Monday, August 04, 2008

better than a pep rally

We went to church today.

It's been several months since we've attended church because the children get sick (almost) every time we go. But it was a good decision to attend this morning, because I don't think we've ever been in need of a church sermon as much as we were today.

Without going in to all the gory details, this morning - before 9:00 AM - Charlie and I both declared that our marriage had suddenly morphed in to something hardly recognizable anymore. We couldn't pinpoint the exact reason we were short with each other, and why we felt so frustrated with everything at that particular moment, but the weight of our responsibilities was suddenly too much.

We were angry.

We were vocal.

I noticed that the windows were open and we were speaking IN LOUD TONES but it didn't matter. Who in our neighborhood wouldn't understand that the family with lots and lots of small children and a hacking dog needs to have a good shoutfest every so often?

We have issues. Most of them (if not all) surrounding the offspring that we wanted and prayed for since the start of our marriage. You know, those little things we call children.

Children that don't sleep well. Children that don't nap well. Children that don't poop well. Children that wake up in the middle of the night and decide to wake up their siblings and they all jump out of bed and unload their chest of drawers and try on new clothes and then come wake up their parents to start the day and the parents crawl out of bed before seeing the clock and realizing that it is only 3:45 AM.

Children that destroy things. Children that make new messes faster than we can clean the last one up. Children that grow fast and need new beds and new clothes and new shoes. Children that don't eat. Children that talk back. Children that tease. Children that whine. Children that scream and scream and scream. Children that run away in the parking lot. Children that open the deadbolt on the front door and wander out in to the yard. Children that overflow the bathroom sink. Children that wash their dishes and have a teaparty with water from the toilet.

Children that generate 20 loads of laundry a week because they like to change their own clothes five times a day - and throw their barely worn clothes in a hamper with dirty bar mops. Children that take up almost all of our free time as a couple. Children that take up almost all of our free time for ourselves. Children that take up almost all of our expendable income. Children that have firmly planted themselves in our home and are here to stay.


When Charlie told me that all he wanted was for the weekend to be over so that he could get back to work, it struck me. That's not the way it should be. Heaven knows, I don't want the weekend to be over because then it will just be me and the CHILDREN.

I didn't know where we were going this morning when I got the children dressed and put on my tevas. I didn't know where we would end up when I grabbed the diaper bag and ordered every one to get in to the car. I didn't know where we spend the morning as we pulled out of the driveway and left our neighborhood.

But as soon as we saw the church and realized that it was Sunday, we knew.

We arrived more than an hour before the sermon was scheduled to begin, but since the nursery school was staffed, we dropped off our children and headed for the sanctuary. Because we were early and there were people setting up the stage for the service, we felt a little awkward sitting in the back, or inconspicously off to the side, as we normally do. But once we made eye contact with the singers who were doing sound-checks, we moved down to the front and sat in the center of the row.

For what seemed like a long while, we sat and talked. We watched people file in and take up the chairs around us. We listened to the prerecorded music that is piped in until the band takes the stage. And during this time, we both came to the conclusion that our marriage is sinking fast.

If we don't do something to stay afloat, we are both going to drown.

Finally, our church's praise band took the stage. They are such an awesome band every time I hear them, I feel the worries of the world that I carry around in my heart, slough away. And because their talent is so powerful, and the slideshows that they flash on the screen to accompany their music are so beautiful, every time I hear them, I am moved to tears.

So there I was, sitting in the third row - center - bawling. Thinking about my family, thinking about all the things that I wish were different. Looking at the photographs on the big screens of waves crashing on the beach and thunderclouds moving through the desert. Thinking about my sisters and my father and my dog. Thinking about my role as a friend, mother, daughter and wife. Thinking that although people might think that I'm amazing or inspirational, on the inside I feel like I am failing colossally.

Within five minutes of the minister taking the podium, I knew that God had led us to church today. We didn't know where we were going to end up when we pulled out of our driveway, but as soon as the sermon began, we knew that this is where we supposed to be.

I've always been a somewhat spiritual person, but ever since we've had children, I have become even more so. I hang on to spirituality and prayer like a life line. I've never been one to quote Bible verses and have always felt awkward when someone does. But I think that's because I grew up in a Catholic family and that wasn't something that anyone in my family ever did.

I don't think we even owned a Bible.

But today, when our pastor was reading verses from the Bible, it struck me. Today, when I felt like my marriage was on the verge of collapse and my children were running me in to an early grave, what I heard was exactly what I needed to hear.

