OK, this is a blog that’s long overdue. Overdue, but appropriate on this day, a few days in front of a day of thanks, a day set apart to say “thank you” to God for his provision in our lives.
How many times has my wife had to endure hearing questions from those of you not privy to an inside look at my life? Too many.
The questions come in some variation of this theme: “Oh, Dr. Kraus, how do you do it all?” Surgeon, novelist, missionary, father, husband. I usually mumble something about grace. The answer is true, but perhaps not specific enough.
The grace I’m referring to (undeserved divine favor) comes to me predominately through one source: my wife, Kris. While I ignore life’s daily details, functioning as the visionary of our wedded duo, Kris plods on, suffering the blunt end of my decisions, the one who has to be sure everything continues to work.
And she’s done it for twenty-six years. Mostly behind the scenes. Without credit. While my few fans step up with smiles and ask, “How do you do it all?”
It’s not easy being married to me.
Not easy is the polite way to say it.
She knew I was on my way into medicine when we met and married. That part wasn’t an unpleasant surprise. But for anyone, expectations are a given.
What would you expect from a life with a physician as a spouse? Security? A comfortable income? The right schools, the right church, a nice house in the country or the suburbs? None of that would be out of the ordinary for a modern physician.
But I’ll admit, I’m not one for following the status quo. Not as a physician. Not as a Christian (and admittedly, I think that status quo Christianity paves the road to hell).
So imagine the vague anxiety my wife must have felt when I announced my first life-altering decision in our young marriage: I want to be a surgeon.
That meant at least five years of residency hell. Back in those days, no one limited your hours. And the military style obedience and dedication weren’t so family friendly. We were one of the couples who survived the torture, looking forward to a better life beyond.
And we had it, for a while. Until just after we’d built my wife’s dream house, the doctor-country house. And then I announced another visionary stressor: I think we should take the family to Africa for a year.
My wife buckled under, sold the dream house, and made it happen. Moving a family of three boys to Africa isn’t easy. There is adjustment. Different friends, a different school.
But one year wasn’t enough. After a year, we moved again, this time back to America to a smaller house in town. Not a “doctor-house.” My wife adjusted down her expectations. Again.
Then we returned to Africa for three years. A chance to make a real difference. And my wife adjusted and made it happen. Three and out, she hoped. But now, after two years back in our modest house in America, we’re talking about a return to Africa. Another three years.
My wife is holding on, hoping it will be the last time that need grips my heart and passion fuels a vision for great things. I look ahead to impacting an unreached people group. Kris looks at three more years of bad roads, inconvenience, personal risk, and a living situation far from American-doctor luxury.
No she’s not selfish. She’s normal. She likes America. Who doesn’t?
And yes, she will go along with the dreams God has birthed in my heart. But she will ask him, “how long?” and “why us?”
Consider the orientation of the wonderful woman I married on a Nebraska hog farm in 1983. She grew up in a little close-knit community wanting little more than to live in the same house for twenty years. OK, maybe forty. She yearns for stability and sameness. Instead, she got me.
She wanted to make a home place, a retreat for kids and eventually grandkids. Instead, we’ve moved a dozen times in twenty-six years, including back and forth to Africa twice.
I’ve had crazy ideas. I think I’ll write a novel. Or a dozen. Whatever made me think I could spend the hours necessary to do that?
Because Kris takes care of everything that I ignore. Including herself.
I write. She cooks, cleans, shuttles kids to school, and finds time to study herself, in pursuit of a nursing degree.
I see patients, do surgery. She makes sure someone pays the bills, gets the cars inspected, makes appointments with our accountant and keeps the financial records.
I accept yet another opportunity to speak or travel on a short-term medical mission. She makes all the travel arrangements and watches over everything at home while I’m gone. I don’t worry about a thing.
I get the credit for giving an inspiring talk about grace. Kris does all the behind the scene stuff, gets no credit and looks at my busy life wondering where’s the grace he’s talking about?
Well for me, I know it’s a struggle to practice everything I preach. Speaking, writing and doing surgery crowds out personal devotion and private worship. My audience doesn’t see the inconsistency. My wife does. And she calls my number on it.
Good for her. I don’t like it, but I need it.
And that’s why I’m telling you about her during thanksgiving week. She is God’s biggest blessing to me. He knew I needed a woman to manage everything I don’t. I think she often wonders why God would put two so different individuals together in a union of marriage. Well, if we were both like me, we’d have exploded long ago.
I need her. Badly. She’s unappreciated, often ignored. And far too often, I haven’t given her the credit she deserves.
I want everyone to know. She’s amazing. She’s underrated on the radar screen of publicity. I get the credit for work I do standing on her shoulders.
I’ve talked before about how people put others up on pedestals. Missionary. Published novelist. Surgeon. People hear the titles and prop me up with their own ideas of importance. But I tell them that it’s all grace. The only pedestal I want to stand on is a pedestal of grace.
Most of the time, for me, that pedestal of grace is spelled “K-r-i-s.”