Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Letter to My Daughter and New Son-In-Law

Dear Patricia and Codey,

Today you have taken vows before God and man to love and cleave to one another in the estate of matrimony. The estate into which you have just entered is an honorable one. It is the estate designed by God for man’s comfort and aid, for companionship, for the bearing and raising of children, and ultimately, as a vehicle for enjoying God and glorifying Him in this life. It is designed for mankind’s blessing and it is the relationship that God chose to illustrate the love that He has for His Bride, the Church. It is also the estate in which you will be tested and learn just what kind of a person you really are.

Life is a lot like a full cup of tea. If someone bumps your arm as you carry it, the tea sloshes over the side and you get to see what kind of tea was in the cup. The trials of life have a way of jostling our arms and the tea in our cups becomes available for viewing. No one has a better view than those who live in close intimate ties with you, be it your spouse, or the children you may eventually have.

So what should form the foundation of your relationship to one another? Many people believe that romantic love is a good foundation to build upon. It is heady and exciting and in the throes of it, you believe nothing so good could ever fail. However, if you ask just about any married couple who has been around for a few years, you will learn that romantic love comes and goes. If it goes in the face of daily life, what are you left with?

I have been convinced through my own experience and through watching others that the foundation of any successful marriage lies not in our own desires and emotions but in faithfulness to our own promise, knowing that we will be held accountable for how we keep that vow by the One in whom we live, move, and have our being. For today, you made a vow to forsake all others and to cleave to one another. That commitment will be tested in the days, weeks, and years ahead. Make sure that you build the foundation of your marriage on the solid rock of commitment and not on the sands of emotion.

One of the biggest temptations you will face will be to blame each other for whatever struggles you are enduring at the moment. The blame game is so easy to play and it is so soothing to one’s own pride to think that another person is responsible for everything that is wrong in a relationship. Quite often you will find, much to your chagrin, that the very thing you are blaming the other for is something you are guilty of yourself. It requires humility to confess your own share of the problem and to seek forgiveness, yet I know of no other or faster way to resolve things than by this method.

You will also be tempted at times to think of your marriage in terms of your own personal aspirations as though it existed for your own personal pleasure. But you have entered into a covenant with one another to work together as a team. This is a situation where the whole is greater than its parts, but it is easy to forget that when you are upset or discontented.

Be kind to one another. Treat one another courteously and seek the highest good for one another. Selflessness builds, but selfishness destroys. They say that familiarity breeds contempt and in marriage it can breed disrespect and taking one another for granted. Guard against this tendency by being careful to always treat one another well. Remember that harsh words stir up anger, but soft words allay it.

There is much I would like to say to you both, but if you remember nothing else, please remember this piece of wisdom I was given a number of years ago: Do not look to your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, or any other human being as the source of your happiness and joy. We are all frail, foolish, and sinful and, it is inevitable that we will fail and disappoint one another. Instead, seek to find happiness and fulfillment in serving God. For He alone is perfect and never fails, and in serving Him you will find joy in serving one another.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with some words of wisdom that remind us all just what love is really about:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Much love to you children,

And on a more personal level....

Dear Patricia,

Today is your big day and how I wish that circumstances were such to allow me to be there with you.

Where has the time gone? I can remember, as though it were yesterday , holding you in my arms for the first time. You were my first baby and I felt so overwhelmed by the enormity of the responsibility that comes with raising and training another human being. But also overwhelmed with a deep and abiding love that I didn’t know it was possible for one person to feel for another. I wanted so much to do right by you.

Yesterday I took your younger brothers and sisters and your nephew and niece to the park. As I pushed baby James in the swing, I was reminded of a little person that I pushed in a swing not so long ago. I remember your babyhood and girlhood with a great deal of fondness. Before Trista was born, and while your father and I moved around a lot with his work, you were my only constant companion and little buddy. My head is filled with all kinds of snapshots of you at that time. I can remember when you were about six months old, your father and I had gone to McDonald’s and I had you sitting on a table in front of me. You bent forward and got your first suck of milkshake and I thought you were so clever to be able to figure out how to suck from a straw. (Of course, that was back before I got into nutrition, and today it would be a protein shake you would be slurping up!)

Then there was the time we lived in Qualicum Beach. You had your first birthday there. In the morning, it didn’t matter how quiet I tried to be, you would hear me from your bedroom and to get my attention you would throw your bottle out of your crib. I swept up quite a few broken glass baby bottles that year!

How can I forget your phobia of clowns? At one time people used to rent these full sized animated clown figures outside their businesses to draw attention to them. Going to town could be an ordeal because I would have to scan the sidewalks to find who had rented one that day, and then I had to walk on the opposite side of the street shielding your eyes from them so that you wouldn’t scream your head off when you saw them. Then there was the time you were in vacation Bible school and the theme that year was a circus with – you guessed it – clowns. Every day you had to be rescued from your class because the clowns would come in to introduce a Bible lesson and you would have a screaming fit.

Or how about the time that you and Trista cut your hair? You thought you were so clever by flushing all the hair down the toilet and that therefore I would never notice what you had done. We had to make a long trek to the hairdresser’s on foot, and you had butchered your hair so badly, I felt like putting a paper bag on both of your heads! The hair dresser’s laughed as soon as I walked in with you because they knew what we were there for : A salvage operation.

Later on you became the fairy ballerina of the family. You danced so gracefully except for the times you clumped people in the head with your foot when you tried to do a pas de deux in our kitchen.

Ballet and bread will always be linked together in my mind. I have saved some pictures for you of the kitchen before the cupboards were in and the old KitchenAide machine you used to used to mix the bread that funded your ballet lessons. You probably didn’t appreciate our making you get out there and go door to door to sell it at the time, but I bet your abilities to deal with the public now are because of your prior experience in having to sell your wares.

And so you grew over the years from the baby, to the girl, to the young lady who left home. I don’t know if you will ever realize what a large hole in my heart your leaving left. I don’t think anyone regrets your going more than I do. I wish we could go back and do that part over.

Trisha dear, I want you to know, that I have always loved you and always will. You are constantly in my prayers. None of us knows what the future has to hold, but I pray that the mercy and grace of God will fill your heart and life, and that you will look to Him as the source of your joy and comfort. I pray that the Lord enables you to be a better wife and eventually, a better mother than I was and am.

Much love and affection,

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