Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Can You Learn from a Laminator?

Now that I have the 200th post out of the way, I can write what is really on my heart tonight.  I'm breaking technology curfew again, but I just couldn't sleep until I wrote what I've really been thinking about the past 24 hours or so.

This weekend I had an emotional breakdown.  I physically was in pain more than I've been in a long time and because those times have become fewer between, it emotionally hit me hard.  I guess because I was used to dealing with pain that my tolerance level was higher and as my health has GREATLY improved, that tolerance level had come down greatly.  It just hit hard.  On top of that, I'll be honest and admit my hormones were insane and I was as moody and emotional as I can remember being in a long time.  Add to that the overwhelmed feelings I had been experiencing the last week or so and it was a recipe for disaster. 

Enter in a little marital conflict that should have been an easy fix.  One of those little things that could have been discussed calmly, hurts feelings soothed, forgiveness granted and life restored to normal.  Well, it didn't quite happen that way.  My physical state and my emotional state definitely made a mountain out of a molehill.  Surely, that has NEVER happened to any of you!  Surely, none of you know what I'm talking about.  HAHA, right?  We all can point to times like that.  We as women are just emotional basket cases at times and are VERY complicated creatures.  If our husbands could just magically recognize those moments of a tiny bit  MEGA amount of insanity rising and have a magic pill to restore order immediately, life would be great.  Well, unfortunately sometimes their moments of not thinking clearly happen to coincide with our emotional neediness and POOF it's an explosion.  Yes, that is what happened. 

Well, I'm happy to report that though things were quite tense and emotional for a day (give or take a few hours, but who is counting...LOL!), sanity has now prevailed and balance has been restored.  Forgiveness has been granted.  The slate is wiped clean.  Love and laughter are in the air again and no one has to duck from flying objects.  OK----throwing of objects really didn't happen, but I might or might not admit to thinking about it. 

In the midst of that storm which can be contributed to stress from both sides and miscommunication, there was a moment that God really spoke to me.  At that point, my heart had already been turned back towards my husband and we were already beginning to find our way back to common ground even though my emotions were still a bit tender.  We were in the early stages of "making up".  You know that point where you may still be feeling hurt and emotional, but you realize that your spouse isn't the enemy?  That is where we were.  The point where you recognize that you are at fault just as much as the other person and you just want a fresh start and to come to an agreement. 

I was still physically struggling and had spent the best part of two days in bed.  At this point I was finally wanting to be productive and get some things off my "list", but wasn't up to running around the house or to being out and about.  I decided I would get the laminator out and start working on 30 dozen chocolate chip cookies cut out of paper that I needed to laminate for a busy bag swap.   It was a tedious task.  It was mundane.  It just so happens that THOSE are the moments that God usually finds me the easiest.  He can reach my heart in those times because I've slowed down and focused on just one or two things instead of bouncing all over the place with my mind running in countless directions. 

As I began to fill pouch after pouch of cookies and send them through the machine, I noticed something.  I got a glimpse of our married life and it changed EVERYTHING I was feeling in those moments.  I even took the risk of asking Kevin to come in and listen to me tell him what God had made me realize.  It left me a bit vulnerable because I wasn't quite ready to let go of my hurt and anger at that moment.  I also didn't want him to laugh at me.  (Which for the record, he did NOT!  Though we both admitted to the strange ways God gets my attention.  It usually happens when I'm doing laundry, but this was the first it had happened so profoundly in front of a little gray machine with a heat dial!!!). 

Here is what I saw.  The laminating pouch was like two people.  For those of you that haven't used a pouch laminator, it is basically a piece of plastic that folds over on top of itself.  For simplicity, it opens like a card.  It has two sides when it is open.  I saw those two sides as two people.  Kevin and I.  Two separate people.  Two VERY different people with different needs, expectations, and ways of doing things. 

As I began to lay the cookies on the page, I thought about all of the stress and things that we were facing that had brought us to that moment of disagreement.  I saw the cookies as the burdens we were facing.  Each cookie I added was the different means of stress that were causing us to pull apart.  I saw them as all of the responsibilities we had and the things that were overwhelming each of us.  As I piled on the cookies, I thought of all of that was piling up on us. 

Marriage.  It's about two becoming one.  When hard times come, you have two options.  You can remember that on the day you married, you TRULY became one and make choices that allow you to stay connected as one.  Or, you can live separate lives and allow hard times to pull you apart more every day. 

