Love Story

It’s my anniversary. Today marks 24 years since I said “I do” under a cloudless sky on a windy day in May. Sharing a little re-post from the archives. I wrote this on our twentieth anniversary. It’s also featured in Dawn Camp’s essay collection, The Heart of Marriage.

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Dear Husband,

On the way to school this morning, our youngest says to me, Tell me about your wedding day. The world shifts and I grow lighter and my heart leaps inside of me. Because thinking of you and the way our love was planted still does that to me.

Twenty years ago today, I tell him. The sky was as blue as your eyes. But it was windy. Somewhere there is a picture of Dad holding the skirt of my wedding dress out as it flapped in the wind like a sheet on the clothesline, just waiting for it to settle down so we could take pictures…

And I tell him about that day when we stood before our family and friends and God and made a promise to love each other forever. And when I return back home I get out our wedding album.

Oh, love, how could we have known on this day twenty years ago all God had planned for us?

We got married outside, at the farm, I told Jeffrey. Because Dad and I weren’t going to church at the time. I was still confused about my past. And Dad…Dad did not believe the God-story then.

As I look at our shining faces—twenty years younger—I think about that.

Dad did not believe the God-story then.

But he does now, Jeffrey had responded.

Yes, I said. In June it will be seven years.

Seven out of twenty years. Thirteen years of prayer.

What I didn’t tell Jeffrey was how we almost gave up. How you told me you didn’t think you could be the man I wanted you to be. How, because the differences in the way we believed, you thought maybe it was best to divorce.

Remember that, love?

And isn’t the way love endures nothing short of a miracle? A miracle that takes hard work. And not giving up. And a whole lotta faith.

I look at our shining faces—twenty years younger—and I see how our love story is really the story of God’s love. The way a marriage shapes a person is the way His hands mold—making us more beautiful with the lovely patina of time; conforming us to His image. And I could say a lot about the bride of Christ and the way marriage emulates His love for us and how a man should love his wife the way Christ loves the church…

I could say all those true and beautiful things about our love. After twenty years and in the looking back I can see how this story tells the Bigger Story. But I sit here in humble gratitude as I consider the way the pages have unfolded and I feel too tiny to set down words like that.

You have been God’s gift to me. He has etched his Love into ours.

Later, I will go to the jewelers and pick up my wedding band. I finally had it resized this week. Those few extra pounds and the stretching of this body from carrying our babies made that round gold circle squeeze a little too tight on my finger. Kind of the way it does around my heart. And to me it seems—this adding on to the golden promise you gave me—a sign of the way love grows too. It can be costly, but in the end—it results in more gold.

I wanted to write you a poem, but you said you would come home from work early so we could be together and I have a million things to do while I wait. Besides, Wendell Berry says it best. He wrote this poem to his wife on his sixtieth birthday. Pretend it says twenty? It captures my love.

To Tanya on My Sixtieth Birthday

What wonder have you done to me?
In binding love you set me free.
These sixty years the wonder prove:
I bring you aged a young man’s love.Happy anniversary, love. I would marry you a thousand times more.

About that Extra Five Pounds I Gained Over the Holidays

A reminder from the archives; because I need it!

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It’s still hanging around.

I can feel it, and I know when you hold me, you do too.

It was unfortunate that the elliptical broke mid-September and attempts to collect on that warranty proved fruitless. It became a monstrous clothesline—convenient for hanging jackets and sweatshirts on arms and pedals and console. And then the cold snap, with temperatures so low these running legs became paralyzed. Remarkable then, that my right heel bruised tender with plantar fasciitis, protesting with each step. We were sequestered inside with Christmas cookies and muffuletta sandwiches and that extra, unnecessary cocktail.

Those little treats remain with me, reminding of the making merry—echoing laughter around my waist. Sometimes hospitality means a second helping. And so around mid-December I began to feel it—the slight snugging of my clothes, a gentle softening around the edges of me.

We are getting back on track, of course we are. But slowly. There are more important things. Like the way you still think I’m beautiful. How you pull me close, and the way our bodies melt like wax together. It’s a thick kind of love that breathes under fingers, a love that sees beyond the skin, beyond the years, and peers back into the wedding day.

You still look at me with fire in your eyes, because you see the “imperishable” beauty that Peter talked about (1 Peter 3:3-6). And because you love me this way, I also can. I can love myself enough to feel beautiful, to see with God eyes and embrace beauty from the inside out.

I can love myself enough to embrace these extra five pounds. But also enough to take better care of this fragile vessel, this temple for the Spirit I carry within my skin.

So about that five extra pounds I gained over the holidays? I’m not too worried about them. They may be here for a little while longer. But I’m taking my eyes off the scales and looking through Love.

And I doubt I’ll even notice when they’re gone.

31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Unlocking Time

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This morning, the sky looks like a giant canvas of sand art—grainy clouds sweep across a blooming horizon and I rise before the sun. I set my alarm early, to do this writing thing, but my body would rather stay in bed, my mind is sleepy. It’s cold outside. I try not to think about my pepper plants as I stare out the window at the sinking moon. We’re supposed to have another warm spell this week. Hold on, little ones, I whisper against the glass.

Yesterday, we had new French doors installed in the back of our house, a project long overdue. I may have mentioned before, I don’t like to let go of things. As the workers carried our old doors away I had to fight the urge to ask them to leave them behind. Wouldn’t they make a nice rustic table? Maybe some kind of outdoor project, with flowering vines? But I know better. If left, the doors would languish in the garage with all the other left-behinds: old laminate flooring, boxes of tile, half-empty cans of paint, forgotten homebrew equipment, all the neglected bicycles, and the boys’ old radio flyer. No, best to let them go.

