Brokenness is better than a hallelujah

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God loves a lullaby
In a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

She was just a mess, broken pieces, shards of glass. And as she sat on a bridge one fine October day, feet dangling over the water’s edge, all she could think of was how much she hated him. How much he drove her crazy. They would never make it, him and her. They were too different. Too opposite. And he didn’t understand her- what made her tick, what fueled her tank.

God loves the drunkard’s cry
The soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Months had passed into years, and she had all but given up hope. Things were just too far gone. There was no hope for this situation- they would never get it right. Some things were not meant to be. And they were one of these things: mismatched, unevenly aligned. Two people going in two different directions.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

She had talked about it for quite some time to the one person she trusted the most with these kinds of details. And that person had supported her through it all, but had also stipulated that they believed God was in this marriage, even if the Girl didn’t yet see it. That person said they were praying. They could see the best in this impossible situation. The Girl wasn’t so sure. In spite of her limited faith, the hope that the One Praying had, seemed to do for both of them.

The woman holding on for life
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Besides, it was not due to wrongs that either she or the Man had done to one another in any moral sense that this Great Divide had been created: it was due more to those little hurts that come by way of more intangible situations. From depriving one another love, from holding back. From the cold that grows inside a heart that is turned off love. And in time, little hurts like these can give way to bigger ones: anger, resentment, fear, insecurity, sadness, isolation, anxiety, panic and loneliness.

The tears of shame for what’s been done
The silence when the words won’t come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

So when she found herself telling him that she wished it was over, wished that she had never even begun, it was almost like the floor had finally given way in a dilapidated old house that had served its purpose one too many years. Everything fell apart.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

And while I still don’t know quite what happened, I can say that one day the Girl woke up and there was a change in her heart. She couldn’t quite put her finger on the exact moment, the time and day. But she knew somehow, someway- something had changed. She was different- and so was he. There had been something miraculous happen to bridge the Gap between them, something had toppled the massive walls that had been erected to separate, fortresses made from the strongest of materials. Something had changed between them. They were no longer enemies, at odds with one another. They were friends.

Better than a church bell ringing
Better than a choir singing out, singing out

The Girl and the Boy tentatively adjusted to their new life, lived in freedom from the former chains. Chains that had once held them captive and enslaved to their own self-serving interests were now broken. They were gone. And the Girl and her Boy lived in peace with one another, free to love each other. Free to love themselves. And free to serve one another in love.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

And because they had witnessed nothing short of a miracle, it was right to tell the world. That their broken mess of a marriage had been made into something beautiful. Just like a broken hallelujah from the lips of one breathing their last. Just like a melody from one who has lived to see another day. Their lives were a living testament to grace. Their lips could do nothing less than sing of God’s amazing grace.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

When we share with one another the brutal in our lives, along with the beautiful, we are able to clearly see the truth on which our lives are built. Unashamed and unconcealed. Broken and free. We are unchained melodies.

For we are more than just the pretty details we show one another in social media, more than the cute pictures we post on Facebook, the funny stories we share in our news feeds. We are more than just the casual “I’m fine” that we say so flippantly when asked how we are doing. We are people with real lives, real stories. Real pain. And none of our lives are perfect. None of us has that market cornered yet. We live lives of suffering that can be marked on a continuum that measures the varying degrees. And none can judge the shoes another walks in because we cannot ever know the pain we feel inside. Cannot really know the emptiness of wondering, “Is this all there really is?” This has to be one of the greatest points of despair in a person’s journey: wondering what is the purpose of a pointless life that seems to be heading nowhere. This is grief at its lowest, this is emptiness in its fullest.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Can we believe this truth?
Our lives are better than a beautiful melody sung by angels.
Our tears are better than a hallelujah uttered in church on Sunday morning.
Our cries are better than an Amen.
Our rage is better than apathy.
Our anger is better than indifference.
Our acknowledgement of the brokenness of our lives is better than a hallelujah.

