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She looked at me, really looked at me, as if wanting desperately to burn what she was communicating onto my mind, for the great and significant truth of her message …

… when the kids are grown (this is where her gaze was locked on me) … when it is just you and your husband again, it’s (she paused, staring off into the thoughts in her mind, her memory) … well it’s just fantastic.” Then she smiled and walked away, leaving me standing there, trying to absorb the deeper meaning, that I knew that must be there.

But, I didn’t stand there long, because this conversation happened about seventeen years ago. Our kids were ten, five and three. I had just returned to working outside of the home. Hubby had made a change from Youth ministry to lead pastor work. We had a house (mortgage included), boarders, family support on the other side of the continent … and we were not even in the busy years yet!

I had forgotten about that random moment, until recently … until I had slid, unannounced, into midlife, with a mostly empty nest, a different-than-planned lifestyle, inch-long hairs growing (overnight) on my chin and a body temperature gauge with a split personality.

Circumstances in life have been unpredictable … physical and emotional changes have been frustrating … relationships have been unpredictable.

Yet …

The circumstances, added to the emotional changes, the emptying nest and the experience of half a life of living, have forged a stronger, more confident and pleasant life together.

I think we reach this midlife stage and realize it’s time to poop or get off the pot! Crap or get off the can!

(Anyone else hearing that old song by the Clash? Should I Stay or Should I Go?)

Basically, we reach midlife and realize we are at a crossroads and we have to decide which of the two roads we will traverse.

Do we keep going, the same as always before?
– we may end up regretting a life of the same old thing

Do we take the other road, walking away from the path and the person on it?
– we may regret throwing those years away.

Or, do we recognize that we have someone beside us who we have been walking alongside of for so long, that we don’t know how much we don’t know about each other?
– this can be an opportunity for adventure.

To take that third option is to create a new path, a new road in the wilderness only to find out that … it’s fantastic.

Here’s the thing, taking a new path requires decision-making from both parties. One hauling the other along will not have the same effect as two individuals moving forward together. That said, whose to say that the unknown surprises along the path might birth excitement and anticipation in the one who gets hauled along by the other.

Though my memory for words when I am speaking forces me into an odd, verbal variation of charades … Though my partners in crime may forget what I just told him this morning … when the kids are grown … when it is just you and your husband again, it’s … well it’s just fantastic.

I we shall be telling this with a (contented) sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two three roads diverged in a wood, and I we ‚ÄĒ
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost (and I ūüėČ )

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I snapped the picture (above) from a large room overlooking the beach, with the sun low, and the sky lit up in spectacular color. I smiled as I walked into that room, not just because it was beautiful from my vantage point (through the window) but because I have been there before and I know that if I just step out the door, my senses would be rewarded with a sensory cornucopia that is unequaled.

What had started as following a blog turned into many months worth of marriage wisdom. That, in turn, resulted in our attending a marriage retreat, that just so happened to be at our favorite beach.

As I looked at that picture, I realized that our marriage can be similar to it.

The image was simply lovely to see, but, that is all it is … an image, a visual. I could be satisfied to just sit inside and look out at the beauty and I would be quite pleased. I could say I have seen Cannon Beach.

But, to experience Cannon Beach, I need to open the door, walk the beach, gaze at Haystack Rock, visit Bruce’s Candy Shop and the Haystack Bakery, enjoy a cone of Tillamook’s Marionberry ice cream …

I need to participate in all that is available …. I need to taste and see that the Lord is Good! (Psalm 34:8)

We can be married, be committed and still live our own, individual lives … our marriage can end up being just an image, a legality.

Or, we can open the door and participate fully in the relationship we have with our spouse … fully loving, fully cherishing each other as the gift that they are to us.

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It’s half over …

was my sorrowful thought one day this summer, as I lay in his arms, head on his chest … my place in our world.

Thirty years of marriage have now come and gone.

Thirty years, three provinces, seven homes, numerous work places, eight pregnancies, three children … adult children now, good days, bad ones, seasons of plenty and those of want, health and sickness … mutual love and disdain at time too.

But today, as we celebrate thirty years of living under the covenant of promises that were both kept and broken (’cause there is none who keeps such lofty vows perfectly) I keep thinking, as I did that day this summer …

it’s half over
and I feel the weight to make the best of each day that is left …

be it thirty years, or more, or much less.