All I kept thinking was "Wow, that sounds like a pretty accurate description of what I'm going through right now. And that, too. And that. And that. And ... hey ... how in the world ... this is pretty damn good ... who wrote this book, anyway?"

These are just some of the notes that I was able to furiously jot down, through my tears.

Parents lead and children follow.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Ephesians 6:1

Children grow, then they go. Prioritize your family. A healthy relationship between the parents must be the first priority.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Even when they are being totally bitchy and you wish they'd just GO away). Ephesians 5:25 (& Jen 8/3/08.)

Practice loving discipline because otherwise, children can morph in to little sinners that will divide and conquer.

A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by discipling them. Proverbs 13:24

Children are not wired to be in charge. If they were, we would eat cupcakes every night for dinner and candy every morning for breakfast.

God had made these children, they are made in His image, not yours.

Train a child in the way he should go. Proverbs 22:6

Discipline is for the future, not punishment for the past.

Prepare for the journey and know that you might get lost a time or two. Or twenty two hundred. Children are on loan from the Lord.

Children are a gift from the Lord. Psalm 127:3

As soon as you figure it out, it changes. There are seasons in life. The house. The kids. The marriage. The career. It isn't all going to be perfect. Let go and relax. And enjoy.

There were nods and murmurings throughout the congregation. I looked at my husband and it struck me that all of these challenges that we are facing with juggling our lives and marriage and career and family - we are not alone.

We are not alone in trying to be the best parent and spouses that we can be.

We are not alone in feeling that everything is too much for us to handle at times.

We are not alone in feeling that we could be better.

We are not alone in feeling that the responsibility of raising children that make a positive contribution to society is entirely upon our shoulders.

We are not alone when we shrug off the credit paid for the things our children do right, and severely blame ourselves for the things that they do wrong.

With very rare exception, every couple that we know who have gone through a divorce have done so once they have had children. Of course the parents will tell the children as they grow older that it was not "their" fault that mommy and daddy split up.

But quite often, I believe it is.

Not the actual child's fault perhaps, but the introduction of children in to a marriage and the subsequent inability of the parents to successfully manage the change. They are unable to keep the focus, the priority, on the marriage. Because there are only so many hours in a day and so much laundry to do and bills to pay and blogs to read and shows to watch - the marriage is put on the backburner, indefinitely.

Romance fades away.

Communication begins to falter.

And before you know it, you are talking two different languages and unable to get along.

To me, that's what it's about. It's about knowing how to manage your married life once you have children. It's about keeping the focus on your marriage, regardless of what obstacles or challenges your offspring - or life - may throw in your way.

Charlie and I: We are on the same team. But we have got to work harder on our zone defense. We have got to work better on our communication skills and treating each other with respect (that applies to me, mostly).

It may not be easy to be tactful with your spouse when they give your baby a sippy cup full of whole milk just before bedtime when it feels like you've got ripe cantaloupes on your chest, but it's important that you are. It's especially important that you don't say something like "How 'bout I knee you in the crotch so that you have a good understanding of what this feels like?"

For us, we are making the commitment to spend some time together, every night. We are going to read the book, The Five Love Languages together, and we are going to be more in love than we were when we united in marriage, 14 years ago, this week.

I predict there will be a lot of kissing.


  1. you are better off than most because you realized there was an issue and you did something about it! way to go. good luck. gary chapman's book is awesome. highly recommend it! it's fun to find out what you were when you were dating and what you are now (they can change over time)...

    glad God led you to that church today to renew your relationship

  2. We've been there too. Church helped us as well. The sermon, of course -as well as being kid free for an hour or so with the chance to hold hands in peace.

    Another thing that worked was reclaiming our house back from the kids. We allowed ours to be in charge a bit too often and we were so busy REACTING to them, we didn't have a chance to be in charge and give them ALL the limits they (and we!) needed.

    So when we changed the way WE handled the kids and their issues, our whole family changed for the better. It was almost immediate.

    Good luck!

  3. Isn't God good? I just had goosebumps reading how you were "led" to attend church today. and not only did you go, but you were blessed!

    Its wonderful to know you will be reading the book by Gary Chapman, that you have reaffirmed your
    committment to one another, and are working on letting the kids know you are in charge.

    Don't get discouraged when you take a step or two backward from time to time. That is how we all grow and move forward in all areas of our lives we are committed to changing.

    "The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord cause his face to shine upon you....."


  4. I really needed to read this.
    So glad you had this moment today - what a great post! You were led to church today and I was led to read this...thank you for sharing.

