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In which romance shows up in the interruptions

I think that someday, when I am old, I will be glad that I wrote this down. (These are the days we will have to remember someday.) Isn’t that the way it is with these moments? The small moments, the small decisions, make up a life worth remembering and I want to make more room in my life (and so my writing) to remember them. Even if it’s just for me. Simple stories still matter to me.

The girls were playing dress-up while Joe was downstairs playing Legos after supper. I left Brian to the dishes to pretty up their hair and apply my bright lipstick to their small mouths as a special treat. We sprayed perfume into the air and moved through the mist. They paraded up and down the house, grandly greeting each other turn after turn: “Why hello, Miss Evelynn, pleasure to see you.” They decided to have a ball and so I opened iTunes on the computer. The laptop keys are sticky and there are smears on the screen: family computer, it seems.

Brian and I switched spots and he scooped them up in his arms, a dish towel flung over his shoulder. The girls danced with their dad, and I cleaned the kitchen, humming along, watching them all. The girls drifted off to another game and we settled back to our work, we always do. There’s a lot to do: a lot of work, a lot of bills, a lot of commitments, go go go.

On these nights, romance smells like butter and garlic, dish soap and clean skin. On a whim, I turned on Andrew Peterson’s song “Dancing in the Minefields” and, without words, we turned to each other, held on and danced. Romance shows up in the interruptions.

Even when we are tired or we aren’t speaking the same language or we are out of step, we still know enough to turn towards each other when the music starts.

Evelynn came barrelling in to the room (she barrels into every room) and charged at us: me too! me too! me too! We picked her up and we danced, and Anne wormed her way in, then Joe wandered upstairs and we were dancing like a messy rugby scrum, shuffling and swaying and out of step, five people crammed into one embrace.

I laid my head on his chest like I haven’t done in a while, he kissed my hair, I knew he was smiling, and Evelynn laid her face right next to mine, nose to nose. Anne was hanging on to me at the south, Joe to the north.

I make a lot of mistakes in this marriage, I’m sure he’d say the same, but we always find our way back to this. I found myself singing along: at the end of all my fear, to the end of all my days, when I forget my name, remind me. 

Continue Reading · brian, family, love, love looks like, marriage · 28

In which {love looks like} your own story, a guest post for RHE

I love when Rachel Held Evans puts on her Teaching Hat. This week, she’s writing through what Mutual Submission (sometimes called Mutuality) – the theology, the Scriptures, how it translates to our real lives and marriages, all of it. It’s a necessary and much-needed conversation within the Church and Rachel has done serious research, called in the experts, and is highlighting posts on Twitter from other writers. Most of you know that Rachel and I have become friends (she even wrote the Foreword for my book) and I respect her more than I could express properly. She’s everything she appears – generous, kind, wise, funny, self-deprecating and usually the smartest person in the room – and so I’m flat-out honoured to contribute to her series on marriages of mutuality. You can follow all activity relating to this series on Twitter with the hashtag #OneToAnother.

I know that principles are useful and helpful, I do, but for some reason, they just don’t sum up what it means to love Jesus, do they? When I try to describe the spirit-filled life of living loved, I resort to metaphors and stories: I’ll stumble through the words of John 15 about life in the vine or say phrases like “live and move and have our being” and sometimes I talk about Isaiah or maybe shepherds and sheep who know His voice, but usually  I am left saying “it’s like this…” and then I am only bearing witness to the Spirit’s movement in my own life and the Love who transforms me.  I have a hard time to explaining it because it’s so inherent to my life: this is the way, and I walk in it.

Maybe that is the difference between religious performance and relaxing into a relationship. My faith is now a dance between the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures and my community, it’s alive. I’m being changed from the inside out, and I want to prophetically live the ways of Jesus into every corner of my small existence. I know where I belong and I know my true identity at last.

Against my usually-better-than-this judgement, I began to write online about my marriage a few years ago. I never write about how to have a good marriage – there is nary a principle or seven-step plan to be found. Instead, I write about what love looks like for us.

In the same way that the longer I know and love our Jesus, then the less I want to write or pontificate about Being a Good Christian, it seems that the longer I’m married, the less I want to write or pontificate about Having A Good Marriage. Now I just want to read dog-eared poetry books and cook his meals, argue with him about theology and then kiss him on the kitchen floor.

