Tag: Marriage

Forty years ago today he said confident words to me. Something about seeds of love being planted and I was thinking skip the poetry just say it. He did, the exact words I don’t recall, but he asked this 19-year old girl to marry him and I said yes. It was a scared yes but I carried scars from my parents divorce. Did I really know what love was?

I said yes, if. 

We’d been two months when he proposed. TWO! So my yes, if was if we could wait to announce our engagement. We weren’t strangers. We’d known each other from church, there’d been some flirting and me eyeing his shirtless body mowing the lawn at the church. But still….two months!

He said yes if, if we’d marry later that year.

 

We married eight months later. Our first child was born 13 months after that and our second 19 months after that. We found the breaks to slow this thing down to a manageable pace and settled ourselves in our small home. We planted roots in our church and with friends. We grew together in faith and relationships.

I learned what love is, or more what it isn’t.

Love isn’t always tender and sweet and romantic. It’s not scripted. It’s not cliche. Love isn’t easy.

Love is often duty and obligation. It’s getting children where they need to be and saying no more than yes some days. It’s putting nutritious food in front of them even if started it a box.

Love is saying I’m sorry and my fault and taking the blame at times it’s not yours to take. Love is reminding yourself of your faults every time you think of one of his.

Our love has taken us to a direction I once thought sounded old and tired: comfort. Maybe it is old and tired because I often feel that way. But this period of our comfortable love is more from knowing the other well. Knowing that he’s best early in the morning and has little left in the evening. Knowing when I’m muttering to myself or expecting him to answer. (This one still brings laughs) Knowing he’s a gentle soul and I need to be more gentle with my words.

Maybe it’s not so much a comfortable love than a knowing love. A love that knows we are there for each other. In the loud times and quiet. We know the moods, the seasons, the heart.

My scared yes was prompted by God. I know that. God provided for me what I didn’t know I needed. A man who could love me when I don’t much like myself. One who doesn’t turn away from my tears but pulls me closer and lets them fall on him. Before I knew, God knew. He always does.

Linking up with Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart

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It was the faith we held in common that had me say yes when he asked me out. That, and his undeniable good looks. As I look back, that may have held an edge for my 19-year-old self.

Henry

We’d both grown up as pastor’s kids in the same denomination. We knew the life, the traditions, we believed.

This was enough common ground to explore a future. It was enough to say yes when he proposed and this faith has kept me saying yes to him.

The blush of youth hid our differences and made everything seem possible. The energy spent on babies and schedules and schools and church and more and more of life kept us clinging to this faith that was the one constant in our growing family.

You blink your eyes and they are grown and have their own families and the spaces between exposes our differences. The ones that have been there all along but we were too busy to notice.

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Henry Deb on rock3

How he can let his car get to fumes before filling the tank and how I’m eyeing the gauge when it says 70 miles left.

How he’s asleep seconds after his head hits the pillow, any pillow, and I can’t seem to find the off switch for my mind.

He’s easy going and mild-mannered (except when watching football) and I’m not.

Some days these difference stand up and shout right at me and I marvel that somehow, it works.

Could it be this faith we share, the common beliefs we hold, the traditions we’ve clung to, the same God we trust, is this what holds and sustains us?

Yes, a definite yes. But it’s also learning that our individual differences are more important than us being the same. Some days it’s hard. The days I just want to him talk and he’s exhausted from answering questions and making decisions, yeah, those days aren’t my favorite. But I am learning to make space for that because these differences are what make us who we are. They are what make us laugh with each other. They’re what make us understand grace and our need to give it to each other as God gives it to us.

It seems we are each at our best when we mesh our common bonds with our differences. My hopes are that our country will learn this too.

faith family Five-Minute Friday

The more the numbers add up and years pass, the more significant our time together becomes. In our society of throwaway everything, including marriages, having a long-term marriage means something. We recently celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. Yeah, that’s a big number. Even more, that’s a lot of learning and relearning, mostly how to gather around you good people to help nurture you through the tides of life.

my aunt and uncle (he officiated the ceremony)
my aunt and uncle (he officiated the ceremony)
mama with her mom (mama made her own dress for the wedding)
mama with her mom (mama made her own dress for the wedding)
The same aunt and uncle with us at our daughter's wedding.
The same aunt and uncle with us at our daughter’s wedding.

