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Dear 7th Grade Moms & Dads,

With school starting up again, I want to let you in on a little secret…

I know, I know… middle school parents typically don’t get a lot of attention. You are certainly not newbies, and at least one of your offspring is not yet on their way to high school either. 

So, why you?

I am writing to you because it’s time to let you in on a phenomenon that will begin happening six short years from now. 

How do I know? Because without fail, it happens every year. 

No one wants to talk about it, but I guarantee that one day, you will hear the whispers. 

It sneaks up on unsuspecting parents, sometimes seemingly without warning.

You see, sadly, six years from now, soon after these hormone-crazed 7th graders graduate high school, you will begin to hear that “so and so” is getting divorced.

You would never guess by all the happy, smiling family pictures blanketing social media at graduation each spring. It is like a secret—hidden in plain sight.

So why am I letting parents of 7th graders in on this sad reality? 

Because multiple studies have found that “couples typically allow problems and resentment to build up for 6 years before seeking help and beginning to work on resolving their differences and improving their relationship.”

Some of you have told me how “you tried everything.” Especially when addiction, abuse, and adultery wreaked havoc on your family for years. 

You and your kids invested valuable resources and all your emotional energy into helping your spouse with their addictions to no avail. I feel for the families that did not get the results they worked and prayed so hard for. 

But there’s another group of you out there…the ones like me who never think it will be “us” getting divorced. The ones who are so busy living parallel lives as wonderful parents but are not so great at being lovers. It is to you that I hope this message serves as a wake-up call.

These “waited till the kids are out of the house divorces” pain me beyond measure because I know if my husband and I had not sought help twenty years ago for our own marriage, it could have easily been us. 

If any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to find ways to reconnect with your spouse now. Do not wait until the kids are out of the house to “deal with this.” I can assure you that it’s not easy to face challenges as a couple, but it will definitely not get any easier if you wait. 

Get the help you know you need before it’s you telling a friend, “I am just done,” as one woman recently wrote to me. “I was tired of being lonely in a loveless marriage.” 

The Gottman Institute, a renowned relationship think tank, notes that “timing is an essential element in whether marriage counseling works. Unfortunately, most couples wait too long before reaching out for help.” 

Today, you and your spouse have six years before your 7th grader graduates from high school. There is still plenty of time to change the trajectory of your marriage. You may not know how—you may not even be sure your spouse will be on board—but you do have the added benefit of time and, possibly even more important, “awareness” on your side as well. 

If your youngest is in high school or even a senior, I assure you there is example after example of couples who have done the hard work, and their marriages are stronger today because of it. It is only too late if one of you decides it is.

Why do we think we should have all this relationship stuff figured out? 

How many of us witnessed empathic and effective communication between couples growing up? Most likely, not many.

Some of you may have had the added blessing of being raised by parents who seemed to really like each other. Regardless, the chance that they openly discussed their issues and modeled how they successfully resolved them would have been extraordinary. This is not intended to blame, but it does begin to explain each generation’s lack of problem-solving abilities.

So if any of this resonates with you, where do you start?

Based on experience, I recommend starting with a “well-timed conversation.” In the case of my own marriage, I give 100% credit to my husband for bringing up the initial discussion almost twenty years ago. Although we both now agree his tone was a bit off—we can even laugh about it—but his message was painfully clear. Something needed to change, and we could no longer figure it out on our own.

There is never a perfect time to have a difficult conversation, but here are some things to consider:

1. Timing, Tone & Intention are everything: 

  • Find a time when emotions are not running high, and neither of you is stressed out.
  • Use the tone you would be most open to when receiving this type of information. Your tone will significantly affect how well your message is received.
  • Check your intentions. If your desire is to find ways for you both to improve your relationship, then you are off to a great start.

