Friday, April 30, 2010
When passions don’t pay (Harold’s response)
It is tough when the things that we love to do do not pay the bills. We’re often disappointed when the direction that we feel God has placed in the deepest part of our soul doesn’t seem to possible because of financial limitations. Do we keep waiting for God to open the door? Do we abandon our passion and pursue something that seems to make more financial sense? Most of us have been there in one fashion or another when our passions don’t pay.
In these instances we must remember that God is indeed in control of it all. He knows our hearts and our passions. We have to believe that he will make room for our gifts and bring us before great men (Proverbs 18:16). As we are able to relinquish our passions to him, we will get the reward. That reward may not be in the paying job that we hoped for. But, it will be exactly what God desires.
After all, God gave us our passions to pursue his purpose. And, that is where we hit “pay dirt.”
I hope Rob is able to keep this in mind as he contemplates his interaction with Celia.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
When passions don’t pay (Joanne’s comment)
Working as a therapist in Southern California, I have seen many relationships in which at least one partner is Hollywood adjacent, professionally speaking; seeking to build or sustain careers as actors and writers. Even those who work eventually find the unpredictability debilitating; they move from project to project and often have no benefits or job stability of any kind. Outside of artists, anyone who works freelance understands that stress. More recently, the general state of the economy has meant that many couples who at one time did have predictable income are now struggling due to layoffs or lack of work.
It is impossible to overstate the anxiety that is introduced into relationships in these situations because anxiety tends to spawn that old enemy, blaming. So far, Rob appears to be avoiding blaming Celia for either her bad career choice or the situation now, although he is hooked into blaming Celia for not doing enough to change her situation—at least internally.
We must keep in mind that expectations play a huge role in these situations. If Rob had not been such a planner and had not been so stability-focused, he might not be so concerned about a couple years at the beginning of marriage, more or less, that Celia’s income is less than he would like. He would simply be grateful that his job was stable and that their basic needs are covered. However, Rob has an ideal about how his married life and financial future are expected to unfold. We shall see if Celia agrees with that ideal or if she will challenge his assumptions. Ultimately, whatever choice they make ought to be made together.
Monday, April 26, 2010
When passions don’t pay
Whether it was to pick a fight with Rob or to stand up to his parents, Celia had climbed on a music education soapbox during coffee in their living room, expounding on the ways music impacts brain development and academic achievement in children. She had finished with “So, if your daughters had studied music, they might actually have been accepted to their first choice colleges.”
Rob’s parents had left to drive home. Celia looked wiped out as she cleaned up the kitchen dishes.
“I’ll finish these,” Rob said.
“I’ll let you,” Celia said. “I’m going to take a bath.”
In a moment Rob heard the bathroom door close and the water running. He sighed. He had been looking forward to his parents’ visit today, but now he felt kind of funky about it. On one hand it had been a nice meal out and Celia’s choir had sounded pretty decent at church. On the other hand his father had seemed intent on being pushy and opinionated and his mother, on speaking first and thinking later.
Celia had just been moody right up until she had overheard his father call her an unemployed music teacher, at which point she became angry. His parents probably did not know that, because on the surface it just looked like she had perked up and engaged them for the first time all day.
Rob dried the last dish and began to wipe down the counter. He had not ever heard Celia talk about her work before in the way she had this afternoon; she had always been kind of mousy about it, he thought. In fact, he was impressed with what she knew and that she came off like a pro, supporting her assertions with facts and studies, not just spouting unfounded opinions like his father had been doing. She had even talked about how she was turning her senior thesis into a proposal to take to local private schools about contracting to provide group piano lessons for the kids after school. Rob had felt proud of her, especially when his father had mildly conceded her points, although he had ended with “But Celia, if there’s no money there’s no money.”
Rob opened the refrigerator in the hope that there might be a beer in there, but there was none and he grabbed a soda instead. He was not sure what it meant that on his father’s last point, he agreed. All the great research in the world about music education did not mean a thing if schools were making cuts. Something had to go and it was not going to be math or science or electricity or copy machines.
Celia loved her profession and was good at it. Celia’s profession was not currently in demand and she could not get a job. Rob wanted his wife to have a good job so they could save money and build their future, so perhaps she needed a new profession.
But Celia loved her work. Rob started to get caught in a loop from which there was no obvious way out, so he plopped on the sofa and turned on the tv.
