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On Outside Influences ~ Marriage Letters

Dear Scott,

When I think about outside influences on our marriage, I think of everything outside the two of us. We have had many outside influences, but if I had to identify two of the most significant so far, I would point to Children’s Hospital and the church in which you served as an elder.

ultrasoundWe met our first significant crisis as a couple in a dimly-lit room in the Emergency Department of Children’s. The words “heart defects” were very closely followed by, “This kind of thing is very difficult on relationships. It’s okay to get help.”

We learned how each other handles fear and uncertainty, and how crazy I get when I’m sleep deprived. The nights after her heart surgeries, we squeezed into a twin bed in the ICU sleep rooms just a few dozen yards from her room. You impressed me with your willingness to keep me company while I undertook the incredibly unsexy task of pumping breast milk every 3-4 hours (I think it’s nothing short of a miracle that you are still attracted to me after seeing that). We made charts so we could keep track of who gave which meds, and you cheered me on as I learned how to insert an NG tube into Elli’s nose and down into her stomach. Hardest of all, as the years went on we began to spend evenings discussing how to care for her when we were old and she was full-grown, and how to handle the end of her life.

It turns out that we wouldn’t need formal help until after she died.

The pressure of raising a child who needed frequent long stays at Children’s Hospital changed us. So did the pressure of taking on responsibilities at church. I have written before on how we shared the load, deferring to the one who had the most time or the strongest ability in a given area. We had learned how to work together under hospital pressure – learning foreign tasks, living in uncertainty, making life-or-death decisions. In the church, we learned how to work under a different kind of pressure – the kind that comes with working closely with different kinds of people, various degrees of expectations, and all the communication and coordination that working with people requires. We uncovered weaknesses in ourselves we didn’t know about before, like how deeply hurt and angry I get when you are misunderstood or falsely accused, and how difficult it is to bring yourself to confront someone who is already struggling.

Outside influences can’t change the core of who we are. But they bring who we are to light, in all its beauty or ugliness. Outside influences either soften hard edges and refine impurities away, or they scar and burn and shrivel. We’re a combination of all of this, with plenty of ugly, refinement, scars and softer edges, but I think we fit more tightly today than we did fourteen years ago. That’s one thing I can be thankful for in all of the heartache.



We’ve been sharing the real-life ups and downs of marriage in this weekly series in hopes that we can encourage one another to fight hard for our marriages. This week’s writing prompt was “On Outside Influences.” If you joined Scott, Seth, Amber, and I writing this week’s letters, link up at Amber’s place. We plan to take the month of May off from this series, but follow The RunaMuck on Facebook for updates because I suspect we’ll be writing letters again soon. What topics should we write on next?

What have outside influences done for your marriage?


Community: Born in an Airport ~ Five Minute Friday

I scanned the faces in the terminal nervously, looking for a glimpse of the tiny little avatars that streamed by in my Twitter feed. We were about to spend a week with each other, and here was the moment of truth. So many were “well-known” online and I was no-one, and I wondered if I would be accepted.

I spotted them, a trio of smiles making a beeline for me. Elizabeth’s smile was like sunshine and everyone laughed and hugged and we all talked at once and my heart exploded. Writers. Christians. My people.

We sat around a long table in the airport restaurant, eating our last American meal for a week and waiting for the rest of the team to trickle in from cities across the country. Very few had traveled overseas, let alone to a poor country like Bolivia. All of us left family behind. But we were a new family, an internet family finally together in person. I knew we’d be friends for life.

©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision


Five minutes is barely enough time to share even this small snippet of what swirled through my head when I read The Gypsy Mama’s writing prompt for Five Minute Friday this week, “Community.”  What do you think of when you hear the word “Community”?


Tapped Out ~ Life: Unmasked

The nurse explained, “He’s on the phone with the surgeon discussing the options. He’s concerned about the right side.”

I frown. “I thought the issue was with the left side. I didn’t think he’d do anything anywhere else.”

smiling doctorShe paused. “I don’t know. He’s done all his measurements and they are concerned about the right too.”

She left, and I sank into the hospital-grade loveseat, confused and worried. He’s talking with the surgeon. They’re concerned about both sides now. My stomach had been twisting and wringing for days (I call it “stress stomach”) but now it sunk as if a brick had dropped inside.


It was the last thing we wanted.  Of course we wanted the best for our son, but we didn’t want the best to include surgery.

Two hours later, the doctor walked into the waiting room with a huge smile on his face. It had looked grim, but the surgeon and he agreed to give some things a try and those things were wildly successful.

“His numbers are the best they’ve ever been,” he glowed.

“So, he doesn’t need surgery?” we asked.

“We’re optimistic that he’ll be able to wait at least a few years.”

We wept prayers of thanks after he left the waiting room. I could feel the tension flooding out of me and relief pouring in.

Maybe it’s my age – I’m twelve years older than I was when we first started this journey as parents of a child with a chronic medical condition. I can’t bounce back from a night of hospital-bad sleep, a week of pre-op preparation, or the months of waiting for a procedure and its verdict. Maybe it’s that we have three kids now, and they’re all much older and have feelings and worries and fears of their own that we are trying to help them through, in addition to our own. Maybe in a sick sort of way, I need the constant state of tension and readiness to keep me going.

Or maybe I can no longer hide from the other parts of our lives that remain unsettled.

Whatever the reason, I’ve been a wreck since we got the good news last Friday. All the good nights of sleep hasn’t been enough to restore my energy. Instead of joy, the prevailing mood has been discouragement and despair.

It doesn’t make sense. We got good news. But I am tapped out.


Life: unmasked buttonOn Wednesdays, I host a link-up for anyone willing to step away from the pretense that all is well, take off their mask, and write naked. I believe being real about our hard days has tremendous capacity to encourage others who are struggling. Life isn’t perfect all the time, but we can help each other get through the tough times when we acknowledge that and come alongside.

If you’ve written anything unmasked, link up below! Please link back to this post so your readers can find others willing to bare it all, and then make sure to visit at least two others and leave them encouraging comments.