Several months back, a fellow blogger, Karee Santos of Can We Cana, put out a request for guest bloggers to share about "How to stay married 10 years and then some." I felt called immediately to respond. I wanted to share not because I have great insights to share about successful marriages. In fact, there are too many times I feel like quite the opposite. I wanted to share because I felt that the complexities and disappointments of life, married or otherwise, can blind us to what we have been blessed with. I have shared many of my struggles on this website. This was by far the most difficult to share. I am thankful to Karee for the opportunity to birth the words. Here is the post as it appeared on her blog:
This is a "Memory Pillow", created at a grief workshop, showing our family.
From a Woman Widowed Too Young: How to Stay Married 10 Years & Then Some
Cyndi married Steve when she was 19 years old, stayed married for 24 years, and became a widow unexpectedly at age 43. Cyndi tells an honest and real story of two people who shared life together through "lots of good and lots of bad times and tried to make the best of things most of the time." Many days, she experiences "regret and longing to go back and fix it all...if only I could."
Even though Steve suffered his first heart attack at 44, his medical recovery was excellent and they mistakenly thought that all was going to be just fine. They looked forward to sharing their future twilight years together and began talking of taking a cruise to celebrate their 25th anniversary. But, Cyndi laments,"the cruise never happened. On April 26, the day before my birthday and two days before our son’s birthday, we came home and found him. He was dead of a massive heart attack at the age of 48. The past several years have been very rough. They have been hardest on my son. I have come to accept the beautiful tapestry of inadequacies that have been woven and revealed through this entire experience. I have come to understand the trials of life are truly God's mercies in disguise.*"
Here is Cyndi's advice on cherishing the years that you have together, because they may be cut short far sooner than you imagine.
1. How many years have you been married and how many kids do you have?
Steve and I were married 24 years when he passed, and we have one adopted son.
2. Name 3 things that helped you to stay married that long.
3. What role did faith play in your marriage?
I have only God and our deep sense of commitment to each other, no matter the pain or cost, to credit those 24 years together. For it was not an easy one for us. We were not married in the Catholic Church. Neither of us was Catholic. He was Baptist by up-bringing; I did not have a church affiliation. We somehow managed a Christian wedding. Many years later I would become Catholic on my own.
Grace is the glue that held us together when we did not have the strength to do it ourselves. God had a plan for us. God has a plan for you. Trust that.
4. What advice would you give people who are dating and considering marriage?
Don’t pay attention to what the media or the world tells you about relationships and marriage. It couldn’t be further from what is real and is not the model you want to emulate.
5. What advice would you give newlyweds?
Don’t run away from the bad times. Don’t run away from each other. Say I love you all the time, because you never know when you won’t get the chance to say it again.
6. What advice would you give new parents or couples who are trying to have children?
We were never able to have children of our own. Infertility is a terrible, destructive force in a marriage. We tried for 13 years before we looked at adoption through our local Catholic Charities. Although Steve had to be convinced to give adoption a try at first, once he was committed, he never looked back and was a truly wonderful and caring father.
So I am only going to speak to the couples that are longing for children and experiencing any type of infertility. It is not an experience that every marriage can survive. Dealing with those pains and disappointments will be a challenge. Stay faithful to each other. Stay committed to each other. Together and with your faith to guide you, you can and will get through it all. Infertility is cruel and devouring monster that is eager to destroy if you let it. Don’t let it. Husbands, sometimes she just needs to be held and allowed to cry her eyes out. Wives, do what you need to do to get through each day. If that means staying away from baby showers, and avoiding the baby aisle of the store, then that is what you need to do. Couples, please just don’t suffer this alone. Find others who are or have experienced this pain and find some friendship and comfort there.
I still carry the scar of my infertility. There are times when it hits me that I have never known the joy of carrying a child in my womb and now, due to age and a complete hysterectomy, I never will. There is an ache that permeates from the soul when you long for a child and you cannot have one. I wish that I could tell you that the ache goes away 100% ...but it doesn’t really ever leave. With faith, the pain can and will undergo a metamorphosis to become that blessing of mercy. I promise.