So much of what flows through my mind these past months is from the grief of missing mama. The memories, while bringing tears of loss, are more about how rich our life has been.

This year, my thoughts went to the week before our wedding. Mama had never met her soon-to-be son-in-law. I was her first born, marrying at the very young age of 20 and filling her with fear of making mistakes she’d made. Mostly, she kept these quiet but as I got older I understood.

Mama In the kitchen at my brothers wedding.
Mama In the kitchen at my brothers wedding.
with mama and her sister
with mama and her sister

We’d planned this simple wedding long distance. Very long distance with her living in the middle of Washing state and us on the southeast coast of Florida. There were no wedding organizers or directors in those days, not that we could have afforded that anyway. I would have married outside were it not for the concern of rain or the older guests, aka family, not quite understanding that.

Mama grabbed her older sister and their mom and hopped on a plane to spend the week with me. I shuttled them to the florist and we planned out how the flowers would be taken from the chapel to the reception hall. I took them to the fabric store where she and my aunt made three table cloths for the long tables at the cake and punch reception. I got them appointments  to have their hair done while a friend put some highlights from a box on the strands of my waist length hair that I would wear down the way I always did.

When we scurried to change our wedding attire to our leave-for-the-honeymoon clothes and Henry bent down and ripped his pants, my aunt grabbed them and sewed them up on my sewing machine. The one they’d sewn up the lace-covered table cloths.

Another aunt and uncle traveled from Arkansas to be part of our day. This was my uncle who dedicated me as a baby and I had determined even as a teenager that he would do my wedding one day. They were there, as they have always been.

We haven’t made this life on our own. We have been blessed to have had parents praying for us throughout our lives. These parents are gone now but I believe they are still imploring on our behalf.

We’ve had friends to model marriage and parenting to us to create memories with and even as distance separates us, to be on the other end when we call.

Our marriage has been nurtured and strengthened by others. The celebration of our years together is a celebration that honors them and the faith that has held us all.

faith family

Thirty-eight years next month and we couldn’t be more different.

The memories of standing in front of the church, our church, our people, of saying quiet the words of promise, those memories seem more clear than the photo’s that have started to age.

We were young. I was scared. He was certain. Was that the hint to other differences that would unfold?

The signs were there. He’s an outdoor guy and I’d rather not sweat. He’s an introvert easily depleted by the peopling he must do everyday and I crave conversation.

His car radio is set to the classical station on XM and mine is likely to have my iPhone plugged in with music a bit more caffeinated.

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Us then ’77
Us now with son and daughter-in-law
Us now with son and daughter-in-law

The older we’ve grown the more glaring these differences have become. His preference to science-fiction and mine to crime-legal-suspense genre. His crazy love of golf and my complete lack of getting it. His ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime in seconds and my ability to lay there for 30 minutes, sometimes waken at 3AM trying to will myself back to sleep knowing it won’t come for at least 90 minutes and this with Melatonin!

We joke and say it’s worked for 38 years why change it.

The truth is we both love Jesus and want others to love Jesus. He stands firm and strong for me when I’m overtaken by grief, sorrow, disappointment. We love our children and family and count ourselves blessed to be part of their lives, near and far.

Truth is, at our very core, those foundations we have built our lives on, there we are the same.

Linking up with Kate Motaung for the weekly Five-Minute writing prompt. Head over to Kate’s and join the party. 

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wedding rehearsal
wedding rehearsal

Teacher: For everything that happens in life—there is a season, a right time for everything under heaven:

2 A time to be born, a time to die;
a time to plant, a time to collect the harvest;
3 A time to kill, a time to heal;
a time to tear down, a time to build up;
4 A time to cry, a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, a time to dance;
5 A time to scatter stones, a time to pile them up;
a time for a warm embrace, a time for keeping your distance;
6 A time to search, a time to give up as lost;
a time to keep, a time to throw out;
7 A time to tear apart, a time to bind together;
a time to be quiet, a time to speak up;
8 A time to love, a time to hate;
a time to go to war, a time to make peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 the Voice

And so it is, this is the day our second-born niece and her fiancé have chosen to marry. Family has come from nearly all corners of this country to witness and love, to pray and dance and mostly to fill the space with joy we have for the one we know and the one we will now call family.