  5. Jen - With tears in my eyes, I can tell you I needed that this morning more than I can tell you. There are more details than I could ever fit here but the gist of it is -- Sydney's adoption became who we are!! I'll be going to church with my FAMILY on Sunday. Thank You!

    Much love-

  6. We went to church this weekend for the first time in ages, and now Beetle is big enough (nearly 4) she went to Sunday school for the first time.

    She told us afterwards about how she learned about Jesus and the big plus. That was the sad story; then another story that cheered her up.

  7. wow are you ever right on the money. i only have one but i feel that sense of drowning and failure. it's funny how i have wanted this all my life and now that i am here, i have no idea what to do and i am not so sure i want to do it anymore. don't get me wrong, i am not leaving... just trying to figure out a way to make it manageable ;~) definitely going to hit up church next week. just so you know, this blog is awesome... i love the fun stories and i love the raw open honesty in the others. seeing you on the reader is a highlight of my day.

  8. Wow.

    Just that one word is running through my head.

    Its like you captured exactly what Jon and I are going through, and put it into words better than I ever could (though I've tried, and come off really whiney in my blog, I think...not the way I wanted to come off at all)

    I've been thinking for a while we might need some form of religion or something back in our lives, but our schedules don't really make it work, and our church doesn't have a babysitting service, and our toddler is a demon baby, and a million other excuses.

    Thanks for acknowledging that marriage is a lot of work(more than I ever thought. Who knew my parents worked this hard, and his folks gave explanation: both of his parents have been married multiple times, and his father is now in the midst of the 3rd divorce...not exactly role models for sticking it out)

    It sounds like from the other comments that other moms are going through this too, and between them and your words, I don't feel so alone in the mist anymore.

  9. Jen, that book saved my marriage several years ago. I can't say enough about it. I think you and Charlie will find some really great tools in there that will help you find your way back to each other again. It'll be worth it.

    And thank you for being so honest on your blog. It's something I've done before, but have lost the courage to do...because everyone else's lives seem so perfect and mine is so far from that. Thank you!

  10. I think what you are saying about marriage applies even more when the parents in question has multiples. When you are raising more than one infant or toddler or preschooler, you go on "survival mode" out of need. But then you forget to go OFF of survival mode: doing only what NEEDS to be done to get through the day.

    The first several years after our twins were born were tough for us too. We have grown back together slowly as the kids have gotten older...

    Also, I just read the Five Love Languages last week! My husband didn't read it, but did ask and receive summary from me... I like the book, and it did make me more deliberate about how I behave in our marriage...

    Good luck dear. =)

  11. Great post! My husband and I read that book before we got married and we still make reference to it!

  12. I don't know what I would do without my 2 hours of church every Sunday. It is a blessing to go and worship and listen to God's word while my children play in the nursery.

    I'm so happy you found that yesterday.

    Oh an I've read "The Five Love Languages" twice... and I learned different things about my hubbie both times.

    They also have "The Five Love Languages for Children".

  13. Thank you for posting this. It really touched me.

  14. Jen, I read several multiple blogs and it seems everyone is turning to God all of a sudden -- whether returning or discovering His power for the first time.

    I, too, am Catholic, so not a chapter and verse kind of gal, but I believe. If it weren't for our believing, the triplets we're expecting and our first little miracle wouldn't be here. God will see you through.

    And, you have only to read your own amazing words in this blog to see that there are ups as well as downs in your journey as a family.

    Thanks for the dose of reality and for the inspiration, too.


  15. On Saturday my husband's fist accidentally ran into the wall and created a hole. I suspect the lack of sleep from a sick child and a wife who had said sick child attached to the breast ALL weekend (and EVERY hour at night) and bitched about it non-stop contributed to the stumble into the wall.

    You are not alone. We're all losing our marbles a little.

  16. Church is such an amazing thing. Enjoy your reading - and kissing!

  17. That was beautiful, Jen. You are my inspiration --- I admire and respect you and Charlie so very much! Your statements are so true-- fitting -- and I hope you are breathing some fresh, new air today.

    God is SO good.

  18. Thank you for letting me see that my marriage is not the only one that is struggling. My husband and I celebrated our 12th anniversary yesterday and even though I told him "Happy Anniversary", he just looked at me. He usually gets me a card or gift and didn't get anything this year. We have made a commitment to stay together because it would be harder to raise our kids apart but I am hoping that when the kids get older we can find "us" again. It's so hard right now to make time for each other when your exhausted.

    You may think you are not an inspiration but your honesty makes people like me feel better when we are feeling like we are the only ones with these problems.

