After a long and dreary winter, the sun is the big event. We tumble pell-mell out of our houses and condos for the feel of the light on our upturned faces, the city parks are overrun, everyone we meet smiles and says it’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?  You love this about our city in the country: your biggest complaint about city living was how no one makes eye contact or says hello to a stranger.

Sometimes our life can feel like one long task-list, a never-ending catch up, and a full calendar page. These are the day-after-days of needs and bathtime and fingernail clipping, dish-washing and tidying, spelling tests and working and loving to the corners of the mundane moments.

I joke that the vast majority of my life is spent moving both things and/or little people from one place to another place.

So we headed out on a Sunday night, you and me and our little gang. I tossed a few apples into a my purse, filled up the water bottles, and we loaded everyone into the minivan. We drove to the nearby ocean. Anne quickly filled a shopping bag with seashells, she’s part magpie, mostly fairy. Evelynn tried to eat sand (because of course, that is the type of thing that Evelynn does – regularly). Joseph explored and talked to himself: he’s the only one so far with an imaginary world of his own creation always nearby. I like to be outside with the tinies, and the further we are from a playground the better for all of us.

We talked a lot about the whole new speaking thing that’s developing as part of my work. I was nervous. And conflicted because I don’t want to contribute to the noise. I’ve rejected the “person at the front having all the answers” model. (I’m more a “beside” person than an “up front” person.) Some people are born preachers or teachers. I’m not – clearly. I’m just me. And I don’t like the industry side of McChurch … and yet … it’s nice to get a couple bucks for doing the work I’ve done for free all these years. Two more speaking things are booked, a few more already scheduled for the summer, book edits are due soon, and you’re rearranging your life for the unexpected direction my life is taking. Life is changing again, another new season for us.

You told me to relax. And watch the sunset happening right now.  So I did.

A while ago, I was thinking about writing through a Practices of Marriage series on my blog, much like my old Practices of Mothering one. There seemed to be fair interest when I mentioned it on my Facebook page, and I was trying to be “strategic” with my work here for a change.

But the more I thought about it, the more I felt it wasn’t right to do.  I’ve never approached this place or my work or my writing in that way. And more importantly, we’re just us. I’m losing my appetite for instruction manuals. Marriage is complex and intimate; I haven’t any business stomping through the mystery. I can’t tell anyone how to be married because all I know about marriage is what we’ve done together here for all these years. It’s tempting to make a rule out of my own experience. But it’s a temptation I’ll let pass for today.

I can only tell my own story of how love looks for us today. (Most of the time. Sometimes. Not all the time.) Love looks different for each of us: for us, it looks like this, for tonight anyway, it looks like holding hands in the minivan, and a bit of fresh air and wilderness, it looks like making each other’s dreams come true.

We’ve changed a lot over the past 14 years. Ten years from now, our marriage will likely look different again. We’ll keep finding the faithful way to love each other in every moment, whatever comes, I hope.

You’re turning quite grey, you know. Not that I’m one to talk.

We stopped at a sandwich shop for a bite of supper. You sat in the corner of the fluorescent chain restaurant while the older two balanced precariously on those tall bar chairs, Evelynn hollering for more of your ham sandwich from her highchair, we were all windswept and alive as birth. This is all you’ve ever wanted – a little tribe of our own, eating sandwiches together, smelling like the ocean with sand in our sensible shoes, another day together. It’s tiring and crazy and, God, we love it. We are so done having babies, but I catch your eye, and you raise your eyebrows and grin at me, and I blush like I’m still 19, and I think, well…. maybe one more.

Maybe. Probably not. But maybe.

Probably not.

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




In which God does not want to use me
In which I am 34 and ready to confess
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  • Katie B.

    This is just beautiful. I love this part: “I’m losing my appetite for instruction manuals. Marriage is complex and intimate; I haven’t any business stomping through the mystery.” What a humble, yet profound, statement. Thank you for writing this, Sarah.

