This has been a week of joy and catharsis in my house. My wife, Charlene, just published her first book, “Gemma the Sweater Loving Giraffe”. The peak of joy is proportional to the months of effort, trials and errors, and success and failures that getting to “published” has been for my wife. She is a fantastic life-partner, and creating and publishing her book is as much of an accomplishment as it is a metaphor for her life story.
Her illustrating style was derived from years of Zentangle drawing; a style of tiny patterns making up the many points and textures of a bigger drawing. The detail of her work gives evidence to her willingness to completely invest herself in a long and tricky project with relatively uncertain results. Illustrating one picture of advanced, hybrid Zentangle seems to be a monumental task. Doing a series of 14 drawings in a theme, to tell an over-arching story is just baffling to me.
Gemma the Giraffe is a very imaginative and entertaining book of adventures designed to inspire individualism, confidence, inclusion and personal initiative. Gemma and her friends tackle everything from golf to skydiving, reading to music, together as unique individuals who are close friends that elevate one another. The book includes a puzzle page to teach reading retention, as well as coloring pages for the child to interact with the characters of the story. Start to finish, this book and process are a tremendous labor of love motivated by a desire for others to grow and learn.
As I reflected on Charlene’s creation this morning, it dawned on me that her project is a metaphor for what she has brought to our relationship. We’ve had many long struggles in our 29-years of marriage, and many peaks of joy. We’ve raised two sons to adulthood, both graduating college. We’ve both completed graduate degree academic goals while maintaining careers, family and church commitments. We developed our careers together as supportive partners, sometimes working to support the other while career training or healing up from life’s injuries. Our life together has been a theme of myriad scenes more complicated than the most intricate Zentangle drawing.
Those many scenes in my mind always include Charlene inspiring her husband and sons toward individualism, confidence, inclusion and personal initiative. Of paramount importance to her has been focusing on where God is leading, and having faith to accept that He is there to carry us when we’re unable to carry ourselves. Charlene encourages creativity and inspires her family to accomplish the work of doing hard things for a greater good. There is so much of her over-arching theme in Gemma that reminds me of how Charlene conducts life.
One of the greatest gifts God has given me is my marriage, and the lessons it has taught me. One of the greatest lessons marriage has taught me is to get outside my selfishness and learn to live for something greater. With my marriage as the core of my life, and God leading me when he wasn’t carrying me, everything good in my life has happened. It is such a joy to have such a great partner with which to share the life God gave me.
Proverbs 31:10-31 (NLT) – A Wife of Noble Character
10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.
11 Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.
12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She finds wool and flax and busily spins it.
14 She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
16 She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.
18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.
19 Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.
20 She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
21 She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm[b] clothes.
22 She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
23 Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders.
24 She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
27 She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.
28 Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:
29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
31 Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.