It is no easy thing bringing families together. It is no easy thing reaching across the unknown and saying, “Welcome”. We do it for her and we do it for my brother, his first daughter to wed. The first to leave home and chart this new way that won’t always look like the path we’ve walked.

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We celebrate for my sister-in-law, for all the mother-of-the-bride has borne literally and figuratively. I marvel at her strength and resolve as this child who, though second born, was in charge from the earliest of days, chooses a mate and chooses life and gives the name she’s worn to another.

These are hard days for parents and they are days filled with hope and push us in our faith as prayers grow stronger.

They have been and will be surrounded by a love that always looks to Hope. This is the Love that will support them and has supported us.

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Father and daughter
Father and daughter

In Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans shares a chapter with thoughts on marriage. Several passages I’ve highlighted as she looks beyond the current debate on marriage we’ve seen played out in recent days.

My sweet, stubborn, niece, most that any of us can tell you about marriage is it has to be lived to know. But here are some words from RHE that, after 37 years of life with this guy also known as your favorite uncle, I know to be true.

“Marriage isn’t about sticking to a script; it’s about making a life together. It’s not a choreographed cha-cha, it’s an intimate slow dance. It isn’t a formula, it’s a mystery.”

The best one to mark your way is God. That will always be. Enter this mystery, slow dancing your way to His rhythm knowing you are loved. Always.

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October posts have all been part of a blogging challenge to write for 31 days. It is proving to be just that: a challenge. Even this talkative girl is struggling with things to say.

Allow me a brief departure in sharing stories of people to share a more personal one. This one is completely biased. Today is our 37th anniversary. And this guy, the one who boldly asked this scared girl after two months of dating, to marry him, this guy is no ordinary guy. To live life next to me this long should be proof enough. Seriously.

Remember the movie When Harry Met Sally? The part when Harry was telling Sally about people who were high maintenance and the worst were the ones who are high maintenance but didn’t know it? Yeah, that person. That could be me. Sometimes. Only today I own it a lot more. Does it mean I’m high maintenance when everyone around me knows I prefer bendy straws? 😉

He has been my refuge and safe harbor. He is a natural at being a daddy and now, Papa. He is one of the smartest people I know but leaves a trail of half empty Diet Coke cans and rarely remembers to empty his pockets before putting his clothes in the laundry hamper.

us 1977 polaroid
1977
this year
this year

His calm is amazing.

He would just as soon pick up items at the store as needed. I have this compulsion to make lists and make fewer trips to the store.

His background noise is the golf channel. Mine is not.

His car radio is set to the Sirius classical station. As in Chopin, Mendel and the like. I prefer Spotify and am more likely to listen to the classics like Kansas, Carole King and Jackson Browne or more current tunes from David Crowder, Aretha Franklin and Fallout Boy.

We agree on football as our favorite sport and tend to watch it with, um, enthusiasm (which means we yell at the t.v. a lot)

Yep, this guy seems quite ordinary. Unassuming and introverted. But he is anything but. His caring for the men in our Center is extraordinary as he prays daily with them. He is a servant leader. He is a man after God’s own heart. This guy.

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“MeMe, I have a grown up tooth coming in and a wiggly one in front.” Our daughter is prompting KK to call us to share bits of her daily life. I heard her excitement and it’s the best news I’ve heard all day. It woke me up to how quickly the time is passing and the focus on life, coming and going life, was clearer.

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1st day of kindergarden outfit
1st day of kindergarten outfit

* You will die sooner than you think. You will be forgotten.

Those words from Reggie Joiner, spoken yesterday at the conference I was attending, just hours before the word was shared my mother in law would not last the weekend. We expected her to pass in June yet this was sooner than we thought. Sooner than we could ever prepare for because you can’t prepare for the physical absence of someone you love.

The granddaughter has her first grown up tooth coming. She is in kindergarten and went to her first sleepover. Her life is full of firsts and while she is coming her great-grandmothers are going. Her grandmothers in that in between place where we see a full life but mostly while looking back. We are burying our mothers and welcoming another generation. Trying not to forget one while raising up the other.

*You will only be remembered by the people who know your name. – Reggie Joiner on Legacies. 

Granny would call out several names before she got to the right one and she always laughed first. So many names from her 5 children and over a dozen grands. My own mother doesn’t know my name or my brother’s or her grands. We know her name. We remember for her these days.