  • EstherEmery

    I love your integrity! I would have loved reading your Practices of Marriage series, but I love even more that you don’t make stuff up.

  • Beauty.

  • “I can only tell my own story…” I wish I could adequately tell you how much freedom I’m finding in those words this morning. I know this is your story, and I probably should have said something first about that. (Because this is really good.) But those words gave me a sense of peace that I needed right about now. So … thanks.

    • Sarah, I echo Jennifer’s words here . . Yes, I feel Him inviting me into more freedom with Him, with your words, “I can only tell my own story.” So, so grateful. Thank you for you.

  • the Blah Blah Blahger

    You make me cry, SB!

    (In a good way!)

  • Vicki Judd

    “It’s tempting to make a rule out of my own experience.” Boy, isn’t that the truth! Thank you for NOT writing a blog on the best marriage practices. You are awesome.

  • Thanks for continuing to remind me to tell my own story, just as you tell yours, live yours, love (and occasionally don’t) yours.

  • What I love about marriage is that it is so different for each couple. What works for us may not work for someone else. This is what I usually hate about marriage books because they are often “the wife must…” while also “the husband should…” Those musts and shoulds have never worked in my own marriage.

    In many ways, I think this is why marriage is such an apt metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the Church. The truth is, my relationship with Christ is much different from someone else’s. I haven’t walked the roads you have, you haven’t gone the route I have. So the things He calls me to are different than the things He calls you to.

    Anyway, the point is, the things that are best practices in my marriage may be worst practices in yours! I’m glad you shared this.

    • Laura Kilbrai

      Kristin, I love the connection that marriage is a metaphor for our relationship with Christ, as both are unique to the people involved in those relationships. Beautiful way to phrase it. And Sarah, I love your reasons for not starting a practices of marriage series, and the way you articulated your thoughts.

  • Andrea

    I have tear in my eyes. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • I’m not one to argue for a different direction, but I would gently add: I never took your Practices of Mothering series as a guide book, and I wouldn’t look at your Practices of Marriage series that way either. It’s descriptive, not prescriptive. (Hello Bible degree. Nice to see you pop up every now and then.) And we all need those stories to pocket on our journey. The stones jingle in our pocket and remind us we are not alone.

  • Lacy Blaine

    You could just write like this, you know, maybe once or twice a month. Paint a picture with your words, call it “Practices of Marriage” if you want. No strategy, just story-it’s what we all crave anyway. Thank you for telling this one so well.

  • Dawn Wright

    This is beautiful. 🙂 If there is to be no practices of marriage series, we can all console ourselves with these “love looks like” pieces. You have a beautiful love, Ms Bessey. Thank you for sharing glimpses with us.

  • Laura Crosby

    Lovely and true and grace-marinated.

  • Sarah, this is so beautiful. Every post you write on love & your relationship with your husband is a beautiful example of marriage. Every time I read about you guys, and the intimacy, tenderness, honesty, fun and joy you have together, through the ups & downs, it is a demonstration to me of the kind of marriage I want.

    You don’t need to write a series on marriage – you already have. And it’s amazing.

  • Mickey

    My husband and I have been married for 52 years- and I cannot tell you how delighted I am at your decision not to just now do the marriage series and at the language you used to give your reasons: ” I’m losing my appetite for instruction manuals. Marriage is complex andintimate; I haven’t any business stomping through the mystery. I can’t
    tell anyone how to be married because all I know about marriage is what we’ve done together here for all these years. It’s tempting to make a rule out of my own experience. But it’s a temptation I’ll let pass for

    Sometimes the “instruction manual” helps with practical issues, but we are sooo much all different products of homes, cultures, and experiences, and our marriages are , as you have noted, at different places. Hopefully we are all evolving – not static, but dynamic in both relationship and person. As I look through Christian bookstores, and look at the web sites of some churches today, it seems like the church cares more about “family” relationships than much else. Many classes listed benefiting “the family” but fewer Bible studies. I wonder how alone the singles, widows, widowers, divorced feel. It seems to me the centrality of Jesus message had to do with the rule of God – prayer – loving others and God — so shouldn’t the bulk of materials in Christian bookstores and the church be about that?

