Tag: family drama

Imagination and Marriage and Closure

I’d like to say briefly, especially to those of you who know us well, that Mike and I are in a good place. This piece has been years in the making and by God’s grace we will celebrate our 13th anniversary in a few months. I have written and shared this piece in hopes that it may encourage others who find themselves in low seasons of marriage. I wrote this with Mike’s input in every draft. Honestly, while I’m a little nauseous over the vulnerability of these words being out in the world, I’m also feeling a sense of closure. It’s not that we’ve made it and it’s all sunshine from here on out, but that was a particularly rough time in our story.  Today I’m especially grateful for our God who reconciles and redeems, who always hopes.

I stood before the rack of cards and let out an irritated sigh. I folded another sparkling heart-smattered card closed after reading its equally garish sentiments. Wiping pink and red glitter from my fingers onto my jeans, I reached for another Valentine’s Day card. With each new expression my heart sunk and my frustration rose. Lies! These cards are full of lies and empty romantic nonsense! I wanted to shout in frustration in the middle of the aisle. Were there really married people out there who felt this way? I couldn’t imagine it to be true.

My husband and I were in the midst of a particularly difficult season in our marriage. The stresses of finances, caring for small children, and my own journey pursuing work outside the home added tension to an already tenuous connection…
You can read the rest here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2017/april/imagining-better-marriage-actually-improved-mine.html

I Need Theology for Days Like This

It started like any other Monday, except for the glaring fact it was technically a Tuesday. Whatever it felt like, it was the first day back to school after a long weekend. A long weekend four of the six of us had battled the stomach flu, myself included, I might add.

In the normal hustle bustle of getting two kids ready for school, one ready for preschool, and the fourth dressed in something he would undoubtedly stain and ruin, my eldest daughter excitedly tells me that today is, in fact, her “Superstar Day!”

I feel the tension start in my shoulders.

Being Superstar just means you’re the teacher’s official helper for the day, but it also means you CANNOT be late for school. If you’re late then you won’t be able to help with all sorts of vital beginning of the day protocol, so your turn is skipped.

It also means that my eldest will now be reminding me every two minutes all morning that we can’t be late. Mom, we really really can’t be late! Mom. Mommy. Mom. Mom. MOM! Not that this will help her in any way to be able to find the shoes that have disappeared or brush her teeth thoroughly and efficiently. It means she will be an emotional wreck tearing through the house apoplectic in search for her shoes and bemoaning the very idea she would need to attend to details like teeth brushing in the face of such trials as these.

I hastily make lunches and throw them into the open backpacks mercifully hanging on their hooks where they’re supposed to be. As I do I catch glimpse of my eldest’s homework folder looking fuller than in should after a long weekend. I curse in my head as I realize it’s the class memory verses I (in a moment of nobility and temporary insanity) volunteered to correct weekly and send back in on Mondays.

I race to the kitchen to grab a red pen and glance at the clock. Seven minutes, I got this. Somehow in the blur of the vomit spattered weekend, last week’s homework schedule with the official verse must have been thrown away. So, I flip through the stack to find the Smart Kid’s paper and begin correcting the rest off it.

Mom! What are you doing?! Mom, we have to go! Moooooom we can’t beeee laaaaate!! Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mom. MOM!

I yell to gather the troops. I even manage to keep my cool when I realize the preschooler has just been doing who-knows-what for the last half hour wandering in her underwear, rolls in last and looks at me like she has no idea what the fuss is about. I redirect her to the clothes I have repeatedly asked her to put on all morning, and have her big sister help her because I cannot have her looking over my shoulder one second longer. The toddler is sitting on the floor screaming that I won’t let him destroy the stack of freshly corrected papers I’m quickly collating. And my elder son is blissfully oblivious having an imaginary battle wielding his Power Ranger morpher.

Miraculously it is only one minute past the ideal out-the-door time as we stumble out into the wide world waiting for us. My eldest sprints ahead to throw open the door of the car. She freezes and turns around to stare at me, eyes bulging. MOM!

And then I too see it. The ginormous dresser my husband had picked earlier in the weekend. And forgot to remove.

The tightly wound rubber band holding the lid on my pressure cooker of emotions was about to snap. I grab for my cell phone so I can share this moment with my wonderful husband, remember there are children present, and send off a quick sarcastic passive-aggressive text instead.

