all you need is love…

It was much easier for me, when I was younger (and dumber), to determine what would make a marriage work.

When I was 22 years old, I would’ve told you, even if you didn’t ask, that a marriage required love. Squishy, delightful, schmoopy love.  Also? I would’ve told you marriage required an investment of time and hard work, but only because once I heard someone say that and I found something oddly romantic about this puritanical angle to long-term relationships. I would’ve told you that marriage required mutual sacrifice (mostly on the husband’s part… thus mitigating the “mutual” part).

Now?

Lots of scientists and philosophers and people generally smarter than I have created an entire cottage industry on why and how and who and when and where marriages work best.  There are endless top 10 lists of things that promise predict the seemingly inevitable demise of your union.

Smash the wedding cake? BAM. Divorce.

Pick a the wrong first dance song? BAM. Divorce.

Does your spouse wash their hair first in the shower while you wash your face first? INCOMPATIBLE! FAIL!

When Frank and I were getting married, though, we were high on LOVE. Every element of planning the wedding was a beautiful adventure on our way to our storybook wedded bliss.

There we were, traipsing through this loveland, la-la-la-ing our way to September 19, 2003 when BAM, we walked faced first into the sliding glass door of our pre-marital conference at church.

Picture this:

Emily and Frank, young, thin and in love, holding hands and sitting amongst other engaged couples.  Eight round tables were placed throughout a large conference room with eight couples per table (plus or minus). We looked at the other couples seated with us and glowed at them – you are like us! we are like you! we are in LOVE! yes! And the other couples looked at us and said back, “stop looking at us like that.  You’re creeping us out.”

At the front of the room was a podium and an earnest professor-type opening up our session in prayer and sharing wisdom and trying to impart the mechanics of marriage on people who were more interested in the difference between a fresh fruit cake filling and a jam cake filling.  Decisions, decisions.

We embraced this conference – we were determined to get an A+ in pre-marital counseling.  We were overachievers.  We were in love!

The conference director said, about halfway through, “OK, raise your hand if you are over 25.” Nope. We were 22. “OK, raise your hand if you have college degrees.” WINNER WINNER! Our hands shot straight up. “OK, raise your hand if you make over $50,000 per year, combined.” Nope.

“If you do not have two out of three of these items in your favor, your marriage is more likely to end in divorce.”

Frank and I sat in stunned silence. Did we fail at marriage before we began?  How is that possible? I have no idea what else what they said at the conference – I was still trying to figure out if we could get extra credit in order to make up for the two of the three we missed.

Originally I thought it was kind of like that summer before my freshman year that I took a keyboarding class and got a B+.  I started my  high school career knowing that I could NEVER be a valedictorian… or a court reporter.

And there is something freeing in that – you know, knowing you won’t be the valedictorian. Or a court reporter.

But the part where I got an F- in your premarital counseling class has less of a silver lining.

Fast forward nine years: we have, so far, defied the odds.  We have our moments, for sure.  We’ve traversed bravely some of the things often described by marital experts as potential marriage enders.

Is there really a magic recipe for a marriage that works and a marriage that fails?

I really don’t know.

Tonight, in a moment of top-of-the-mountain reflection, I watched my brother and his bride rehearse for their wedding.  All while watching them practice walking up the aisle and learn their roles in the ceremony, I was thinking about what I wanted to tell them – what I would wish them to help ensure a long and happy union.

Do I tell them, “Never go to bed angry.” Or do I tell them, “Never say Divorce.” (woops. I said Divorce. Woops. I said Divorce again. And again. I’m in trouble.) Or how about, “If you’re the wife, lower your expectations and if you’re the husband, step up to the plate?” (yikes.)

Upon further reflection…

It just seems that marriage is like flying an airplane.  There are all these logical reasons  an airplane flies. Lift and drag and speed and atmosphere and blah blah blah. (Can you tell I failed my aviation ground school?) But when I see a plane or a bird gliding through the air successfully, doing what it was made to do, the only real explanation that makes any sense is the one that my pilot husband gave me: Pure Freaking Magic.

