A Different Perspective

The other day I watched clips of an interview of Pastor John Gray where he sat down with the women of Sister Circle. He adorned his First lady, in her absence, with beautiful words about how she is the reason he is the man he is today. He referred to his wife as a “coat” because she was his covering during the rough times of their union. He used the metaphor that she is “two sizes bigger than him, and he is still trying to grow into her.”

My wife has endured more pain birthing me than both of our children. She has sacrificed these last eight years uncovering the painful areas of my manhood and covering the areas that could have exposed me. She deserves anything I can give her… I’m going to live the rest of my life to honor her because she gave me what I couldn’t give myself, which was a chance to heal while still seeing the God in me. “

In the comment section, there were many women who received his message with passion and loved the point he made about his wife being a “covering” and not a “lid” where she would “cap” him. Others weren’t so amused and found it offensive. From what I’ve concluded, many of the opposers felt like Pastor Gray’s statements boasted a message of measuring a woman’s worth by the amount of pain she endures. One man’s response questioned how did Pastor Gray’s wife turn out after having to go through those same eight years of struggle? He wondered what affect her sacrifice had on their children. Another woman expressed her feelings of being fed up with women sticking it out with men who expect their wives to do the things their mothers should have done… raise them. 

While I respect the opinions of those commentators, I absolutely disagree. As a wife and Christian, I disagree with those perspectives. I think those points stand strong when a couple isn’t married, but things change once you exchange those vows. You are standing in front of one another in the presence of the Lord vowing to love one another and build one another up during each high moment and every single low moment. With the right person, your commitment is solidified when you get married. A long-term relationship is not the same. 

For most, divorce is not an option and has been taken off the table. So, because one runs into trouble that doesn’t clear up in a few months or even a few years does not determine their need to leave. Now of course, if your life or your children’s lives are in imminent danger, YOU MUST GO. No ifs, ands or buts. 

In my opinion, many people viewed the clips with the expectation that he should have grown up before he decided to marry. Yes; it is clear that one should be mature and ready for marriage, but let’s go a little deeper. As adults, we do our very best to confront any issues or areas of our lives that need healing and growth, but how does one know how to remedy something they never knew they had a problem with? When you’re married, some seasons force you to deal with different aspects of your life (I.e. childhood) that you never knew would cause you trouble later in your life. You can be well put together and then an argument triggers a childhood trauma. It wasn’t an issue in the beginning, but now it is. Do you leave? Do you leave the person that you vowed to love through sickness and health because it took them longer than a year to deal with an underlying issue that took 12 years to create?

In marriage, you are commanded to be your spouse’s strength and helpmate. There are moments when one is up, and the other is down, when both are down and when both are up. If your foundation is sturdy and rooted in the right things, you’ll both be able to cover each other where needed. Those 8 years of sacrifice for Pastor Gray and his wife could have been him choosing to quit his job to pursue being a pastor full-time, leaving the financial burden on his wife. Let’s assume things turned sour in the mist of this because he felt like less of a man because he wasn’t providing for his family. His attitude was poor, and it was a rollercoaster every day for his wife. Life happens. Bad times happen. Look at what position they are in now! They are financially secure, and from the outside looking in, their marriage is stronger than ever. Should she have left? If they weren’t married, sure! 8 years is a long time to figure things out with someone who isn’t your husband or wife.

What I saw in those clips was a man acknowledge that he wasn’t always the man he is today. That he wasn’t always the husband he is today. That it took him longer than he wanted to get it right, but he eventually did, and his wife stayed by his side while he got it together. When he said she endured more pain with him than birthing their children, I imagine it was because the pain it took for her to birth their children was quicker than it took for him to get his life together! If there is no abuse, that’s what a wife AND a husband is supposed to do! You’re supposed to go through rough seasons in order to grow through those seasons. There is no time frame on trials and tribulations. 

Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. Is it ok for a husband to leave his wife because of the toll her postpartum depression took on their marriage. Let’s say postpartum depression then took a turn and triggered anxiety issues and more within her, so now she’s not the same as she was when he first married her. It takes her more than a year to feel normal again. Should he leave? No? It’s not okay for him to leave her in a vulnerable state and in a rough patch of their marriage, right?