God bless you in your union, now and always.
*Much of my inspiration is gleaned from the song "Blessings" by Laura Story. Each time I listen to it I am reminded of God's compassionate healing and merciful blessings.
Better late than never, breaking the tiny threads that are holding it all together and ugly brown spiders.
I stumbled on this wonderful post idea that is the brainchild of Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary via one of my favorite bloggers Cristina T at Filling My Prayer Closet. When I read the idea it immediately peaked my interest and I wanted to participate. But the link-up was for 7 Quick Takes on Friday, it was already Saturday. Yet, amid the chaos of my weekend (see all of the below) the thought wouldn’t leave my mind that I should do this. Be forewarned, that yes I am going to use a terrible cliché now. Cover your eyes and ears if you must, because it's better late than never.
Work has been very hectic and trying for me. I am the coordinator of Children’s Formation at my parish. There have been many staff turnovers and lots of changes that I am adapting to while I deal with my unstable and chaotic home life. We have a brand new program at work that I am spearheading and developing to replace our traditional classroom model of faith formation for children not attending catholic schools and it is rooted in the family as the “Domestic Church.” I am excited about the changes and the opportunities that this presents. At the same time, I am building this from the ground up at our parish, and the amount of preparation is exhausting. The program seeks to have parents (or at least one parent) ) attend sessions with the child and to become more directly involved in the child's faith formation. The class schedule has been modified for us to meet only twice a month and on the weeks that we do not meet families will be provided resources to enable them to better take on the role of primary teachers of the faith, just as they promised when they brought their child to the waters of baptism:
“You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking” - text from the Rite of Baptism.
I pray that we can bring to fruition joyful followers of Christ with families and children that truly embrace and nurture that relationship guided by the beauty and truth found in our Catholic Faith.
Thursday night was a terrible night in our household. My son's stability has been perceptibly on the decline. I shared about my feelings of inadequacy as a parent in my post A Beautiful Tapestry of Inadequacies. When I say to you things were terrible, they were genuinely terrible. It has become more and more apparent that my child suffers from extreme anxiety and depression that causes him to explode and become destructive. After getting mad at something, he lost control and broke the television. After breaking the television, he morphed into a shear anxiety attack. He called me home from my errands and the remainder of the night was a blur of arguments, cries and pleas. The most terrible thing is how desensitized I have become to all of this. I have learned to not panic nor take much action when he says he is having a heart attack, or that he can’t breath, or that his vision is blurry, or that he can’t eat or is nauseous, or any other number of ailments that are part of an anxiety attack. I offer the trip to the hospital and then let him decide. Several hours later and we are still where we were when I first came home. Then, a small break-through. He indicates he might want to go to the hospital. After an hour or more of we are going to the hospital, then we are not, we are going, then we are not.. I give-up. By then it is sometime in the wee hours of morning and I just want to sleep a few hours to awaken to a new day.
Friday I went to work as usual, only to be there about two hours before the call came. I was to take my son to the ER to have tests ran. The symptoms he was describing to his doctor (blurry vision, memory lapses, lack of body control - which meant for my son “nervous shaking” ) warranted a trip to ER for a CAT scan. Four hours later and three other tests, all physical reasons were ruled out. Now we moved on to what I have been hoping for, some help and guidance for his untreated mental health issues. Another two hours later and after talking to someone from a local mental health facility, we had our post treatment recommendations. They are the same as they have been the other three times he has been to the hospital over the last several years. Intensive outpatient therapy. Remember, as noted in my other post, after the age of 16 a person has the right to refuse mental health treatment unless a harm to self or others (breaking TV’s, doors, punching holes in walls don’t seem to count) My son, the actor, agrees and nods in compliance to all that the young women tells him they recommend. We go home to battle number two and it is the biggest one of them all...
