so much more than affordable.

It’s late.  Past eleven.  Everyone else is asleep, the last school night before Christmas break.  I am still up, writing, and waiting for the college girl to come home.  She just called.  “Hey dad, I’ll be home at 11:30.”  A gift without the need of unwrapping.

Last night Aly and I celebrated our twenty-third year and one day of marriage.  Sunday was too full to work in a tired date. Aly began the day on a Sunday School panel seated by our priest.  Aly is a School Psychologist, a job title until last Friday largely unknown in the national vernacular, and we would all rather it had stayed that way.  The Sabbath day ended with a youth group Christmas Party chaperoned by me, because, YOUTH is the funnest gig going at church, and I like it when church is fun.  Teenagers angling for the best White Elephant gift had never appeared so sacred.  They were all six years old once.  Thank God they made it this far.  Nothing is promised.

So against the best advice of Dave Ramsey, we went out on Monday night.  Not that he has anything against Monday, but he has built a career on debt free dining.  We went anyway, not as a riot against financial peace, but rather because we would have been sorry if we didn’t.

And forgive the comparison, but I thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s turn of the phrase “Cheap Grace vs. Costly Grace.”  Again, no disrespect intended, but these twenty-three years and a day have cost us something.  The conscious choices we have made were not the sum total of decisions for the sake of ease and financial gain. To not celebrate would be to disregard the value of the pile of moments that have gotten us to here.  It’s been work.  We still haven’t made it to the easy part.  And what is the fun of celebrating something that requires neither sweat of brow nor toil of hands?  “And David said to the owner of the threshing floor, ‘we will not offer a sacrifice which costs us nothing.’”

As I left for work this morning Aly told me she discovered a leak beneath our bathroom sink. I was immediately taken to the words of Jesus incarnate in the one called Erma Bombeck:  Worry is like a rocking chair.  It gives you something to do, but never gets you anywhere.

I exhaled worry and disgust for a moment.  Just add it to the list of required repairs.  Dammit!  And then I inhaled grace.  Grace to splurge on dinner.  Grace to see a solid marriage being built one repair after another.  And Grace to look back at this year of tired dates to see a Divine blueprint for a good marriage.  Maintenance required.

So there is a bucket beneath the p-trap, and a fan drying out the cabinet floor.

And I had lobster last night, she the Cobia.  And with wine, the meal was 134 dollars.  “Eat that Ramsey!”

Sucks for the Lobster, but it was goooood for the Anniversary couple.

Sucks for the Lobster, but it was goooood for the Anniversary couple.

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.”