Contemplating 35 Years Married!

Beloved friends and family of God.

It’s way, way, way too long since I posted an update, but today’s finally the day!

Yesterday was our 35th anniversary (!!!), and we are celebrating with a mini-version of our 1987 honeymoon in Mendocino and Napa. Though it breaks my heart that Mike has no memory of our wedding or these special places, I rejoice that we still have each other, we still love and enjoy each other, and we’re still married! Our losses are enormous, but I still have a husband who makes me laugh, who loves the Lord and prays for me and our children often and at length, and who still adores me — and that ain’t nothing! Every time I tell him that we’re celebrating our anniversary, he says, “Really? That’s great — 26 years?”

I love this memory of our wedding! The Network Youth Choir at First Pres Berkeley sang, and Earl Palmer (*more at the end) and Tim Shaw officiated, and our dear groomsmen and bridesmaids, still friends in spite of the pink puffy dresses.

A week ago we marked seven years since Mike’s brain injury, and I can’t help but consider that fully 20% of our marriage has been lived with “new Mike” — and 25% of our children’s lives, give or take — and marriage on this side of his injury will be the majority if we live into standard old age. How are we to sustain this gift of marriage? What are the promises we cling to and how do we order our life as man and wife that we might persevere to be married “as long as we both shall live.”

May 31, 2012, our 25th anniversary

“We love because He first loved us” is what I chose to have engraved into Mike’s wedding band (see this post). It was a hopeful sentiment to me in 1987 but has grown into deeply held belief over these 35 years. I have no other explanation for those who ask how I stick with it, or why Mike in all his incapacities remains so devoted to me: God supplies the love! We need never fear running out of love, since God’s storehouse of love is unending. The proof is the Cross, the very Gospel that has saved us: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

My morning reading yesterday was Psalm 121, the one that begins, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” In its brief eight verses, the Hebrew word for “keep” or “keeper” is used six times. As my favorite commentator Alec Motyer says, this is the answer to that prayerful question, the very question we all ponder when we wonder how long we can go on. The answer is “not of extraction from life’s pressures but of maintenance within them. … The pilgrim path is a sheltered area, and the pilgrim a protected species.” We belong to a “keeping God,” and this God, the One who’s given us this marriage, has preserved it.

In Mike’s notes for a 2014 marriage conference, he drew the same conclusion. I excerpt and edit here from his notes:

Think with me about the standard, traditional marriage vows used in most weddings: “in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long we both shall live.” Friends, consider how breathtakingly wide the arc of the pendulum of God’s providence openly embraced in those three pairings is: plenty—want, joy—sorrow, and sickness—health. We’re saying those providential poles aren’t stronger than the promise, the covenant we’re entering into. We’re saying that the covenant is NOT contingent on….plenty….joy….health.

Think about how ignorant we are—by definition, even when we’re at our best—when we make these promises! Ignorant of ourselves and the meaning of our own story. Ignorant of our spouse and his/her story. Ignorant of the future and what God will lead us through in His providence. And yet our ignorance is no barrier, because God who is the Author of our stories, takes them and merges them together into “one flesh” to journey by faith together into a future He is preparing, guiding, and ruling. Fear not! Our ignorance is not greater than His omniscience.

And think about how impotent we are, how utterly powerless in ourselves to keep promises of such magnitude! But our impotence is no barrier, because the bond between husband and wife sealed in the vows of the marriage covenant is no mere human bond. If He joins us together, He will provide all that is needed to keep us together and sustain the covenant. Faith will always find Him sufficient, because He always is—because He is … “I AM” in every moment and eventuality. Our confidence is in Him, so fear not! Our impotence is no match for His omnipotence!

Whether you’re married or not, our gracious God is writing your story, and, as you’ve heard me say before, there’s enough grace for the next thing, for all that’s been and all that’s to come.

The second part of our anniversary trip has been in the wine country, as we did in 1987.

If you’ve been praying along with our now seven-year journey, thank you! Please keep praying big and hoping more! In particular:

  • Pray for me to order our life so that I am more wife than caregiver for Mike. I’m with “new Mike” day in and day out and have forgotten so much about what Mike used to be like.
  • Pray for Mike’s relationships in the convent (where we live) and at daycare and church: that he’d be able to remember people and make friends! I thank God that after two years here, many places and people are familiar (he recognizes them and likes them), but he has a hard time keeping any details. (Our housemate wrote about what it’s like:
  • Pray for Maddie, Luke, and Lydia: it doesn’t get easier for them. On this year’s anniversary of Mike’s injury, I was particularly burdened for them — for what they would’ve wanted and needed their dad for in their 20s that they haven’t had. The grief persists for us all.
  • Pray for Mike’s full and complete recovery!

This wonderful and appropriate promise closes Psalm 121: “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” Amen!

PS. Shoutout to Husch Winery in Philo for a lovely (and FREE!) wine tasting experience. We drank Husch on our honeymoon because it was the cheapest wine served in the dining room.
Rev. Earle Palmer then and now. What a treat to get to hear him in action at age 90 a few weeks ago. Mike is remembering more and more that “Earl Palmer did our wedding.” SDG

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