Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two-Headed Monster

I have an opinion on just about everything, and I feel compelled to share it.  I’m constantly working on this.  I’m working on listening more and keeping my mouth shut.  I cannot overstate how difficult this is for me.

When Jayson and I were engaged, the topic of submission was a big one (second only to whether or not we’d have pets one day).  I was a “very strong independent woman” (see previous post), and he took his headship of our family very seriously.  Not wanting a two-headed monster invading our future, we tackled submission and family roles head-on.

There were many discussions (read:  arguments) about roles and capacities and abilities and who-gets-to-decide-what and why-should-you-get-to-decide and you’re-not-the-boss-of-me.  I couldn’t humble myself.  God forbid I be “less.”  I didn’t get it.  I didn’t want to get it.

My mother-in-law mailed me a book called “Liberated Through Submission” by P.B. Wilson.  It transformed my entire way of thinking about submission.  I was also praying about it, and the Holy Spirit opened my heart and mind to understand what submission meant biblically – by God’s definition, NOT the world’s.

God says man and woman have unique roles in a marriage.
The world says man and woman are equal in every aspect.

God says man is the head of the home.
The world says whoever makes more money has more pull.
The world says whoever is loudest or strongest gets the final say.
The world says man and woman can both be the head of the home.

God says wives are to submit to their husbands.
The world says wives who submit to their husbands are weak.
The world says husbands who “make” their wives submit are controlling.
The world says wives who submit to their husbands are living in some 1950s “Leave it to Beaver” fantasy.

God says wives are valuable, important and worthy.
The world says wives are valuable, important and worthy when they’re calling the shots, working a high-powered/paying job, and living the false, damaging “superwoman” stereotype.

An important factor to remember is to choose a spouse who is spiritually equally-yoked.  Marrying someone who does not understand the Bible makes submission (and a healthy marriage, really) extremely difficult.  The husband has to understand his role in submitting to God and the weight he carries of answering to the Lord for his family.  Without that understanding, he will not have compassion on his wife’s role in submitting to him.

I put it this way:  I chose to marry a man of God.  He loves me.  He respects my mind and my opinions.  Every decision he makes for me and for our family is made out of love and with our best interest in mind.  Why would I argue with someone who is always putting God first and his family second?

I would much rather answer to Jayson.  Jayson has to answer to God, and that’s not a responsibility I want on my shoulders.  He has so much more weight to bear for our family’s spiritual journey.

That doesn’t mean I keep my opinions to myself.  It just means I don’t fight to the death to get my way on every decision involving our family.  It means I trust my husband.  It means I’m obedient to God’s word.  It means I focus on the many other responsibilities I have as a wife – as the eyes, hands and heart of our family.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Beaded Pants and White Harleys

When I was engaged and wedding dress hunting, I found a beautiful wedding outfit in the pages of Vogue.  I say outfit because it wasn’t exactly a dress.  It was a stunning, hand-beaded top and pants.  Since I wanted to ride in on a white Harley, I thought pants would be perfect.  They were definitely dressy enough, in my opinion.

I shared my enthusiasm for this outfit with my best friend, who immediately shut me down.

“You don’t wear the pants,” she said.  “The man does.”

This didn’t sit well with me at the time.  I was a very independent woman, raised by a very strong mother, and surrounded by many strong women – my sister, cousins, aunts and friends.  I took so many women’s classes at Boston College I could have had a women’s studies minor.

I grew up observing the couples in my family.  My parents were an equal partnership.  My father respected my mother’s opinions and always took her feelings and thoughts into consideration – but he made the final decisions.  However, I noticed that in many relationships, that wasn’t always the case.  Those strong, opinionated Armenian women always seemed to have the last word.

I don’t know if it was because the men were passive or if the women were especially cunning, but those Armenian wives always seemed to get their way.  At least that’s how it seemed to me.  Maybe they were just louder, or maybe that’s how they wanted things to seem when talking with the other women.

I don’t know that it’s just with Armenians, either.  Watch any sitcom on tv and the wife is the smart, organized one while the husband is the clueless oaf who can’t even put his pants on without her help.  Forget about taking care of the children or running the household.  The husband is made out to be a bumbling idiot, and the wife is a shrew.

I find it odd that women find this empowering – that they’re proud to “wear the pants.”  Biblically, this is not how God designed families.  It took me a long time to understand this (still working on it!).  Submission is a hot topic, especially for an independent woman like me.  I’ll have to continue my thoughts on this in another post.

I’m grateful for my best friend who convinced me to wear a wedding dress.  It didn’t make me any less strong.  I should have stuck to my guns about the white Harley, though!