Granny long gone, mama, mind going more everyday but soul very much here and perhaps while the mind goes her soul is coming, coming for more grace.

I’ve uttered the words I’ve heard both generations before me say, “I don’t know if I’m coming or going” and it’s surely felt like that today. The words about Legacy from Reggie echoing in my mind as my mother in law gave up her earthly struggle and the granddaughter reminding me of her tender new life coming with full energy for more.

in her costumes

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Coming or going? Coming AND going is how life is. There is never time for death but always time for birth but really, isn’t this earthly death birth? Birth to what Paul tells the Corinthians is the day we will see clearly. The Voice says,

     For now, we can only see a dim and blurry picture of things, as when we stare into polished metal.I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture. But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face. 1 Corinthians 13:12

One moment the soft smiles are forming remembering my mother in law and the next, they are giving way to tears of sadness knowing I’ll not hear words from her lips again. I’ll not hear her call me Beki instead of Debby and pretend she got it right. I’ll not hear her laugh at one of her sons just because they’re her sons and bring her such joy. Coming and going, smiles, laughter, tears and sorrow. They mingle together and when we gather we won’t know if we’re coming or going and we’ll be doing both just like she is now. Gone from this world but only her body. Her legacy is in her children, and, I pray, the generations to follow.

 

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“Grace is outrageously unfair, ridiculously extravagant, and unashamedly the center of the gospel,

and it sure beats judgmentalism, legalism, and all the other isms.” 

Marina

Life is fluid and there are changes put forward or put upon. Good changes marked by education and growth and life changes most of us would rather not experience. All those “at your age” changes – ack!

Then there are culture changes. These can be sticky at times depending on how they affect us or those we love.

My parents divorced in the early 70’s. It was an era seeing a rising divorce rate but in the church, in the body of faith where grace is to be proclaimed and the broken loved, in the church divorce carried shame. My parents, ordained ministers in The Salvation Army (officers), had to resign and leave their roles. They didn’t have to leave the church but their role as ordained ministers. This wasn’t just who they were but what they did, what our family did. They knew what the result of their divorce would be. At least in part.

“Grace always gives second chances, third chances, and never stops giving chances.

Grace has Jesus written all over it.”

My brother and I have always understood this rationale as we believe marriage is a sacrament of God and it’s his desire for no one to divorce. His desire, yes, but we are flawed people and still He gives grace and loves us.

My nephew’s parents divorced when he was a toddler. A couple of years ago he told me the idea of his parents being together was foreign to him. He couldn’t imagine them as a couple. He has always been a wonderful kid, well-adjusted and has grown into a wonderful young man. He seems to carry no scars of divorce and for that I am thankful.

Views on divorce have relaxed in our society and in the church. If we are to be people of grace, and we are, then all people are made to feel welcome regardless of the struggles (dare I say sin?) they’ve gone through and may still be going through. Church is that place of healing and not condemnation. Grace doesn’t use words of accusation but of mercy.

“Grace makes people nervous, because they are always so worried someone is going to take advantage of it. But that’s what we like about grace. You can take advantage of it.”

And here is the tension. For me. That tension of grace and expectation but maybe there is no grace as long I place expectations on others. I’m trying to find this balance. I fear even in the church, in our efforts to extend grace, we don’t allow the weight of our decisions to be felt. I feel the weight of my parents divorce still. Marriage is holy. Isn’t it? I don’t want to see it thrown away like an old newspaper without feeling or thought.

This whole divorce thing was stirred up in me by a recent decision made in The Salvation Army. The decision to allow officers wanting to divorce to retain their officership without stepping out at all. (Depending on the circumstances of the divorce, i.e. no extra-marital affair.) They are to have a year of “reflection” and receive counseling, etc. I’m uneasy about this. I’m afraid we’ll see an increase in divorce. I’m afraid marriage will become nothing more than words and empty ones.

This tension is mine. It is not God’s and as I write I think I’m sorting things out. It’s how I do it, thinking out loud to you. Thinking of the strong, brave face my mother carried and knowing how hurt she was. Surely that is what many are doing. We don’t want to wear our sorrow, it’s enough to know it’s there.

I heard Andy Stanley speak about tension a few years ago and he said tension can be good. There are some tensions you manage but some are beneficial to us. We aren’t suppose to feel comfortable about everything.