Those opposing individuals are right. As a girlfriend, it’s not necessary to be someone’s “ride or die chick” for eight years. However, as a wife, it is extremely necessary to be your husband’s lifelong partner and confidant. The one who helps build him up during times of weakness. The same goes for husbands. Marriage requires 100% on both ends. You both have to give 100% of your love and effort. Every day, every month, every year, we grow as individuals. That doesn’t stop when you become married. You continue to learn about your spouse every day for the rest of your life. 

Pastor Gray showed people that marriage isn’t a walk in the park. Sometimes you’re on cloud 9, others you’re ready to call it quits. He also showed gratitude. He vowed to make it up to his wife by serving her the best way he could for the rest of their lives. I challenge you to change your perspective when it comes to marriage. Have high standards but try lowering those expectations. We’re all human and need a little grace. 

News Flash: We’re Moving!!

Growing up, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else besides Washington, D.C. It’s home and all I know. Of course, I’ve visited parts of Maryland and Virginia, but I wouldn’t dare move there. I’m a city girl, my family is here, and I’ve experienced so much here.

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school, like many others, where my mind was opened to being some place other than D.C. It was time to apply for college. In the beginning, I only considered places that were closer to D.C.—Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. I had a full scholarship to a university in Oklahoma, but I could NEVER be that far from my family. Fortunately, I was granted the opportunity to go on a college tour with my friend and her mom in Florida. That trip changed my perspective on being further away from home. After that, I had my top three school choices selected. Miami, Florida, University Park, Pennsylvania and Greensboro, North Carolina were the places I wanted to be. Foolishly, I passed on the full scholarship.

My father really wanted me to stay home and attend a school in the area, but I refused. I wanted to break free. I felt like staying home would keep me in my comfort zone, and give my father the opportunity to spy on me. Sometimes I wish I stayed to have more time with him, but everything happens for a reason! I ended up attending Penn State University. It was away from home, but not too far. PERFECT choice.  Although being away for those four years gave me some of the best experiences, after my college experience, vacations would be the only times I would ever travel away from my home.

My husband on the other hand, yearned to move away. When my he became a truck driver, I cringed every single time he talked about it. From the very beginning, he said where we lived wasn’t trucker- friendly. I insisted on staying. I refused to be in a new place alone with our daughter and with no help. I also couldn’t imagine leaving my mother. When I left for college, two months later my father passed away. I always feared the next time I moved away, something would happen, or I would lose my mother. I talked to him about my fear and he compromised for as long as he could.

I eventually began to lighten up to the idea of moving to another state and gave my husband my list of needs. The main points were that we must visit the potential place for at least a week in order to see the area in depth and explore the school district in person. I also didn’t want to be too far into seclusion where it would be difficult to find help if there was an emergency. But still, I would always do my best to avoid the topic as a whole because I wasn’t ready to move.

As time went on, we compiled a list of places, and put a plan into action where we would we would both research different aspects about the place, and then we would go visit. It was a concrete plan, and I was very happy that we were both working toward the change instead of it feeling forceful or like an ultimatum. It was a way for us to both get what we wanted. 

In the mist of our search, both of our families experienced loss. We loss four people that were very dear to us in one year. Family became that much more important, and it reignited my desire to connect with my family in South Carolina. My father was born and partially raised in South Carolina. When he passed, I was able to meet his brothers and sisters who still lived down there for the first time. It was an indescribable feeling. They looked exactly like my father. Ever since that day, I wanted to get to know them. For years I would search online for them and try numbers, but they never worked. 

More recently, I pulled out my father’s obituary and went into private investigator mode. I searched all over and collected possible numbers for each sibling. I discovered one of my aunts passed away, and I immediately became fearful that I had missed out on connecting with the others. I felt like if they all died, my father was really gone. But I finally hit the jackpot. I found a working number for one of my aunts and I was filled with so much joy. She said that she lost our number after my father’s funeral but had been searching for us the entire time as well. She then passed my info along to one of my uncles and I was able to talk to him a little also. 

Soon after connecting with them, the opportunity for our family to move to South Carolina dropped right into our laps. While I wasn’t ready to move away, I felt like it was a sign from God since I wanted to connect with my family there. By this time, I had already made the decision to homeschool, so moving was more realistic for me at this point. South Carolina was also a great option because of the cheaper cost of living, space for our children to be free and play, and it’s not too far from DC where my immediate family is. At the max, it’s an hour and a half for a flight. 

