Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wife Rule #58: Keep Your PROMISES®

I am the beneficiary of one of the most important medical discoveries of all time.

I am referring, of course, to recent studies confirming the health benefits of eating dark chocolate every day. So in the interest of promoting my own good health and lengthening my life, all for the sake of being enabled to be a better husband and father to my wife and kids, I nobly take a few squares of Dove dark chocolate every afternoon at work--my "medicine."

Therein lies the problem.

Not the chocolate; it's the best medicine I've ever had. The problem is the foil wrappers the chocolate comes in. Not that I can claim total ignorance; if you read the fine print on the back of the bag, it clearly warns that "Each piece is individually wrapped with a special PROMISES® message inside each wrapper."

So what's the big deal? you ask. After all, I had enjoyed my medicine for several days before I noticed these insidious PROMISES® messages. But once the fluffy, pink cat with the nauseating purr came out of the bag, real harm began to be done.

You see, for some unfathomable reason (translation: a reason invented by the Marketing department), Dove decided that the sole consumers of their chocolate squares would be twelve-year-old females--and extra sappy ones at that. Thus, they flippantly filled their wrappers with noxious PROMISES® messages dripping with estrogen, which I'm afraid may have caused irreparable damage to my manliness. But like a backstreet drug dealer, they have no regard for the sanctity of my manhood; once they had me hooked on the chocolate, they had me in their girly snare.

For example, just imagine the way my hand recoiled from the wrapper after reading "Wink at someone driving past today." Ugh, it makes me cringe just to imagine it. I could probably manage a painful wince at someone driving past today, but winking is definitely out of the question.

Another example: "Buy yourself flowers!" Cha! As if! What would I do with a crummy bunch of flowers? Wince at them?

You might suspect that since I noticed the Dove PROMISES® messages, I have done a lot of wincing.

And moaning. Especially when I read "You know what? You look good in red." Aaargh!

To make matters worse, all the painful wincing and moaning has attracted the attention of my coworkers. So I had to explain to them about my medicine and how I now must endure a relentless onslaught against my masculinity, all because of the totally unnecessary, special PROMISES® messages.

I got no sympathy.

No, as you might have guessed, one man's pain is another man's plaything. Hey, now that's a good PROMISES® message! Much better than "There's no excuse not to dream." Ugh! I'll tell you what I'm dreaming of: I'm dreaming of opening a chocolate square and reading a PROMISES® message like "Hey man, you have big biceps," or "Go and get yourself some steak," or "Nothing beats a Harley. Except a Hummer. Or a tank. Yeah, a tank!" Now those are PROMISES® I could sink my teeth into.

But as I was saying, my coworkers have decided to have a little fun at my expense. So they have taken to eating Dove chocolate squares too, just so they can find the most obnoxious PROMISES® messages they can, and then assault me with them. Many a time I have left my cubicle to get a drink or talk to someone, only to return and see a nauseatingly-happy foil wrapper placed carefully between the keys in the center of my keyboard, and a PROMISES® message staring me in the face:

"Make your eyes twinkle."

"Dare to love completely."

"Go to your special place."

AAAARGH!!! I'll tell you what you can do--you can take these special PROMISES® messages and...

I was about to write a phrase containing the words "shove" and "your special place," but propriety demands that I forbear for now. It's just that it's getting to the point that I'm afraid to leave my desk even to go to the bathroom. I do a lot of dancing in my seat.

But don't think I can't fire back. Imagine the smug look of satisfaction on my face when a loud groan reverberated off the cubicle walls as my coworker found this PROMISES® message tucked into his keyboard: "It's definitely a bubble-bath day." Bwa-ha-ha!

So I guess that in the end, I did find one redeeming use for the PROMISES® messages. And whether you need to "Send a love letter this week," or "Follow your instincts," or even if you just need to "Whisper in the dark" a little more, I just want you to remember that you should always "Keep the promises you make to yourself."

I know I will.