I throw open the broken tailgate which comes crashing back down on top of me. Second try I am able to force it to stay open. With all the strength of my rage I grab the dresser, rip it from the back of the car, and single handedly carry it to the house.

Well that was the original plan anyway. Before I realized it wasn’t the flimsy particle board Ikea decor I am accustomed to. I imagine going full beast-mode and just kicking the thing onto the street and leaving it there. I’m pretty sure it would make a very satisfying crack as it hit…

Gah! Head back in the game. It’s Superstar Day! As if I could have forgotten with my daughter whimpering from the sidewalk.

I move three car seats into the still standing middle row and, as I’m buckling the littlest, shout for my daughter to get in the front seat. She freezes and looks at me with eyes the size of the dirty bowls of cereal left forgotten in the kitchen. But isn’t that illegal?!

Yep it is. You want to be Superstar or not kid?! WE HAVE TO GO.

She sidles cautiously into the passenger seat; stiff, trying to looking taller than she is.

We’re off.

Now comes the awkward moment where we all know what time it is. It’s the time I sing the silly song I made up before we talk about a Bible verse and pray together. I do not feel like a happy, clappy Christian this morning. For a brief second I think maybe this morning I’ll just skip it. I don’t want to be fake and my kids will know the difference. I feel the Spirit turn inside me.

So I pray (out loud) asking God to help me forgive others the way He has forgiven me. That I would live my life the way He would if He were me.

My eldest asks to read the Bible verse from her new (and first ‘official’) Bible she’s been carrying everywhere since she got it. She chooses Proverbs 31:29-30:

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Of all the verses… I grit my teeth. I do not feel like dealing with the Proverbs 31 woman right now.

We skid into the parking lot one minute late and I mentally pray it’s close enough. My daughter jumps from the car and sprints off as I’m speaking the words of the Lord I speak every morning over my kids before they leave the car:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love others as yourself, for this sums up the law and the prophets. For you, Emma Grace Marsden, and you, Logan Vance Marsden, have been called to make disciples of all people, teaching them everything Jesus has taught you. And surely He is with us always even until the end of the age! And remember: Mommy loves you!”

Usually Emma rolls her eyes and taps her foot impatiently, but she’s already long gone. Logan, still so blissfully unaware of the crazy storm raging around him, smiles at me. “Love you too, Mom,” and bounds off to class.

I read on Twitter recently a man, whom I would like to give the benefit of the doubt was trying to be funny, comment that the topics of most interest to women in the Bible have to do with abortion, marriage, and pregnancy. It set my teeth on edge.

No no no no no. No. NO! I need the entire Word of God at my disposal if I’m to have any hope of maintaining any semblance of sanity on terrible Tuesdays. I need good theology to get me through the tough daily grind of just being me. Otherwise I might as well just take Mrs. Job’s advice to her afflicted husband and just curse God and die already.

The Lord does not offer me a stone when I ask Him for bread. He offers a feast! He multiplies my weak efforts. It is by His strength I gain by knowing and loving His Word that I survived Tuesday morning to make it to Tuesday afternoon. Where at WinCo my screaming toddler went possessed on me and threw two dozen packages of tortillas into the cart in his fit of rage at being restrained in the cart seat while my back was turned.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.





When Life Isn’t A Fairytale

I grew up in what many consider to be the golden era of Disney animation. My all-time absolute you-can-only-pick-one favorite was Beauty and the Beast. I still remember the cool darkness of the theater and feeling my spirit soar as Belle belted,

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere

I want it more than I can tell

And for once it might be grand

To have someone understand

I want so much more than they’ve got planned”

Me too, Belle! My seven year old heart beat in tune to the story unfolding before me, my half eaten box of Sour Patch Kids (mostly red ones left) forgotten in my lap.

I could spend the next hour analyzing how that one stanza of her song encapsulates my childhood hopes for my life. Maybe it even formed a primitive liturgy that in some way shaped the way I processed my life, though I may be over-thinking.

Probably isn’t a huge surprise she was my favorite Disney princess. She was the reader. My favorite scene of the entire film? The one that took my breath away and filled me with the awe and wonder I think maybe only little seven year old girls can experience? No, not the golden dress in the ballroom. That was amazing, too. And I was super jealous of my neighbor down the street that got to wear that incredible gown for Halloween…

I digress.