A lot of people miss the magic.  They are caught up in the mechanics and the science and the logistics – and they miss enjoying the moment.  A party planner who never dances at his parties. A writer who never reads his books. A painter who never sees the art around him.  It’s easy to do the same thing in marriages – to amass “stuff” and to check checklists – and never savor the relationship.

But, oh, the moments where I stopped and wondered at and drank in the magic of it all: lazy Saturday mornings, long car rides, dreaming of our future, holding our babies, lying under the Christmas tree and holding hands on the way to somewhere exciting. How we met and fell in love and stay in love and live in love – that is simply Pure Freaking Magic.

When my brother brought Lauren home, we knew he was a goner.  You could tell it in his eyes and his smile.  It was magic.  And when Lauren laughed heartily and genuinely at his jokes? That, too, was magic.  Pure. Freaking. Magic.

My hope for them is that they marvel at what they have, all the days of their lives.  And that when they see an airplane flying or a bird soaring or a humming bird floating that they would be less concerned with the details and more enthralled with the Pure Freaking Magic of it all.

To Andy and Lauren: I wish you a marriage full of magic and wonder and joy.

PFM, always.

Love,

Em

evolution

For those of you who were guessing that my post would be an announcement of another pregnancy – you are very wrong.

Frank would lose his ever-loving mind if we had another child barely a year younger than the twins.

Nope.  This is not a clever blog announcement about a pregnancy.

I started this blog the same month that Frank and I became engaged to be married.  I was 22 years old.

I had been out of college for less than one year.  I had been working for less than six months.

I am not even really sure why I started the blog, other than that I had a weird fascination with the idea of having a diary.  And I’m not even sure why I had that weird fascination.  I’m a terrible correspondent.  Ask anyone who has tried to correspond with me.  I found letters from my darling college roommate, Kelly, and nearly wept at the beautiful notes she would write me.

I doubt that she could make the same claim about the letters I wrote her. Because I didn’t write.  I was a horrible pen pal.

If you look at my blog from 2003, you will find that it was nothing more than a documentation of shopping excursions, what I ate and how I felt about it, and who could forget my rankings of area shopping malls?? (answer: just about anyone and everyone could and should forget it)

I don’t go back to those early postings very often.  Sometimes I do re-read various posts from our wedding planning.  But truthfully, my most pressing concern (if I’m being honest) was finding a tube top so that I would tan evenly.  Heaven help me if I had strap marks while wearing my strapless wedding gown!

I look back on those early years and I wonder at how Frank and I managed to make a life together.  I mean, considering how seriously the odds were stacked against us (under the age of 25, for starters) and then reading my blathering thoughts at the time, it’s a wonder that we managed to move across state lines, find full time employment and not critically hurt ourselves in the process.

But here we are.

I look back on those early years – my immaturity and my self-absorbed interests – and I am struck not by how much I’ve changed, but how much more aware I am that I haven’t changed as much as I should have.

Yeah, this post is not about patting myself on the back.

“Way to go, self, you managed to generally stay clear of the Emergency Room for most of your adult life. Bravo.”

No.

I think a lot of life is about peaks and valleys.  Peaks offer a moment of clarity where I get to see where I am going and where I have been – and realize that the road in both directions is long, winding and generally uncertain.

And valleys remind me of my own humanity.

I think that I am on a momentary peak.

The K-Fam, for all intents and purposes, is doing very, very well.  Frank is employed.  I am employed.  The girls are healthy and growing and developing and have clean diapers on (at the moment).  We have food and shelter and enough extra cash to afford a brand new Starbucks addiction (as long as I keep brewing at home…).

Our coffee cup runs over.

But in this rare moment of clarity, I see my life as it is.  I’m not sad about it or angry or hurt or feeling guilty.  I am just aware that I was young and like pretty much all young people I know, I was blissfully unaware.  And now I am approaching middle-aged.  Or, if I am honest, I am probably middle-aged already (I’m 30 – does that count?).

Whatever.

The point is that I see myself driving home from church, work, wherever – I see the sun shining and the wind rustling the leaves on the lush green trees and even though I have many responsibilities, I feel unburdened. I feel light.