In fact, I promise to myself that the next Wife Rule I write will have more to do with my fabulous, wonderful, amazing wife than just the token, three-superlative tribute I paid to her in this sentence. Although in reality, this Wife Rule wouldn't exist without her, because she's the one that buys my medicine for me. Can you imagine me trying to explain to the cashier why I was buying a bag full of girly PROMISES®?

"These are for my great aunt," I would lie.

"Mmm hmm," the cashier would respond, a calculated look of boredom clearly belying the skepticism in her voice.

"No really, they are. She's about to die. I was hoping the special PROMISES® messages inside the wrappers that are individually wrapped around each piece of chocolate might just, you know, help her bid this sorry life goodbye a little easier by reminding her of everything that's wrong in the world. No point in sticking around here and being in pain, while the Netherworld awaits!"

Silence and a stare from the cashier.

"Why are you looking at me like that with your left eyebrow raised? Put that thing DOWN!"

A little nervous, she reaches for the phone.


So you can clearly see that I wouldn't be caught dead in the checkout line with a full bag of chocolate wrapped in manhood-destroying PROMISES®.

And that's a promise.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wife Rule #57: Symbols Matter

Once again, my wife and I are losers.

And it feels great.

Not great to lose--I never like losing. But it feels great to have played the game.

You see, yesterday was a primary election in our state, and my wife and I both took the time to become as educated as possible, make our decisions, and cast our ballots. Unfortunately, more people with different opinions than us cast ballots too.

This seems to happen a lot. In fact, in the ten years that we have been married, I would guess that we have lost about 80% of the close races that we felt strongly about. We have had our victories, usually when we agree with the landslide majority. But it seems like most of the time when there is a close race or complex issue that merits careful consideration and good debate, we come out on the losing end.

But with a registered voter turnout of only about 10% yesterday, my wife and I are both glad that we took the time to learn, to care, and to vote, win or lose.

I am a little ashamed to admit that I didn't always feel that way. In fact, the first time I was eligible to vote as an adult citizen of the United States, I didn't make it to the polls. I was too busy maintaining a university scholarship while trying to squeeze in a meager social life, and voting just didn't seem very important.

I'm grateful that my wife was willing to overlook my little lapse in patriotism and marry me anyway. It's a good thing that I've got my incredible looks and big muscles, or she might have been The Big One That Got Away.

Just kidding--she also married me for my brains. But regarding that first voting opportunity I missed, my vote would have mostly been a symbolic gesture anyway. My state's voting color in that presidential election was a foregone conclusion--we are by no means a swing state--but that really doesn't matter. My apathy back then was really a symptom of a general lack of understanding.

My wife has never suffered from such a lack. She comes from a family that woke up at 6:00 AM every July Fourth for their community flag-raising ceremony. This is the real deal too; no donuts to draw the crowds, no gimmicks of any kind. It is just the bare-bones kind of ceremony where a handful of patriotic citizens huddles together by the church flagpole in the freezing morning air of a high mountain valley, to sing patriotic hymns while accompanied by a sweet, blue-haired old lady on the church's piano which has been wheeled out onto the sidewalk for the occasion, and then listen to someone with a lot of missing or gray hairs give a brief speech about freedom.

The first time I dragged myself out of bed to participate, I anticipated the moving patriotic speech that would stir the soul and make my gargantuan efforts to attend worth it. I will now quote the speech that year in its entirety:

"Well, [long pause, as a frozen breeze whipped past us] all I have to say today is that if we remember what this flag stands for, then everything else will take care of itself."

Really? That was it? THAT WAS IT? I stood there, bleary-eyed, bewildered, and shivering as the flag rose up the pole, each squeak of the cable and pulleys punctuating the abrupt silence that followed the very short speech.

I didn't want to resent being there, so instead I concentrated very hard on the strange feeling of my early-morning eye boogers being frozen to my tear ducts.

As the flag reached the top of the pole, our humble little group of patriots recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and then sang The Star Spangled Banner with much more gusto than should have been possible under the circumstances. I began to sense, again, that I was missing something in my life--a vital piece of understanding, something my wife already had.