I am a terrible, horrible mother that does not care about her son and I am going to make him homeless. Thus says my son. I have had to make the tough decision that my son can no longer live with me if he refuses the treatment this time. It is now Sunday and we are still going back and forth. He is petrified. I understand that. And he keeps trying to find ways out of my ultimatum. He keeps asking for compromises. He has exploded, slammed things, cursed, yelled, pretty much called me every name in the book for letting my own son go “homeless.” The front door is broken from the slams. My coffee table ruined. He left for a bit saying he wasn't going to return, only to be with one of my best friends who calmed him down and tried to get him to agree he needs help so that he can move out on his own. The remainder of the weekend there are moments of calmness. Then he thinks about things and it triggers more panic attacks. He is now trying to figure out ways to get out of going. Or he states that he will go but that he will walk out and won’t cooperate. I keep saying the choice is his what he does when he is there, but he has to realize that by choosing to not take part in treatment that means he is choosing to not live with me. I am trying so hard to not break the tiny threads that are holding us together. I need your prayers. I really need your prayers.
I am a sucker for strays. I have six animals. Four cats and two dogs and all of them are a stray or a rescue animal. I tend to take human strays as well. We have yet another homeless friend of my son’s also temporarily staying with us. I guess I am a sucker for those down on their luck. I have allowed three other homeless "friends" of my son over the last two years. I always give them four stipulations before they can stay:
Our current "stray" (and I want to protect his name at this point) has secured employment within the first week and is currently working. He does help about 60% of the time when asked. He is also in the Military Reserves and does seem like he truly want's to get his life together. However, if my son is kicked out for not following through with his treatment, I will have to have this young man leave as well. I cannot keep my son's friend and kick out my own child.
I really need your prayers.
Today is Sunday. After a nice lunch out with my son and his friend , we came home to have my son's friend, the current “stray, ” work off some room and board by helping me to clean the porch in my backyard. I have a walk-out basement which means that the backyard has an upper and lower level. I don’t get down to the lower level porch that is under the deck very often. And it has become over-run by cobwebs and big ugly brown spiders. It turns out that this “buff” young military man is petrified of spiders. I don’t like them much myself. I put on my bravest "you don't scare me big ugly brown spiders" face and I go to work to set the example. I want you to know that we saw far too many spiders for my comfort and sanity level. I got out the hose and I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed to try to wash them away. A temporary fix that allowed us to clean and make the area look presentable. I didn't let the boy see, but more than once after we came in I have jumped and done a crazy doggy style body-shake to knock off what I keep thinking is crawling on me or in my hair.
I have already looked up the number for a pest control agency and I am on it first thing Monday morning.
Here's to a new week that is spider free and with renewed hope that we can conquer this illness.
“You could not keep watch with me for one hour?” – Matthew 26:40
The famous Trappist monk, Thomas Merton said: “The biggest disease in North America is busyness.” How very true it is. Our lives are a constant barrage of busy and noisy. TV, video games, iPods, IPads and cell phones mean that our lives are filled with a constant noise. All of this while we juggle the constant stream of places and activities that keep us "busy" and dominate our lives. Crammed into just one hour we can be taking one child/grandchild to this sports practice and one to this dance recital. Getting the family pet to the vet and our aging parents to their latest medical test. All this while our minds are remembering and planning dinner preparation needs before we make that final pit-stop at the grocery store.
It is all a never-ending cycle of busyness that becomes the motivating condition of our lives - if we let it.
But Jesus himself has asked us to do this one thing for him this most Holy Week of the year. To stay for a while in the garden and just keep watch with him. He has taken on the pain and sorrow that fills our lives and even taken the burden of our busyness. He just asks us to slow-it-down for one hour. Just give him one hour.
One hour at Holy Thursday Mass to pray with him in the garden and to dine with him at the table of His last supper.
One hour to experience the final steps of his agony and passion and to humble ourselves and venerate the Cross on Good Friday
One joyful and glorious hour to rejoice and celebrate on Easter that he has concurred death, he has risen and he truly lives today and for all of time.