And I am becoming aware that being unburdened is a rare, precious gift; I feel that while I am in the sunshine, enjoying the beauty of this world, there are people whose burdens are great.

Reading the news is a buzz kill.  You are bumping along in life all concerned about what is for dinner or wondering whether or not you remembered to pay the water bill, when all of a sudden a news anchor calmly, matter-of-factly explains that 32 girls in Ghana were rescued from a baby factory where their brand new babies were sold into slavery or as human sacrifices.

The juxtoposition of my life and theirs is hard to grasp.  How can my brain comprehend such disparity of the human existence?

God has been working on my heart, opening my eyes.

Am I going to end human trafficking in this world?  No.

But how can I do nothing?  How can I enjoy a warm summer day spent going for a walk or teaching my baby girls how to build sand castles, while other men, women and children are in such total darkness?

Many children find themselves sold into slavery because their families cannot afford to eat.  They are sold so that the rest of the family can survive.

And yet so easily, I can go to McDonald’s and enjoy a fruit and yogurt parfait, oatmeal or a warm cup of coffee.

While I am contemplating ways I can get involved (more to follow over the next few weeks), I cannot help but realize how mindlessly I eat.  I think very little about what and how much I put in my mouth.  After fertility treatments and a twin pregnancy, this is definitely starting to show.

I have a lot of weight to lose.  Fifty pounds to be exact.

Yeah, that’s right.  Fifty.

Not fifteen.

FIFTY.

Ugh.

What’s sad is that I’ve lost pretty much all of the baby weight.  The weight I have left to lose crept on slowly at first.  I slowly gave in to the weight gain.  “It’s just a pound.  Or two.  Or five.”

Or fifty.

Working out my body is just as important as working out my mental muscles.  The discipline I use for walking and running (and not eating dessert after every meal) helps me be more disciplined in other areas of my life, like time management or finances.

Getting involved in helping to stop human trafficking isn’t going to happen over night.  I won’t find a solution by writing a check for $5.  Big problems like this require persistent and unrelenting action.

In 2001 I started Weight Watchers.  I lost 60 lbs over the next 8 or 9 months.

I did not lose all 60 lbs in the first week.

Every week I lost a little bit and it all added up.

It’s that kind of discipline – making one more person aware, getting one more person to care – that adds up.

A little bit of kindling added slowly builds a big fire.

My goal is to become more disciplined and aware of what I eat, which will simultaneously help me work out the mental muscles needed in order to be dedicated to a cause as important as ending human trafficking.

It’s a weird way to connect two things, but it makes sense to me.

If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you I’ve always been annoyingly persistent. When I want something, I usually find a way to get it.

For every pound that I lose, we (Frank and I) will donate $10 to end human trafficking.  It’s a weightlossathon.

If you want to join me in this effort – either by losing weight yourself or donating money for every pound that I lose, please do!  Let me know in the comment section if you are “in” and what you are doing.

And if you aren’t interested in joining in, if you could keep me in your thoughts and your prayers as I go down this road – both weight loss and figuring out how to help raise awareness of human trafficking issues – I would be so grateful.

Thank you.

100 joys (#62-70)

OK, this is going to be my epic joy post.  Grab a cup of hot cocoa and a warm blanket – it’s all joy, all the time!

joy #62:

Last night, as I mentioned before, we went to church for the Christmas service.  It is one of our most FAVORITE Christmas traditions in the K-Fam.  Because our church has 12 Christmas Eve services over the course of 8 days, Frank and I are always able to find a service we can attend, no matter what Frank’s schedule looks like.  At the last minute, we were able to include Al, Rose and Rose’s sister, Sara.  Seated way up in the 3rd balcony at Willow Creek, I was a little bit concerned that we wouldn’t get a good view of the service.  It turns out, being seated way up high was the BEST view of the service.  It was awesome!  The service included a drama that was the modern telling of the story of Jesus’ birth.  It was absolutely amazing.  When the Angel was telling Mary that she found favor with God and would be giving birth to Jesus, the song in the above video played.  It was absolutely magical!  The whole story was told with the underlying theme of “Don’t be afraid.”  What a joy to go to that service!

joy #63:

