Archive for category: Marriage Letters

A Marriage Letter on Dancing Circus Poodles

From time to time, Amber and I pen letters to each other as a way to memorialize the truth. Today seemed like a good day.

*****

Dear Amber,

The college students have returned to Fayetteville, descended on the town like a million ants on a spent apple core. I love their annual infiltration; they come carrying the heat of their passions along with them, whether tucked away in the trunk compartments of their uber-hip motor scooters, or filed inside of retro-Trapper Keepers in their super-cool backpacks, or logically categorized on the hard drives of Macs.  We both love the energy and sense of wonder they bring, their unquenchable passion for the issue du jour, the ironic inquisitive statements that post-cede each and every turn of declarative phrase. Right?

Yes, they are potential miracles, these young ones.

Yesterday, I spotted two freshman in the coffee shop, each trying the other on for size. They were trying on their big-boy and big-girl concepts, too, concepts like justice, and mercy, and international relations.  The boy had lost neither his ruddy cheeks nor his chain-link teeth, and his eyes were locked on a girlish thought-monger across the table. She was coming into her own grand epiphanies, the most recent of which involved the crisis in the Middle East. Working out  the pros and cons of “to missile or not to missile” (that truly is the question), she declared “there’s just no good solution.” For effect, she tossed her hair over her shoulder in that smart-is-sexy sort of way worn by this new crop of young ‘uns.

He swirled the dregs of his empty cup, searching for the answer.  Under the table, her naked feet were propped on his naked feed. Their Chacos were stacked one on top of the other, on top of the other, on top of the other–his, then hers, then his other, then her other–in a sort of flip-flop foreshadowing. I could see the furrowing brow of his worthy intellect distracted by her feminine wiles. 

“I know, right?” he muttered, blank-faced. It was all he could offer. 

The poor boy.

For all he cared, his companion could have been talking about dancing circus poodles as easily as sectarian violence. I don’t suppose he heard a word she said. Likely, he was dreaming more of canoodling with her on the couch while Wolf Blitzer provided some background ambiance. (Ah, Blitzer–that master of breaking it down in the Situation Room.)

I suppose I was that boy once, too.

Do you remember those days? Back then, we weren’t discussing the efficacy of missile strikes or “national security.” (Those were the pre-911 days, after all.) Instead, we walked in the October sleet holding hands as you ticked off your favorite Ben Harper songs, or recounted your Memphis in May experience, or counted the ways in which you loved Romeo and Juliet.  I nodded along as if I was hanging on your every word, but here’s what I’ve never admitted: you could have just as easily been talking about dancing circus poodles as easily as Romeo and Juliet so long as we were walking together.

That’s how it was in those days.

Things change. We’ve moved from discussing the rhythms of Ben Harper and Dave Matthews, and have settled into the rhythms of life. The business of raising four boys has set in, and there’s barely a lick of time for anything outside of familial obligation. Fifteen years into this thing, and we’ve found ourselves marching to the 4/4 cadence of responsibility.

Wake, coffee, breakfast, keys.

School, work, lunch, karate.

Supper, children, tea, sleep.

Wake, coffee, breakfast, keys.

The rhythm can be monotonous, especially for a couple of free spirits who’ve always tried to take the road less traveled. True to form, though, you squeeze the very last minute out of every night, try to wring out one last discovery, one last song, one last episode of Fringe. “I don’t want to go to sleep,” you say, “I’m not ready for the rhythm to start over.”

I get it.

Solid rhythms, though, are part of maturity. They give us structure, a driving cadence, and the truth is, we’ve got a pretty good beat going here. I suppose I’m glad we started this goofy band together.

One day, we’ll be back in those coffee shops, children grown and obligations relaxed. You’ll likely be pondering Dickinson, or Oliver, or by that time the Poet of the People, John Blase. Our rhythms will have changed to a more a free-flowing swing, the obligations of raising children and career having faded into positions of lesser importance. I’ll pretend to listen to you, but the truth is, you can talk about dancing circus poodles for all I care, so long as you hold my hand across the table, or stack our Chacos in a leaning tower under the table.

Circus Afro,

Seth

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To Amber (A Marriage Letter)

From time to time, Amber and I pen letters to each other as a way to memorialize the truth. I haven’t done it in a while. I thought today seemed like as good a day as any.

*****

Dear Amber,

I suppose we’ve seen some things over the years, eh?

Remember the early days? Remember when you hoped only to write poetry for a living? You plotted your course by a north star of poetic publication knowing that it would lead to little more than extravagant obscurity and luxurious starvation. Ah, you! Back then you had this penchant for trading the pragmatic for the creative. I loved that about you.