And now, ten years later, I know what that something is. It's exactly what that old gentleman said in his uncannily concise speech: if we remember what the flag stands for, everything else really will take care of itself. Thanks to the relentless patriotism of my wife and her family, I have picked some of that up. She has installed a flag anchor on the front of both of our houses, and she flies our flag more often than not between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. I sometimes take it down at night if there are high winds, but she makes sure that it goes right back up when the winds calm.

Now when I see the flag, I can't help but remember the meaning behind the symbol. Our liberty--our privileges of family, of faith, of freedom--came at a cost. Men and women gave their lives so that I could get off my duff and drive down the street to the elementary school and cast my vote, even if sometimes it's only a symbolic vote. Symbols matter.

Thanks, honey, for helping me appreciate, and use, this privilege. It feels good--so good--to lose with you.

I pray we'll always have the privilege of playing the game.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wife Rule #56: Thy People are My People

Some of the most beautiful verses in scripture are the words of Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi. Both recently widowed, Naomi had offered to let Ruth return to her former life and family and start over. But Ruth expressed her intent to stay with Naomi, revealing the true extent of the familial bonding Ruth felt to her:

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. (Ruth 1:16-17)

I understand a little bit better now how Ruth felt--not that I have any desire to be parted from the family of my youth, but in the sense of belonging fully to my wife's family.

It wasn't always this way.

My in-laws are wonderful people. No really, they are. I have no schmoozing or brown-nosing agenda in saying this. But even so, when we first became family, I didn't immediately call my mother-in-law "Mom," or my father-in-law "Dad." There was a transition for me after our marriage: a transition from feeling like an outsider to feeling integrated; from being a guest at family gatherings to being part of the gathering. I wasn't surprised by this, nor was I disappointed. If it took a year-and-a-half of steady effort to get my wife to fall in love and marry me, I expected that it would take even longer for her family to accept me as one of them, and for me to feel the same way about them.

And then, after five years of being an in-law, we experienced the same type of event that culminated in Ruth expressing her devotion to Naomi: the death of my father-in-law. Going through this experience has served to seal my love and sense of belonging to my in-laws, like it did for Ruth.

Immediately after Dad died, I tried to help however I could. Even though he had been unconscious in the hospital since the accident, his death still caught us by surprise. Thus, when we realized that someone needed to drive back home and pack funeral clothes for my little family as well as my brother-in-law who lived near us, I volunteered to make the trip. I felt I should go, and let my wife and brother-in-law be together with their family.

A few days later, just minutes before Dad's funeral, I remember standing with my wife's family in the small room at the church where the viewing was held. I was honored to be part of that sacred family time and to be participating in the family prayer. I remember seeing my wife and members of her family weeping as they said their final earthly goodbyes to the father whose absence left such a huge hole in their lives. Knowing that their grief was far heavier than mine, I felt almost a little guilty to be witnessing such an intimate, personal time for them.

But as the casket lid was lowered for the final time, I felt something in fullness at that moment that I don't know that I had ever felt before--a compassion, a desire to comfort and console; but I also felt a sharp, deep sense of personal loss. I realized that I was not only mourning for them, I was mourning with them. Though I knew their losses were greater than mine, it was still true that we all had to let a family member go when the casket lid was shut. I was suddenly, and would be forever more, one of them.

Perhaps that was why I didn't feel like an uncomfortable outsider anymore when we proceeded into the chapel for the funeral services. When we walked through the chapel doors and the congregation stood, I felt that they stood for me too. My personal grief and the tears that flowed freely as we made the awful march to the reserved rows in the front of the chapel somehow made me worthy to sit there with them. I would not have been comfortable in the guest pews. I needed to be with my family. My family.

I have learned something interesting about familial love through all of this: it doesn't matter whether I, or any of my wife's family, occasionally use the term "in-law" when describing our relationship, because I now feel like a full family citizen. Through the refining fire of adversity, as well as the ongoing passage of time, many of the rough edges of our in-law relationships have been smoothed. I now consider myself one of them, just with a different last name. Like Ruth, I can now say with sincerity to my wife: thy people are my people.