Please click here to read the rest of this post at Rachel Held Evans’ blog….

Continue Reading · Guest Post, love, love looks like, marriage · 1

In which [love looks like] an empty parking lot

More than fourteen years ago, we went for a walk at midnight. We were on a college snowboarding trip and my husband never fails to remind me that I came to Silverthorne in one man’s car and went back to Tulsa in another man’s car – his old ’88 Monte Carlo. A week was all it took for me to fall head over heels in love with that tall boy from Nebraska. One night, after everyone went to bed, he asked me to walk with him in the midnight. We bundled up in our woolies, me with two long red braids hanging down underneath my wool toque, and we set out mittens in hand. We walked in the darkness and the stars above the trees, and then we stood in an empty cul-de-sac of a soon-coming neighbourhood. He laid me down on a snowbank and kissed me dizzy. After we came back to the rented condo filled with college students, frozen, we knew the night couldn’t end and so we drove to a Village Inn and leaned over a formica table and bitter coffee, talking until dawn. We drove back to the condo and slept for an hour before we woke up to another day of snowboarding on a budget with our friends, broken by our secret grins.

Fourteen years later, we were in a rented Jeep. His parents were looking after our three tinies on the family reunion holiday, and we are still holding hands on the gear shift. We found that ratty condo  after a while of driving – it was a different colour, there were a few more houses around, a lot of trees had been cut down. We stood in the parking lot of that condo complex and remembered when were thinner and younger. I said, “Can you believe it’s been nearly 15 years since I snapped that picture of you standing over that worn out Monte Carlo’s engine?” And he said, “We’re as close to being fifty now as we are right now to that day.” And then I nearly fell down dead because somehow we are still twenty years old and kissing in snowbanks at the same time that we’re thirty-four with three tinies and a mortgage, we both have grey hair and a lifetime now.

That cul-de-sac is filled with 15 year old homes, a few even for sale. They were out of our price range. Remember? Remember? Remember? we said as we marvelled. Remember how we were here in the snow just yesterday and now we are older in the rain, and we have all these years, all of the years we spent together. So well spent.

 

We found that old Village Inn. It was closed – empty and despondent, surrounded by chains and KEEP OUT signs. There were outlet shops everywhere and we felt sad. Everywhere starts to look the same after a while, it’s the rare place that holds its own place in the world. We hopped the chains and stood in the parking lot. The skies opened up and the grey rained down. We kissed on the front step of that old restaurant and then we peered through the opaque windows of time to our old selves.

Could we have imagined? Could we have imagined the life we now live and the choices we’ve made? Could we imagine the places we’ve gone and the tears we have wept together and the babies we’ve lost? Could we have imagined the way we smile at each other in such perfect knowing when our son – our son! – raptures over a plane ride? The way you make our daughters laugh until they shriek over tickles and the way we sleep altogether at night on our family holidays? Could we have imagined even something as simple as family holidays together with your parents and your sisters and their families? We could not. But here we are, nearly fifteen years later , kissing in an old abandoned breakfast restaurant parking lot while the rain falls and we remember?

We drove down a lake dam and stayed by the lake. Secrets are a beautiful part of a marriage. We went out for supper and talked over our life. It’s a funny thing to revisit the old haunts, to see yourselves fifteen years ago burning with passion and Somedays, when you are now older with babies and memories and stories, still somehow dreaming of Someday.

We’ve hit that point, the point when we remember each other back then, and we know now. We are familiar and yet still somehow, kissing in the empty parking lots surrounded by chain link fences and KEEP OUT signs.

He has lines at his eyes and grey at his temples, and I still see that 19 -year-old boy with a grin, coaxing me out for a walk in the midnight. And at the same time, I see our homes and our travels, our tears and our laughter, I see him standing in the room and weeping over tea-towels with never-babies inside, and I see us holding the now-growing-up babies as they learn to walk, and I see him looking at me across our old bed that he built with his own hands and I see us as kids and I see us as lovers and I see us as best friends, and I see us just last night as we staggered through a sleepless night with lanky kids who couldn’t sleep well and I think, God, we grew up together. We grew up and now we are grown up, and now  we are growing older. Those lanky kids look like us, both of us, at the same time.