Bearing truth to the messy, complicated in our lives is better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

(It’s better than a hallelujah sometimes)

Words to the song “Better Than A Hallelujah” are written by Amy Grant

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Tell Him

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He might not bring you breakfast in bed every morning…but if he starts the coffee maker without asking, he’s a keeper.
He might not leave the sink clean, hang up the towels or remember his dirty socks; but if he has the lunches packed and ready to go- complete with each child’s likes and requests, the guy’s a keeper.
He might not clean up his crumbs, remember to hang the dish towel up to dry or do the laundry- but if the van is scraped and ready to go even before you are in it, you’ve got yourself a true gem.
He might not be a cook, a cleaner, a mopper, a walker or even a super-listener or talker: but when you need him, you know he’ll be there.
He might not be in possession of all of those elusive qualities you once thought you needed. But in time, you have come to realize that it really doesn’t matter: he is exactly what you require. He’s it- your match. And you know now that you really could not do without him, for he is perfectly suited to meet your personality and character. Made to be your other half. You were meant for each other. He and you, you and him.
And although you might not be everything that a person was destined to be either (but, hey! who’s keeping track), he loves you anyway. Loves you for who you are, how you are- exactly the way you are.
Loves you for being YOU.
And because he loves you- it doesn’t matter anymore what might have been. Could have, should have, would have been. All that matters is what it is anyway. What it is right now.
And maybe, like me- you’ve decided that what is yours as a couple is imperfectly perfect. Just the way it happens to be. Even if it might mean that LIFE isn’t perfect- that life isn’t always the way you’d like it.
What matters is the two of you. And what you’ve got is all you’ve ever needed.
Just the way it is.
Go ahead- tell him you love him. Say the words. And while you are at it, tell yourself that whether or not he remembers to throw out the trash/pick his clothes up off the floor/tidy his papers: he’s still your best friend.
Never forget how much you love him.

And chances are, (with this kind of imperfect formula in play),he’ll not forget how very much he loves you back.

Nineteen Years (and counting)

Primitive Valentine Heart Barn Wood Wall by rockriverstitches

In light of Valentine’s Day on the 14th, let’s talk about love after nineteen years. Because, folks- this is what it looks like.

The alarm rings. Or maybe it doesn’t. All depends on whether or not he set it the night before, the alarm clock being located on his side of the bed. I am sandwiched in between Husband on one side and Youngest on the other, she having woken in the middle of the night from a bad dream. I have a kink in my neck, and an aching desire to crawl down deep under the covers and hide; but I instead scoot over the top of my little girl’s sleeping frame and find my way in the dark towards the dimly-lit stairway. I am ever the lone body awake at this hour. Soon the sounds of my feet padding down a wood staircase, the scrape of a kitchen chair, along with the relentless sound of water pelting the shower wall- all will beckon both him and the others to embrace the day.

Because this is what love looks like after nineteen years.

I am in the shower, steaming hot water running just fast enough to keep me from shivering on this -17 degree morning (Husband having purchased a water-saving shower head a few years back). I hear him in the kitchen pouring cold water into the stainless steel coffee pot, the ‘drip-drip’ of scalding water running over a premium dark roast. That coffee is for me- he having given up the stuff on which my life depends a mere two years ago. I will soon smell the fragrantly rich scent of grinds brewing, beckoning me to stop and place movement and voice on hold- even if for but a moment. To savour and breathe deeply of life’s goodness.

Because life is still good nineteen years later.

A text is sent at 10:17 a.m. Daughter has an away-game and has forgotten about it. She needs money for supper. Husband messages to say “I have prep next period, but no cash.” I am scrambling, having left my own classroom with working students to then, minutes later, take the phone call (I will not have yet read that above text): only to find out that Husband is on his way- and do I have a bill for him to snag and then be on his way? Within ten minutes, I meet him in the school corridor. A kindergartener has asked me to zip her coat, but I can see Husband making quick time as he takes long strides toward me. I leave him to complete the stubborn zippering on this little one while I run off down the hall to find my purse. I can hear a female teacher behind me saying something about his prowess at being a jack-of-all-trades. Because he is.

Even all of nineteen years later.

We make eye contact over supper while the kids banter and squabble and then settle into the regular pattern of being together- that pattern we’ve established over the fourteen plus years in which we’ve been parenting. His eye catches mine when something funny is said, or maybe it was something surprising. His eyebrows slightly raise while a slow smile forms at the corner of his mouth. I smile too. Because it seems we just know why these supper-hour conversations are so precious.

And I admit- I have gotten use to seeing him there, elbows resting on either side of his plate, hands drawn together in a clasp. He is always there- at the head of the table. Solid, dependable, unwavering in his commitment. I grab a bowl of corn and divvy it out to the two at my end and then manoeuvre the remains of the dish toward the other two at his end. He spoons the vegetable onto each plate, making sure the rest of the table gets fed, while I grab a bottle of bar-b-que sauce from the fridge. For those who just can’t do without.

Nineteen years is enough time to know the rhythm and flow.