What does Rob decide to do?
Friday, April 23, 2010
Standing up to your in-laws (Joanne’s comment)
In-laws are only as big a problem as a couple allows them to be. In-law problems are really boundary problems. The parents are just being parents; they are legitimately concerned though their concern is being channeled through their narrow focus of jobs and stable income. Thus, they are coming off as clueless and rude. I am glad that Celia is finally angry—now perhaps she’ll have enough energy to assert herself, which she just did quite nicely, and this is in fact just what Rob asked her to do. There is nothing going on here that some mild assertiveness can’t manage.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Standing up to your in-laws (Harold’s response)
Dealing with in-laws is a dicey proposition. Marriages do best when a couple aligns themselves and act in one accord when dealing with such matters. It requires the couple to establish a healthy boundary around their marriage. In-laws, at least safe ones, should have input into the marriage if the advice comes with good intentions and sound judgement. Unsafe in-laws should be accepted, loved, and sometimes tolerated. But, healthy boundaries demands that their input be taken with large grains of salt.
When one spouse is not able to prioritize alignment with his or her spouse over the parents, problems are almost guaranteed to come. When we marry, Genesis 2:24 suggests that we need to leave some things behind. Your parents and siblings way of seeing the world and marital issues may just need to be abandoned and replaced with an approach that esteems your spouse.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Standing up to your in-laws
Rob’s parents wanted to stop back at their apartment after brunch. For about the millionth time today Celia felt inadequate. Perhaps she should have seen this coming, but the place was not that clean and she was not even sure she had coffee on hand.
Celia entered the apartment first and headed straight to the kitchen.
“Well, they say music education helps the brain learn in other ways,” Rob’s mom was saying to his dad, continuing the argument they had started in the restaurant when Mom had said she wished their three kids had taken music lessons. “Kids with music training do better in math.” Celia heard Rob invite his parents to sit in the living room before he followed her into the kitchen.
The parents’ bickering continued as Celia found that there was sufficient coffee to make a small pot.
“If you and I have tea instead of coffee, we should be all right,” she said, looking in the cupboard for sugar.
“Celia,” Rob said, looking over his shoulder to make sure they were alone. “I don’t care if you’re a music teacher or a hedge fund manager,” Rob said. “I just need you to own what you want and do whatever is necessary to make it happen.” “I thought that’s what I was doing,” she said, rinsing off the cream pitcher that had been sitting in the cupboard since their wedding.
“Well, could you do it with them?” Rob gestured over his shoulder to his parents in the living room. Rob’s mom was reminding his dad that their daughters had been gifted in music and with some training they might have done something with it.
“Like what?” Rob and Celia heard him say. “Become an unemployed music teacher, like Celia?”
Celia was caught between the urge to cry and an overwhelming desire to flee. She plugged in the coffee maker and turned to Rob, who looked mortified.
I’m so sorry, he half-mouthed and half-gestured. “It’s OK,” Celia said to Rob. “It’s what you think too, isn’t it?”
Celia could feel her adrenalin rising. Rob was saying something but she could not make out what. She tossed some stale Oreos onto a plate and carried them into the living room, sitting down on the sofa next to Rob’s mom. Rob followed, pulling over a chair from their dinette to sit on.
“While we’re waiting for the coffee,” she said, “Let me tell you how music education benefits children.” Looking directly at Rob, she started by explaining the correlation between music education and SAT scores.
What happens next?
Friday, April 16, 2010
How to handle well-intentioned but painful in-laws (Harold’s comment)
I love my partner Joanne’s response. I’ll only add one point. When I talk with couples I like to encourage them to increasingly become redemptive spouses. What does it mean to be a redemptive spouse? At its core, it means to provide “covering” for him or her. This covering is an emotional and physical protection. It means that we are intentional in deflecting the arrows that might pierce their souls. But, it doesn’t stop at protection. It also means that we petition on their behalf. We go to God on their behalf. We advocate for them among family, friends, and the broader culture.
Don’t get me wrong. There are times when being redemptive also means being corrective. Other times it means pushing them (and ourselves) out of our comfort zone. But, it always means that we are willing to make the sacrifice for them.