After church, we went to Steak ‘n Shake.  Now, I have to say, if I owned a restaurant within a 5-10 mile radius of Willow Creek, I’d definitely find out when big events were happening and then get prepared!  Unfortunately, that was not the case at our friendly neighborhood Steak ‘n Shake and they were just a bit overwhelmed by the crowd that came through their doors last night.  After waiting a while to be seated, and then waiting even longer for someone to come to our table to get drink orders, etc., Frank jokingly told our waitress that it was free shake night at Steak ‘n Shake if you had to wait more than 5 minutes for your server.  She laughed and then said, “Really? OK.  Free shakes and drinks then.”  And the shakes WERE free!  It was a Christmas Miracle!

joys #64-70:

Oh, how my family does bring me joy!

Familial joy #64 was my sweet niece singing tonight at the Christmas Eve service at the church that Frank and I were married at.  With her white-blond hair and cherubic smile, she melts everyone’s hearts.  And of course #65 was my nephew who gets taller and cuter every time I see him.  He’s my first-ever nephew and has a special place in my heart.

#66 and #67 are my sister-in-law Kathryn (or K2; K1 is her sister Karen) and her husband Dave.  As the parents of my dear niece and nephew, of course they are a joy!

After church, we moved on to my Uncle Steve (#68) and Aunt Judy’s (#69) home for some delicious homemade corn chowder and general merriment.  My cousins Meghan (previously mentioned as joy #40) and David (#44) were also there, along with my siblings (Caitlin, Andy & Sarah – also previously mentioned joys in a variety of places).  While we were there, nearly everyone got to feel the babies kicking, which I would like to call joy #70.  It’s one thing for me to feel the babies moving around, but it’s such a delight when others get to experience it, too!

so much to say!

Ok, in no particular order:

1.  I am running again.  Well, jogging.  Very, very, very slowly.  At this point, it’s as much for my physical health as it is for my emotional health.  I find that when I run, I am able to process things better and have more energy.  So I am committed to running/jogging/moving my booty every other day.

2.  For anyone wondering about my sugarless lifestyle, yes, we are still sugarless in the K House.  I have to say, there have been quite a few moments of weakness, but we are proud that we haven’t caved.  The only sweets we had were for FK’s 30th birthday.  Hey, that’s a pretty special occasion, right?  So we busted out some cinnamon bread pudding and homemade whipped cream.  Soooo good.  I was worried that it would become some kind of gateway drug – you know, leading to other sugary delights – but we stayed the course and did not venture any further into Candyland.

3. There have been lots of different themes floating around in my life.  I want to write extensively on every single theme, but right now is not the time.  Here are some highlights:

a. Definitions.  I’ve been wondering a lot about how to take control about how I’m defined, both by others and more importantly by myself.  This concern is on a personal and professional level.  Personally, I’m not afraid of being defined as someone who has had a very difficult time having children, but I AM afraid of being defined as ONLY that.  And maybe “afraid” is the wrong word.  I think if people only saw me for this trial, that would be a very limited way of looking at me and that I, and others, would miss out on the bigger picture of what God is doing in my life.  I also think about this a lot professionally, too – the woman who did my job previously really only focused on one particular area, whereas I’ve branched out and brought an entirely different skill set to the game.  I’m concerned that my success is being defined only based on area, without taking into consideration all of the other things I’m bringing to the table.  I have ideas on how to resolve my professional dilemma, but it’s a little bit more difficult to resolve the personal side of things.

b. Attitude. I’ve been battling attitude a lot lately.  For a great many reasons, it’s been particularly difficult for me to keep my attitude in check.  The running is helping with cleaning out any emotional overload, allowing me to refocus my energies when I feel myself slipping into a swirling vortex of sadness.  I think it’s a difficult one to balance, though, because I do believe that I need to be where I am, and not rush through it.  Said another way, I’ve spent a lot of my life checking things off of lists.  I like to do that.  But living a life of checking things off of lists sometimes means that I rush through things to just to get through the list.  A conversation I had tonight reminded me that life is really a series of processes and experiences, not a neat and tidy notebook of lists with check marks next to each item. Discontentment is being in one place, but believing that I should be somewhere else.  I kind of wonder if I would be more content if I just said, “Ok, this is where I am today, and that is ok” – with an understanding that I would not be in this same emotional place forever.  What does it look like to live a more contented life?  Hm.