I consider it a great honor both to love and to be loved by such fine people. Thank you for taking me in. I am now one of you, and not even death will change that.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Wife Rule #55: The Used To's Don't Matter Anymore

I used to do a lot of stuff.

For example, I used to watch NBA games on TV. Now I spend hours each Saturday watching three of my children play soccer.

I used to spend days hiking and backpacking in remote wilderness locations. Now I spend hours coaxing and carrying my young children along much shorter, more crowded trails.

I used to spend nights sleeping so deeply that I sometimes drooled. Now I often spend nights comforting my children who aren't sleeping for one of a hundred reasons, and I'm so tired that I drool during the daytime.

I used to play basketball, volleyball, and table tennis for hours at a time. Now I play "Hot Tamale" and "Alligator" on our trampoline with my children, and I usually only last about a half hour before my guts feel like they're ready turn inside out.

I used to watch loud, explosive action/adventure movies. Now I watch a lot of Disney, Barbie, and other pink-heavy animated movies that meet the "no bad guys" requirement, with my children.

I used to read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Now I read a lot of dinosaur-themed and farm-themed books, according to a set routine.

I used to have free time. Now it seems that there's never enough time.

I wouldn't change a thing.

I know that what I described above will change someday. For example, I'll switch from being the Giving-Up-My-Noisy-Entertainment-Martyr, to the Reduce-the-Noisy-Entertainment-Enforcer, and finally to the Turn-It-Up-I-Can't-Hear-the-Way-I-Used-To-Gum-Smacker soon enough. I'll figure all that out when I get there. For now, I'm trying to remember to enjoy being a dad to five brilliant and highly energetic children, ages eight to two months.

Sometimes it's tempting to push as quickly as possible through Play Time, Dinner Time, Story Time, Bath Time, Bed Time, or Whatever Time, chasing the illusion of a big pile of Me Time stacked up and waiting at the end of the rush. But that's not what fatherhood is about.

Fatherhood for me has meant slowly, one by one, giving up some of the less important things in my life in favor of more important ones. And the more important ones all have names, squeaky voices, and stinky feet.

But boy am I glad that our Father in Heaven doesn't pass us over because of our stinky feet. Nor does He push us aside in pursuit of more personal time. No, it seems that His entire existence, as Creator, Provider, Protector, Nurturer, and Teacher--in other words, as Father--revolves around us.

Hopefully we remember to give a little something back sometimes. Just the other night, during our usual routine of two-year-old Andrew bouncing off the walls of his bedroom while I piously model reverence in a futile attempt to calm him down enough to kneel for his nighttime prayer, a truly sweet thing happened. I had just prompted Andrew through the "Dear Heavenly Father" part of the prayer when his face twisted up into a fearsome grimace and he growled, "I AM A LION!" The rest of his prayer was repeated in a loud, growly, lion voice:

Me: "I thank Thee for this day."

Andrew: "I THANK THEE FOR THIS DAY!!!" (Yes, it really was in ALL-CAPS and with triple exclamation marks punctuating the word "DAY.")

I bet it was one of Heavenly Father's favorite prayers that night.

I have to admit that I get my fair share of rewards from being a father. Perhaps this is no better exemplified than by the morning ritual that occurs as I leave for work. As I pull away from the house, I have typically two, sometimes more, adoring children running along the sidewalk and blowing me kisses, with shouts of "ILOVEYOUBYE! ILOVEYOUBYE! ILOVEYOUBYE!" streaming from their little lips. Typically one of them trips and face-plants on the sidewalk, or gets all bent out of shape if I drive a little too fast for their liking, resulting in tears as part of the mix. It's really quite a spectacle, and I'll admit, it makes me feel special.

But despite these expressions of adoration, there's no arguing with the fact that fathers give up a lot for their children. Only as I have become a father myself have I realized just how lopsided the give-take relationship between parent and child really is. But there is also a lopsided abundance of love that seems to perfectly correspond to the give-take relationship. And that's what makes all the difference.

