Today’s reading in Deuteronomy had the word marryin it. It was in the context of what not to do in a list of regulations (7:3 for the curious), but it was there. Since it is wedding week, I find it kind to art journal marry.
The morning got off to a good start. Phone calls with two sisters, a birthday text and clothing text exchange with another, asking my daughter to take pictures of me in my wedding outfits to send to my fashion advisor. . .
A phonecall at 10:17 alerting me to the fact that I was missing a 10:00 appointment for my daughter. While asking her to snap pictures of me, time was ticking away past when I should have had her somewhere. Thankfully, we were able to redeem some of it as we rushed out the door.
That is what found me cutting and gluing in a waiting room.
How am I the mother of the groom? How did this happen?
Tears streamed down my face and sobs filled my chest as I curled on the bed in the guest bedroom of my soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s childhood home. Her parents had graciously invited our family to stay with them for bridal shower weekend. Here we were.
It was late. I was tired.
We arrived Saturday evening in time for appetizers and dinner. Wine flowed freely into my glass. The large, gracious house was filled to the brim with family and bridesmaids, all converging to celebrate the beautiful bride-to-be at her shower the following day.
Experiencing Dana’s family space made me appreciate even more all of the times she had stayed in ours. There was a clear difference in size, decor, and number of people, yet she always was gracious about our accommodations when she visited us.
I did my best to avoid comparing and conjuring up stories of what everyone thought of us. This time was to celebrate the woman my son loves with his other family who loves him well. I was grateful to have a weekend of shared space together.
The 321 mile drive from Virginia to New Jersey was worth it, especially since all of my children can now tend their own rest area needs. In an act of brilliance my husband handed each passenger $5 at the beginning of the trip for any necessaries they may require along the way.
When we first met Dana, the not-so-little-anymores were 8, 6, 5, and 3. Now they are 15, 13, 12, and 10. They are all as tall as her or taller. I was struck by that reality as we emerged from the cramped mini van and crowded into the backyard. There were all of these big people. They were mine!
Gathering a plate of brisket, corn, and potato salad, I headed to the dining room where bridesmaids were seated around the table. Listening to their laughter and conversation took me to a young place inside. How could I be the mother of the groom when I felt younger than these women surrounding me? Where did time go?
This feeling is what followed me upstairs to bed that evening. It carried me into the space where my daughters were staying, Dana’s childhood room. A collection of Snowbabies lined a high shelf while her American Girl Dolls rested on another. A shelf of books caught my eye as did the bulletin board full of pictures, my son with her in many of them at various stages from ages 17-24.
All this is what primed my heart for the tears that began to flow, first in the presence of my teenage daughter standing beside me in the room, then with my husband comforting me in ours. Both offered kind space for my feelings that felt so big.*
I woke to coffee, quiche, and preparation for celebration. The bridal shower was beautiful. The joy was real. It followed my night of weeping.
I am here.
It happened because of grace.
*Edited to note that the flowing tears were only from me and not from said daughter and husband. They just kindly did not judge.
I am in the middle of the in between. It is a week I have referenced and talked about for two months in various conversations. Now it is here.
Friday was the final day of my husband’s (and if we are totally honest here, mine, as well) 25 year career. No, I was not in attendance all of those days, but I was present for many. I offered behind-the-scenes support. I was affected by early-morning and late-night calls and texts. We were both all in.
Now we are both all in between.
On June 4 Steve begins his new job. Many have asked what’s next? He will be a salesman with Valley Roofing. What about me? I still do not know, though the mothering and home management part of my day take quite a bit of time and energy.
I am confident that the right paying job will present. For now it is summer, school is out, and the best way for me to help with making money is not to spend it. That is easier said than done.
This entire transition has been a complete walk of faith. The past 25 years have been a walk of faith, as well, but stepping out into the unknown in this stage of life has taken courage. It is a decision not made easily or lightly, but it was time.
There was much behind-the-scenes work leading up to this in between place. Many conversations, feelings, lists. When my two cons were fear of the unknown and finances, I knew it was not enough to stay with the status quo.
The ending has been kind, the in between a gift. Walking the dog together this morning, we reflected on the fact that we have never had a season of just us. It has always been us plus all of the responsibilities.