2. Work together with a licensed marriage/relationship counselor. 

  • If your partner doesn’t want to go, you go first. The therapist should be able to help you understand why you each react the way you do and help resolve conflicts. 
  • I realize it is hard to find one; keep trying. I know it’s expensive but getting divorced is much, much more. If you are buying a coffee drink a day—STOP—and most likely, you can divert that expense toward counseling.
  • Ideally, you would each have an individual counselor to work with as well. 
  • If the first counselor isn’t a good fit, try another. It can take a while to find a good match—we’ve had at least five over the years. *Remember, we are all individuals, and none of us absorb information or grow at the same rate—have lots of patience.

3. Three books to consider:

  • How We Love—Book & Workbook— by Milan & Kay Yerkovich. If you are tired of arguing with your spouse over the same old issues, this one is for you. https://howwelove.com/
  • The Seven Principles of Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D., is very comprehensive. I highly recommend going through this as a couple or with a group. https://www.gottman.com/
  • The 80/80 Marriage by Nate and Kaley Klemp—This book offers a new, refreshing way to embrace your relationship. It is the “lightest” read of the three. https://www.8080marriage.com/   

4. Three Podcasts to consider:

  • Search podcasts with “Esther Perel”: She is a Belgian-born licensed therapist with a wealth of knowledge on preserving relationships
  • Small Things Often: The Gottman Institute offers relationship tips in 5-minutes or less. Also, search podcasts with “John Gottman.”
  • Tied for 3rd Place: Sexy Marriage Radio, The Naked Marriage, One Extraordinary Marriage, and The Stronger Marriage Podcast.

These recommendations come from my personal experience from my 30-year marriage to my best friend and are intended for educational purposes only. Please do not hesitate to reach out at lisa@idoparttwo.com if you have any questions on how my husband and I approached a particular challenge.

My sincere hope for you is to enjoy more friendship, love, and intimacy with your most important person. Love, Lisa

Glow-ups are all the rage on social media and certainly make an excellent visual. Search #GlowUp, and you’ll see a plethora of before and after images of people who seem to have conquered their weight loss challenges, and kudos to them. 

I am sure many of them DO feel as amazing on the inside as their outside suggests, but sadly numerous studies conclude, many do not.

So what does this have to do with marriage and empty-nesting? 

EVERYTHING! 

It’s hard to feel great about yourself when you’ve been busy doing everything for everyone in your life—EXCEPT YOU.

As our big kids leave the nest after the holidays, it can be especially hard if our identity has been primarily wrapped up in parenting. Almost overnight, the house becomes eerily quiet and a little bit lonely if we haven’t found other passions to pursue as well.

So, how does it affect our marriages? Well, most experts agree it is challenging to feel completely loved when we don’t feel loveable or at least when we don’t feel like ‘ourselves’ anymore. 

When was the last time you did something for yourself without making sure everyone else was taken care of first? For many of you, it has been way too long.

I love being a mom. I will always be “mom” to my three kids, now 18, 21, and 25, who I enjoy raising with my husband of almost 30 years. We’ve had quite a ride—it hasn’t always been ‘perfect’ but we figured it out, and had a lot of love and laughs along the way.

Even so, somewhere between playdates and PTA meetings, I lost what makes me—“me.” My life felt pretty complete with a wonderful husband (most of the time), great kids (some of the time), good friends (to laugh and cry with), a roof over my head, and two cars in the garage. Still, I felt like a little something was always missing—and honestly, I felt really guilty about it. 

Who was I to complain? Shouldn’t I just be grateful for all I have? What more did I need anyway?

I never stopped being ‘busy’ long enough to think about why I felt something was missing. I didn’t even mention it to my husband (except maybe with little passive-aggressive well-timed grunts here and there)—it was my guilty little secret. Like many GenXers, the thought of asking ourselves how “we are feeling” is like speaking a foreign language.

Friend, I am here to tell you firsthand, if there was any time in your life to learn a new language, metaphorically speaking—midlife is it. 

We have to change our internal dialog and start asking ourselves how we are feeling?
What do we think is missing in our life, or what might light us up again?