No, as you may have guessed, the scene that made my pulse quicken was when the Beast has Belle cover her eyes and leads her to a surprise. She opens her eyes as the curtains are thrown back and dazzling light floods the enormous space that is filled as far as the eye can see with stacks upon stacks of books! Staircases leading to multiple floors, ladders on rollers reaching the highest shelves, and plush furniture beckoning a reader to lounge, to linger in the majesty of the grand library.

As I write this I’m becoming aware this movie may also have played a major role in shaping my hopes for Heaven.

These fairytales I so cherished as a child were kept in my candy wrapper lined pockets through adolescence, but I found living in the abrasive adult world rubs a bit of the sheen off the hopes of childhood. I remember going through a period in my early twenties of feeling embittered toward the princess movies and their empty promises of shining knights and happily-ever-after. I mourned the death of the picturesque life that being in love was supposed to usher in during my early years of marriage.

I grew up and got past my unrealistic expectations. I can still appreciate a romantic princess-y movie, but I’ve traded placing my faith in the stories told by man for the true Story written by God and lived by His people.

One such story I read recently that has been on repeat in my mind is found in 1 Samuel 25. It’s the story of David and Abigail and if you have access to a Bible I strongly urge you to check it out. Or, since you’re obviously reading this on some sort of device with internet access, look it up! I’ll wait.

Seriously, do it.

Doesn’t Abigail just steal the show?! She is wealthy, Disney-princess-beautiful, smart, and loves the Lord. However, her situation is far from idyllic. She is married to Nabal, whose name literally translates: “foolish.” He comes off as kind of a jerk, and she’s left to deal with the fallout.

Instead of bemoaning her situation or blaming her idiot husband for her circumstances, she quickly steps up and takes action to save her family and set things right. Her faith in God’s protection and provision is obvious as she seeks David’s forgiveness for how he was mistreated and states her belief in God’s anointing of him. She boldly proclaims her faith and asks that when (not if!) the LORD takes care of David that he would remember her.

She doesn’t just do all this in secret behind her husband’s back either. Or, well, I guess technically she does. It was kind of an easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission situation. Anyway, she does tell her hungover husband the whole truth of what she did the next day.

And he has a heart attack. Or a stroke. Either way he dies from the apparent shock of it ten days later.

In Abigail we see a woman who did not let her circumstances dictate her response. She did not respond emotionally nor does she blame-shift, but reacted quickly with wisdom and faith in God’s purposes. She obviously was highly esteemed among the young men working for her family. She used the great resources she had been entrusted to bless God’s people. She used her influence to maintain peace. Abigail used her cunning and eloquence to defend her position and gain favor with the future ruler of Israel, unbeknownst to her, her future husband.

David gets word of Nabal’s passing and immediately sends for her to take her as his wife. It’s all very knight-in-shining-armor happily-ever-after-y actually.

We don’t hear much of Abigail after this other than she is at one point captured by the raiding Amalekites and David has to fight to get her (and his other wife) back.

So maybe, not so happily-ever-after.

As mentioned, David already has at least one other wife. And, of course, there’s the infamous David and Bathsheba drama to come. I think we sometimes forget Bathsheba wasn’t the only one married.

Maybe not so knight-in-shining-armor either.

Judging by her previous actions, Abigail was the kind of woman who had learned to make the best of any situation the Lord had placed her in. In her I am reminded that my hope should not be tied to any man or circumstance. My hope echoes Abigail’s vow in verse 26, “…as the LORD lives…” It is because He lives, He sees me, and He cares for me that I have hope that no matter what situation I find myself facing, He will surely utilize the gifts He has given me and care for me.

Personally, this means I am not idly waiting on a fairytale circumstance of being “discovered,” or a prince in the form of an awesome agent or publisher to sweep me out of my current situation as stay at home mom and outlet shoe store employee to usher in a new chapter of life as a writer.

As much as I would love to be like Belle, to spend my free time reading and daydreaming of future adventure, I pray I am more like Abigail: serving diligently wherever I am, ready for action, and already proven wise and capable when I am called.

How does Abigail’s story inspire you?










Dream On

Some people dream of long hallways, being chased, showing up somewhere naked, or falling from great heights.  I have had some of those dreams, but recently I most consistently dream of *insert dramatic pause*… airports.  Strange, right?  Nearly all of my dreams take place either in, around, or trying to find an airport.  It’s not always the same airport and the storyline of the actual dream might not have anything to do with air travel, but an airport always seems to set the scene.  As if that weren’t weird enough, as much as I can remember I have never actually boarded a plane in any dream.

