This past week, I sat in a hospital room one day looking at this:
A man whose heart had mandated an ambulance ride, an ER visit, and a day-long admittance for monitoring.
Praise God, the following day, at around the same time, I paused a walk in the woods to look at this:
A man who has a heart for his children and his wife and who wants nothing more than to stick around for us.
Of course, I want that, too, and am grateful that my husband's heart issue -- though not one we are to the bottom of yet -- is one that continues to allow him to live with our children and me fully each day. That is, when we choose to actually fill our days with right living.
Living right should be a no-brainer. But, I admit, all too often, Mike and I fall prey to acting and reacting without love and mercy. Like many couples, we have an imperfect relationship. At times, we argue. We lack effective communication. We let ourselves grow angry with, disenchanted by, or, worse, indifferent to one another. We fail to live our vocation of marriage well.
Mike and I also have shortcomings as parents. Although we love our children immeasurably, we sometimes get frustrated with or flabbergasted by them and, then, sadly, act or react in less than model-parent ways. At such times, we, as earthly parents, do not reflect well the love that God, Our Father, has for us all. We do not pass forward joy.
Indeed, together, Mike and I have discovered that the "happily ever after" I, like many girls, dreamed about as a child does not actually come after a wedding day. For, sure, there are many happy moments, but there are ample challenges and crosses, too.
I am okay with that, though. For I am confident that even if "happily ever after" has not happened since Mike and I got married, it is happening through our marriage. As spouses and parents, we are continually being refined. Our humanness is understood and mercy is granted.
Mercy - a second chance. A third. A fourth. A sixth, a seventh... a seventy times seventh... Oh, praise God for all those chances.
As Mike and I continue on in our very human way, we know we are imperfect, yet we also know we are never without love and hope. And, through God's grace, there is one thing that we rarely flag upon: our commitment to staying married and to training our children up to let love shine in and through them.
As I reflect on my husband sleeping in a hospital room and, then, walking with our children and me in the woods, I give thanks for God's mercy and for Mike and my commitment to live our marriage call. I also pray that God will enter our family's hearts more strongly each day, refining us and shaping us into people who better live His will, making it our own. Further, I pray that, God willing, we are gifted with many more days together and that even as we journey through whatever human muck and mire arise, we can pause to recognize moments of majesty and miracles -- moments that are sometimes as simple as a man and his family walking through the woods appreciating the very precious present.
For me, it is all too easy to get caught up in schedules and shoulds, and to move through the busyness of a day without pausing to fully open my heart to beauty inherent in it. Likewise, it is sometimes difficult for me not to let negative emotions override the awesome opportunities that I am granted to live each day more fully in love and mercy. My
husband's hospitalization the other day, and his subsequent simple
ability to walk in the woods with our children and me, served as a reminder of God's love and mercy.
In this Year of Mercy, I have oft repeated a simple definition to my children: mercy is a second chance. I am grateful for God's mercy in my marriage. I am thankful that my husband's heart episode was not more dramatic. I am realist who knows that, undoubtedly, there will be days to come when my husband and I fail and fall in our vocation to marriage. Yet, I am idealist as well -- one who holds onto hope, basks in mercy, and could not be more grateful for the opportunity to say on this day, "I love you, Mike. And, I love our kids. Praise be to God, we are still together."