Jesus Justice

IMG_3515

I’ve been hiking the path of justice, attending bond and preliminary hearings awhilst two trips to Family Court for the “juvenile” and all I can metaphorically offer is this, my feet hurt.

I wonder if their feet hurt when they kicked down our back door while she was home?

The fact all four perps are incarcerated awaiting trial or sentencing at the time of this writing feels kinda like peeing in the snow; we made a tiny little mark on a surface that will otherwise be unnoticed.  They are criminals, period, and they deserve everything the law can muster against them.  But I know rehabilitation in our system might as well be an avenue on Neptune, because it appears impossible to get there from here.

So the Village ain’t blameless by a long shot either.  What is our takeway?  We best gather the courage to consider at least that while we posture another courage informing us all to purchase designer weapons surely soon sold at Bed, Bath and Beyond Whatever, because it feels like that is where we are headed.  I can’t help but think these days have given me a view into what I never asked for. I’ve now looked into the collective faces of the collective juveniles who will be collectively killed by the collective bullets triggered at the collective hands of citizen dwellers who are just plain fed up, to say nothing of terrified. I understand.

And that sentiment, the one telling me to take up arms, leaves me flat.

But it’s not the only thing I feel.  I’ll study that for a while I guess.  Am I less of something, less of a father, protector, red-blooded American because I am not moved to deal justice at the end of my own hands?  I pronounce no judgment on victims who feel conversely.  Who am I to say?  But my evolution hasn’t birthed me there yet, so I can’t go there.

In my now informed opinion, I believe an additional gun introduced into the situation matching the one carried by the four perpetrators would have only led to a volley of escalation and ammunition.  Those who know me best would be apt to conclude my response as the predictable measure of a liberal Christian minister.  But I think neither my theology nor my affiliation with the left side of the chamber is the seat of my sentiment.  I think my feelings come squarely from this fact: our daughter is alive and so well today, posting photos playing Maiden to a boy’s Knight in a Viking museum in Iceland.  “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and how long and how high and how deep is the love of God.”

Well, Ok, maybe there is some Theology in here somewhere.  I claim no corner on the God market, but I am more inclined to use prayer as my weapon of choice today.  Is that crazy?  Oh God. Be God. Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Tired Dating was started as a monument to enduring the stuff of relationships, primarily between husband and wife, specifically between Kevin and Alyson. There has been a thread of prayer between the keystrokes, invisibly offered and sometimes felt.  This writer’s shoulders are uncertain of many things, but that ole Holy Spirit ain’t afraid to rest on a shifting surface.  So tonight, I’ll try to cobble together a prayer for an enemy, trusting that my muted attempt of stuttering silence is enough.  It has to be.

And if you are still reading and wondering what in God’s name does this post have to do with dating my wife within these difficult times, here is my answer, as a father, protector, red-blooded American…and a prayer:  It has everything to do with dating my wife.

Everything.  Everything goddammit. Everything.

Lean on We

scan0016

May 6, 1983 – two teenage kids from Nashville  successfully navigate a first date.  He picked her up, took her to TGI Fridays and then to see Dustin Hoffman become Tootsie at Melrose Theater.  She put her hand on his knee during the movie.  It was more than enough.

May 6, 2013 – three teenage kids all of thirteen, fifteen and eighteen unabashedly sleep in the same room tonight because their presence with each other makes them feel strong. IMG_4038 They will remember this date on the calendar too, but not for the same reason.  Parents now, no way could those two kids from the eighties have imagined this day from their easy perch back then. It wouldn’t have mattered if someone told them how hard this would be.  They were in love as much as you can be at that tender age.  But it was real enough to get them to this night, tucking their sprouting adult kids in safe, remembering when they placed blankets over rising and falling shoulders in the crib, listening to each breath as magic, hardly believing how far those days are removed from this now, the now of today.  The large man kicked in the back door while the home alone from college eighteen year old barricaded herself in the bathroom, “they are in the house now, he kicked down the door, please, please” she screamed to the 911 operator.  She was strong enough to be loud enough.  They left.  She stayed put until the police arrived.  She gave them a solid description.  Four arrests already late tonight.  Four bond hearings tomorrow.  Thank God.  The invasion of a home cannot be aptly described.  It is only felt.  And the course of the journey set in motion thirty years ago today was not altered on this one, only confirmed.  Above every THING that could have been taken and destroyed, the love that built this house is stronger than a busted door frame and deadbolt, and through it all, still, it is more than enough.  It is everything.

Happy May 6, Honey.  WE are strong today.  And we bore children strong enough to know how to lean on each other.  I think they’ve been watching us.