c. Fluidity. In 2004/2005, I was working a lot of hours.  A lot of hours.  Even when I was not at work, I was mentally at work.  My brain was constantly thinking about things going on at the office; looking for solutions to problems I was having.  It doesn’t help that I worked in advertising and our world is inundated with ad messages.  Even if I didn’t want to take work home with me, it was everywhere.  But when I look back at that time and remember trips we took or things we did, I don’t remember the pervasiveness of work.  I just remember the fun things.  It’s amazing how my brain can edit out work and make my memories into a nice, clean 30 minute montage.  So why do I bring that up and what does it have to do with being more fluid?  Well, I realize that I have a selective way of remembering things.  I remember the joys of the simplicity of life being young when I feel overwhelmed.  But when I really remember what it was like to be me in second grade, I also have to remember that I was totally overwhelmed by simple things then (which were not so simple to me at the time).  I remember lying in bed one night, tossing and turning because I forgot to bring a worksheet home from school.  I knew I would get a “zero” for the assignment.  I finally went into my parents room really late at night (probably 10 p.m.) and told my mom what I was thinking about.  She laughed and told me about times when she felt the same way. The adrenaline from worrying about that worksheet left a bitter, metallic taste in my mouth.  The same taste I get even now when I realize I forgot something or am on a tight deadline.  We edit our memories.  Things do seem better in the past and more hopeful in the future.  Life is constant change.  People are born, people die, people move away, people move in… The sooner that I am comfortable with the idea that nothing is permanent in this life, the easier it is to roll with the punches.  I was not born as a person who is comfortable with being fluid, but over time I’ve come to be better with it.  I think being married to a pilot has expedited my personal growth in this area.  Let’s not go crazy though – I have hardly mastered being fluid and I still love a good check list, but in the realm of things I cannot control, learning to be fluid has been an excessively helpful trait.

So yeah.  Just a few thoughts.  No particular order.  More on some of them later.  Or maybe not.  Well, you can be 100% assured that I will likely talk about running and sugar again.  I’m predictable like that.

the one where i use an aviation metaphor

Physically, mentally and emotionally, it’s been rough.  It hasn’t been a crisis of faith, per se, but rather a crisis of HOW to have faith.

I believe in God, check.

I believe that His son Jesus is my Savior, check.

I have found, though, that I sometimes have a hard time figuring out how to look at our recent heartbreak and ongoing struggles to become parents and understand how to deal with it as a Christian.

When I am worked up about everything, I find myself tossed about by these storms and unable to find my bearings.

Which brings me to my aviation metaphor.  Ahem.

As a pilot, Frank has trained extensively.  When he first trained, he learned how to fly visually.  Flying visually is exactly what it sounds like – he would fly only in conditions (clear days, generally) that allowed him to identify landmarks and (most importantly) airports by sight. Flying on clear days is lovely, especially in small planes.

But as a committed pilot with aspirations to fly for airlines, Frank had to take his aviation training to the next level.  He had to learn to fly using only the instruments on the dashboard of the plane.  As part of his training, he actually wore a hood that didn’t allow him to see anything except the instruments in front of him.  He had to do this for two reasons: 1) because sometimes what you think you are seeing is not the whole picture and 2) because sometimes he has to fly in conditions where he won’t be able to visually see landmarks.

One night Frank took me flying.  It was a gorgeous night with a layer of low white clouds under a dome of shimmering stars.  Since there are controls on both sides of the plane, Frank let me take the “wheel” and instructed me to orient the plane so that it would be level with the horizon.  After a few minutes, Frank pointed at one of the instruments that showed how level the plane was relative to the earth.  Even though I thought I had the plane level with the horizon, I was very wrong.  The horizon I thought I was following was really a cloud, not the actual curve of the earth.

It is not enough, sometimes, to fly on sight alone.

Frank’s aviation training is a great metaphor for the grossly uncomfortable position that I am in right now.

