck away.

I cannot underestimate the practical help as well, the donations, the words of encouragement. I was…hysterical. I was scared, confused. At the time, the kind words I read and the support kept me going. I desperately needed it because while I was receiving support here, I was hearing equally…um, “non-supportive” words from some of the icky people my husband allowed to influence him. One of his family members told me it was my fault because I had so many kids. Seven is ridiculous, I should have stopped at three and my husband clearly didn’t want any more but I refused to listen. I must have had those kids to keep him around. She, other family, the girlfriend all told me it was because I “was a bad wife”. So yes, hearing encouraging words was necessary at that point because I didn’t know what was right, what was happening, what was real and my self-esteem struck a huge blow so it was easy to believe I deserved it all for doing things like having children, and being a boring housewife.

The donations helped in more ways than the obvious as well. My husband left and came home in February. Yes, he did support us, but in his very “rational” state, he did not think about what it costs to support a family of 8 in one spot and the cost of supporting himself in the New York City area 3 hours away prior to leaving. The donations helped with practical matters, but it also gave me a great deal of confidence that some how, some way, if things go badly, I’ll make it. I think it also sent a signal to him that despite surrounding himself with nitwits like the family members I described who had his ear, most people looked down on his actions to the point they were willing to donate money! (Incidentally, when this happened, I became adept at finding email accounts, decoding passwords and an ex girlfriend came out the woodwork who had been lurking on this blog to congratulate him on finally getting rid of the “old ball and chain”, to tell him to contact her and to let him know “do you know she’s asking for donations?” I deleted it.)

There has been talk that maybe people should not say bad things about Bud McFarlane Jr for leaving his wife in the comboxes lately. No. He should know that the general population looks down on such actions. Admonish the sinner. It’s not simply for the sake of “siding” with Bai, but for the sake of his own soul. My husband, on his own accord went to confession, and spent an half hour bringing the priest up to speed. Mass that day, ended up starting late because of it. I’m not sure if that would have happened if things did not play out the way they did. Every piece of this had it’s purpose.

So what happened? I cannot even begin to start, it would take a book. It was the hardest year of my life. I now have grey hair, crows feet. I have these permanent bags under my eyes from crying everyday (great product: ).

I can say that this was a spiritual battle for sure. At first our progress was teeny tiny baby steps and a lot of uncertainty. It wasn’t until late June that I decided I would stay married to him. Before that, I don’t think he was certain about staying married to me until February-when he decided he wanted the marriage, I was sick, fed up, done with him. Since June, the progress was slow and then started snowballing. Spiritually, each time we made a large step at progress, Satan was right there with a rebuttal. Every stinking time. This is still the case. It’s almost immediate. We actually can see it for what it is and more and more it gives me the confidence that we are “meant to be”. The only way things will continue to work from here on out is relying on prayer and the sacraments. Satan has a foothold in our lives. No way around that.

I want to share some things I learned for anyone going through this:

1. Pray, pray, pray. You have nothing else but God. I made the Novena to the 13 Blessed Souls a few times, the St. Rita I don’t know how many times. Our Lady Undoer of Knots, St. Jude, St. Joseph the Flying Novena to the Infant of Prague in addtion to tons of rosaries, Chaplets of Divine Mercy, the Angelus everyday for months. I said a Magnificat every time it popped into my head. I don’t even know how many novenas I made. I begged for prayers. I debated a lot between telling people and asking for prayers and keeping my dirty laundry to myself. It’s a tough call because people who love you and see you suffer will not want you to reconcile with your spouse, which is 150% completely understandable. Still, I think the reason my husband turned around was the prayers.

There will be times when you will doubt if God even exists. Pray harder then.

2. Read Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson. And/or implement the “180″ as soon as possible. This will keep your head on straight when you think you are loosing it, and may help get your marriage back-if that is what you wish.

On a side note: we Catholics do a good job in having a preliminary outline how to keep a marriage Godly. We do not have a lot of resources to turn to when things go bad. we have Retrouvaille, but that works only after both parties decide to work it out. There is nothing to stop a man (or woman) in stuck in “the fog” dead in his tracks and let him know what he’s doing. We need something. Now. Maybe Greg can help us with that?

