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“I’m looking past our faults from those scattered days. And fancying redemption.”

I sat in the In n Out drive-through, letting the music roll over me. *

He would be home in a few hours. Him piloting an airplane across the ocean and planning to touch down right in front of us, the first time we would see each other in four months. He had been in Europe, eating croissants and serving our country. I had been at home with all the kids, just trying to keep it together.

And I had. I had more than kept it together. Thriving in the silence of my own soul, my sons and daughter and I had been everything to each other.

We had missed the man of the house, but God had carried us, and now he was coming back. The months had turned to hours. All I had to do was wait and the clock would whirl away the last few minutes until he stood before me. I wasn’t sure what I would see.

Waiting for cheeseburgers and fries, I let out a prayer like pent up breath, a question, “God can we be good together? I just don’t know if him and I can be good together.”

Years pile up the missteps, and resentment blankets everything til you can’t see the one you promised to love and honor, til you can’t even feel yourself.

We had come far, treading patterns the best we knew how until they scraped rough hewn paths through each other’s hearts. We didn’t need to hear where the fight would go anymore, frustrated words rolled like water down the path of least resistance.

I know well the feeling of his work hardened skin against my hand. We are no longer strangers, remembering instead each angry word and quick injustice we have done each other.

I was “fancying redemption”, but even for all the love we held I didn’t know if it was possible. Maybe we were just the sum of all our years. Maybe I could only ever find easy happiness in oblivion, the swallowing up of a stranger’s arms.

We had pledged to have and to hold, so I would walk bound to this man, and he to me for as long as life held its lease. But could the scattered days be gathered up and the patterns rearranged? Could we be good together beyond the easy days? Was fancying redemption just a silly dream?

The clock unwound. I curled my hair, and put on lipstick. And then we marched – dresses pressed, the boys combed and buttoned, holding signs to welcome their Dad. We marched right out on that tarmac, flat as a plate, a cement-stretching aisle. And we stood while jets raced overhead and stood sentry all around us. We stood faces lifted to the clouds until his headlights pricked the sky, two bright eyes drawing close until the wait was no more. He broke space with the weight of his presence and slid down the air with the heavy propeller whir drumming in our ears until wheels rolled to a stop. Landed safe.

Men in green motioned to us, and we walked quick, expectant, and shy around the side of the plane. Then there he was, green flight suit reaching up to the smile I had first fallen in love with.

There he was, that stranger I had talked long with after our college workdays and fantasized of his arms round me. The stranger to whom I had made ridiculous promises I could never keep in a tiny white church before we knew how easily we could break and be broken. The stranger I lay down trembling before on our wedding night, becoming naked before him for the rest of our lives.

As he half jumped down the little ladder from his cockpit to wrap arms around his sons, scoop his daughter up, and kiss me, I knew I didn’t know a fraction of the depths of him.

There with the sky our chapel, and his smile breaking open all I wanted to forget and was afraid to hope for – there I knew I loved him and that we could be good.

Because why not? He had flown an ocean back to me, and our days lay ahead. Why not believe the best, forget the rest and slip my dress off in the dark of our room, naked with him a stranger once again?

We held each other as if it was the first night, because four months coming home will remind you that nothing beats life’s whisper that “There is still time.”

And each time since then we have stepped into the embrace of the only one we will know, into the arms of another that we cannot presume to ever fully know.

Because it takes seeing each other like you haven’t every day for the past fifteen years, to know what you have.

And because grace forgets well-worn paths of hurt and fear. Grace breathes the life of mystery and possibility. Grace says I know you have hurt me and I you, but have we even really met the deepest parts of us? Grace lies down naked before my husband like me never met and invites him to be my closest friend.

. . .

*the song Illuminate by the Hunts – it’s so worth three minutes of your day

– Images were created by the amazing Dorka Hegedus. I cannot express what a treasure these images are to us, capturing so much of what we have lived and felt in this military lifestyle. She is a true professional and artist, shooting in a documentary style that let us experience the precious moments of this homecoming without interruption while also capturing portraits that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. As a photographer I have had many experiences in the photography world, and I can emphatically say that if you never experience Dorka creating images of you then you are missing out on something very special.

 

  • hili - i absolutely loved the bw edits . did you edit them yourself ?
    but then I saw the colored version , and its different , so much more life in it. love them both .ReplyCancel

I thought that being real about the struggle we moms face on a daily basis to be patient with our children would give me accountability and also encourage others as well as being a way to document what I was learning.