Since becoming a father, I have experienced more pure love, and thus more true joy, in my life than I ever thought possible. That's a richness that can't be duplicated in any other way, no matter how many NBA games I watch, or how many backpacking trips I take, or how many Me Hours I get, worlds without end.

My wife, of course, already knows this stuff. Mothers give so much, so quickly, that they are on a kind of accelerated track for this type of learning. But I'm starting to finally understand for myself what she already knows, as I live the Good Life--a life with less of me, and more of them.

I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wife Rule #54: Sometimes the Answer is No

I have been avoiding this topic ever since I started writing down Wife Rules, but it has been such a big part of our first ten years together that I knew I needed to eventually deal with it. It's not a pleasant thing to think about, much less to write about, but it is something that has deeply shaped our lives together, our relationships with our families, and our faith.

To be honest, I don't think about it all that often anymore, probably only a time or two each week. But there is a certain place we occasionally pass through--a city--that seems to trigger a flood of difficult memories that wash over me and bring back all the unwanted emotions that I typically dismiss as water under the bridge.

This city lies directly in the four-hour path we take between our home and my wife's mother's new home. It catches me off guard every time we go to visit her. I don't usually worry much about it, and even if I did, there really isn't a good alternate route; I can't avoid it.

At a certain point in the journey, about ten miles outside that city, we pass a particular bend in the road, and start traversing up a little canyon that houses a tiny town. My wife sometimes reflects on how her dad knew the mayor of that town. Driving through this canyon is always the first time that hints of sadness begin to surface at the edges of my mind, like suddenly noticing the sound of water lapping on the shore of a lake, where the sound had been only in the background earlier.

I remember the day, four-and-a-half years ago, that we got the call from my wife's mom. I was late for work, and was sitting between our bed and the window on the carpet, soaking in the morning sun, when the phone rang. Mom asked if my wife was there, and said we should both stay on the line. Something was terribly out of place in her tone of voice. She didn't delay telling us why she called; she just let it out: Dad had been in a terrible accident on his way to work. A dead deer was in his lane on the highway. A truck was coming from the other direction. It was dark. There wasn't any time to react, nor anywhere to go. He hit the deer, rolling his car multiple times. His brother had walked away from the wreck, but Dad didn't have his seat belt on, and was thrown from the car. A helicopter had flown him to the hospital, the one in the city just a few miles ahead of where we are driving now.

I look over at my wife. She's asleep. Or at least she's pretending to be asleep--I can't tell which. Good. I don't want her to have to think during this stretch of the drive, these miles of pavement that conjure up such strong memories.

After the phone call we dropped our kids off at my parents' home and headed north. That first three-hour drive is a blur, and my next memory is in the ER of that city's hospital, the first time we saw Dad after his accident. He wasn't conscious. There was surgery that needed to be done immediately. I hoped we could comfort him when he awoke, during his recovery.

We chatted lightly in the ICU waiting room upstairs. My mother-in-law and all the children were there. The doctors hadn't told us much, except that the damage was serious. There was head trauma. Recovery would take weeks at best. Despite this news, we were still optimistic, hoping things weren't really as bad as they looked.

We would spend a lot of time being optimistic together in that room, in that hospital, in that city, over the coming days.

Optimism calls for a delicate balance between short- and long-term planning. The prospects of a long recovery meant that I had to get back to work, to ration my time off. Besides, I had to pick up our kids from my parents' home. My wife could stay, but I needed to figure out how to manage my job and the kids while my wife stayed close to her family.

It worked out for our kids to stay with my parents, so I slept there with them, my days alternating between going to work and travelling back to the hospital. The specific sights of my route through that city burned themselves into my memory over the days that followed: the gas station where I filled up, just off the freeway; the exit signs; the particular angle of the bank of earth that sloped up away from the road; the large white dome to my right where my wife once competed in a tournament; the sight of the hospital and campus buildings on my left; the quaint, old houses and large shade trees, mostly barren of their autumn leaves, that lined the quiet streets.

