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    Thirty by 30: Installment Six

    May 5, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    Not to brag, but I just got back from Lake Tahoe, where the weather is perfect and yet the snow pack is still glistening on the mountain tops. We had so much fun, and two of the three days there were practically nausea-free. This is a new record. Almost 48 whole hours of health!

    And today is our seventh anniversary. {Thanks for remembering, Rebecca!} We celebrated our return by taking our kids to the park. Si took the day off and we are spending it doing important things, like picking up the 150 pounds of gluten-free grains I ordered from the co-op. It is nice to have a transition day before heading back to normal life.

    Typically, around the time of our anniversary, we spend some time with a pen and a notebook reflecting on the past year and thinking about our hopes for the future. This year was a little different. Since we are both turning 30, we spent time writing a list of goals for our 30s. We talked about skills we hope to acquire, ministries we hope to have as a family, the list goes on. It was fun, and I think I caught a bit of a vision of how we will grow and change {individually and as a family} over the next ten years.

    Of course, today I am back to thinking not about what I intend to learn in the future, but what I have already learned the past 30 years {whether I enjoyed the lesson or not is an entirely different story}.

    1. Advice can come at unlikely times from unlikely people. Now, this is not to say that I expect to gather sound financial advice from a homeless person, but I still think that I used to underestimate who might have good insight into a situation. The Bible teaches in Titus 2 that older women are to teach the younger. So when I am trying to seek out advice for a specific situation, I generally search for an older, more experienced woman.

      However, comma…

      I have also learned that there is a lot of wisdom around me wherever I go. I remember once talking with Grace about a problem I was having with one of my children. I don’t even remember what the problem was. What I do remember was that she had gained a lot of insight into the two-year-old mind because she taught that age in Sunday School. She, though not older than me, and also not a mother, really gave me some sound advice.

      I remember another time when I had one of my single friends over. She offered to change my baby’s diaper. It was dirty. I was astounded. I don’t like changing diapers, and I have never changed a diaper that didn’t belong to my own child, save one exception for my oldest nephew. This young woman told me that she loved changing diapers and felt like it was a chance to bond with that baby. I viewed changing diapers a little differently after that.

      Recently, when I was at a baby shower, one of the women there said, “I don’t know! I’m not a parent!” And I remember wondering if perhaps she did know. There is some wisdom that definitely comes from experience. But there is much wisdom found in God’s Word, and any woman in any life situation has access to that. My job is to be teachable.

    2. Sometimes, you have to play the game. This modern world, controlled as it is by the Powers That Be, has a whole bunch of rules and regulations. And those rules and regulations don’t always match up with our own common sense. Take, for instance, job requirements. The government is heavily involved in mandating certain requirements in a way that was unheard of even, say, twenty years ago. The State tells us who can and cannot be a hairstylist, a massage therapist, a manicurist, etcetera.

      And that’s just the beauty industry.

      Everywhere I look, I see the heavy hand of the state pressing hard on the various industries around me.

      The little rebel in me wants to see my children succeed without meeting those silly State requirements. I want them to be like their great grandfather, who taught himself so much that he was qualified to be an instructor at our local city college and still builds complex electrical thingies {thingie is a technical term} for one of the department heads there. He didn’t need the State to tell him how to be competent in his field.

      But, in the end, I realize that sometimes, you have to play the game. If my child is born to be a doctor, then he’s going to have to go to medical school. If he is born to be an engineer, he’s going to have to go to engineering school. It doesn’t matter that, a hundred years ago, these types of knowledge were easily passed down in an apprenticeship sort of setting.

      Reality is where we must live.

      Of course, if my child wants to drop out of college because he just might be the next Bill Gates, there is a chance he’d have my blessing.

      All this talk reminds me of a scene from Jayber Crow:

      He was {I believe he said} Mr. Mumble Something of the Forces of Health and Sanitation. He put out his hand and I shook it…

      “I’m here to make an inspection,” he said. He propped the clipboard on his belt buckle and began to look at various things and make check marks on a ruled page.

      Maybe you are used to this sort of thing and don’t mind. Maybe you have inspected inspectors and found them worthy of the highest approval. But I have to admit that I minded.

      It was not as though I was running a barbershop in a prison. I was running a freewill operation. Except for the small boys who came in under parental orders, my customers were volunteers, who inspected the property and equipment every time they came in. They could see for themselves. I wasn’t barbering in a school for the blind, either.

      That I was still charging fifty cents a haircut when most barbers had gone to a dollar might have had something to do with bringing some of them in, but only some of them. Most of my customers, I think, were satisfied enough.


      The inspector, or the man inside the inspector, was just a young fellow with black wavy hair and black-rimmed glasses who had got Somewhere and made Something of himself.

      “Mr. Crow,” he said, as if from quite a distance, his voice echoing up the levels of authority. “I don’t see any fixtures. Do you have hot running water?”

      I had a big metal urn with a spigot at the bottom. It sat on a little coal-oil stove. I could regulate the burner and keep the water at just the right temperature for shaving.

      I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t want to say anything. I got down from the barber chair, picked up my shaving mug, carried it over to the urn, put it under the spigot, and turned the handle. The water ran. It was hot. The inspector made a check mark.


      The inspector said that I was in violation of Regulation Number So-and-so, which required that all barbershops should be equipped with hot running water.

      I pointed to the urn from which I had just run some hot water.

      He said the hot water had to run from a proper faucet at the end of a pipe, not from a spigot on an urn. He signed and dated the sheet with the checkmarks on it and gave me a copy.

    3. When you marry, you marry character, and also a family. We women can sometimes get so caught up in how handsome a man is, or how thoughtful, or how charming that we forget we aren’t just marrying a husband. We are marrying someone with whom we will, God willing, create a family. So this man will also be the father of children, the grandfather of grandchildren, the head of the household, etcetera. When we start to look at it this way, we can see that being handsome and thoughtful {though definitely a plus} isn’t everything. And as we age, and some of our best physical qualities start to deteriorate, it becomes very obvious that the strength of the character on the inside is what matters.

      Likewise, unless a woman is marrying an orphan who was also an only child, she is acquiring a family. I dated a guy for a short period of time that I broke up with because, among other reasons, his mother sounded completely insane. And I just wasn’t in the market for a crazy mother-in-law.

      Now, I’m not saying a man should be judged by his family. God has redeemed some great men from some very poor families. However, I do think there is some discernment required. After all, if you marry into a divorced family {even a fairly peaceful one}, your children will have at least one extra set of grandparents. When the holidays begin to roll around, the inconvenience of this fact will make itself fully known. If your husband has a sibling that is involved in drugs, or crime, or whatnot, your kids will end up learning some things earlier than you had planned, whether you try to protect them or not.

      Like I said, a man’s family isn’t a reason to disqualify him for a marriage position. I used to say I would never marry a man from a divorced family. But I did. And I wouldn’t want any other man to be my husband, my leader, the father of my children. But marriage shouldn’t be approached without considering the big picture.

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