3. Take care of yourself. I did a little, but only after everyone else was tended to. I would only work-out as reward if I finished all my chores, which of course, were never finished. I figured once the kids were gown and out, I’d have “me” time again. Through all this I was tired, defeated, depressed. I started drinking. By most people’s standards, not heavily, but I know I wasn’t doing it “for the right reasons”. So instead, I knew I needed an outlet and it would either be negative (drinking) or positive. I hit the gym, I started getting pedicure, I actually bought clothes for myself, I decided to try once a week and get to a restaurant if I could. Being cheated on is a huge self-esteem killer. People stopping you constantly and telling you how good you look, and then finding out you had seven kids, and in front of your husband…priceless!

4. Sacramentals. I said before this is a spiritual battles. Holy water, blessed oil, blessed salt. I mixed all three up and made crosses with it over every window, every doorway. I spiked my husband’s food…

5. Get support from people who have been through this. People who have been through this have a very unique perspective. It all seems very black and white, cut and dry until it happens to you.

7. Outside professional help. Get counseling/therapy. Find a priest or a few and talk to them. Appraise your medical doctors, midwives, pediatricians what’s going on. My family practitioner knows everything. I have found myself in the emergency room a number of times this year and since my doctor knows what is happening in my life, diagnosing the problems was easy. Did anyone know that you could have panic attacks in your stomach? I didn’t.

6. Some good books:

Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson

Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs

The Love Dare

Here’s one I haven’t read, but I want to read desperately:

Transcending Post-infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD): The Six Stages of Healing by Dennic C. Ortman

The Bible!!!! This is nothing new and it’s nothing the good book didn’t warn about. Read Proverbs 5

Websites:

Marriage Builders

Surviving Infidelity

Four Stages of Grief (apparently, I’m at “anger” right now).

Lastly, I’m talking mostly about me here. I’m talking a lot about what my husband did wrong. I give a lot of credit for the prayers and help people gave me, but I have to also give credit to my husband. It takes a lot to totally admit you are wrong and to allow God to break you down and build you back up again into a new person. I have notmade it easy. Yes I prayed, yes I tried to stay “right”, but I haven’t been a saint on this journey. I’ve been downright evil and wretched at times. The fact that he stayed when he was unsure if he should to begin with, when he was not raised with a background where people are married is simply amazing. The fact that not only did he decide to stay, but change, that he recognized his bad choices were not the key to happiness…many people can’t or do not even know how to not exist in their lies.

7 In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people who have no need of repentance.~Luke 15:7

Once again, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Old Year Resolutions

Back around New Year’s Day, when people were making resolutions, many of the good ladies of the internet were sharing their plans for self-improvement.   They all had long and laudable lists to accomplish, but they wanted to avoid that all-too-common problem with good intentions:   losing focus, petering out, or just plain forgetting.

To avoid this pitfall, they planned to distill their finest aspirations into a single, pregnant word.  They would post this word in a prominent place where they would see it often, and they would be encouraged and redirected throughout the day.

To this idea, Jen from Conversion Diary responded in a way that I could have done myself:

“Here’s the problem,” I told a friend.  Ann Voskamp’s word is YES, Rachel Balducci andArwen Mosher are both doing JOY…I feel like holy people like that can do this sort of thing, but I’m too much of an overly analytical grouch for it.” I thought that if, say, I were going to try to be more joyful, I would need specific, measurable goals in that department, lest I end up just rolling my eyes at the “JOY!” sign posted on my refrigerator as I shuffle around joylessly.

She’s a better woman than I am.  I’m pretty sure that the first time I glanced at “JOY!” on the refrigerator while crawling around with a wad of rags, trying to sop up the rapidly-congealing jello soup that someone forgot to tell me they spilled all over the floor, where they were, incidentally, storing their math books and their collection of unwashable fairy costumes, I wouldn’t be rolling my eyes — I’d be gnashing my teeth, and possibly actually biting someone.  Yeah, I got yer JOY right here.

So, no, this plan wasn’t for me.  (Jen, however, ultimately decided to go with “Fortitude,” which is a good, versatile word, and realistic.)

But why am I bringing this story up now?  Because I recently sorted through a bunch of old papers, and in among the long division worksheets and Cub Scout permission slips, I found a homemade valentine.

It was from my eight-year-old daughter to my seven-year-old son, and in a very few words, it illustrated such love, such consideration, and such a profound understanding of her brother’s character and basic constitution, that I decided to make it my mid-year Word.

I hung it in a prominent place, and every time I pass by it, it gives my heart a lift.  Even on the darkest day, I smile, and I remember anew what true love is all about.