I took a walk along those streets alone one evening when I needed a breather from the crowded waiting room. It seemed peaceful at the time; I still had high hopes for a complete recovery. I studied the old homes, mostly student housing now. I remembered my time as a student, not so long ago, a time that was incredibly busy but also relatively carefree.

My wife's aunt was the first to greet me as I returned to the hospital. Something about good news, something about the latest surgery. No specifics on further recovery yet, though.

Over the next few days, I repeated that long, lonely drive a few more times. My wife's aunt let us spend the night once at her nearby home. A local Red Lion hotel provided complimentary rooms for the whole family when I brought the kids up. Each trip required traversing that same freeway exit and that same lonely route to the hospital. In a way, that portion of the drive was comforting; something I could memorize, a constant in a time of great uncertainty.

Over the following days I experienced tremendous highs and shattering lows as new information became available. News of any change was infrequent and never very satisfying, but we never gave up hope. We never gave up faith. We never gave up on Dad.

But in the end, he never regained consciousness. After a week and a half in a coma he died, and there was nothing we could do about it. Sometimes optimism and our best efforts at faith just aren't enough. For reasons we may never understand in this life, God chose to answer our earnest, heartfelt prayers for Dad's recovery with a "no." We all suffered a terrible defeat--the greatest loss of our lives--in that city.

In the four-and-a-half years since Dad's passing, I haven't been back to that city, except when just passing through. The only places from my memories that I have seen since then are the stretch of highway ahead of me, the exit signs, and the exit, snaking off to the right.

As we arrive at that stretch of road today, suddenly my throat constricts and my eyes start to burn. The atmosphere seems heavy, like a burden pressing down on me. I hate the sight of that freeway exit. I hate my memories of all those places I visited in that city, and I fear them. I never want to drive along those quiet streets again. I never want to see the quaint houses or the bricks of that hospital again. Not in that city.

I'm glad my wife is asleep so that she doesn't see the pain contorting my face, the anguish in my countenance. I'm glad she is asleep so she doesn't have to feel any of what I am feeling right now. As hard as this is for me, I know that it would probably be harder for her.

I'm not always the driver, but today, by driving along this stretch of road and letting her sleep, in a small way I am protecting her, shielding her from the terrible memories of this place. In a few minutes, this city will be behind us, and she will be safe again. Safe from the oppressive weight and the deep, deep hurt that seems to emanate from the city where the cruel spectre of death took a loved one from us.

I realize that by writing this, some unpleasant memories will surface. But I have to--I need to--tell this story, because as hard as dealing with Dad's death has been, there has been good that has come from it. My children need to know about those good parts, and they simply wouldn't make as much sense without the context of the bad parts as well.

So we drive along the route that life requires of us. Most of the journey is pleasant, but a few parts--the "no" parts--can be painful. I don't know if that city will ever be neutral territory again. If not, I just hope my wife sleeps each time we pass through.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wife Rule #53: We Know From Whence We Came

My wife's recent pregnancy, and the accompanying obvious change in her profile, sparked curiosity from our young children. One day, as two-year-old Andrew was quizzing her about the baby, my wife was trying to explain that it would come out of Mommy's tummy.

"And Dawn came out of Mommy's tummy. And Rachel came out of Mommy's tummy. And Scott came out of Mommy's tummy," she indicated. Then, attempting to help Andrew discover and appreciate his own origins, she prompted, "Where did Andrew come from?"

Andrew considered this question carefully. And then with an excited gleam in his eye, he exclaimed in his two-year-old toddlerspeak, "Probly Andrew came from a Tash Cuck! Yea!"

Well, what self-respecting two-year-old boy wouldn't want to believe he came from a trash truck? It's big, it's noisy, it's powerful, it smells funny, and it has a giant mechanical claw that can heft huge trash cans way up in the air. It's the height of coolness. It's even better than a dump truck. Or a digger. A trash truck is Big Time when you're two years old.

I bet a trash truck eats dessert first. I bet a trash truck gets two stories at bed time.

