Monday, November 2, 2009

Family Identity

Last night we had our first pre-marriage/family counseling session with our Pastor and his wife.
Phil and I are both blessed to have this couple in our lives. They have a lot of insight into my family which means they have a lot of helpful advice to share with us.
I was reminded last week that we have only known Steve and Wendy for six years now but Steve has baptized our adopted children, performed Eric's and my twentieth anniversary renewal of vows, conducted Eric's memorial, and now will be officiating as I marry Phil.
We hope (and pray) that he has the privilege of baptizing a baby or two of ours as well! And, then there are our children's weddings to officiate and grandbabies to baptize....okay, you get the point!

There was much to discuss...Phil and I have had and continue to have long talks about how we will do certain things and what we will change regarding house rules, traditions, and so on. We talk about what we will keep the same as well. It is all so important as we try to create a new family.
One of the things that Steve asked us to work on was creating a new family identity.
What is it that the Olsson family will be known for?
What is the one thing that we all love to do together?
I think that over time this will come together for us but only because we are actively seeking to create that new identity.

IDENTITY: Distinct personality of, characteristics by which a thing or person is recognized or known, exact sameness.

A family identity fits the description above and yet is even more complex because it contains the individual personalities of each member as well.
As I look back on the Davis family identity I believe that most people who knew us would say that we were a family who was constantly busy and doing for others.
When Eric died our identity was in limbo. Eric would be described by most (including me) as a command man. I take this defining term from Debi Pearl's book "Created To Be His Help-Meet" (this is not an endorsement of any of the Pearl's books). Here is an exerpt:

"A few men are born with more than their share of dominance and, on the surface, a deficit in gentleness. They often end up in positions that command other men. We will call them Command Men. They are born leaders...These men see life as if they are looking from a high mountain, they see the big picture rather than individual needs.

They are known for expecting their wives to wait on them hand and foot. A Command Man does not want his wife involved in any project that prevents her from serving him. If you are blessed to be married to a strong, forceful, bossy man, as I am, then it is very important for you learn how to make an appeal without challenging his authority...

...A woman can fight until she is blue in the face, yet the Command Man will not yield. Yielding would be against his personhood. He is not as intimate or vulnerable as are other men in sharing his personal feelings or vocation with his wife. He seems to be sufficient unto himself. It is awful being shut out. A woman married to a Command Man has to earn her place in his heart by proving that she will stand by her man, faithful, loyal, and obedient. When she has won his confidence, he will treasure her to the extreme.

A King wants a Queen, which is why a man in command wants a faithful wife to share his fame and glory. Without a woman’s admiration, his victories are muted. If a wife learns early to enjoy the benefits of taking the second seat, and if she does not take offense to his headstrong aggressiveness, she will be the one sitting at his right side being adored, because this kind of man will totally adore his woman and exalt her. She will be his closest, and sometimes his only, confidante. Over the years, the Command Man can become more yielding and gentle. His wife will discover secret portals to his heart."

This is a great description of Eric. I didn't get it for the first ten years of our marriage. It wasn't until the Lord brought some incredible older women into my life that I was able to understand how to honor and respect my husband. And, when "Created" came out it was like a breath of fresh air! Someone finally understood our marriage. Someone finally understood why Eric would be upset when I forgot to take my cell phone with me. Someone finally had advice on how to create a godly marriage with a man who ran his home like a military boot camp.

And, the Lord knew that I needed a military boot camp for those twenty plus years. I had quite a bit of growing up to do and Eric was the tool that God used to mature me. I thank Him for those incredible years. For the last seven years or so Eric adored me as his "queen". My years of obedience even when it was incredibly difficult was rewarded with a kind husband who truly trusted and loved me.

The only downside to Eric's commanding ways was that this household and identity was wrapped up in him. When he died our family identity died with him. That is why I say that our family identity has been in limbo. Our family identity was Eric. For those that knew him they would all say that he was a huge presence in many of their lives. The loss was great for our church and friends because he was such a big personality. It was the same for the kids and me.

One of the interesting fall outs of this discovery is that my kids do not know me very well. They feel like they knew so much about their dad but nothing about me. Most of that was because I was in the background doing various things for Eric or being the task master. They have been surprised by finding out who I am and realizing that I am not Eric. Honestly, I think it is wonderful that my kids saw Eric and me as one person. It was an honor serving him.

As we were talking last night I started to get excited about the idea of creating this new identity...seeing what God has in store for us as He forms a new family out of an existing one.
Even more exciting is the unique difference this new phase of my life will hold for me.