In Praise of Sleeping Together

IMG_3287

I am most impressed with my wife when she is sleeping.

When insomnia strikes, “paying attention to it” is the worst course of remedy she tells me, but then again, how would she know?  She’s never, as long as I have been sleeping with her, suffered the torture of a repeated self inflicted beating about the head with the rolled up and crinkled mantra “I’m not sleeping” while one is currently non asleep.

When she goes to sleep it’s like watching David write the lyrics to Hymn 23.  She drifts away quickly, sometime too quickly.  And if she wakes up to adjust a pillow or process the nights Chardonnay, she rarely remembers the interruption, and if she does, it doesn’t matter.  That’s talent.  And inner peace. I dig it.

When she wakes up in a little while, and sees that I am not crumpled in a heap next to her, she’ll know the Sandman missed me again.

And this too shall pass, my sleeplessness.  Everything happens in seasons.  But I thought it relevant to connect the dots between insomnia and our dating life.  After all, “Tired” is in this blog’s title.  And whichever label I give to the anxieties making my three AM mind serpentine like a teenage driver dodging squirrels in the road, this is the stuff of middle age marriage, so therefore, normal.

I have always hated the term “marriage bed.”  It’s simultaneously corny and gross, evoking velvet rope or crime scene tape being draped around an event that may or may not have been well attended.  Jerry and Elaine once had a negotiation on Jerry’s couch about “sleeping” having nothing to do with “sleeping together.”  At which time they retreated to not “sleep” together.  And in the end they were proven to be relational idiots.

scan0010


Photo taken by Grace Ann Roberts, Rainbow Place, Nashville, 1997

So bang the drum for sleeping, literally, together. When one can’t, the other usually can, and that is perhaps the best definition of a partnership I can think of.  And that ain’t nothin.

Good morning.

Hitting the Wall


Provision

We hit the wall.  In August.  No disrespect intended our double date companions.  They are lovely people. Kathleen is an effervescent conversationalist and Dr. Lee is still sporting a soul patch in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve which makes him almost the most interesting man in the world.

But the August Tired Date almost didn’t happen.

We were, aptly, tired.

Of mostly everything.

And maybe even each other.  A little.  But you should read on.

In the two months leading up to August, the majority of Aly’s time was spent tending the apron strings between her and our firstborn Grace Ann who would matriculate to the University of South Carolina on the 17th.  While my wife and daughter stuck to their schedule of Monday, Wednesday, Friday and every other Sunday trips to Target, I preoccupied myself with a wholehearted largess of malaise. Even though Grace Ann would be relocating to a dorm room just five miles from our home as the crow, or stork, flies, the move represented something as yet un-experienced in our lives: one of our children would succinctly and intentionally place both feet beyond our threshold into a world largely of her own choice.

That’s heavy.

And normal.

For weeks our ears stayed attuned to the whispering psyche that said, among other things, “she’s leaving the nest, she will be alright, you are getting old, and your checking account is overdrawn again.”  I hate how that voice mixes the metaphysical with the mundane.

Although not by design, Aly and I went through a relational desert of sorts this summer.  She headed for the hills to deal with her adjustment in solitude, and I went looking for her in the usual oasis.  Neither was where we wanted the other to be.  Sucked.

We became so preoccupied with our circumstance we almost forgot our vow, not to this blogging experiment, but to the one at our wedding; specifically, the one that said, “will you love, honor and cherish one another…when your kids grow up and leave the nest and you cry a lot because you aren’t where you thought you’d be but you love where you are…will you love, honor and cherish one another… because your kids are magnificent and your marriage survives and your faith in God and each other grows through circumstance that you cannot fathom from the perch on this tender wedding altar…will you?”

And then some friends called with a life raft of fellowship they had no idea we needed, which is not an overstatement for the sake of language.  If a metaphor could be applied to our marriage for most of the summer, it would be a sailing one, with the apt descriptor called “dead calm.”  There was no great trauma in our lives’, we were still afloat, even with good provisions on board.  But most days all we had energy for was sitting still.  Not much energy for each other. Dead Calm.

But that’s normal too.

And the trick is staying on board until the winds pick up and you sail again.

One daughter lives in a college dorm now.  A son is learning to drive.  Another daughter looks like a professional ballerina.  They will always be our kids, but they won’t be kids forever.


Their toys are much more expensive now.

And of the many things I hope for their future, one of the most profound dreams I have for them is their net worth in friendships.  For twenty-three years our marriage, like the August Tired Date, has been enriched by friends.

I couldn’t imagine it any other way.  So Thanks, all of y’all.  You know who you are.