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two Months

My father died two months ago today.  In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago.  In some ways it feels like yesterday.

My sister and I watched him take his last breath.  It was as if that final gasp sucked all of the oxygen out of the room.  My chest was tight, my heart was heavy.  I gasped, too.

I took his hand.  His skin was cold.  I shivered.

His body leaned to one side in the bed.  I felt limp.  I sat down next to him.  I hugged my sister.

I could hear his voice in my head.  Singing – deep, powerful, filling the room.  He never needed a microphone.

I could hear his words, his advice, his laugh, his jokes, swirling through my head – my pounding head.

I hadn’t left the hospital in five days.  It felt good to finally go outside and take a breath of the crisp winter air.  It filled my lungs and brought a flush to my cheeks.  Unlike my father’s collapsed lungs and sallow face.

But that’s not how I will remember him.  I will remember his twinkling green eyes behind his glasses.  His soft hands.  His voice.  That voice.

Always singing to me.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Smelling the Begonias

I was in a cafĂ© recently and caught myself dancing and humming along to the tune playing on the overhead speaker.  What was the song, you ask?

It was NOT Madonna, Gotye, Wiz Khalifa, The Wanted, or any early 90s R&B band.  No, it was “Scarlet Begonias” by the Grateful Dead.

Why on God’s green earth would I be bopping along to a Grateful Dead song?  Do I look like a dreadlock-sporting, unshaved, high-flying, patchouli-smelling, barefoot hippie?  Not even close.  (At least I hope not.  No offense.)

On my first visit home after getting married and moving to California, I made the “mistake” of wearing flip flops.  The feedback was not good:  “What happened to you, Silva?”  “You’ve changed.”  “Jayson’s controlling you.”  “Flip flops?  Seriously?”

Yes, flip flops.  It’s 112 degrees here in the summer.  My feet get hot.  It’s called “adapting to your environment.”  Sheesh.

So what do flip flops have to do with the Grateful Dead?  Not only did I adapt to my new environment, but I adapted to my husband.  I married someone with whom I share Christian beliefs, family values, and life priorities.  But we are opposites in most other ways.  He’s outdoorsy.  I’m not.  He cooks.  I don’t.  He likes hippie music.  I like dance and R&B.  He does extreme sports.  I do extreme reading.

We can’t help but rub off on each other.  And most of the time it’s ideal, because we expose each other to new things and bring out a side of each other we didn’t know we had.

Because of Jayson I’ve tried wakeboarding and rappelling.  I’ve gone to Phish and Leftover Salmon concerts.  I’ve loosened up (a tiny bit).  And I’ve embraced flip flops.

It goes both ways.  After 10 years of marriage I finally got Jayson to buy a pair of dark wash straight leg jeans.  Yes, it took 10 years.  I’ve improved his spelling.  And he went to a Madonna concert with me (and liked it).

Love is
bringing out the best in each other
discovering new pieces of yourself in their light
surprising yourself
breaking your mold
and smelling the begonias.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fear and Calm

When I was eight months pregnant with Silas, Jayson decided it would be a good time to start his own business.  Really, Jayson?  NOW? I remember thinking (and probably saying).  Despite my initial concerns, God filled me with His peace about our future, our financial provision, and our family’s well-being.

Whenever Jayson looks at the upcoming months on his work calendar and stresses that there are no projects on the schedule, I am filled with that same peace.  I pray confidently, knowing that God will provide work.  And He always does, usually within days, if not hours, of our prayers.  The phone always rings.

I tend to worry, instead, about irrational things.  The boys getting kidnapped.  SIDS (when they were babies).  Jayson getting into a car crash.  I worry about these horrific catastrophes that, in all likelihood, will only happen in my useless imagination.

But the real stuff?  I give that over to God and breathe a sigh of relief.

So why do I waste my time giving myself anxiety attacks over ridiculous never-even-happened situations that I think up for no good reason?  I have no idea.  I’m a flawed, fear-filled sinner.  But fear is the opposite of love, and God is Love.  And I love God.  It doesn’t add up.

I remind myself to Philippians 4:8 my thoughts.  It always stops me dead in my mindful tracks:  Whatever is TRUE BOOM – right there, Satan’s attacks on my mind and heart get shut down.  Pushed out.  Buried.  Stay down, I tell Satan.  You don’t own me, you don’t belong in my thoughts.  My heart is already occupied.

And the calm returns.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blume, Dahl, Juster

I confess.  When both boys are at school, and I have a few hours to myself, I sneak away to Starbucks, grab a bagel and hot chocolate, and read.  It’s such a luxury, this guilty pleasure.  To read without distraction, without interruption.