Something has been out of sync with my life lately. Seems like no matter which aspect of life I am talking about, work or personal, something has felt off.
Out of nowhere, I have entered a dark and dry period.
These periods of life are not uncommon to most believers. I think all of us go through them at some point. The saints and mystics of past ages did as well. From their wisdom we have come to know that some of the most powerful spiritual lessons are gleaned during times of darkness and dryness.
The difference in this time for me is that I can feel that something new is about to happen. I just can't put my finger on it. Although I don't know at all where things are headed, I recognize that they are being directed by a power stronger than I.
A layer of old "skin" is about to be shed so that a new one can emerge
In the meantime I am doing the following:
I am trusting in Him.
I am choosing to see the good and I'm expecting the best.
I'm choosing faith over understanding.
I'm staying grounded in The Word.
I'm going to freely enter into and embrace this Paschal Mystery season of life.
I look forward to the new skin.
As promised in my last post, "God is a User" I want to share with you the rest of the story.
RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults for anyone not familiar with the acronym) was an eye-opening experience for me. Because I had little or no background in Christianity, much of what I learned was difficult for me to comprehend. There still were many practical things I needed to learn to fully live out this Christian calling.
Almost all of my past sense of spirituality and religious formation were based on my understanding of the "New Age Movement." I found it difficult at times to accept all that the Catholic Church taught. I had lots of questions. I had lots of doubts. There were times I would walk away from a class feeling 100% certain this was what God wanted for me. There were times when I would walk away and wonder what I had gotten myself into. It was at those times I would try to rationalize and adapt what I was being told to fit into something that I could accept. A bad habit that I would have to break, but that story is for another day.
Part of the journey for each person in RCIA are the rituals and periods of discernment. These moments are when the person in RCIA makes the decision to move forward on the journey. Amazingly, at each step of discernment I felt the call to move forward.
The culmination of the RCIA process is the experience of Holy Week and then to become a fully initiated Catholic on Easter Vigil. I had never attended a Mass during Holy Week before. I had no idea what to expect.
I watched with great reverence as Holy Thursday Mass took place and the feet of a great many parishioners were washed. It was a beautiful and moving Mass, and I was happy to be just a spectator at that point.
Ah, But Good Friday was another story. It was explained that we would be offered an opportunity to venerate the cross. Thus the conversation with someone from RCIA that went something like this:
"Well how do people do that?" I asked
They answered "Some people genuflect or bow at the cross, some people kiss the cross."
My doubts started to kick in. I thought to myself. Kiss the cross?...um... I don't think so! That seems just plain weird. What other weird things do Catholics do that I don't know about? What am I getting myself into?
So I asked the RCIA person, "Do we have to do kiss the cross?
They answered "No you don't have to, but...." and they proceeded to elaborate on why we venerate the cross and why I would want to do this as well.
All I really heard was, I don't have to kiss it if I don't want. I could handle that.
I went to the Good Friday service and I sat alone toward the back.
The cross was brought forth in the ritual manner that is reserved for Good Friday. It was placed in front of the altar and the people in the rows in front of me began to go forward to adore and to venerate the cross.
I watched intently as everyone in the entire first row genuflected and kissed the cross.
Then the next row did the same.
And then the next...
I began to panic for some reason. My thoughts raced. That's it. No way. I can't do this. Maybe I'm not meant to be Catholic. I thought back to the Mass I went to as I child, when I was asked to bring up the gifts. Maybe I am just a fake. Someone else please just bow or something, Or better yet, someone else stay in your seat, then I won't feel like the odd person out if I stay in my seat.
It was almost time for my row to go, and so far every single person in that church had kissed the cross. And, you guessed it, not a single person stayed behind in their seat.
It was my row's turn. My need to blend in and not stand out were very strong. So, I got up with the rest of the people in my row. I approached the cross. As I walked forward inching ever nearer, I told myself "I will just bow or something I guess, because I am not going to kiss it."
