Gratitude, Curiosity, and the Spirit

At precisely this time, 48 years ago, I was running some last-minute errands  in preparation for our wedding, which would be happening later at 3:00 pm,  December 14, 1974. I was at the store with a friend trying to find a blue garter (what a stupid tradition that was). Wyndham was playing a game of flag football with friends. What else would a groom do on his wedding day? I had just finished my last final of the quarter the day before (the UF used quarters rather than semesters). I had little time for wedding prep, as I had taken a heavy load of 22 hours to finish my studies early to move to join Wyndham. I had seen him once since our engagement in July, as he had moved to North Carolina to begin a new ministry. Though we wrote to each other often, we talked every other week. Long-distance calls were costly. I was a student and he was making 7k per year. (No worries, we got an increase to nearly 9k/year after we married. 🙂 We had to be creative for sure.) This would be my last day ever living in Gainesville, Florida. I would marry and permanently move away from my hometown. Two days later, I would see my first snow.

As I reflect on the precious years I had with my beloved husband, the main emotion I feel is gratitude. So much gratitude. Life wasn’t always easy, but the love and life we shared were beautiful. The last painful years during Wyndham’s illness were rich and precious, though incredibly difficult and even traumatic. I hold them as sacred. Wyndham will always be part of me…it would be impossible for it to be otherwise, and I am grateful he is forever part of me. But life is now quite different.

Three words that best describe my current state of being are gratitude, curiosity, and Spirit. I feel grateful and in awe of the beauty of creation. I feel grateful for the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience,… These are gifts from God. I cannot manufacture them. And what amazing gifts these are. Who else but God can give these?! I am grateful for daily food and water (especially combined with coffee beans) and so much more…so many blessings. I am grateful for my family and my friends. The relationships with my children and their families fill me with inexpressible joy. I love my cozy home and a place to stay warm. I love water, mountains, and sunsets. I’m thankful for animals…especially my Golden buddy, Denver. I’m grateful for the senses God gives me and for words and books and imagination. (I hope next week to share books read in 2022 and gleanings from a few of them.)

I love to learn. I understand more than ever before how much I do not know and cannot ever understand, and yet I long to learn more. The more I learn, the more amazed I become with God. I learn through life experiences, reading, observation, conversations with others, remembering, mistakes, listening more closely than I used to, and by making space to hear and experience God through His Spirit in my life. I value and am thankful for my deep dive into spiritual formation as I enter the final year of my doctoral program. I’m also learning through a Christian coaching certification program. I’m amazed at all there is to learn. I am grateful for curiosity. More than ever, I am gobsmacked (I often think of this word for astonishment as “God-smacked”…in the best way….as if God is saying, “Hey, do you even see what I am doing here?”) that God not only sent Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us…But, gave His Spirit as God in us. A reality, not a metaphor. To know that God became human so I could share His divinity is mind-boggling. This transforming reality requires serious thought and meditation.

So today, I thank you, Wyndham, for our shared precious memories. Little did I know what would lie ahead 48 years ago, but there is no one with whom I would have rather shared 45  of those years. Thank you, God, for always being not only by my side, but inside. I hold on to precious memories, but today, though my eyes may mist a time or two,  they make me smile in gratitude. And stay curious, my friends…marveling and relying on God within.

Thirty-Seven Years

How do you tell someone you have loved for nearly forty years that you love them…in such a way that you really express the depth of your heart?  I met my husband 40 years ago when my “then boyfriend”  invited him to church with us.  He was the resident adviser in the dorm where my boyfriend lived.  His girlfriend went to school in another state and so we often invited him to do stuff with us.  We became best friends…and the rest is history.  As today we celebrate our 37th anniversary, I feel like the most blessed woman in the world.  Genesis 2:24

December 14, 1974

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

I’m so grateful for God’s plan for  husband and wife to be united as one person, as repeated again in the New Testament.  I’m also amazed at God’s plan for His dearly loved church.  The lessons are endless.

Ephes. 5:31-32

    “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” [32] This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.

However, today I want to express gratitude to my husband.  I fell in love with him because of his integrity and sincerity.  I loved the way he loved God with such passion, had courage to obey the truth he read about in the Bible, and led from a tender and serving heart.  His spirituality and God-given wisdom was evident.  I deeply respected him from the beginning of the time I got to know him.  He was (is) also very athletic, smart and handsome, which I also admire(d).  37 years later I still feel the same way, only the feelings have grown exponentially.  The following poem, by my favorite poet, Edgar Guest, was read at our wedding:

     It takes a lot of living in a house to make it a home,
A lot of sun and and shadows, and you sometimes have to roam
Before you really appreciate the things you left behind
And hunger for them somehow, with them always on your mind.
     It doesn’t make any difference how rich you get to be,
How much your chairs and tables cost, how great your luxury;
It isn’t home yet, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow your soul is sort of wrapped around everything.
     Home isn’t a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Before it’s a home there’s got to be a lot of living in it;
Within the walls there’s got to be some babies born, and then
Right there you’ve got to bring them up to women good, and men;
     And gradually as time goes on, you find you wouldn’t part
with anything they ever used- they’ve grown into your heart:
The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
You’d hoard; and if you could you’d keep the thumb-marks on the door.
     You’ve got to weep to make it home, you’ve got to sit and sigh
And watch beside a loved one’s bed, and know that death is nigh;
And in the stillness of the night to see death’s angel come,
And close the eyes of she that smiled, and leave her sweet voice dumb.
     For these are scenes that grip the heart, and when your tears are dried,
You find the home is dearer than it was, and sanctified;
And tugging at you always are the pleasant memories
Of those that are no more – you can’t escape from these.
     You’ve got to sing and dance for years, you’ve got to romp and play,
And learn to love the things you have by using them each day;
Even the roses around the porch must blossom year by year
Before they become a part of you, suggesting someone dear
     Who used to love them long ago, and trained them just to run
The way they do, so they would get the early morning sun;
You’ve got to love each brick and stone from cellar up to dome:
It takes a lot of living in a house to make it home.

Adapted from “It Takes A Heap ‘a Livin” by Edgar Guest

I believe this expresses well so many sentiments that have made our love even sweeter as the years go by.  Every year, every event…happy or sad, and however difficult or even easy… has added depth to the stones and mortar of our home.  Wherever in the world I am with my husband – is home to me.  I am so grateful that our marriage and family is built on the foundation of God and His word.  This is what has made it strong.

 Joshua 24:15

    But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”