I wanted nothing less than to write music for the Christian artists in Nashville (boy, was that embarrassing to type), but settled instead for the steady paycheck of a youth ministry position (aint that a gas?). Remember how I had to teach that seminar on secular music? It was tricky business to encourage a group of fairly-decent kids to give up their Dave Matthews and Oasis when I kept a Jimmie Hendrix CD deftly hidden between the seat and console of that old Accord. (Speaking of which, if you were a teenager in my previous youth group and you are reading this letter, count that last sentence as a confession.) Thinking back on that story, I reckon it’s good we got out of that game. I suppose it’s likewise just as well that I never made it as a songwriter. And anyway, what with all the times we’ve moved, what-ever would I have done with all of those Dove awards?

On the move. Here we are, still on the move. Things have changed. Hopefully we’ve matured a bit, but here we are still with hot feet, still looking for the right place to settle and call “home.” That youth-ministry position wasn’t home, and we both knew it. Your masters degree in fine arts wasn’t home either, and we both knew it. And though early passions have given way to the adult practicalities of life–boy raising and career building–I think we’re closer to figuring out what “home” means to us.

And, as an aside, I still think you’ll write a grand book of poetry one day.

It’s been thirteen and three-quarters years now, and I feel like we’re finally starting to settle into a groove. Last night we sat on the couch and read, and wrote, and listened to Neil Young and Simon and Garfunkel. It was easy and nice. I didn’t feel the pressure to churn out another song, nor you to write the perfect poem. After all, I’m no longer gunning for a Dove award, and you know you’ll write your best poetry in a season to come (Lord willing). Sometimes the lack of urgency in can be a sort of salve, eh?

I feel like we’re earning the patina of marriage, and I’m starting to see the first glimpses of it (no jokes about the gray in my beard, here!). I suppose this whole letter is just a way to say that even though our hopes and dreams have shifted, though we’ve morphed into folks that I’m not sure my twenty-two year old self would have recognized, though we’ve tried a couple of time to wound each other right-good, I still like you. Whether we ever find the perfect home or not–I still like you. Whether you ever write a Pulitzer-worthy book of poetry or not–I still like you. Whether it’s Neil Young, or Simon and Garfunkel, or simply the sounds of silence themselves–I still like you.

This letter is just the wood carving in the tree. It’s finger-writing in concrete. It’s the signpost to remind you–I’ll always like you best. First, too.

Write a poem on a napkin today,

Seth

*****

candles1

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Marriage Letters–Enduring Together

We continue our Marriage Letters series. Today Amber and I write on the topic “Enduring loss together….”  Will you write your spouse today? Will you call them by their true and proper names?

***

“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him, and opened his mouth and he taught them saying… blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  ~Matthew 5:1-2 & 4

Dear Amber,

We have lost.

It’s one of the things that’s certain–life is but a vapor.  If you don’t brace for the glory of the hereafter, it sneaks up on you and robs you blind.  We all know that; we’ve all experienced that in degrees.  For today, I’ll leave that topic to those who have struggled with more intimate losses, to those who are struggling with it.

To them, I’ll just say grace and peace and leave it at that.

We’ve endured different kinds of losses.  We’ve burried ideals, laid them to rest.  Health, wealth, the movements of the church, family notions–they’ve all been put down, drowned deep in the river.  The death of ideals can be difficult and lonely.

Maybe those losses are the most difficult to endure.  Often, we can’t point to the culprit.  After all, we never placed tangible ashes of “ideals” in a tangible box and slid them into a tangible columburium.  Sometimes the loss of the ideals takes months or years to discover. Disillusionment can be an arduous process.  Dying to self can be excruciating if not transforming.

Together, we have stuck it out.  We counted these losses as the cost of discipleship. We’ve mourned what we thought was the stuff of life.  We’ve mourned the loss of innocence and the sin that so easily entangles.  We’ve mourned who we were.  In that, we’ve burrried a bit of ourselves.  But we’re still here.  We’re here and we’re comforted.  We’re comforted because the truth is always more satisfying than the ideal.

Still standing with you,

Seth

***

Please join AmberJoyScott, and me as we celebrate the truth about marriage. Every Monday in April we’re writing letters because we believe that when we bless our own marriage, we bless the marriages of others. If you write a post, share your link at Joy’s place today. Thank you for joining us.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Marriage Letters–I Trust You Because Trust Sanctifies

We continue our Marriage Letters series. Today Amber and I write on the topic “I trust you because….”  Will you write your spouse today? Will you call them by their true and proper names?