We have accepted that we will never escape responsibility. We have grieved the loss of our youth. Watching our young adults navigate their individual worlds has given us perspective and more words for what we did not have at their ages. These days together this week have given hope for what is possible. For what we do have.
We have a rich life.
This week we savor a space that is not completely ours. It has never been. Little Mae finished school last Friday, and our 19 year old moves out next week. We laughed that we have the youngest of each bunch of babies home with us.
We also have the dog and cat. We are never alone.
I will hold these final in between days as the gift that they are. I will embrace the laughter and tears that spontaneously erupt and slow down to walk to the ducks or watch a movie together at a completely irresponsible time of day. I will celebrate what was and what is to come, rejoicing in the great faithfulness that has brought us to this place.
Last evening my luvvvah and I took flight from the house and walked down to Pale Fire Brewing. I was reminded of why I love living downtown as we wandered by the stream to look at the ducks tucking in for the night before making our way to the Pale Fire patio.
After making my choices, I walked out to a freshly-dried table to enjoy the twilight.
My handsome date carried out the goods.
We prepared to enjoy some good beer and good conversation. I was not disappointed.
After all of the rain, it was such a beautiful night.
I’m not usually a beer kind of girl, but I’m learning. I enjoy savoring new tastes and flavors. Mostly, though, I enjoy the company of my man and the moments we get to take flight together and remembering the goodness that is being married to each other.
Friday began at Dunkin Donuts, after dropping the kids off at school. I pulled into the parking lot with cans of apple juice concentrate for the special art show beverage as Steve was exiting his vehicle. He ran to my car window.
Want to get donuts?
With the weeks ticking away, counting down to his last day at Good Shepherd, there won’t be many more opportunities like this. I jumped on it.
Of course! Hop in!
The donut run was not just for us, as four boxes later we were sitting at a table near the window tearing into the brown paper bag holding our two. I pulled out my French Cruller and bit into the chewy, glazed goodness.
We began to process the day as onlookers in the drive thru line outside laughed to see the four boxes stacked on our table. Fridays run on sugar, carbs, and caffeine everywhere.
This Friday was full. Steve has three of them left. Three more Fridays. Just typing those words brings a heavy feeling to my chest and eyes.
My sister received her masters in counseling degree in hand tonight. Where has that time gone? Two years ago there were conversations discussing our plans, mine to do certificate work through the Allender Center, her to pursue her degree for licensure through university work.
Now here we are.
For a brief moment I considered hopping into the car to take a road trip to celebrate in person with her. Then I remembered.
The art show.
Broaching the subject with my daughter to get a feel for the level of the show’s importance, I said, My sister graduates from college tomorrow. Her response? Did she invite you? Me, Yes. Her reply, Too bad about the art show. Do you think she will mind that you can’t come?
And there I had my answer. The art show was important. Very important. And I needed to be there. And no, my sister wouldn’t mind. She would totally understand.
This day began with a French Cruller. I hold the memory of biting into its sweet, sticky, airy goodness while seeing the laughter in the eyes of the man at the drive through and breathe deeply the goodness of change on the horizon. Right now all I feel is anticipation of what is to come, of standing on the edge.
Next week I dive into the second, and final, part of Certificate 2 work. I reconnect in person with faces and hearts that have cheered me on from a distance. When I return the countdown will be on to the end of the school year, the end of an era, and the start of something new.
Until then, I hold close the old, the familiar, and I don’t take for granted biting into the sweet goodness of a donut while sitting across the table from my husband because we can. Something new is coming, and change is gonna do us good. I will choose to believe that.
From the first day
I saw your face
I hoped that we would be
More than friends
I wanted you to see
That I found you special
And in your eyes
And in your smile
I saw that you were kind
You brought such joy
Into my life
Such laughter and such fun
And deep inside
I wanted you
To be the only one
That I would walk next to
To have and to hold
And I believed
With all my heart
Our love was strong and bold
But fragile was
The seed of love
We wanted it to grow
Impatient and impetuous
We simply did not know
That you cannot force love
Demand it be strong
And after many lonely years
We found where we went wrong
We’re standing now
We’re facing each new day
With boldness and integrity
We’re learning how to play
It’s knowing what we’ve lost
That helps us be found
Our hearts are drawing close again
We’re coming back around.