To know that you are entering the second half, is to know the value of what you have spent the first half fighting for, because now dawns the realization that together is not forever.

I have started to awaken to realities, since that summer day in his arms. That dinner for two is less about the food, and more about the two. That rolling over in bed, in the middle of the night, is an opportunity to whisper I love you. That driving together in silence can make you smile, just for the pleasure of being together. That the sounds of football (baseball, hockey … ) are indicators of his presence. That touch still creates shivers. That thank-you can’t be said enough. That the season of dreaming together isn’t over until we return to dust. That it’s not too late for ________ (fill in the blank) … yet.

The gift of thirty years of marriage is that each remaining day is sweeter, more valuable … not a moment to be wasted by attitudes or actions that could only bring regrets. This is the season for adventures for just two, for shared laughter and private jokes, for kisses that linger and amen whispered each night.

The gift of thirty years of marriage is waking up, thankful for the day together.

“Grow old with me
Let us share what we see
And oh the best it could be
Just you and I
And our hands they might age
And our bodies will change
But we’ll still be the same
As we are”
Grow Old With Me – Tom Odell

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Hubby and I … well, it is probably best said that opposites attract.

We have differing points of view on everything from coffee shops, to music, to movies, to politics, to child rearing, to chocolate (he says milk and I say dark). These different perspectives can leave us frustrated, angry and even with hurt feelings. What they don’t do is ignite hate for each other.

What we share together is far greater than on what we differ. Oh, the differing can be immensely challenging and even hurtful, but we share a life-guiding principle …

we love one another

The concept of loving one another came from the mouth and heart of Jesus, himself. It was while sitting around a table with his eleven (Judas had already stepped away … in more ways than just physically stepping away), that Jesus commanded them to love one another.

‚ÄúA new command¬†I give you: Love one another.¬†As I have loved you, so you must love one another.¬†By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.‚ÄĚ (John 13:34-35)

This loving each other was as foreign a concept then, as it is now. Like today, when people eliminate or unfriend people who think differently than us, society in the time of Jesus was also more about about assimilation than about community or love.

The Matthew Henry Commentary (MHC), on this love one another passage says,

“Laws of revenge and retaliation were so much in vogue, and self-love had so much the ascendant (superiority), that the law of brotherly love was forgotten as obsolete and out of date; so that as it came from Christ new, it was new to the people.”

So when Jesus delivered this command (not a suggestion, but a command) it was counter culture, odd and new. It could have been dismissed completely had he not given them a model to follow … himself.

Jesus told them to love each other “as I have loved you.”

Each one sitting there, listening to him speak would know, by their experience and intimate knowledge of life with him, how high the bar was that Jesus had set for them.

As the MHC says, of his example of what it is to love one another:

“He spoke kindly to them, concerned himself heartily for them, and for their welfare, instructed, counselled, and comforted them, prayed with them and for them, vindicated them when they were accused, took their part when they were run down, and publicly owned them to be dearer to him that his¬†mother, or sister, or brother. He reproved them for what was amiss, and yet compassionately bore with their failings, excused them, made the best of them, and passed by many an oversight. Thus he¬†had¬†loved them, and just now washed their feet; and thus they¬†must¬†love one another, and love¬†to the end.¬†“

This is what we are called to, as well.

None of this would have been a surprise to the disciples, anymore than it should be a surprise to us, today.

Jesus did not give up on his disciples. He did not unfriend, nor did he cease to love each and every one (Judas included), right up to the end … his end on the cross. For he died for us all, even if we do not choose to accept his leadership in our lives.

To differ does not have to mean that we hate. If we declare that we follow the example of Jesus, there is not place for hate if we are committed to love one another.

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June has traditionally been the month of weddings. The weather is warmer, but not hot. The days are longer. Outdoor photographs are more beautiful with gardens at their peek of beauty.

We got to attend a wedding a few weeks ago and I found myself feeling rather broody.

Just days before hubby had received a letter informing him that he is no longer licensed in our home province to officiate weddings. Though that letter’s communication was the equivalent of water off a duck’s back, for hubby, it initiated an unexpected mourning for me.

I could unashamedly brag about the way he conducted weddings over the years.

He would take the position of intermediary, between the bride and groom and … anyone who could make the event stressful, in the most gracious yet firm manner.

