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In which love looks like the pilgrim soul

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Thirteen years ago today, our marriage began. I brought out the big wedding album for the tinies to see us in our wedding finery. Do kids today still have the big official albums? We said our vows long before Pinterest and digital cameras, let alone iPhones with apps. Instead, we have this heavy leather-bound gold-embossed album with nicely staged photos in the stock poses. Here we are lighting a unity candle.  Here we are with our parents. Here we are walking away into a soft-focus background. But you can still see the real us peeking through the tulle and the tuxedo: our enthusiasm, our youth, our joy, our curiosity, our hope. Remember when we were that certain boy and that know-it-all girl?

To celebrate, we went out to the ocean town for supper last night. I shaved my legs, you put on a clean t-shirt, aren’t we getting fancy? We stood on the western shoreline before supper with our arms wrapped around each other, staring into the abyss. Teenagers were just down the shore from us, taking selfies and posing by the water. Thirteen years, we said in a sort of disbelief. I suppose this makes us grown-ups. In some ways, these years have flown by – weren’t we always together? – and in other ways, we see every single day of it, stretched out to the horizon, remember this, remember that, remember the dozens of men and women we have been throughout these years? We’ve gathered shadows and light.

I briefly considered writing an article with thirteen things we have learned in thirteen years of marriage. But who are we kidding? It’s an art, not a science, not the fodder of click-bait on the Internet, not a performance. We’re not reductionists. It’s a mystery, a thin place between the heavens and the earth, made all the better and richer for the secrets we keep for each other and the freedom we enjoy. I could write those damn thirteen-things-we’ve-learned-in-thirteen-years-of-marriage but I’d still be left with an inadequate shrug and the je nais sais quoi that defines all marriages. We’re still that slow dance under-the-stars, finding our steps together, moving further and further out onto the water. Sure, there are practicalities we’ve learned about how we move through life – budgets and bills, babies and basketball practices, sex and laundry, communication and callings. But underneath it all, really, we’re still curious, we’re still saying yes, it’s poetry that makes the prose worth living, and it keeps us a bit wild, hosanna. 

We sat in the cool spring sunset to eat seafood. When you kept refilling my glass, I asked if you were trying to take advantage of me and you waggled your eyebrows at me: “absolutely.” The bottle of Pinot Noir was empty by darkness.

We talked a bit about the years that lay behind us, of course we did, but really we wanted to talk about the years ahead. We talked about our curiosities: what sounds like fun to learn about? If I wanted to follow a rabbit trail of knowledge for a while, where would I begin? I’m curious about seminary, oh, and I think that after this second book is done, I might try to dig out that novel again. You want to geek out about furniture building for a while, oh, and gardening again. You’ve turned into quite the tree hugger. Perhaps you could find a way to use all of your business expertise towards justice and peace-making. I think I’d like to chase a bit of knowledge about the French woman’s aesthetic, quilt-making, fashion, maybe think about a doctoral degree in what? women’s studies? poetry? who knows? oh, and let’s talk again about living abroad. Maybe England? Which part of England? Holidays in France, of course. So much to discuss and dream.

Over these thirteen years, we’ve often felt like we’re running to catch up with the consequences of saying “yes” to God, yes to our best hopes instead of our worst fears. Would we have been so agreeable and fearless if we knew how much courage it would take to abandon our neatly laid out plans for life, let alone how much we would change? I think so. I hope so. Maybe it’s best that we don’t know what waits at the end of the aisle. Let it come, we’ll keep walking together. I like you curious.

We drove home in the moonlight, listening to old songs from back in the 90s when we were dating. I slipped off my shoes and put my feet up on the dash. You kept your hand on my bare thigh, the window was down, we took the the backroads. Your hair is scattered with grey now – it suits you – but that Midwest-boy grin is the same, can’t you drive a bit faster?

Maybe this is the oneness of marriage then: there is no editing for any part of our selves. We bring it all to each other and abide into the end of it all: body soul spirit mind past present future dreams despair curiosities evolutions desire deference silence song weariness wonder.

You’re waking up again, I think. You’re re-imagining life, emerging into yet another new self. I’ve loved every iteration of you. You have always loved those lines from Yeats for us:

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face

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

Continue Reading · brian, love, love looks like, marriage · 18

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