While he showers and makes ready, I watch red move like water over the sky. Nascent light leaks through the edge of the horizon and just like that, the night is shed. I remember how my mother would wake before the light—make the coffee, pack my father’s lunch, and move like a ghost through our home. I was a shadow—how I could creep—and I found her, quiet, sitting at the kitchen table after his departure. Did she feel this sort of empty then?
My parents, long separated and remarried, did they feel this burning in their hearts for each other once? As I watch the liquid sky, I think how love can move this way too—silently seeping out the cracks of our horizons, shedding dark, shedding light … only those with open eyes to bear witness.
I promise myself I will keep my eyes open. I will gather up these liquid moments in the cup of my heart and carry them into all the days. When the days hum back to normal and parting seems no longer an emergency … I will bear witness to love.
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
I bring you aged a young man’s love.
Happy anniversary, love. I would marry you a thousand times more.
“There’s something about sitting on the front porch eating a Bomb Pop that makes it feel like anything is possible,” I say to him as I study that sweet miracle that is the red-white-and blue pop. The red is sweating, just a little, and promising just the right refreshment on this hot summer evening.
He nods, but doesn’t elaborate, and I wonder when the last time was he has felt that way.
Anything is possible.
“Your toes look funny,” he says, and when I look, I see that they do.
We have this ongoing foot thing—he teases me about mine because I like to pick things up with them. His? Useless. They just stand there. But the first time I saw them bared? That’s when I fell in love with him. One of my friends even wrote a poem about it.
This is what we do. When he gets back from an evening run, we sit on the porch and eat a Bomb Pop. Sometimes the boys join us. Sometimes the dog. But lately, it’s just been the two of us.
And it feels right. Because, you know—where two or more gather? And things are changing…what with boys that grow. I have a feeling that it’s going to be just the two of us a lot.
It’s a good thing I like him. And his feet.
How about you? How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing 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 Him. Be with Him. And come tell us about it.
Sharing with L.L. Barkat today also:
Looking for a good summer read? Join us over at The High Calling for our new book club–which starts today–on Luci Shaw’s Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith
Little Jeffrey told me last night, “Don’t wake me, I want to sleep in.” Figures. So…it was just me and the ocean this a.m.
This sand is well-known to me. I first left my footprints here as a new bride. Then later as a young mama. We stopped coming here as the boys grew into their own little selves. Too far to drive.
Most recently I walked these shores as a newly-turned 40 year-old. Jeff brought me back here in March to surprise me for my birthday. We enjoyed it so much we decided to give it another try.
Today as I walk in my old footprints I am only thinking, “My, how time flies.”
When we first came here as newlyweds, I kept this same practice every morning: walk along the beach at sunrise, gather what beachy treasures my two hands could hold, sing prayers out over the ocean—feel their power return to me with each lapping wave and return renewed.
On that first trip, my treasures were tiny sand dollars. In those early days, these silver-dollar-sized jewels littered these sands. I brought them home with me by the dozens, enchanted with their pristine white.
Strange, I have not found such treasure since. There are many broken pieces of larger, discolored sand dollars up and down the shore, but my little lovelies have gone it seems.
I have come to see them as a wedding gift from Father; little trinkets to delight.
As I searched in vain this morning, it seemed to me that the tiny bleached circlets were an accurate representation of our love at that time: small, unscarred, fresh and beautiful. As I wandered, lost in memories, a paralyzing thought struck me: Could it be, then, that these old, broken, graying pieces are a picture of our love today?
Pondering this concept as I trudged back to the condo I decided to google the sand dollar and learn a little more about these cuties (Ah, the wonders of mobile internet).
Wikipedia was helpful, telling me that sand dollars live an average of 6-10 years, that living sand dollars range from bluish green to purple in color, and that (wow) they digest their food for up to two days. But I also stumbled on some research articles that discussed the difficulty that sand dollar larvae have in survival because of their small size.
Does this mean that larger sand dollars are older?
My searches regarding this issue were not conclusive, only telling me that size depends on many factors—including environment and feeding conditions. We can determine the age of a sand dollar by counting the growth rings around the edges of the exoskeleton.
In the absence of a clear answer, I am going to assume that if the sand dollar larvae are tiny, then the things must get bigger as they age. Make sense?
We can then assume that these larger sand dollar pieces I am finding are pieces of older specimens. I also discovered this little fact: The most common cause of death for sand dollars is old age. As I read more about these ocean creatures, I began to gain a healthy respect for the unsightly pieces of exoskeleton I have been finding in abundance on this trip.
They began to take on a new kind of beauty in my eyes. An enduring kind of beauty. These guys were likely the elder statesmen of the sand dollar community. Pretty, they may not be, but they had lived a long and full life in the underwater world.
I began to feel sorry for the pristine whites I had gathered in my youth. These little guys must have died an early death.
You know where I’m going here, right?
Love that endures sometimes is not so pretty. Sometimes it becomes scarred, or discolored. It may not appear attractive to the average on-looker. But a deeper look will reveal the beauty.
Yes, maybe our love is like these pieces of exoskeleton, growing more beautiful—richer and deeper as the years pass.