We came back to another rented condo in the gathering of the light. I couldn’t have imagined all those years ago, at the Village Inn with a day-old bagel and terrible coffee at dawn, how he would have loved me so beautifully and fully, so crazily and completely, so ordinarily extraordinary. Look at us, living our lives together. Everything has changed, everything will continue to change, but we will still be here, in a car, kissing like teenagers over a lifetime of stories shared.

Look at us, in the middle of our marriage.

I write now and then about what love looks like for us. 

 

 

Continue Reading · brian, love, love looks like, marriage · 41

In which [love looks like] spinning our own yarn

love looks like

You have been travelling a bit more than usual, and I was in the home stretch of another week of solo parenting. My parents had graciously (read: heard the desperation in my voice and taken pity on me) invited us all over for pizza that Friday night. On our way home in the minivan, a motorcycle sped past us, and a new line of questioning was introduced by the tinies. They asked if we ever had a motorcycle and, of course, no, because well, we aren’t risk takers, you and me, are we? And maybe because we had just been at Granny and Papa’s house, who knows, but they wanted to know if Papa or Granny ever had a motorcycle.

Without a thought, I told them the story: the one about how Papa used to have a motorcycle when he was a teenager because well, he was that kind of kid. But when he showed up for a date with Granny, she wouldn’t get on the motorcycle because her father had forbidden it. Papa was incredulous – after all, he is the kind of guy who just does what he wants and hang the rules – but sure enough, she stood her ground and let him ride away. That could have been the end of the story, but no, I said, your Papa, well, he was already in love. Your Granny was so beautiful – she had a long sheet of golden brown hair, just the colour of Evelynn’s hair, and she had blue eyes just like you three here with me, and so instead, your Papa sold that old motorcycle and the next time he asked her out, he had a car to drive. She said yes, of course, and then they fell in love and got married. At the end, I said, you see? Your Papa loved your Granny more than any old motorcycle, right from the start. She was worth it.

Their eyes were big as saucers, you know how they get. But they were silent – for once. And then they asked to hear the story again, and so I told it again, just the way I remembered it anyway, because that is the story I heard all the time as a kid. We arrived home, and I put them to bed after all of the rituals, and then I sat around and watched television by myself. I stayed up too late. Before I went to bed, I changed the countdown on the kitchen cupboard blackboard: 5 4 3 2 1 more sleep until Dad is home!

You came home on Saturday. Later on in the weekend, you were in the car with Annie and from her perch in the backseat, she asked you if you wanted to hear a love story. And of course, you said yes, and then she said, “Well, once upon a time, Papa had a motorcycle….” and then you listened to her re-tell the old story I’ve told you a few (dozen) times, using my exact phrases and expressions. As she wrapped it up, she said, “Papa loved Granny more than any old motorcycle.” You were amazed at how they remembered every word, and I thought of another generation growing up in the safety of our family fables.

Darling, remind me to tell them our stories our loud now, too. Remind me to tell them about the nights we used to spend laying on the hood of your old car, stretched out with our backs against the windshield, staring at the Oklahoma nights. Remind me to tell them about how we danced to old Garth Brooks songs from an AM radio station on the side roads. Remember to tell them about the first time you saw me – tell them I was beautiful, please, a little lie never hurts.

Let’s spin our own yarns here at home, beloved, among all the books littered on the floor and buried under their pillows, let’s tell them our homemade myth. Let’s tell them about our sacred places: the side yard in Texas, perhaps, the parking lot of the Mabee Centre, the little booth in the Earl’s near our Vancouver apartment. Don’t forget that creek we found as we drove through Arizona during the hardest year of our lives: the one we heard before we saw it. And we scrabbled down a red rock embankment covered in dust, just to sit on the stones and soak our swollen hot feet in the clear water. Remember how the sun came through the trees, and we began to feel something like hope, perhaps stirring, fluttering, through the leaves, descending to us again. Maybe we’ll tell them about the night we went camping in the mountains of New Mexico and a blizzard blew up, so we drove down the mountain to stay in a hotel, leaving our kit and tent all set up. We had a shower, ate bacon and eggs, and then went back up the mountain later in the day to finish the trip.

