Some Thoughts Upon 14 Years of Marriage

Today I’ve been married for fourteen years to a man I’ve been in love with for nearly twenty.

Z & E laughing color

Judging by the length of my hair and nails, this photo was taken Christmas 2000, five years after we started dating, and just a few days before we got married. I was twenty, he was twenty-two.

Life is still like this for us. Still full of joy and laughter. We are rarely at odds. And while I appreciate the sentiment that “marriage is hard work,” I have not found it to be so. That’s not because we’re super special people. We’ve been incredibly blessed in life to avoid some of the tough situations that tend to put couples at odds. But it’s also because we still strive to put one another first, to honor the other above ourselves. And the reason we do that is because the first will be last and the greatest of all is the servant of all. And the times we have quarreled? Usually it amounts to one or both of us being a little self-centered.

We have many challenges ahead of us raising a sweet son who will eventually be a surly teenager who makes some poor choices. We both have dreams we are working toward that may or may not pan out as we’d hoped. There are mounting sorrows the longer you live as people close to you experience financial or marital distress, suffer failing health, and eventually die. But we walk the road of life together, hand in hand, one pulling the other back up onto his or her feet when we stumble, always looking for the path that is laid out for us together rather than focusing solely on our own ambition.

I’m so thankful to have Zachary in my life, and if I try to imagine what my life might have been like without him, it is a dark and lonely place indeed.

Entering a Season of Joyful Anticipation

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m still recovering from a fantastic extended weekend of great food, family, friends new and old, and lots and lots of cleaning up. I managed to somehow be involved in three Thanksgivings: one at my in-laws’ with fifteen people; a quick visit to my aunt & uncle’s house to see them, my parents, and one of my cousins; and one at home a couple days later with eleven people that I actually prepared singlehandedly.

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It ended up being a very multicultural Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law invited four international students who wouldn’t be able to be home over the holiday. Our Kenyan friend Grace we have known since she was nine and her father Jeremiah was attending seminary in Grand Rapids. She brought three friends: Korean Grace who grew up in China, Korean Grace who grew up in India, and Nigerian Oyin who grew up in Nigeria. The meal we had at our home on Sunday night was our little family and eight Bhutanese-Nepali friends from one of the congregations that uses our church building for their church services.

It was fun to share the story of the first Thanksgiving with our Nepali friends who had never heard it. And it was fun to discover, through my mother-in-law’s careful genealogical research over many years, that my husband Zach has two ancestors who were actually on the Mayflower! Thinking about that distant connection gave new meaning to the very old story.

And as Advent began on Sunday, Zach (who is also my pastor, in case you didn’t know) made a poignant connection for me. The same distance in time that exists between us modern Americans and the Mayflower existed between the close of the Old Testament and the coming of Christ as a baby in the manger. Four hundred years. Four hundred years from when God said this:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” – Malachi 4:5-6

to when God said this:

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” – Luke 1:13-17

I think about those four hundred years of waiting, listening, wishing for a word from one’s God, wishing for fulfillment of a promise. And I believe I shall think on it all during Advent, in a time in our world when it can feel like God is silent and everyone simply does “what is right in his own eyes.”

Tonight we’ll finally have time to decorate the house for Christmas. On our pre-lit tree, I believe there are four hundred lights. One tiny light for every dark year of anguished waiting. Altogether they make a bright and beautiful light and will point me toward the one Light that was soon to make His humble entrance into His creation, in order to redeem it.

The Trouble with Old Cats

We recently discovered (after a series of incredibly painful tests) that our six-year-old son is allergic to both of our pets, especially our cat. We’re trying a medication, we’ve banned both dog and cat from the second story where our bedrooms are, and I have been attempting to be more obsessive about vacuuming than feels natural. Lastly, I have been looking for a new home for our twelve-year-old cat.

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Yesterday, we were thinking (hoping) we’d found it. Lydia went home with a newer acquaintance of mine who is sweet and loving and who was looking for a friend for her older cat.

Today, Lydia came home again.

Here’s the trouble with old cats–or at least my old cat: she is set in her ways, used to her own home and family, and not interested in making new friends, apparently.

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Despite the fact that every attempt was made by her new potential family to introduce the cats the right way (separate rooms, etc.) Lydia was very open about her displeasure, hissing, growling, biting, escaping, fighting…you get the picture.

She is obviously a one-cat-household cat.

So now we know.

And now we have our Lydia back.

The trouble with old cats is that, much like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, all ways are their ways. They are tiny, furry tyrants. If cats were people, I doubt anyone would tolerate them long. But they’re cats. So they can behave as they wish, and we will still take them back.

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Coming Up for Air

For the past couple weeks, I have been mired in some rather tedious work that I won’t bore you with. Suffice to say, it may be a few more days before I can get my brain or camera back into working order. I will say that my weekends have been beautiful and tragic and backbreaking and relaxing, practically all at once. Two Friday evenings ago, I started ripping out sad tufts of grass from the very back of our backyard, moved about fifty large blocks out to expand the shade gardens, dug a long trench, and repositioned the blocks. It was hot, sweaty, mosquito-infested work.

Saturday morning I meant to go to church to plant some ornamental grasses and help mow the lawn, but as I was closing the lift gate on my Explorer, I accidentally ripped the thing off, which, as you can imagine, was fairly surprising. I caught the 50 pounds of window, etc. and stood there wondering what to do with it. I couldn’t put it down because it was still attached by a bunch of wires for the electric and one of the shocks. I ended up wrenching it from the other shock, maneuvering it into the back of the hatch, and fashioning a tarp cover for the gaping hole so as not to let the rain in that was expected the next day. Since no body shop in our entire city is apparently open on Saturday, I went back to the garden and worked six hours, digging up/dividing/transplanting what became 99 plants (I counted), and again got sweaty and buggy and dirty.

But Sunday–ah, Sunday!–was bliss. Gorgeous weather (after some helpful morning rain) and it was church, baseball game with friends, cookout, cigars, and great conversation into the evening. Fantastically relaxing.

Then after another mind-numbing week working on (and finally finishing!) copy for a few hundred books I’ve never read, my mother and I went to visit my almost-97-year-old great aunt who is closing her house and looking for homes for most of her treasures. I came home with a quilt that her mother (my great great grandmother) made from her and my grandma’s old childhood dresses, some teacups her mother bought on trips, some beautiful linens her mother had embroidered, a couple antique cameras, vintage aprons, and more. I also purchased her dining room set and was then faced with the problem of getting it halfway across the state.

Did you know that U-Haul will not rent trailers to you if you’re going to hitch them to an Explorer? True story. But an old friend on the west side of the state came through with his own trailer (which he pulls behind an Explorer) and on Friday we managed to get table, six chairs, corner china cabinet, and sideboard to my house in one piece. Some Old English and some Pledge and the set looks very happy in my home. So now Great Great Grandma Koch’s lovely linens can continue their useful lives on the very table they’ve graced for the past 68 years.

Saturday and Sunday were days of perfect weather, time with my boys celebrating one of the best dads I think there has ever been, and the prospect of returning to work this week with that gargantuan one-time (until the next time?) task checked off my list. I’m very happy with my lovely redesigned and expanded garden, the ability to keep some special things in the family, and a lot more storage space in the dining room. I’ve got my work cut out for me in the garden still this week. Every weed will be pulled in anticipation of 10 yards of mulch being delivered soon.

And then I guess I’ll be shoveling and spreading mulch for the rest of the month. :P

What are you doing with your summer days?