Not raising my voice at my kids wasn’t easy, but it was completely do-able. Taking the extra time to not multi-task and go the extra steps needed didn’t result in perfection, but it resulted in immediate growth personally and deeper connection with my children.

However –

My husband returned from a four month overseas deployment to Europe in November. I knew enough to know there would be a brief “honeymoon” period and then a rocky transition. However, for some reason I was swept off my feet and believed that we were back together better than ever. Then one of the most difficult months of our marriage transpired. We have been through some very painful things together, but that first month reunited after living on our own for several months brought everything to a head between us. We began going to a new marriage counselor and he was really helpful. In the new year we began to see hope. I had been putting off writing the post to share that I had raised my voice and needed to start over because it was happening frequently over a several week period in response to the arguments my husband and I were having. He is an incredible man in so many ways and does so much for us, however no one hears the things that he says to me that cut me to the quick. And what do I do in response? My voice raises and words pour out accusing and pleading because I didn’t marry a man that didn’t even like me. I married my best friend and many days I don’t understand where he or I have gone.

But in January there was hope, and I began my year over, praying to complete it gently and quietly in one calendar year. The end of the deployment and birthdays and holidays and back to school all came in a blur and I have not had time to even sit a few minutes behind the keyboard, but I was planning to share about this fresh start as soon as possible.

Until I stumbled all over again.

I have not shared until now about my husband and I, because I know how risky it can be to share that your marriage is rocky. Also the more I soaked in the first year of my daughter’s life, the less real this digital space felt. There are some of you that know and love me, and some that have joined the journey, but sometimes it feels so strange and meaningless to float words on a screen out there to meet the millions more and post them on the surreal little stage that is social media.

But this Sunday as we were leaving for a road trip our wounded hearts broke right open again. He had said one thing and another thing was happening. I tried to raise a concern, and communicate, but angry, hurtful words were exchanged on both sides. I raised my voice, and right there I felt the weight of all the failure and hopelessness I have ever felt.

We went on the trip together and it was beautiful. We came home and I tried to raise another similar concern – it did not go well. Strength, dignity, gentleness, quietness left by the wayside, traded for tears and harsh words.

So I have realized something. I don’t know if I can speak gently and quietly for a year because I don’t know how to respond to the things my husband says that tear at my heart – without letting it all spill out. I don’t know how to fix my marriage. Yes I have read and heard all the Christian advice about how a woman is to serve God, and only effect change through quiet, submissive, behavior. Believe me, I have heard it all. Here is the problem though – I can say “sure honey” to someone I have pledged to live with under a certain contract, but when I let my heart dream and fall madly in love with my husband for the thousandth or more time in our fifteen years together… When I do that I don’t know how to feel rejected or unconnected without all that passion spilling right out.

So I can say that I have not yelled at my children in quite some time, but I don’t know when I’m going to be able to go an entire year without my emotions and voice raising towards my husband. This is me, laying it out.

And I’m beginning to wonder if I even made the right call in setting a commitment to not raise my voice for a year. Because really what would I have done at the end of that time? Said, “Look at me, I am the woman who did not yell for a year.” Also I don’t want to speak quietly and become one of the many people who think that because their words are not loud, they are not hurtful. This was always ever meant to be a step of accountability using these awkward digital tools to grow and show more love to the ones closest to me.

So I’m looking to the Word for my next steps in what feels like a cloud.

The Word says love is not boastful or proud. Is that what I would have become if the Spirit would have given me sure and quick success? The Word says God hates a lying tongue. If my goal is just a year without raising my voice, then will I be tempted to trade loud words for passive aggressive ones?

The Word does say “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So I’m going to confess here. Whether I think my husband was wrong, or my kids were just too much, I’m going to confess my own sin in this silly digital way.

Each time I raise my voice, I’m going to post on this blog – right away, no waiting for the perfect time to start over. There may not be pictures, it may not sound like much, but I’m going to race to my keyboard and let all the shame and confusion lift as Christ uses these simple confessions to cleanse and encourage.

And you know what… I will complete the challenge one day… You can judge for yourself though, for me I’m just going to celebrate each day of grace God gives. When it has been a year since the last post that announced a raised voice, you will know that the Spirit has worked in me what I had hoped for, and I believe that will be just the beginning.

I am a failure, but Christ is more.