It used to take me weeks, even months, to get through a magazine, let alone a book.  But lately I’ve made an effort to read more – to make the time.  I carry books around with me and try to get a few pages in while waiting in line at the bank, waiting in the car for the boys, waiting to pick up a prescription.

It’s nice to escape into a book for a while.  To get to know the characters, make new friends for a time, invest in their lives.  (And it’s fun.)

Lately I’m reading lighter books.  I don’t have the mental or physical energy to invest in anything heavy.  I’m currently reading “This Is Where We Live” by Janelle Brown.  I recently read “The Social Climber’s Handbook” by Molly Jong-Fast, “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress” by Rhoda Janzen, and “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.

My favorite books in high school were “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding and Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

As a child I loved “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume (anything by Blume, really), “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl, and “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster.

“Night” by Elie Wiesel affected me profoundly.  As do the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and C.S. Lewis.

I may have to revisit some of these titles.  Because there’s always a wait waiting to be filled!

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Legos and Non-Things

My boys love building things.  They have Magna Tiles, PlayStix, Legos, Tinker Toys…  They must have their Daddy’s genes!

They recently asked me if I played with Legos growing up.  I didn’t.  I thought back to what my sister and I played with when we were young.  Mostly we read books and played games.

We played Sorry, Trouble, Lite-Brite, Life, Hungry Hungry Hippos.  I remember some Barbies, but we weren’t obsessed.  One thing I had that I loved was Fashion Plates.  (See it here:  I just LOVED it – the pink plates, the different designs, the endless possibilities!

This got me thinking about other fun childhood memories.  I remember watching Duran Duran videos and the making of Thriller on MTV.  I remember when Love Boat and Fantasy Island were on television (Saturday nights) and Dance Fever (Saturday mornings).  I remember my Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag and Halloween costume (the plastic face mask with tiny eye holes!).

And then there were the non-thing memories.  Putting on our bathing suits and playing outside under the warm rain.  Sweeping the garage with my grandfather.  Dragging aside the coffee table, putting on some music, and dancing with my cousins every time we got together.  Memorizing Armenian poems for school presentations.  Driving to New Jersey at least once a month to visit my cousins.  Sleepovers with all my girl cousins at Grandma’s house.  Making snowmen in our backyard.

I hope my boys remember their non-thing memories more than their Legos.  Even so, I may ask for Fashion Plates for my birthday this year!

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yoda Legacies


This is an Arabic word that my mother would say when she saw something that disgusted her.  I most clearly remember her saying it when she saw pictures of Yoda from Star Wars.  She must have thought he was the nastiest, ugliest little thing she had ever seen.

My mother was a happy person.  Everyone remembers her with a smile on her face, her laugh, her joyful spirit.  She was a peacemaker.  She disliked conflict (though she wasn’t afraid to tackle it).  As a hairdresser, she loved to make people happy on the inside by making them pretty on the outside.

But Mom experienced a lot of pain in her life.  She lost her dad when she was a teenager.  She was forbidden to marry my father (after waiting six years, she arranged a secret engagement and married him anyway).  One of her brothers died.  When I was around 2 years old, there was a horrific car accident – she lost her only sister, her sister-in-law became paralyzed, and my cousin (5 or 6 at the time) needed surgery on her skull.  Coming to the States and adjusting to life here was difficult as well.  She started taking classes to earn her high school degree via correspondence school – all while working full time and raising two children.  With just a few credits left to graduate, my grandmother broke her leg and Mom left her studies to care for her.  She never ended up getting her diploma.

My mom never showed her pain.  I don’t know if she processed it and let it go, or if she just internalized it.  But she was always a genuinely happy person in my eyes.  She would say, “Don’t expect anything from anyone, or you will be disappointed.”  She wanted us to make our own happiness, not seek it from others.  And she wanted us to make others happy.

I was thinking about this yesterday morning.  On the drive to school, I was talking with the boys about what we could do that day to make God happy with us.  Silas said, “Don’t sin.”  James said, “Obey Mommy and Daddy.”  We talked about being kind to others, and how little effort it takes to make someone happy, with just a word or a smile.  A note of encouragement.  A genuine compliment.

My mom knew that making our own happiness could only happen by making others happy, because ultimately that would make the Lord happy.  It was a nice legacy to leave to me and my sister.  One that we can pass on to our kids.

And thanks to Silas’s current Star Wars obsession, I don’t have any “wuh-jaaah” moments when I see Yoda.  The little bugger has grown on me.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.