Most of the time I can walk in my faith by “sight” alone; I either hear from God or I see landmarks from Him that point the way.  The answers are, for the most part, obvious.

Right now, though, we are stuck in the midst of storms and can’t see the ground or familiar landmarks.  Flying visually is not an option.  We have to rely on faith and the tools that God has given us.

I guess it’s a good idea to keep my seatbelt securely fastened, eh?

bah.

I don’t know what else there is to say about the BFN today.  I was hoping that some elegant words would come to mind, but most of the words that have come to mind have been less than elegant.

Mostly the words are born out of frustration and anger.  Oh, and a ton of sadness.

This month was more difficult than most.  It marked a full year of trying.  Yes, I totally understand that most people try for a year before they think something is wrong and get checked out.  We were just fortunate (or unfortunate?) enough that it was evident that we had a problem on our hands four months in to trying.

For the past eight months I have been on and off of Clomid.  I have been stuck and poked and prodded countless numbers of times.  I am pretty sure I could give myself an ultrasound if the technician were to accidentally pass out.

This is not how I imagined how this process would go.

I know that I am blessed beyond comprehension in so many ways.  I remind myself of that daily when I get sad or upset about this situation.

But this situation just sucks.

God's odds

I believe, as a Christian, that God is everywhere.  That God is in everything that is true and good.

And I also believe that something doesn’t have to be labeled “Christian” to be true or good.  If there is something true and/or good, then I believe that it is from God.  And not all things labeled “Christian” are guaranteed to be true or good.

So about five years ago I started reading this book called Fabric of the Cosmos – and I’m still reading this darned book! It’s basically quantum physics/mechanics explained.  The author does a wonderful job explaining why time moves in the direction it does and sparks great curiosity in me to understand why the world works the way it does.

I loved reading this book because  in the plainest possible English (which is still quite difficult to understand), this author explains (to the best of the scientific community’s knowledge) how the intricate fabric of our universe works, including space and time, and it left me in awe of the Lord who created everything.

One of the things the author talks about is possibility and probability, specifically when he was talking about why time moves in one direction only.  As a girl raised on science fiction novels about time travel (the first novel I read with my dad was The Time Machine by HG Wells), I was disappointed that the author of Fabric of the Cosmos hadn’t cracked the code for time travel – but I digress.

In Emily-speak, basically the author describes an egg falling off a counter and breaking when it hits the floor.  There is before, and there is after.  There is dispersion.  Now, according to quantum (as best as I understand it) physics, it is entirely possible that the egg will fall off the counter, hit the floor and NOT break.  There is a possibility that it will maintain its shape and continue on without  a problem.

It’s just that the probability of that happening is so slim, I don’t have enough time or energy to calculate that out.

Same thing when you open a can of soda.  The “Woosh” sound (mmm, I love that sound) is the sound of gas escaping from the can and dispersing into the air around the can.  There is a possibility that this gas could disperse into the exact shape of a can of soda.  Again, the probability of that happening is a small number.

All things are possible, but when you graph it on a probability curve, certain things are more probable than others.

That is a beautiful thing to me.

Why?

If all things are possible, although statistically some things are less probable, then nothing is impossible.

It’s like God saying, through science, anything can happen.

We’ve been riding this fertility roller coaster for almost a year now.  The odds of pregnancy are getting slimmer and slimmer.  If this IUI cycle doesn’t work, my current fertility doc is referring us to a whole different clinic because in her experience, the odds are better over there.  But really, anything is possible.  I’ve had friends who were told that the PROBABILITY of pregnancy was slim to none – and they have healthy children.  I know a woman with 1/8th of ONE ovary and she has 5 kids.

I know our probabilities are shrinking, but I also know that with God, anything is possible.

The other thing that I believe is that sometimes the thing we think we need is not the thing we actually need.

Take Jesus for example: the Jews thought they needed a political savior.  They believed Jesus was going to rescue them from their political oppressors.  Jesus, ever the big thinker, was actually meant to reconcile the world to God – to bring the world back into harmony with its creator.

I take comfort in that because it encourages me to think big.

Anything is possible.

Think big.

Got it.