Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Twenty-five years with this guy.
Every year on our anniversary, I'm a bit of a crank.
This year we have a thousand tasks to finish before Julia's open house,
and he left for the day.
He's not working today.
There is a chance he's making me a gift.
So I'm trying to be gracious.

I would have thought, 25 years ago, that by now our marriage would be a sheltering tree.
On Mackinac Island, in Michigan, the lilac trees are the oldest in North America.
Their trunks are gray and strong.
Beautifully trimmed,
they curve over sidewalks,
shading passersby with heart-shaped leaves.
They bloom at the proper time.

This morning, as I hacked away at our messy lilac tree,
I thought that our real-life marriage needs constant tending,
constant trimming,
in order to create that tree of shelter.
Sometimes, marriage feels like a big scary weed.
The little foxes are the shoots and bolts
that threaten to take over.

I imagine if we ever move away from here,
that in 50 years,
this lilac will have become a giant shrubbery.
Somewhere deep inside the heart of it,
old scars will remain
of the branches that I cut away.

One year, I cut down so much of the lilac
that the entire family was mad at me.
It looked like a skeleton of a tree.
You'd never know it now.
Lilacs are tough.

We've had some bad years,
years that left cuts and scars.
We have seen that waiting, and forgiving, and praying,
and laughing, and staying in the mess together,
brings, eventually, all kinds of healing.
This life doesn't look the way we expected it to.
We are rich in children, but not in much else.

Considering how cute we were,
we hardly have any good pictures of our wedding day.
It was the worst $800 we ever spent.

Here is what I would tell these two, ahem, children:
Be kind.
Forgive quickly.
Do what is needed to be healthy and whole.
Enjoy your kids, but don't ignore each other.
Be a sheltering tree, first for each other, next for your offspring, and then for everyone else.

After decades of listening to Dr. Dobson, I only remember one thing he said.
It was for children, but it applies to marriage as well.
I paraphrase:
Look out the window.
The world is a big, hard, scary place.
Plenty of people out there will hurt you.
Here, in this house, we will not have hurt.
This will be a place of safety.
Here you will find love.

Every marriage ends in grief,
one way or another.
But today I claim joy,
I grind the enemy under my heel,
and I choose to love with a whole heart.

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