Happy Valentine’s Day ’18 to the Love of My Life who has made me laugh and feel safe from day one. You are a gift, Steve McClay. Thank you for becoming more real with me through all the seasons, especially those winter ones. Something beautiful is growing from all of this compost. I just know it! Something beautiful already has. Our love.
This image created with Wikki Sticks was stuck to my car window by Steve in 1987. I saved it in my scrapbook for posterity.
***The header image is from a helium balloon that I deflated and saved to remember the playful love of my then boyfriend, now husband. Thank you for your steadfastness, Babe. You’ve always been the best Valentine.***
Today the love of my life celebrates another birthday. I have shared 30 of his special days with him. This feels momentous. He might say I feel that way about everything.
Thirty years ago my boyfriend turned 18. It was a year to the month that I first met him and six months after we began dating. My baby sister had been born two days before, and I was packing my things in preparation for a major move that would take place three weeks later.
Here we are together with the first newborn we shared. There is a lot going on behind the eyes of that sixteen-year-old girl.
There was excitement in celebrating that first birthday together, the last we would celebrate in person before marrying four years later. His birthday became a conundrum for me as I tried to choose the right gifts. I remember mailing packages those years before we married, feeling close to my boyfriend while shopping and selecting things I thought he would enjoy.
It was difficult not being together in person, because much is missed in the day to day sharing of life. Much was built up in my mind and the future was idealized. I thought it would be easier after we married. Please do not laugh. I am having a hard enough time being kind to that young woman inside. It was not easier.
Last night, Steve lovingly reminded me of the delicious coconut cream pie I tried to make for his 22nd birthday when we were newlyweds. It was more like coconut soup, but he ate it like a champ. I have not always had the stellar cooking and baking skills of today.
His contentment made it difficult for me to find “just the right” gift, because I could not tell what he would really enjoy, I don’t know if he knew, either, indicated by vague or practical responses when asked. I groped along, hoping to hit the mark.
I think I hit it this year. Number 30 just might be a charm. I don’t want to say more in the rare event that he has an opportunity to read this before tonight when he opens his gifts, but I am excited, and that is a good feeling.
This week began with a dream, one of those vivid ones that you remember upon waking and that stays with you all day. In it I was leading a story group. My husband was a participant. I thought it odd that the leaders would put us together but figured, Oh well, they know what they are doing.
One theme of the dream was distraction. As Steve began to share his story a rushing river roared noisily past, other group members were taking facetime calls, and a tiny elephant went walking by. I was trying hard to hear what he was saying, but even leaning in with great focus, I couldn’t.
I finally stopped everything and addressed the situation, naming the great distractions and the need to focus on Steve and his story.
Awww. Thank you for speaking up for me was his response when I shared my dream yesterday morning.
As I celebrate the amazing man I saw in those eighteen year old eyes, that is my desire for him this year, to focus on his story and on that tiny elephant walking by, inviting him to more laughter, creativity, and growth.
The 26th wedding anniversary is frequently a year of adjustment being the picture anniversary.
I stumbled across these words on this site while exploring anniversary gift options and thought to myself, Seriously? That has been every year! Then I began reading the descriptions of years and laughed out loud at the introduction to 27.
Anniversary celebrations have felt as hap-hazard as everything else in our life and are often a yearly struggle for me. There is the tension between what is expected to be felt and what is real. Hallmark does not help matters and neither does the idea that the more years you check off together the better it gets.
A thriving marriage is about more than checking off the years and winning with the highest number of them.
Our 25th anniversary, the one that is silver, the one I remember throwing a party for my parents for while wrangling two small children of my own, two and a half years into my newly-minted marriage, brought the realization that we needed help. It was a sad disappointment of a day steeped in years of hurt with a side of genuine illness.
We have GOT to do something, because we cannot go on like this.
We will forever remember our silver anniversary as the one where we chose to invest in counseling to gain skills that were lacking in order to move forward together in more hopefulness. Seriously. There is no shame in admitting need. It was one of the best decisions we have made.
Fast forward to this year’s celebration. I decided to create a gift for Steve. It took thought, time, energy, and trust to sit with myself and my art supplies and create from the heart a representation of where we are in this season.