So, we’re moving! It’s time to say goodbye to the DMV as my residence, but it’s truly only a “see ya later” because it’s forever my home. I’m still praying that once my mom retires that she’ll move down with us, but that’s a work in progress. She’s lived here for 61 years, so moving would be a huge adjustment for her. That’s the only thing that makes this move difficult. My mother is my heart. My truest and oldest best friend. But I know for sure that our hearts will forever remain connected, and her grandchildren will continue to see, visit and love on her as much as possible.

I have a sturdy circle of friends that I’m confident will remain through this distance also. They range from childhood, motherhood and business and I’m grateful that God made that shift in my life to prepare me for this new phase. I can finally say, I’m officially ready for this new season in life. Earlier this year I blogged about stepping out of my comfort zone in Comfort Zone: Contentment vs. Complacency, and it’s been happening ever since. This is major for me. Major for my family. 

What Inspired Me to Teach My Children ASL

Whenever it was my time to experience motherhood, I knew that I would teach my children American Sign Language. At one point it was viewed as odd because it wasn’t your typical second language. Spanish, French and others were more popular. I of course wanted my children to learn other languages as well, but sign language was near and dear to my heart.

The reason you ask? My father was hard of hearing. He could hear well with his hearing aids (as much as the quality back then would allow), but without them the world would go silent. I remember the panic he would go in when his hearing aids would lose function, or when he needed a new battery. All of the TV’s needed to be at the maximum volume in order for him to not feel he had gone completely deaf. If one were to turn a TV down or off, he would throw a tantrum until he could hear again. But with his hearing aids, you couldn’t tell him nothing! His confidence level was through the roof, and if there was a volume struggle he would adjust the hearing aids and read lips. He used this to his advantage whenever I would try to whisper secrets about James (who was my boyfriend back then) to my mother. While talking to her, we would hear him turning the volume up on his hearing aids and quickly change the conversation. I laugh every time I think of that now. I thought it was so annoying back then, but now as a parent I would do the same thing!

My father would experience the highs and lows of being hard of hearing the entire 17 years of my life that he lived. By the time I hit high school, I wondered why we hadn’t learned sign language as a family in order to make communication with my father much easier. My mother told me she believed that my father refused to learn sign language because it would really signify he was deaf. She said that it took him an extremely long time to even get hearing aids. She never asked him why he refused to learn, she just accepted his wants. That’s love.

I believe my father was slightly ashamed of his disability and didn’t want to be treated differently. I think he saw it as a weakness instead of it being something that showcased his fighter mentality. My mother’s response sparked a desire in me to understand deafness and hearing much further. I wanted my family to understand my father’s needs. I get frustrated when my husband or daughter doesn’t talk clearly, and I have to  strain to hear them. I can’t imagine that being a struggle every moment of the day. No matter our struggles, I loved my father with every fiber of me and wanted to make things better for him.

I would mention taking classes as a family, but it never happened. I went away to college, and my father died two months later. I needed a way to feel closer to him. I needed something that would make me feel like his memory was still very much alive. Early in my junior year of college, I switched my minor from Spanish to Deafness and Hearing Studies. I honestly wish I switched my entire major to that department (Speech Pathology/Audiology) because I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and everything I learned. Nevertheless, there was still a void because I didn’t have enough time to take the ASL courses. I learned about the history and foundation of the language and more, but no phrases or words.

As I stated in my earlier posts the “My First Go at Pregnancy” series, I graduated college 7 months pregnant. I made up my mind then that I would teach myself sign language, take courses whenever I could, and teach my daughter. I wasn’t able to have the experience with my given family, but I knew that I could establish it in my new family. It was one of the ways I would be able to honor my father, teach my child about my father, and also prepare her to be able to communicate and understand those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

That was my motivation in the beginning! When I actually saw the benefits of communicating with an infant through sign language, I was adamant to continue. I began to teach my mother and sister as well because I wanted them to understand her needs when she used ASL. Again, I was getting what I wanted. My family was learning! I fell off with teaching Taniya for two years, but picked it back up once we began homeschooling. I knew that I would be teaching Jayla as well so I wanted to reestablish what we’d learned years prior.

Taniya continues to grasp new terms each day, and Jayla is watching, learning, and eventually using the signs as well. She walks to the beat of her own drum, and I’ve learned to accept it. Although James is over-the-road most days, like every other subject we keep him involved. As I learn, everyone else learns. My children will understand there are many types of people in this world, and they include deaf and hard of hearing people. I can’t wait for the moment they encounter a deaf child at the playground and are able to communicate with them. I know my father is proud…. because I sure am.