It’s hard to believe a whole week has passed since my friend, Ruthie, left. Ruthie is my friend who, when I was roughly nine years old, used to be my enemy. Finally, our differences became something beautiful and we couldn’t live without each other. We’ve seen each other fall in love, experienced birth, death, joy and pain together. We have friend-shipped from afar, which has always felt a bit like sandpaper on my heart. So I thank God for those couple of years we had together where the only thing that separated us was a dusty African road we could walk by foot. About an hour after she, her husband, and four sweet kids drove away I realized our startling and horrifying overlook. We never took a picture together. This is a very long-standing tradition. Before digital. Before Wal-Mart one-hour-photo. This has been something we’ve done for the past twenty-three years (gulp). Giant hair bows, awful haircuts, crazy clothes, you name it. We have many photos together. But not this time. Regardless, we had a wonderful few days with their family, and nothing quite beats sharing our home and our life with people we love. It pretty much top dogs everything in life.
After they left, we went into town and the boys participated in a last-minute bike race in our neighborhood. Elijah came in 3rd place!
After the bang of fireworks that night, came the explosion of sickness to our house. It hasn’t quite left us yet, but it’s dying.
A few weeks ago Matthew and I were in great need of a date. Before we were married we were told: marriage takes work. Eleven years ago I knew it as an idea, but now I know it by experience. The night of our date we dropped the kids off at a babysitter’s, and headed out into the unknown. Little did we know… that was the problem. We’re usually pretty good about not having a plan. This particular night the hunger pangs and tiredness from a long week were starting to cloud our decision-making process. After a much-too-deliberated-upon discussion on where or what we should eat, things started going south. Details don’t matter at this point. After shooting down one of his ideas, he was in turn shot down, and we literally spent the rest of the evening not talking to each other. We drove East, hoping to find a good chicken BBQ, or maybe someone outside grilling from whom we could mooch a piece of meat. At that point, I didn’t really care. I would glare in his direction, thinking how insensitive he was being towards me, his wife. I would sniff. The tears would trickle down my cheeks. Silence. It was going down in history as the worst date of our married life. We finally ended up at a restaurant not even remotely my favorite, but I requested a salad from it anyway. We went home to eat it because I didn’t want to be seen in public wiping my snotty nose and glaring at my date. I banged around the kitchen and pulled a red plate out of the cupboard so at least I didn’t have to eat out of styrofoam. He grabbed a bag of carrot sticks from the fridge. Carrot sticks. That was about the last straw. If he sat next to me crunching those things while I indulged in a salad with pecan-crusted chicken, the tears would take their seventeenth journey down my face. Still without talking, I pulled out a second plate, split the salad between us, and we sat down to eat in silence. Fifteen minutes later it was time to pick up the kids. Of course, in the last few minutes we started to hash things out. We never did resolve whatever our problem was until the next day. Marriage takes work, they said. It also requires humility, selflessness, and making up, no matter how difficult it can be.
Fast forward to yesterday. Matthew had some work in Long Beach Island, NJ. His family was able to watch the kids so I could tag along with him. We enjoyed an amazing day together. I read my book while he worked, then after he finished his job he took me on a little surprise excursion. We went jet-skiing! I have since learned that a Jet Ski is actually made by Kawasaki and a Waverunner is made by Yamaha. I can’t quite remember which watercraft we actually used, but I think it was a jet ski. As we took off, I left my fear on the dock, embraced my twenty-year-old self, and held onto Matthew’s waist tightly. When we switched positions so I could drive, I revved that thing full throttle. I screamed and laughed and tossed all my worries into the swirling wake behind us as salt water sprayed my face and the wind whipped my hair into a million tangles. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time!
Keeping our marriage fresh takes work, they said. Sometimes the work is hard. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity or letting go of fear. Don’t get tired of doing what’s right, the Bible says. I think this can apply to our marriage. The next right thing may be saying you’re sorry. It may just mean going out for coffee together. Or it might mean finding the best chicken BBQ in your county. Whatever it is, don’t give up.