I’m not one to place a lot of stock in dreams.  In my mind dream interpretation lands somewhere among horoscopes and fortune telling as far as reliability goes.  However, the never-ending airport scenarios were just strange enough to keep my attention.  So I did what we all do when we need an answer, I Googled it.  Of course I found a slough of questionable sources, so I randomly picked a site that boasted having a dream symbol dictionary and this is what I found:  “To see a busy airport in your dream signifies the desire for freedom, high ideals, ambition, and hopes. It is an indication that you are approaching a new departure in your life. Some new idea is taking off or is ready to take off. You may be experiencing a new relationship, new career path or new adventure.”  It even reads like a horoscope!  Here’s the thing, it also eerily reads pretty true to what I’m experiencing in life right now.  Blogging has gone better than I could have imagined, I’ve been accepted into a community of like-minded women in the Redbud Writers Guild, an article I wrote is being “officially” published in my denomination’s magazine, and I’m thinking through a ministry idea that I think could be awesome.  If only this dream interpretation had some lucky numbers attached for the next Powerball drawing!

Be forewarned, I’m not opening the discussion on whether or not God still uses dreams to communicate with people like He did in biblical times.  I have the comprehensive Word of God at my disposal so, personally, that is where I’m going to seek my true answers.  Sorry dreammoods.com, but you’ve got nothing on divine wisdom.  When I think of dream fulfillment in relation to scripture, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example than the life of Joseph, found in Genesis 37 and 39-50.

Joseph was his father Jacob’s favorite son among twelve brothers.  This fact was well known by all the brothers, especially obvious by the extravagant multicolored coat their father gave Joseph.  There was no confusing who was the favorite son, and, contrary to the culture, it was not the firstborn.  It certainly didn’t help this brewing public relations nightmare that Joseph chose to share a couple dreams he had with his brothers where they appeared as stalks of grain and stars, respectively, bowing down before Joseph.  This caused a serious rift in the siblings’ relationship with him.  So much so that one day when Jacob sends Joseph on an errand to check on his brothers while tending the flocks, the brothers conspire to eliminate his annoying presence from their midst:

They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.  Genesis 37:18-24

They end up half listening to Reuben, who is actually scheming to gain his father’s favor by rescuing the favorite son, and don’t kill Joseph, but instead sell him to slave traders headed to Egypt.  His own brothers sold him into a life sentence of slavery when he was probably still a teenager.  I’d say by any cultural terms that’s enough family drama to pretty effectively damage someone.  As if that weren’t baggage enough, after spending years as a slave Joseph is falsely accused of rape and, though innocent, is imprisoned.

Joseph becomes obsessed with revenge.  During his time in prison he hatches an elaborate scheme to reemerge from this captivity under a new persona and gain vengeance for the dreams his brothers killed when they committed this terrible evil.  He lives his days fueling the hate-fire in his belly by systematically plotting his route back to the top.

Not really, that’s loosely the story of Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo.  We almost wouldn’t blame Joseph if that was his story though.  He had some big dreams in his heart, dreams he could legitimately credit the Lord with gifting him.  Certainly his brothers deserved punishment for wrecking the plans the Lord had shown Joseph.  How would we have felt in Joseph’s place?  Angry at the injustice?  Bitter with the family dysfunction?  Depressed and hopeless at the dismal outlook for the future?  Frustrated, full of doubt, wondering what was to come of the dreams and gifts of leadership the Lord had given?!  Slavery and leadership are kind of opposite ends of the career spectrum.

I’m  sure he must have felt some of these things.  We have to remember that the people we read in scripture were human, just like us.  No one goes through that kind of pain without at least shedding a few tears.  Surely if nothing else he desperately missed his dad.  Scripture doesn’t always tell us how someone was feeling in a situation, which can lead us to wrongly assume people to be only flat characters.  Don’t fall into that.  At this point in the story Joseph was a young man full of dreams, and, probably a bit of pride, rockin some designer label threads his dad had given him.  Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt as a human, and especially as an adolescent, that he may have been a bit emotional in the situation.  Bible characters are real people, too.  When we begin to see this and try to process the human side of the drama, the Old Testament, which includes 39 of the Bible’s 66 books, becomes more accessible to us.