God willing, at fifty, we have thirty-five to fifty years left on this earth. If you haven’t asked yourself how you want to spend the remainder of your time yet, now is the time! 

As I began to get back in touch with who I was before I was a wife, a mom, a classroom volunteer, and an auction chair—I started feeling better about myself on the inside. 

It’s a work in progress, but I am more aware of my feelings and continue to ask, “Why am I feeling like this right now?” If this is not something you’ve already been asking yourself, you might try it. 

If you’ve also been wondering what else this season has to offer, here are some questions that might help direct you to discover your own ‘Part Two’:

1. What did you like to do in your teens, twenties, or pre-kids?

2. What would you like to do more if time and money were not an obstacle?

3. When do you feel best about yourself? Serving others or getting lost in an activity or hobby, or both?

4. What do others say you are good at? If you don’t know the answer to this one, ask a few good friends.

5. If you are not currently working outside the home, would you consider it, and what areas might interest you if there were no barriers to entry?

6. Is anything else holding you back from pursuing something new? Fear? Imposter Syndrom? 

7. What are one or two things you would like to add to your life this year that would have the most immediate and positive impact on your life?

A few years ago, I told a counselor I felt like, “I had lost the woman I set out to become in my twenties. I didn’t know who I was outside or being a wife and mother.” 

After asking me many of the questions above and I, not having a clue how to answer most of them, said, “Lisa, interesting people do interesting things. I want you to try something new—anything.” Mentally I repeated…’ interesting people do interesting things.’

What?! I was already doing lots of things. Dang it, I was busy—he kind of ticked me off!

But you know what? He was right. 

So, I started taking a few classes at my local community college, experimented with different types of exercise, joined a writing group, started snow-skiing again, and even signed up for a hip-hop class with friends. I found out I like to write, but you will not find me channeling J. Lo anytime soon.

If you truly don’t have an inkling about what you might like to do. Then, grab a friend and try ‘something.’ An evening with friends painting, creating, and sipping wine is a great place to start. 

Research confirms that learning something new forms new connections and neurons in our brain, giving us a rush of dopamine, aka “the feel-good hormone.” Who wouldn’t like more of that?

Since I’ve started exploring what lights me up and what motivates me to get out of bed each morning—my husband has noticed changes as well. He’s encouraged me to continue my journey and has become my biggest supporter. Feeling better about myself on the inside has also led to greater intimacy in our relationship, which we definitely want to continue to nurture.

We talk more often about what we both want more, or less of, in our relationship. We made a goal to put ‘fun’ back into our lives—spontaneous getaways, dinner with friends, visiting our kids, and finding new activities to enjoy together—some of which were unintentionally put aside in the busyness of life.

My only regret—is not having started my ‘Glow-Up’ sooner. The good news for all of us is that “it is never too late to start something new.” With love, lisa@idoparttwo.com

By Jenni Brennan of Changing Perspectives

Remember the early days of your relationship with your spouse?

  • Butterflies
  • Romantic dates
  • Flirty messages
  • Anticipation around next steps
  • Long conversations as you got to know each other
  • Excitement over your potential future

Today, if you are like me, you and your partner are mere versions of your younger selves, focused now on things like:

  • Raising your children
  • Meeting financial goals
  • Addressing health needs
  • Tackling career aspirations
  • Cultivating friendships
  • Taking care of household tasks like laundry, cooking, and cleaning
  • Trying to complete those never ending “to do” lists

The reason so many couples find themselves feeling distanced from each other at this stage of life is simple—We all have a tendency to put our romantic relationship on the back burner after marriage because we think all of the other needs and responsibilities are more pressing. 

The kids need you. Work needs you. Your aging parents need you. The youth sports teams need you. Your friends need you. Your house needs you.

After all, this is the person you are spending the rest of your life with, so they will always be there beside you. It’s okay to put your relationship on the back burner right now. How exciting will it be to spend your golden years of retirement with them?