Maybe we’ll tell them about the night you proposed in the moonlight, kneeling in the grass with a mix tape playing Six Pence None the Richer songs on the portable CD player, holding up a ring paid for with the tips from Tulsa oil tycoons at the club where you worked. Maybe we’ll tell them about the guys in San Antonio who play the pan flute at the Riverwalk mall, and the mariachi bands, and the way we lingered over tables with bright umbrellas above us. And the way we used to hold hands as we wandered through Gruene, listening to Americana music through clapboard walls of an old dance hall. Maybe we’ll tell them about Kananaskis but probably not.

Let’s not kid ourselves though: our best – and our worst – stories will always be secrets, just ours, always.

Maybe we’ll tell them something about our wedding, but I’ll have to be honest: if I had to do it again, I’d have married you way sooner, and we could have run away together. That sounds nice to me now. Let’s fill their little minds with the thousands of ways we’ve convinced ourselves that we were meant to be: let’s tell them about 28 May 1989 and the weird way it connects us because that was the day you decided to become a Christian sitting on the edge your parents’ bed in Omaha and at the exact same moment in a church in Winnipeg, I was descending into a water tank for my baptism into the faith. Maybe we’ll talk about Naples and Riadoso, that one field somewhere in the middle of Kansas where we had a picnic after I met your parents, oh, and the Silverthorne Village Inn on the winter nights of Colorado when we sneaked out of the communal condo and stayed up all night, talking, over terrible coffee. We’ll talk about the way you drove up to see me in the dead of a Canadian winter, staying the night with my uncle and aunt. You’ll laugh and tell them about how everyone made fun of your old Monte Carlo because you didn’t have a block heater for the cold night ahead, and how my Uncle pulled his own car out of the garage, just to put your old maroon Monte inside, so you could leave first thing for the last leg to Calgary to me, our first Christmas together. And then – you loved this part – he went out on the deck, in minus 30 degree weather, and grilled you a steak at 11 o’clock at night, and you sat at their kitchen table eating meat and talking about nothing for a few more hours. You fell in love with Canada that night, I think.

Maybe we’ll talk about fear and sacrifices, about choosing each other’s best first, about deep sadness and the way we’ve clung to each other through dreams unfulfilled and longings unsatisfied and the still-waiting of right now. Someday maybe I’ll tell them about the babies who aren’t here with us, and about the night you stood in the darkness of their childhood room with another little lost one bundled into a kitchen tea towel and how I stood in doorway and listened as you cried and cried and cried. We’ll tell them about the nights they were born, the way I always burst out in laughter after they were safely earthside. Let’s tell them about the mundane beauties of their lives, and how we used to have them tucked in between us in our old bed so we could meet eyes over their downy heads to silently telegraph our disbelief at our luck – look at this! a real little person! –  at each other.

We’ll talk about how we lived pay cheque to pay cheque, and it was worth every single tense conversation about the budget. Let’s tell them about the vast middle part of love, too, this part right now, the part that doesn’t show up in movies and love songs, the part where my hips have widened and your temples are greying, and some dreams are languishing, and we’ve become better acquainted with the fruit of faithfulness and gentleness.

We’re still choosing each other, over and over and over again, this is what we want, this is what I want, this is what we want, you are who I want, still, then, always.

Let’s make them feel like they’re part of a love story, let’s tell them how love looked for us. Let them catch us slow dancing in our pink kitchen to Patty Griffin songs, let them hear us say it out loud: we used to sit in an empty baseball stadium in the middle of the night and kiss behind home plate. Let’s hold hands on the gearshift of the vehicle, the way we do, the way we’ve always done, until we’re old and tell them the stories of their grandparents and their great grandparents, about Nebraska and Saskatchewan. Let’s go to preschool graduations and high school graduations and university graduations, and then let’s stand in our empty nest house someday and cry because it went too fast and try to figure out the rest of it, and then laugh because there is still so much life ahead, who are we kidding? Let’s go to Paris and London, India and Cavendish together, all the places we never got to go because of money and tinies and plane fares, then let’s stay home and watch the sun set in the sky we love here, and let’s drink a bit too much and kiss until the stars come down.

We’ve had a regular sort of life perhaps, not too special to the outside eyes, but it’s enough to keep us warm. Wrap me up in the ways we’ve loved each other, darling, and let’s keep on spinning.

 

Continue Reading · brian, love, love looks like, marriage · 47