Archive for category: Marriage

A Weekend Away

This weekend Amber and I stole away. It’s been some time since we’ve been alone for any extended duration, and the last year has taken a toll on us, what with Titus’ medical issues and all. Some people say that marriage gets easier as you get older; others say it gets more difficult. The way I see it, marriage is the same difficult it’s always been. There were challenges in the beginning, there are challenges now, and there will be challenges to come, sure as rain. This being so, we try to get away and recharge every now and then.

We asked my mother whether she’d come and give us a break from the chaos that is World Haines. She graciously and mercifully (thankfully) agreed. My mother is a brave woman, perhaps even a saint. My four boys are the sweetest, most gentle walking fire hazards this side of the Rockies.

Amber and I started our weekend with dinner and a movie. The way we see it, every good date starts with a good story. And while on the topic of movies, let me say that we typically avoid overly sentimental romantic comedies that turn love into something just shy of blissful serendipity. So, to kick off our weekend, we watched a brooding film about terrorism and Canadian heroism. Despite the fact that the minutia of the film became cumbersome toward the end, we both left theater emotionally satisfied.

We made our way to a cabin west of town. This was our weekend retreat, our place to work out words, to refresh ourselves.

On Saturday, we visited a bakery with an enormous pastry selection. It boasted one of the best corned beef sandwiches I’ve had in Arkansas, which is not that high of a standard, really. We split chips and a pickle and sat quietly, not talking about anything in particular. Instead, we enjoyed the conversations of those around us, which some might call “eavesdropping.” We prefer to call it “active listening,” or “dialogue fodder.”

There was a chemistry professor talking about her “official course description.” She recounted each and every detail of it–the Roman numerals, the sub-letters, the bullet points. Her friend nodded as if interested, but under the table she was fidgeting with her phone. Frequently the professor would refer to the material as her “OCD,” which, given the excruciating effort she expended in describing it, seemed about right.

We visited the downtown strip to explore the antique section. Amber thinks there’s nothing more satisfying than looking at other people’s old junk, which might be a metaphor for something. In any event, she located a pie safe, which is nothing more than a slender shelf with punched-tin covers over each shelf door. “It’s so cute,” she said. I told her it was a rickety, and too narrow, and that I don’t recall her ever having made a pie. She ignored me, turned to a shelf of trinkets, and said, “oh, look at this Holly Hobby flask.” It’s amazing the volume of junk we Americans have produced over the years. And if doesn’t find it’s grave in a landfill, it obviously goes to die in a Prairie Grove’s antique shop.

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There was a bear in the front of the store, and it held a shovel. It was neither cute, nor ironic, but I took a picture of it because I am currently writing a story about bears. I use the term “about” very loosely. It might be more appropriate to say that the story “involves” bears, but either way I figured the statue an omen of sorts.

We returned to the cabin for a weekend of writing, music, and dancing. There was no internet or television there, so we were left to our own creative devices. This is never a bad thing.

Amber sat on the couch, worked out her words and preached about half of the book of Romans to me. I like the way she’s preaching lately, the way she’s owning the teachings of Jesus and Paul’s explanations of them. She’s starting to fire up, and I wonder where this will take us on our marital journey. Regardless, there is no substitute for a spouse on fire. I do not mention this to her, though, as the full roar of the stone fireplace might skew the context.

I continued to tighten up my manuscript. It is a deathbed novel, which, as depressing as it sounds, has actually been quite uplifting to write. The more I wrestle with the material, the more I have decided that I no longer fear death. There’s no point in the fearing of it anyway. That’s what faith says. And beside, we are all making our way to the end of days one way or another. I’m learning to embrace that.

The weekend was good, a reminder of why Amber and I like each other so much. It’s a tricky covenant, this marriage thing, but it’s good covenant. The book says to work out your faith with fear and trembling. Sometimes, I think it’d do us good to work out our covenants in the same way. I couldn’t imagine working it out with anyone other than Amber. She is the best part of living, these days.

*****
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Ah, yes… This is Powerful Stuff.

It could have turned out different, I guess. Truth is, Amber and I almost called it quits twice in college. In fact, while we were engaged, we broke up for about fifteen minutes. I’d tell you the whys of that particular split, but it’d be too long, and boring, and probably a bit embarrassing.

After a spell, I looked at Amber and said, “did we just break up?”

She looked at me. “Yes, I think so.”

I thought for a moment, gathered my breath. ”That’s stupid. You want to get back together?”

We sat on the couch, laughed, and she said, “yes.”

“That’s good,” I said. “I’m not sure what I’d do if you’d said no.”

It took us a while to shake these wandering ways, the creeping notions that we might be better off alone. We carried wayward hearts into marriage, allowed them to be the devil on our shoulders, to threaten our vows, even. But the truth is powerful, and the truth is, all the wild horses in Montana couldn’t drag us away from each other.

Ah yes, this is powerful stuff.

Last night, Preston Yancey commented a bit about his hope for a good love. I’ve been thinking about that, this being Valentine’s Day and all. Good love doesn’t come easy, and the process of becoming one is a painful refinement. I’ve never seen it play out any other way. But in that refinement, there’s joy–faith and hope, too. (Not to mention children, and one day grandchildren, Lord willing.) And more than that, there’s the working out of a grand metaphor.

But I’ll leave that one for you to untangle.