What if you never get to enjoy those years? What if you make it to retirement but after spending decades focusing on others, you realize that you no longer know your partner. Worse yet, what if you realize that you no longer like each other? What if something terrible happens and you don’t get to make it to retirement age?


Sure, putting things on the proverbial back burner can work for a little bit. But, what happens if you leave something on the actual back burner? Eventually it dries out, maybe burns, and becomes a failure.

Marriages are the same.

It’s time to take your relationship off the back burner and start nurturing it now, before it’s too late.

Here are 9 ways to reconnect with your spouse and put the focus back on your relationship without compromising your other responsibilities:

1. Date your partner
I cannot stress enough the value of dating your partner. While you may not be able to afford to hire a babysitter for at least one night each month, you can certainly find a way to creatively date your partner.

Maybe it means taking a day off from work during the day while kids are at school or at grandmas house so you can be alone. Maybe it means working out together at the gym while the kids are in the child care room. Maybe it means simply shutting off the tv, ignoring the dishes, and having a date at home after the kids go to bed. Maybe it means using your money to pay for a sitter and then having an inexpensive date while you walk around Target together.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, romantic, or cost money. You just need to make time for the two of you.

2. Hold staff meetings
You and your partner are essentially running a business. You’re managing a household and that inevitably means there are things like bills, repairs, and maintenance that need to be addressed. If you have children and/or pets, then you also have medical appointments and logistical considerations for others. Let’s not forget about things like laundry, meal prep, shopping, and cleaning.

Would you ever expect a company to run effectively without having some type of formal and consistent check in? 

Marriages are the same. Schedule 30-minutes each week to check in with each other on the business aspects of your relationship. This can be a great time to compare calendars, identify breakdowns in communication, plan for next steps, and highlight accomplishments and sources of pride. You can also combine this with a date night — just make sure it’s only a portion of the date!

3. Don’t expect mind reading
So often we fall into the trap of expecting our partner to know us so well that they know what we are thinking and what we need. That’s not fair to your partner or to you.

Communicate your needs with your partner. If you come home expecting your partner to have started dinner but you never asked for that to happen, it’s not fair to then be angry or hurt that it didn’t happen.

Don’t let missed opportunities for communicating your needs lead to built up resentment.

4. Learn your love language
So often members of a couple feel as though their partner is not showing them love. In reality, though, they aren’t speaking their partner’s love language.

My partner may bring me flowers and little gifts, thinking that I know it means he loves me. But, we have learned that Gift Giving is not one of my love languages. Instead, Acts of Service (things like unloading the dishwasher or making a doctor’s appointment for the kids or taking out the trash) make me feel loved.

Get on the same page with each other by reading Dr. Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts so you not only know how to recognize your partner’s expression of love for you but so that you can also more effectively show love to your partner.

5. Take a couple’s vacations
Once you’ve been able to make date nights or date days a priority, the next step is to find a way to take vacations together. This could be a big vacation like a few nights in the Caribbean or traveling through Europe or it could mean you rent an AirBnb or cheap hotel room the next town over for one night.

The location doesn’t matter; what matters is that you have the opportunity to step out of your everyday life just the two of you and reconnect away from the normal routines.

6. Try new things together
Remember what it was like going through all the firsts in your relationship? There is something exciting about experiencing something new with your partner and we lose that spark the longer we’ve been together.

Consider taking up new hobbies or trying new things together. The options are limitless- golfing, dance lessons, hiking, reading a new book together, trying a new restaurant together.

The actual thing you do doesn’t matter. The key is for it to be something new for both of you.

7. Do things that your partner enjoys
It’s very rare that two members of a partnership enjoy all of the same things. Is there something that your partner enjoys that you find extremely boring? Find a way to try to do some of those things with your partner.

Learn that video game they love to play. Go to the concert of the band they really like. Go to that Indian restaurant even though you don’t like that type of cuisine.

Make them feel valued by showing an interest in the things that make them happy.