    One of the things that I know to be true about marriage is this – it is good that we do not “pinch each other off” like a bonsai tree– that in our marriages we gift “the other” with the freedom to grow and develop – that we gift each other with love and forgiveness, with transparency and service – just like God grants us those gifts. Hard to write an instruction book showing each what that looks like “in a general way” that is applicable to everyone.

    Thank you for your thinking and for taking the time to write it down.

    • pastordt

      Who are you, Mickey??? I LOVE THIS RESPONSE. At year 47 myself and I so agree with these lovely sentiments. Sarah – this is perfect. Honest, sweet, kind. (Watch out for those looks, though. . . we stopped at three, but that third kid? Totally from one of those, and its aftermath. :>)

  • Erica Ladd

    Beautiful. I love this “working and loving to the corners of the mundane moments,” and this, “It’s tempting to make a rule out of my own experience. But it’s a temptation I’ll let pass for today.”

  • This is a perfect example of why I love to read your blog (and other’s like it) and far prefer it over the ’10 steps’ format blogs. Your in which love looks like stories inspire me to love my husband best in our own unique marriage. Stories inspire us to live our own best story, how to’s can make us want someone else’s way, not our own. Also beautiful story, I love being inspired by other’s love.

  • Katie

    Love this one. I get scared to make hard-lined rules because the truth is I only know what works for me, our family, etc. It could be totally different to other people. Thank for sharing your story.

  • I’m nearly crying. Love is beautiful in its variety. Thank you for the glimpse at your piece of the planet.

  • Love it. Despite the “guide” title of my newest series, I’m with you. Instruction manuals are way overrated. As you said, we’re all individuals – how can that possibly work? We learn by listening to individuals. And dare I say, we pick and choose.

    I appreciate you and your honesty so much.

  • Maybe!

  • But you’ve carefully crafted a niche of “how to” spirituality!!! 😉

    Thank you for always being authentically yourself and telling it like it is.

  • I’m glad for the way you tell your story of how your love looks. So glad.

  • So great. I love your heart and words. I’m totally over instruction manuals but I devour your stories as you share them. You inspire, as always.

  • Judy S

    Well Mickey said it much more eloquently than I can, but as half of a married couple working on 37 years together, I can resoundingly support your decision not to to an instruction manual. We have morphed, evolved, backtracked and spun into something we never dreamed, and trying to re-trace the steps and describe it would be impossible. We just hang on for dear life through the rough places, and float on the water when given the chance.
    Your writings are absolutely my favorite thing about finding a new email.

  • Sharon O

    “you raise your eyebrows and grin at me, and I blush” That is so cute, so tender and sweet and one more little one is ok, and fine and why not?

  • Carol Vinson

    Lovely!! We’ve been married for 31 years and love does indeed look different at different times. Sometimes every day.

    “Keep finding the faithful way to love each other.”

    Wise words.

  • Carol Vinson

    Lovely! We’ve been married for 31 years and love does indeed look different at different times. Sometimes daily!

    “We’ll keep finding a faithful way to love each other…”

    Wise words.

  • for sure, our best and deepest conversations take place while walking along the ocean shore …

  • Oh you really don’t ever cease making me catch my breath and realise that there are people on this messy ol’ world who do do it for the love it, with humility and pleasure, not doing thing for their own gain, but for the glory of God. You restore hope in it all, oh so well. Keep dreaming bigger, you’re heading toward God’s beautiful … somewhere, in the most wonderful way.

  • Such lovely words. As always 🙂

  • Stephanie

    As you well know, we’re in the “Maybe. Probably not. But maybe…” phase too.

    Probably not. 😉

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