  • Karla - Thank you for being real. I relate to you on so many levels… especially not wanting to raise my voice in anger at my kids. And also this new thing which you confess, struggling with your marriage. Of course marriage goes through seasons, but oftentimes I’m surprised at how quickly things can turn upside down. I tend to be quiet, so when I do finally speak up, my emotions come through… then I’m often made to feel badly for simply wanting to communicate or compromise. So, I shut my mouth and feel like I should stick to cooking, cleaning, and raising the kids. I often read your blog but don’t always comment. I have my own blog, but with the busy-ness of life and the fact that YES “it feels so strange and meaningless to float words on a screen” I haven’t updated in a while. Sending up a prayer for you, your family, and your marriage.ReplyCancel

    • sharon - Thank you Karla, you were such an encouragement to me this morning! xoxoReplyCancel

  • LIndsay - THIS —–> “Here is the problem though – I can say “sure honey” to someone I have pledged to live with under a certain contract, but when I let my heart dream and fall madly in love with my husband for the thousandth or more time in our fifteen years together… When I do that I don’t know how to feel rejected or unconnected without all that passion spilling right out.”

    That. Is. Me. EVERY time I allow vulnerability to seep in and fall for him AGAIN, I get hurt. So then I build a wall. And everything is fine. But then I don’t want to live with a wall. So tear it down and fall again. And then I get hurt again. so I build a wall again. Again and again and again. It’s exhausting.

    I wonder, “at what point is enough enough? or is it all enough? and the reward is so huge that it’s all worth it?”

    I don’t know. But I sure do appreciate you laying it out there and being transparent. It’s so hard to find that. And we all basically feeling the same damn thing.

    <3ReplyCancel

    • sharon - Thank you so much for sharing Lindsay! I love your wall analogy so much. Would you mind if I shared it in a future post? I can either tag you or keep it anonymous depending on what you would prefer… It’s so important to know we aren’t alone xoxoReplyCancel

  • Hili - Ohhh, gasp .
    I would never think you were struggling .
    Such a gap between your words and all the images .
    I truely admire you for your courage to word these feelings.
    Even if you think they just float on some meaningless realm ,
    They don’t , they fall on hearts that ache just like yours ,
    and give some comfort . The comfort of not being alone in this .ReplyCancel

    • sharon - Thank you so much for your encouragement and it is so important to know we aren’t alone xoxoReplyCancel

 

Merry Christmas friends! Here is our digital Christmas card of sorts, sharing with you a few moments in our holiday. As you scroll down, this mama even got in the pictures thanks to Jesse… and the last one is gold if I do say so myself.

Love you all and praying that you feel God’s love and goodness this season.

 

“In John 3:16, Jesus teaches us that the God who exists loves. Let that sink in. The God who absolutely is. Loves. He loves. Of all the things you might say about God, be sure to say this: he loves.”

-John Piper in the Advent devotional The Dawn of Indestructible Joy

. . .

I have been making a very great mistake.

I have been pleased with myself and thought that was being loved.

I have been displeased with  myself and thought that was being unloved.

The Christmas pajamas match and the cocoa is warm. Ornaments are hung with only one being broken. I a mother victorious.

I hold her, little gift in my arms and there is joy, but also there is another feeling. It must be love. Look I have not failed, and so I must be loved, correct? The wrapping on the presents matches the wine of our pj’s – a color like blood deepening or berries against the snow. I didn’t make it all from scratch, but the tin of cookies is delicious. Most of all it is as close to an effortless morning as you can have with four children. Yes I must be loved.

And then that night it all falls apart, again.

Our family only reunited a few weeks, husband just home from a deployment, him and I rub up against each other with all our raw edges. Dinner is strained and then after the children are in bed, we tear a hole so deep the dark shows through. We rumble until the ground is shaking, and then I sit tear-stained in front of the twinkling Christmas lights. This is not Instagram worthy. I have never seen a puffy eyed woman and her brilliant tree on Pinterest. But I think maybe there are many of us?

This is it I think, this is what it feels like to be unloved. No, I am only displeased with myself. Love is still surrounding me at every corner. Love on both sides, love beneath and above. Love in, out, my very breath.

For God so loved. Piper says this is not an amount of loving, but a way of loving. God so loved that He sent, and the one He sent, came to die. For us.

With the tears streaming down, broken and unlovely, it is clear – I am loved. It is clear, because in that moment I cannot be pleased with myself, so there is no mistaking emotion or vanity for the deep reality that is Love.