8. Physical connections
Don’t wait for there to be a natural physical spark between the two of you. With kids and work and responsibilities and pressures and competing schedules, it’s very likely that by the time the two of you reach your bed at the end of the day, the last thing you have the energy for is sex. Those are exactly the times when you need to make a priority though.

What would happen if the next time you found yourself with a fleeting thought of physical connection, you actually pursued it and put sleep or that pile of laundry off for a little bit longer? 

What kind of impact would it have on your relationship if your put physical connection a bit higher up on your list of priorities?

9. Lean into each other, not away
When things get hard many couples lean away from each other. They complain and vent to their friends when their partner does something hurtful or irritating. They ignore opportunities to communicate directly with each other about concerns, instead leaving their relationship open to built up feelings of resentment and anger.

Lean into each other during those difficult times. Have those challenging and uncomfortable conversations with each other.

It’s what we do in almost all other aspects of our life, right? We have difficult conversations with our children, our friends, our coworkers, other parents on the sidelines at our kids games, and even strangers on social media. So, why won’t we do it with our partners? Is it maybe because we are leaving our relationship on the back burner, assuming we’ll have time to address it in the future?

The time to strengthen your marriage is now and you can find ways to reconnect meaningfully with your partner without taking your attention away from the other important relationships in your life.

Wouldn’t those younger versions of yourselves want you to make your marriage a priority now? 

January 7, 2020

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”-Spartan.com

My wife and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, and I am chasing her tail with a renewed sense of vigor.

You see, in the last few months we’ve come to enjoy trail running together, and my wife usually sets the pace, which means her backside is my focal point—kind of like the pacesetting rabbit at the greyhound races.

So why take up an activity like this now?  Having both passed the half-century mark, what possessed us to begin running up and down the hilly trails around town?  To answer that, we need to go back 15 years…

Like many families, my wife Amy and I were busy with work and raising kids.  We pursued an active lifestyle, coaching our kids’ athletic teams, and playing outside as often as we could.  Amy and I were both raised in active families and just naturally continued that lifestyle with our children.  However, we never had a formal “exercise regimen” as part of our schedule.  Life had settled into a routine of sorts.  

Then, I received a heart-wrenching phone call.  Amy and the kids had gone to spend a couple of days with friends on the coast.  Not long after she left she called me, and as I answered the phone she cried out, “We’ve been in a horrible car accident, and Andrew is dead.”  Andrew is our oldest son.  Within seconds she said, “Oh, he just jumped out of the car and is okay. Gotta go.” And then she just hung up… 

It turned out they’d been slowing down on the highway to turn across traffic and were rear-ended, totaling the two cars they were in. Amy and the two younger children were in the first car, and Andrew was in the second. She assumed Andrew couldn’t have survived the accident based on the impact she felt in the lead car.

Amy’s van was pushed off the side of the road but these cars were not so fortunate.

While our three children, aged 6, 4, and 1, and Amy had no visible injuries, it was clear to the paramedics that Amy was confused and was developing a headache and neck pain.  She was transported to the hospital by ambulance, where she was evaluated and diagnosed with a concussion.  

While Amy didn’t appear to be injured, she’d suffered a serious head injury, leaving her unable to remember how to use a phone book or even perform simple addition, much less any of her graphic design work.  Her headaches were often debilitating, and we eventually discovered she had injured her neck as well, which would require a fusion a few years later.  

As Amy struggled to recover, my responsibilities at home increased significantly.  Life became simply about survival.  

In order to keep up with work and a busy family schedule, we ate a lot of prepared meals and takeout.  And exercise? It was non-existent.  

Amy tried her best to keep up, but physically demanding activities were too much for her.  I tried on multiple occasions to begin an exercise program but could not sustain a routine.  

During that timeframe, we had the help of an excellent counselor.  He warned us that 80% of marriages where one spouse has suffered a traumatic brain injury, end in divorce.  To combat this, he impressed upon us the importance of maintaining good sleep patterns, a healthy diet, and regular exercise.  