I remember talking to a dear friend (hey there Colleen!)about my multiple times of running out of gas. I explained that Eric always kept my gas tank full along with taking care of just about everything in our relationship. She said she wondered if this time inbetween my marriage to Eric and my marriage to whomever God would bring into my life would be a time of learning for me. Learning how to manage finances, home, children, and such knowing that there would be a possibility of marrying someone unlike Eric. I told her at the time that I didn't think that I could marry someone who wasn't a command man. I wouldn't know what to do.
Well, God has given me a man who is not fully a command man. I get the privilege of learning how to respect and honor Phil as he leads our new family. And, after a year and a half of learning how to run a home I am ready to help Phil and share in the responsibility of running this home and creating a new family identity.
By the way, this is not easy work. Right now it is a lot of mental work. No complaints...I am just walking down the path the Lord has laid before me as I have the past two years. I just keep going...being gently prodded by the Holy Spirit to keep on keeping on. It's all a part of the journey.


not2brightGRAM said...

Speaking from experience, just make sure your kids (especially the four oldest) know that their dad's identity will *never* be taken from them, and that it's okay to be slow about taking a new step-dad into their lives. Phil's primarily your new husband, not their "new" dad. The best recipe for avoiding resentment!

Anonymous said...

Good to hear from you again. This new family that God is creating is so exciting! He will lead you where you are destined to go. I love watching His plans unfold, especially when I have thought "what could possibly ever be good about this??"
I hope you are able to continue to share your heart over the next few busy weeks.
Rebecca in Canada

Lazy D Ranch said...

I am planning on addressing the kids in a later post. Thanks for the reminder. Please know that this is one of the main reasons why we are meeting with Steve and Wendy.
We know that Phil's relationship to the older four will be much more of a father figure rather than a dad. Eric will always be an ever present memory in their lives and we would never want to do anything to change that.
I love your concern for our family! You have been there and I appreciate any and all encouragement we can gain from you and Rick.
Rebecca, thanks for continuing to visit. I know that my lack of writing is probably going to keep some from visiting often. Just a crazy time of life for me. Hope to be better at updating as we get closer to the wedding.

not2brightGRAM said...

When I re-read my comment, I realized I might have added MORE by way of encouragement. It would be better if my adult kids (they were 18 and 19 when Rick and I married) could comment themselves, but I think I can speak for them somewhat. Rick never tried to be "dad" to them, but they have come to have a lot of respect for him as that "father figure" you mention. One of them, especially, calls to talk just with him frequently. I think it's safe to say that much good has come from a very tragic situation in our family, thanks to the godly man God brought into my - make that our! - life, and I trust He is doing the same for you and yours. Much love!

Strang Family said...

Very well said, Heather. I am married to a Command Man and I laughed when you said that Eric ran your home like a military boot camp... (ours would be a little more like the fire station)... but it is interesting to see the LORD taking you out of your "comfort zone" (and some would not see it like that!) of being the Queen to a Command Man and directing you into a new and different "Queen wife" of another type of husband. Know that we are/have been praying for you!

emily said...

Thanks so much for writing again Heather. It is so awesome to watch how God is working in your lives! Be blessed!

Anonymous said...

My "visionary" husband is off to Africa for the month of January to visit the orphanage he purchased there and to work on a building for another ministry in a nearby country. I'm very proud of him and want him to follow God's leading, but I'm often disrespectful/questioning due to the demands of our 6 children HERE (which includes 2 adopted and 1 foster..."orphans" of drug users). I see his salary as "low" at $40,000 for a family of 8, but he sees us as rich compared to the rest of the world (and of course he's right).

But the momma bear in me wants to look out for MY children's needs, and not just the financial ones, but their need for time with him as he throws himself into one ministry after another. I'm ashamed that my nagging has pulled him out of the church orchestra, men's ministry, and other personal ventures outside of ministry, but I just question why God would take him away from us when we need him so much? (I'm chronically ill and unable to drive...this time without him will be a severe test for us!) Debi's book is indeed a help...wish I could apply it better. Maybe I'll read it again while he's gone! :)

Reading about your struggles and victories has been so helpful...thank you for admitting to your not-so-wonderful years of marriage--that gives me hope for change! Luckily my visionary husband has lots of steady in him as well so that he adores me even tho I'm often a jerk. Very forgiving and humble which helps a lot. He values my input, even when it's not given correctly...

Andrea W. said...

OH wow..I hadn't visited your blog in a long time...and you're getting married!! Congratulations! I pray you have a very blessed marriage.
~andrea, mom to 7 in mn