After the one side of the pouch is loaded with what you are wanting to laminate, you simply just pull the opposite side over it and close it.  Those two separate pages are now one. 

However, they can easily come right back apart.  Give it a little shake and everything falls apart.  Rough up the pouch a little bit and they slip right open.  They are flimsy and easily torn or crumpled. They've not been sealed.  It takes the going through the heat to make that happen. 

I sent a pouch through the machine and showed him that when it came out, there was nothing I could do to make those pages come back apart.  They had literally melted into each other and there was no way to tell one side from the other.  No longer is there a top or bottom sheet.  It's all one. 

THAT is what a marriage based on Christ looks like.  That is what happens when two become one.  (As referenced at various times in scripture:  Mark 10:8, Ephesians 5:31, Matthew 19:5, 1 Corinthians 6:16, Genesis 2:24, etc...).  THAT is normally what our marriage looks like because we've worked HARD at getting it to that point.  However, in those previous hours we weren't quite living up to it. 

We had forgotten something very important.  There is something essential for a pouch laminator to work.  It needs the "carrier".  It needs the envelope/folder that you slip the pouch inside before you send it through the machine.  If you send the pouch alone into the heat, it will just melt.  It will just get stuck on the heat bar and melt and ruin the machine and the items you are trying to create. 

That is what was happening to us.  We were fighting each other instead of the enemy.  We had lost sight of what the real issue at hand was.  We hadn't put our pouch in the carrier for protection.  The carrier insulates from the heat and allows JUST the right amount of melting to take place.  It allows what needs to melt to melt and what needs to be protected, safe.  We had allowed our stress and being overwhelmed to not be put in the arms of God.  He is our protector.  He is what seals us together and protects us from the outside world that wants to pull us apart.  When we go through life's storms (and sometimes there are MANY and they are relentless!!!) with His arms around us, we come out together.  That is where we had failed and that is why we couldn't get back on the same page.  As soon as we put our relationship back under his protection we were immediately able to pass back under that heat bar and come out completely melted together and on the same page.  Yes, there are still issues to work through and the initial stressors aren't gone----but we are back to getting there together. 

When I shared with Kevin what I had realized by simply watching those pouches go through during those mindless hours, he immediately understood where I was going with it and what I was wanting to say.  Our hearts were immediately back on the same page.  He, being the very logical and intelligent man he is, was able to take it a step deeper.  He reminded me of two things I didn't see the first time.  One, for those two sides of the pouch two melt together it HAD to go under the heat.  Sometimes we HAVE to go through fire and testing.  Sometimes we HAVE to go through the struggles to truly find each other.  It is the heat that melts us together.  Two, he reminded me that the carrier has a few more purposes than just insulating and protecting.  It provides pressure.  It is what guides the individual pieces together and keeps them lined up as they pass through.  God is our compass.  He keeps us lined up.  When we take our eyes off of him, we lose our way.  It is NEVER intentional.  Life just happens at times in ways that is completely about dividing.  It's Satan's greatest tool.  We have to ALWAYS keep our eyes focused on God or we will immediately lose our way.  We have to be proactive!  Just a tiny slip out of the pouch and we get burned in a way that may not be able to be repaired, but tucked safely in and being guided keeps everything on track. 

Perhaps his last statement during those moments is what has stuck with me the most.  He reminded me that not only did the pouches need the heat to melt into one, it also need the pressure.  If the heat bar wasn't close enough, it wouldn't have provided enough heat.  The pressure put it close enough to the heat to do what it needed to do.  Pressure he reminded me is how diamonds are made.  The pressure I'm feeling right now and the pressure he is feeling right now from different issues is maybe necessary.  Maybe it is just the process of turning each of us into diamonds and turning our marriage into one as well.  Maybe.  Just maybe. 

Yep, I may find my greatest lessons while looking into the washing machine, while folding clothes, or even when looking at a tube of toothpaste.  Looks like this time, the lesson came in the form of one of the greatest tools to a homeschool mom......a laminator!  Speaking of, I need to get to bed so I can pull that tool out tomorrow and get some more laminating done.  Stacks of Bradlee's activities are waiting to be done before we start school on the 8th (if not sooner).  I bet when I use that machine tomorrow, I'll be looking at in a much different way.  I'll be reminded of how it helped to restore a marriage to it's extraordinary state!

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