I can’t say that we really excelled in any of those areas, but Amy did make some major progress in recovery from her brain injury.   We also hired a personal trainer and were working out as a family once a week. Plus, I was trying to work out on my own several days a week. 

Then, four years ago, I flunked a life insurance physical.  I was stunned.

Sure, I was carrying a few extra pounds.  And I knew that the stress from work and some related projects was less than healthy.  But being told my blood pressure was elevated and my blood sugars were in the diabetic range was a complete surprise.  

Now a good diet and exercise regimen wasn’t just a good idea, they were a necessity.  Amy helped to overhaul our dietary regimen and worked hard to cook healthy meals while I began rowing a half an hour a day.  I lost weight, and my numbers came back down within three months.  But I got bored—rowing nowhere fast.  

Amy’s father, who has always been an inspiration to us, asked us to do a mud run along the way for fun—which it was. Who knew getting dirty exercising could be so much fun?  

Then a year into our lifestyle change, a friend invited me to join a group running in a more competitive obstacle course race.  I found this race not only fun but invigorating. 

So in 2017, I started searching for my own races to compete in and found a Spartan Race close to home. (Spartan is a brand in the growing sport of obstacle course racing which involves running over varying terrain with obstacles thrown in along the course.  Think basic training.) 

I signed up for a 4-mile/23 obstacle course race in Portland, Oregon, and ran it in memory of a college roommate who had recently committed suicide. I knew if I wanted to be around for my own family, I needed to improve my own physical health.

I was hooked.  

Mark completing the ‘Fire Jump’

In addition to winning a medal for completing the race, I earned 1/3 of a Spartan Trifecta medal.  If I could finish two more Spartan races, their middle distance, and the longer distance called the Beast, I would complete the three-piece medal and earn my place in the ’Spartan Trifecta Tribe.’  

Never one to pass up a challenge, and irritated by missing two pieces of the medal, I signed up for two more races, one at Big Bear and one in Sacramento, California.  I started training for the obstacles, watching videos, and doing research and apparently talking about it—a lot.  My kids accused me of “geeking out” over my new hobby.

I traveled to California twice before the end of the year and raced on my own.  With all three pieces of the Trifecta medal, I had joined the Tribe.   I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment, but it was also lonely, crossing the finish line without anyone to help celebrate the moment.  

So, what does this have to do with marriage in the second half of life?  Everything, thanks to my amazing wife.

Amy is smart and intuitive and understood how motivating these races were to me.  With our kids about to leave the nest, Amy realized that if this was important to me, she wanted to give it a try as well. 

Running up hills, climbing over walls, crawling under barbed wire, carrying buckets of rocks, and throwing a spear didn’t sound like fun to her (well, maybe throwing spears), but she signed up anyway for me, and more importantly, for us.  

Our first race together was with a group of friends.  The challenge stimulated her competitive nature, and she agreed to go back to Sacramento with me to do the middle distance race, 8 + miles, and 25 + obstacles.  

We finished the race together, sharing in the sense of accomplishment and celebrating together at the finish line.  

Couple running in the Spartan obstacle course race
Finishing hand-in-hand

As we were driving home, feeling that good sense of tired and sore, it occurred to me that our weekend spent racing fulfilled another desire that we had — to have a weekend getaway.  While the purpose had been to run the race, we had enjoyed the entire weekend together, talking, eating out, and just being together.  

In 2019, Amy wanted to take on the challenge of finishing her own Trifecta.  So we started working out together at Orange Theory, which we found was a good fit for both of us.  After encouraging Amy to actually do some running before tackling the Spartan Beast, a 12+ mile race with over 30 obstacles, we started trail running on Saturdays, slowly building up our mileage.  

Initially reluctant, as Amy didn’t think she enjoyed running, she’s found that running together through the trees on the trails around Eugene, Oregon energizing and a lot of fun.  