In this week’s episode, Rob needs to be redemptive. At this moment, his parent’s are not safe people for his wife though they are trying to be helpful. As Joanne pointed out, it is difficult for Rob because he personally agrees with some of what is being said. But, being redemptive isn’t about agreement. It isn’t about being right or being fair. As Christians we know that Christ’s death on Calvary had nothing to do with fairness. Christ was redemptive for us because he loves us. Similarly, we have to be redemptive for one another because in doing so we demonstrate agape love.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
How to handle well intentioned but painful in-laws (Joanne’s comment)
On one hand, reading this week's chapter is to eavesdrop on the most innocuous of family conversations. There is no swearing, name calling, or threatening to leave the table or family. On the other hand it, the conversation is becoming toxic because with each remark Celia is getting smaller and Rob is getting more anxious. Rob and Celia have two choices: either ignore the conversation and disengage from its emotional pull, which is easier said than done, or acknowledge the conversation's impact and ask the 'rents to back off. But there is a complication here in that Rob and Celia are not even on the same page. Rob agrees with some of what his father is saying, but he also understands that this is not the time to take Dad's side against his wife. Interesting voting options. Choose Celia's comment and you choose change-the-subject denial; choose Mom's comment and you help dig this family deeper, and choose Rob's comment to validate Dad's narrow assumptions. No wonder family holidays get a bad rap!
Monday, April 12, 2010
How to handle well-intentioned but painful in-laws
Rob’s dad has just put Celia on the spot at Easter brunch with questions about her job prospects. An uneasy silence communicated to Rob that Celia was unprepared for the question. Appearing to give up on answering at all, Celia cut an asparagus spear on her plate and took a bite.
“We are hoping a job opens up in one of the local school districts for next year,” Rob said, hoping Celia was planning to participate in this conversation.
“I am glad none of our three wanted to be teachers,” Rob’s mom said as she buttered bread. “Every district is making cuts right now. Marilyn Smith” – she gestured to Rob, to remind him that he had gone to school with Marilyn Smith – “just got cut from her fifth grade job in our district, and she’s had it for three years.”
“And arts and music are the first things to go,” Rob’s dad said, accepting a coffee refill from the waitress. “I mean, they’re great to have around, but it’s not like these kids are going to grow up to be artists and musicians. There are more important things to spend money on.”
“I’m on the internet every day looking at the job boards for each district. Even pretty far out of Columbus,” Celia chimed in. “Some of the places I search are actually closer to Dayton than here.”
Rob’s Denver omelet was becoming less enjoyable with each bite. Even though Celia had spoken up, her self-defense sounded whiny and irrelevant. His parents were clearly making the point that teaching is a lame profession right now, which it probably was; further Rob questioned whether Celia was looking at job boards every day. She had not mentioned that to him. Celia seemed to be taking a hoping-a-miracle-will-occur approach to her job search, to his mind.
“Your whole paycheck would end up in the gas tank anyway if you commuted to Dayton every day,” Dad said.
“Have you ever thought about nursing?” Mom said to Celia. “Maria looked into it. It’s one of the hot professions of the future. I read an article in Newsweek about it.”
Rob’s appetite was gone. Celia sat there like a helpless dishrag picking at her eggs. His parents, for all their intentions to be helpful, were throwing stones at that dishrag every time they spoke.
“I have actually been thinking that Celia might do better to concentrate on building her private lesson clientele,” Rob said, hoping he had found an angle that would redirect everyone. “The choir job doesn’t really pay enough to make it worth Celia’s time.”
“Money’s tight for everyone,” Rob’s dad said. “Piano lessons are the first thing to go in an economy like this. And there are no benefits to freelance work. And the taxes!”
What happens next?
Friday, April 09, 2010
Families, Jobs, and Marriages (Joanne’s comment)
Remember back to Rob and Celia’s wedding, when Celia’s dad disrupted the ceremony and Rob took the bullet? He protected Celia. They are in a similar situation now, but Rob’s role as her husband is complicated. Harold is right—Celia needs encouragement as well as protection from those whose innocent questions could be hurtful. But Rob has found that encouragement can go only so far when the person being encouraged is in a rut, and ruts are often of one’s own making. Rob must protect Celia from further discouragement while continuing to hold her accountable to making the necessary changes. The difference here, and I think this is key in marriage, is that Rob protects Celia as much as possible in their public conversations with others, and takes her side in a more challenging way in their private ones.
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