    By the way, what you said about wanting the kids for so long and then they drive you crazy. I've decided its like chocolate. You have a craving for chocolate and you want it so bad, but if you eat 4 pounds you will be sick. We wanted kids so badly but who could have 4 all at once and not go crazy?


  19. Jack & I need to follow in your foot steps. Children have definitely changed our relationship. Once the kids go down we go our separate ways. Me to the bedroom w/ my laptop & dh to his office to play World of War Craft.(that game is going to be the death of us) We have NO couple time.

    I scheduled a date night for this Friday night but I know it is going to take more than that.

    Jen it is nice to hear that other couples w/ small children are going through the same difficulties. Thanks for opening up.

  20. I had a moment like that this week. I suck- thY was all I could say. That and - I miss the husband who I used to love being g with. Sometimes our life is such a collection of work and that is it. Hopefully this realization helps make it better

    Sorry to make this so short. Nursing at the keyboard makes me brief.

  21. I don't even know you, and yet you've been heavily on my heart lately. I've been wondering lately if you were going to church, too. So imagine my surprise when you wrote about it! Jen, thank you for being honest. It's truly what makes you, and your writing, special. I don't just believe, I KNOW that when you put God first, and then your marriage, somehow everything comes together. And going to church can be a total pain, because there are so many other things to do. And's a chance for you to recharge your batteries, connect with breathe. And really, church isn't always the answer to all the problems, it's the Big Guy that is. So I applaud you and Charlie for taking this step to make things better. You are both wonderful.

  22. I told you I love that church. From the first volunteer to come to your home and the wonderful messages they brought to you--who they did not know.
    They cooked and raked your yard and did it so happily and I remember their testamonies? One man said the church saved his marriage. I think you need to go twice a week until you believe the message. You have got a gem in your neighborhood and I think as you get more involved with each little miracle that happens to you, you will be so happy.
    Save that book for me to read in two weeks.

  23. i SO could have written that post! Maybe not today...but so many times. Thanks for being honest. I actually took notes on your post about your pastor's sermon. How's that for the ripple effect?

  24. You really hit a nerve with many of us. I've been married nearly 22 years and we only have one child who will soon be going to college, but we are in the toughest struggle we've ever had. Compounded by a military separation and each feeling like the other is leaving them out. I cried all the way through my church service on Sunday too. I know that God will get us through this rough patch, just like he's been there for all the others. You are definitely in my prayers!

  25. Not being rude Jen I promise. Jesus, Mary and Joseph Thank you for airing that you and Charlie have a real marriage! I live with my one beloved husband (almost 23 years now) and no kids and wonder how the 2 of you make it work. Heaps of blessings upon your head and please keep us posted. I was raised Catholic but don't attend any church now. I wake up every morning and gaze upon the redwood trees across our driveway and know that God on some level exists.

    Sometimes it's just fricking hard. I'm dealing with pent up emotions from breast cancer 2 years ago and need Larry more than I can ever explain to him but lash out at him as well. I guess blessings upon us all.


  26. We always are happy we made the effort to go. Sometimes dh will go without me if one of the boys are sick and vice versa but we always try to be there every Sunday. I always feel like the Pastor is preaching directly to me and what I am going through (and everyone else feels the same way). I met Gary Chapman at a marriage seminar when dh and I were still newlyweds. I never got that book but I know I still can (even after almost 14 yrs of marriage). :) i was thinking to borrow it from the library but that would be one that I probably want to buy and highlight lots of sentences. :)

  27. That's wonderful that you both have reazlied there's an issue and want to deal with it. That's the first and MOST important step. You two will be just fine.

    It IS hard when you have little ones. Hang in there!!

  28. It's a wonderful book. You two will really enjoy it. So glad you are going to be making time for yourselves. It will pay off twenty fold!

  29. thanks for the insight jenn and i like marie green's comment. with multiples it is too easy to 'forget to get off survival mode'. that rings true for us, and I'm going to work on it.

  30. Well said. So well said. This is somehting we've been struggling with lately as well and your post comes at the perfect time. Thank you for sharing. My motto lately (stolen from my devotional book) is "the bigger the trail, the bigger the blessing." It seems like having multiple young children is such a big trial and sometimes it really takes a toll on a marriage.

  31. Thank you for sharing all this. Sometimes, you are pulled where you need to go. It's important not to fight it. Shortly after my twins were born I had a similar experience and came away feeling a renewed sense of faith in my marriage and our life circumstances. I hope you are able to keep this feeling for as long as I have.