As I write this, we are traveling back from SoCal, where we combined our racing with an opportunity to see our college-age kids.  We spent dinner with them on Friday night, and our youngest hung out with them during the day while Amy and I raced, then we all celebrated with dinner.  On Sunday morning, we all went to church and then finished with brunch before heading back to Oregon.  It was a rich weekend with family. 

And even more amazing, Amy finished the third leg of her Trifecta, earning her membership in the “Tribe.” 

A couple who won a Spartan Obstacle course race and renewed the passion in their marriage
After both completed the Trifecta

When you consider where she was 15 years ago, with a traumatic brain injury and a neck injury requiring a fusion, this is an incredible accomplishment, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.  She said it was the most challenging thing she has ever done, physically, emotionally, and mentally—but well worth the effort.

Our mutual love and respect for each other, and pride in one another’s accomplishments have grown immensely. This is all because Amy was willing to try something new, out of her comfort zone, to spend time with me.

Finding an activity we both enjoy, and competing together, has renewed our passion for one another and has definitely brought us closer together.  We are blessed that it has become something we both love to do.  

Our goal going forward is to complete at least one Trifecta a year and expand our travel horizons to include international races.  Sparta, Greece, is foremost on our bucket list.  And hopefully, someday soon you’ll see the two of us up on the winner’s podium for our age group.  

In the meantime, my life is so much richer than two years ago when I finished my first Spartan Beast in the dark, surrounded by strangers and feeling oddly alone, without anyone to help celebrate my accomplishment

Having my best friend and partner cross the finish line, holding my hand, makes it infinitely sweeter.  And it doesn’t hurt that I get to chase her tail up the hills every week – she even lets me catch her once in a while. 

*If you’re not connected to Facebook and you would like to comment, please do so below the Author’s Bio section. Please note, neither the Meyers nor I Do Part Two has a marketing affiliation with Spartan.com or Orangetheory Fitness.
 

“In the tapestry of life, we are all connected.”- Unknown

Last weekend I flew from the lush Willamette Valley in Oregon to the arid desert of Tucson, Arizona to witness a longtime friend’s daughter marry her sweetheart.

The outdoor setting was spectacular: a white rose and eucalyptus draped arbor was nestled perfectly under the shade of a decades old Palo Verde, where twenty-two wedding attendants waited cheerfully to welcome the bride down the grassy green aisle on the proud arm of her father; there wasn’t a dry eye to be found.

If that weren’t enough, the rocky Santa Catalina Mountain Range jetted up behind the bride and groom less than a mile from where we were seated to behold this blessed event; it was simply breathtaking.

As the wedding unfolded, even this gorgeous setting was eclipsed by the story their pastor told of all the close familial ties and friendships that have been woven together through the years making this celebration a reality.

Taking us back in time, the charismatic pastor told how as a 6th grader in a new school the bride’s father had befriended him and invited him to sit with his buddies in the cafeteria. 

None of these pubescent boys could’ve imagined the divine intervention taking place at that pint-sized table which ultimately led the father of the bride to meet his wife years later. 

Because it was the pastor who would eventually introduce a cute twenty-something co-worker to his childhood friend, from this union the bride was born.

__________________________________________

As the officiant continued to weave this rich tapestry of relationships, he noted it was only through these longstanding connections that the bride and groom would meet a few years ago in the Windy City, 2,000 miles away from this desert sanctuary.

Scattered amongst the vows and ceremonial traditions was the acknowledgment of all the friends of the bride and groom who have traveled far to support this couple. 

As he spoke on the importance of maintaining these ties, I couldn’t help but think of all the family, friends and the purely divine hand that had helped create and maintain my own marriage over the last twenty-seven years.

The pastor reminded all of us our lives crosses the lives of many others and most significantly it’s entwined with the lives of a special few, those friends and family members who will support and encourage us during the most challenging of times. 

Together, this young couple will begin to weave their own tapestry with a richness of history, familial ties, friendships, triumphs and of course some disappointments, which will only serve to enhance its splendor.

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