And then It was my turn. I was at the foot of the cross. I knelt down. And then something else took control over me and I did what I said I wasn't going to do. I kissed the cross.
I felt nothing. I turned and went back to my seat. I sat down and I started to tremble. And then I started to cry. I don't mean that I just teared up. I mean I started to sob. I did not care at that point if anyone saw me. Because in that moment, in that most extraordinary moment, the spirit of God come upon me to let me know that everything was as it should be. That I was doing the right thing. I belonged there.
The next day at the Easter Vigil, with my husband, mother and father in attendance (my parents drove 100 miles to be there) I was received into the church. I felt like I was floating on a cloud the entire night.
My sponsor would tell me later that I looked so peaceful. and that I just seemed to glow.
You know what? I think I probably did.
by Cyndi Marlow
'For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. -Jeremiah 29: 11-13
It is amazing the way that God uses the ordinary things and people in our lives to reach out to us.
I grew up in an unchurched home. My mother was raised Catholic but did not attend Church due to a prior marriage and not being able to partake of the Eucharist. My father had no religious affiliation. .
I am the oldest of four children. Our only exposure to church was through our grandmother who was a devout and practicing Catholic. She made sure that all of us siblings were at least baptized Catholic. And she would on the rare occasion take us to Mass.
When I was 9 or 10 years old, I have a very distinct memory of attending Mass one time with my grandmother and my cousin. My cousin was a practicing Catholic. I watched as she knelt and prayed. Like most kids. I wanted to fit in, so I did what she did (at least what she was doing physically). It was while we were both kneeling that someone came up and asked us to bring forward the gifts at the preparation of gifts.
Being just a kid, I wanted to do it because my cousin was doing it. So, I said yes. My grandmother was so surprised when she witnessed the event. Afterward, it was all she could talk about, she was so proud. What I remember most about the experience was being petrified that I was going to be “exposed” as a fake.
I grew into adulthood mostly an unchurched soul. I fell in love and I married. My (late) husband was Baptist by upbringing, but he did not attend church or practice his faith as an adult. No religious affiliation and no regular church attendance were solidified as the status quo for my life. Over the years, I would attend a church service on occasion when my well-meaning friends, worried about my soul, would invite me to their church. One time I even made a truly heartfelt altar call. But the moment was short-lived
During most of my young adult life I considered myself a spiritual person, but not a religiously affiliated person. I had a deep fascination with reincarnation and the entire New Age Movement. I even attended a few workshops and retreats on metaphysics. I took classes when I could find something relevant. It was during an adult education class on “Meditation” offered by our local school district that I took the first steps on my journey toward conversion.
I don't remember all of the details about the actual class. I just remember that once a week for four weeks we studied different types of meditation techniques. Our homework was to spend time meditating using one of the techniques. I did my homework just as I was told.
I wasn't prepared for what was going to happen next.
While doing a visualization technique, I entered into a very deep state of relaxation and awareness. In my visualization I was in a dark cave, lying in a pool of water that left my face exposed above the water. Every aspect of my surroundings seemed alive and surreal. Then it happened. A voice spoke. I knew it was God. Some things you just know. I could not see Him, but I felt Him. He spoke loud, very loud. He said, “my child you need to go to church.” I was taken aback but I had enough wits about me to ask “What Church?” He only repeated what he said before. I came out of the experience shaken from the sheer force of His presence.
Needless to say, I dropped all the New Age garbage. I spent quite a bit of time looking for a church home. But none of the ones I found on my own ever felt like they were right. I begged for God to show me. I begged for Him to talk to me again and tell me “Which church?” I looked in the Bible trying to find clues. Every church said they were the right one. Yet, when I would be at one they would bad-mouth the other. Somehow it always felt wrong.