And there are days when the cords of wood have been dropped off- two truckloads one after the other, days where we make steady time, moving in silence beside one another until the last log is stacked. Days when we pass each other in the kitchen as he heads one way and I go the other. Days where we wonder what we ever did before we had cell phones, texting and e-mail exchange. That’s how it is with us, nineteen years later.

But on most of those days, you’ll find us here, growing hearts. Building our home. Sharing the load in taking turns with homework, piano practicing, dishes and cooking. He, doing the vacuuming each night while I stay on top of the endless laundry. It’s not a glamorous life, but it is ours. And there is a lot to be said for that. It is a life we both know well enough to know that we’ve been given something good. In fact, it’s golden.

Nineteen years and counting.

Because nineteen years of staying in when we felt like backing out, holding on when we sometimes wanted to let go, giving over when we maybe wanted to give up- can make a person appreciate the years that much more. It is just the way of living sometimes. It’s certainly our way. Because for nineteen years, we’ve had time enough to know that we’ve got something beautiful, something worth striving for, committing to.  Something worth cherishing.

Nineteen years is plenty.

I crawl into bed and reach for the light. And beside me already sleeping is the man that stayed by my side through nineteen years of everyday, honest living. Through it all. And while nineteen years might not be a milestone for anyone else, in our books it is long enough to understand what true love entails.

It’s also short enough to wonder what the next nineteen will bring.

When a cord of three strands isn’t broken…

Most of our conversations these days are had in snippets- across the kitchen counter as supper meal is in preparation, inside the van en route to one activity or another.  Or carried out with me at one end of the dining room table and him at the other, conversing whilst we sit down to another crazy, noisy family meal.  We two talk in bits and pieces.  Starting a story, only to finish it minutes, hours, even days later.  It is best described as life interrupted.  Interrupted by kids, work, family, church, cell phones, Internet, friends, housework, books and other worthwhile preoccupations.

Even worthwhile interruptions are nevertheless interruptions.

We are living life in transit.  In limbo.  Gone are the spring months looking hopefully toward summertime.  Gone too is the blur that is summer, that blip of rejuvenating time which I wish could stop and stay forever.  Transported and fixed in both time and space, forever exuding restorative peace and calm.  That is the joy of summer. Then comes the fall.  And we fall hard into the vicious wheel.  Running, but never really arriving anywhere.

And in that mix of feeling and sentiment, there is a memory of a night in the haze of summer bliss.   To which I go when the ‘here and now’ seems crazy, hectic and insane.  That memory has my husband and me sitting side by side looking up at a vast expanse of sky, scattered with blinking, twinkling star lights. And if memory serves me well, I am asking him to point out constellations.  He and I both transfixed by the beauty and wonder of the universe.  And we sit in awe and quiet concentration.  We feel it- that sense that we are positioned on holy ground.  And it is a spiritual experience, not just a memory quickly forgotten.

Afterwards, we steal quietly into our camper to check on slumbering babes.  And then, we again stealthily move back outside into the night.   It is as if we are two teenagers.  We stifle giggles and stumble down a flight of rickety stairs.  And then we climb into the waiting boat where we will let her idle gently on lapping waves.  So that we can be young again.  So that we can be free.

Our precious children lie sleeping just beyond the tree line.  We can just barely make out the lights on the camper, as they shine through branches and brush.  And in the light of the moon, I lean my head close to the one I love.  And we are both so thankful for the peace of the water, for the beauty of the moonlight and for the joy of togetherness.  For the marriage of mind, soul and body.  For the ability to just be.

And I think, just now as I write, that this is what we need to claim.  The moments that are remembered as a rekindling of the fires.  When the flames were stoked and passion for togetherness is renewed.  When God’s presence is felt and the cords of marriage are strengthened.  Tightened into an intricate bond that cannot easily be broken.

If God be for us, who can be against us?

I scan status updates and find a blogger I follow has written a new post, a very public post.  Within which, she vaguely states that she and her husband are experiencing extreme marital difficulties and have been seeking marriage counsel.  That they are separated.  That life as she has known it is over.  And all this due to News that was delivered to her from her trusted spouse and life-partner.

Another one lost to statistics?  Heartbreaking, but all too common.  Life-long-commitment; no longer the road well travelled.

And I think, as I write this tonight, that we need to pray all the harder for marriage, for love and for covenant bonding of spirit and soul.  We need to reach out to those found crumbling apart from  betrayals and deceits and broken promises.  And we need to live out the marriage vows as honestly as we can, always knowing that but for the grace of God, there go I.

Go we.