It is a better, more hopeful, place.
While a lake house getaway was booked, logistics did not work out. In the past this would have completely derailed my heart, sending it into a place of hopelessness and defeat. Instead, I was able to reimagine our celebration.
Steve took the day off of work, and we spent it together while the kids were in school. A two-hour weather delay for them meant time to sleep in without rushing, and while it cut into two hours of morning alone time, we were still able to enjoy the quiet house before heading out on an afternoon adventure.
Family members graciously picked up kids from school for us. We arrived home at 4 and took a nap before heading out to dinner at Chick Fil A with the family. The day ended with a parent meeting for school musical and an episode of Stranger Things.
It was a sweet beginning to year 27 and imagining more of our future together.
I sit in the final Saturday of 2017 surrounded by binders and journals and books and baskets of laundry. Family members are out and about running errands or socializing with friends. One is resting on the couch, uncertain of how she is feeling. I stop to care for her and warm up a heating pad occasionally. Chicken noodle soup was prepared for her lunch.
Earlier in the kitchen my husband looked at me with the face. I know it well. It is a half-smirk that tries to cover and hide the feeling behind it, but I am too vigilant for that and know there is something going on inside his head. Rather than guessing at it, I ask.
What? What is that face for?
What face? I don’t have a face!
Yes you do. There is clearly a face, and I am curious about it.
We banter back and forth a bit, as he insists it is nothing when I know better. He finally caves.
I was just wondering if you have fallen into your end-of-the-year processing funk, yet?
Laughter ensues from us both, because I am aware enough to be able to laugh at what is obvious about me, and he is courageous enough to name it. Family members are growing safer in being able to share how they experience me, and for that growth I am grateful.
Secretly, I feel pleased to be known and seen so well by my life-partner. It has not always been so. There have been many unseen and unheard years resulting in much hurt that we have worked hard at uncovering and naming this year.
And, yes, I am in my final 48 hour funk, sort of. Not really. It is a strange ambivalence.
It feels different this year. Still ponderous, but in a hopeful sort of way. There is anticipation of things to come in the midst of uncertainty. If anything there is a temptation to panic that time is running out, and I must do all the things.
Time is running out, but I do not have to do all the things. I can do just what is before me next and move in gratefulness for what has been and what is to come.
Twenty-five anniversaries, holding on and holding hope.
I want to have big silver anniversary words, but I don’t. And that is okay. It has to be.
I have the words that a friend offered at the end of his congratulatory Facebook comment on Steve’s wall.
. . . a great example of a rugged marriage.
Thank you, Alvin. Those are exactly the words that affirm the beautiful hard that is found in celebrating 25 years of becoming one while growing up together and having three of our eight children before our brains were fully formed!
This day has felt rugged. It certainly hasn’t been the stuff of which silver anniversary dreams are made. As a final blow, we had to cancel the sitter for our evening out due to uncertain stomachs. We had to engage disappointment and pain.
This season feels rugged as I find more words for my own story and style of relating and engaging and how that has affected those closest to me. As Steve and I struggle to find more words for our story together, we recognize the help that we need. It is okay to need help.
A dear sister heard my heart and affirmed my words as I processed with her via text.
A silver star with a 25 on it doesn’t negate the hurt and disappointment. Or the joy. There is joy underneath, but right now it is being eclipsed by the ache. And marriage is about more than just how I feel today.
Climbing out of the valley and learning to walk on level ground isn’t as easy as it sounds!
One of the significant assaults of evil in this period is to try to triumph through regret. It is easy to survey all that might have been and grieve that it has taken so long to savor and delight in life. Add to this the desire to remove all the debris we have brought into the lives of our children, friends, and family, and it is easy to feel terrible and to work frantically to restore all that is broken. We must resist this seduction. Grief is freeing, but regret is the cul-de-sac of despair. (Dan Allender, Healing the Wounded Heart, 233).
So tonight we will have our regularly scheduled date night and not the fancy dinner out gifted us by our kids. Rather than circling the cul-de-sac again and again, I will try to feel the disappointment and grieve what is not, and then move on to the goodness that is an evening together with the hope of a future ahead of us.
We will persist. We will toast our twenty-five years of beautiful, rugged marriage with chicken soup and ginger-ale!