The message that he would share would be one that was agonizingly prepared to represent the couple, from what he knew of them and what he had learned through the premarital sessions.

Then there was the ceremony, personalized as the couple chose, for he was committed that it would reflect them.

My personal favorite part of the weddings that he officiated were how he made the pronouncement … “by the power given me by the province of —-, but, more importantly, by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I pronounce you husband and wife.” It just always made me smile.

So I sat at the wedding, just a few days ago, missing his ceremony, what he did so well, each part conscientiously planned and executed, always bringing the message back to the original installation of marriage.

As I got home from that wedding I got to thinking about how, in the Bible, marriage is used as a parable for Christ (the bridegroom) and the Church (the bride). As husband and wife become one, so too the Church and Christ become one … this is the “mystery” spoken of in Ephasians 5:32.

When a couple marry, their unifying is actually a re-unifying, since woman came from man’s body. Adam, meaning earth, and Eve, meaning life … woman literally puts life into the man, from whom she came. For woman to have life, she was taken from man, marriage is the redeeming of that physical separation at Creation, and the two, once again, become one.

The work of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, to the grave and resurrection is also a redeeming of relationship. From the very beginning God intended that we, his church, would be one with him … and then sin happened. Christ, through his sacrifice, brought the church back to him … and the two, once again, become one.

As I pondered this metaphor I realized that though I was feeling sorrowful for this end to hubby being such an amazingly talented part of the union of souls, this story goes on. In the hands of God himself, who officiates the most spectacular of marriages of souls, back to himself.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free, 
there is no male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:28

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Just a regular day, with not an exceptional occurrence, yet something was rising within me, and a smile grew across my face … as I watched him walking just ahead of me.

In just hours he would be doing something he has not for so many months, after being lain flat, too weak to participate in so much of life and living. Now, though, was the eve of a return to a regular living activity.

And I was bursting with pride, with joy for all that he has accomplished, for his making it to this point in healing. Thankful to God that he has made it and that he was beginning to thrive.

It made me think of him when I first met him, when he was full to overflowing with the vim and vigor of life, of youth. When his energy, his time and his desire to do, to go, to experience was endless. When he invited me in to look ahead, to dream.

And here he was, about to start something new …

So much loss, so much grief in that season. Over a year of struggles that encapsulated every part of life and living for him … and for those of us closest to him. Struggles to move, to think, to communicate, to focus, to worship … to stay awake.

The hows and whys faded as the pride rose within me. He persevered, he fought (every day) … he overcame.

And here we were, on the threshold of a new challenge … because he can do it.

So many days, months, years really, of fighting to keep your head afloat, and now you have something to look forward to. I am so proud of how far you have come, and that you persevered through this dark night … may there be joy in the morning.

Psalm 30

I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me.
O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

Now in my prosperity I said,
‚ÄúI shall never be¬†moved.‚ÄĚ
Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face, and I was troubled.

I cried out to You, O Lord;
And to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?
Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me;
Lord, be my helper!‚ÄĚ

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

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It was a bad day (days, weeks) when I felt a sadness that was so … profound. It filled all of me, right down to my soul, darkening even the light of life within me.

The reason for this profound sadness is far less important than the salve, the comfort that was given in response to it’s presence.

My hubby is a great guy, who is always eager to help myself or our kids. He will always drop what he is doing to help us out.

Here’s the thing … he does not like or know what to do with tears. This has, at times been a problem, for a wife and two daughters with enough estrogen to produce oceans of tears. So, I simply do not (generally) allow tears to fall in his presence (not that I am a frequent crier).

On this particular day, when the sadness was so heavy, so profound, I flopped onto the bed, hoping to catch a Sunday nap beside hubby.

The thing was that I could no longer keep the sadness in, and it began pouring from my eyes, unstoppable sobs rattling my entire body. The grief of my sadness emanating from the sorrow within me.

All of a sudden strong and loving arms reached out and around me, surrounding me in comfort and care. He kissed the top of my head, holding me tight.

I lay there, wrapped in loving arms and wet from my tears, for unknown minutes.

No wordy solutions to fix my unfixable, no platitudes … just the comfort from one, giving out of weakness, to one who felt weak.

His actions were like bandages for my broken heart. He didn’t try to make it all better, he just reminded me that I was worth it. He was Jesus, with skin on, to me that day.

He heals the brokenhearted,
and bandages their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

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