Monday, December 16, 2013

And the two shall become one flesh . . . and what about their stuff?

The Gospel reading at our wedding was not that for which this post is named, but since the phrase is so frequently employed in marriage ceremonies, it was running through my head a lot this past weekend. Allow me to explain why:

Marriage preparation is all about getting to know your future spouse, discovering potential areas of tension in your relationship, and figuring out how to work through challenges together rather than in opposition to one another. It is a beautiful time of excitement and anticipation and then the wedding day arrives and you “are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6) Woohoo! Mission accomplished! Months of planning have come to fruition and now you are married! Your happily ever after can begin! And then you get home from the honeymoon and re-enter the real world.

Now, I am pretty sure that back in Bible days, a couple’s consolidation of their belongings worked a little bit differently. Girls weren’t out living on their own before marrying . . . were young men even living independently? I guess what I am getting at is – you had some clothes and some livestock and you were good to go. Therefore, Matthew does not go beyond the union of the flesh. If he was writing today, he might have followed up his profound commentary with:
“And their two piles of junk will become one pile of junk, regardless of whether the husband or wife likes the other person’s pile. And this will be the first great trial of a marriage and those who successfully get through it will be strengthened by the Grace of God.”

Daddy arrives with the moving truck!
I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing, but the process of combining our belongings has been ongoing, and has yet to be finished, after 6 months of marriage. While it may have been nice to rip off the band-aid all at once, so to speak, slow and steady supposedly wins the race. Since I have moved so frequently in the last 8 years, I have had many opportunities to pare down my pile of stuff, to decide what sentimental items are worth keeping, and to donate or get rid of what I no longer need or want. I still have some work to do on this front, but what I brought to Texas was pretty much my minimum pile (in my world, craft supplies are part of the bare essentials required for life). All of my stuff and “our” things made it here on one truck in the move from Florida. It all fit easily into the apartment, and while we don’t have all of the major pieces of furniture we would like to someday have, what we are currently living with makes us happy.

Poor Drew, though, moved to Florida in such a hurry three years ago that almost all of his belongings got put into a storage unit in Texas two hours away from Arlington. I think he was scared to show me the inside of the storage unit the first time, and probably for good reason; we were still engaged and in my head I was thinking, “oh my gosh. holy crap. oh my gosh. holy crap.” Drew most likely thought I’d turn and run the other way after he raised the storage unit door and I gazed inside. Since moving here, we have slowly been going through the storage unit, re-claiming the things we want and selling or donating the rest. Once in a while I have a Christmas-morning-moment, like on Saturday when Drew found some “forever stamps” - YES! Or a book I have been wanting to read - YES! Or kitchen gadgets that I thought would be great to have but didn’t want to buy - YES!

The hardest part has been watching my husband go through all of the boxes of books, clothes, pictures, gizmos, gadgets, and odds and ends that represent his life before he knew me. He didn’t get to gradually go through his things like I did, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to decide, on the spot, which parts of his past life to give up and which to bring into his new one. I am sure there is an added pressure on him when I am standing right there saying, “And what about this box? And what is this stuff? And I don’t know what these things are?” Try being helpful while not trampling on your husbands memories, it's harder than it sounds. It might not be important to me today, but since his pile of stuff is part of his story, I want it to become important to me, too.

Each time we pull up to our apartment with a full truck it is hard to see everything fitting into what we thought was an already-full living space, but miraculously, there always seems to be room to integrate his belongings and his memories into our current existence. Somehow, too, we get more organized with each trip home from the storage unit. I am starting to understand my mother’s tendency to purge the superfluous junk that seems to build up inexplicably over the course of time, and although sometimes I think it would be easier to give up all of our stuff and start from scratch, it is also a fun adventure to bring our lives together. I actually kind of feel bad for people who don't get to experience this as newlyweds. When we open a new box I get a little peek at Drew’s past, which is a time and place to which I can never actually go (until I meet the Doctor, that is). My husband has had such diverse interests and experiences in his life, and this is one of the few ways that I can glimpse who he was before I knew him. It has all been a fairly smooth process, and really, when I look past the dust and the clutter, it is a tremendous blessing.

“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Having Myself a Crafty Little Christmas

This time of year is inherently wonderful thanks to its religious significance,but also for the generally gracious and giving attitudes it brings out in many people. One of my favorite parts of the season has always been the decorations that illicit such joy and hope in all of us. Wreaths and holly on store fronts, garland and snowflakes draped everywhere, and ALL OF THE LIGHTS! White lights should grow on trees. Just saying.

Sadly, when my family moved from Maryland to Florida, one box that got lost contained some of the items I looked most forward to seeing each year – a couple of wooden reindeer, a Precious Moments nativity, and a countdown calendar with a small stuffed bear that moved among numbered pockets each day that brought us closer to Christmas. My sister and I used to fight every morning over which of us would get to move the bear and, oddly, it is one of my fondest memories. I want my children to someday have the same experience of fighting over Christmas countdowns (is that weird of me?) and for me to smile while assigning them odd and even days to end the argument.

The logical solution was that I make my own calendar to replace the one that was lost. One bear, 24 pouches, not too bad. I can handle that. And then came Pinterest. Evil Pinterest. In my browsings one day I stumbled upon something called a Jesse Tree. It is a Christmas countdown based on Bible verses and key people leading up to the birth of Jesus. I was drawn to it because it will give my children a symbol to attach to different bible verses and adds to the Advent focus on spiritual preparation for Christmas. This website was very helpful by explaining the purpose of the tree, the construction of it all, and her links to other resources helped me design my ornaments.

Basically, the Jesse Tree is like the countdown I had in mind from my childhood, but on crack and steroids and skittles. Midway through the project I thought maybe I’d bitten off more than I could chew; after hours upon hours of working on it I was ready to be done! I persevered, though, and completed it this afternoon. It was a “praise Jesus!” moment when I got to hang it on the coat closet door in place of our autumn wreath.

I had briefly looked at Etsy to see how much such a Jesse Tree would cost to purchase, and the one that I liked best was completely hand-sewn and went for almost $300.00. I was a little stunned at the price – I mean, it is felt and embroidery thread. WELL, I now understand the logic behind the cost, and let me tell you that no amount of money can tear my newly made calendar from my grasp! I spent too much time cutting and sewing and pricking my fingers and getting cramps in my elbow and back to ever part with it. It had better not ever get lost in a move and my children had better cherish it and treasure it and treat it very well, or else I will be hanging all the ornaments on the tree myself! Okay, maybe I won’t be that mean, but this was a lot more work than I bargained for. Take a look-see for yourself:

I learned how to properly chain stitch and back stitch.
I freehand stitched that!

First go-around with a satin stitch.

French knots in the house!
Here is what the tree looks like on December 5th.

The back of each ornament is labeled and there are Bible verses assigned to each one as a daily meditation.

Full size shot from December 5th. 

Here is what the tree will look like all filled with ornaments!

I am looking forward to December 24th!