Life continued on as normal. Then one day a co-worker said to me out of the blue, “My church is getting ready to start RCIA, would you like to go and find out about it?” Astonishingly, I heard myself answer “yes.” At RCIA, it finally felt right! That co-worker eventually became my Sponsor and we attended the same Church for a number of years. Some years later we would both reminisce on how astounding it was that the entire conversation actually took place, for it truly was the Holy Spirit at work.
I can't say the rest is history. If you have read any of my other posts you know I am the first one to admit to being a stubborn person. I didn't step into this journey of new found faith without putting up a fight. There is more to my story of conversion. You will have to come back for part two.
For this part of the story, I am thankful that God used my fascination with the metaphysics to reach out to me one night and to connect with the very depths of my soul. I am eternally grateful He used my co-worker to guide me toward the Catholic Church.
God is a serious user of persons and things!
I for one, am glad He is.
by Cyndi Marlow
How has God used others to reach you?
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:14
In my last post, “A Beautiful Tapestry of Inadequacies”, I shared a great deal of my current family struggles and my very deep rooted self-doubts as a parent. Although it was healing to put the words to paper, it has also been a catalyst which calls me to deeper reflection as I ponder what my next moves will be with my son.
I have not felt an urge to write since that post. What I have been doing is spending a lot of time thinking back to the days when my son was younger. There was a period when he was much younger that I dabbled in writing. There were no blogs back then. At least none that I remember. My avenue of choice to see my reflections in print was our local diocesan newspaper, “The Record.” During this time they had a supplemental spirituality section to their newspaper which encouraged anyone to submit contributions. I remembered having two articles published. One was a reflection called “Known by the Scars. The other was about my son and an art project he did at pre-school. It was titled “Soda Pop and Light Bulbs” This was the one I wanted to find. That was the one I had convinced myself I needed to find.
Now, you have to remember this was the days of floppy disks and really slow computers. I no longer have either the computer or the floppy that the articles were saved. I kept a hard copy of the newspaper. I know that I have saved them...somewhere. And this past week, I have searched and searched and cannot find either of them.
I needed to read that story again. I needed to be taken back to a time when our relationship was positive and encouraging. And, I wanted to share that story with you. It was a reflection about a simple art project my son had brought home. I still remember how moved I was by what he had done and what he had said when I asked him to tell me more about the picture. I still remember the premise behind the reflection. But I do not remember enough to re-create it for this blog.
So I searched.
I found so many of the remnants of our past lives. Just today I looked in some new places. In one drawer I found a 1998 calendar filled with a year of appointments and events of our former lives as a family. Doctor appointments. Birthday parties. All those glorious ordinary things that make up and fill the days of our lives.
I found birthday cards galore from most of my son's younger birthdays. Artwork with some “bubblehead” people my son had drawn. A copy of the contract from the grave site where my husband was buried. Reminder after reminder of our families past. But no article and piece of artwork with the “Soda Pop and Light Bulbs” that I was so certain I had saved. My frustrations were growing and the tears were starting to well-up in my eyes.
But suddenly I spotted what looked to be a yellowed copy of folded newspaper. It looked like it could be from the publication I was looking for. It was! It was from “The Record.” " This is one of them" I said to myself. Fingers crossed! I pray it's the one I wanted.
It was neither one.
Because apparently, I had a third article published that I had completely forgotten about. And as I read it the tears didn't just well up, they poured out.
God placed that article in my hands today. For He knew that I so desperately need to be reminded how much my son has inspired me and still inspires me.
No matter what happens next.
by Cyndi Marlow
*The "Remember Me" article appeared in “Sacred Rhythms” a spirituality supplement to "The Record" Newspaper on March 7, 2002.
Evangelizing the digital continent!
We each may be only one person, but together we are
all part of one body.
What is Embedded Faith? Simply put, this is a "gralog" (graphics + blog) providing images and thoughts to evangelize the digital continent.
Click to find out more.
How do I download
To download any image, just right click and choose "file save as".
Can I use your image on my website or publication?
Yes! All images are creative commons and are free to use. Credit or a link to this site is appreciated.
Images may not be sold.