And God said, “That is good.”

Plural Dating

When Alyson and I married twenty-three years ago we were the youngest of adults, both a few months past our twenty-second birthday.  From our vantage point now, I would say we were kids at the altar.

Now, we have kids of our own, and with each passing day they live closer to their adult years than their childhood ones.

My sweet wife is now the shortest member of the family. Again.

And while that may seem like a strange way to begin a tome about our most recent Tired Date, a double with fun friends, I know of no other way than to name the overwhelming context of our lives right now: time flies.  And it is scary.

It’s true.  We are afraid.  Granted, we love Jesus.  We pray to God.  We worship regularly.  And as yet, we haven’t found the magic button that eliminates our fist clenching frustration at bouncing checks.  We lament some of our dreams more apt to be crossed off the list than realized, much less attempted.  Our career angst is palpable.  Our retirement plans are but a whiff of smoke in a wind tunnel.  And the kids, well, we have never been here before, raising a middle school-er, a high school-er, and a collegian at the same time, so wondering if we are doing it right is a daily question.

So while you may think our double date with Chris and Lisa A. was just that, a momentary diversion from the rote survival of every day, think again.  In a way, it was salvation, and I do mean the eternal kind.  See, without divulging any of their stuff, I will tell you here that doing life with people who are walking a similar path is not only a good idea, but essential to health.  And that is Gospel, because at its very core it is communal.  The best marriages I know aren’t lived in a vacuum, but rather, in community.

With Chip and Jo…we had no idea how tired we would all be twenty three years later.

Comfort of any kind starts with the elimination of loneliness.  I cannot imagine doing life without dear couples that have accepted our invitation to live seasons with us and have invited us to do the same.

While I won’t list the brilliant names of friends dating back to 1989, I will say an existential ‘thank you’ to all of them by way of thanking Chris and Lisa for going to dinner and a movie with us while embodying the spirit of what we love in all our dearest friends: authenticity.

And Chris, in closing, I do want to thank you for an act of friendship that no man, let alone any person, has ever provided me.  When I was looking at our photos from Saturday night, I noticed a special gesture on your part.  While I took the picture at the movie theater, you placed your hand on my seat to keep it warm.

Real men keep their buddy’s seat warm

Wow. No fear, a tad creepy, but oh so authentic.  Thanks man.

Don’t Mess with Jess(e)

Take the Poll…   This is Science!

109 Degree Date…by Aly

It’s all worth it.

After missing our date in May I felt like we really needed to do something special and different.  So I thought I would beat Kevin to the punch for a over the top romantic (within a tight budget) date for June. I had no idea what to do, and then the miracle of television provided an answer. I somehow caught a commercial for Clausen’s Inn on between folding laundry and Yoga Booty Ballet.  A weekend package included dinner at our favorite restaurant, champagne and strawberries, and, of course, breakfast.  Father’s Day was coming up, we still had not been on a June date, and I wasn’t about to buy him the yard yeti he wanted at the local garden store!

He really wants one…in OUR yard!

On Father’s Day I rolled up the reservations with a gold ribbon and presented my grand date gesture.  Surprise!  I hit a homerun!  He wasn’t expecting it at all.  Yay, me!  I can do this romantic thing… I just can’t keep it up very long; my pragmatic tendencies naturally come out.  Like many women in the “mommy mode,” I am good at survival, meeting basic needs, thinking of worst-case scenarios, and planning for disasters, or dinner, whichever comes first.  But I can do “romantic” for a day.

We made our date for June 29th, just under the wire.  Whew, back on good “Tired Dating” schedule.  Even the heat wasn’t going to stop this romantic night.  Columbia hit a record 109 on Friday which meant the “loft” room I reserved was a tad warm upon check-in… the thermostat in our sweet retreat room read 90..  We ended up moving to a smaller but cooler room.  Adapt.  And move on.  Good mommy’s do that.

I highly recommend overnight dates!  Even just a few miles from home.  You can truly get away from all the things that pull you in opposite directions from your spouse.  You can focus on each other and stay in “date mode” longer.  After champagne and strawberries, we walked to the restaurant from the hotel, had a lovely meal, and enjoyed the stroll back afterward.  No getting in the car and driving home to kid chaos.

Ellie Kate is a Squatch. Jake has a box on his head. And GA is just done. Mommy radar is always on.

I have to admit I was still checking on the kids until I knew they were all safe at home for the night.  The mommy radar is always on and maybe that is what has promoted my pragmatic mode for all these years; but every once in a while I can push that mommy out of the way and support my inner romantic.  If you are a mommy, and you are tired, that means you need a date too.  Just do it.