More important than how he dealt with his emotional wounds, is how the Bible tells us Joseph lived his life.  As a slave we’re told in  Genesis 39:2-6:

The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.  From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.

Then, after being unjustly thrown in prison for a rape he did not commit, in Genesis 39:21-23:

But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.

Obviously, this was not the Edmond Dantes hell-bent on revenge version of the story.  Joseph didn’t fill his days of captivity devising elaborate schemes, nor did he conversely lethargically lie and wallow in a justifiable pity party.  He did work, son.  Yes, the Lord showed him favor, but he wasn’t just sitting around enjoying being favored while his brothers were in the fields with the flocks…  He utilized the Lord’s favor upon his hard work to bless those in his sphere of influence.  He sought the Lord in his present, though far from ideal, circumstance.  And the Lord blessed him and gave Joseph a glimpse of His steadfast love for him.  Then, through a pretty crazy set of circumstances, Joseph ends up pretty much being made the Prime Minister of Egypt.  I’m not joking, check it out for yourself in Genesis 40-41.

Are you currently living the ideal, dream-come-true version of your life?  If so, are you being sure to give credit where it’s due and see the Lord’s favor in it?  Also, would you be interested in switching lives?  Kidding.  Sort of…

Colossians 3:23-25: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”

Joseph lived a beautiful example of this verse.  Whatever we find ourselves doing in life, we are called to work hard at it, focusing on our service to the Lord, and trusting He will reward our hard work as well as deal with “the brothers” in our lives.  The Lord gave us emotions, so be real with Him about how you’re feeling in your current circumstance, but don’t allow your feelings to keep you from the good work He has planned for you from before you were born (Ephesisans 2:10).  Trust that no matter how dismal our situation may appear it in no way limits the incredible outcome the Lord can accomplish through our hard work done in His strength.  He is sovereign over our circumstances, and Joseph credited his astronomic rise from slave to second in command of Egypt to the Lord.

The book of Genesis actually closes in chapter 50 with Joseph’s story coming full circle and his brothers bowed down before him seeking his forgiveness.  (Didn’t see that coming?  Check out Genesis 42-50 for the full story, it’s incredible).  Instead of taking this moment to punish his brothers for their many sins against him, to point the finger (and I’m not saying which finger), or bring up his past dreams and rub their noses in the fulfillment they were witnessing, Joseph instead says, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones (Genesis 50:19-21).”  He gives them the gift of grace– forgiveness and favor they definitely did not deserve.

Besides remembering the characters are real people, another way to deeply access the Old Testament  is to look for the ways it points us to Jesus.  Remember, God didn’t send Christ as Plan B when our obeying the ten commandments didn’t work out so well.  Jesus’ life was also purposed from before time.  In His story, we are the brothers that sold Him out.  Jesus lived a life marked by self-sacrificing service to others despite being supreme potentate of the universe.  We may not have been there to physically pound the spikes into His flesh, but do not doubt for one second that it was our sin that held Him there until it was accomplished.  When we bow before our brother, Jesus, and seek forgiveness for the atrocities we continually commit toward Him and the people around us made in His image, like Joseph He forgives us.  More than Joseph had the capacity to forgive because Christ is God.  Though He was faced with great evil, God meant it for good, and Jesus hung there in shame before His astronomical rise to life, that many people should be kept alive in Him.  That we don’t need to fear because He has told us He will provide us with everything we need.  He has given us hope for our eternal future as well as an abundant life to be lived in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in today.

My airport dreams have seemed to come to a close.  Recently, I dreamed I actually boarded a plane, though the dream moved on to something new before it landed.  I remember there was a man on the plane and he was standing up in front (my dream-plane had theater seating) and he asked a question.  I’m not sure what the question was, but in the dream I raised my hand, volunteering.  The dream niggled at the back of my mind for days until I prayed and asked God if He would tell me what these dreams were about, if anything at all.  I felt His answer, “For your encouragement.”  Be encouraged, friends!  He has such great plans to redeem our past, encourage us to endure the present, and promises us hope for the future.  Let’s pursue Him with everything we’ve got so our doubting selves can be blown away as we stand awestruck at His work, and give Him all the credit.

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  …  Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 15

Welcome to the abundant life, what’s your dream?





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