***

Dear Amber,

Trust was a bridge we tried to burn a long time ago. We could name the breaches, the sins that so easily entangled, but I’m not sure it would serve much of a purpose at this point. It’s enough to say that when the truth came screaming into the light, it was easy to ask the question, “did I ever really know you?”

Trust is the victim of a lover’s vulnerability. We both know that. And in the wake of sin it would be easy to imagine a wasteland, to construct a nuclear winter and say things like, “I’ll never trust you again.” But words like that are only walls around the heart; they only serve to protect you from future pain. At the same time, those words hang the sword of disgrace perilously over the head of the offender. In the end, distrust is everyone’s prison.

***

Distrust is fortified city of narcissism.

Distrust is a sharpened dagger.

Distrust is a trip-line in the dark.

***

When God trusted all creation with such a great love, he knew men would hang it on a cross and mock it. I daresay that he was not surprised at the final outcome, he knew it from the beginning. But he exposed himself, allowed his trust to be betrayed so that men could see the truth–hope and freedom rise from the ashes of broken trust. And though God had the divine right to write us off, to build grand walls around heaven and keep us in separation, he used these breaches for our very sanctification.

That is divine.

I trust you. That trust leaves me exposed, I know. It creates the potential for great pain. And though I don’t expect that you’ll breach that trust–at least not in any signficant way–it would be naive to assume that any human carries the capacity for perfect fidelity. So if our acts bring us to the edge of distrust, I’ll ask for divine love and grace. I’ll ask that any breach leads us to greater sanctification. I’ll ask that freedom rises from the ashes. I’ll look to the cross and the empty tomb as the metaphor. And ultimately, I’ll say that love and trust are different sides of the same holy coin.

Seth

***

Please join AmberJoyScott, and me as we celebrate the truth about marriage. Every Monday in April we’re writing letters because we believe that when we bless our own marriage, we bless the marriages of others. If you write a post, share your link at Amber’s place. Thank you for joining us.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Marriage Letters — The Names I Call You

We continue our Marriage Letters series. Today Amber and I write on “The Names I Call You.”  Will you write your spouse today? Will you call them by their true and proper names?

***

Dear Amber,

We’ve learned a powerful lesson or two, haven’t we?  We’ve learned that family vacations don’t come easily, that expectations can be an overwhelming thing, and that nothing says “comfort” like a stack of Beignets and a cup of coffee.  We’ve also learned that sometimes words spoken take shape.  And lest you think I’m headed down an Olsteenian road of health and wealth, your best life now, and spiritual lollipops and unicorns (hogwash), just hold tight.

Do you remember that night I called you ungrateful, when I spoke in  overly paternal tones? You were crushed, bent low, and I suppose that’s why you lashed out.  It was a short lived scuffle, but the sun certainly sunk on our anger.  I know that you doubted your disposition as you laid your head on our pillow that night.

The names we are called shape our self-image.  I know that shouldn’t be fact, that there’s a different gospel truth, but the reality remains–we’re only human.  So today, I’ll try to call you by honorable names, the true ones. And maybe they’ll bolster you, give you steel bones and a sturdy back.  I’ve heard that’s what the truth does.

You are strong.  I’ve seen you give birth to four children, watched you writhe through back labor each time.  You’ve confessed hard sin.  You’ve borne the confessions of others.  You have an iron resolve.  You always come through.

You are graceful.  You sit with the broken in ash heaps and speak the truth–”we’re all the same kind of screwed up,” you tell them.  You offer gospel hope and a cool water (or hot tea, depending on the occasion).  More than anything, you call them forgiven and remind them that our door is always open.

You are encouraging.  You tell the younger women that there is hope, that things get better with time.  They fumble around in the awkwardness of young marriage or first babies, and you remind them that they are fit to finish their callings.  You tell them to stick it out, that you’ll walk with them.  Sometimes, that is enough.

You are hopeful.  You are grateful. You are loving. You are smokin’ hot.

But more than anything, you are my best friend, and my buddy.  And that’s the name that means the most to me.

Sitting here wishing you’d volunteer to get me another cup of coffee,

Seth

***

Please join Amber, Joy, Scott, and me as we celebrate the truth about marriage. Every Monday in April we’re writing letters because we believe that when we bless our own marriage, we bless the marriages of others. If you write a post, share your link at Amber’s place. Thank you for joining us.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

© Copyright - Seth Haines