Amber’s away today, visiting her old stomping grounds to attend to some family business. I miss her something awful. I’ve abused this song lately, but if there’s one thing our refining process has taught me, it’s that the sun could fade, and… well… you know. Happy Valentine’s, Amber!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYjC77nW51w]

If you have some time today, might I suggest that you read a good love story? I mean, a really good one? (And yes, I might be biased.) Visit Amber’s “Love Songs,” series

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Marriage Stories: The Decisive Moment

“There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment…”
~Henri Cartier-Bresson (citing Jean François Paul de Gondi, cardinal de Retz)

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Photograph of Alberto Giacometti by Henri Cartier-Bresson

In 1952, the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson would publish his classic book of images, The Decisive Moment. In the treatise on  his creative philosophy, he defined his pursuit to capture “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” This, Cartier-Bresson said, was “the decisive moment.”

On Friday, I announced a bit of a marriage story project. I’ll be collecting stories of marriage done right, compiling them into a single narrative,  a tapestry of sorts. It’s a project that’s been birthed from my need for these good stories, my need to hear the stark stories of love and marriage, the ones that make good on the vows–for better or worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness or health, till death do us part. It’s the cloud of witnesses that gives you the courage to carry on. Right?

And as I  collect these stories, I’m looking for the bold ones, the ones with a definitive  ”decisive moment.” I’m looking for the significant events, the critical decisions, the  ”precise organization of forms which gives [marriage] its proper expression.” (See Friday’s piece for a brief example.)

Do you have a story to tell? Maybe it’s the story of your grandparents, you parents, your neighbors, or your church elders. Maybe it’s your own story. Whatever the case may be, if you’re interested in sharing, feel free to drop me an email (seth.m.haines at gmail.com), fill out this form:

[contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Share the Basic Story' type='textarea' required='1'/][contact-field label='Share the Decisive Moment' type='text'/][contact-field label='Share Your Relationship to the Story' type='text'/][contact-field label='Would You Agree to an Interview?' type='select' options='Yes,No'/][/contact-form]

I’m looking forward to hearing more of your stories over the coming days. (There have already heard some great ones.) So, who’s first? Who wants to share that decisive marriage moment?

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A Good Love, Good Marriage Project

20130125-070212.jpgAt my grandfather’s 75th birthday party, I met a cousin. Not a first cousin, mind you, but some distant one whose relation was so far removed that it was difficult for anyone to accurately indicate the branch of the family tree that bore his daddy’s name. He was short, none too attractive, and best I can remember, the eating habits of his twenties and thirties had settled just above the braided belt that held up his Duck Head khakis. He was bald. And not male-patterned bald, either. He was cue-ball bald; Bic bald.

We were in the backyard, all of us mulling under the canopy of my grandfather’s pecan trees, and person after person spoke to my cue-ball cousin, who slowly nursed his drink. I watched as people extended hands to him, reached out for a hug, and within seconds, each was laughing, their mood lightened by his obvious wit. He was the center of attention, which was odd to me, being that this was my grandfather’s 75th birthday party.

Party crasher.

After the cocktails had well settled in, my grandfather took center stage to thank us all for coming. He looked over the yard and shared his love. He pulled my grandmother close, and drew a bead on the cousin. “Thank you for coming,” he said. “I know it’s been a hard year, what with your wive’s cancer, and your taking time away to be with us means a great deal.” My grandfather choked up for a moment, kissed his wife, the raised his plastic cup and roared, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

The mystery cousin was later explained in full. His wife had been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive cancer. He’d sacrificed greatly–career, hobbies, passions, friendships–to be with her throughout her treatment. He’d loved her well, and when the chemo took her hair, he shaved his head in solidarity with her.

I don’t remember his name, and over the years I’ve suspected that he is likely less my cousin and more a man that my family wanted to claim as cousin. I figure he’s the type of man we’d all like to claim as family.

*****

As you might know, a while back I compiled a series of letters from Mothers to my wife in hopes of encouraging her. Collecting these stories was both a privilege and an honor, and every time I read them, I’m amazed.

I’m considering starting a bit of a similar project, and I’d like your help. I’m wanting to collect a few stories of men and women who have loved their spouses extraordinarily well. And I’m not just talking, “he bought me roses on a random Friday,” extraordinarily well, either (though that is pretty extraordinary). I want the grand stories. The stories that restore our faith in love and marriage during the difficult days. The stories that give us hope and a bit of a blue-print.

I’ll collect these however you’d to submit them–comments, emails, video submissions. I’d like to interview the folks over the coming days. This is a project I think I need. Perhaps you do, too. So, will you help?

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The Career and Family Dichotomy: Part Two

Last week I had the privilege of discussing the career and family dichotomy over at The High Calling in part one of a two-part series. Today, I am offering part two. Will you join me at The High Calling?

All illusions of control vaporize like heat mirages on the pavement of U.S. 40 as Amber and I head east toward Little Rock, where a good team of doctors awaits the arrival of Titus at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. We drive in silence, playing old Rich Mullins tunes. “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy I cannot find in my own,” Rich sings as we pull into Little Rock. I hope he’s right.

We arrive and check into the Emergency Room at 9:30, well past Titus’ bedtime. As we wait…

Follow me over to The High Calling to continue reading The Career and Family Dichotomy: Part 2.

Image by Royce Bair. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.

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