When we ordered our door, the salesman neglected to tell us we had to buy our own doorknob and dead bolt. As a placeholder, the installers put the old one back in—the one that never locked properly, the one with the ugly corroded brass. So, when Jeff came home from work, we went for a quick walk and then over to The Home Depot. Who knew there were so many different kinds of doorknobs? We found a set that seemed perfect and were getting ready to make our way to the register when the one other person in the doorknob aisle approached us.

“If you all want a secure lock, you should buy Schlage instead of that one.”

He pointed to the package he was holding. “I’m a locksmith. I just learned from a guy in the CIA that the lock you are holding can be picked in eleven seconds.”

Jeff and I looked at each other and moved over to the Schlage section. The man went on to give several pointers about secure locks and what we should purchase. “If it says ‘G1,’ that’s what you want. That’s the most secure.” We found our G1 Schlage knob and dead bolt set, thanked the man, and left.

It seemed like a stroke of luck to be in the aisle the same time as a locksmith evangelist. I couldn’t help feeling well cared for as we drove on home. But the thing I noticed most was how the entire interaction felt so … spacious. Before the almost-empty nest, these kinds of errands were always cutthroat, get in/get out kinds of things. No time to talk with a locksmith evangelist in the doorknob aisle. What’s more, they were usually a divide and conquer episode. Rarely would Jeff and I go together to purchase something like a doorknob.

As we drove home from The Home Depot and night began to fall softly over our little valley, I whispered a prayer of thanks for changing seasons. And the way time seems to expand in this almost-empty nest.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. 

Almost Empty

31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Dinner for Two

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Our grocery bill is changing. Even though we still have one hungry teenage boy at home, he’s away from home a lot, and so dinner with the three of us has become that rare treat. So, we’ve gone from feeding this four-person family with two hungry young men, to me and Jeff—staring at each other across the table most nights.

It’s a tricky thing, cooking for two. Have you tried it? I’ll admit we’ve been struggling. I ran into my friend Cindy at Kroger the other day. We were catching up on what the other’s kids are up to, enjoying blocking the aisle, when I realized, she and her husband are empty nesters! Not almost-empty, but completely, run-around-the-house-naked empty. When I pointed this out (not the naked part but the empty part), Cindy grinned from ear to ear. I wondered aloud what they do for dinner (see how my mind works? It’s always food first). She laughed and said she rarely cooks anymore. Most nights, they order out.

Order out? It sounded fun and exciting. Honestly? We have been eating out more. Not much, mind you, Jeff doesn’t care for crowds. But there is a quaint little beer bar close by that we stop at once in a while. They serve Mediterranean fair there, and various pub grub. It’s nice to, on a whim, be able to pick up and go without having to worry about fixing someone’s dinner. One of the first times we ate there, we ordered what Jeff calls a “poo-poo” platter. It was an appetizer sampler, with hummus and warm pita, veggies for dipping, olives, etc. It was the perfect light dinner.

So my husband. He never misses a chance to woo me. One evening, shortly after the poo-poo platter date, he came home from the grocery story with a stock of gourmet meats and cheeses, crackers, hummus and pita, and assorted olives. We made our own poo-poo platter and ate on the back deck, listening to the song of the crickets, and watching the stars appear one by one.

It was terribly romantic. And now it’s become a regular thing. Fun. And exciting.

What are some of your favorite light dinner plans?

Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a cool giveaway. This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. 

Almost Empty

Playdates with God: The Night Between Two Days

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This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. 

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Yesterday afternoon when Jeff returned from three days gone, we went for a walk together. In this season of the almost-empty nest, we have been doing this most days we are together: walking. We did not settle into this easily, both longtime runners. Jeff has always said to me, “If I’m going to walk, I may as well run.” But we have both had injuries lately, and running has been way of testing recovery rather than a regular practice. In some ways we have been forced into the walking. But God has come along, and he has surprised us with the joy of being together as our bodies move through space and time.

We have been moving through what Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés calls the Life/Death/Life nature. The Life/Death/Life nature is “a cycle of animation, development, decline, and death that is always followed by reanimation.” All relationships experience many deaths, she says, and the way to deep, fulfilling love is to not give up through the seasons of death.

When lovers are able to tolerate the Life/Death/Life nature, when they are able to understand it as a continuum—as a night between two days—and as the force that creates a love that endures a lifetime … Then together they are strengthened, and both are called to deeper understanding of the two worlds they live in, one the mundane world, the other the one of spirit.”

When I began planning playdates with God, he called me into his presence alone. But lately I have sensed him leading me to give up my alone time and spend it with my husband. We are emerging from a dark season, and some days, the night is still upon us. But most days, the dawn spreads through the moments with ever-increasing light.

So many fear the many deaths in relationship. I have feared the slow emptying myself. I have believed that the death will be followed by more death—that the ending of one thing means the end of all. Through faith and trust, I held on, even when I felt like running away. And I have discovered the truth: our God is a God of resurrection. He is always fostering new life.

Rather than seeing the archetypes of Death and Life as opposites, they must be held together as the left and right side of a single thought. It is true that within a single love relationship there are many endings. Yet, somehow and somewhere in the delicate layers of the being that is created when two people love one another, there is both a heart and breath. While one side of the heart empties, the other fills. When one breath runs out, another begins.”~Dr. Estes in Women Who Run with the Wolves

In this time of the almost-empty, God keeps surprising me with my own emotions. That my heart can still quicken at my husband’s return, that there are still mysteries within this one I thought I knew completely, that love is a creature that thrives when it is cared for tenderly.

As I turn more toward my husband during this season of the almost-empty, I feel myself turning more toward God—leaving behind the fear of the night.

And there is beauty in the dying.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.


Almost Empty