50 Years for Better or Worse

Excuse my perverse sense of humor. Image via Wikipedia

My in-laws celebrate fifty years of marriage this year and each family member was asked to write something to them.

December, 2010

Dear Bonnie & Terry, 

I must say how much I have been blessed by a marriage that is relatively easy — For Tom and me, it was a joining of two people’s lives that made complete and total sense.  Growing up, my parent’s marriage seemed so hard, which I now know was as much a reflection on the people than the institution of marriage.

I am so grateful for the man that Tom is, the man you raised him to be and for his life experiences that have shaped him into the person he is today. But I know that much of his character was formed as child in your home and I am so grateful to you and to God for allowing him to grow up in a healthy home with Christian parents who loved one another!

When I think of you two, I feel I feel more than a little awe.  Your partnership seems to work so well.  You two don’t talk a lot about your marriage — whether it has been easy or difficult.  There is so much I would like to know.  Your marriage seems to have a quiet strength.   I suppose the best testimony is the 50 years you have been together.  Yours has shown the test of time.  CS Lewis described that kind of love as not only a feeling but a deep unity, that must “be maintained by choice and will, and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parties ask, and receive, from God.”  It is clear that you made a choice a long time ago and you work daily to support and reinforce it.  “This quieter love enables people to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” (Mere Christianity)

When I think of you two, I think of that deep unity and the quiet love that Lewis speaks of and I know that it must have been a daily choice to make it this long!  But more than simply choosing because it is the right thing to do, you both seem to be happy in your marriage.  My parents certainly loved each other, but they had a strange relationship.  It was a puzzle to me why they stuck it out when they often seemed so miserable.  But you all have been together for more than fifty years and you seem to enjoy your life!  That’s a great example to us and to our kids.

Recently I read an article that said in a committed relationship roughly two-thirds of the problems are unresolvable.  That’s daunting when you think of it, but especially in a coventant of marriage where you plan to stay together until death parts you. 

You two seem to be quite different and yet you have made a good life together.   Whatever it is that you have found, it works and it is a joy to see you share your lives together happily.  Although we cannot hope to resolve every problem, being committed to a person and to the life that you want to build together, seems to be the key.

May your lives continue to be an example to us and to your grandchildren for many, many years to come.

I love and admire you both.


I Don’t Know (A poem)

And from my eleven year old son, Dylan:

Happy anniversary Grandma and Grandpa. 

I hope you have had a wonderful 50 years together. And that you have many more years. I think you are nice and generous people. Thank you for being my grandparents.  

Love, Dylan

From my nine year old, Jacob (with a little help from his parents.)

 Dear Grandma and Grandpa — Thank you for coming to Wisconsin in the middle of he winter and for all the trips you have made here from warm Florida.  You are fun and kind.  I love you.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for coming to stay with us and taking care of us when my parents go on trips!  You do a good job.  I am glad that you are my dad’s parents!  Love- Jacob


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He did not wait …

He did not wait . . .

till hearts were pure.  In joy he came

to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.

To a world like ours, of anguished shame

he came, and his Light would not go out.

— from “First coming” by Madeleine L’Engle

Kids have been asking for weeks “When’s Christmas? How many days!?”  And yesterday, when Jacob and I went to do a little last minute shopping he asked again.  “What will we do tomorrow?”  I told him the plan, including going to church.  “Don’t we go to church on Sunday?” he asked me.

It is really difficult to help children understand what Christmas is really about, when the holiday seems to be about gifts, food and activity.  We spend all our time baking and shopping but still, I hope at some point it will sink in that the reason we celebrate at all is that Christ was born! 

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.” (Gospel of Luke)  

That is the message I tell my son, the word spoken to John the Baptist and this is our calling as well — don’t you agree? 

“We are enslaved, by selfishness and addiction and all the wreckage that sin can wreak on the world, but are we willing to risk being freed?  Do we dare enter that dangerous new country, leaving sure comforts behind?  Perhaps it is time to surrender, open our hearts, and accept the wonder of Christmas by saying, with Karl Rahner, “We have no choice.  God is with us.”  (Kathleen Norris, God With Us.)

It took me a long time, years, to pull back enough from Christmas as a season so that I could truely understand and experience Advent.  I pray for us all that this will be true as we experience Christmas Eve today.