So Andrew kind of had it figured out, as far his origins were concerned, and he was happy. In fact, he was so excited about it that my wife and I didn't bother to dispute his conclusions right then. Why not let him Live the Dream for a little longer?

But alas, eventually he will have to grow up. And when he does, a wonderful surprise awaits him: Andrew will discover his true origins as a child of God with infinite potential. And when he grasps and embraces this truth, his life will change forever. Knowing his true identity can and should influence the way he sees not only himself, but the entire world around him and every other person in it.

As cute as it is to get a peek inside a toddler's temporary misunderstandings, isn't it also just a little sad how often we as adults sometimes cling to the crazy notion that we came from a trash truck too? Don't we too often shortchange our own worth, whether it's seeing ourselves as big and bulky and noisy, or believing we smell funny, or whatever other real or imaginary shortcomings we choose to dwell on? Do some of us sometimes deliberately choose to consume the garbage of the world simply because we believe that's all we deserve? Don't all of us live a little beneath our potential, at least sometimes?

Like Andrew, we too, come from a divine heritage. We were meant to live above the refuse of the world. We were designed for something better. In fact, we were meant to have the very best. When the Savior promised His followers that He was going before them, to prepare mansions in heaven for them (see John 14:2-4), I get the feeling that He has something pretty grand in mind for all of us.

We know where to go, and we know the way there, because He showed us. His plan is universal; it's meant for everyone. It's a pretty neat plan that way. Whether we choose to rise to the occasion or not is entirely up to us.

Even those of us who love trash trucks.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Wife Rule #52: We Reach Toward Heaven

This morning I'm still on a high, coming off a wonderful, incredibly full weekend. Since Friday afternoon, we had a birthday party celebrating my thirty-third birthday; I went on a "Fathers and Sons" campout with Scott and Andrew and my dad; and yesterday, our new baby Charity received a special blessing in our church, a public rite that celebrates each new child born into our congregational family.

All three of these happy events involved celebrations with my family. My birthday was a celebration of my parents giving me life. The campout was a celebration of being a father to two wonderful, high-energy sons, and being a son to my wonderful father. And the baby blessing was a spiritual celebration of a very special new daughter, fresh from heaven.

Last night, after the events were over, and the feasts were eaten, and the visiting family had gone home, and the dishes were done, and the camping supplies were cleaned up, and the kids were tucked in bed (for the third time), and life looked like it was headed back towards normalcy, my wife and I were exhausted.

We were each sort of flopped across one of the soft couches in our family room, just enjoying the stillness. Charity was asleep, breathing soft coos in her bouncer chair nearby. A light, refreshingly cool breeze flowed from the open windows across the room. Soft, yellow lamplight illuminated our cozy home. We looked across the room at each other, with tired, satisfied eyes.

"I love you, honey. You make my life so full and happy. Thanks for everything."

"You're very welcome. I love you too!"

We were both in a quiet state of reverie, each slow, measured breath a sigh of both relief and contentment.

Reflecting on such times, I am lead to believe that the peace and joy that permeated the atmosphere last night, and continues into the morning today, must be sort of what heaven feels like. It wasn't hyperventilating ecstasy, nor was it mindless strumming on a harp while bouncing from cloud to cloud. It was a sense of peaceful joy in the fruits of our labors, and above all, of gratitude for how the Lord has blessed us so abundantly. It was a sense of being perfectly content with the good parts of life, while being willing to overlook the ever-present hard parts. It seemed to hint strongly of the type of perfect life that is promised to those who overcome the trials of this life and are allowed, at last, to rest.

My wife and I are not even remotely close to perfection yet; neither are our children or any other members of our family. But at times such as we experienced last night, we are perfectly bound together in a common goal, as we reach toward heaven.

It wasn't hard to imagine our Heavenly Parents smiling down on us as we experienced just a hint of the glorious life that They lead; a small fraction of their joy, and peace, and satisfaction, all wrapped up in family and love. In such times we see in clarity all that is good, all that gives meaning to life and makes it abundant. We pierce through the haze of this life, peering towards the life that They live in perfection.

And from what I can see now, it looks so, so good.