Between my husband and I there are apologies on both sides, repentance, forgiveness, counseling, and another day’s mercies. There will be another rumble, more glimpses of the cliff, more choosing to turn and walk towards each other. Gently.

A few days later, the children are playing, the house is peaceful and the decorations lovely. I feel something. I am quick to think it love. No, I am only pleased with myself. No wonder we post all those pictures. I think we have confused feeling loved with being pleased, satisfied that we have pulled it off for the moment… the party, the picture, the look, the supposed feeling. But when the inside and the aftermath don’t line up with all those pleasing lines, then we fall into the cavern of unlovedness.

Thinking we are not pleasing, we feel unloved, but always we are beloved.

We think love is all the right notes, and all the right colors, and most of all the right words and pictures. But Piper tells us of “a costly love. A very powerful love. A very rugged, painful love.”

Rugged, painful love doesn’t expect us to be pleasing or wait for us to be pleasing. And the more we are pleased with ourselves the less we can know of this love.

But a costly love doesn’t leave us where we are. Love is why I didn’t stay tear stained and frozen before the tree. Love is why I touch my husband again and he touches me. Love is why I get up from my seat and apologize to my thirteen year old, my eleven year old, my seven year old. Love is why I quiet my voice and my heart, and I forget the things that please myself. It’s why I forget when I am pleased with myself, and when I am displeased with myself, and remember only that I am loved.

This is advent. He came, to us, unlovely as we are.

We were standing in the middle of a clothing store, our first time alone together after a four month deployment when we got the call…

We needed to pick up our kids from school because a wildfire had broken out and was blowing fast towards them. While our friends across the country were catching snowflakes on their tongues, ash was falling on our children’s faces.

It’s been seven years living in this supposed paradise called California, but I don’t know how to do this… How to have fire days in December instead of snow days – where we huddle inside with the windows closed, but still the smoke seeps in. I don’t know how to keep my heart merry and bright when a cloud of grey looms over my roof, and friends are scrambling to pack their trunks, abandoning Christmas presents under the tree, deciding on just a few square feet of what is really important. There is no cheery and cozy when instead of chilled fingers and toes a step outside leaves you gagging and choking, and all you can do is offer your extra bed to a friend and watch videos of horses running for their lives. All you can do is watch it all burn.

I can’t complain because my house hasn’t been reduced to a pile of charcoal, and everyone I love is safe and sound. But I grew up twenty some years amidst seasons and the nagging need for home has come to a boil just now. I bought the mythology when we moved here. Me torn apart from losing a child during birth, I blamed that small Southern town and laid golden expectations for the West Coast of constant sunshine. But year after year the sun kept shining – as I lost babies, fought for my marriage, birthed babies and cradled sacred traditions. The sun shone on Christmas day and the Fourth of July just the same, and now this sun soaked land is going up in flames. I was naive and we humans forget. This is nothing new, “Disaster amnesia” they call it. I have seen the ugly scars where hurricanes lifted houses and bridges in Florida, the angry swaths cut by tornadoes in Kansas and Indiana, and this is not the first time smoke has billowed around our home here in sunny California. It is the first Christmas though.

All I can think is, “I don’t know how to do this.”

“No place on earth offers greater security to life and greater freedom from natural disasters than Southern California,” The Times wrote in 1934.

Clearly that reporter was mistaken.

I don’t know how to celebrate a Merry Christmas when the sky is raining ash, because I am a Midwestern girl watching the rest of the country making snow angels.

Maybe we are meant to remember that first Christmas was far from merry.

I don’t know how to keep a cheerful heart and raise my children well when there is nowhere to find security in life.

Maybe we are meant to run to the only One who is secure.

I don’t know how to make sense of this senseless devastation.

Maybe we are meant to look at what really matters, reducing what our heart clings to as if we could only walk away from a fire with what we held in our arms.

I don’t know how to relinquish my affinity for place. I don’t know how to quench my homesick spirit.

Maybe we are meant to know that amidst all this whirlwind of disaster our Creator cares about place too, He is the one who made it.

Maybe we are meant to remember that there is a greater home that we are longing for.

I don’t know how to help when there is little I can do, and my heart is feeling weak and cheerless.

Maybe we are meant to simply text friends that we are praying, and open our doors so that we can keep each other company on this windswept planet.

I don’t know how to not feel overwhelmed and shaken by the darkness.

Maybe we are meant to just look for the light piercing, shining through.

. . .

*photos below are from decorating our tree last Christmas