So this tension? Can I feel the tension but show grace?

“But here’s the really interesting part – grace doesn’t just let everyone in. Anyone, yes, but not everyone. And the Grace of God frequently includes the unexpected. So….who’s in and who’s not? Only God knows, and that’s fine with us.” 

(from p. 97 of  Mike Yaconelli//Collected Writings

 

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When the story is still being written there is no ending just more pages waiting to hold memories. Thinking back over these 35 years there are more memories than photo’s and the pictures we have are marked by time just as we are. The color has faded and mimics much of life that way.

1977

Mama came with her mom and one of her sisters. The week before the wedding they sewed lace table cloths we used in the reception. They came from one end of the country to the other to help this too young and simple girl do a few things right.

with mama and aunt Neety
with my uncle, who performed the ceremony, and aunt (Majors John and Juanita Tharp)
We’re still in touch with most of those in our wedding party. Only lost track of two.
mama with her mom (mama made her own dress for the wedding)

Henry’s first meeting of my mom and he was descended upon by all females, two of the three very outspoken. He showed no fear. No wonder it’s worked.

I don’t know who took the three of them to the airport the next day. All of our family had come from out-of-town, mine from out-of-state. Friends and family come together and do what’s needed.

Daddy looks a bit wistful walking his only daughter down the aisle

My uncle performed the ceremony and made me cry with a silly crack he made during the rehearsal. He made daddy laugh during the ceremony when he got a few words wrong. Those things we remember. A friend who sang a song I don’t remember just that her voice was beautiful as was her friendship. The many that came alongside to make it a ceremony. I needed that. I was so awkward and probably half held my breath through the whole thing.

But here we are and getting here has been a process of learning. Learning you will love children like you never thought possible and learning to let them go. Learning that going without cable, eating out and the newspaper (and a few other things) to get you through a tough time helps you know your priorities. Learning that you can get so mad at the other person for the very things they do that you liked and admitting it’s not them, it’s you.

Learning to not hold things with a closed fist but an open hand. Love is like that. Learning that love isn’t a movie. It’s better.

All together last Christmas (back where we started in Fort Lauderdale)

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Somewhere over these past 35 years, Henry started referring to me as his “young wife”. It’s never gotten an argument from me.

Thirty-give is a big one. It’s the kind of number that has me wondering where the time has gone and how can I possibly be old enough to be married for 35 years?

Our celebrations are simple and quiet and I wonder if that’s been a good thing to model for our children. Marriage should be celebrated more than so many other things. And celebrated with gusto. We have made exceptions. For our 25th we went to England. That was big.

Big weddings weren’t in vogue in the late 70’s or maybe they were but we weren’t part of that group. I seriously considered an outdoor wedding but I was to afraid to chance the weather. We married at the church where we’d officially met when he was dating someone else. I wanted him in white and everything else simple. My bouquet was three roses. One I gave to my mom on the up the aisle, the second given to my new mother-in-law on our way down the aisle and the third remained amid the greenery.

my new mother-in-law

Even our rehearsal dinner was simple with Henry choosing to have a steak cookout. He did the cooking. Mama couldn’t believe it. I think that’s the moment she decided she had a great son-in-law. We set up card tables in the church parking lot and gathered outside in some unseasonably cool South Florida weather. He sat at a table with his friends and I saw with my family and friends. So funny when I look back.

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That’s my head peeking out 

There isn’t the need to do big things for either of us. And that is one of the pleasures of a long marriage. To be comfortable with each other in quiet times. Still, I was thinking of a weekend trip. The thought of New England fluttered through my mind as the scenery this time of year would be beautiful. Then our son announced he’d be getting married in November and our plans changed. He’s giving us the opportunity to visit an area we’ve not spent much time in together: Nevada. Yes, his fiancé chose Las Vegas as their destination wedding and we’ve chosen to spend a few more days in that area celebrating our union in the southwest. Red Rock Canyon, Zion National Park, the pawn shop featured on Pawn Stars 🙂 We’ll even take a short trip up to see my mom.

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Two life long friendships

As I look back, the time seems short and yet it’s as  though we’ve always been part of each other. When I go through the pictures from that weekend I see faces of enduring friendships. A group of people who are now scattered around the country and some gone to heaven but that core group was a foundation built on a faith shared. It binds us still.

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