Carried by Prayer, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Carried by Prayer


July 27, 2010

by Stacey Noem

Two weeks ago on Josh’s birthday we learned that his grandfather had died.  On his birthday.  In Iowa. 

Joshua is the first grandchild on this side of the family and we are all very close.  There was no way he couldn’t be there.  I was hoping that I would get to join him as well.  Then – we saw the airline prices.  Absolutely undo-able for even one of us.  So, we found ourselves, late at night still on Josh’s birthday, sitting by a campfire in the side yard just staring.  Neither of us knew what to say.  We really couldn’t figure out what to do. 

We agreed: He couldn’t fly.  He couldn’t miss it.  He couldn’t take the car.  We only have one and there is only one of him.

Then we realized: what we lack in money we can make up for in time.  Thanks to our wonderfully supportive and flexible work environment we do have time to play with. So before we knew it we decided to throw all three children in the car and drive from Portland, Oregon to Iowa. 

OK, for the record: we don’t take road trips.  The longest we have driven with all three of our children is 6 hours to the Redwoods.  The Redwoods were spectacular but barely worth what we had to go through to get there.  And we have not even attempted something comparable since.  So looking down the barrel of 1600 miles (according to Mapquest) and around 24 hours of driving (one way) I was far less than optimistic.  But as soon as we had made the decision, we just seemed to know it was the right one and we jumped up from the fire and threw ourselves whole hog into packing and prepping the car (which was 1000 miles overdue for an oil change and in desperate need of two new tires).

Part of my job was clearing our work calendar.  To give you an idea of just how freaked out I was about the trip with the children this is an excerpt of what I wrote to our staff:

“So, with faith that God will provide we are undertaking the psychotic step of driving with the whole family to Iowa starting tomorrow morning. 

“Psychotic” is obviously an exaggeration, but I am completely uncertain and “un-confident” in our children’s ability to handle this amount of car travel.”

My boss wrote back one line that began: “Psychotic actually seems just about right” and ended with his blessings and promises of prayer. Most of our friends, family and colleagues wrote with their promises of prayer for the larger family and prayer for our journey. 

Turns out it is 1800 miles (200 more than we thought).  And the children…

…were a dream.  They were great.  They stayed occupied with the activities I brought for them. They were patient.  They did as they were told.  They napped.  They joined us in the rosary and they looked at the whole thing as an adventure.  And the car…

…not a problem in the world.  Smooth sailing 1800 miles there and 1800 miles back.  We are now due for another oil change which I am sure we won’t put off.

I don’t know if I have ever so fully felt like I was floating on the wings of prayer like I did for that 9 day trip.  Travel was almost completely ideal.  Not easy, but no problems or hitches with the car or roads, or food, or lodging, or family.  We would get calls or texts from folks checking in and letting us know they were praying for us.  When we arrived folks were so kind saying what a hard long journey it must have been.  But the truth of it is, I feel like the entire time we were in a state of grace, carried by their prayer.  It was amazing.

Reader Comments (1)

  • Sometimes those last minute trips are the best and most rewarding.

    Of course the reason for your trip was not a great reason, but the Lord does work in wondrous ways and He may have put you on the this trip for a very good reason. Enjoy the trip and God Bless!

    Jason

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Invalidation or, Guess Who is Less than Perfect?

Invalidation or, Guess Who is Less than Perfect?

Many years ago, Joshua and I were trained by the excellent folks at Northwest Family Services in Portland to offer relationship communication workshops. One of the wonderful bits of information that the workshops offered was called the Four Communication Danger Signs. The four signs of impending communication danger are: escalation, invalidation, negative interpretations, and avoidance/withdrawal.

One of the things we have always appreciated about working with couples is that it provides the opportunity for us to reflect and take a new look at our own relationship. So too with these workshops. As we were learning the material, it was abundantly clear to us which danger signs were particular pitfalls in our own relationship: escalation and avoidance/withdrawal.

Having identified those danger signs all those years ago, we have paid particular attention to them in our communication patterns with one another. We try not to fall victim to them and when we do, we try to name them as soon as possible. The effort to avoid them is so much a part of our marital communication that we have even written about them here more than once. Needless to say we feel aware and cautious of them.

Sadly, just because some of the other signs were not present years ago does not mean that we are immune to them.

Recently, as we prepared to meet with a local couple, I came across the list of the four danger signs again. Truthfully, up until then, I had actually forgotten about the invalidation and negative interpretations dangers. After refreshing my memory with the description of each of them, I quickly realized that while Joshua and I are vigilant about not falling prey to escalation or avoidance/withdrawal, we are actually increasingly bad at invalidation!

Invalidation is when one person subtly or overtly puts down the thoughts, feelings, or character of the other. It could include interrupting, eye rolling, sighing, sarcasm, name-calling, insults, and other such interactions.

Now on some level this makes sense. I think it is a simple product of the length, and therefore complexity, of our relationship with one another. Joshua and I do not get so far as using the most overt or extreme examples of invalidation like name-calling or insults. But the other subtle examples creep into our communication more and more.

So while our old tried and true patterns of communication are still present, we have gotten quite excellent at improvising in new and creative ways. When we are not at our best, this “creativity” quickly morphs into laziness. And in our experience, laziness in marital communication can easily lead to stepping all over each other’s human dignity. In the midst of conflict, we have even gone so far as commenting upon how good one of us (Josh) is getting at eye rolling; or how heavily one of us (Stacey) sighs. Interrupting is just a foregone conclusion (and I am the worst at it).

It’s ugly stuff to be sure.

The other night on our way home from our conversation with the local couple, I mentioned this whole realization to Joshua. I told him that while I think we are getting better at escalation and avoidance/withdrawal, I am increasingly aware of how badly we do with invalidation. At which point he paused and then agreed by saying, “Yes, you are very bad at that.”

Which is hysterical and awesome on a couple levels: first, his response is the opposite of invalidating – it is affirming of my position and I love being affirmed, even if it is pointing out my weaknesses. Second, it was a light-hearted way of responding to a pretty heavy realization which indicates that we are in a good place and able to talk about this without too much guilt.

I immediately responded, “I know!” and we shared a laugh and had a very good exchange about our mutual susceptibility to invalidation.

So here we go again with learning new things about ourselves and the nature of our self-emptying, loving commitment. On the one hand, the personal lesson is consistently the same: somehow, I am not perfect. But the multifarious ways in which we fall short of perfection are always new and abundant. As are the opportunities to grow in holiness through our life with one another.


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